Fishing in gravel pits

Fishing in gravel pits
Typical gravel pit

Fishing in gravel pits is a fishing with many peculiarities, enough to dedicate a whole post to it. There are gravel pits all over the Iberian Peninsula, although logically depending on the type of soil there are certain areas where there are more… They are generally found near the course of large rivers such as  Guadiana and the extraction of materials is carried out below the water table. Because of this, from its initial construction to its subsequent abandonment, the hole formed by the machines fills with water and never loses it.

But let’s get down to what we are interested in, which is this artificially formed ecosystem, its characteristics and how it influences both the development of fish stocks and the fishing action.

Physical characteristics

Although they can come in many shapes and sizes, generally one gravel pit will have a small surface area, at most a few hectares, and an average depth of between 2 and 4 metres. It is rare to find larger or deeper gravel pits, but it can of course happen.

Gravel pit
Gravel pit in the process of expansion

As for the shores, they are usually very steep, caused by the machines used in the extraction of aggregates, which means that we often reach the maximum depth just a few metres from the shore. Even so, the depth is not homogeneous, there are usually areas with different depths, which will influence the fishing action. Often the vegetation itself: rushes, reeds,cattails… will indicate the slope of the shore and the different levels of depth.

Finally, it should be taken into account that there will be areas in which the bottom is composed of mud, sand, silt… And other areas in which there will be gravel of different sizes, or even some larger rocks. It is very important to pay attention to all these details because they will have a great influence on the fishing action.

Vegetation and cover. Fishing in gravel pits.

A newly built gravel pit will be a “desert” of vegetation… but in just a few years, it is amazing to see how different plant species can colonise it.

Trees

Sometimes we can find dry fallen trees, which were left there after the construction of the gravel pit, or which fell down in the following months due to the modifications of the terrain. We may also find trees right at the edge of the gravel pit whose branches may grow into the water and provide shelter for fish.

Even trees that are not in contact with the water can influence the position of the fish (mainly talking about black bass), just because they are located on the shore. Sometimes because of the shade they cast, but sometimes also without shade, their mere presence can attract fish to their vicinity.

Rushes, reeds and cattails
Fishing in gravel pits
In the foreground rushes, in the background cattails

There are quite a number of plant species that can grow on the banks of these ecosystems (and many others as long as water is present). There are several species of each, but broadly speaking, plants of the genus Typha are called cattails, Juncus are called rushes, and reeds are the common name for Phragmites australis.

Black bass in winter
Black bass between reeds

Both cattails and reeds can reach several metres in height, with thick stems and leaves that provide excellent cover. Rushes have cylindrical leaves and are small in size, rarely exceeding one metre in height.

Cattails are generally the plants that will provide the best cover for gravel fishing, as their broad leaves are both in and out of the water. Black bass use them both for resting and hunting, hiding in the shadows. Reeds also provide good shade because of their leaves outside the water. Inside, only their cylindrical stems provide less cover, although this can also be useful.

Algae

Fishing in gravel pits
Even if we don’t see it, sometimes there is algae on the bottom…

Algae are not usually a particularly abundant species in gravel pits, although in some of them we can find hydrilla algae. These algae spread very quickly and within months can colonise a significant percentage of the gravel pit. They are an excellent refuge for small fish of all species.

Species

Topfishinglakes
Nice black bass in a frog

In a gravel pit, black bass will generally be king. This species is incredibly well adapted to these ecosystems, and can reach record sizes if there is enough food. Occasionally pike and zander can also adapt to these ecosystems. Either because they are connected to the river or because someone has introduced them, in general any predatory species adapts well to these ecosystems.

We can also find barbel, carp and other cyprinids such as crucian carp and tench. As for food, of course pumpkinseed, gambusia, crayfish and bleak will be the main species.

Fishing action

In a gravel pit, as in most scenarios, we can fish either open water or cover…. Sometimes there are also intermediate steps on which fish can also be placed.

Open water

If the gravel pit is free of algae we can fish with crankbait, jerkbait, chatterbait, spinnerbait or vinyl shads perfectly. For this type of fishing it is very important to know the bottom of the gravel pit, the rocks, the depth changes… The fish will almost never be in the middle of nowhere, they will be associated with one of these elements. This type of fishing can be very effective at certain times, although I don’t enjoy it the most.

Cover

If we choose to fish the bank, we will be fishing the cover. The fish may be right on the edge, wandering around or just waiting for some prey ahead… In this case, catching them will be “relatively” simple, as it will not require great casting skills and we will simply have to find the right lure.

The second and more frequent option is that the fish are inside the cover, tucked or very deep in it. If we are in this second case, we will have to use oversized equipment in order to have good results. Heavy or extra heavy rods with strong braids will be our only option to get the fish out of the cover once they bite.

Techniques
cattails
Sometimes, heavy cover is our only option

The main techniques will be flipping or pitching with either jigs, fleas or texas. If we use texas or fleas, it is highly recommended to fix the lead so that it does not run along the line, because if we don’t do it many times the vinyl will not penetrate the cover. As for the weight, the minimum weight is half an ounce, and from that point on, whatever we consider necessary to get our lure where we want it to go. We can also use hollow frogs, but for this we must have some skill in casting, as it is essential that the frogs penetrate into the cover as much as possible.

If the fish are tucked in the cover but not too “in”, it is easier. We will not have to use such robust equipment and we will be able to use more moderate weights. In this second case, we can also use vinyl frogs if we see that we miss a lot of bites with the hollow ones.

Latest tips for fishing in gravel pits

The best way to fish these scenarios is to fish from a float tube. It is really difficult to fish from the shore as it is generally impossible due to the steepness of the shore or the vegetation layer. However, bear in mind the restrictions of your community in this respect.

+4 pounder
Nice fish in the middle of a pealk of activity

Another very important detail for fishing in gravel pits is the time of day. There will be days that will bite better at dusk, others at dawn, others at midday, others when the air rises…. The fish are there (they can’t go anywhere) and a significant percentage of our casts are going to get the lure past the fish. Many times we’ll get desperate changing lures and then suddenly “turn on a button” and the fish start biting, no matter what we put on.

