Perfect weather and tides doesn’t always mean the fish will play fair, although today having one of Wales’ finest internationals along to ensure we caught was a huge bonus, and boy did he deliver!
Stephen Tucker has been on the match scene for a good few decades; he and his son Shaun have represented our country of Wales many times, with a few golds to prove just how successful these guys really are. In fact Stephen has represented Wales for the best part of a decade, with a notable moment in Ireland winning the British Isles Individual, Team and Pairs in the one event – simply superb skills.
Today we were joined on Swansea’s famous Mumbles Pier by Paul Rosser, who works at the fantastic Basstastic shop there. Along with Luke (the shop owner) he keeps all the local and travelling anglers tackled up with some superb locally sourced fresh baits, both worm and crab, with Ammo Baits supplying the frozen baits, all a recipe for success.
Weatherwise we couldn’t have got it much better, with hardly a breath of wind and bright clear sky certainly going a long way to help make fish spotting a little easier. The sea had very little surface movement, again allowing for the use of polarised sunglasses to great effect.
Within minutes of getting on to the fishing platforms it was evident we would be in for a great day, with mackerel bubbling at the surface harassing small baitfish (sandeels, smelt and suchlike) and, a first for me, actually being able to watch large shoals of triggerfish casually picking limpets and other molluscs from the steel pier stanchions below.
Both Paul and Steve have fished here many times over the years and have seen some incredible catches. Steve says: “Several years ago you would be having a bad day if you didn’t land somewhere in the region of 40 triggers – that’s how prolific they used to be here, given that they are Continental visitors. It’s also not unusual to be able to target some really large mullet, both golden grey and thick-lipped, visiting the pier to feed on the man-made habitat that is home to dozens of species.”
I tackled up a single-handed Daiwa baitcaster rod with a Shimano 8000-sized rear-drag fixed-spool with 12lb monofilament, although it is prudent to use a good quality light shockleader as these triggers can and will drag your rig across the many barnacles hoping to break free! Two short 20lb fluorocarbon snoods held super-sharp size 4 hooks, and small red and white floating beads gave visual stimulation with some great fresh ragworm to really entice these incredible fighters. The first tentative plucks came within five minutes; watching my tip pull over while holding the rod feels great and allows you to hook and give just enough drag to reduce the chances of getting smashed. It’s amazing watching a fish suck down your bait, take your hook and head for safety while you hope it doesn’t bite you off or cut you off in the snags – it’s a real tester if you’re new to the sport.
Through the day both Steve and I suffered being bitten off as these visitors have serious dentures and don’t like being tethered. After a good scrap and much whooping a fish was safely in the landing net, not the biggest specimen but my first of many through the day and a moment I will cherish. I think my smile says it all.
Paul tried his hardest to snare one of the triggers, although each time he got into one it would either bite him off or just simply detach itself from the hook. However, not giving up, we had a steady stream of fresh mackerel coming to floating beads just off the bottom on long snoods, hoping for some garfish to add to Paul’s growing species list.
We were able to literally watch and target the triggers along with bass and mullet, and on several occasions we managed to view fish bumping double figures mooching around the sub-structure in the mass of weed growth and shadows. One of the travelling anglers fishing Peg 4 was steadily pulling out mackerel, from a couple of ounces to well over 1lb.
Seeing a great opportunity I soon had my four-piece Rovex Ceratec Bass rod ready with a sliding float setup and 4ft drop to tempt out a hungry bass. The trap was set, but the only downside was the tide had started to flood, meaning the float and lively joey mackerel kept heading under the horizontal bars, which are festooned in not-so-lucky anglers’ free offerings to Davey Jones’s locker, with colourful lines, leaders, hooks, feathers, lures and much more creating more obstructions for the unwary.
Amazingly we spotted a huge trigger nipping in and out from under the pier; even more amazingly it took a fancy to my joey and started biting lumps out of it, laying on its side literally tearing strips from its belly with its pectoral fin flapping out of the water. It was a case of peck, peck, peck, then spit out the lumps before swallowing them down, an incredible sight with all the anglers watching in stunned silence.
Eventually the fish tired of chomping on my free offering and casually turned slowly and headed back to the safety of its den, accompanied by a few smaller fish.
While we continued to catch small bass, scorpionfish and triggers, a young fellow by the name of Richard Wetton, from Pembrey, west Wales was quietly fishing the inner section of the platform, a strip that allows probably two feet of clearance from the hand rail and heavy girders that support the pier.
He remarked: “The big trigger is back and is trying to take my bait,” and we fished on as bites were coming thick and fast. When his dad casually mentioned: “Yes, he has it hooked, it’s a good size – can we borrow your net?” I didn’t really pay much attention until Stephen looked over and smiled, saying: “Gareth, this could be a new Welsh record…”
Drop nets are a must when pier fishing, both to land the fish and to return them safely.
We couldn’t believe the size of the fish, and not being able to pull up the record list due to reduced internet access we had to weigh her and take a few snaps before dropping her back to her hiding holes via the drop net.
She bumped the electronic scales down to an amazing 4lb 3oz, which is just 4oz short of the record set on Mumbles Pier in 1992 – what a fish, and it was his first-ever trigger! We were well chuffed for the guy, who was beaming with delight and absolutely made up.
A fine 4lb 3oz trigger for Richard Wetton from Pembrey – the fish is only a few ounces below the Welsh record for the species.
As the tide flooded more mullet came into our area, some really big specimens too, which made me yell with excitement like a kid in a sweet shop (literally). I think a few people thought I had gone a bit loopy, with the reactions of the general public mooching about above all stopping and looking over, gasping in disbelief at the size of the fish below. Stephen, being a class act and always having a rig in his massive collection for every occasion, said: “I am gonna get me a mullet, I never fail here.”
I thought was a bold statement, but with no hesitation he had a little stash of maddies baited on a long flowing trace – a light setup with size 4 longshank Aberdeens coupled to one of his long AnyFish Anywhere rods with a super fine tip and fixed spool. The trap was set and within probably two minutes of entering the water he had hooked two mullet! Both fish were between 2 and 3lb, and with two drop nets and some luck we managed to get the fish up and photographed before going back.
I have to say that for a short-notice trip I had the best half day’s fishing that you could ask for anywhere in the UK. Every fish made a great show of itself by leaping, smashing, grabbing and generally trying to break us up. If you like to fish light and have a good drop net, get yourself on the pier. Expect congestion on the weekends as it’s a popular venue, also, respect the triggers, mullet and bass. Please use a net to land and return the fish and only keep a sensible amount of mackerel, as sooner or later they won’t be there in numbers if they all get over-exploited.
If you want more information you can contact the guys beforehand at Basstastic to gauge how the area is fishing, as you also have the beautiful beaches along the Gower and numerous bays, which produce all the flatfish, rays, bass and smoothhounds you could wish for, plus there’s great accommodation and road/rail links. Happy days and tight lines.
Top tip: Try and fish smaller tides over low water with it coinciding with midday, to give you more time. The more settled the water, the easier to spot the fish – always use polarised sunglasses to save eye burn and to be able to see through the water below.
Top baits: Rag and squid – they will take any species that swims below. Longshank hooks coupled with good quality lines help with the very toothy triggerfish.
Steve Tucker managed to winkle out some bass from the pier.
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