by Mossie Sasson
White stumpnose is a firm favourite on local dinner plates. In this issue Mossie tells you more about this delicious fish, including how to catch, prepare and even cook your own this season.
Catching a white stumpnose is very much like catching a cold: it catches itself. There are, however, various “tricks of the trade”to encourage the white stumpnose to catch itself. The white stumpnose is a silvery fish with five or more vertical black lines spaced equally along the body. The underside of the female, just behind the gill openings, is pure white while the male has distinctive black spots in that region.
The legal minimum size limit for the white stumpnose is 25 cm measured from the snout to the tip of the tail. The bag limit is 10 fish per legal permit. Take note, however, that the cumulative bag limit is also 10 fish. So,if you have caught 1 steenbras and 2 steentjies, you may only catch 7 white stumpnose.
White stumpnose is a bottom feeder and they move in shoals from area to area. In the Langebaan lagoon they use the tidal currents for transport and that is mostly where you will find them.
SUGGESTED ANGLING RIG FOR WHITE STUMPNOSE
When preparing your tackle to catch white stumpnose,take into account that the bait must be presented as naturally as possible. For this purpose the following rig has proved to be most successful:
Use a light rod,around 2 metres long with a flexible tip.Coffee-grinder reelsare most popular as they can easily cast the light sinkers.
Use 5 to 7 kg breaking strength line on the reel. From the rod the line goes through a round sliding sinker and then onto a swivel. From the swivel use about 50 cm of 3 to 5 kg breaking strength line and then onto a 1/0 or 210 size hook. This will ensure that you lose only the hook if it gets stuck onto something. It is important that your sinker must lie on the bottom. So, around spring tides when the currents are strong use a heavier sinker while around neap tides or when fishing out of the strong currents, use lighter sinkers.
This rig will ensure that the bait moves around in the current in a natural fashion,making it inviting to the fish.
WHAT BAIT TO USE
A white stumpnose will take almost any of the common bait types, such as red bait, white mussel, black mussel, pilchards, fish fillets or prawns.
My experience is that it does not really make a big difference. The mud prawn is tougher and sticks better to the hook, which is why I prefer them. There is an opinion held by some of the boffins that the sand prawn has a brighter white colour and is easier spotted by the fish.
It is advisable to tie the prawn onto the hook with elastic latex line. This is of particular importance if there are lots of small fish around that try to steal your bait.
WHERE TO GETYOUR BAIT
Prawns are mostly collected by using a suction pump and a floating net. The shallow sandbanks south of the Langebaan Yacht Club are very productive and prawns can be pumped almost anywhere around low tide. Remember the bag limit is 50 prawns, but mud prawn and sand prawn count as different species, so you may pump 50 of each per permit holder. Please note that a none permit holder may not assist the permit holder to pump prawns. Black mussel can be harvested from rocks or other structures. Stick to the limit of 30 per permit. White mussel can be purchased from most tackle shops. Red bait can be harvested from rocks and structures at low tide. The limit is 2 kg(without the shell) per permit holder.Of these,the mud and sand prawn appears to be the favourite bait by far. Whether to use mud prawn (without the pinchers) or sand prawn (with pinchers) is a matter of opinion.
HOW TO CATCH A WHITE STUMPNOSE
If you are catching in the current, it often helps to cast the bait 90° or across the current so that the bait moves along the bottom with the current until it ends up behind the boat. If you do feel the fish biting, DO NOT STRIKE, the fish will catch itself. To discipline myself not to strike, I leave the rod in the rod holder until I see the tip is solidly bent and then lift the rod firmly to set the hook. Bring in the fish gently (remember the light tackle) and have a scoop net ready. Bring the fish alongside, hold the net down-current and gently move the net to pick up the fish from behind. Do not plunge the net into the water as this might frighten the fish and let it get away. Have a piece of cloth like old -shirt or towel ready and grab the fish firmly without causing damage, remove the hook gently with pliers if necessary. Watch out, a big white stumpnose can dish out a nasty bite. Immediately measure the fish to make sure it is above the legal limit. If not, return it to the sea with care.
POPULAR WHITE STUMPNOSE FISHINGSPOTS
White stumpnose can be caught in almost the entire lagoon area, but there are some hotspots.
The area on the Mykonos side of the Ore Jetty across from the pump house. This area can be drifted until you find the fish.Put out some heavy stuff with pilchard bait for the odd cob that might come past.
Leentjiesklip: drift about 100 to 500 metres away from the sandy beach in front of the caravan park. This can be a very productive area. No need to anchor.
In front of Donkergat: drift over the flat terrain across from the Army facilities (do not enter the restricted area marked by the buoys). The whole area from the buoys eastwards for about 500 m produces good catches of white stumpnose.
Schaapen Island: the areas to the west, north and east (Langebaan side) are very productive if you anchor in the current. In this area good catches are made just after the turn of low tide or just after the turn of high tide.The period when the water is stagnant at the turn of low or high tide is usually fairly dead (for about 20 to 30 minutes) and is the time for coffee anda sandwich.
The channel in front of the yacht club (all the way down to the sandbanks) is good for drifting or anchoring. Consult marine maps as there is a “noanchor” zone in this region.
Centre channel:this is the common name for the deep channel in the centre of the lagoon to the south of Schaapen Island. When launching from the yacht club, proceed west over the very shallow sandbank until the bottom drops away into a deep (about 7 m) channel. During the turn of low tide it might be necessary to cross the sand bank close to Schaapen Island to avoid gettingstuck.
The “line” area: both the main and the false keels near the line has produced good catches of white stumpnose with the additional advantage of catching the big ones like cob, shad (in season), geelbek or yellow tail.
PREPARING A WHITE STUMPNOSEMEAL
White stumpnose can be prepared in many ways and is of the best tasting fishes of the West Coast. A little war story will best illustrate this statement.
A good friend of mine recently caught a steenbras. He told his lady friend about the catch while she was at work. He then in a moment of weakness gave the steenbras away to another good friend. His lady friend phoned from work and ask him to prepare the steenbras in his normal delicious way for that night’s dinner.Too embarassed to admit that he gave it away, he proceeded to fillet a whi e stumpnose and prepared it instead.They had a wonderful dinner and she complimented him on the fact that “nothing beats the taste of a steenbras”. Iam not sure whether he toldher the truth yet,but it illustrates a point.
WHITE STUMPNOSE A-LA-DORETH
This way of preparing a white stumpnose only works well for small fish (25 – 30 cm).Refer to the photographs on the right.
Cut off the fins,scale the fish and remove the guts and gills,leaving the head on. Cut through the skin, not too deep, along the vertical black lines on both sides.Cover the whole fish and into the cuts andthe inside with coarse salt. Leave for 30 minutes then rinse well to remove all the salt and drip-dry orwipe dry with a paper towel.
Now prepare a thin batter,almost like pancake batter,but even thinner, using self-raising flour, egg, spices of your choice, salt and pepper to taste. Thin with milk, if necessary. Heat sunflower oil for deep frying, submerge the fish completely into the batter, take it out and allow the extra batter to dripdown. If the batter looks too thin, it is the exact texture you need. Place the fish into the hot oil and deep fry until golden brown for about 7 minutes. Serve on a piece of old news paper with fresh bread. butter and jam or garlic butter and don’t forget the “jammer lappie” (dampened cloth) to wipe your face afterwards.
Bigger fish can be filleted and done in a similar batter or barbequed, in which case the scales should be left on to act as “tinfoil”.
White Stumpnose can be baked, flaked and used in a stir-fry. Stand by for the compliments, there will be many.