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Mullet Fishing 2018: Review

 
 
Despite the relatively mild temperatures, a combination of poor weather and particularly strong winds has meant that there were very few opportunities in late November 2018. Here's a summary of what had been another thoroughly excellent and hugely enjoyable year of mullet fishing.

Highs and lows     (in no particular order)

 

 
  • This has proven to be the second most productive season since I restarted mullet fishing in 2011; it might have been possible to exceed last year's total if the weather had held and other factors had not played a part in curtailing visits to the river

  • In terms of fish numbers, there have been a number of venues where mullet continue to appear more scarce each season. Given that these species are often highly visible, this is a real concern. In the first year fished, 2011, there were frequent and alarming splashes as large fish broke surface, either in open water or adjacent to pontoons and pilings; there were also a couple of venues when floating bread would induce significant numbers of fish to feed at certain times of the tide. Sadly, in 2018, there were very few occasions when these indications became anything close to a reality

  • In terms of the larger fish, this has been a fairly typical year, the heaviest being a single six pound late-season fish - 6lb 1oz on 02/11/18, plus a number of 'fives' - 5lb 7oz on 14/08/18, another at 5lb 10oz on 30/08/18, and a third, 5lb 2oz on 24/09/18. This is not the first year when a 'six' was the very last fish - again, certainly a very good one to end on

  • The overall 'spread' of fish weights, i.e. the proportion in each weight band, was again different to most recent years, with a very distinct spike in the 1 - 2lb range, which was also noted by other anglers

  • There were reductions in each of the 'middle' size bands, as follows:  4/00 to 4/15 - down 25%,   3/00 to 3/15 - down 35%,   2/00 to 2/15 - down 40%

  • Cumulatively, there were fewer fish as follows:  4lbs to 6lbs - down 3.5%,   3lbs to 6lbs - down 10%,   2lbs to 6lbs - down 23%

  • I was unable to start catching mullet earlier in the year than in 2017, with the first fish a surprise golden-grey on 15/04/17, but this was only an additional eight days further into the season, and still a very positive start

  • The ability to be more selective about fishing days was again a major factor in determining this year's successes, being able to choose to fish weekdays instead of weekends, and also having the ability to capitalise upon the most advantageous tides and weather

  • There were many truly wonderful fishing days to be enjoyed, especially - but not exclusively - the capture of the better fish described above, and a totally excellent visit to Devon, to fish with Phil Watters in early July. There were also a couple of sessions where the number of mullet landed surpassed all previous recent endeavours, with five fish landed on 30/05/18, and six on 20/07/18

  • There were two periods where there were four consecutive trips without a fish, the first in early May, and the second in late September / early October

  • Not exactly a vital statistic, but I landed my first four pound plus mullet on the 27th day of any month / year, a 4/09 on 27/07/18; there now remain two day numbers still without a 'four' - the 1st and 28th of any month

  • There were again no real periods where the river water was overly coloured, and so fishing remained uninterrupted. I can recall very few days where there were the sudden or prolonged downpours which were a factor in previous years

  • As usual, a major factor this year was the wind, which the forecasters still never seem to get right - neither the direction, nor more importantly, the wind speed (which is always greater than predicted, and sometimes markedly so). I've been using a different weather site, but that doesn't seem to have improved matters

  • My best continuous 'run' of mullet landed without a lost fish was fourteen, in May. For some reason, a significantly higher proportion were lost in June than in other months. There were a number of sequences of nine trips with a fish hooked and / or landed each time, in June, August, and late August / early September

  • Achieved only some of the other objectives set:

  • The 'top 5' weight was the fourth highest, a pound lower than last year, and about two pounds lower than the two best years

  • The six pound fish landed in 2018, at 6/01, features in the 'all years' top 10 - the 7th best weight overall. There have still been no 6lb fish landed earlier than August

  • The average weight per fish was the lowest of the last eight years, at a sizeable 1lb 2oz less than the mean of the 2011 and 2012 averages, the first two years fished

  • The proportion of successful trips was marginally lower than in 2017, reduced somewhat by the number of unproductive trips in November and December, hoping for a late-season fish

  • The average number of mullet landed per successful trip showed a small increase over last year, and was consistent with the best previous percentage recorded

  • Spent time fishing several new venues in 2018, including several productive sessions in West Sussex and some in Devon

  • I was able to exceed the last and best year's monthly catch figures in the early part of the year, from May to July, and landed a respectable number of mullet in August, despite this total being significantly fewer than the two best years (2014 and 2017). September through to November saw fewer fish in evidence, and there was a small deficit in each month. Compared to 2017, totals were:

          -  April -2,  May +3,  June +7,  July +5,  August -14,  September -3,  October -4,  November -1

  • Landed a significantly better percentage of the mullet hooked than in 2017, although, like last year, experienced a particularly poorer set of outcomes at one point in the season, this time in June rather than October. There were no fish lost to knot failure, almost certainly attributable to the robustness of the carefully-tied and pre-tested Palomar knots used throughout

