Good Fishing in France: Interesting Catches and Experience in an Anglers Paradise, Daily Racing Form, 1919-03-10


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GOOD FISHING IN FRANCE Interesting Catches and Experience in an Anglers Paradise. Many Varieties and Great Abundance of Small Fish Methods and Bait. "Somewhere in France," a pleasant fishing port, familiar to Continental travelers only as a place of arrival and departure, with a delightful "buffet for "restoration" after channel "buffeting." is to the resident a combination of big manufacturing town and busy fishing station, and to visitors, both French and foreign, as a healthful seaside resort with an unrivaled bathing beach, while to the all-round angler it merits the above appellation, not so much for the magnificence as for the infinite variety of siort afforded, so that hardly a day need pass, barring occasional violent gales, without opportunity of casting a line for something. Taking the sea first, the two long wooden piers are free to anglers, except the platform at the end of the east or lighthouse pier, reserved for the light-keepers, old navy men and keen fishers. The principal fish to be caught are codling, mid-August to October, but a few occurring through the winter; whiting, chiefly September to December; dabs, nearly ail the year, though scarce in summer; also pouting, conger, plaice, flounder, soles, eels, shad, scad or horse mackerel, weevcr and lesser weever, mackerel occasionally, gray mullet, bass mostly small, and pollack, ditto; small skate, atherine or saudsmelt, "butterfish," and a few minor "sundries." Of the abundance of fish some of my own takes, nearly always "after office hours," i.e., between lunch and dinner, are pleasing evidence; for instance, in 1910, when I totaled 7,041 fish, codling numbered J, 1158, best afternoon takes being between fifty-five, forty-nine, forty-two, thirty-five; and whiting 2,109, best afternoon catch ninety-five. Codling were not big, but two-pounders not uncommon, and I have caught a few up to four pounds, and seen bigger. Whiting best size in -November and December, sometimes averaging about half a pound, with an occasional pounder. Keen French anglers, fishing a whole day, sometimes bagged a hundred or more codling and seven or eight score of whiting. MANY VARIETIES AND GOOD HAULS. As to the succulent dabs, I once caught 103 in an afternoon, but they were small, in early spring; good specimens were caught with the big winter whiting. Soles were of respectable size and delicious flavor, and a good many were caught, by anglers who specialized iu them, mostly iu the "silly season" for general pier angling, the hot summer months, when it would often be a case of solo or nothing The first I caught, a strong beauty of about one and one-half pounds, while I was unhooking it, twisted out of my hands and made a deliberate "nose dive" between the timbers of the yier floor, to the amusement of bystanders. After that I took care to hold a sole over open creel or bag while unhooking. My good fiends the light-keepers, with whom I had the privilege of fishing, worked a big square, flne-meshed net, lowered and raised by pole; pulley and windlass. In it they made captures in great variety, from sprats by the bushel in winter, to sea trout and even goodly salmon, sometimes codling by the score I once saw a haul of thirty-six, when a shoal was coming in, also plenty of the other fish I have mentioned. Tliey used to let It out to visitors ut a franc an hour; it was quite an amusing piscatorial lottery. Once when the lightkeeper had beeu getting only a few small fry, a visitor who took it over caught, in two hauls, five grand gray mullet from three pounds to five pounds what a lot must have jumped out en route! I found the large net handy if I hooked a fish too big to lift, notably a plump codling of four aiid one-half pounds one Christmas eve, on a small whiting hook and fine gut, which I played out and steered round to the "carreau" he made a nice prelude to the Christmas turkey. Many of my French comrades were expert anglers, and some, engineers and mechanics from the big factories, made their own. reels, with ball-bearings, and cast eighty yards or over. BAIT USED. IN FRENCH FISHING. Hand lines were much in use among tlie old-fashioned. Leads -were mostly watchshaped. Fine wire booms or spreaders, cheap, or home-made. .Principal bait., the lugworm "ver-de-mer", dug by women and girls on the beach, brought to town in pails of salt water, sold by weight, quite clean, at the moderate price of a franc a pound, so that fiyepence generally supplied enough for an afternoons fishing. Ragworm. from