As always, spend many hours in the water and if we can visit them frequently, we will be able to understand them much better. Finally, if you accept my advice, try not to “burn them”. They are small stages and if we give them too much fishing several days in a row, the only thing we will achieve will be to make the fish resabiate and stop them biting. I am lucky enough to live in an area with a good number of gravel pits at a reasonable distance, and I hardly ever go to the same one 2 days in a row for this reason.

Fishing in Navallana

As most of you know, I currently work for Decathlon and I am a collaborator of the fishing brand Caperlan. Thanks to this I had the opportunity to visit San Rafael de Navallana lake at the end of April, recording a tv report for the Spanish channel Iberalia TV about black bass fishing. 2 days of fishing in which we could enjoy the Andalusian goodness for the fishing of our beloved black bass. We were also able to test and record numerous moments with the different novelties for this 2021 in terms of hard lures.

Kilometer 0 at Navallana lake

Fishing in Córdoba
Preparing the boats

The day before the first day we left from our different locations the 4 members of the trip and the cameraman. Millán, Dani, Gustavo and myself would fish from the 2 Stratos of our Andalusian friends during the 2 days… At nightfall we arrived and, as it could not be otherwise, we finalized the details. Organization of the boats, change some lines, distribution of material and lures… So that the next day we could focus exclusively on fishing.

Dani had organized everything conscientiously: accommodations, dinners, picnics, a pleasure to be able to fish “at the table”. In theory, the fish were difficult to catch: pure post-spawn, but the high density of the reservoir was an invitation to optimism… After a good dinner, final details on the boats and off to bed. What would the next day bring?

First day was wet

bass boat
Finally the day broke and we were able to fish.

We got up and what according to the weather forecast looked like 4 drops turned into a good downpour…. We had breakfast, prepared everything and it was still raining pretty hard, so when Chema Cerro (our cameraman) arrived we decided to have another coffee. Everything seemed to indicate that the rain would stop sooner rather than later? Besides, filming in the rain would be both uncomfortable and complicated.

Navallana lake
Scanning with the fish finder for bleak shoals

Indeed it was, so we went to Navallana lake, which is very close to the city of Cordoba, which has advantages and disadvantages. In the morning Chema would record Dani and Millán, while Gustavo and I would fish another different area of the reservoir to try to locate fish in different positions. The morning was quite complicated for both boats, with Dani and Millán catching more fish while Gustavo and I caught fewer but all of them nice ones. It was a pleasure to share the boat with Gustavo. We knew each other from some Pinguibass but it’s not the same chatting for a while with 100 other people, than spending a day on the boat with him. He was always attentive to make sure I was comfortable on the boat, showing me the best areas that he knew… We will repeat soon for sure!

Afternoon pays off

black bass Navallana
Gustavo and Pirri with a nice double

In the afternoon the fish warmed up (or we knew how to find the right key) and taking advantage of the fact that Chema was on the boat we were able to record countless moments. Squarebill, jerk, stickbait… We were practically able to fish with all the lures we tried, and that would not have been possible without the high density of good-sized fish that populate Navallana lake.

For me, who lately has been accustomed to fishing on the lakes of Extremadura, with a great quality of fish but certainly complicated… It seemed easy at times to fish those waters. However, I’m sure we didn’t get to know everything because we didn’t manage to catch really big fish, we were in the post-spawn season and the fishing wasn’t easy…. I don’t even want to imagine what it will be like to fish there when the fish are good, a real treat.

Second journey in Navallana lake

Postspawn black bass
Nice bass for Dani with a small jerkbait

Such was the amount of material we got on the first day, that the crack of Chema already had everything he needed for his report. So on the second day we fished on our own, exchanging partners and taking advantage of the opportunity to take photos and videos of the Caperlan equipment we had with us. I fished with Dani, who despite knowing him for many years, we had never spent a whole day alone on the boat. From the first moment we got along very well and we started to catch fish from the first hour.

The information obtained on the first day made it even easier for us to connect with the fish with some frequency on the second day. We didn’t go out to make numbers but rather to try to catch quality fish, either by changing areas, depths or presentations…. As the day progressed, we had to adapt to the changing fish, and again we were able to pull fish with virtually our entire arsenal of lures. We managed to hook up with a few very nice fish, which, without being huge, made our day…

Topwater explosions

bass navallana
One of the biggest of the trip

We also had several moments in which the fish warmed up on topwater. Both Dani with the poper and me with the stickbait had a great time. We were even able to catch a handful of sight fish on topwater, something that doesn’t happen very often! In the afternoon Gustavo had to leave and we decided to spend the last bit of time fishing Millán, Dani and myself on Dani’s boat. We still managed to catch a good handful of fish before the night and the limit hour restricted by the government forced us to leave earlier than we would have liked.

Final balance

Navallana lake
Sunset in Navallana

Last day, dinning in Hotel Asador los Manjares, which by the way both Carlos and the rest of the staff gave us a 5-star attention, and it was time to take stock. Well, it was time to take stock for me, Dani and Millán were able to stay one more day fishing…

I don’t know how many fish would come out between the 2 days and the 2 boats, probably more than 100 and practically all of them ranging between 1 and 2 kg. Incredible the density of fish in this reservoir, and that due to its proximity to the city of Cordoba has an important pressure, because it is also a small reservoir. A reservoir to enjoy, like many other Andalusian reservoirs, I hope these good populations of bass last long. We will repeat soon, a pleasure to share these days with all of you and…. See you in the water!

Fishing avec la France

lakes of Extremadura
Team photo

At the end of January I had the opportunity to share some fishing days with some good friends and great fishermen: Bastien Nicolay, Sebastién Merieau and Romain le Guerneve. They are currently working as guides for Pesca Extremadura  and specialise in all types of freshwater predators: black bass, pike, zander and barbel. They work on the main lakes of Extremadura: Orellana, García Sola, La Serena…

Due to the pandemic situation, and the mobility restrictions, we were all on a “forced” holiday… So we decided to take advantage of them by investing them in fishing for a few days and… blessed decision.

1, 2, 3… Let’s start in the lakes of Extremadura!

Black bass Sierra Brava
Nice bass in a hard swimbait

The first day I started the day alone, fishing in one of the best reservoirs in Extremadura: Sierra Brava. I remember that Bastién told me the night before: there’s no need to get up early, it’s winter and it’s cold… we’ll arrive at 11:30 or 12. But sometimes I have fixed ideas, so at 8:30 I was already in the lake and landing the first fish, a +2,500 that foreshadowed an excellent day. The bites came and went, although I couldn’t land many of them. By the time the French arrived, I had two good basses and a nice pike.

