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27 Mar 2011

Spring and the big estuary

Sea-trout can be and often are caught in Ireland on the bigger estuaries as soon as the water temperatures rise. I was surprised last year when we caught sea-trout in early April, some of them - post-finnock, who had clearly overwintered in the estuary - in cracking condition. Other sea-trout were in different ranges of condition, from clearly kelted fish which had only just begun their sojourn in the sea to well-mended kelts. It follows that those who do venture out after sea-trout at this time of year need to pay particular attention to returning fish carefully and safely. (In a perfect world, I also think the season ought to begin on April 1, whatever the local regulations may say. That's just a personal view, of course, and I realise that there will be those who will disagree.)

Where they aren't overwintering in freshwater, sea-trout - by which I mean the post-finnock class - seem to overwinter in the larger, more brackish and shallower estuaries. The fish seem to dislike, and will seek to avoid, a combination of high salinity and cold water temperatures, so the larger the estuary, the more brackish it will theoretically be. Shallow water also warms up more quickly than deeper.

As for lures, sandeels and shrimps are, as ever, high on the menu. Sunk Lures and streamers are the order of the day fished on fast or slow intermediate lines. Places along the shore where the tide flows are obvious spots to try, particularly on the last of the flood and first of the ebb, since those currents concentrate the available food. The photo, taken in August, shows one such place, marked by a strong tidal race and the presence throughout the summer of terns, who work over the shoals of baitfish.

It's not easy, saltwater sea-trout fishing, for the simple reason that each estuary is different and patience is needed to work out where the fish will be moving and hunting at different stages of the tide. I often cover many miles of ground in a day's fishing, and almost invariably fish a tide right out. Once you've found them, however, the fish can sometimes be very readily caught, and catches in April might range from silver post-finnock around the pound to big sea-trout which have begun to feed in the estuary in earnest after running back to sea at some time during the previous winter.

This year I'm hard pushed at work and won't be able to make my first sea-trout trips until later in the year. That's unusual, because in almost every spring during the past decade I've managed a trip or two to Ireland or Denmark. I shall miss it, badly, this year. But there we are.

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