Some good news for UK cod anglers – There is a huge glut of small codling showing in many regions around the UK with the fish moving inshore to feed on the spring crab moult etc. The codling are mainly under the 35cm minimum size limit, although it has to be said in many regions, like here in Kent, the codling are close to the limit and will grow fast over the next few months. So hopes are really high that next year’s winter season is going to be a good one, exceptional compared with recent years. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime summer is on the horizon and should be early this year with the mild winter and it won’t be long until the first mackerel arrive at the Northern end of the English Channel which along with the mass crab moult and the return of the small bait fish like whitebait, sandeel etc will fuel some excellent shore fishing. It’s a great time of year as species spread around the coast in the clearing water although it’s a whole new ball game in terms of the fishing.
Back into the tackle box go the feathers, the floats, all manner of lures and I have taken to adding an LRF (Light Rock Fishing) rod and braid reel to my summer shore sea fishing tackle in recent years as an alternative method for those days when standard beach gear doesn’t happen. LRF is mostly about catching the small fish when they are all there. Using a single small hook or lure with all the lead on the hook a small spinning rod and braid line allows the angler to fish the nooks and crannies with worm or lures.
It works best in the wilds of Ireland where you can trickle and tickle a lures alongside the steep rock marks and in and out of the kelp fronds and rock ledges from cliffs in search of wrasse and bass but here at home its surprising what you can catch close in if you scale down enough and although it is mostly about small fish, when you hook a bigger one the gear allows even a 12oz fish to perform. LRF from the pier, jetty, beaches etc, especially from a pier with stilts or piles can prove great fun for mackerel, garfish, scad, coalfish, pollack, even bass.
I recently fished from a beach on the Isle of Wight with LRF gear swimming a ragworm close in under the edge of the estuary lip – The bass where mainly under 2lb but they attacked the worm as I retrieved it slowly and on 15lb braid and a 7ft spinning rod – I discovered a way to make chequer (small bass) fishing enjoyable!
The hoards of summer mackerel anglers and the chaos they cause mean some venues are worth avoiding from now on. But, mackerel fishing is fun and necessary if you want the species for bait or to eat and so here are a few hints and tips to help you avoid the angler conflict and catch more mackerel.
Firstly the basic rules worth adhering to when you go mackerel fishing:
- Do not encroach too closely on another’s fishing spot, ask if they mind first.
- Cast with care and look before you cast.
- Do not leave litter, gut mackerel on seats and do not urinate on the pier etc.
- Only take the fish that you need.
The first mistake many novice anglers make is to fish for mackerel on a venue when the sea is coloured or even rough. Mackerel do not like silted and coloured water, as sight feeders they require clear water as do their prey.
The hot time to catch is dawn or dusk, usually around high tide when the mackerel ambush shoals of bait fish against a pier wall or beach.
The fishing tactic to catch mackerel involves a method called “sink and draw”. This involves casting a string of lures, allowing them to sink to the required depth and then reeling only as you lower the rod. You then lift the rod and repeat.
On occasions mackerel will take a bare silver hook, anything when they are in a feeding frenzy. Modern the lures are far more elaborate and sophisticated although they can fish better when they have caught lots of fish and are falling apart and are scraggy. The best lures are those that create the most fizz and water disturbance with white feathers still amongst the best along with favourite patterns such as Daylites, Sabiki and Hokkai designs.
Currently I am under the doctor for rheumatoid arthritis which had laid me low in recent weeks and my trips to the beach have suffered. I am awaiting an operation on my right shoulder and am expected to be out of action for several months and that’s one of the reasons I have adopted the LRF – At least I shall be able to dangle a worm somewhere.
The downside this year is that I missed my annual trip to Gambia to fish the West African Beach Champs but, my son Richard went and I have included a picture of him with a 25lb sand shark caught on his light continental fixed spool outfit and 12lb line.
Tight lines, Alan Yates
One of the worst winters on record for weather has taken its toll on shore and boat angling, not only venues made unfishable but piers damaged and closed, charter hours lost, competitions cancelled and a general feeling of when will it end? Well so much doom and gloom, but it has its upside and that is that the commercial nets have also been hit hard and a few extra small fish may have survived the winter this year and that may improve the fishing in the spring…
I have taken some time off to sort some of my fishing equipment and generally plan ahead – the Spring IS just around the corner and although those last few weeks can drag, it will get here. OK so I have more terminal rigs that Gerry’s of Morecambe, all my reels are loaded with new line and my tackle box is pristine. All I need is to get out on the beach for a few casts, but that’s just not going to happen until the sea flattens off and clears. First up is a plaice trip but as I said, red spots don’t like coloured, rough or silty water – Chesil Beach at Cogden is a favourite venue to head for, but only when that sea settles! In the meantime the tackle box retains my attention and one of the many jobs I keep promising to do but never get around to be replacing grip wires in my lead collection. Normally when a wire or a bead on a lead goes, I dump it in the throw away bucket for fishing the Irish rocks, or Samphire Hoe. It’s essential when fishing rough ground to have plenty of spare leads and to not worry about losing them. But the throw away bucket is overloaded so its wire cutters, pliers, beads and wire time. The tasks brings about several options, for starters you can change the shape colour of the breakout beads, I hate blue and yellow and prefer red and so replace this missing etc with round red beads, make sure you use decent strong plastic beads because some smash just looking at the beach. You can also change the grip wire length, bend them differently or simply straighten out and upgrade the lead in general. Whatever, the result is a box of new functional leads.
