With all the terrible weather we have been experiencing lately, surely we are due a bit of summer soon. Warmer temperatures, sunny evenings and hungry fish. The fishing is going to be great, right?
Well......yes and no.....
This year we will see summer come rushing in, apologising for being late as it hangs it's coat up and finally takes its place in the year as we all look at it wondering where on earth it's been and why it is so late?? Air temps warm up and so will the water. The first thing that anglers want after the long Winter and a dreadful Spring, is sunny days and lots of fish. The first thing that fish want to do when the water warms up is spawn. Fish can become very moody in the Spring. Probably because of the spawning activity. Coarse fish will not feed regularly during their spawning seasons, which will vary from species to species.
The water and weather will govern when fish will spawn, so the dates are not set in stone. The magic temperature for the water is around 9 degrees and, fish that have been growing steadily fatter over the winter from November onwards, now want to get their summer bodies on and get rid of all that Winter weight...
As a rule, Pike and Zander will be the first to spawn in March/April. Nature has adapted the Pike to get this bit over with early, so they can go on an all you can eat buffet when all the other fish are fat and juicy. A Pike may eat 60% of its annual food intake during the spawning season. No wonder they tend to lay up for the summer!
Perch are usually next in April. So all the predators are primed and ready for the rest of the spawning fish.
Like all Coarse fish species, Roach, Rudd, Chub, Barbel and Bream will put on between 15-20% of their body weight leading up to spawning in May/June. But the biggest gainer is the good old Tench, ballooning to 20 - 25% of their body weight. If you want to catch a big Tench, May is the time. Although, is an over inflated Tench the real weight of the fish? Conversation for another day perhaps....
The last to spawn are Carp, usually in June. With the species spawning at different times, the Carp probably has drawn the short straw because, such a big fish lays a lot of eggs. Ideal food for all the other species to fatten up on after their own spawning activities.
As anglers, this time of year gives us added responsibilities to the fish we may catch. In my opinion, spawning fish, particularly Carp, should be left alone during this period. To their credit, many fisheries will close their doors to allow fish to complete the process in peace.
Even after the spawning has finished, there is still a duty of care to be observed. Weed growth, like everything else, begins in Spring time and anglers may start to hook up on weed more often. It is most important to return the weed to the water quickly and not throw it up the bank as we usually might do. The picture above shows the number of Carp eggs that are stuck to weed that may not survive if anglers are not careful. The fish too need special care if they are full of eggs. Time spent on the unhooking mat must be kept to a minimum to reduce the stress on an already stressed animal.
So, when all the silliness has passed, what do we need to do to prepare our tackle for the Summer months?
For a start, lines and hooks can be stepped up in strength. Fish are cold bloodied animals and the warmth of the sun gives them added energy to battle harder against pesky anglers. 8lb line for feeder fishing is preferred and stronger Pole rigs will be needed. Pole elastics will benefit from a step up or even a change. Spring is an ideal time to renewed tired Pole elastic.
Methods like Pellet Waggler will start to be useful as the fish spend more time closer to the surface. One Summertime favourite with many anglers is a floating bait. Nothing gets the heart pounding faster than a piece of breadcrust being nudged by a big rubbery mouth.
Bait will need to changed too. You may need to take more bait with you as the appetite of the fish increases. There's no need to go crazy, but maybe a pint or two extra pellets at certain venues will help.
Hemp is also a renowned summer bait, particularly for Roach.
Maggots will work all year round. But in the summer they need to be covered or, better still, kept in a cool bag until needed. Just make sure they are kept out of direct sunlight or they will turn to casters faster than you can blink.
But, probably, the most common bait to re-emerge in the Summer is Paste. For Carp, paste is one of the go-to baits, especially on the pole. There is a section on Paste in the Junior booklets on the website, but don't forget to add power to water slowly, mixing as you go. Leave it for a while to get the consistency you want. A wet sloppy paste for when Carp are feeding hard or a dryer, stiffer Paste if there are some smaller fish about. Either way, Paste is a bait that you can play around with to get it right on the day.
Summer is coming. It really is. When it does arrive, make sure you are ready for it. Earlier mornings and later evenings will produce fish when it is cooler, and away from the heat of the day.
Be ready for some epic battles, but be willing to accept that nature comes first and fish welfare is right at the top of the list. Return fish quickly when it's hot. Keep your mats wet and cool. Don't use keep nets unless you have to (in matches) and be mindful of weed that may contain eggs.
You need to look after yourself too. Wear a hat, sun stroke is not fun believe me. Slap on the sun cream and stay hydrated.
Fishing is memorable at all times of the year but, ah those balmy summer days....I can't wait.