Catch Fish with
For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).
Brazil 1 The pain and the pleasure.
Richard and Ana and their two daughters (our grandchildren) Jasmine and Beatrice, live near the city of Maceio in North eastern Brazil. We've just returned from a five week visit to see them and while I was there Richard and I did a reasonable amount of fishing. Of course with two youngsters and busy jobs at the university, fishing time was often a bit restricted but we did manage to wet a line quite often. The easiest time for us to fish was generally at dawn before the kids were awake, so as soon as I arrived the two of us were venturing down to the beach in search of snook and jacks.
I have to say that angling from the shore in this part of Brazil isn't easy. Neither of us are keen on fishing for small stuff and the larger fish seem to be fairly thin on the ground, so we expected to have quite a few blank or slow sessions. Generally we managed about an hour of spinning before we had to pack in and return to see to the girls and for Richard to go to work. Our first few trips were to Mermaid Beach where, last winter, we landed a few really big snook. The fishing at M.B. involved crossing a small river which flows across the sand, so we could stand on the rocky reef. The rocks are covered in patches of tiny black mussels which provide the benefit of guaranteed grip for any type of footwear. On the outside of the reef the sea is always rough and usually full of loose weed so it is far from easy. In fact it is only by using weedless soft plastics that it is possible to fish effectively.
On our first morning session we only managed a few tentative plucks on the lures apart from a beautiful lookdown which took Richard's Black Minnow. I used a big, white, unweighted Slug-Go and failed to hook any of the furtive bites. On the following morning we had a complete blank but, as we walked back, we spoke to an old fisherman who was cast-netting for bait. He said that there had been snook on another part of the reef close to the 'Mermaid'. On the following morning (our last chance to access the reef on that series of tides) we started fishing at the usual hot spot and after ten or fifteen minutes I had a fierce bite, under the rod tip, on my Slug-Go which curled the plastic right up the hook but immediately came unstuck. Big snook for sure! I was gutted as chances are few. A little later Richard announced that he was going to try the spot we'd been told of the previous morning. He trudged off leaving me to flog away for a further biteless twenty minutes. When we met up again it turned out that Richard had fished his big, resin-headed, Black Minnow close under the inside of the reef and had actually hooked a big snook which took some line against a tight clutch before coming unstuck. It just wasn't our morning.
Now the tides were only suitable for bait fishing. Using my spinning rod, armed with a small breakaway lead to combat the wind and tidal flow, I sometimes fished alone during the daytime (Rich was at work). At times the bites were thick and fast on a range of baits including prawn, octopus and sardine. The baits were all impaled on paternostered circle hooks and the fish generally hooked themselves. As a rule the hook-hold was in the lip, a big advantage of the circle hook set up. The majority of the fish caught in this way were silver catfish up to about a couple of pounds. Good fun but tricky to handle so this is a good point to mention the thrills and spills of the fishing.
Not long before we arrived Richard had impaled his toe on the spines of a black sea urchin - he was still limping. These animals are a bit of a hazard on rocky shores and there are generally lots of them in any rock pool, however tiny. Anyway, I'd been warned about these so I was pretty careful. In relation to my bait fishing he also mentioned the dangers associated with unhooking catfish. Now most of the marine catfish have a long spine on the dorsal fin and also one on each pectoral fin so of course you avoid picking them up with bare hands. The general rule is to grab the hook in a pair of forceps or long nosed pliers and to shake the fish off before picking it up by its dorsal spine (again using the pliers) and returning it to its native element. Usually there is no problem as the fish slides off the hook with a gentle shake but, just occasionally, it needs a more vigorous jiggle to get it off. My son said that a couple of times he'd managed to stab himself in the hand while he was doing the honours and he mentioned that it wasn't pleasant. Now I have to say that after seventy-odd years of handling fish I'm a bit 'gung ho', so I wasn't too concerned about releasing half-pound silver cats. Shake 'em off, pick'em up, put em back, easy! Then one day I shook a bit harder than I needed, the fish came off the hook, flew through the air and OUCH! The pectoral spine jabbed into my index finger. The wound was bleeding a bit but having been jabbed by fish many times before I wasn't too bothered. I picked the little devil up and dropped it back into the sea. Now it was beginning to hurt rather more. Then, withing five minutes it was excruciatingly painful. I squeezed the finger with my other hand and capered about on the beach as though I was deranged. It didn't - help; the pain became intense. That night it was less painful but still enough to keep me awake for hours. Now, three weeks after the event, the finger is slightly swollen and stiff - believe me you don't want to be stung by a catfish.
The final episode was entirely self inflicted. I've mentioned that we waded across onto the reef at Mermaid Beach and usually this was in the half-light before dawn. A week or two into my stay Rich and I went to give it another try. The trick, to avoid slipping and falling, is to step onto the darker patches of rock which is where the mussels are grippiest. Peering ahead of me I put my best foot forward onto a black patch which turned out to be not mussels but a deep hole. I stumbled, I fell forward, I dropped the rod and reel into the drink (it survived the ordeal!) and I scraped my right knee on the rocks. It didn't feel too bad so I got to my feet, picked up the rod and began to fish. Only as the light improved was I able to see that my shin was covered in blood. Tiny mussel shells are pretty abrasive and they easily remove a few layers of skin. As I write this my knee now has a big, hard, scabby patch and I'm unable to kneel on it. Silly old bugger eh!
Anyway, none of my 'accidents' were enough to stop me fishing and although I had plenty of mockery from the family we did catch a few nice fish. I'll recount the rest of our action in the next web page.
Richard fishing from a typical rocky reef - the fish seem very localised.
A beautiful 'lookdown' caught on a Black Minnow lure.
Richard lost his big snook as he fished just by the statue of the 'well endowed' mermaid.
We occasionally try a spot of bait fishing but the fish are generally small.
Silver catfish are one of the commonest catches on bait.
Watch your step - black sea urchins can be everywhere.
The result of carelessly unhooking a small catfish, more painful than it looks.
My own fault - a knee scraped by a mat of mussels.
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