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
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One thought on “Five Years of Kayak Fishing in North Cornwall

  1. hi im speedyshane im interested in joining up i do a lot of nite fishing and had some good fish my number is 07833905936 so if u could get in touch would be grateful

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