Another worthwhile spring clean job, is your sea fishing rods, because if you look closely you may have a cracked ring. After the countless times my rod has been pulled off the rest this winter I will be surprised if I haven’t got a ring that need replacing. The beauty of Fuji’s, Seymo and the other top makes is that they take lots of shit, but even the best cannot survive many more than one a gale driven clatters on concrete, rocks or beach stones and can be damaged and it pays to look.
First wash the rod free of sand, weed and all the other crud it has collected with use and give the rings and the reel seat the once over with a tooth brush. This will remove most of the unwanted and reveal the ring back at its best. Reel seats really benefit from a good scrubbing and you will find them less likely to jam afterwards. Examine the rings closely under a good light, the smallest crack can skim whisks of mono almost unnoticed. Of course losing a ring is a disaster on a beachcaster – it’s like scratching the door on a new motor UUURRGHH!!! For me it’s the menders and I mean specialist rod repairs not DIY. Sometimes an on the beach a temporary repair may be required and that’s fairly simple. I cut one leg of the rig whipping off. Wriggle the other ring foot free and remove the ring. Insert a new ring in the whipping and then tape up on the other side – good as new, for some!
One economic way to re-invent a tired beachcaster is to replace the shrink wrap handle. Most tackle dealers nowadays offer a range of different types, colours, materials of shrink wrap. You can buy it to the length required and simply shrink it on. Don’t be tempted to do it over the old handle though, remove this and thoroughly wash and dry the rod section before putting on the new shrink wrap. To close down the shrink wrap tightly you can use a hair drier, whilst boiling water from a kettle spout is more dangerous, it does a better job!
Best of all the rod refurbishments are those offered by lots of the major firms – Send your rod back to them and for a fee they will replace it to its original glory, well worth the money if you are fussy about your sea fishing tackle.
Already there are rumours about plaice – the first sunny day for months and tall plaice stories have started. Now let’s get one thing clear before we start talking about plaice. They are frail, thin and pasty when they first arrive inshore in March after the vigour’s of spawning and not worth eating or retaining so please unhook carefully and return. In a matter of months they will be returned to their red spotted plumpness and then will be prized for the table.
Time now to make up a few rigs with the usual plaice bling, beads and glitter, my tendency is to make the bait stop on my clipped rigs the bling and there are lots of options ranging from pop up bead, plastic beads, luminous beads, sequins, glass beads, vanes, luminous tubing etc. Don’t skimp either plaice often respond the flashiest hook bait and the rule is anything goes!
A recent letter in Sea Angler magazine criticised me for keeping (and grinning) with a catch of small dabs and whiting (4 dabs and seven whiting) Now excuse me, but I eat a lot of fish and the number I retained that day was a small percentage of that caught and returned – You see there is not much else in the sea around the UK coast in winter and I enjoy a few dab and whiting fillets.
The rays are around on the Kent shore with a January thornback for Dover specimen hunter, Brian Price, one of three in a couple of trips to Sandwich Bay.
The mild winter, it may have all changed by the time you read this, has lulled anglers into the false dawn of spring. Thoughts are already on plaice bling and rays and surprise, surprise the latter are already showing in Kent. Are they late autumn or early spring is the question? The answer I believe is that ray numbers have increased in recent years as they took over the habitat of the missing cod etc and they are now appearing inshore earlier simply because of the overflow of stocks. In my region rays always were a winter species for the boats when the cod left, now they are a winter species for the shore rods and have replaced the cod. Now rays are never going to set the world alight in terms of their pace or guile, but for sheer plastic bag in the tide pull they take some beating – Shame they don’t make the 100lb mark – I remember some diamond rays I hooked from the Beach in Africa that just run all the line off and Gambia’s sting rays take some stopping once they beat the 50lb barrier. All in all ray fishing can be fun when there is nothing else of any size to fish for, some people even eat them!
However, its plaice that get my attention now that the light evenings have hit 5.30pm. The species have been in decline for the last couple of decades with the numbers and average size having dropped dramatically, but last year they made a small comeback along the Channel coastline. OK, not mega size plaice of the past but enough tipping the pound to suggest they were worth fishing for deliberately. Anglers flocked to venues like Brighton and even Kent could boast of a couple of plaice venues with Dengemarsh and Seabrook amongst the pick, the reason given for the upsurge in the plaice population was that the commercial quota limit had been reduced. Well an MZ is about to come on line in Hythe Bay and that should do the region’s flattie population a power of good because soles and plaice are plundered mercilessly by the regions trawlers.
Back to the plaice and it’s time to check out the bling that you can add to hook snoods to attract plaice to your baits. I am a big fan of pop up beads, the luminous pattern with pink spots from Gemini, although beware because they can lift bait clear off the bottom – too many beads and you will be fishing for garfish on the surface. Sequins and plastic beads are also favourite and during a trip last year aboard Brighton Diver out of Brighton after plaice – I discovered the deadliest bead combination ever. Twelve standard plastic coloured beads on a snood with red, green and yellow bringing the best results. Bait was lugworm and you could do worse than add a sliver of squid to the hook point, plaice seem to like that! As for spoons, they also work with a short snood full of beads and sequins and if you bend the sequins alternatively that adds extra reflection angles! Not so keen on blades because they spin and cut casting distance although in summer they do add the chance of a mackerel to the catch.
