Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Will we end up with the bass fishery we deserve?

Don’t shoot me down here - of course I don’t mean that as anglers we literally deserve to have the declining sport fishery for bass that we increasingly seem to have, rather I wonder whether UK saltwater anglers’ general collective apathy towards doing anything much about fighting for a better future is going to end up biting us so hard in the rear that we will end up deeply regretting our own general inaction in years to come………

I would hope it didn’t escape your attention that as per my blog post the other day (check here), the MLS (Minimum Landing Size) for bass has indeed been increased to 42cms, and although this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, if you actually stop and think about it, a 42cms bass is hardly a large bass to be removing from the sea. But whilst there does seem to a bit of good news for bass stocks with more and more in the press about the move for further restrictions on commercial landings, it absolutely amazed me that a simple online petition set up by Save our Sea Bass/BASS failed to reach 1000 digital signatures (check here). Now there is of course the argument that the publicity for this petition might not have been good enough, but to me it’s another example of our general apathy towards doing anything more than sticking our heads in the sand and hoping all the tricky stuff goes away. Or doing a lot of bitching, moaning, blaming and complaining.

Any bass is a good bass, of course it is, but will a modest sized bass like this one day be the biggest bass we could realistically hope to catch?

Any bass is a good bass, of course it is, but will a modest sized bass like this one day be the biggest bass we could realistically hope to catch?

Is it just me, or does there seem to be more of that crap going on these days? Has the ease with which we now all communicate online in fact facilitated far too much of the negative stuff going on? All the energy expended on bitching about pointless stuff such as oi, that’s my mark and what are you doing here/I own the coastline, so and so hasn’t been lure fishing since before they were born, I’m right so you must be wrong because I’m such an expert, nine barbed hooks don’t do any damage to a fish we intend to release (don’t get me started on that one), my mate said that his second cousin’s pet donkey is lying about the size/length of his bass etc., well I can’t help but wonder if all that bitching and complaining that serves only to make us look like a bunch of petty little nerds could ever be turned around to doing something positive like actually standing together and saying no, we’ve had enough of the seas around here being raped and we’re going to do something about it.

But we don’t, or at least the large majority of us don’t. We bitch about organisations such as the Angling Trust or even BASS who are at least trying to do something about the problems that ain’t going away however much we want to pretend they might be, yet when the time comes to do nothing more than digitally sign an online petition, it seems that most of us can’t be bothered. Nope, let’s rant and rave online where we can hide behind the safety of a keyboard and have a pop at everyone and everything, but let’s never dream of putting our hands in our pockets for example and actually getting something meaningful moving.

Am I being too harsh here? On the one hand I have always been immensely proud to be a UK saltwater angler, but with my travelling that I do for work and with what I then see and experience, another side of me is also deeply embarrassed to sit around a table for example and explain how we do things here in northern Europe as regards fish stocks. Or rather, what we don’t do. I talk about how even the mention of recreational sea angling license here in the UK tends to activate all the online unpleasantness that we hear far too much about throughout society these days. About how no tackle companies that I am aware of here in the UK or Ireland ever seem to do anything about trying to secure more fish to catch so that anglers spend more money on their products. What is it with our general apathy towards standing together and trying to affect change? Are we almost too English for our own good?

Is it our nature to act like ostriches and instead blame everybody else rather than look at ourselves and what we might actually do? I look at my tough trip over to Ireland recently, and whilst bass surely come inshore to feed - and there seemed to be a real lack of baitfish around - there’s no getting away from bass fishing in general getting harder, and whatever reasons the more conspiracy-theory minded anglers among us might throw around, personally I have always believed that mankind takes too many fish from the sea. And yes, too many anglers taking too many fish can’t help either, although it’s interesting how an area like the Florida Keys often has the most ridiculous number of anglers yet they seem to have a stack of fish to catch. Kinda similar with the striped bass I saw over in Cape Cod recently - easy to dismiss perhaps as not being relevant because it’s thousands of miles away, yet to me it’s always going to be an interesting case study if you like as to what can happen when the sport fishing industry works out how to affect change for the better.

I can but hope that we will one day end up with more and bigger bass to catch, and whilst there are of course other reasons than simply taking too many fish from the sea, I wonder if sometime in the (near?) future we will have cause to look back and regret the fact that we are so bloody apathetic towards getting our hands dirty and actually trying to do something about it. Sure, blame the commercial sector alone because it’s easy to do so. Blame other countries for coming and taking “our” fish. Blame the rampant inshore netting that we all know is getting worse and worse. But do we have a leg to stand on when we simply won’t stand together and do something about it? What though? What can we do? Well I don’t pretend to have the answers, but again I come back to how we want our saltwater fishing to be free yet no organisation has any serious money to really fight our corner and at least try to make a meaningful difference. If it ever comes to there being no point heading out bass fishing anymore, who will we blame then? Do we almost deserve what could happen because we do nearly sod all about it? I so love the fishing we have in the UK and Ireland and when something like bass fishing fires on a lonely rock mark I would put it up against any other (world) fishing out there, but will us anglers only come together when it’s too late?

I am very much open to your thoughts on this blog post - please do leave a comment and tell me what you think. I am flying to the US today and will check back in when I arrive which should be tonight sometime UK time - I can then click on your comments and get them published up here.