I had another blank session with the beach rods since my last post, this time at Bantry Airport Strand, so it didn't take a lot of thought deciding to head back to Rosscarbery today. There were many fish browsing around in the margins when I arrived but the first hour was quiet. It was much calmer today and easy to see the mullet swimming around and over not just my hookbait but free offerings too.
Then a lone fish started taking an interest in some floating pieces of bread.
As far as I could tell it was just pushing them around and not taking them, though it may have taken some as they sunk. Anyway, it was more attention than baits on the bottom were getting so I slid my float and shot further up the line and put a tiny piece of crust on my hook. It floated beautifully a couple of feet away from the little Puddlechucker.
Soon the fish was onto my bait, it pushed it a few inches across the surface, turned, came back and engulfed the crust. The float towed off after the mullet.
I struck against the mullet's motion and hooked it. It wasn't a spectacular fight but it put up a solid resistance for several minutes before I could net it.
It was hooked in the bony part of the scissors and I needed my disgorger to push the hook out. It weighed 4lb 7oz, my biggest so far this winter.
Slightly to my surprise there were still lots of fish milling round in the margin despite the mullet swimming to and fro through them several times during the fight. I put out another crust bait without expecting very much. My attention wandered to some big swirls going on further out, I looked back to my bait just in time to see it taken by another decent mullet! This one was 4lb exactly.
This time the fish in the edge had moved on, but I could still see plenty of swirls and fins and tails further out.
I set up a leger with about a 6 inch tail and baited with crust which would then pop-up off the bottom to fish about mid-depth in the shallow water. Hopefully above the crabs but deep enough to avoid gull trouble.
I sat watching the tip while I ate my lunch. First cast there was a single knock, probably a line bite. Second cast, a succession of sharp pulls. I struck and was in again.
This one really was a good fight, a strong run out and it took ages to bring back with several shorter runs - yet the smallest fish of the day at 3:13.
The main mullet activity seemed to be off to my left now, still a good cast out.
I moved along a bit and cast out again, same pop-up crust bait. Second cast and I had a really good pull round on the tip, and another good scrap to land my last of the day at 3:14.
One thing I've noticed about these winter fish is that most of them (in fact all of them I've remembered to check) have lacked the papillae on their upper lip normally taken as a strong identifying characteristic for thicklips.
I've no doubt at all the fish are thick lips. I've seen them without papillae before, interestingly but maybe coincidentally mostly on winter fish, from Alderney and North Cornwall. I've no idea if they can "lose" the papillae by abrasion or some other mechanism - or if they could grow back again - or if this is some genetic variation - but then why would it seem to predominate in winter fish when I've not noticed it in the same area in summer? Pete B put on my Facebook "Tis a mystery for sure."