Monday, 30 July 2012

Canal Silver Bream - Another No Show

Another morning chasing the elusive silver bream of the Coventry Canal saw an earlier arrival than I'd made for the previous session, but the same approach to the swim, which was to cast a disc of bread up the far shelf and see what, if anything, occurred. It was the same story. It sat there a minute, and then slid away. However there was no brace of silvers off the bat this time around, but the first of a succession of bronze bream.

On the last session, sport had been quite hectic and regular, with 2 silvers and then 9 bream in two hours before a combination of increasing boat traffic and rising sun put the swim down. I wondered how long it would last this time around with the earlier start hopefully extending the window of opportunity in which fish could be caught and thereby increasing my chances of contacting my quarry.

After three years chasing this canal species, I am still none the wiser about their habits. I've probably caught more silver bream from this canal than anyone living or dead, or at least have caught more than anyone else living or dead would have recognised for what they were, but I still know next to nothing about them. My total is now twenty specimens banked...

And just twenty four recorded, and four of those were stiffs. In three years!

However, those twenty odd fish have been enough to establish a few facts. Firstly there are marked differences between males and females, differences that I am only now beginning to appreciate after handling enough of them to be pretty sure what the distinctions are. Secondly, they are growing at an average of around 3-4 oz every year.

In the first year I recorded 5 fish for an average weight of 10.5 ounces and a top weight of 12 oz, the second year 8 fish for an average of 14.75 ounces and a top weight of 1lb 5oz, and this year 11 fish for an average of 15.54 ounces with a top weight of 1lb 6oz.

Even in this small sample, you can see the increase in weights clearly, and the newly arriving year classes in the 2011 & especially, 2012 figures. It also suggests a thinning out of the year classes seen in 2010, who are all now well above a pound in weight.

Now this years average, though lower than the average weight increase predicted by the first two years figures, is confused by the fact that earlier year classes, who were too small for my quite big baits and hooks to catch in the first years, are now starting to appear in the average, which has the effect of compressing and limiting it, as you would expect. Even though this year I have recorded four fish well over a pound and two at the top weight of 1lb 6oz, lots of 10-12oz fish are now turning up again. This means that the population is not only healthy, but breeding successfully too.

Though it doesn't really seem to mean that I'll catch any more than my quota!

The bronze bream came one after the other, 8 of them and a single hybrid in an hour and a quarter, for a total weight of 16.5 lbs, and with plenty of bumped fish and missed bites between them all.  That's a very good catch rate indeed for the Coventry Canal and almost exactly the same as previously experienced, excepting the fact that this time they came along even quicker.

Another two-pound roach x bream hybrid...

I'm thinking I should be using smaller baits for the silvers than I have used thus far. I only noticed how small a silver breams mouth was when examining my last catch. The best fish of that brace was 14 oz, but its mouth was only the size of the end of my little finger, which is a lot smaller than that of a bronze bream of the same size. Then again, that didn't stop a previous fish of similar size from taking in a size eight hook with two grains of corn hair rigged to it...

I also met up with an old friend...

I caught this fish exactly a year ago, and two hundred yards distant, when a lot younger and fresher looking, despite her unforgettable deformity. In the meantime she has changed colour from silver to yellow bronze, has gained a bit of weight, but is looking somewhat battle scarred by comparison with her younger self.

When the first boat came through, the bites stooped for twenty minutes, but then I hooked either a big tench or a small carp. It tore up the canal against all the pressure I could muster, stopped dead in a fizzing bubble bath of silt, and then shot straight into the only patch of reeds for miles... where it sulked and refuse to budge. It eventually decided to snap out of it, and the result was it snapping off from me.

Then, no less than three boats came through in three minutes, Judy turned up with the dog, took the pictures for me (and scared away the fish according to her account!) the dog ate all my supply of bread discs, and that was the end of that, ta very much.

Still, not bad going for an hour and a half and two slices of bread up the cut, eh?

I should forget the silvers, and take up match fishing...

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