Pike Sierra Brava
This pike bit after attacking bleaks

After the pertinent greetings from the shore in front of us, we continued fishing until lunch time, managing to catch another 2 green ones. We had lunch and decided to split into groups of 2 for an afternoon that was also productive, landing in total 8 basses and about 10 pike between us. For the first day of fishing in January, the results were more than satisfactory and we were all able to catch some bass. After the fishing we had a few beers and a good dinner to get our strength back for the next day.

Second round, lakes of Extremadura

+6 pounder Orellana
Gorgeous black bass in a spinnerbait

For the second day, we decided to change the reservoir, hoping that the pattern we had found the day before would work there too, and it did…. This time we all started fishing at the same time and soon after arriving in the area Sebas landed the first fish. Shortly after, he hooked another one, a very serious fish that lit up the way again and immediately I saw Bastien’s rod bent: “This one is fat” he said. It weighed in at 3130 grams, an extraordinary fish that boosted the morale of the group, which was already high.

pike Orellana
Over 1m pike

Murky water, cloudy day, wind, bleak in the area…. An ideal breeding ground for predators to go hunting, and we even saw some attacks. Zanders were in action, but from time to time some bass were still showing up, and we showed up at lunchtime with 14 fish, several of them of very good quality. Sebas was also able to catch a good pike that surpassed the metre barrier, which made him very excited, as pike are his favourite fish.

Show must go on

Lakes of Extremadura
Chatterbait, wind, murky waters… Deadly!

The meal tasted great and after a brief foray into the neighbouring areas, we decided to return to finish the day where we had started it. Once again we found bleak in the area, again wind and murky water, but this time a horde of zander had invaded the area. It didn’t matter what lure you put out, a zander would attack.

Romain and the mud

Finally the day ended with 15 greens, 4 pike and about 50 zander. The anecdote of the day was Romain, who ended up waist deep in the mud and we had to rescue him, what a laugh we had….

There was a lot to celebrate and the French decided to treat me to a “tartiflette”, a typical French dinner, which we washed down with plenty of beer, wine and other spirits…

Round 3, a nice walk

Lakes of Extremadura
Sebas opened the can again…

The third day started late, we had to recover our bodies from the celebrations, but we got up at a reasonable time and were able to spend part of the day on the water. I woke up with a “feeling” and decided to change our plans for the day at the last minute. It didn’t take long to convince them to change the area again, and it worked out well again. After being close to getting stuck with the car in the mud, we decided to leave it further away than planned. We had to take a nice walk, which was not bad for us to “airing us”.

The party is not over

black bass Orellana
This ball did not hesitate to attack a vinyl shad.

We arrived in the area and on the first cast Sebas opened the can again with another beautiful fish, over 2,500. We soon had more bites and finally we managed to land 4 very good fish. There were at least 5 or 6 failed bites, but this time some fish didn’t want to get on the hooks. To land 4 fish in Orellana in January, in a few hours of fishing and from the shore is something very commendable, so we couldn’t complain at all. Third day on the water and third day wetting all the members of the expedition, with all of them quality fish.

Lakes of Extremadura
This is how we found good old Mario’s van on our way back to the car…

That day the day ended with another anecdote, because when we returned to the car we found  Mario Asensio with his van stuck deep in the mud through which we were about to pass… Thank goodness we decided to turn back at the last moment! After several unsuccessful attempts, we had to call for reinforcements as not even a Grand Jeep Cherokee and several pushing arms could do the job.

The pastel warren

Last day and in view of my “divine inspiration”, I took the initiative again, this time without so much initial success. 4th day of fishing and 4th different area, it can’t be said that we don’t like risk… We arrived at the fishmonger and the temperature of the water was not what we expected, today we were going to suffer, I thought…. And it was our turn, and we only managed to catch a couple of pike before lunch.

Lakes of Extremadura
Not all the fish were huge, although the average size was really good.

The temperature difference was so big that we decided to go back to the same area as the first day, to finish where we started and we were right again. Again the “rock, paper, scissors” to decide the pairs, you have to see how entertaining these French are… and it was my turn again with Bastien (Bastianelli for friends), just like the first day. While we were changing lures and after checking that the temperature was the desired one, I told him: I’m going to catch the first pike while you tie your lure and at the first cast I got a pike, an extraordinary sign!

Pikes on topwater, lakes of Extremadura

We had a very entertaining afternoon with pikes, landing several good sized pike on topwater lures and, although the greens didn’t show their faces too much, we left more than satisfied. The other pair had better luck with the greens, with Romain standing out with a nice quota (5 fish), most of them on swimbait. I’ve hardly talked about lures throughout this chronicle because they weren’t decisive: spinnerbait, chatterbait, hard and soft swimbait, jerk, texas, walker, frog… We caught fish with each and every one of these techniques. But I think that on this occasion the key was much more in finding them than in the presentations.

Final balance

Lakes of Extremadura
What better way to finish off the trip than with quality pike on topwater?

The time has come to take stock of these days in the lakes of Extremadura. Enjoying the last beer of the excursion, practically at night and at the foot of the reservoir… We were overcome by an overwhelming sense of peace in the midst of a silence only interrupted by the last straggling cranes flying towards their roosts. What is happiness? I don’t really know, but moments like this certainly come very close…

Finally, more than 30 bass, all of them of good quality, and to make matters worse, at least 2 fish of + 2,500 was caught on every day. More than 30 pike, with several specimens over 80, and Sebas’s 106 pike. And more than 50 zander, which, although they were not the main target, they were a good entertainment, especially on the second day.

But in the end, numbers are just that, numbers…. The really important thing was to enjoy an excellent company, great details and moments in the water of great quality, which tasted like glory after several weeks without being able to leave our municipalities… And if fish do their part, as they did, the final result is difficult to improve. French friends, I’m afraid we’ll see you on the water very often this year, Santé! et à bientôt !