I am just back from the Irish Winter beach festival fished from the Wexford beaches where I switched to fixed spools and light line because of an arthritic shoulder, but reeling in left handed did me little good in the event and I finished half way down the list. But I did fish Continental style with the new range of lighter blanks from TF Gear including the Force 8 Continental and the Delta Slik Tip (look out for them in the coming week) It’s a whole new ball game fishing with light sea fishing tackle and the one thing that struck me is the decrease in tide pull using lines below 12lb. This brings plain leads into the game, or should I say wireless leads because I tried some weird shapes and removed wires. All I need now is a watch lead mould because they hold bottom well with a light set up. I also used a variety of cone and pyramid leads with the double cone coming out best – where can I get them from, my last lots came from Portugal?
The winter beach was won by Paul Tyndall of Bray another of the up and coming Irish Match anglers – I tell you what I was impressed by the standard of the Irish – to a man they fish light and small and I reckon if the Irish World team was picked from the anglers that fished the winter beach event Ireland would win a gold medal. But Ireland has a county selection problem and that means they rarely field a team of top anglers, time for change there.
All this talk of spring is all very well, but what if it does turn cold? Catching anything from the shore once the temperatures have fallen and the frost have got a hold is a challenge. On many venues cold rain or snow melt water, exposed sand that has frozen overnight combine to drive the fish away and that’s on top of the terrible weather – Just rockling, small coalfish, tiny codling, dabs, whiting and the odd flounder remains and in such conditions, fish on and you must accept the consequences.
The problem is that fresh and sea water do not completely mix – they layer because fresh is lighter and floats above sea water – That’s why Icebergs float, they are fresh water! This means that layers of freezing cold freshwater can invade the inshore regions. This is particularly common in the large estuaries like the Thames, Solent, Severn, Mersey, Tyne etc after heavy rain or snow where the fresh water layers can drive fish completely away from a venue during an ebb tide, whilst on the other side of the river the fish are prolific in the salty flood tide.
Small rivers, streams, even road drains and localised fresh water outfalls can affect the fishing on all types of beaches even well away from the estuaries. Beware too of snags comprised of trees, bushes and rubbish spewed into the sea with the flood water at the mouth of the stream etc
Another major hazard for the winter angler is that a shallow region of sand and sea bed exposed to an overnight frost will cool the incoming tide so rapidly that the fish will avoid it. – My rule after for February and March is: NEVER TO FISH WHERE I CANNOT CAST PAST THE LOW TIDE MARK – In other words always fish on a sea bed that is never exposed at low tide!
My next away trip is to Norway, which I may have mentioned before, in a quest to catch shore cod after the worst cod season in my memory. It seems the cold is going to be my biggest problem with Norway in March a bit chilly. Thermals, onesies, floatation sallopettes and a Delta Marine jacket plus woolly hat, thermal socks and gloves, even my Rockhopper boots have snow grippers. The only trouble with flying is that it doesn’t leave much room for the tackle!
Last year I fished for the Dover Sea Angling Association team in the World Club Champs in Portugal –This year it appears that England is not represented at the event in Spain – the probable reason is cost because it’s around £2000 what with accommodation, flights etc. If you can raise a club team get on to the Angling Trust.
It’s odd how the New Year brings renewed interest and optimism to sea anglers – Suddenly the match entries are up and anglers are out on the local beaches and piers – Its all that new sea fishing tackle from Christmas to try I suppose. But the bad news is that the enthusiasm is short lived – The end of January, February and March are the worst months of the year for shore sea angling around the UK in general and the reason is that most species move away from the shore to spawn and all that are left are the tiddlers that cannot spawn and the few species like flounders, dabs and rockling that spawn closer to shore. It’s a time when tiddlers are it and no amount of imagination can conjure up a big cod on many venues let alone a double calamari squid! In the boats it’s a different matter with the chance of a very big fish from some of the wreck fishing port when the weather allows a long range wreck to be reached.
Sadly most shore anglers give up until spring, whilst a few hardy souls and the matchmen fish on through the worst of the weather. I must admit it’s a time of year I enjoy – it’s probably the challenge of getting a bite that does it for me and because it’s mostly small fish you get to appreciate what you have and make the most of it.
Typical February fishing gear is a lighter match rod, 12lb line or braid on a fixed spool, wire booms which allow you to fish lighter hook snoods tangle free, more beads and sequins and smaller hooks, Catching the smaller mouthed species may not be enjoyable in terms of the fight they put up, but the difficulty of catching them does it for me. Obviously it’s not so much fun if you are not fishing a competition although the challenge to get a bite, any bite can be addictive.
Talking about where fishing is going, it is so bad in places and at times it is impossible to ignore who is to blame. The greedy commercial fishermen have all but decimated our seas and no amount of bull from them about there being plenty of fish around will alter the fact that I am not alone in NOT being able to catch anything worth landed, especially in the winter and in terms of cod! Sea angling, especially from the shore is DIRE and yet millions of us in the UK continue to fish. That’s why I believe that no matter where the fishing goes there will always be anglers who will make the most of the smallest fish – you only have to look at the Continent to see that.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs DEFRA via the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Inshore Fishery Conservation Authority (IFCA) recently produced the result of their 2012 sea angling survey of England. The document makes interesting reading and its like will eventually put an end to the commercial exploitation of our sea by commercially fishermen as it is gradually realised that sport angling produces more revenue and leisure time activity for the nation than commercial fishing. What’s more because fish caught on a hook can be returned and caught again and again the revenue etc is ongoing and continuous unlike the commercial fishing which even kills the undersized fish it catches and has already wiped out most of the prime fish species.
