The Solent winter season usually means having to nip out on the occasional days when the winds drop enough to make fishing comfortable. It also means the annual Southsea Marina Angling Club Open Cod Competition sets a date with good intentions which then roll forward until a Saturday is fishable. Not this year! For the first time, the SMAC Cod competition was fished on the actual day advertised – 17th November.
This competition has become increasingly popular with members and other anglers, partly for the chance to compete against other clubs and partly because of the impressive prize table – 19 prizes, first prize £500 cash. The non-cash prizes were generously donated by local businesses. A total of 128 anglers fished from 51 boats which is a record turnout.
The competition is simple – the aim is to catch the largest cod. Unfortunately in recent years the cod stocks have declined almost certainly due to commercial fishing pressure, and we can’t rely on catching enough cod to match the prize table. Whiting are the substitute fish, if we don’t catch enough cod to win all the prizes, the heaviest whiting are eligible.
At the end of the day, the competing anglers gathered in the Marina Bar to see who had caught what. Steve Kelly, the Marina Berthing Manager organised the event and Peter Churchill, skipper of “Moonshine” was asked to present the prizes.
Top prize was won by Ian Mitchell with a cod of 13lb 3oz; second was Eric Binding with a cod of 10lb 4oz and third was Tom Baker with a cod of 9lb 7oz. A total of five cod won prizes, the remaining prizes were awarded for whiting. Ladies Prize was won by Hayley Ellis and Junior Prize was won by Deano Ryan, both with heaviest whiting in their category.
Something very unusual happened during the competition. Organiser Steve Kelly was trying to catch a cod or a large whiting when suddenly he hooked into a very large sole. These fish are normally summer visitors, normally feed at night and are normally caught only on tiny hooks. Nobody told this fish! It weighed a whopping 2lb 9oz, a new SMAC record.
We would like to thank Steve Kelly for organising such a successful day, the local businesses that supported the event and of course all the anglers, local and visiting who took part.
Although cod are not plentiful there are still some to be caught. Solent marks have been more productive and Jason Gillespie shows a very healthy looking 12lb cod. Whiting are here in big numbers, and among them are some 2lb plus fish which are more welcome for the table. Large pout are around and they are also worth filleting because if you are relying on cod for supper you may go hungry.
Some anglers are blaming sea temperatures for this, and catches such as Tim Andrews’ December garfish (usually a summer visitor) supports this idea. However, looking back at the archive charts available from the weather stations on Brambles Bank and Chimet (Bracklesham Bay) the recorded sea temperatures in previous years don’t look much different – some warmer, some colder by a degree or two.
Conger are out from the reefs and wrecks prowling open ground in large numbers, ranging from straps to 40lb plus fish. If you like a tussle, good. If you don’t like conger you will probably feel frustrated at the rate your expensive cod bait is being devoured, because when conger are roaming they are there in large numbers.
I suppose having some residual summer fish around is some compensation for the lack of cod. Steve Kelly’s sole, plaice, garfish and Luke Scott’s big gurnard all contribute to some very mixed bags being caught at the moment.