22/09/2023 - Wrasse bashing at Porthoustock

The Helford estuary is one of the few remaining private tidal fisheries in the country and is now owned by Prince William as part of his portfolio as Duke of Cornwall. Whilst recreational angling is allowed subject to local and national byelaws, the main restriction appears to be access, particularly on the south side of the river where we were staying. 

It was very much second home territory and the road signs left you in no doubt that there was either no public access or no parking was available. All of the "locals" we came across were very well spoken and although we did our best to mind our Ps and Qs, we did run into a couple of individuals who were quite rude and dismissive of our attempts at engaging in conversation. I was therefore lucky that our cottage had it's own access down to the estuary. However, I was also keen to go and explore further afield so, following a shopping trip to Helston one day, we braved the single track lanes and 25% gradients of the coast road and had a recce of a few places on the way back to the house, including Coverack, Porthoustock, Polkerris and Porthallow. 

Of these Porthoustock looked the most promising (not least because it had lots of free parking!), although it isn't the prettiest spot in Cornwall with a steeply shelving pebble beach bounded on one side by an active quarry where "gabbro", a type of volcanic rock, is extracted and loaded directly onto ships from its adjacent wharf. What interested me was the imposing, dis-used concrete loading silo on the other side of the beach. This had a convenient ledge around its base that would give access to some deep water at high tide. 

A few days later I therefore returned with the LRF gear and the remains of the ragworm we'd dug from the creek. Had a quick chat with a couple who were feathering for mackerel, but they'd only had one foul-hooked garfish between them. Made my way along the beach past the rotting dolphin carcass that was maturing nicely in the sun and around the base of the silo. The water had a milky blue appearance, but I could see clumps of "sea spaghetti" looming up vertically from the depths. Baited up my usual mini-two hook flapper with bits of ragworm and dropped it down into a gap in the weed. Just had time to feel the dropshot lead hit the bottom when the tip banged over, resulting in a double shot of Mr & Mrs Corkwing! 

Must have been snided out with them down there as subsequent drops were met with an equally instant response and I quickly added several more to the tally. Some of the males were stunning, more like a tropical fish than something that would inhabit our relatively cold waters. Out of the blue I hooked a much bigger and more powerful fish that shot straight into the weed. Gave it a couple of minutes then felt it swim free, so pressured it up onto the surface and swept the net under an equally impressive ballan.

Amongst the wrasse were a few brassy pollack that either snatched the bait on the drop or as I raised the rig off the sea bed. Carried on catching until my friends eventually turned up and while Rob went to explore the quarry Stuart joined me on the ledge. Passed him the rod and, whilst the bites had started to slow down after a hectic first half an hour, he quickly did the treble as well. At one point we had a surprise when a grey seal bull with the head the size of a cow's popped up right in front of us, snorted his disapproval and then lazily porpoised off out to sea again. The tide was dropping away quite quickly now and the stands of weed had started to lie flat on the surface making it difficult to find a clear spot. The rag was down to the last few scraps by this stage anyway, so we made our way back along the ledge to the beach.

Ended up with 20 corkwings, 8 pollack and 5 ballans in a little over an hour, so a nice little session on what was our last full day in Cornwall. Shame it's a 6 hour drive from home otherwise I'd be down a lot more!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like fun, some stunning colours on those wrasse.