The survey estimates there are 884,000 sea anglers in England, with 2% of all adults going sea angling. These anglers make a significant contribution to the economy – in 2012, sea anglers resident in England spent £1.23 billion on the sport, equivalent to £831 million direct spend once imports and taxes had been excluded. This supported 10,400 full-time equivalent jobs and almost £360 million. Taking indirect and induced effects into account, sea angling supported £2.1 billion of total spending, a total of over 23,600 jobs, and almost £980 million.
The survey also found that sea angling also has important social and well-being benefits including providing relaxation, physical exercise, and a route for socialising. And that anglers felt that improving fish stocks was the most important factor that would increase participation in sea angling.
Almost 4 million days of sea angling were recorded over the year. Shore fishing was the most common type of sea angling – almost 3 million angler-days compared with 1 million for private or rented boats and 0.1 million on charter boats. Anglers had most success on charter boats, catching 10 fish per day on average compared with around 5 from private boats and only 2 from the shore.
The most common species caught, by number, were mackerel and whiting. Shore anglers released around 75% of the fish caught, many of which were undersized, and boat anglers released around 50% of their fish.
Remember the survey was just sea angling in England.
For a full copy of the Survey: www.seaangling2012.org.uk
The storms are raging as I write have closed several of the popular piers in my region. Dover Admiralty pier which has been the best pier for a shore cod over the last decade has been closed for all of the cod season and is not expected to reopen until the end of January. Even “indestructible” Folkestone pier suffered damage in the current maelstrom with tarmac ripped up and railings smashed. Deal pier has a catalogue of closure during the storms and worse may be yet to come, whilst a similar fate awaits Dover breakwater. All this suggests that the winter weather is worsening annually, although it’s fair to say that materials and repairs are not of the quality they were when most of the older piers were built and that Health and Safety has resulted in some unwarranted and unnecessary closures (in many anglers opinions)
AND it’s not all doom and gloom for the piers – Hasting pier repairs are starting and I for one look forward to the return of the Hastings three day pier festival in the future.
Picture above: Folkestone sea angler, Alan Rickards with a 1lb plus dab from Folkestone pier – its dab time, so remember to add a few beads and sequins to your hook snoods and don’t through away that lugworm, next week wnen its stickie it will be deadly for dabs!
Wishing all a Happy New Year
Two new prototype beach casters to be released by TF Gear in the New Year arrived for a final test this month and went straight into action at my local two day pier Festival at Folkestone. I finished second overall behind England Squad manager, Martyn Reid who is on peak form at present, although I did win one of the days with a haul of 50 fish and that included pouting to 750 grams, dabs and whiting. No cod I am afraid with Dungeness the only Kent venue producing cod of any size.
Another new sea fishing rod for next year is called the Slik Tip and it is an ultra slim line match rod based around a model I designed several years ago. Its essence is its stability in wind and its bite indication. You see it’s a myth that you need a soft, fine tip for good bite indication – All these types of tips do at sea is soak up the tide as they curve with bites then dampened by the line stretch. So you want a fine, but stiffish tip and the Slik Tip has got just that. Add low rider rings to its fine diameter and it sits in the wind as stable as you like and only bites can rattle it. To cut a long story short I fished a relatively short three hook flapper rig, six ounce fixed wire lead and size 1 hooks at around the 120 yard mark for a bite a cast and ten fish an hour average. Match fishing doesn’t get any better when you can watch for bites and count the fish on, much better that timed casts which are the only answer when the tide is bending the tip and bites are not showing. Nicking five minutes a cast by watching for bites gives the match angler a big advantage.
The other rod in the new range is the Continental and that I will try out in January at the Irish Winter beach Champs – It is a 15ft small fish scratching rod aimed at those anglers who want to fish Continental style, really light and delicately through the summer.
As I write this diary the cod are starting to appear around the Kent Coast, although most of the catches are limited to the boats and the deep water of Dungeness – If you have never been to the venue then you may not realise the main reason why Dungeness is still so productive for cod is that it’s so close to the English Channel’s deepest water. Just yards of Dungeness Point the depth goes down to 80ft plus. Check out a map and you will see how Dungie juts out into the English Channel.
The venue is worth a visit and some anglers will get lucky – Take Chris Radley of Hextable in Kent who beached an 18lb 8oz cod. The fish took a whiting which had hooked itself on one of the Pennell hooks on his rig. That’s a big clue how to fish Dungeness and any other cod venue for that matter. The bigger cod are eating whiting so always use two hooks on each bait, either live bait style or as a Pennell.
I have organised a novelty competition for 2014. It’s called the World LRF Championships and is being fished on Samphire Hoe near Dover on the 10th of August 14. Samphire is a walled promenade, not that picturesque but it’s packed with wrasse, pout, pollack, mackerel, etc during the summer and can be great fun to fish with Light Rock Fishing tackle. The rules allow lures or bait to be used and there are prizes for species, the best average and biggest fish landed.
Obviously it’s only open to those who fish proper LRF tackle and that are one hook.
