Fascinating Fish – the story of Bass and other special species

3rd November 2007

National sea bass expert Graham Pickett described the life-cycle of this fish so familiar to our shores and also commercially important, these days attracting higher prices than salmon. Spawning took place offshore in the English Channel and the Celtic Sea in the Spring, when water temperatures were between 9º – 15º C.   During their first 2-3 months, the larvae, now about 2.5cm in length, moved inshore to the main nursery areas in rivers with rich feeding potential, such as the Helford, Fal, Tamar, Camel, Taw and Torridge where they needed to reach a reasonable size (7cm) to survive the colder winter months. They grow well in the warm waters of the south and west and remain there for some 4-5 years before moving back to the open sea.
Breeding appeared to be more closely linked to size than age with maturity occurring at 38-42cm length in females and 32-42cm in males. A 36cm fish might be from 3 to 6years old. This highlighted the importance of controlling the catch in open water to ensure that the breeding stock was maintained. The larger the female size the better the ova produced and the more successful breeding occurs.
Tagging studies had revealed that after the juveniles return to the open sea they can wander for a while but after maturity they appear to settle into a very regular pattern. For instance one was caught at exactly the same place on exactly the same tide on exactly the same date for two years running.
Shore angling was a very popular sport and John Leballeur of the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society described the activities of this organisation and his regular participation in the collection of information about one of our most important British fish.

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