Catching Couch's Bream
Couch's Bream Fishing
Couch's Bream (Pagrus pagrus) is a bream more common to the warmer waters of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Once a rare catch in british waters, their numbers have increased over the last 5 years or so across the South West. Several large specimens between 3-8lb are now being caught each year from deep water reefs, whilst a number of estuaries in Cornwall and Devon are now home to good numbers of juvenile populations. This is a great sign and they are now a viable target for shore, boat and kayak anglers alike for those prepared to put the time in.
I have previously caught two stunning Couch's Bream from the boat weighing 4lb 11oz and 4lb 14oz, and these larger specimens came from offshore reefs. Shore anglers were reporting good catches of smaller individuals and i had a couple of marks that were worth a try for adding one to my species count for this year.
Almost a Bream Blank...
My brother had caught a few from the shore at one particular estuary mark so i put in a few hours on a flood tide to try my luck. Despite plenty of action from mini species, the Couch's Bream appeared to be absent and were perhaps feeding somewhere else in the estuary system. It wasn't a complete bream blank though as a juvenile Black Bream showed up!
Persistance pays off...
The next session a few weeks later in October proved to be much more successful. The weather was stunning and things just felt right. I launched and headed down river to my mark. Anchor down and out went two lovely ragworm baits presented on a running ledger rig using some new hooks from Newtown Angling Centre, aptly named the 'Bream Special' hooks. Short shank, strong wire design, offset point and super sharp. Perfect. i was using light lure rods and braid so i was in for some fun should i hook one. For several hours though not a knock or nibble came my way. Hmmmm. I was confident i was in the right place. I was bored though so went for an explore further down the estuary.
I found a nice little rocky gully at the edge of a beach that screamed mini species. It was worth a go to see if i could bump up my species count with a few gobies or blennies. It was tight. A 16ft kayak in a 18ft wide gully! The gentle swell and waves knocked me from one side to the other and the kayak was getting a bit of a bashing. It was bloody shallow too, no more than 50cm deep and full of weed and boulders. I dropped my rig down beside a rock. Bites!! Fish on and it was no goby, the rod was bent right over and the fish zooming around.... it was a Ballan Wrasse of around 1lb! In fact there were a lot more there too and for the next half an hour or so i must have had 30 Ballans between 8oz and 3lb from the gully which was getting increasingly shallower with the dropping tide. If there were gobies there then they didn't get a look in amongst the wrasse! Good to see them in such abundance, especially with all the recent talk of wrasse being caught in traps by commercial fisherman to supply Salmon farms in Scotland. Wrasse have been shown to be good cleaner fish, and farmed Salmon are often plagued by sea lice which the Wrasse will eat from the fish. The people running the farms have worked out that wrasse are a cheaper and more effective solution at lice removal than chemical parasiticides, at the cost of wild wrasse populations being depleted. A practice which is completely unacceptable when using cleaner fish from wild populations. In fact the whole Salmon farming industry does not leave a clean footprint in the natural world. If you eat farmed Salmon, then you are also supporting this practice. Think before you eat!
Anyhow, it was time to leave the wrasse and go back to Plan A.... Couch's Bream. I returned to the spot i was originally anchored on and started fishing again. A knock, a few more knocks. Bait stripped. Something was feeding. Next cast and the weight had only just settled when the rod walloped over and line started pulling from the reel.... Now this feels like a bream! If you have ever hooked a bream on light gear with braid then you will know that they fight incredibly well, even small ones. I coaxed it towards the kayak and an unmistakable flash of pink showed as it darted around the kayak. It was a Couch's Bream! The fish was soon in the kayak, not big but around 1lb and absolutely beautiful....
The colour of these fish is just amazing. They essentially look like a pink Gilthead Bream! Vibrant silvery pink and red banding to the body with highlights of electric blue on the face and across the dorsal region.
The tail fin and anal fin is a lovely pink colour tipped with white...
A beautiful fish and one of my favourite species. This one was swiftly released back to hopefully grow to a grand size and produce many more bream to populate our waters. With that fish, my spirits were lifted but i had to wait another hour or so before the next bite came along. Savage takes as the fish nailed the bait followed by a searing run.... bream on! This one felt bigger to and was really tearing around all over the place. They really do bend a light lure rod in half! It was indeed a slightly bigger fish and worth a quick weigh.... 1lb 6oz and just the best colouration!
Those Bream Special hooks from Newtown Angling had worked a treat. Both Couch's Bream and Gilthead Bream have particularly bony mouths designed for crushing up molluscs, crustaceans and worms. They require the sharpest of hooks to penetrate and get a good hook hold, and bream fishing can often result in many missed hook-ups. I was happy to see that the two positive bites i had from bream during the session had resulted in hook ups.
The fish was soon swimming off back to continue on it's way. Result. It was time for me to head back in. The target species was acquired and all in balmy October sunshine. Perfect!
A different bream!
I returned a few weeks later in less than ideal weather conditions and tried a different spot. No Couch's Bream but one small Gilthead showed up which was nice to see.
I have not put much time into the Gilthead's this year, mainly due to my free time not coinciding with good tides. Hopefully next year will be more fruitful for this species as i'm due a big one!
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