Fishing with “the elite”

Fishing with the elite
Mythical memory photo in Cogolludo

I don’t know if they will be the elite or not, but at the end of October I was lucky enough to fish with some of the best rods in the country… And since we were with “the elite” joke all week, I decided to headline the article “fishing with the elite”. The trip started at the end of the summer with a: “Hey Fabra, I’m going to take the last week of October cows to see if there are any donkeys in Extremadura, do you want to come?” and Alex Fabra said: “We will have to go for the three thousand ones”, and that’s when it all started…

Organizing the trip

We didn’t talk about it again for weeks and when the date approached the group grew: Jonathan Villén (el Joma) and Javi Zarza (the boy of the three thousands) joined the expedition, and I was delighted to share a few days with them. We were also lucky enough to share a day with Manute, Castilla, Adri and Mario Asensio. I feel privileged to be able to fish on these scenarios and in such good company.

Things started off as they should have, with beers, rations, fishing stories… and a good morning’s sleep the next day, to start the excursion “rested”, as the canons say.

Day 1, fishing with the elite

fishing with the elite
First and only +6 pounder of the trip…

The first day we started at Sierra Brava, a reservoir where Zarza and I had had very good days the previous weeks… Morning began and the bites followed one another incessantly, the pity is that most of them were pike and they were very undecided so we could barely hook a couple of them. The day went on and the greens barely made an appearance, and when they did, they either didn’t bite or did so very shyly… Finally, at midday, at a  point, Fabra was able to catch a very good fish, which would be the biggest fish of the trip. A pity that it was so thin, because in normal conditions that fish would surely have passed the 3 kg barrier.

We continued fishing and, except for pike and zander, which occasionally gave us a scare, the greens continued to make it difficult for us. A little before lunch, we were able to catch a beautiful bass that had bitten a walker after a long stop. It was time to have lunch with the “cacereños” and spend the afternoon together, more focused on chatting and having a good time than on trying to fish at 100%, as the fish were making it really difficult.

The expedition continues…

Black bass topwater
Tpwater black bass for Joma

On the second day we decided to go to Orellana, where we had few results as the previous day, but learning a lot too. I am starting to fish with swimbaits and being able to fish alongside great experts in the field was very enriching, even if the fish were not with us. We could have caught a +3kg, if lucky even 2, but they didn’t help or they got off the hook. Thursday and Friday we returned to Sierra Brava with slightly better results, although not for shooting rockets either… and on Saturday we were lucky enough to be able to take a day trip by boat with the great Mario Asensio.

black bass Javi Zarza
Black bass for Zarza with a hart swimbait, the discovery of the trip

Another day of learning in which we could suffer in our flesh a hard day typical of Orellana. We visited several of the best spots in the lake, attacking them with different techniques and presentations but the fish were very reluctant and elusive. We hardly saw any activity and most of the bites were once again of pike and zander.

The truth is that the conditions were hardly any better throughout the week: cold front, very little wind, generally quite clear days… Excellent days in the countryside which, unfortunately, are usually bad for fishing at this time of year.

Last bullets, fishing with the elite

The elite in Sierra Brava
Taking advantage of the few windy moments during the week…

Sunday and the last day of fishing with Fabra and Joma arrived. We returned to Sierra to finish where we started. The tonic continued to be the usual one, few bites, most of them more caused by our presentations than because the fish were eating… At the last minute, when Zarza and Joma were almost at the car, Fabra and me decided to stay in a small creek where we had a good but brief peak of activity. Perhaps the only one of the week in which we could even see several attacks on bleaks. Even so, the fish weren’t very keen on the work and we could only catch a good bass and a few nice pikes.

We probably got the wrong area on some days, as we decided to fish in areas where we knew there were quality fish but which were under great pressure and perhaps we should have tried other areas… We will never know if we are wrong or not, but here is the beauty of fishing. Accumulating experiences, learning, sharing with great fishermen and above all excellent people. I cannot conceive of fishing without that good atmosphere of good vibes and camaraderie that surrounded us the whole trip. Personally, I prefer fishing alone to fishing with a “pro” with whom I have no feeling and can fully enjoy…

And the final stroke

And when Monday arrived, Fabra and Joma loaded the van and set off for their respective homes. Zarza and I, having nothing better to do, went to spend the afternoon in Sierra with our friends from Cáceres. After some good food (we won’t fish but eat…) we decided to divide the group and fish 2 different areas to increase the chances of success.

Black bass Sierra
Last bass of the trip

But when they are not there, they are not there (or we could not find them) and we could only get a black bass to finish the trip. Now it’s time to reflect, to try to learn from the mistakes made and to put into practice everything we’ve learned in order to try to focus better on future outings. We will never stop learning, and when you join fishermen with the experience, the technical skill and the ability to read the water like those I was lucky enough to accompany… You realize that you have much more left than you thought.

I hope we meet again soon in the water friends, it was a real pleasure to share these days with you. Cheers and good fishing!

Spinning in the Cantabrian Sea

This summer I was lucky enough to enjoy a handful of hours of spinning fishing in the Cantabrian Sea, both from the coast and from a boat. I would like to share the experience with you, in case any freshwater fisherman like me is lucky enough to try it.

The journey begins

Spinning in the Cantabrian Sea
Nice mullet in a small jerkbait

After a delicate personal situation, I decided to take a trip alone, spending several days in the north doing tourism of all kinds: Nature, meeting old friends and of course fishing could not be missed. I spent the first two days in the Somiedo Natural Park, a spectacular place that I recommend to anyone visiting Asturias. On the third day we had planned the first day of fishing with some friends.

Spinning in the Cantabrian Sea
Beautiful sunset in Ría de Avilés

It is a real pleasure to go to the north and enjoy the kindness of its people, which added to the fortune that usually characterizes me, led me to organize a day of fishing from a boat without me knowing it… With the joy in my body for the good news for the next day, I decided to take advantage of the last two hours of daylight to make some casts at sunset in the Avilés estuary. I didn’t know the place and the “0” was more than likely, but destiny wanted a mullet to meet my little jerk, or my jerk meet the mullet?. The fact is that I was able to enjoy a beautiful fight with a light fishing equipment and finish off the day with some beautiful casts at sunset…

Improvised boat trip

Dentex dentex
Wonderful dentex for Hugo

For a freshwater angler like me, being able to fish from a boat in the Cantabrian Sea was a tremendous dream. At the same time it generated respect for me as I did not know how I would cope with the waves… After a good breakfast and the little pill for the seasickness we started towards the area of Cabo Peñas, an authentic paradise of nature…

Spinning in the Cantabrian Sea
Wrasse that attacked a vinyl shad, close to the bottom

We arrived at the first spot and thanks to Juanjo’s good advice we hadn’t been fishing for 5 minutes when Hugo caught a beautiful dentex with a vinyl. Probably the most powerful animals that we can catch spinning in the Cantabrian Sea. We kept on fishing the area and we started to have bites to the vinyl that we had not finished materializing. What fish would they be? I thought… And soon we discovered that they were the beautiful brown wrasse, a totally new species for me that I was very excited to capture.