  • I was again engaged in a number of epic fights, most of which ended well. Sadly, there were a few occasions where all the power of the fish and the proximity of the pontoons and other snags made for a few nasty moments and then the inevitable slack line

  • There were thankfully no occasions this year where fish became snagged and a rescue mission with the inevitable dunking was called for

  • Caught mullet at eight new venues, two of which I visited regularly, and which proved to be reasonably productive

  • Finally caught a thin-lipped mullet on a baited spinner, whilst down in Devon

  • Continued again to expand upon knowledge of the most productive states of the tide that can be fished, including the new venues

  • Learned a good number of new techniques and improvements - many sincere thanks to MarkS for his generosity, regarding both venues and tips, and for his excellent company, and KeithG for all the same reasons, and to no lesser extent

  • Idiotic dog owners were the main culprits for generating misery in 2019, usually oblivious to any need to keep themselves and their ghastly pets well away from anyone stupid enough to be standing in the mud holding a 13' twig.... In another moment of unfathomable and totally unfunny comedy, there was a very large slobbering mutt that ran around like a mad thing with my hookbait loaf in its gob, although the owner truly surprised me, offering to get me another one. As Warsash was a mile away, I thanked her and declined the exceptionally kind and thoughtful offer

  • Haven't revisited all of the targeted venues - to be continued in 2019

  • Maybe I will see if I can improve on the modest thinlip during 2019; there are a couple of venues where there often seem to be some quite good specimens, which may offer some excellent sport

  • Although I didn't actively target golden-greys in the manner that I had planned, there were a number of occasions where I remained at a venue through parts of the tide where a golden-grey might have been on the cards. As usual, they just seemed to turn up fairly randomly, or not; the best was a surprisingly determined and highly entertaining 2/09

  • Sadly, there was one fish which did not survive being caught. I can only speculate that it went into shock; uncharacteristically for a thicklip, it produced an incredible amount of slime, and although lively on the bank, became subdued immediately upon being returned to the water - definitely a statistic not to be repeated in 2019

 
  Other Notes

This year I've again relied upon two rods (but only one at a time); the Drennan Series 7 13' Power Carp Waggler continues to be favourite for most occasions, and I've used the Drennan Series 7 12' Avon / Quiver for sessions where legering is an option or a necessity. There was a period early in the year during which I used the Drennan Series 7 13' Tench / Specimen Float rod, due to a broken tip on the Power Carp Waggler, probably caused by a previous accidental contact with a structure. Amusingly, after the event, the break occurred suddenly and spectacularly whilst I was at full lock with a very strong 4/11 on the other end - the top two feet of the rod cracked off with a sound like a pistol shot, and thankfully, the line was not cut. The rest of the fight was an ugly affair, hauling the unwilling fish towards the bank with what amounted to a broken twig... Again, Drennan promptly shipped a replacement with absolutely no fuss - many sincere thanks to Tackle Up at Fleet for arranging this

I've again used a couple of reels - the Shimano Sahara 3000S-R, and also the ABU 706 closed-face reel. Both have benefited from the regular use of generous amounts of Gibbs Lubricant. So far, the Sahara hasn't exhibited the salt / silt-related problems that terminated its predecessor, the Exage 3000SRC

The 'Vass-Tex' waders have continued to be 100% reliable, and I would be happy to recommend them, after two and a half years' frequent use; these have not needed so much as a patch, in all this time

Not far into the season, I replaced the previous worn landing net mesh by obtaining a Dinsmores 24" triangular net head, which again has a very fine mesh, and which I believe will cause less fin damage and will be less prone to dislodging scales

The numbers of thin lipped mullet visible at some of the venues visited appeared to be back to the levels that would normally be expected, but sadly, with some marked exceptions

The 'swan situation' continued in line with previous years' experiences, with one particular pair continuing to be a very welcome sight and a pleasure to be around, and all of the others being an absolute nightmare, with many sessions abandoned as 'unfishable', and much fishing time lost


So that's pretty much it for 2018, but it's been another truly great angling experience. Despite doom-laden weather reporting in the most 'outhouse-worthy' tabloids, the very mild weather may prove to be the herald of a very early start and better numbers of fish in the rivers in March and April, so it's fingers crossed that there won't be a cold snap, like last year, that puts all of our hopes down the gurgler


Also on the positive, there has been a moderate but steady stream of February mullet from the west country in 2019, including some fish which are quite large for the region, let alone the time of year. Phil Watters has been getting some well-deserved rod-bending excitement, and his early captures are shown in Phil's photo page


Now, the tackle is all ready, the weather is looking promising, and all we need is news of the first mullet sightings and captures in the south-east, hopefully before Southern IFCA go ahead with their current plans and sanction continued or even increased commercial exploitation of this dwindling and truly special sporting fish population



 
Last updated 03.03.19