I put this meet together so that kayak anglers could get together for a relaxed weekend of 'no rules' kayak fishing fun in the rich waters of West Cornwall. The main venue for this meet is Sennen Cove but anglers are welcome to venture off and explore other venues if they wish. Many made a holiday of the meet with many staying several days either side of the meet to allow plenty of fishing time!
I had taken a week off work to fish with those who had also made a week of it! It is always a risk with the weather and indeed early in the week the forecast was looking horrific to say the least. We have had week after week of windy weather and i was keeping everything crossed we would have a break for the meet. Luckily by Wednesday the forecast was showing a huge settled spell over the weekend with no wind, very low swell and sun.... It really couldn't be any better!
Ben and Kyle were already down and on Wednesday went to Sennen to scope out the fishing. They found the Pollack with fish up to double figures....
A promising start to what was going to be a busy few days of fishing.
We planned a morning fishing on the North Coast in search of Tope. The water was blissfully calm and the mackerel were plentiful for fresh bait. Perhaps too plentiful though as the Tope were either not there in numbers or were full up on the Mackerel. We struggled for a bite between us. Eventually something nailed my mackerel bait but it wasn't a Tope but instead a greedy Pollack, beautifully coloured to match the kelp over which it was caught....
A few dogfish turned up along with a few Bull Huss. A friendly Sunfish took a liking to my kayak and came to say hello. It took particular interest in the rudder!
After several hours Kyle had a proper bite and was soon hooked into a Tope. It decided to cause chaos and swam into his other line and tangled everything up. I attempted to assist but it was just a mess! The fish didn't care and was charging around all over the place. After 10 minutes of tussling he had it on the kayak. A fine fish of around 25lb and, as with all Tope caught, was released after this quick photo.
We fished on for another hour or so but things were very slow. We headed in and hoped for better luck the next day.
The forecast for Friday was quite unbelievable. Zero wind forecast....Zero, Zilch, Nada!! We had to make the most of it and decided to see how far out we dare go offshore. Upon arriving at the launch venue we were greeted by huge shoals of Mackerel chasing Sprats on the surface. Quickly out with the sabikis and we soon had a bucket of fresh mackerel for the days bait. Even on launching the Mackerel were swimming around our legs.... incredible! The Mackerel seem to have returned inshore in their millions and with it have brought lots of life back to the water.
We pedalled out on the glassy water and watched thousands of shearwaters, gannets and other seabirds swirling through the air searching out the next bait ball to feast upon. Even the little Storm Petrels were dancing on the water in front of us. The water was very calm.... the perfect offshore conditions.
We didn't really know how far we would go off but with the Hobie Revolution 16 cruising at 4.5-5 knots without too much effort it wasn't long before we were 5 miles off the coast! We started to drift and fish.
Kayak fishing offshore is not to be taken lightly and much planning goes into an offshore session to ensure we fish within a big settled spell with minimal risk of the weather blowing up. The tides are closely read and drifts planned accordingly. There is not much room for error when you are over an hour from the coast. Luckily the Revolution 16's are just about perfect for long distance offshore trips. The efficient Mirage Drive will push the hull along quickly even if the weather does get up a bit. Still, we are primarily relying on the Mirage Drive for propulsion. If one of the drives packed in whilst offshore we have paddles as a back up, or if needed we carry towing equipment so that one of the other Revo 16's could tow another if needed. We all carry VHF radios and mobile phones for contact with the coastguard and other water users if required. GPS chart plotters allow us to monitor distance from the coast, drift rates and drift routes. Kayak fishing offshore is carefully planned and we often wait months for the right conditions.
As it happened the drift ended up taking us 7 miles offshore at one point before the tide turned and brought us back as planned. Land becomes a fairly small strip on the horizon when you are 7 mile off.....
We were catching plenty of fish on the bottom in 200ft of water. Whiting, Haddock, Grey Gurnards, Tub Gurnards and more were taking our baited feathers. I managed something a little special though..... a Megrim Sole!
These deepwater flatfish are not often caught on rod and line and the deep waters of West Cornwall must be one of the only places in the country where you have a chance of catching one from the kayak.
We found a large patch of rough ground and soon started catching some good sized Pouting....
Kyle caught a cracker just under 3lb.
I found a Ling too which put up a good fight in the deep water.
The weather was perfect and we were loving it!
