At Falmouth sport is reputed somewhat uncertain, and boat hire does not usually err on the side of moderation. Both here and all along the Cornwall coast, from almost the end of July to the end of December, pilchards can be obtained for bait. Round the rocky headlands, outside the harbour, there is very fair pollack fishing, and, occasionally, whiting fishing in Carrick Roads and in the deep water about two miles out. At the back of the Castle there is often excellent chad fishing in August. For fishing in the Falmouth district some people prefer to stop at the smaller and quieter St. Mawes, on the opposite side of the harbour. Bass in season are commonly plentiful near the Manacle Rocks, some ten miles distant.
A place I have not visited, but which is very highly spoken of by my friends of the British Sea Anglers' Society, is Meva-gissey. A great deal of pilchard fishing is to be had here. Over the lobster grounds there is good fishing for pollack with drift lines, railing or whiffing being impossible on account of the lines of lobster pots. A great variety of fish is caught here, and on the whole it seems as good a place as the angler could wish to visit.
Fowey, close to Mevagissey, is another noted sea-fishing station, and has the advantage of an excellent natural harbour. Fishing is good here for mackerel, whiting, pollack, gurnard, bream, and other fish. Hard by is Polperro, a charming little place with a small harbour. The nearest railway station is Liskeard, eleven miles. Both here and in many other Cornish villages, boats and men can be hired for moderate sums. The men used to be satisfied with 25 s. a week, but at places frequented by many amateur sea fishermen the ideas of professional fishermen on these matters have become enlarged. There is capital fishing at Looe, where is a good natural harbour. The place has a reputation for pollack, for which many people visit it.
Next comes Plymouth, where a great deal of amateur sea fishing is carried on by local people. The rival tackle-makers, Messrs. Hearder of Plymouth and Messrs. Brooks of Stone-house, both issue very admirable little guides to the harbour and neighbouring coasts, with small charts and other directions for finding the fishing grounds. The best pollack fishing near Plymouth is off Penlee Point, which is also a noted place for fly fishing for bass. It fishes best on the ebb tide. July, August, and September are the months for visiting this part of the coast, except in respect of the spring fishing for small pollack.
At Plymouth is the laboratory of the Marine Biological Association, from which greater things were anticipated than have at present resulted. Although a large amount of most interesting biological work has been accomplished, it cannot be said that the sea fisheries of England have appreciably benefited by the researches of the gentlemen who have been working in the laboratory. Possibly the practical side of the subject has not received quite so much attention as it deserves.
Plymouth is a trawling station of some importance, the trawling grounds lying to the west of and inside the Eddy-stone. When the weather will allow it, this famous rock should certainly be visited, for in its neighbourhood some splendid fishing can be obtained. Enormous pollack have been killed here, and the whiting grounds are famous. The best way to work the pollack fishing is to sail in a yacht or other seaworthy vessel from Plymouth, anchor, and rail round the rock in a small boat when the weather will permit.
One great advantage of Plymouth is the shelter obtained in the harbour within the breakwater, but there is a corresponding disadvantage in the large amount of traffic, which does not improve sport in shallow waters. It has been said that the breakwater has caused mud to collect in the Sound, and that this has had a bad effect on the fishing.
There are many places at Plymouth from which fishing from the shore can be carried on, and having regard to the fishing in the harbour, whiting, cod, gurnard, hake, etc. boat work outside, and the shore fishing, there are few places which offer so great a variety of sport to the sea angler. At the same time, it is often asserted that the sport is not so good as it used to be. Not long since a letter appeared in one of the weekly papers from a gentleman who had fished for a month at Plymouth for bass and had only caught one fish ; he complained of the steamers and the big gun and torpedo practice. Certainly the bass fishing is not nearly so good as it used to be.
Some prawning and shrimping is done between Mount Batten and Bovisand, and among the rocks round Drake's Island. During the summer months a steamer plies between Plymouth and Looe. There being, as I have said, such excellent local guides published, I have not thought it necessary to deal with this fishing station in great detail.
The next place of any importance after Plymouth is Sal-combe, which offers very good pollack fishing. Most of the pollacking is carried on round Bolt Head and Prawle Point. Sand eels for bait are obtainable. The climate is very mild in winter, the average temperature for many years having been little less than that of Montpellier. Oranges, lemons and citrons grow in the open air. The bass fishing was once very good, but of late years has fallen off, and in respect thereof certain amateur netsmen have been blamed. It is still, however, a noted place for pollack, and let us hope the bass will return to it when they feel so disposed. There is a beautiful little natural harbour, and very good accommodation for visitors and sea fishermen.
Between Salcombe and Dartmouth is the little village of Torcross. Sand eels can be bought from the fishermen. There is an hotel and every accommodation, and hard by are Torcross Ley and Slapton Ley, the pike and rudd fishing of which is noted. Boats with one or two men cost 5 s. and 7s. a day. The bass and pollack fishing is off the Start, about three miles distant. Flat fish are caught half a mile from the beach. The whiting grounds, where sport is often excellent, lie about seven miles out. The inhabitants of the Torcross, Slapton, Busands, and Hallsands villages, on the bay, mostly get their living by fishing.