21/09/2023 - Can I dig it?

One of the things I did glean from Google about the local area was that in the early 1990's Gillan Creek, situated immediately below our cottage, became notorious for large-scale commercial bait digging. 

At the end of the season the creek was said to "resemble a battlefield", with the trenches, basins and mounds of spoil left behind by the bait diggers persisting for months. In addition, the narrow local roads alongside the creek were obstructed by cars parked up in the passing places. This lead to widespread local resentment that commercial diggers were exploiting the resource without paying any regard to either wildlife or the local community. Consequently, commercial digging is now actively discouraged. However, collection of a few worms for personal use is tolerated subject to a Code of Conduct and sat up on the decking overlooking the creek we had seen at least one person a day heading out across the mud at low tide so, armed with a bucket, spade and weeding fork, we decided to go and have a look ourselves. 

The seaward part of the creek consisted of sand, grit and small stones and was covered in a wide variety of seaweed, along with masses of empty shells. Whilst we didn't really know what we were doing, raking around the edges of any standing pools of water yielded loads of clams and some stonking, fat cockles that we later cooked in lager with some garlic, chili and parsley and ate with brown bread slathered with Cornish butter. 

Further up the creek the sand and grit transitioned into mud and digging at the boundary line we soon found a few worms and after half an hour or so had a decent haul of white rag, king rag, maddies and a few lug - certainly enough to keep me going for a couple of bait sessions. As it happened high tide that evening was just before 8 PM, so about an hour before that I headed down onto the rocks where I caught the two bass a couple of days previously. Again, whilst I'd found no specific reference to gilt head bream in my web searching I knew that they were present in the nearby Fal estuary, so my first rig consisted of a running paternoster with a lugworm mounted on a Paul "Bassman" Gordon stinger rig (see his Youtube channel here). 

On the other rod I had a simple one up, one down flapper rig, which I baited with the rag. Lobbed both of them out to hopefully rest on the sand beyond the weeded fringe of the rocks and sat down to wait. There had been a couple of other anglers out in a boat when I arrived fishing lures on the drift (Gillan Creek isn't part of the Helford bass nursery area where boat fishing for bass is prohibited from May to December). Given that they had the whole of the rest of the bay to work with I therefore couldn't believe it when they gunned the engine, turned towards me and motored straight over my baits! I could only raise my arms in incredulity, eventually getting a muted apology from the chap on the outboard. They steered well clear after that and eventually headed off fishless as far as I could tell. Wound in both rods just before it got dark to find the baits had been completely stripped, so I baited up again and cast out again into the gathering gloom. 

Five minutes later I had a knock and then a pull down on the lugworm and picked up the rod to feel a fish on the end. As it came closer the gold bar that I had hoped for turned to silver as a small schoolie bass appeared on the surface. Popped him back and re-baited with the last couple of lug. Gave it another half an hour into full darkness, but wasn't troubled again, so packed up and made my way carefully over the rocks and back to the house.

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