Fishing is from 10am until 4pm. Catch measure and release with anglers allowed to keep their best fish only. Species pts, biggest and best average fish. Details from me on; 01303 250017
I presented the prizes for Barclays Bank SAC at their recent Championships held at Dover and it was great to get among a group of Clubmen in a very competitive and happy mood. Their match was won by two end pegs (one and two) which sometimes happens when you fish pier venues, but it’s a sure fire way of keeping all anglers happy. They also featured drawn pairs and team events – So often clubs make their competitions “fair” by doing away with the luck element, but then the entry and membership walk away when a few top match anglers dominate. If I had to play snooker against Ronnie Sullivan ever weekend who could blame me for voting with my feet. So I urge clubs to think about the decisions they make to make events fair – Far better to make them fair for all that just the top few!
A really busy month for sea anglers with lots of whiting from most beaches, especially after dark and they produce some hectic match fishing. The cod are noticeable by their absence on my Kent beaches, although the mild weather may be the reason for that and anyway the bass are hanging around. In the club evening events up to 60 whiting are required to make the frame and its frightening the club match anglers away in droves. Many, including, myself at times just cannot, or don’t want, to compete in the numbers game – It’s not enjoyable fishing, its hard work. Freelance wise it’s almost boring catching three whiting a chuck and as fast as you can recast. I fished Dungeness this week and the whiting just would not switch off, only the occasional dogfish, dab or rockling broke the monotony of the whiting. Even so I have never seen Dungeness so crowded on a weekday with anglers packed in like sardines between the RNLI and the Power Station. Undoubtedly a lot to do with the popularity of Dungeness, as well as the Dungeness Angling Association and their founder, Phil Tapp who sadly died recently. Phil put Dungy on the map when he negotiated the key for the gate to the concrete road allows angler car access. Phil will be sadly missed, but the Association survives with many good men to take Phil’s place, one of the best things that ever happened to Dungy!
I have just got my hands on a couple of prototype sea fishing rods that are due out in New Year and spring. I designed a slim line match rod that became popular in the past and longed for the chance to tweak the design. Now the TF Gear model is about to be released in the Delta range. Called the Slik Tip it’s a three piece multiplier or fixed spool match rod. Great on bite indication its sits still in the rod rest even in a gale and it’s ideal for club anglers, surf bass angler etc. Also new is the Continental and this is again a 15 footer, but designed along Continental lines, ultra light and slim its aimed at summer fishing with light line and tackle, the ladies might find it just what they want. One thing in line with most of the gear I have produced with TF Gear it’s going to be far cheaper than some of the overpriced “designer” rods available. I cant wait to get it in the surf for bass.
With the leaves leaving the trees at a rate this week it reminds us of the winter to come. Those chill winds make beach fishing tough going from December onwards. It’s noticeable that the T Shirt brigade leaves us in a few weeks and the beaches become roomier because of it. My favourite time of year, not because the drips freeze on the end of your nose, but because the crowds have gone. It’s also great to find the beaches litter comparatively free as well and I am sorry if this upsets some, but I have been appalled lately at the amount of litter left by so called sea anglers and it’s not all Octobers great unwashed or the foreign anglers either, I have watched some regulars leave litter and they don’t like being told to pick it up! All you need is a plastic bag in your kit to pack the rubbish into to take away, so simple.
Back to the weather and that extra fleece will be required soon, I am a great believer in comfort when I am fishing it keeps you fresh and alert and you are more likely to catch if you can concentrate on the rod tip rather than worry about cold toes!
Congratulations to Wales and England for their performance in the CIPS World Shore Championships in Spain. Spain took the gold medal and their performance included the top four individuals. Wales took silver ahead of England’s Bronze – Having been there I know how good a medal, any colour is in the Mediterranean.
Coming up (January 23rdth to 25th) is the Irish Winter Beach Festival which I fish annually. It’s fished from the Wicklow region beaches in Southern Ireland with the base for the event at Sean Ogs Hotel, Kilmuckridge. It’s a great event for the Craic –1st Prize is €500 and there are events for Teams of 2 & 4 over 3 days. Entry fee: €150 inclusive of Presentation Dinner. Accommodation at Seàn Òg’s may be reserved through Warren Doyle, 98, Seacrest, Bray, Co. Wicklow. +353 (0)1 2828769. Mob. +353(0)86 8069961. firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year the event was won by my mate Chris Clark of Lymington, although I have to remind him regularly that on day two he killed all his maddies and it was only the generosity of others that got him over the line!
I am all booked up for a weeklong trip to Norway at the end of February with my son Richard and a few mates. We are going to fish a week long big fish competition organised by Ian Peacock and Din Tur. It may well be my only chance of a big cod this winter because the Kent season does look dismal. It’s such a long time since I landed a double figure cod from the shore (I am really looking forward the Norway)
Just back from Ireland where the Sea Angler magazine and TF Gear crew attempted to make a DVD in less than ideal conditions, both from boat and shore – The East wind has a lot to answer for, although heavy mist, rain and a muggy feel to the three days meant the air pressure was all over the shop and air pressure does seem to have a great effect on fish feeding at this time of year. A mate checks his fish pond before going coarse fishing in winter, if the fish are feeding he goes, if not, he still goes but is armed with the knowledge the fishing is going to be tough.
