A little about the fish
The fish that live on the Wexford coast are small in number and live in many disparate locations. Access to these populations of fish for the shore angler may begin as early as April and end usually in late October or early November. This is not always strictly the case as so many influences impact on the date range and the arrival or departure of fish. Fully mature bass undertake seasonal migrations from summer coastal feeding grounds to winter offshore spawning grounds (Pawson et al. 2007) coinciding with the decrease in coastal water temperature (Pawson & Pickett 1987) that generally occurs in late October.
As water temperature and light levels increase during Spring expect fish to arrive on shore, as water temperatures and light levels decrease, Autumn, expect fish to move away to deeper water to prepare for spawning. You can see more in relation to temperature here
There are four possible major ‘population bases’ that run to their shore foraging grounds and back to sea as the seasons and conditions dictate. These bigger populations reside in the following broadly defined areas
- The Bannow bay and Hook Peninsula region
- The Kilmore quay and Cullenstown region
- The Bing bay, Rosslare Hbr and Wexford Hbr region
- The North county of Wexford
Further along the Wexford coast if we look closer and we have had further angling experiences we can conclude that there are smaller ‘micro’ localised populations tied to specific circumstances and geography that offer the fish the environments and conditions that they need to survive.
These smaller ‘micro’ populations live in locations on the coast both North and South of the Slaney river.
I have no doubt that during the active shore period there may be a lot of travel, cross-over and mixing, say, of fish between the Bannow bay and Kilmore quay fish for instance, and indeed within these regions where smaller concentrations of fish are tied to specific micro’ locations, I also have a sense that fish from the Rosslare area move to Kilmore quay or to Bannow bay on a frequent basis. This is of course extremely likely, regular, and even necessary to find food from time to time. Wider ranging of ‘coastal’ fish is also very likely.
I have no real sense or evidence as to where the fish spend their time when they are not on the shore during the winter period. I have a feeling that its not too far offshore, presence of winter forage can keep bass populations much more ‘local’ than we think. But I also suspect that fish ‘tied’ to an open coast tend to range wider on a more nomadic lifestyle than say fish linked to a specific environment offering many optimal lies. There may be more or less location fidelity across different coastal environments.
There are many questions that remain unanswered and speculation without data can force us to ask with some positivity
- Do the fish move great distances to find cooler temperatures to prepare and indeed be ready to spawn?
- Do the fish during this period mix with the entire ‘Wexford’ population and then return to their known separate summer locations or are there Winter specific locations for suspension?
- Do the fish move along the coast to mix with other populations from other counties or indeed countries?
- Is the range of bass movement much wider along the coast than we think?
- What winter movements dictate and are exhibited by the Western Irish population of fish?
- Do the fish remain closer to the Irish shoreline than we think for winter preparation for spawning?
- Do all the Irish southern counties bass population move to form one winter aggregation or are there separate aggregations per county in very specific geographic locations?
- Does spawning take place a lot closer to shore than we think?
- Is the Irish population separate from other international populations?
- Do county specific fish behave differently than other counties in respect of movement time, location habits and patterns, forage availability and destination spawning locations?
All of the above factors play a significant part in the possible conservation of the species. The fish are prone to over exploitation for many reasons especially according to where they are known to be present in numbers at any time during winter or summer.
Local geography, geology and other physical forces play a large part in the movement of fish during its time spent on the Wexford coasts and how and what it has learned to survive – some fish may live to be a more nomadic group of ‘free ranging’ type whilst others may ‘anchor’ themselves to locations. There is a greater sense of enhanced location fidelity where there is structure and circumstances (tides) that provide holding, protection and easy feeding lies with minimum energy expenditure. Fish may behave similarly from coast to coast but their is also some unique and specific location behavioral patterns demonstrated accordingly. This location specific behavior can also extend into things like fly and lure preferences for both colour, choice of size and profile. This of course varies too over the timing of the season and conditions at any particular time.
Some Wexford locations exhibit a greater frequency of both a particular size and number of fish. This also corresponds to particular times of year and indeed specific weather and tidal conditions at the locations at any time. I have experiences of catching more bigger fish more frequently at specific locations. This may mean for instance that, females which tend to be bigger than males, may be very location specific, whilst males perhaps are more free ranging. It could also mean that bigger fish exhibit different hunting strategies and timings to their smaller companions and may be more ‘learned’ in exploiting different opportunities for food at different times.