Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Irish close season for bass starts today - thoughts ?

If you didn't know, from 15th May to 15th June there is a close season for bass in Ireland which I believe means you are not meant to go deliberately fishing for them, and if you do catch bass by mistake then they must all be returned - bearing in mind of course that outside of the ban there is a two bass per day limit anyway. You know by now that I am right behind anything that can help the fish stocks recover in any way, big or small, but I can't help but wonder about this month long close season................

The origins of this close season on the Irish bass was I believe to try and better protect spawning fish, and as any sane human being knows full well, the only way to really make a big difference to fish stocks anywhere on this earth is to leave them the hell alone when they are breeding - which is about as likely as any politician anywhere on this earth actually giving a direct answer to a direct question. Please accept that I am in no way any kind of expert on the times of bass spawning, but enough people communicate to me that they see little correlation between the timings of the bass close season and when the fish actually spawn that I can't help but wonder if in fact the Irish close season is doing the good it's meant to do.

I am categorically not trying to raise any hackles, but I do wonder if there might be a different way of doing things to help look after the Irish bass. All well and good you might well say considering I don't live in Ireland and I am merely a regular visitor, but I can't help but admire the country for at least putting various measures in place that seem to be doing some level of good as regards protecting inshore fish stocks. Nope, nowhere is perfect, but I can only comment on the average size of Irish bass I see compared to the average size of bass I see around here, and there is no comparison.

A part of me can't help thinking about how essentially banning numerous anglers from fishing certain parts of the coastline for a month might actually play into the hands of the more unscrupulous people who might partake in a bit of illegal netting etc. I know how much "self-policing" a lot of the Irish bass anglers do around their magical coastline, because for however much good stuff the bailiffs can do, budgets are budgets and they are never going to be able to successfully patrol a whole coastline.

More switched-on and conservation minded anglers out and about on the coastline can only be a good thing if you ask me, and whilst I accept that my view might be somewhat simplistic, surely a bit of decent self-policing at a time when there can be a serious amount of bass around is a good thing. Leaving parts of the coastline alone for a month ? I just don't know, or is this simply a wrong way of looking at this ?

From a purely economic point of view I can't help but feel for people and businesses over in Ireland who rely on bass anglers for whatever percentages of their income. During a more normal year you would expect the bass fishing in parts of Ireland to have been pumping for a while now, but with this late start things are only really getting going relatively recently. Down come the hatches though and it's no more bass fishing for a month from today. A potentially prime time for various businesses to earn income and the bass related part of it is stopped dead in its tracks.

But yes, I am completely behind something that might help protect the bass stocks, and yes, of course, I wish with all my heart that something meaningful would be done here in the UK. As regards Ireland I personally think that a no-take season might be worth thinking about - how about say all bass caught from 1st Feb to the end of May to be returned (please, I am merely plucking dates out of the ether here), with all non-bait fishing hooks to be fully barbless ? And then outside of these times there could be a slot-size for the two fish allowed per angler per day. Who needs to kill a double figure bass to eat ? How about a slot size that looks for a bass around say 2.5lbs to 4lbs which is a pretty decent eating size. Plus as a visiting angler I should be charged a saltwater fishing license that of course is going to the right causes.

Again though, easy for me to say as I can simply sit here and write about it, and it's nothing but a bit of thinking aloud by me. But it interests me, and of course as a visiting angler I can't help but hope with all my heart that Ireland continues to do what it's doing as regards bass stocks, and yes, of course, with all my heart as well I wish something was being done in the UK. But it isn't and that's why I go to Ireland as much as I can.

If I lived in Ireland though, would I respect the bass close season and not fish for them for the next month ? Well I want to say yes of course I would because I am a decent law-abiding citizen, but in reality ? As a visitor and a fishing journalist I don't visit Ireland during the close season, but if I lived there ? Crumbs it would be hard not to head out when the coast is fizzing and you just know that the conditions are perfect. I don't take bass to eat and all my lure hooks, both singles and trebles, are all de-barbed, but would it be right to head out fishing during a close season ? No, obviously not, but I have to ask once more how much relevancy this close season actually has to the bass and their spawning activities ? And yes, I very much stand to be corrected...................