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With tough conditions in the United Kingdom, how has fishing been in Australia?

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Kettles Farm Fishery, Suffolk Water Park and Bury St Edmunds Angling Association’s Water Lane Reservoir, Barrow Lake and Badwell Ash have all been at least partially frozen recently.

Last weekend only four swims on the Big Lake at the Suffolk Water Park were fishable, but the other lakes were frozen, while the river Little Ouse at Redmere was still running hard.

But much milder weather and only occasional light rain are predicted for the next couple of weeks, so hopefully they will now all be open to angling.

The Big Lake at Suffolk Water Park has been frozen. Picture: Hayley Clapperton
The Big Lake at Suffolk Water Park has been frozen. Picture: Hayley Clapperton

Whilst we have suffered some of the coldest temperatures for 10 years locally, down under in Australia it is the height of their summer.

Around 35 to 40 years ago, Jay Owen was a junior member of Bury St Edmunds Angling Association and also a member of the highly-acclaimed junior section, coached and mentored by the late Eric Bolton.

Eric’s Tuesday night sessions, often ably assisted by Ray Wicks and David Wales, were hugely popular and it was not unusual to have more than 30 junior anglers taking part.

Winter at Kettles Farm Fishery. Picture: Richard Ellis
Winter at Kettles Farm Fishery. Picture: Richard Ellis

Jay now lives in Portland in Australia and is still a very active angler. He and fellow ex-pat, Mark Bryant, also from Bury St Edmunds, have fished in the Australia freshwater fishing national match team against New Zealand on four occasions.

Jay is also a very keen sea angler and takes his boat out from Portland Marina on regular fishing trips.

With bitterly cold weather, closed fisheries and very little being caught locally, I thought it would be a good time to read about Jay’s latest summer boat fishing trip.

He said: “I left the marina early and headed east towards a reef (Minerva reef) that generally fishes well at this time of year, the reef is close inshore and it’s around 8km from Portland marina.

Julian Carter on a very cold day at Middle Reservoir. Picture: Chris Boughton
Julian Carter on a very cold day at Middle Reservoir. Picture: Chris Boughton

“The forecast was for an overcast day with temperatures between 22 and 28°C and showing 10km to 15km/hr winds, but as I motored out of the harbour the wind was more like 25km/hr, which was making a reasonable chop on top of a 2m swell.

“In the hope that the weather would improve I motored on and started fishing over the reef at 7.30am, trolling skirted lures over and between the reef structure in water ranging from 3m to 10m deep.

“Only one other boat had ventured to the same spot and I kept an eye on what he was doing. After a couple of hours of trolling and keeping an eye on the sounder/fish-finder and the other boat, it became evident that something was not right and that a change was needed. So, I pulled in the lures and headed off the reef and into deeper water.

“By now the wind was starting to back-off and I headed towards a GPS mark that I had stored and where I had caught previously in around 18m to 20m of water. I re-set the lures and started trolling.

Jay Owen and one of his summer time catches. Picture: Jay Owen
Jay Owen and one of his summer time catches. Picture: Jay Owen

“With this type of (surface) fishing you are always looking for visual indicators of feeding activity, so it might be just a small surface disturbance or a clear event where birds are diving on the bait-ball that has been pushed up by the predatory fish below.

“In this instance I spotted a small disturbance on the surface to the west, so I opened the throttle and made my way over to investigate. As I got closer, I could see a patch of water about 20m in diameter that was ‘busting-up’ as bait fish were fleeing the tuna below.

“I steered just to the edge of the patch hoping to pick -off a stray fish, but with no luck. As I motored past, I could see tuna below the surface. Undeterred, I rounded the boat and approached the patch from a different angle.

“This time the reel on the port side screamed as the weight came on to the rod and the tuna was hooked-up. Doing this on your own is always a bit tricky as you need to get a few things done at once.

“First thing is to slow the boat down from trolling speed to going just forward, then turn the boat to get the swell onto the stern, so that you’re not rocking from side to side, then get the other lines (in this case two others) out of the water. Having completed all of that, the hooked fish can be dealt with.

“The gear I was using this day was pretty heavy – 10kg class rod and lever-drag reel so whilst the tuna still give a good account of themselves, they can be boated pretty quickly, so within 10 minutes the first fish was on the boat.

“As well as using relatively heavy gear, I also like to net the fish, as opposed to gaffing them, so that they can be returned unharmed. Measuring around 80cm it would have weighed around 10 to 12kg. The freezer stock had run low so this fish was kept.

“As the wind dropped further during the next hour it became clear that waves of fish were moving through, in big patches, so having got the lures reset it did not take long to get the second tuna, which was just a little smaller than the first.

“Typically, I had to be back home at around lunchtime, so on this occasion I had to leave the fish biting, although I did sneak a couple of Australian salmon that were mixed amongst the tuna.”

Meanwhile, the Angling Trust has made a detailed submission to government, outlining the case for angling when the latest lockdown restrictions are eased, including the resumption of competition and night fishing, along with fewer travel restrictions. Please visit their website to read the full text and to register your support.

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