I’ve scaled down my tackle somewhat, as dragging my kayak up and down these steep Cornish hills to the various launch sites is at times very strenuous!. The other morning I was taking the kayak down a steep hill to launch at Cadgwith when my boot slipped on the damp road. With a fully laden kayak directly behind me it was a near death experience!!. I could see the coroner’s report, cause of death ‘flattened by Hobie Outback’.
Over the past few years I’ve seen many photographs of Gilthead Bream that have been caught around the southwest. Their numbers are steadily increasing and from what I’ve read they are great sport on light gear. However, I’ve also read that they’re not the easiest fish to catch and locating them can be particularly difficult. I was very fortunate in the fact that I was given some pointers off Ian, one of the local kayak fisherman that I’ve fished with this week.
I wont disclose the marks for obvious reasons (please don’t ask), apparently there’s also major issues with netters, another reason not to.
There’s then the difficulty of bait, apparently one day they are feeding on crab, the next day lug then another day razor fish. No doubt there’s other baits that prove most successful at times. I’d chosen fresh lugworm, though once peddling along the river I came ashore and picked up a dozen small crab, a mixture of peeler and hardbacks.
A local angler had wandered over and chatted for a while before I launched. He regularly fished for Giltheads and mentioned that the conditions weren’t ideal, I really wanted a good ripple on the water. He’d fished the day before but had only experienced a couple of bites, normally he’d experience five to six. He never actually stated how many he successfully hooked into, though he did say that he’d caught them to 4lb. His preferred bait was ‘stinky razor clam’, past its sell by date.
With plenty of fresh bait aboard I made my way to the first mark of the day. I’d rigged both rods in the same manner, running ledgers made up with a 2oz drilled bullet lead with a 3-4’ 20lb fluorocarbon trace. The hook was a size 1/0 Sakuma 450 Chinu. These are an extremely sharp forged hook, ideal for what I’d heard was a strong fish. I’d lost enough big fish over the past few days, if I was fortunate enough to hook up with a Gilthead I wanted to land it!.
I baited one rod with crab, the other with lugworm. Once tied off to a buoy I cast both baits out about 35 yards ahead of the kayak, positioning each to one side in the hope of avoiding tangles. I won’t lie, I felt very little hope of catching a Gilthead. I was fishing new territory for a new species by myself, it just didn’t bode well.
Within sixty seconds of casting out those first baits I had a few hard taps on one rod. As I grabbed it from the rod holder the rod bent over and I was hooked up into a very lively fish!. It felt like nothing I’ve experienced before, surely I’d not hooked into a Gilthead within a minute of starting the session!. As the fish neared the kayak there was a flash of gold and the unmistakable shape of a Bream, unbelievable!. It was carefully netted and bought aboard the kayak for close scrutiny.
What a gorgeous fish, I couldn’t believe my luck. Like all Bream they’re rather spiky so care is required whilst handling the fish. They have a highly impressive set of crushing teach, not somewhere to stick a finger!. It was quickly unhooked, photographed and released to fight another day.
I quickly re-baited with fresh lugworm and flicked the bait back towards the same grounds. With five minutes there was a very aggressive hit to the bait and I found myself hooked up once again!. This was a much better fish and it went a little crazy, darting around from side to side. It made a few good runs, ahhhh, how I love the sound of a singing drag!. As it came closer to the kayak it didn’t really let up the fight. The landing net came into play once more and at the second attempt it slipped into the net. I’m not too sure on the size, though it was a lovely fish.
Like its cousin the Black Bream they’re rather lively once out of the water, spikes everywhere!. I do enjoying taking photographs whilst fishing so I make no apology for adding a few extra photos of this lovely species.
With the second fish released it was time to continue fishing. I started to hook into some school bass, perhaps a pound or so in weight, occasionally more. For small fish they were surprisingly lively and gave a great account of themselves on my light tackle.
I’d been told to always fish ahead of the line of slick/scum that drifted up the river with the tide. Apparently the Giltheads tend to travel ahead debris field. I kept glancing back but I saw no sign of it at all. The fishing continued and I landed more Giltheads and a steady stream of school bass.There was rarely more than 20-30 minutes between landing the Giltheads, this wasn’t at all what I’d been expecting!
I was constantly having to re-bait and send fresh offerings out into the water, the action was pretty much non-stop. If the Bream weren’t taking the bait, the bass were straight in there and snaffled it up.
I only bothered to photograph the first 2-3 fish, though I tried to catch a little video action on the GoPro. However, having viewed it I’m not publishing it as it’s a little too revealing as to my location, sorry folks!.
As I mentioned, these Bream are rather feisty once aboard the yak and handling them at times can get a little exciting!. Yup, it is indeed a Bream below and not a flying fish!
The safest place for these fish is back in the water!. I wasn’t keeping any fish at all, I rarely do, the only exception is generally cod and the occasional nice sized bass.
Yet another Bream slips back into the water…
The fishing eventually eased off, the Giltheads had seemingly gone off the feed, though the bass were still being tempted by my lugworm. I’d noticed a little foam floating past from time to time, was this the slick that Ian had been referring to?. I paddled upstream and after a few hundred yards I saw the line of scum spanning the river. How had that passed me without me noticing?. I later noticed that the line often travelled parallel to the river, not always across it, that’s probably why I’d not noticed it passing me by.
I dropped anchor in a narrow channel and continued to fish. I picked up a couple of school bass, though the Bream weren’t there, or at least not biting. I tried more marks, though the further upstream I went the more weed was present in the water, to a point where it became totally unfishable. The tide was on the last of the flood so I headed back downstream to my original mark. First cast I was hooked up into another Bream!
That was my last fish of the day, bringing my tally for the session to seven Giltheads and over a dozen school Bass. I missed or dropped several fish as well. I’d not expected to catch any of the elusive Bream, never mind a sizeable bag. I fished over slack water and it was totally dead. I was going to fish into the ebb but time was seemingly passing extremely slowly and the water just didn’t want to move, so I decided to call it a day.
I’d been afloat for just over six hours and another very successful trip was under my belt. This trip to Cornwall was certainly producing the goods!. The local angler who chatted to me when I launched launch came over to see how I’d faired. He seemed rather surprised that I’d caught so many, he’d never had more than five in a session. Guess it’d been beginners luck!. First call post the trip was the fish and chip shop, I was absolutely famished. Ian had left a message, suggesting that we meet up at Coverack for a pint, well, it’d be rude not to!. It’s a lovely fishing village, somewhere I used to regularly frequent when I lived down here a good few years ago.
So there you have it, my first Gilthead fishing trip had been a huge success. It was no doubt hugely helped with the local information kindly supplied by Ian and a good helping of luck on the day. I’ve nothing more to added so I’ll let the Bream have the least say…
This is my last report from this summer’s fishing expedition to Cornwall. If you wish to read more of the reports click here.