Alan Yates – The New Year Scratch

THE NEW YEAR SCRATCH

This month the cod season is well and truly underway and it’s the time when the bigger fish venture close to shore, especially after a big sea. Its time to make the most of the few spring tides left with a live bait rig the way to go for the biggest cod on many venues. However within four weeks and the arrival of February the bigger fish will thin out drastically in many regions and it’s then that the fishing and the weather sorts the men from the boys.

If you want to continue sea fishing into February the biggest problem is that you will encounter some really extreme fishing weather, whilst at the same time the fishing will deteriorate. Both boat and shore anglers need to heed mum’s advice and wrap up warm and that means long socks, thermals suits and that all important hat. Of course venturing out when the weather is severe is difficult because it always looks much worse than it is! But, usually once you have made the decision to go and fish the weather doesn’t seem so bad and providing you have good waterproofs and a shelter even the worst Mother Nature can throw down can be bearable!

The decreasing temperatures have a dramatic effect on the next few months fishing, watch out for cold shallower water and frozen sand at low water which deters fish from venturing close. Fresh water, rain or snow melt coming out of drains,  rivers, stream etc is also the enemy of the shore angler because it will push the fish out away from the shore line. I have a golden rule about beach fishing at this time of year and that is not to fish anywhere where my cast lands on ground that has been uncovered or exposed to low temperatures at low water. Even better I ONLY fish from the deepest water beaches, rock marks and the piers.

Mention February and lots of shore anglers pull faces at the thought of an invasion of slugs (rockling). Make no mistake the New Year heralds the departure of all the adult fish of most species to spawn around the greater part of the UK and that’s why it’s considered tiddler time. All amount of bravado and using a 4/0 Pennell rig loaded with whole Calamari squid will fail miserably because there simple are no big fish inshore in a majority of regions. At best in a few places is the chance of a 5lb codling, although I have to say that the rays now start to appear earlier every year and they can turn up as early as February and so its wide to keep an eye on catch reports.

I for one carry on fishing through the early part of the year, lots of anglers don’t and put their gear away until spring. Much depends where you live and fish and what floats your boat! It’s a far different approach that is needed to carry on fishing when its tiddlers only. Instead of large hooks and giant baits it’s more delicate tackle and catch measure and return match fishing that is required. It’s a time for the more delicate and fish attractive baits like white ragworm or maddies, a more refined approach to tackle with lighter hook snoods, wire booms, size 4 match hooks and the softer actioned quiver tip rod. Lots of match anglers have discovered the fun of switching to a sea quiver tip rod and fixed spool reel to exaggerate bites and braid is fast becoming the line to use for short range tiddler snatching.

Although its small fish time in many regions the bigger codling are still possible and they often muscle in on feeding dabs and other tiddlers so it’s wise if you go for small hooks to use a strong pattern.

Dab fishing may not appear very exciting but for many anglers it’s the challenge of catching fish under difficult conditions that is the thrill rather than the size of the fish. When the frost is nibbling the ears a few dabs can be a great reward for some scratchy plus they make great eating.

Some tips to help you catch more dabs include adding a few sequins to your hook snoods when fishing in clear water. A small tip of fish, shellfish or squid can also be a deadly lugworm cocktail of dabs but keep the tip bait small finger nail size. For flounders little beats a bunch of wriggly maddies tipped with a small strip of mackerel plus a buoyant bead (it works for dabs too) to give the bait a little lift and movement in the current. Dabs and those slug like rockling love sticky decaying lugworm with four day old black lugworm a prime bait for February match fishing. So don’t throw your lugworm bait away after a trip, keep it until next week and you will find it deadly for the tiddlers especially dabs

Finally, one of the most crucial tactical decisions when fishing in the New Year concerns casting distance – The whack it as far as you can early winter tactic which works for the codling and whiting found in the deepest water no longer catches in February, it fact its nearly always out to far, way past the feeding fish. More effective is an accurate cast to the gutter between low and high tide line, or the back or front of a sand bank or gulley. Other hot spots include the ends of wooden groynes or rock ledges which the fish hugging the shoreline have to go around. Consistent casting to the same spot also pays dividends.

The biggest bonus of this time of year in match fishing terms is that catch and release events mean fewer fish killed. Place them in a bucket of water before you measure register and return – Of course you can retain the bigger fish to eat, but many go back and can be caught again in the future.

DETAILS OF THE TF GEAR DELTA QUIVER TIP BEACHCASTER

Delta Allrounder is a 16ft multi tip rod designed for competition fishing and continental style fishing. Casting 2-5oz leads, It also comes complete with 3 interchangable quiver tips  ranging from 200g upto 600g making it perfect for scratching around for flatties and smaller species. It come with a sliding reel seat and  is suitable for both fixed & multiplier reels.

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