What a year eh!?…. I certainly could not have predicted how this year was going to go when I wrote my 2019 review! 12 months dominated by a pandemic, with that having some serious limits on mine and your fishing. There were, of course, highs such as the success of The Big Lerf to go with the lows, plus a lot of species caught. This is my species list for the year of 2020. Did I beat my 2019 result of 31 species on artificial baits/lures?
1. European flounder – Platichthys flesus. My first fish of the year was this chunky flounder. My obsession with this species has only grown this year. Most of the fish have come at night on dropshot rigs or light jigheads – Isome, Gulp or Ecogear Aqaua Shirasu’s being my go to in the colder months. Read about a recent session here; https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/12/12/flounder-in-the-torchlight/
2. Atlantic mackerel – Scomber scombrus. A year where the big shoals came early and disappeared just as quick. I did catch a personal best though, genuinely was concerned I would never find out what it was at one point! Incredible fighters! One of my most entertaining sessions of the year was mackerel based, you can find that here; https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/07/21/lrf-mackerel-vs-seal/
3. Atlantic herring – Clupea harengus. A regular catch over the year, these small silver fish fight hard, throw the hook with ease and take most lures. They are a superb winter warmer when nothing else is biting!
4. Whiting – Merlangius merlangus. My first whiting of the year was also my biggest. This one coughed up a crab it had just munched. Whiting are a genuine sporting fight on light tackle.
5. Long spined sea scorpion – Taurulus bubalis. This has been another good Scorp’ year, I have really worked out their local haunts and ways. As simple as they can often be to tempt, it’s strange how long you can go without catching one sometimes. My post lockdown scorpion hunt went like this: https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/05/22/lrf-post-lockdown-scorpion-hunt/
6. Rock goby – Gobius paganellus. These beautiful little fish are definitely taken for granted by me sometimes – but when the bite is tough to find, a rock goby almost always will attack the lure. From rockpool to deep harbour, this species is everywhere!
7. Pollock – Pollachius pollachius. The most obliging species around. Small pollock are plentiful and always hungry, so much so that they can be a real nuisance at times. The bigger fish (of which I caught little of in 2020) can be absolute brutes though.
8. European bass – Dicentrarchus labrax. Was this my best bass year? Probably! I really don’t make enough effort with this immensely popular species. I tend to just stumble upon them when I’m targeting anything else. The fish pictured though is probably a PB, which at around 2lb is very modest compared to what they can grow to. Maybe 2021 holds a bigger fish in store?
9. Two spotted goby – Gobiusculus flavescens. This miniscule fish is one that occasionally finds me when I’m scratching around with tiny hooks and lures. They are very unusual for gobies in that they prefer to keep off the bottom, instead living up in the water around fronds of seaweed. For more info on UK gobies, read this: https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2019/09/12/goby-slaying-my-guide/
10. Pouting – Trisopterus luscus. One of the real unloved fish species by bait anglers especially. For the Lerfer though, pout can really go! They are aggressive and hard fighting on light tackle. The finest examples of the species come from boulder filled marks like Mount Batten or Haldon Pier, where the local pout turn a stunning gold bronze colour.
11. Ballan wrasse – Labrus bergylta. The ultimate British rock fish. This was without doubt my best wrasse year for numbers of lure caught 2lb plus fish, I managed over 30 without putting in crazy hours, quite a few of those going 3lb plus too. Still I failed to find a 4lber, which will be my target in 2021. The story of my first wrasse of the year is here: https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/02/19/mount-batten-lrf-a-new-rod-a-big-wrasse/
12. Common blenny – Lipophrys pholis. What to say about the humble Shanny? Reliable, aggressive and hardy, no species list would be complete without one. For more info on blenny species, check this link out: https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2019/11/14/blenny-bashing-my-guide/
13. Goldsinny wrasse – Ctenolabrus rupestris. Another common LRF catch. They aren’t always the most attractive of fish but the individual I catch in February (above) was really rather lovely looking.
14. Tompot blenny – Parablennius gattorugine. The bad boy of the mini species world, aggressive and widespread. These blennies have been a consistent catch all year, but the most we found was in Hayle in Cornwall – that place was stacked with them!
15. Giant goby – Gobius cobitis. Every year I become more convinced that this species is far more widespread than the textbooks tell you. At times it’s been hard to get away from them but who can complain when a fish, almost a foot long, attacks your lure in a rockpool only inches deep!?
16. Corkwing wrasse – Symphodus melops. One of, if not the prettiest fish in UK waters. Corkies are everywhere and we are lucky to have them. My favourite way to target them is with scaled down Texas rigs and Chebs rigs, bounced over rocky or weedy ground.
17. Sand goby – Pomatoschistus minutus. The tiny piranha of the goby family tree, these little chaps are common anywhere with clean ground and not too much swell. They are a huge food source of many species too, I have seen flounder in particular engulf many an unsuspecting goby!
18. European pilchard – Sardina pilchardus. Otherwise known as the sardine. These herring like fish have appeared in vast numbers around Plymouth for three years in a row. They can be a nightmare to catch at times but if you can locate a feeding shoal then they will snap at most things – small metals being the most effective.