Where the waves break

Scomber scombrus
When you find a mackerel shoal, it’s really funny.

We kept on hitting different areas in search of some other dentex or some sea bass but it was the brown wrasse that kept on biting from time to time, sticking to the bottom and keeping the excitement of the day. We arrived at a beautiful wave breaking area where we expected to get some sea bass but what we got was a good bank of mackerel. There we were able to get a few and finally Hugo pulled out another sea bass… How can you tell who is used to spinning fish in the skimmer!

On returning to the port, Pablo managed to get his first fish of the day, also very commendable. It is not easy for a surfcasting fisherman used to fishing with his feet on the ground to endure the “jumps” of the boat. Once the day was over, Juanjo confessed to us that the sea had been much more complicated than expected… But fortunately we were able to enjoy an excellent day without any setbacks.

Spinning in the Cantabrian Sea. Santander Bay

Dicentrarchus labrax
Chus could catch his seabass

I only had one little thorn left on the trip… to catch a sea bass, which for me is the queen of spinning in the Cantabrian sea. After saying goodbye to Asturias I decided to cross to Cantabria to visit a handful of old and good friends I have there… And we had been talking for some time about spending some time together in the water so we decided to go to the bay of Santander, to an area where I caught my first sea bass back in 2008. The main objective was that my good friend Chus would take out a sea bass, although of course I also thought I would have my options…

We were accompanied by Pedro, who was probably one of the first times he fished with lures in his life, but who also came close to getting away with it. Finally, it’s dawn, we arrive at the fishing area and what a surprise it was to see that it was literally full of algae. You couldn’t even fish topwater and I could already see the “bolo” coming… I decided to take out some black bass vinyl and put the tip of the hook in the vinyl itself. I thought that was the only way to try to fish in that tangle of algae and… Voila! At the first cast Chus got a very nice sea bass for the area we were in.

Final touch

Spinning in the Cantabrian Sea
Finally, a seabass for me too.

We continued fishing in the area and had a good handful of bites that we couldn’t materialize… Or the seabass were either too small or they spit out the bait before we could set the hook.  Finally I was able to get hold of my little sea bass too, which made me very excited. The sun rose, the tide went out and Chus had to work so we called it a day. I left with a very good taste in my mouth and looking forward to coming back soon to see if any bigger ones come out. It was a pleasure to share these days in the north surrounded by great people and different species of fish… See you soon friends!

A trip with BO Fishing

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to join Marcos from BO Fishing for 2 days of fishing. We decided to go to Ricobayo lake with an open mind regarding the target species. There we can find both bass and pike, very aggressive common barbels and zander.

The action starts

barbel Ricobayo
Common barbel in a vinyl shad

We began the first day calmly, without getting up too early as we had to travel more than 100 km to reach Ricobayo lake. We had decided to speed up the sunset on the first day and the sunrise on the second. When we arrived, we began by covering the shore fishing with jerks, cranks and topwaters and soon we saw that the fish did not climb the walls… After doing a good stretch of shore with hardly any movement we changed the strategy and started fishing deeper and that’s when the bites started. It’s great to feel the power of the barbels on the other side of the line again… For those who have never experienced it, it is a highly recommendable experience!

Ricobayo lake barbel
Common barbel, a true fighter

Thanks to Marcos’ good work and his knowledge of the reservoir, we were able to try different areas and enjoy numerous bites throughout the day. Most of the fish were common barbels and zander, although from time to time some pike also came out. It is incredible to see how the reservoir has changed with the arrival of zander… We hardly saw any bleaks but there were huge schools of small zander and the different predators were feeding on them.

Trying black bass, Ricobayo lake

Really big zander
Big zander for Marcos

As Marcos knows that I have a weakness for bass, and Ricobayo was one of the reservoirs where I caught my first quality bass, we also invested some time in looking for them… I had my chances with a nice bass in the morning that I did not manage to cheat and another very big one that got loose at sunset, already practically in the boat. I had a loose brake to prevent the barbels from opening my trebles and it came off at the last moment… A pity because it would have been a spectacular finish to that first day.

ZanderRicobayo
Nice zander in a vinyl shad

It has been years since we had a good day’s fishing together with dozens of bites and a good handful of fish on the boat… And I enjoyed it like I haven’t in a long time. Apart from being one of my best friends, Marcos has evolved a lot as a fisherman and as a guide. I learnt very interesting details about how to interpret the electronics by fishing in deep cut areas… Which is much more difficult than it may seem. Besides, fishing at great depths is not easy, even less common barbels that often do not fit the lure in their mouths… Deciding when to set the hook is fundamental. Marcos helped me with his corrections and even detecting mistakes I was not aware of, so besides the fact that I enjoyed a couple of days in excellent company, I took very good lessons.

Second journey at Ricobayo lake

Ricobayo pike
Nice pike for Marcos

The second day we decided to start from the first moment with the deep fish pattern we had achieved the day before. After an excellent dinner and a good night’s sleep in El Vedal in Muelas del Pan, we had our batteries charged to face the second day where we would fish until mid-afternoon.

It didn’t take long for the bites to start and soon the reels began to sing with the runs of the barbels… When you come across an active school of fish, having fun is guaranteed, even though we didn’t have one of those “crazy” days. We kept on playing different areas and scratching some catches in almost all of them, getting some very meritorious ones. The zander and barbel are really healthy and fat, and we are already starting to get some very good quality catches. The pike were less active (as Marcos had already told me), but we still caught several good-sized fish…

End of the party

Pike Ricobayo
One of the nicest pike of the trip

Lunchtime arrived and our friend Daniel appeared. We had a good meal and went back to work in an afternoon when the conditions were complicated and the fish didn’t make it easy… At mid afternoon, after trying different things and trying other areas, we decided to end the trip. These were 2 exciting days in which we could remember old times and have good fishing days… Maybe we missed some really good pike (although we didn’t really try and that wasn’t the goal either), or we got that good bass from the first day onto the boat, but then there was another reason to come back soon.

