Changes in the fishing year

Four times a year my fishing undergoes big changes. There are not always specific dates as some are weather dependent, writes Mike Winter.

The first occurs between October and December. Summer species like carp and tench were once thought to ‘go to mud’ or hibernate during the winter months and not be worth fishing for. But, during the early 1960s I, along with Jim Gibbinson and my longstanding fishing pal Frank Guttfield, pioneered the catching of them during the winter months.

I have written an article published in the October edition of Carpworld magazine about those pioneering days.

However, it was hard fishing in the cold and required long hours of careful observation on local waters. So I returned to more mobile river fishing for pike, chub and roach during the winter, along with some evening beach fishing for whiting and dogfish.

The summer stillwater tackle is ‘mothballed’ and the river, pike and beach fishing tackle prepared. For many years, I took a three week break from fishing to help with preparations for Ottery carnival on November 5, preparing tar barrels, building floats, collecting materials for and building the giant bonfire, putting up signs and firing the cannons and involved in the barrel rolling on the night.

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The next big change comes on March 14, when I stop coarse fishing until June 16. During that time, most coarse fish spawn. I believe fish welfare comes before trying to catch heavier than usual fish because they are laden with spawn! This spawn, when it is fertilised, is the future of our fishing. Between March 14 and June 16, I go trout fishing and sea fishing for flounders and an early bass.

When June 16 comes, it is back to coarse fishing with renovated tackle and renewed enthusiasm – eager to try out new baits, methods and waters.

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Most of the trout and sea tackle is mothballed, except for that used for the occasional trip for bass and mackerel and for stillwater rainbow trout.

I mentioned pike fishing earlier. The pike fishing season opens on most of our waters on October 1. My carp rods and reels loaded with 12 or 15lb line suffice for most of my pike fishing but I check and oil my stock of swivels and supply of twistable trace wire and size 2 hooks. I also buy in some sprats for bait. Fishmongers usually have them in early November.

I will write about catching pike next month, but first, a word about handling pike should you catch one before then. Despite their evil looks, they are quite delicate and need careful handling if they are to be returned to the water unharmed, and you, the captor, to remain unscathed.

Never gaff a pike, use a big landing net. Whilst unhooking pike, never use a pike gag. Use a stout leather glove and a pair of long-handled artery forceps.

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