That’s not a bad rule to have for the rest of the winters because getting your sea fishing tackle out when the wind direction, sea conditions, tide and air pressure is all wrong, can have a massive effect on the fishes feeding habits, especially for those after cod. The wind for instance is a big turn on, or turn off, in many sea regions. That east wind carries the “When the winds in the East the fish bite least” stigma and it is spot on in many regions, add some North though and the East coast of angling usually fishes well “When the wind blows north the fish bite for all they are worth”. Along the English Channel and up through the Irish Sea is a South or West wind that is best “When the wind blows west the fish bite best” and “When the wind blows south the bait falls in the fish’s mouth”.
Overall an onshore wind may be the most unpleasant to fish in, but it’s usually the most productive, especially in daylight when it colours up the water. The fish don’t like sunlight and if that can penetrate the water to the sea bed they will not venture into it. That fear is universal among the major winter species, so the rule is. Fish in daylight when it’s rough and in darkness or very deep water when it’s calm!
OK like most rules there are exceptions and one to look out for is what I call a chalky or milky sea, sometimes the sea is only just coloured and the fish will come inshore. Another phenomenon to watch out for is an impending storm. Fish can desert the shoreline the tide before an impending storm and then appear as if by magic as it dies away! All things that help the shore angler to pick the best times to fish.
Only a couple more complications and they are the all important tide and the stock of fish available in a particular region. Why would a fish want to come close to shore to feed when the deep sea is packed with food? Well in summer there are lots of food like sandeels, mackerel etc for the cod to prey on out deep, but these migrate south as winter arrives and the bigger fish start to move inshore in search of whiting, pouting, etc. The changing fortunes of the cod angler depend upon the food available and spawning success of the species. Some winters there is an over flow of smaller fish which means they need to invade the shoreline to feed. On other years, fewer fish means they have an enough food in the deep water.
So assuming there is an overflow of fish they will then move inshore, but only in the best conditions to get an easy meal. The strongest tide tends to help fish travel to and from food, it also oxygenates the water and generally spices up marine activity, fish and prey. So the angler must first look towards the largest spring tides for the maximum chance of fish being present. Think about it, the water is deeper, and this means more cover for the fish, and more fish will be around. On a majority of venues the maximum fish activity occurs during the flooding tide towards high tide. Indeed many venues are devoid of fish at low water so it’s important to fish at that peak time and that can often be around mid darkness as well.
All this means that the absolute best times to fish are limited to a couple of tides fortnightly and explains why cod in particular are so difficult to catch. The various races of cod around the UK fluctuate in numbers dramatically and what with commercial overfishing, discards and the fact that the minimum legal size limit does not allow them to spawn its small wonder anglers struggle to catch a fish over 3lb.
So this winter – select your venue with care and a knowledge that fish are there to catch. Pick the best tides and I would say avoid the crowds.
RED HOT COD NEWS
There seems to be an excellent number of codling in the North East this year with fish to 3lb plentiful from the shore on the Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Northumberland coasts.
Rough ground offers the best chance of cod and codling because the nets cannot exploit it like they can clean sand, so check out the rocks and kelp!
Your best chance of a giant cod comes from the boat in the English Channel and I recommend the Eastbourne and Brighton charter boats for a possible 50lb cod, especially after Christmas.
Top of the cod bait list is a live whiting with the live bait rig worth trying. This involves a large hook with a small baited hook (2) attached with a whiting taking the bait and then becoming bait itself.
The other bait worth using this winter if it’s a big shore or boat cod you want is a whole ,or even two frozen cuttlefish – Remove the bone and fish on minimum 6/0 Pennell rigs. Bites will be few and far between but could be a lunker!
My tip for fishing from now on is to fish a large bait close in on a second rod – there are still some monster bass to be caught, especially in the South of the country.
The final solution for anglers looking to catch a BIG cod this winter is a trip to Norway where you can virtually walk on water over the cod. Contact: Ian Peacock Tel 01914 472363 www.dintur.co.uk E mail: email@example.com
COMPETITIONS TO LOOK OUT FOR
The British Sea Angling Championships being fished from Deal, Walmer and Sandown beaches in Kent on the 20th October. Entry forms have been sent out to previous competitors and are available in local tackle shops. The details of the event this year are as follows: The competitions includes the men’s, ladies, juniors and four man team championships and is open to all sea anglers. The fishing is from 11am until 4pm with the entry limited to the first 400 anglers (So get your entry in early as there may not be places if you leave it until the day 20th October) £6000 plus are on offer in cash and prizes including £1000 for the winner and £500 for the captor of the biggest round and biggest flat fish. The event is pegged from Kingsdown to Sandwich Bay and offers national Penn Points to the winners. The draw and late entry takes place at the Deal 1919 Angling Club headquarters 13, the Marina Deal on Saturday the 19th October from 7pm. The event includes bag labels that must be signed in with every fish caught by the adjacent competitor. Entries and details Deal 1919 AC Headquarters Tel 01304 363968 or 361248.
