Kayak fishing Cornwall:Mousehole-Porthgwarra

Logan Rock
Logan Rock

As the next section of my circumnavigation of the south west in a fishing kayak I was very keen to get to Lands End. On the plus side the weather was fair and the winds light;on the minus side I ventured out on one of the biggest spring tides of the year into the jaws of one of the biggest tide races in the south of England.

Mousehole
Mousehole

I paddled out from Mousehole as dawn broke trolling behind me a new Rapala jointed mini plug (3 inches long) which I find is excellent for catching a range of species as its treble hooks aren’t too big. Even before I had got into the swing of paddling my reel buzzed out and I felt a big fish tugging. Big,but also crafty as it crash dived into the kelp and I had lost my new lure within five minutes of its maiden voyage!. I guess  the ‘beast’ was a pollack as I caught half a dozen more on a slightly bigger plug,including a couple of about 3lbs.

3lb Pollack
3lb Pollack

The coast became steadily more impressive around each successive headland as it was exposed to ever more westerly swell. I passed the shelter of Lamorna Cove but stopped for breakfast on the stone slipway of Penberth cove where the tiny fishing boats are still hauled up the beach with a capstan. I was eagerly anticipating the next part of the trip as I rounded the desperately craggy headland of Logan Rock into the azure waters of Porthcurno Bay. 

Porthcurno and Minack theatre
Porthcurno and Minack theatre

I landed a couple of decent sized mackerel as I headed towards the Minack theatre perched half way up the rocky cliff. Mackerel always fight impressively when on a free line.

I was wary of more and more ebbing tidal current as I progressed, and as I reached slacker water after one swirly bit my line really sung out. I grabbed the rod and felt some really slow steady powerful tugs-this was one of my biggest fish ever. The reel in was easy  so I suspected a bass which wait until they see the kayak before they really turn on their heels and run. This fish was no exception and gave me a bit of sport. At last I got it alongside- 5lbs at least. I got its mouth out of the water and then the hook came free and it just hovered in the water for a few seconds before cruising away,seemingly unconcerned. I uttered some expletives suitable for a late night  X-certificate performance at the Minack. Groan.

I took a breather (and a quiet weep) at Porthgwarra and then tentatively ventured out into the tide race of Gwennap head….my GPS recorded  almost 4 mph so I bravely decided to head back for calmer waters.

I caught three more bass (one big enough to keep) in fairly quick succession right in front of the Minack then no more-there is no question they like the more disturbed water.

My second plug lure of the day also fell victim to the kelp so I attached my last resort-a toby. This quickly paid dividends in the form of a manicly fighting  Garfish.

Garfish
Garfish

Embarassingly this lure too was soon lost to the deep forever so I finished off the day with a quick sprint around the coast towards Newlyn Harbour before returning to Mousehole.

I loaded the kayak on to the car and drove along the coast road back to Penzance. I could hardly believe my eyeballs ( and my bad luck) when I stopped to watch a school of bottlenose dolphins cruising past at a leisurely pace past Penlee point EXACTLY where I had been paddling ten minutes before. No other boats about- I could have got a great view from the kayak. There were five or six including one with a whitish tipped dorsal fin and one surprisingly small baby. Oh well, there’s always next time.

Newlyn
Newlyn
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Five Years of Kayak Fishing in North Cornwall

My passion for surfing (on a wave ski with a paddle of course) was wearing thin because all the beaches were getting so busy.

When I was a teenager I caught a mackerel from a tiny hook livened up with a bit of tinsel trolled from an ancient fibreglass kayak. You know, one of those ones that goes round in circles no matter how much you paddle on one side.

So the advent of the Ocean Kayak range of sit-on-top kayaks which meant you could head off to sea by yourself and be tipped out when you caught a killer whale AND be able just to climb back in again and carry on was a temptation too great. (pause for breath).

The O.K.Malibu Two-The original sit-on-top
The O.K.Malibu Two-The original sit-on-top

So I was thrilled with my Ocean Kayak Malibu two and not only hauled aboard so many mackerel that the entire neighbourhood stank like a fishmongers, but also managed to subject my children (sometimes two at a time such is the versatility of the Malibu two) to seasickness and hypothermia on a regular basis. Unbelievably I used handlines for over a year, but I caught quite a few interesting fish such as Black Bream and Triggerfish. The latter survived half an hour’s paddle back to the beach for a photograph to be taken before being released and swimming away quite happily.

4lb Bass
4lb Bass

I adventurously experimented with trolling for bass and lost my first Rapala plug (worth £10)  after about two minutes when it snagged on a rock. I lost a load more plugs and also lost a mighty bass due to the inflexibility of my handline. I needed a rod.

At exactly that time the legendary Prowler 15 was brought out complete with flush mount rod holders so I didn’t hang around.