If you feel like fishing in the area of Castilla y León, either in Ricobayo lake or other reservoirs and want to hire the services of a guide, do not hesitate to call Marcos from  BO Fishing. With him you will not only enjoy, you will also be able to learn a lot… For me it was a real pleasure to share these fishing days by his side.

Almendra lake

Characteristics of Almendra lake

Almendra with high level
Almendra lake

Practically as big as unknown,  Almendra lake is the third largest in the country, only surpassed in capacity by the Alcántara and La Serena reservoirs. It has 2649 hm3 and a floodable area of 8650 hectares and is located on the Tormes River in the province of Salamanca.

Its main use is hydroelectric, although a good part of the municipalities in the west of Salamanca are supplied by its waters. Of course bathing and fishing in the summer months are activities that also take place in its waters. It is located in a very unpopulated environment in which human presence is practically imperceptible… Most of the villages that bathe its waters have barely a few hundred inhabitants.

Bottom composition and structures

Granites
View of Almendra lake, on a stormy day

If we talk about Almendra lake, we have to talk about the granite. Kilometres and kilometres of granite, with its typical more or less large “pebbles” and endless beaches of sand, coming from the degradation of these granites. In few reservoirs the granite is such a typical rock as in Almendra, where practically 100% of the bottom of the reservoir is formed by it.

Of course there are differences between the different areas, both in terms of slopes and in terms of size or state of degradation of the rocks. In general it is a reservoir with medium slopes, in which we can find really great depths, over 50 meters in the riverbed. However, there are also many areas with slight slopes where we can move tens of metres away from the bank without reaching much depth. There are also a number of large creeks on both the Zamora (northern) and Salamanca (southern) slopes.

The greatest handicap of this reservoir, from the point of view of predator fishing, is that the soil is very sandy and hardly contains any organic matter. This absence of organic matter means that the density of “prey” species is low and therefore the population of predators is also low.

Vegetation and cover

Submerged vegetation
With a high level, vegetation cover proliferates

Normally it is a reservoir that is between 50 and 75% capacity, which makes the proliferation of vegetation in the streams that flow into it complicated. Some rainy years, in which the level remains high and stable during the spring months, there is a lot of underwater vegetation, especially in the main streams. However, in most years there is hardly any vegetation, except seasonally at these points and in small quantities.

On the other hand, there was a part of the floodable surface that was not cut down at the time, and we found areas with quite a few wood, mainly holm oaks. There are also some ash trees on creek bottoms when the reservoir is very low, but the holm oak is the dominant tree. In this case, the years in which the level is low are the best, as there is a greater percentage of trees submerged at a certain depth, and they come to the surface especially when the level drops. As it is a reservoir with little coverage of any kind, these areas of holm oaks are usually very important points to take into account.

Main fish species

Pike Almendra
Nice female prespawner

The Almendra reservoir has never stood out for having high densities of predators. Due to its large size and what was said before about the bottoms, many times we will find kilometres and kilometres of shore not very productive… Even so, if we have the opportunity to frequent it we will end up finding fish.

Today the zander is the “queen” of the reservoir, although we can still find some pikes and black bass of good size.

  • Pike. In the past Almendra was famous for its great pikes. Practically every year, several specimens came out above two figures, some of them well above. Today it is very difficult to find them, although some still remain. Their main handicap is the lack of food, since the bleak has been scarce for several years.
    Black bass Almendra
    My PB in Almendra lake, over 2kg.
  • Black bass. Almendra lake has never stood out for its density of black bass nor for its size, but it has had times when pulling out a good handful of medium sized specimens was not complicated. The positive side is that it has a very low fishing pressure, and when you find them they usually bite quite well.
  • Zander. In recent years its population has grown exponentially, and is now stabilized or even slightly declining… It adapted really well to the reservoir and today we can catch very interesting specimens above 4 even 5 kg in weight. At certain times we can find interesting concentrations in which we can catch quite a few medium sized specimens. Its presence has had a very negative influence on the bleak population.
    Zander Almendra
    zander male in prespawn
  • Common barbel. The barbel in this reservoir has predatory behavior, especially in years when the level is low and there is not much food on the banks. In these cases, the small fish are part of their diet and become more aggressive towards the lures. The average size is very interesting (between 2 and 3 kg), and fish over 4 kg can be caught.

Prey species in Almendra lake

barbel Almendra
Common barbel, in a crankbait

One of the main limiting factors in the development of predator populations in Almendra has always been the shortage of food. The bleak has been in the reservoir for tens of years, although its population never exploded. With the arrival of the zander, its population has been greatly reduced, and it is really difficult to find any bleak in the reservoir.

In addition to the bleak, the crawfish and the sunfish have always been present, although in rather low densities. And finally we would have the carp, crucian carp and barbel fry which, especially in spring, are a supplementary source of food.

Access and navigation

Almendra lake is navigable but you need to get a permit from the Duero River Basin, even to fish it from float tube or pontoon. As it is a reservoir with great changes of level and does not have a ramp, if we want to put our boat there we must know the accesses very well as it is not easy to find suitable areas.

It is a very extensive reservoir and although the banks are not excessively steep, there are not too many paths that end at the shore either, so we will have to walk a lot if we want to fish from the shore.

Finally, if you want to get an idea of which lures to use, I recommend that you read this excellent post from blog Pescade. Good catch!!

El Vellón lake

Characteristics of El Vellón lake

embalse del vellón
Closed and free sections of El Vellón lake

El Vellón lake, also known as Pedrezuela or Guadalix reservoir, has a capacity of 41 hm3 and a flooded area of 393 hectares. Despite being a small reservoir, the great density of pike and carp that populate it makes it one of the references of the Community of Madrid. It is located at an altitude of 780 metres, and its waters are not as clear as in other reservoirs in the mountains. In fact in summer the waters get really murky which at certain times facilitates fishing for predators.

It is currently a fishing reserve, managed by the fishing society of Vellón. We can get day permits in their website, or in the Sol bar in Guadalix or the Luna bar in El Molar. We can also get the permits telematically in the Madrid region’s website.