the harbor mud, often useful for flatfish, .small whiting, gray mullet, etc. Live shrimps good for codling. Mussels, much esteemed as .edibles, somehow not takeii freely by codling or whiting, though cockles were good for both. A white or greenish ragworm, found in certain patches on the beach, often eagerly taken by all fish. Hermit-crab tail and soft crab, as at Scarborough, excellent for codling and big eels. Squid, obtainable from the trawlers, was the favorite bait for congers, of which there were a good many among the rocky and weedy bases of the west pier. The locks between the outer harbor and the main dock. Bassin Carnot, often swarmed with fish, and the big dock itself gave fair sport with codling, .whiting, flounders, eels and sometimes the lively but caiiricious gray mullet, which were caught on fine but strong tackle with pastes, skinued shrimps, bacon fat, ragworm, etc., and I have sometimes found plain breadcrust as good as anything. Trying one day with a naste colored and flavored with essence of anchovy, I did not drpn on the mullet, but was amused at catching fifteen whiting, rather a uniriue experience. A curious feature was the taking some years of quantities of herrings on rod and line. The first few were taken on worm by some perch anglers, but soon this "turlute" or "jigger" was invented and found deadly. It was an oval metal frame inclosing a piece of mirror glass, with four large white hooks soldered firmly, two at top and two at liottnm. . Used with a stiff rod and strong trace, worked with a sharp sinkmg-and-drawing motion, the herrings rushed at it fiercely, from motives purely conjectural, and were caught by the mouth, or anywhere else, affording sport to scores of men, boys, and sometimes women. January to March, as a rule, they were nearly Jill "shotten," poor eating; we tried kippering, but there was not much but the smell. GREAT CATCHES OF SMALL FISH. One year I caught 2.372 of them, 137 once in two hours at one spot. I Improved on the sport by affixing above the jigger three or four droppers, wingless "flies," just a hit of blood-red floss silk whipped on a small white hook; this was freely taken in the mouth, and I have pulled up four on a string. A much smaller Jigger, with tiny red "flies," resulted in many a fry of sprats and young herring, both from piers and in docks, and once or twice big sand-eels, seven to twelve inches long. Other fish which I often caught on big and little jiggers were codling, whiting, small pollack, gray mullet and even eels and flatfish. Sea trout and even salmon sometimes blundered into the harbor, taking it for the estuary of a river, and even got away up into the canal system. I heard of a grand salmon of over twenty pounds gaffed in a shallow "cut" by a pike fisher. An artful angler of my acquaintance, seeing one or two .nice sea trout in the big lock, actually succeeded in catching one three-pounder by live baiting with a 6prat freshly caught on the jigger, and was broken by a bigger one. In that same lock I remember a big bass flashing up and snatching off a sprat from one of my little fly hooks; he robbed me of several, but when I baited a single hook with a lively sprat and lowered it in his direction he was "not taking any." Amateur boat angling was not practiced here. My few opportunities, when the crew of a cargo boat, waiting for the night service, went for an afternoons fishing, generally only a hundred yards or two outside pierheads, resulted in the capture of good sized codling and other fish. I remember Once, when water was clear, getting eighteen, nice codling on my rod. while a clerk from, the office, sitting close to me, using a hnndlinc, chopstick rig and hjige lead, with big hooks on string was pained and puzzled at not catching a fish! Once from the lighthouse pier I hooked a fine turbot on a whiting hook on a stormy day. I had a trying and careful fight, and at last got him to the surface, under my rod point, played out, as I thought, and was going to work him round to the big net, when he gave one vicious "nug" downward and broke away the hook. Another time, fishing for small bass in the breakers near the shore end of the pier, with ragworm, I- pulled up a little bass on one hook and a wee turbot on the other, rather an unmnnl combination. Soad or horse mackerel were often nlmierous in summer and afforded sport, generally with white bait or small sprats as bait, though I once hooked three good ones at a cast, sinking and drawing with a little spinning bait of my own contrivance; one got off in the lively fight "Sarcelle" in Anglers News. V.

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