Mullet Fishing 2019: Review

 


 
Opened the front door today, in early December, and was met by an icy blast and the sight of frost on the lawn and cars, not for the first time this year. A recce in the previous week offered very little by way of encouragement, and so I think that with regret, we can finally call 'time' on the 2019 mullet season in the south east of England. Hopefully, there will be some more of Phil's Devon fish yet, to help tide us over into the new year.

The highs and lows of 2019     (in no particular order)

 

 
  • This has been a highly enjoyable but difficult season, partly due to a number of extended periods of bad weather, and also due to the increasing scarcity of fish

  • To elaborate, in terms of fish numbers, the past season appears to have been a continuation of the trends seen previously, with fewer mullet visibly present, and an overall feeling that each capture has been particularly hard-won. There has been direct evidence of (legal) netting in the river where I most often fish, with ring netting and occasionally, a very long linear net, which reportedly extended almost halfway across the estuary entrance. Despite the legality of the netting activity, it has been, over a number of years, very much to the detriment of the mullet stocks, and consequentially, to the bass population also

      * As a footnote to the last observation, at this time, Southern IFCA have not yet concluded their public consultation regarding netting in the region, and thus far, there have been no positive indications that their legislation will adequately address the 'Conservation' component of their responsibilities. Despite forward-thinking and appropriate measures having been implemented in Cornwall, and also by Devon & Severn IFCA, for the moment at least, Southern seem to be lagging behind, and the future of recreational mullet fishing in parts of the south east is now becoming of particular concern

    *As a footnote to the last observation, at this time, Southern IFCA have not yet concluded their public consultation regarding netting in the region, and thus far, there have been no positive indications that their legislation will adequately address the 'Conservation' component of their responsibilities. Despite forward-thinking and appropriate measures having been implemented in Cornwall, and also by Devon & Severn IFCA, for the moment at least, Southern seem to be lagging behind, and the future of recreational mullet fishing in parts of the south east is now becoming of particular concern


  • At the outset, based upon past statistics, I had predicted that the year would be not unlike 2013 and 2016, two not-so-good years, and this has very much been the case, with the total number of fish landed significantly reduced when viewed against better seasons. The one redeeming statistic is that the proportion of productive sessions was significantly better than 2016, albeit slightly lower than 2013

  • On a more positive note, in terms of the larger fish, this has been a very good year. The best specimens were two 'sixes', unbelievably on the same day, 27/08/19, from two different venues, weighing in at 6lb 11oz and 6lb 2oz

  • In addition, there were four 'fives' - 5lb 6oz on 17/07/19, a 5lb 4oz on 12/08/19, 5lb 0oz on 21/08/19, and the last, the final fish of the year, a 5lb 14oz on 05/11/19

  • The overall 'spread' of fish weights, i.e. the proportion in each weight band, was again different to recent years, with a very distinct reduction in the numbers of 3 - 4lb fish, about half of last year' total, and approximately a third of the 2017 total. There was a similar drop off in the 1 - 2lb range, about half the number when compared to 2018. Other size band totals were very much more 'as expected'

  • I was unable to start catching mullet earlier in the year than in 2018, with the first fish a total surprise, a thinlip on bread, on 23/04/19, but this was only eight days further into April, and still a very positive start

  • The season seemed to be at an end in early to mid November, although I've had a few optimistic but unproductive trips since. As is often the case, the final fish of the season was a good one, an extremely ill-tempered 5lb 14oz on 05/11/19

  • The ability to be more selective about fishing days was again a 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 magical fishing days to be enjoyed, especially - but not exclusively - the capture of the better fish described above, and another totally excellent visit to Devon, to fish with Phil Watters in late July. There was one particularly memorable day when, after really struggling and then finally catching a 1/06, which put the trip on a good footing, the afternoon saw the unexpected capture of not just one, but two six pound fish - you just can't make this stuff up

  • There was one particularly miserable period in June, with six consecutive trips without a mullet, and then losing a good fish on the seventh outing. The misery ended on 23/06/19 with a couple of fish, including one from a new location, and a really nice 4/10 to put a real shine on the day

  • Not exactly an important statistic, but I still haven't landed a 4lb+ mullet on the 1st nor the 28th day of any month, in any year, since 2011

  • There were again no real times where the river water was overly coloured, despite the extended periods avoided due to strong winds and rain. There was another memorable occasion when the sudden heavy rains came and the first peel of thunder crashed somewhere nearby, just as I hooked into a large and determined fish. After a worrying amount of time, I was very relieved to put the net under 5/04 of unhappy mullet and to stop waving around the 'Drennan Series 7 Personal Lightning Conductor'

  • As always, 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, although it's always a joy when the weather actually does what it's predicted to do

  • Due to various factors, there were 27 fewer trips this year than in 2018

  • My best continuous 'run' of mullet landed without a lost fish was ten, in July. There was a particularly miserable day in July when I lost three, but ultimately, with two other fish in the net, the losses didn't sting quite as much as they otherwise would have. A similar disaster had been avoided earlier in July, when after losing two good fish to weeds at a new venue, the day was 'rescued' by a more than determined 4/11 which was hauled out at the Last Gasp Saloon

  • Achieved only some of the other objectives set:

  • The 'top 5' and 'top 10' weights were the best of any year so far, since and including 2011

  • The six pound fish landed in 2019, at 6lb 11oz and 6lb 2oz, both feature in the 'all years' top 10 - the 2nd and 7th best weights overall. There have still been no 6lb fish landed earlier than August

  • The average weight per fish was an improvement of nearly a whole pound over the last few years, probably aided by the reduction in the numbers of 1 - 2lb fish mentioned above