19. Common topknot – Zeugopterus punctatus. This was a good topknot year. These bonkers looking flatfish are a firm favourite of mine. The trick to finding them is to look in the deepest darkest crevices and holes, often they will be lying in wait there. Small, light coloured lures will tempt them. Here’s the story of my first ‘topper’ of the year: https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/06/06/lrf-tempting-topknot-with-dom-garnett/
20. Turbot – Scophthalmus maximus. As satisfying catches go, this was seriously up there. Not a big fish at all, especially considering the species’ potential, yet this catch was special. Casting a metal jig around the huge open Cornish coast, then connecting with a feisty flatfish on Light Game tackle, is definitely worth trying if you can. My write up of this session is here: https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/06/18/light-game-lrf-turbo-tuesday/
21. Greater sandeel – Hyperoplus lanceolatus. Otherwise known as a Launce or Lance. On the open coast these sandeels can be surprisiingly aggressive, attack lures nearly as big as themselves. I’m useless at targeting them, instead they often just turn up as surprise catches when I’m targeting other species.
22. Sand smelt – Atherina presbyter. I don’t envy the sand smelt, being a small delicate fish, this species is food for everything. The smaller specimens can be a pain to catch, yet the fully grown adults will often take metals and larger lures.
23. Tub gurnard – Chelidonichthys lucerna. I will never tire of catching these fish. You can find a write of this session here; https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/12/08/lrf-light-game-harbour-gurnards/
24. Rock cook wrasse – Centrolabrus exoletus. Finally 2020 was the year I caught a rock cook! It was a truly tiny specimen but look at those colours… Size 22 and a pinch of green Isome did the trick. My write up of that day is here: https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/07/25/lrf-hrf-david-and-goliath/
25. Thick lipped grey mullet – Chelon labrosus. I managed to catch two 40cm plus mullet on Isome in Sutton Harbour, Plymouth in 2020. This fish pictured was probably the best fighting fish I had all year. Find the story here: https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/11/08/essex-anglers-a-week-in-lrf/
26. Black goby – Gobius niger. Another goby that must be on the year list, a common catch around Plymouth,
27. Atlantic horse mackerel – Trachurus trachurus. Also known as scad, this year it took a while for me to catch my first, but as usual, the corbnish marks produced the biggest fish. Here’s an older post on these fish; https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2019/10/01/scad-life-how-i-aji/
28. Common dragonet – Callionymus lyra. As usual, I had to go to Cornwall to find dragonets this year, in some marks they can be very common, others they are completely absent. Tiny hooks, scented worm lures fixed hard on the bottom are a must for this species.
29. Poor cod – Trisopterus minutus. Another small fish that can be surprisingly sprited on light tackle. I have caught plenty this year around Mount Batten Pier and Millbay, Plymouth. You just have to watch the scales, they come off very easily! Here’s my post showing the difference between pout and poor cod: https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2019/11/21/pout-vs-poor-cod-spot-the-difference/
30. Garfish – Belone belone. I have had much better gar years than the one just finished, I didn’t land one until September! I’m hoping 2021 has some larger specimens in store.
31. Black bream – Acanthopagrus butcheri. The only black bream I caught in 2020 was this tiny fish during the Big Lerf. Thankfully it helped me reach a weekend total of 24 species! Read more here: https://benbassettfishing.home.blog/2020/10/12/the-big-lerf-2020/
32. Painted goby – Pomatoschistus pictus. These beautifully marked tiny gobies also boosted my Big Lerf total, there are some marks in Cornwall where they are very common. The best way to catch these is by sight, with size 22 hooks in the shallows at night.
33. Montagu’s blenny – Coryphoblennius galerita. A real Cornish gem, these tiny blennies are very localised. They are exceptionally marked though when closely observed, far prettier than their common cousins.
34. Common goby – Pomatoschistus microps. This was the first year that I could confidently say I caught a common goby, and plenty of them! Fishing a brackish lake it was easy to catch the tiny fish. Three ways to successfully ID this species – first is size as commons rarely grow over 7 or 8cm, the secomd is location as they prefer brackish/semi-freshwater habitats; and the third is their dorsal, if it has a white halo around the black spot – it’s a sand goby.
35. Fivebeard rockling – Ciliata mustela. This species was a real surprise catch and my first ever. At low tide I was sight fishing in amongst some boulders at night, I saw this little fella flitting in and out of the boulders. It only just a second to offer him a section of Gulp Isome and he was mine. A small, rather unexciting fish that was a lovely one to tick off my yearlist.
36. European anchovy – Engraulis encrasicolus. To finish my year, I caught one of the weirdest pelagoc fish around. Small, oily, with a mouth like a basking shark, the anchovy is bonkers looking. They rarely take lures, but this fish look a tiny Majorcraft Jigpara Swim 3g. An amazing finish to a pretty solid year’s fishing.
Thank you to everyone who has read and supported the blog in 2020. I have some big things lined up in 2021 and I’m hoping to get to meet a lot more Lerfers! Look out for plenty more content over the next 12 months and tight lines to you all.