My first evening club beach competition of September resulted in a mackerel, a sole, a scad and a pout with the shoreline at Sandgate in Kent, warm, still and clear. I am not knocking it, but late summer does not seem to want to leave us and the autumn season may yet be delayed by that late spring. In the past I have caught codling from the Kent shore in August, although most years it’s the second week in September when they turn up on my patch – Noticeable the whiting are not showing yet, although, that could be a godsend because small whiting have become such a nuisance in winter they have driven lots of shore anglers to the boats or the carp puddles. Of course the one thing about this time of year when the sea is flat and the weather balmy, is that fishing a live pout or whiting on the surface close in to the beach can be deadly for bass, big bass. This week an angler from Dover, Robert Gismondi landed a 16lb plus bass at Dover – the fish took a surface lure from Dover beach and it was officially weighed at Dover’s admiralty pier where some huge bass are landed at this time of year. Time to get the live baits out. The only trouble with that is catching them, but if you can mount them on a small strong hook (the Tronix dog pattern is ideal) on a slider and slide them down the main line so that they float on the surface in the margins. It is essential not to use an over large or heavy hook because these will drag the live bait down and drown in. A small compact, but strong hook does the job. Keep lighting and beach crunching to a minimum and you could be in for some excitement especially after midnight.
The other tactic I enjoy this month is the float – with the garfish and mackerel moving south they often turn up around the south of the country late in autumn and can be fun to catch on a float outfit fishing fish baits near the surface. No need to fish any deeper than 8ft and fish the float as a slider so that you can keep the bait on the move. The tactic works well from beach or pier and its a fun way to fill the winter bait freezer and garfish is every bit as good as mackerel as a winter tip bait for worm.
Now is a popular time for match anglers and traditionally the major shore competitions are held from September onwards – Even despite a downward trend in entries to competitions the majors seem to keep going.
Here are a few that may interest would be match angler:
The TF gear sponsored Kent Classic Open at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey takes place on the 17th of November. The venue is not that renowned for its fishing and if the weather is calm and clear it is a bit of a flounder raffle and that gets the entry up because everyone has a chance. You can also fish with the wife or kids which is attractive for families. If it’s rough and the water coloured then those whiting turn up and it’s a bit more clear cut with one of the many matchmen winning. The fishing is from 9.30am until 2.30pm.The match is pegged and pre book only contact is Trevor Back 01795 483676. Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
One I am arranging soon is the Dover Sea Angling Association three day Pier Festival fished on Dover Breakwater on October 12/13/14th (Reserve venues: Sat: POW Pier fishing 12noon until 5pm. SUN: Admiralty pier fishing 8.30am until 1.30pm; MON: Admiralty pier fishing 9am until 2pm) The Southern Breakwater at Dover is a popular venue because of the fantastic fishing it can offer from both the outside and inside wall. It’s only reachable by boat and the boat only runs in winds under force seven so that’s why there is a reserve venue each day. This year the date has been moved to early October in an attempt to find some calm weather. A big prize list of catch and tackle is on offer from sponsors and a total pay out of the entry fees. Entry fee £20 per day, optional pools £5 per day. All three days are for Penn points. Enquirers Dover SAA 01304 204722 or Alan Yates 01303 250017 E Mail: email@example.com.
My third choice is the giant Daiwa Open being fished on December 1st between Bridlington North beach and Paull lighthouse. Fishing times are 10am until 4pm. With booking in from 07.30am at Northfield country club. Entry fee is £10 with Juniors £5. This competition carries a prize fund of £3000 and is popular because of its large prize table. This gives all a chance of winning rather than just the matchmen. Contact Paul Jefferson for detail Tel. 01482 326814
Catching a big or rare species is not such an unusual occurrence nowadays and I suppose apart from the excuse that global warming may be responsible for more rare species being around, it’s a fact that anglers are better equipped, more knowledgeable and are more willing to chase the unusual. Take Luke Aston a charter skipper who fishes out of Carrigholt in the Shannon estuary aboard his charter boat, Clare Dragoon. An ex commercial skipper, he has made catching the very rare six gilled sharks almost commonplace and his latest catch by German angler, Detlef Geiling who is a regularly on Luke’s boat shows why. The fish measured 3.4metres and was estimated at 770lb, and that makes the recent fuss about makos and porbeagles look a bit pathetic. Luke boated four big six gills last season and his biggest is over 1000lbs! This is the first one this year taken on his first trip over a mark that has produced fish over the last five years. Fishing tackle used is 80lb class, although Luke uses a rubbing leader of 300lb mono and 200lb wire. Fish in the past have destroyed light fishing gear. Bait is a combination of Mackerel and Coalfish. One problem is that the fish are so big that they cannot be landed aboard the boat for photographs and are released after being snapped in the water alongside the boat. You can contact Luke at Carrigaholt Sea Angling. Tel. 00353 87 6367544 www.fishandstay.com
There is a degree of excitement about the darker evenings and the autumnal nip in the air – summer has been great, although the shore fishing was hampered by sunshine and clear water and not all regions were blessed with a smoothhound run and I for one deserted to freshwater on more than one occasion. But now the winter looms and its time most serious sea anglers get the gear out. Initial reports suggest the whiting are back in large numbers, now depending upon the region, that could be good or bad news. Year class fish under 27cm are a pain in some regions because the food source they seek is limited and they stunt to razor thin bodies that swarm around baits stopping anything from else from taking it. In contrast estuary regions which are rich in shrimp boasts plump, fat whiting that pack on the weight with fish upwards of 12oz. Whiting are a deep water fish that feed on fish once they are mature and few stay inshore when they reach the 1lb mark, like the cod it’s the immature that live inshore before their food demands send them out into the deep sea. All this means that whiting, size from the shore, like the cod, have always been controlled by the numbers. In years when there are lots of whiting an overflow of bigger fish reaches the shoreline, on others the big fish are scarce. This year looks like an overflow year with plenty of bigger fish to be caught, although my advice is to fish those dirty estuaries rich in shrimp for the better quality fish. As for cod, well most anglers will be blinkered towards them and initial reports show small fish starting to show with a stray 15lber from the Brighton shore recently causing excitement although I think it was a fluke. However, as I write a south westerly gale is building and blowing and that may just be all the codling need along the English Channel and Atlantic facing coasts, whilst in the North Sea things should also improve once an onshore North easterly arrives.