The reservoir is located in a medium sized area, however access is easy and there are many paths along the shore. These paths are very “followed” due to the large number of fishermen who frequent it. It is important to note that a good percentage of the shores are forbidden (red areas on the map). We must be very sure of which areas we are going to fish before we go to avoid unpleasant surprises. It is also very important to park the vehicle in the areas prepared for this purpose to avoid possible sanctions.

Bottom composition and structures

Pike El Vellón lake
Release of a pike in El Vellón

In this reservoir we will find both cut areas with steep slopes and abundant rocks, as well as large beaches. The cut areas will allow us to reach good depths a few meters from the shore. However, we must bear in mind that because of the type of rock there is (mainly schist), the hook-ups will be frequent.

The area of Guadalix de la sierra is generally a low-slope, shallow area. This area is especially interesting in spring, as the pike and carp use these large beaches to spawn and aso in autumn. The area closest to the dam has steeper slopes, with alternating peaks, cuts, areas of loose rocks… There are also several small streams that flow into the reservoir, which can be interesting at certain times.

Vegetation and cover

El Vellón lake
Semi-submerged trees

Both at the mouth of the Albalá stream and at the mouth of the Guadalix river itself we will find underwater vegetation. When we have rainy years and the level of the reservoir is high, the abundance of this vegetation will be much greater. In addition to this underwater vegetation, there is also riverbank vegetation, mainly reeds and small trees or bushes, which also remain semi-submerged in rainy years.

In addition to this vegetation, there are a good number of fallen trees that are found at the highest levels of the reservoir. Again, rainy years such as this 2020 will allow the level of the reservoir to rise enough that a large percentage of these trees will be under water.  In dry years the vegetation cover is scarce but in rainy years we will have multiple positions with covers on which the numerous pike that populate the reservoir will be placed.

Main fish species

Unlike Atazar lake, here the pike is the only predator. It is probably the Madrid reservoir with the highest density, which makes it one of the best destinations for pike fishing within the Community. We can also highlight the size of its carp.

Despite its high fishing pressure, El Vellón stands out for the great density of pike that inhabits it.

Exos lucius
Good sized pike, caught in El Vellón
  • Pike. Although the density is high, if we are looking for a really big pike then it is not our reservoir. We rarely catch specimens over 5 kg of fish and very exceptionally specimens over 90 cm are caught. However, small and medium-sized specimens are abundant, with catches of between 1 and 3 kg being very frequent.
  • Carp. This reservoir is also a reference for carpfishing fishermen. It is not a record carp reservoir, but for the average size of this species present in the community, it is a very interesting reservoir, in which we can get carp over 15 kg.

Prey species in El Vellón lake

The sunfish is probably the most abundant species of grass fish in the reservoir. The sunfish finds in this reservoir an excellent environment in which to carry out its laying and there is practically no stretch of shore in which we do not see them. In addition to the sunfish there are carp fry, crucian carp, some tench and common rudd. The common rudd is a rare fish in the Community, but in this reservoir we can observe it moving in small groups, offering a very appetizing snack for pike.

Finally, the presence of frogs and a good density of crawfish, which serve as food for both pike and large carp, should also be noted.

Access an navigation

It is a reservoir in which navigation for fishing activity is prohibited, being also forbidden for bait. Therefore carpfishing fishermen will need to use bait boats if they want to bait far from the shore.

Exos lucius
Nice female prespawner pike

As I indicated above, it is very important to take into account the areas that are closed, since the ranger visits the reservoir every day to ask for the corresponding permits.

The banks of El Vellón lake are quite accessible and we have several points where we can park our vehicle, so we will never have to walk more than 2 or 3 kilometers to access the area we want to fish. However, it is important to wear suitable footwear, especially in the area near the dam to avoid falls.

The tables of Guadiana River

Characteristics of the Guadiana tables

Guadiana y afluentes
Map Guadiana

In this post I’m going to refer to all the Guadiana tables (also called ponds). I’m also going to refer to those formed in its different tributaries in the province of Badajoz. The main tributaries that have interesting tables are: Zújar, Gargáligas, Ruecas, Guadámez, Matachel, Guerrero, Gévora and Zapatón. From the height of the walls of Orellana and Zújar lakes, up to the end of the Alqueva reservoir, there are hundreds of tables, some better, some worse but in all of them we will find a diversity of predators.

The Guadiana River, due to its flow regime and the abundant dams that regulate it, has numerous tables in which there is hardly any current. The scarce current present is usually found at the entrance and exit of these elongated pools.

A little over a decade ago, these scenarios were true paradises where we could obtain dozens of catches in a single day practically just by throwing a lure into the water.

Fishing with friends
Black bass Guadiana

The overpressure of fishing (the arrival of google maps made them much more accessible), and the arrival of the water hyacinth and the Mexican waterlily are their main threats today. However if we know the river well and invest the necessary time we can still enjoy entertaining days, not only in terms of quantity but also in quality of the catches.

Bottom composition and structures

Big winter bass
Black Bass Guadiana

Because the area we are talking about is more than 100 kilometers long, the geological diversity that exists is important. However, as in all river ecosystems, we will find bottoms with gravel, sediments, etc.

In some areas, the least, we will find at the bottom the mother rock forming some structures, generally rounded by erosion. There are areas of granite, areas of slate, areas of schist… but in most of the tables at the bottom we will only find sand, silt and clay among which some gravel is splashed. Occasionally we will also find bridges, mills and other interesting anthropic structures, in addition to the constructed dams themselves.

Vegetation and cover

If there is one thing that makes these ecosystems stand out, it is the abundance of coverage. A large part of these rivers are home to eucalyptus, poplars, ashes and other typical riverbank trees. In a good number of cases these trees are “thrown” in the middle of the river due to various causes. These semi-submerged trees offer excellent cover for black bass, pike and barbel…

Float tube fishing
Fishing among cover

On the other hand, the riverside vegetation right on the shore also offers extraordinary coverage. The levels of these ponds are usually quite stable (except during the winter floods), so the trees, bushes, brambles etc. will offer shadows that are excellent bets.

Finally, I would like to highlight the tables in which rushes, reeds and cattails abound… but also the areas of water lilies and other aquatic plants. All this vegetation that is partially submerged also serves as a refuge for predators and allows them to both rest and hunt. These tables will also allow us to do a “heavy cover” fishing, very technical and entertaining and that we will not have the opportunity to practice in most of the reservoirs.

