Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Oi, you, get off my (fishing) marks

You'd have to be living under a pretty sizeable rock to not have noticed the growth in lure fishing here in the UK and Ireland, and of course in saltwater the main fish is the bass. I love wrasse and pollack on lures for example, but the simple fact is that most anglers getting into saltwater lure fishing want to try and catch bass. Why is lure fishing on the up like this ? Well I have plenty of theories, but more anglers getting into it of course means more anglers on the lookout for fishing spots, with the net result being that some marks are seeing relative numbers of anglers perhaps for the first time..............

Henry, how could you ? People are going to recognise that rock anywhere............

And some anglers quite understandably don't like this level of intrusion on "their" marks. Have a look at the comments section on a recent blog post here, and if it helps, I get it completely. Do I want to be seeing loads more anglers on the marks I fish ? No way. I blogged earlier in the year along similar lines, but it's something that ain't going to go away and I am doing my best to understand all sides of the story here. I have no problem if some anglers want to have a pop at me for helping (in some tiny way, let's be honest) "popularise" some of the bass fishing over in Ireland, indeed I must expect an amount of flak with what I do, but let's at least examine what is going on here and see what might come of it.

I am a local angler to my quiet corner of south east Cornwall, and for the most part I know that I can go out lure fishing and see mostly nobody. If I started to see more lure anglers starting to appear on the "secret" spots that I fish, I can't pretend I would be over the moon with it, but on the flipside to this I accept completely that lure fishing is growing in popularity and that a percentage of anglers will use their heads and find these "secret" spots via various means. I can only imagine how awesome it would have been if I had had access to resources like Google Earth, Bing Maps and a fly-by like this (it's Ireland, but surely others exist ?) when I first moved to Plymouth. How easy is it now to check out likely looking marks from a computer, tablet or even phone screen before even heading out there to have a scramble around ?

Yep, I can tell where it is just from the colour of the sea

I understand completely that some Irish anglers are wondering what on earth is going on with more anglers from home and abroad turning up on "their" marks, but I will never understand certain attitudes as long as I live. For all that I hear about little old me "ruining" marks, it amazes me that I still fish countless spots over in Ireland where we never see anybody else. This will change though as more anglers learn more about what to look for from a bass mark and then go exploring themselves. Just the other day for example I had two internet resources open on my dual monitor setup and I was cross-referencing back and forth on a section of the Copper Coast that I have always driven past but never looked at closely, but holy cow it looks awesome and on my next trip I am going to go walkies for sure. Are these somebody's "secret" marks ? Probably, but I am an angler, I'm inquisitive, and I like fishing "new" spots. And I am not alone.

Anybody can head over to Ireland, walk into a shop like the Absolute Fishing emporium in Tramore and pick up a tourist leaflet that details a number of very good bass marks along the local coastline. OK, so you're not getting exact times and conditions when to fish them, but a good tackle dealer is always going to do what they can to help put their customers onto a few fish, indeed it would be plain daft business sense not to try and help out. As helpful as a tourist leaflet is though, most of you must have some clue that on a coastline like this that there are most likely hundreds of places you might catch bass from - look at the mighty Dungarvan Bay for example. I could spend a lifetime learning its secrets and still be left wondering.

I also take the point from visiting anglers who have been travelling over to fish in Ireland for many years now and like some locals are increasingly finding more bass anglers out fishing. But what can you do ? Sure, this lure fishing thing could collapse in a heap one day, but I personally think that UK and Irish saltwater fishing is really opening up for the good and also the long-term. When I first started fishing the Wexford coastline with Graham Hill, for the life of me I can't remember seeing other bass anglers out and about, indeed I can remember bait sessions during the daytime when we were smashing so many quality bass that I kept looking around to see where on earth everybody else was.

But this is the information age. Never before has so much info been available to us via so many different and often very accessible means. Yes, anglers like me blog, write, photograph and used to make TV programmes about the fishing we do. I love this sport and I want to shout from the rooftops about how awesome it is. Nope, I don't divulge specific locations for a multitude of reasons, and I have countless photographs that will never see the light of day for example, but I accepted a long time ago that none of us own these marks. It's not "our" coastline and they are not "our" fish to catch and keep to ourselves. Yes, I want to be able to fish locations that are not swarming with other anglers, but let's be honest here - you and I both know it's always going to be the case that there is only a certain percentage of people with the more adventurous gene. When the sun's out, why are some beaches always crowded yet some remain nice and quiet ? Sheep and shepherds.

So where is everybody ?

I'll tell you what conclusion I have come to, and yes, it requires me to try my hardest and not be selfish. On the one hand I am no different to many anglers in that I want as many marks to myself as possible, but over time I have come to see this as a fundamentally selfish view. I am not about to divulge plenty of places that I go to, rather I am going to continue to do all that I can to help promote lure fishing for bass - because I passionately believe that in some small way it's my best way of doing something good for the future of it. Hear me out here.........................

I believe fundamentally that politics is about votes/power/money and I don't believe that there is more than a tiny shred of human decency within the whole tangled mess. I don't hold out any faith at all that any group of power brokers are ever going to look ethically at what we as a species do to another species like the bass as regards aiding in their potential (commercial) destruction. Conversely I don't believe that bleeting about how bass numbers and/or sizes are on the decline yet at the same time being all secret squirrel and hoping everybody stays away does us any good at all.

I personally believe one of the only chances a species like the bass stands is that sport fishing for them to get bigger and bigger. More anglers getting into bass fishing in simplistic terms means that the fishery is worth more money to more people. The more money spread about means the more important it becomes that these fish remain a viable sport fishing proposition. The more monetary value that can be attached to a fish like the bass because more people want to spend more money sport fishing for them, the more the power brokers have to take notice. Money and votes. Contented people vote for you. Politics certainly ain't about caring for cold, wet slimy things that swim in waters that are for the most part out of sight, out of mind. Kissing an orphan baby is going to get you far more votes than banging the drum for a spiky little fish that people love to eat.

I still maintain that with hard work and an application of logic there will always be plenty of quiet, out of the way marks to go shore fishing, but personally I feel increasingly drawn to trying let go of my (selfish ?) desire to have parts of the coastline to myself for the greater good of where I feel that sport fishing needs to head. The question is of course whether there will be any quality fish left to catch ? (and I draw your attention to this recent news here for example). Food for thought, surely ?