  • The proportion of successful trips was marginally lower than in the previous two years, reduced somewhat by the lack of early fish, the deficit of mullet landed in June, several extended periods unfished due to poor weather, and the lack of viable opportunities in October and November

  • The average number of mullet landed per successful trip showed a small reduction over last year, but exceeded the figures for all other post-2011 years

  • Spent time fishing several new venues in 2019, some of which produced a good few mullet, plus some quality fish - definitely to be revisited

  • I was unable to match past years' monthly catch figures, with numbers significantly reduced in nearly all months, and a respectable number of fish landed only in May and July

  • A better percentage of hooked mullet were landed than in the preceding three seasons, partly due to having reached a point where all elements of the rig seem fairly 'bullet proof'. There was one memorably disappointing loss, when trying out a new hooklink brand, so I quickly reverted to my standard setup, with no further problems

  • Overall, a smaller percentage of fish were lost than in all other years, with the exception of 2015

  • Thankfully, there were only four trips where there was the seemingly very long drive home after losing the only fish of the day

  • I was again engaged in a number of titanic struggles, most of which (surprisingly, even unbelievably) ended well. During one trip, just for once, when the hook pinged out of a beached fish, I was able to restrain it before it disappeared back into the murky depths

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

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

  • Of the 56 locations visited, 20 were productive; there were 32 venues previously fished that remained untried in 2019

  • Caught several more thin-lipped mullet on the baited spinner using artificial ragworm, this time at a venue where I had struggled since 2011 - this bodes well for next year

  • Continued again to expand upon knowledge of the most productive states of the tide that can be fished, including the new venues. Interestingly, some of the feeding patterns have changed at well-fished venues, and there is a need to understand and adapt to these changes in 2020

  • Visited a good number of other new venues - many sincere thanks to DaveC for his generosity in showing me some of these

  • Surprisingly, there were hardly any problems with dog owners this year, although I can't think of an explanation for that - just sheer good fortune, I guess

  • Managed to fall over spectacularly, a couple of times, usually in mud or water, but most memorably, from the top of a style by a farmer's gate. On that occasion, I was climbing over, at the highest point, and fell horizontally, landing in an untidy heap. As usual, all the grace and agility of a mountain... slug...

  • Haven't revisited all of the targeted venues - to be continued in 2020

  • The numbers of thin lipped mullet seem to be reduced again, although I haven't visited some of the venues where they are often most visibly present.

  • Maybe I will see again if I can improve on the modest best thinlip during 2020; there are a couple of venues that I've neglected this year where there often seem to be some quite large specimens, plus loads of scrapes, and these may offer some excellent opportunities

  • Again, I didn't actively target golden-greys in the manner that I had planned, and unusually, I caught none at all this year, which is a 'first' - they have otherwise put in an appearance each year since 2011

  • All mullet were returned safely, a statistic of prime importance that I will want very much want to see repeated again in future years

  • All things considered, not a bad year, taking into account some of the grim weather and the apparent shortage of fish present at some (most?) of the venues, although the season ended on a very sour note; I heard from a 100% reliable source that Boris, the ever-present and truly most excellent swan, was found dead in early November, the cause not yet known. Having seen this particular bird from the first visit in 2011, when he (?) was an incredible nuisance, and each successive year until 2019, by which time we had worked out a more than comfortable way to co-exist, I'm truly quite sad that we won't be seeing him driving off the other waterfowl and otherwise enjoying his irreplaceable presence at the riverside next year. RIP, greedy old b*gger




 
  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. I've carried an 'emergency rod' in case of another breakage, and this, with dual tip sections, doubles as either a float~ or leger rod. In reality, it's often been deployed as a second leger rod on the days when that seemed the best way to go.

I've pretty much used just the one reel on the float rod this time out, the Shimano Sahara 3000S-R. Despite a terminal lock-up in October, again caused by salt and silt, this has provided excellent service. The failure was quickly resolved, with a complete strip and clean-up, and it is now as good as ever. I've helped it along this year with a silicon-based lubricant - many thanks to KeithG for pointing me in that direction.

The 'Vass-Tex' waders have continued to be very reliable, and although they needed some adhesive piped into in a puncture that I incurred when I stepped on a sharp metal spike during 2018, they will still be 'match fit' for 2020. I suspect that the limiting factor will ultimately be the inevitable wear on the soles of the boots, and although I dare say that these can be re-soled, it may be wise to get a new pair at that time.

I've continued to use the Dinsmores 24" triangular landing net head, which has been more than adequate to deal with the stamp of fish being caught, including the larger specimens. Unusually, I had a recurring problem with the Drennan Super Specialist net handle, due to age and wear, and for the moment, I'm using a 3m fibreglass NGT twist-lock replacement. First impressions are that it's not too end-heavy and the thicker handgrip is actually helpful with regard to its deployment. Time will tell whether I will continue with this or explore other options, but for the moment, it's all good.

Another distinct positive for the year, Phil Watters has been enjoying some regular successes, starting early with several fish in February, and more in March. There have been plenty of 3lb fish and a few 4s, although these didn't put in an appearance in July, while I was visiting. Despite that, there was much enjoyment to be had, and as usual, the trip to Devon was one of the undisputed highlights of the year - thanks Phil. Plenty of mullet-oriented goodness at http://philwatters.mulletobsession.co.uk/


Now, it just remains to give the gear a long-overdue deep clean and put it all away, out of sight, and then try not to think too much about mullet until the warm days at the end of next March... yeah, that's definitely gonna happen...



 
Last updated 25.07.20