Wow, that is a timely example of what can happen when bass stocks are afforded a degree of protection
Nope, with fish stocks I don't imagine anywhere is perfect, indeed I have believed for years that much of the best fishing on this planet tends to take place where population densities are low or non-existent - but the fact is that some parts of the world are better than others at looking after their local fish stocks, and what happened over in Ireland this weekend is in my mind a perfect example of the kind of bass fishing that results from at least making some kind of concerted effort to leave the inshore stocks the hell alone.
Six Brits went over the other day. I believe that most of them have spent time fishing in Ireland before, and they are based in Tramore on the south coast, close to where that den of temptation and filth is, Absolute Fishing. They are good anglers who know what they are doing, and they know that Ireland is the same as any other place - you've got to work for your fish and it doesn't always happen. Conditions on the actual coastline I understand are not remotely ideal, but as I always say to anybody who ever contacts me asking for a bit of help with Irish bass fishing, get the hell off the open coast when conditions ain't right and instead concentrate on the estuaries and lagoons. These lads know that all about that and holy frigging cow have they scored some big bass............
Mark Padfield started off with a 13lb+ (measured and weighed) bass that he took off the surface on a Lucky Craft Gunfish on Friday I believe. Now this guy knows his onions when it comes to bass fishing, and for all that Mark enjoys a little "stirring" online as I know he would admit to, he's a passionately committed bass angler who in a roundabout way is very good at helping to pass great information on to other anglers that helps them out with their own fishing. That is one hell of a bass, and off the surface? Well I don't think I have ever heard of a bass that big off the top, and I believe that for the doubles Mark has had from the shore, it is now the case that his largest ever lure caught bass comes from Ireland. Hugely well done Mark.
Thanks for letting me use these photos guys - all bass successfully returned I believe.
And then on Sunday I started getting texts from Richard Cake of Dorset Fishing Rods - he had just landed his personal best bass of around 11lbs on a Fiiish Black Minnow and he was bouncing!! I think he had another one around the 7lb mark and then I got another text to say he'd just landed a second bass over 11lbs. Yes, you read that right, Richard landed two 11lb+ bass in the one day. We are talking about shore fishing here, and in my mind that is some pretty special bass fishing. Another Ireland addict? Richard knows as well as anybody that you have good days and bad days over there as you do anywhere else, but to me it's proof yet again that a country which affords a certain level of protection to its bass population quite simply offers better bass fishing. Awesome fishing Richard.
So what is better bass fishing? Well it could be a number of things, but overall to me it's a higher average size of bass. Sure, numbers of bass over there are sometimes pretty epic, but then in the UK we can sometimes catch big numbers of bass. Is Ireland simply a place where the average size of bass just happens to be higher than the UK for reasons unconnected to fish stock levels? You could argue that, but that doesn't cut it for me. My belief is that Ireland chucks up a larger average size of bass because they are quite simply allowed to grow larger in the environment that suits them.
You know I love Ireland, indeed my obsession with the country goes way beyond merely catching a few generally bigger bass over there. As I said, nowhere is perfect and Ireland has its ups and downs with bass fishing just like anywhere else. Big numbers of big bass don't just crawl their way up your line if you just cast a line out in Irish waters, and in fact I hear tales of parts of Ireland where the inshore bass fishing seems to have really gone off the boil recently. But the simple fact is that when bass fishing from the shore goes off over there, in my mind it can go off at a level which we simply aren't seeing over here in the UK.............
I don't pretend to know why anglers in some parts of Ireland seem to be having a tough time on the bass, but the for any illegal netting etc. that does go on, inshore commercial fishing is not actually allowed over there - we go bass fishing in Ireland and we just don't see commercial vessels laying gill-nets close inshore or trawling up and down just off the beach like we do in the UK. When we go bass fishing in Ireland we catch a larger average size of bass than we do back home, and to me it's a pretty simple argument that when you've got what I am told is a localised Irish bass population that tends to inhabit the inshore waters, not commercially hammering them inshore is having a positive effect. Simplistic? Perhaps, but I know what I see.
Or am I the reason? Now I happen to think that I'm an ok kind of angler who is lucky to spend time with a number of awesome anglers, but as ok as I think I might be, I never thought I could possibly be so good as to be personally responsible for the apparent decline in the bass fishing in a specific area. A lad called Ashley Hayden who I don't actually know said on my Facebook page the other day, and I quote : "Henry, most responsible bass anglers over here would rather that you curb your enthusiasm reason being that wherever it manifests the bass fishing declines somewhat after, south Wexford being a case in point." Now either the bloke's being incredibly charming or else he might be accusing me that my passion for Ireland is actually harming bass stocks. Henry Gilbey, fishing photojournalist and Destroyer of Irish Bass Stocks. Whatever I may actually be, that is some outstanding fishing guys, and yet again it makes me weep for how good our bass fishing here in the UK might actually be if we at least afforded our inshore waters some kind of protection................