And so we, the Bass Boat team, embarked on yet another adventure, this time to the rock bottom altitudes of the south coast over the Easter weekend, Scottburgh to be exact. The adventure did not only take us in search of our favourite fight, the freshwater bass, but also their saltwater counter parts, species: Whatervereatssardineandhooksitself. Common name in this case: Shad or Bluefish (in other parts of the world). Shad are one of the most sought after species by South African fishermen probably due to three things: firstly the aggressive nature in which they strike the bait, secondly the relative ease in which they are caught when in large frenzied schools, and finally the fact that they make for superb eating. Of those three only one factor kept us gunning for the species and that was the strong fight that ensued, relative to their size, after hooking the ravenous critters.
It is important to include here that sea fishing is certainly not our forte and interestingly we had to resort to our better known bass tactics, which ultimately worked to our advantage. After hours of waiting for takes on our usual sliding-sinker sea-rigs we did away with the sinker all together and cast our sardine fillet weightlessly from a small rock, which extended off the beach and was accessible during low tide. We then let the sardine bait settle slowly through the water, waiting for bites, shortly before retrieving in a start stop motion, similarly to certain bass fishing techniques, in order to entice the fish to bite. Shad being ferocious predators like bass were the first to bite and once we knew that a school had settled into the area we chose to target the species for the duration of the trip. We used large hooks (sizes 3-4) and literally half a sardine at a time on light tackle. What a great decision that was. The conditions were perfect for Shad with the water being clear and bluish with a little clean white foam on the surface.
Pound for pound the Shad in my opinion gave a fight that surpassed that of any bass that I have caught personally, and the take is one which definitely does not go unnoticed, especially on the light tackle. Between the 3 of us who did fish: ‘The Bass Bugger’ Shaun Taylor, Lincoln ‘Shad Slayer’ Wahl, and myself, about 13 Shad were caught, averaging about 30cm in length, apparently not much smaller than the total average shad size in the area. After many hard falls on the slippery rocks and other hook related injuries, all, but one, were thrown back. Sadly we noticed that once others caught drift of our success the beach became crowded with fisherman, many of which bagged not only well over their daily bag limit, but also too many undersized fish, an all too familiar sight along the coastline of South Africa. A crucial thing to mention is that a steel trace at the end of your line is necessary when Shad fishing as their razor sharp teeth will easily sever your fishing line no matter what its thickness. Be careful when removing the hook as well as Shad teeth are not only capable of cutting through the thickest of line but also through human flesh.
On a final note the Shad fishing was some of the best shore fishing we have ever done in our severely amateur sea fishing careers and the species will be the first we try for on future trips to the east coast at this time of year.