It just goes to show, once more, that as your fishing mojo ebbs and flows, if you keep at it, fishing will deliver you with unexpected rewards and pick you all the way back up again. Fishing is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
So here it is. Proof of another Axillary Seabream (Pagellus acarne) capture in UK waters. But possibly the first from the shore*.
I was fishing a tiny metal jig from a well known shore mark in the West of Cornwall. This year has seen a huge amount of small, mixed baitfish congregating around our coast through June and early July. Which in turn has created quite the base of a food-chain for larger predators (and even less predatory fish). This session was already shaping up to be a good one with numbers of jumbo Mackerel and oversize Launce predominating, but never did I expect to encounter quite such a special fish.
As I swung the bream to hand (yeah I know, what was I thinking!) there was an air of familiarity to the fish even though I wasn’t entirely sure what species it was to start with. Bizarrely as it turned out, I have caught this species once before. But that last Axillary Bream I caught was over 1500 miles away on the island of Madeira! You can see this Madeira seabream in a previous blog post.
It’s the kind of moment that stops your fishing session dead in its tracks. I knew I had to do a good job of identification, but also, above anything else, I didn’t want to delay returning the fish and injuring it. Or worse.
So after many, quick photographs of the bream’s anatomy I released the 18cm fish and was relieved to see the fish swim back strongly, after being revived for a few minutes in my landing net.
Then the real hard work began in determining the actual species. Between landing the fish and releasing it my mind cogs had been whirring away and Axillary Seabream was odds-on favourite. But I couldn’t quite let myself believe it. The only real challenger was Red Bream, which of course would have been a hell of a consolation prize!
Now, in retrospect, having studied the photographs for longer than is healthy, it just wasn’t anatomically a Red Bream. I had been ignoring the lack of a clear black spot, because I have learned that colouration isn’t always a solid means of species identification. What kept Red Bream in the running was actually the behavioural side of things. I caught this seabream subsurface, which is fairly unusual. But I also caught it at dusk. In my head, that resonated with what I had always read about our Red Bream. Big eyes to aid feeding in low light; deep water species that is known to come up in the water column to feed at dusk. However, I since found a research paper that confirmed that Axillary Seabream do also feed at night.
So after quite a bit of work trying to disprove that the fish was an Axillary Seabream, I couldn’t. I’d caught an Axillary Seabream from the shore in UK waters. Mind blowing!
* It’s been highlighted to me that there was a report of an Axillary Seabream landed at Chesil Beach, Dorset in September 2014.