I had aimed to land late afternoon to give me time to go home, and then reload the car with camping gear and head down to the campsite. That plan went out the window and we spent a few extra hours fishing given the sublime conditions. If Carlsberg did weather for offshore fishing....
We pedalled back in as the sun started to get low in the sky. Energy levels were getting low after a long day in the sun. We covered nearly 20 miles on the water and the legs were feeling it! At least i could have a rest tomorr...... oh no wait, i have two long days on the water for the meet..... I'm a sucker for punishment!
Saturday - PZ Meet Day 1
The plan was for everyone to meet at Sennen early to ensure parking spaces before the beach-goers arrive. Upon arrival the car park was nearly full! Most were kayak anglers too which was great to see. Once parked there is really no rush to get ready. Some had already launched, others were setting up and other chatting. There is no mass launch which spreads things out nicely. I went around and had a chat with people and giving tips and advice where required. With perfect weather the only worry was the big Spring tide. Areas of potential tidal danger and areas sheltered from the tide are highlighted prior to the meet and on the morning.
There must have been 40 kayak anglers in all, a definite improvement on last year which saw around 30 turn up. I was soon setting up and ready to launch.
I started fishing around the reefs but the fishing was fairly quiet so headed a little further out to try some different marks. The tide was ebbing towards Lands End and further out was much stronger and flowing at around 2 knots. A bit too quick for deep water lure fishing so headed back in close. A few people had caught some Pollack and a couple of small Bass.
A group of experienced kayak anglers headed around Lands End for the day, although tempting to join them i wanted to put some time into bait fishing within the bay in the hope of catching flatfish and rays. Kyle and Ben stayed around the reefs and i headed off to find some Mackerel. There were lots and lots of fish showing on the fish finder but these were mostly sandeels which weren't interested in my hokkais. Some shoals were huge and i was beginning to see why the Pollack were slow on the reef - they were probably stuffed full of sandeels!
I found a good shoal of Mackerel with fish averaging a 1lb which went really well on my light lure rod. I soon had plenty of bait.
Amongst them i caught a PB Scad of 1lb 1oz...
A few drifts of the bay with fresh mackerel strips on the bottom brought more Mackerel and a couple of Dabs.
Time to anchor and try for a Ray. A group of kayaks were anchored and were catching a few so i dropped anchor alongside them. Two rods out... one with a small sliver of mackerel on to see if any flatfish or weavers were about, and another rod with a live joey mackerel on. There seemed to be a constant stream of small mackerel beneath my kayak which made replenishing baits easy!
My rods were not out for long before the live joey was munched. The unmistakable weight a ray soon had the rod bent over. A good scrap and a small Blonde Ray was in the kayak.
A little while later number 2 came along and was a bit bigger and into double figures.
Then something awesome happened. All the bait fish in the water had attracted something big. A loud explosion of water behind my kayak and i turned around to see a massive Bluefin Tuna in mid air heading straight for me! It landed around 50ft off my stern and then disappeared..... Wow! Much closer and it would have taken me out! I was getting live updates on how Ben and Kyle were getting on via Facebook. Kyle had found a lovely Ballan Wrasse of around 5lb which he caught on a live launce...
Another couple of Blondes came along and were liking the live baits so switched both rods to fish them. Inevitably a bigger fish took the live bait on my lighter rod. I was using a Fladen Maxximus Solid Carbon 10-20lb rod (which feels more like a 6-12lb class rod) and a Fin-Nor Lethal 40 loaded with 29lb Daiwa J-Braid. This combo has become a favourite of mine lately and has accounted for some nice fish including a 17lb Ling (boat caught), some small Blue Sharks (boat caught), and now a nice Blonde Ray. You can really bend this rod and load pressure onto bigger fish, yet it has a really light tip for lighter fishing.
A great scrap with the fish taking line several times. I was soon pulling a 17lb male Blonde Ray onto the kayak....
Others in front me were also catching well and a few who had spent all day on the mark had caught over 15 rays each up to 24lb! Superb fishing in superb conditions. I think i caught one more ray before calling it a day and heading in.
Catching up with others in the car park and it looked like some had struggled to find fish and others had caught well. All sorts of species were caught and some lovely specimens including a 24lb Blonde Ray for Baz, a 5lb Ballan Wrasse for Kyle, a 12lb 12oz Pollack for Steve, 11lb Small Eyed Ray, Bull Huss to 10lb+, Bass to 6lb+ amongst other fish. A couple of Fin Whales and Mine Whales had been spotted off Lands End too! A great first day! Here are some photos from others....
