Many of us have a few extra days off work around the “Holiday Season”, as Christmas now appears to be called, so you would expect December to provide more fishing opportunities. However, the competition for our time from family and social commitments conspires to make those opportunities fewer not more. Nevertheless, many of us did find a few windows where weather, tides and families allowed us to go out.

Alas, the much sought-after cod were not so obliging. In fact, they have now been re-named unicorns because they are so rare in the eastern Solent. We have had some poor cod seasons in the past but this year is among the worst on record, partly due to the low stocks but also probably also because of the higher sea temperatures which would discourage them from moving inshore during winter.

Southsea Marina Angling Club held its annual Mandela Cup on the 28th December – it is “winner takes all” for the largest cod. Wisely, the rules allow for the largest whiting if no cod are caught. In the event, no cod were caught and some respectable whiting were weighed in. Competition winner was Peter Churchill with a whiting of 1lb 10oz. Aedy Merritt weighed in a whiting just an ounce less but unfortunately, in this competition there are no second prizes!

Peter must know the good spots because a few days later 10 year-old James Smith caught a 2lb whiting from Peter’s boat. One or two cod have come along, although on the small side compared to previous seasons. John Wearn of the Southsea Marina Disabled Angling Club shows a Solent codling of 2lb 2oz which is large enough to be placed third in the SMAC Cod Cup which runs all season. This really indicates what a struggle the cod fishing has become in this area.

On the other hand, bass fishing has been prolific.  Dave Ford and Heber Crawford show off some double figure fish while Luke Scott shows what can be caught on inshore marks. We are seeing large shoals of sprats on our fishfinders, providing plenty of food for the bass which we are seeing in healthy numbers now. Hunting packs of bass can be indicated by flocks of gulls overhead but unlike in summer, the action is much deeper in the water. Slow jigging at depth will find the fish, although it is strictly catch and release for bass at the moment. We are pleased the bass rules for 2020 allow two fish per day to be retained between 1st March and 30th November which is more than in previous seasons.

Further out, boats have been targeting the winter run of spurdog and also picking up some nice rays. Conger continue to roam open ground and range in size from small strap conger to 40lb and above. If you like catching conger, they provide some rod-bending action but I can’t pretend they are welcome in my boat.

We have just experienced a very violent storm so that will have stirred things up – perhaps there is still a chance of a cod before next report? We shall see.