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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 2018 - Part I
We’ve just spent most of January with our third son Richard and his family in South America. Eight years ago Rich (jammy bugger!), moved from the UK to live and work in Brazil. He now lives with his young family near Maceio, on the east coast of the country. Richard is just as keen on angling as I am and he’s been trying to “sort out the fishing” since he emigrated. It hasn’t been easy. With several house (and location) moves, a busy job at the university and two lively young daughters to bring up, his time to experiment with the fishing is extremely limited. An hour or so at dawn or in the evening after the kids have gone to bed is about all he can usually manage.
Richard's new front garden
So, how do you find out about the fishing when you move to a new place? For starters you can visit the local fish markets? You can also look on the internet? You might think in these days of electronic information and social media it would be simple to find out where, when and how to make decent catches – it isn’t! Lastly you can watch and speak to anglers who you meet on the shore? It turns out that Brazilian anglers are no different to those in other parts of the world; most of them just ‘want to catch something’. They generally stick to the popular tactics of long, heavy rods, big fixed-spool reels, hefty grip leads and small hooks baited with bits of prawn or slivers of fish. To give an example, one keen chap that we spoke to said he had fished the nearby beaches for ten years and although he usually caught something he only recalled catching one decent fish.
Maceio fish market. The mullet is in the lower teens of pounds, the snook is nearer twenty.
So we started from scratch; by copying the ‘locals’. Our beach-casting produced a really wide variety of species. Grunts, drums, snappers and jacks were often abundant. Four species of catfish, silver, golden, gaff-topsail and marine, all known as ’bagre’, were also frequent catches BUT, apart from the odd puffer fish with bolt-cutter teeth, catfish of a pound or two were almost the only fish of more than a few inches in length normally taken by using these methods.
To try and catch some better fish we resorted to our fall-back tactics of spinning and fly fishing from the local beaches. Neither approach was really successful. Any fish weighing more than a couple of pounds was still a bonus and although we had snook, leatherjackets, lookdowns and small barracuda (sennet and guachanche) it simply encouraged the use of small lures and although by wading out at low water and spinning over the reef Rich caught small coneys, hinds, wrasses, etc. but nothing of note ever pulled the string.
To cover more ground Richard bought a kayak and, after launching it from the shore just at the end of his street, tried fishing inside the reef. Many hours of trolling and spinning resulted in more of the same as before with a couple of exceptions including a snook of well over twenty pounds and a decent sized jack. The problem is that nothing was consistent. This year however it began to look as though he’s getting there. He’s found one reliable spot for catching snook from the shore and has begun to get to grips with fishing from his kayak(s).
Richard painting his fron fence in the sun. Note the two kayaks..
Richard and daughter Jasmine try the double kayak. Fish trap in background, reef on the horizon.
On my first morning the tide and conditions were just right for a trip to Mermaid Beach. In the past we’ve had some good snook and jacks from the rocks at this spot so we were optimistic. We were there at first light casting soft plastics into a light surf. Rich was using a large, resin-headed, black minnow (he’s done well with them) and I used a Slandra. Within a few minutes a double figure snook slashed at Richard’s lure but wasn’t hooked (the air didn't quite turn blue). Not long afterwards he hooked a fish which turned out to be the largest lookdown he’d ever caught. We went back for breakfast moderately well pleased.
Rich spinning from the rocks at Mermaid beach.
He's in, but it's no monster.
A cracking PB lookdown for my son.
The following evening we went in the kayak after dark but I’ll leave that for a later page. Two mornings later found us spinning from the reef again. Rich had bought a pack of frozen ‘sardines’ (for use from the kayaks) so while he stuck to his large Black Minnow I tried a new approach of wobbling a sardine on an 8/0 circle hook (usually it's too weedy for this). This time I had the bite and landed another PB this time it was red hind, a sort of grouper - much bigger than any we had caught before. After this the tides made it impossible to spin at Mermaid Beach, so for several days we explored other places in the mornings and fished from the kayak at night. The shore catches were diverse but small and not worth reporting.
My hind taken on a wobbled sardine.
It was not until a week after my arrival that Mermaid was fishable again. On our first attempt we blanked and got absolutely saturated by a brief tropical downpour. Undaunted we went again the following morning. Rich’s pal Leo had stayed overnight so we took him with us. We were all fishing weedless soft plastics (you'll see why). It was rough, it was weedy and, because there was limited fishing space, I hung back and tried a different stretch of reef – it appeared to be fishless. However, my son hit the jackpot with two double-figure snook on his black minnow. Leo blanked as I did.
The first of Rich's big snook taken just after first light.
He's in again - this time from a trickier spot.
Still playing it - look at the weed on his line!
Now he has to get it ashore not easy.
His second double in twenty minutes fishing plus almost the same weight of weed.
As Rich said to me after that first week - "The pressure to catch something is off now Dad." More about the rest of the fishing next time
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