Back to the campsite for food and a few beers around the campsite talking about fishing.... and Pirates... you had to be there!.
Sunday - PZ Meet Day 2
Another early start. The meet fragmented today with one group heading off to the North Coast in search of Tope and the rest of us heading back down to Sennen. The weather was yet again fantastic and you could literally launch anywhere in Cornwall today, a rare occurrence!
I wanted to head towards Longships Lighthouse but was unsure if it would be fishable with the big ebbing tide. We were coming off the back of Spring tides and the flow may be to much to fish. Kyle and myself headed down the coast and began to fish the reefs. Loads of baitfish in the water again and as the day before the fishing was slow. I did manage to pick off one better Pollack.
The water was very calm but even so danger lurked beneath the surface. The tide was pulling quite hard and we were drifting at around 2 knots. It is at the limit of what i will drift fish in. Any more and i'm either at anchor or heading back for shore or for shelter from the tide.
We edged closer to the lighthouse and began to fish the rocks around it. Note the white water around the rocks beside the lighthouse.... thats the tide ripping over the shallow ground and forming standing waves. Flat calm yet at the limits of safe fishing. I knew we wouldn't be here for long.
We fished for around 20 minutes casting lures around in the hope of a Bass feeding in the tide run. It wasn't too bad on the Hobie as i could pedal up-tide to hold ground. It was still hard work though. I drifted a little way out past the shelter of the rocks and the tide suddenly picked up a lot. I was drifting at nearly 3 knots. That was enough for me. I was going to head back to the sheltered of the coast. It's a good mile or so before you reach tidal shelter. I warned Kyle, and Sean who had now joined us.
It was hard work. I was making headway at about 2 knots but it didn't look like i was moving at all. Luckily having a GPS chart plotter allows you to visually see the ground you are making. Without it, giving up would be that much easier. The Longships Lighthouse is one of the most dangerous marks i fish - notorious for its tidal rips and today, during flat calm water i was given a gentle reminder of its wrath. This is not a place to be when the wind is up, the swell is running and/or when the tide is against you. It is bad enough on a neap tide.
I pedalled hard for about 30 minutes before the tide started to ease closer to shore. 45 minutes and i was back at the slipway some 2 miles from the lighthouse. Kyle and Sean were now also heading back in. A quick trip to the shop for some drinks and a pasty and i was back on the water!
Back to fishing and i was heading to my ray mark. Fresh bait was again plentiful but the ray weren't as prolific as the day before. A couple found my bait.
A small Bull Huss also turned up...
Whilst sat at anchor there was lots of life passing by. Dolphins and Porpoises were regularly swimming by, no doubt chasing the baitfish in the water. Further on the horizon the seabirds would periodically explode into feeding frenzy as bait fish erupt on the surface, with the odd Bluefin Tuna spotted amongst the frenzy. Something bigger was heading my way.... on the horizon was a Minke Whale!
It got closer and closer and then it swam right beneath my kayak giving my a fantastic view of its huge flippers. It was moving so fast i really didn't have enough time to get a good photo but managed to snap a couple of photos as it resurfaced behind me.
That was awesome to see. The fishing was pretty slow though. I anchored in deeper water and found a nice Mackerel of 1lb 8oz but little else.
It was time to head in. I was beginning to feel fished out! Back at the car park, others had also felt the wrath of the tide and had to battle back from Longships. Lessons learnt for next time for both myself and others. All round the fishing was quieter and a quick phone call to Gary who had headed to the North coast revealed much the same up there with no Tope. They had caught something which was a little special though... Triggerfish! That was tomorrow sorted. Anyhow, back to the campsite to pack up my tent and head home to revive for another session tomorrow.
The meet had been a great success with an excellent turn out and plenty of species and specimens, despite the fishing being slower than usual.
30+ species were caught over the weekend and on the days running up to the meet including:
A phenomenal list including mini species and some bigger specimens. Many people caught firsts and PBs too. The weather was superb and i think that most had a great time! I'm happy with that. That's what the Penzance Meet is all about, having fun in a relaxed setting. No pressure to perform or abide by rules.... just fishing with friends! A big thank you to all who made the effort to attend and make the meet what it is.
Fingers crossed that the weather is as good for the 2018 meet! Details about the 2018 meet will be posted to Penzance Kayak Fishing Meet Information in the near future.
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