Yours truly plus 6lb pollack
Yours truly plus 6lb pollack

The rather desirable lifestyle of paddling around off the stunning and rugged North coast of Cornwall catching bucketfuls of fish and rubbing noses with seals, porpoises, dolphins, basking sharks and sunfish led to the formation of Bude Old Gits (B.O.G.) Kayak Fishing club. These consisted of people similar, but irritatingly younger and not as nerdy as me.

Austen's 9lb Ling
Austen

Also those that had a background in fishing, not kayaking, quickly learnt how to catch some monster fish and weren’t happy with the tiddlers that seemed to keep me amused. Actually they didn’t keep me amused but it was all I could catch. Austen and Kevin managed to haul a couple of 30-40lb Tope onto their kayaks-crazy.

Cuckoo wrasse-tiny but nice
Cuckoo wrasse-tiny but nice

It’s taken me a long time to wean myself off mackerel feathers. They are just so effective and when spiced up with a little sliver of mackerel flesh they will catch a huge range of fish: pollack, bass, gurnards, wrasse, scad, pouting, whiting and even the odd codling.

The most significant bait ‘discovery’ I have made is the use of GULP artificial sandeels that are soaked in foul smelling fishy juice. The first time I trolled one behind my Prowler I caught more bass in two hours than I had in the previous two years.

Nice haul of bass from mouth of Torridge
Nice haul of bass from mouth of Torridge

Conservationists don’t panic!.I only keep the occasional larger bass for eating purposes. The majority of my catches get returned to fight another day. And a lot more escape when they are being unhooked. In fact Bass, being very spiny and very wriggly, have been known to somehow climb out of my fish well at the rear of my kayak.

My tendency to now favour trolling has accounted for my choice of last two sit-on-top kayaks: an Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro and a Paddleyak Swift. Both are narrower and so faster than the Prowler (which I have now sold) but that is not necessarily better for catching fish. But it’s better for my other goal which is paddling round the entire coastline of Cornwall on a SOT kayak.

Twaites Shad
Twaites Shad

My most unusual catch to date has probably been a Twaite’s shad. In fact I have caught two-one on the south coast and one on the north-both on GULP sandeels. With a bizarre name like that you would expect them to be small, pale and floppy but they are hard-fighting and impressive. The first one I thought was a herring and brought it home purely to identify it. I was depressed to discover that they are a ‘rare and declining species’. I felt I ought to cook it so it wasn’t a complete waste but it was tasteless and full of little bones. Double depression.

Codling off Tintagel
Codling off Tintagel
I mentioned I am not truly a fisherman. In fact I have NEVER caught a fish from the shore in the UK, EVER. My last act was casting a beautiful shiny Dexter wedge out into a lovely calm summer sea. And boy was it a cracking cast- it went miles.Pity my knot came undone half way through its flight and it plopped beneath the surface forever.
Austen battles with a tope
Austen battles with a tope
And anyway have you ever seen a shore fishermen catch anything? They just don’t. From a kayak you can get over the fish and catch shedfuls of fish.
You may be interested to know that I have caught twenty one species of sea fish over the last five years from a kayak. You might equally think this is a weird statistic to know but I am a list type person and have got cupboards full of old notebooks with train numbers in. Not a joke, I’m afraid.
Garfish Whitsand Bay
Garfish Whitsand Bay
This list includes a sea trout and a blenny which got spiked by my Rapala plug as it basked on a rock just beneath the surface. Poor little devil.
So what’s my big ambition? To catch a whopping bass and to haul in a shark. Simple.
I still regard catching a fish as a bonus, however. Every kayak trip around the south-west brings more jaw-dropping scenery and the potential of some memorable wildlife encounters…..
Puffin Pair   Boscastle
Puffin Pair Boscastle
Dozing seal
Dozing seal

Kayak Trip Appledore to Hartland Quay

Clovelly-about as quaint as it gets
Clovelly-about as quaint as it gets

I have never paddled much of this section of coast before so this bit seemed ideal to try out my new (well….old actually but new to me) Paddleyak swift. Alas I hadn’t got rodholders fitted at this stage so no fishing.

Clovelly harbour
Clovelly harbour

The north facing coast is almost cosy with wooded hillside often reaching right down to the rocky foreshore. Clovelly harbour wall is strutted all over by people wearing those long barbour like coats and hats that people who obviously don’t spend much time outdoors feel they should be wearing outdoors.

At Hartland point the coast turns at a right angle and the transformation of scenery couldn’t be more extreme. Serrated reefs reaching far out to sea and a feeling of vulnerability. Lucky there was no swell and little wind. The ultimate wilderness experience.

Hartland Point-kayak just left of centre
Hartland Point-kayak just left of centre