Main fishing species

These river ecosystems offer an interesting biodiversity of ichthyofauna, among which I will highlight the following predators.

Black bass
Black bass in a gravel pit of Guadiana
  • Black Bass. You could say that black bass is “the king of the river”. All these rivers offer you an excellent ecosystem in which to complete all its biological stages in a favorable environment. The density is very high and the average size rather small, but in certain tables with enough food and depth we can find large specimens, some even above 3 kg.
  • Pike. We can also find pike in practically all these ecosystems. However, their populations will proliferate more in those ponds with colder and oxygenated waters, in the larger ones and in those with more current.
    Iberian barbel Guadiana tables
    Barbel of Guadiana river
  • Iberian barbel. The iberian barbel is the great native predator of these waters. Despite the fact that not all specimens show a predatory behaviour and that there are times of the year when they take the lures better than others, it is a species to be taken into account. Since bleak populations are stable in most of the river sections, a higher percentage of barbels have predatory habits. We can find very good specimens, being not uncommon the catches over 5 kg.
  • Carp. The carp is very abundant in the river as the ecosystem it offers is also ideal for it. The carp of medium size are very abundant but in certain ponds we can capture big specimens, even exceeding 15 kg of weight.

Prey species of Guadiana tables

Ictalurus punctatus
Channel catfish can reach good sizes

The bleak and the crawfish are the main prey of the predators that inhabit these waters. Both species are truly abundant, offering a virtually unlimited food source in most cases.

On some tables we also have an abundance of carp, barbel and carp fry, and more and more channel catfish. Channel catfish in some areas reach really big sizes and we can even catch them with lures. In some sub-basins we also find some native species that are logically threatened among such a biodiversity of predators. The cacho, the pardilla, the pejerrey, the colmilleja, the calandino or the fraile are some of them…

Access and navigation

Black bass Guadiana tables
Black bass from a float tube

In the Guadiana River basin, the float tube is considered to be a complementary element to bathing. We can use both float tube and kayak or pontoon to navigate the different sections, all according to the current legislation. In most of the tables to have a floating vehicle is essential, since without it we will hardly be able to access most of the fishing areas. The vegetation on the banks usually forms an inaccessible tangle so we must locate the points where we can introduce our means of flotation in the water.

In some places we can fish from the shore, some gravel pits near the river or some ponds near the cities of Merida or Badajoz have better access. Nevertheless I recommend the use of the float tube in 95% of the cases since we will be able to have much better results.

Atazar lake

Characteristics of Atazar lake

Atazar
map Atazar

With a capacity of 426hm3 and a surface area of 1070 hectares, Atazar lake is the largest in the Community of Madrid. Located at an altitude of more than 800 metres, it is characterised by its very clear and cold waters, which are discharged directly from rivers and streams in the mountains.

The reservoir is located in a really beautiful environment, rich in fauna and vegetation and is one of the areas of the community with less human impact at the level of infrastructure, buildings, etc. Its main uses are supply, irrigation and electricity, although it also has recreational uses in terms of fishing and sailing (there is a sailing club in Cervera de Buitrago).

Bottom composition and structures

Cut banks of Atazar
Atazar laked

At the bottom of the reservoir there are sandy areas where the mother rock is granite or quartzite alternate with other areas where the bottom is composed of shales and schist. We find naked rock in a very important percentage of the bottom of the reservoir, which limits the accumulation of organic matter and food.

The area of Berrueco and Cervera is very sandy and there are large beaches dotted with rounded rocks and some cutting areas. Towards the dam, however, we find much more cut and boxed areas, in which we find some points and where slates and schists predominate.

In general it is a very boxed and deep reservoir so the “living” area for the fish is certainly reduced for a reservoir of its size.

Vegetation and cover

Atazar lake
Creek of Atazar lake

We can find several areas with submerged trees that appear according to the level of the reservoir. As the reservoir is so enclosed, the variations in height are very large, which makes the proliferation of underwater vegetation very difficult. Only at the mouth of the Riato river and in some streams can we find some underwater plants.

The submerged trees are mainly holm oaks and offer good cover for the pike and black bass that live there. However, in general it is a fairly “bare” reservoir in which there is not much cover of plant origin.

Main fish species

Atazar lake is not noted for its abundance of predators. Although the bleak has been in the reservoir for several years now and its densities are important, the configuration of its banks and the fact that the water is really cold in winter make it difficult for them to proliferate. The significant changes in level during the spawning season do not favour good results either.

Black bass in a jerkbait
Black bass Atazar

However, despite its low density, it is a reservoir famous for its large Black bass and pike

  • Pike. The reservoir was built in 1972 and pike have been inhabiting its waters for decades. There is not a great density of them, although a large percentage of the shores are inaccessible or impassable so it is not easy to know their true potential either. However, very large pike have been caught well beyond the meter barrier.
  • Black bass. There is not a high density, although it is a relatively common fish in the reservoir and its average size is rather small,
    Common barbel
    Barbel from Atazar lake

    below half a kilo. The catch of fish over one kilogram is already commendable, although sometimes fish weighing well over 2 kilograms are caught.

  • Trout. Its catches are occasional and it is by no means an abundant predator in the reservoir.
  • Barbel. The barbel has a very low predatory behavior, despite the abundance of bleaks. However, there are large specimens and sporadically we can catch some with artificial lure.

Prey species in Atazar lake

For only a few years now, the bleak has made its presence felt and its explosion has been incredible. During the spring and summer months it is difficult to find any area of the reservoir where we do not see bleak…

We also have a very large density of barbels of all sizes. Banks of small barbels abound and are one of the main prey of the large pike that inhabit these waters. There are carps, some eels, and finally, we should also mention the sunfish and the crawfish, whose populations, although not spectacular, also complement the diet of black bass and pike.

Access and navigation

wharf
Sailing club in Cervera de Buitrago

The reservoir is navigable but not motorized, according to the Tajo Hydrographic Confederation. In fact there is a sailing club in Cervera de Buitrago, however it is not entirely clear whether you can use a float tube or a pontoon for fishing, so I do not dare to say.

The accesses are the great limitation of this reservoir. We can access the shore by only 4 or 5 accesses, some of them quite far away from it so most of its banks are “virgin”. If we want to discover new areas, we will have no choice but to walk long stretches along the banks in general quite steep and sloping … It is essential to come with adequate footwear to avoid frights.