My latest trip was an early morning try on Samphire Hoe near Dover, before the current gale – A great venue if you don’t mind losing a bit of gear, although I have to say experience limits the losses for me. But so many anglers in the Kent region won’t fish at Samphire Hoe or other equally snagging venues, because they lose sea fishing tackle. Well thast OK, but the fact is that the horrendous weed and boulders of the Hoe are home to a host of fish and they are relatively safe from the nets. This is a fact all around the country, clean sand has often been trawled to death and it’s the more mixed or rough ground that cannot be netted where the fish populations are at their best. OK this does mean that rock loving species like wrasse, pout, pollack etc are more prevalent, whilst plaice and sole are fewer. But give the rocks a look, fishing amongst snags is not that difficult if you give your tackle and tactics some thought. Fewer hooks get hooked up less and reeling in fast, lifts tackle up and over the snags!
My latest trip to the Hoe saw me stick with the sliding float and I fished a single hook baited with a sandeel 12ft deep. This meant I was well above the snags and by letting the float drift in the tide with a lift of the rod I could impart some natural looking movement in the frozen sandeel. It worked because I caught bass and pollack before switching to a rod with two hooks on the sea bed to catch wrasse and pout. Nothing big, but a successful and mixed day and perhaps one of the last before winter sets in proper, although with the changing seasons it does seem that autumn reaches out to Christmas nowadays in the south so the opportunity to fish the float hangs on if the sea remains calm and clear. Last year I landed garfish from a Kent pier in late November!
Talking about global warming, it seems very much alive in terms of sea angling with a continuous stream of tropical and semi tropical species landed in recent years from the UK shore and boat. Some of the rare species that have turned up may have been lost or off course, whilst others are undoubtedly here because of the changing migration patterns and habitat caused by man’s over fishing. Take out one species and another will thrive in the habitat and room that is untapped and that is the key to what is happening around the world in my opinion and not just the World’s oceans hotting up. Even so, the latest rare species to turn up is so remarkable it must pose questions related to the climate. Martin White a gardener from London landed a 2lb 8oz American striped bass from peg 60 on Dover breakwater. The fish was witnessed and weighed by Breakwater steward Tom Preston of Folkestone. Striped bass are a relative of our bass and as far as I am aware one has never been recorded in English waters, indeed there is no British record. The species spawn in freshwater and although they are sea going, they are found around the major American river estuaries and so how one got across the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean is a mystery. It is a fact though that the species has been stocked in river systems throughout the world, including in Iran and Russia so the breakwater fish could be a Russian fish heading home to its estuary in North America. Bass, the European species, are a popular sea sport fish around Europe because they take lures and grow to double figures, in America the striped bass are an even bigger target protected totally from the commercial fishermen they are the major sea sport species.
Deal and Walmer’s Piscatorial Past by Dave Chamberlain, photographs by Basil Kidd document the remarkable sea angling catches of the 1960 and 70s and the dramatic decline of the shore and boat fishing in the South East of England since that time. Some readers may say that the anglers themselves did the damage with their disgraceful piles of dead cod and pollack. Others that it was the commercial fleets who have also long gone. Whatever, the fact remains that in those days when PC didn’t mean anything other than Police Constable huge rod and line catches of fish were commonplace and they were simply laid out and photographed.
Dave Chamberlain was a charter skipper in those day and he and his beach launched boat, Morning Haze plied their trade from the Deal shore – Basil Kidd, now departed, was the local news photographer who would go anywhere anytime for a big fish picture. Between them they have produced a remarkable history of the changes that have occurred to sea angling nationally and this small section of the Kent shore in the very recent past. A great addition to any sea angler’s book collection.
The Book ISBN 978-0-9548439- 4 -6 is published by Beaches Books and is available for £4.99 on Amazon or E Bay.
My major event next month is the Dover Sea Angling Association three day Pier Festival fished on Dover Breakwater on October 12/13/14th. Entry fee £20 per day, optional pools £5 per day. All three days are for Penn points. Enquiries Dover SAA 01304 204722 or Alan Yates 01303 250017 E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The TF gear sponsored Kent Classic Open at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey takes place on the 17th of November. The venue is not that renowned for its fishing and if the weather is calm and clear it is a bit of a flounder raffle and that gets the entry up because everyone has a chance. You can also fish with the wife or kids which is attractive for families. If it’s rough and the water coloured then those whiting turn up and it’s a bit clearer cut with one of the many matchmen winning. The fishing is from 9.30am until 2.30pm.The match is pegged and pre book only contact is Trevor Back 01795 483676. Email – email@example.com
A great days fishing recently from Dover’s Southern breakwater, not that I caught lots of fish, but for the sheer fun of trying something different, which came off. Currently the breakwater is alive with dogfish so avoiding them is a priority for freelance anglers and other than fishing a giant crab bait for smoothhounds most anglers have been targeting the bass. Why, because the fish swim around the breakwater wall well up off the sea bed and away from the dogfish, well that’s the theory, although I must admit to catching dogfish well up the wall on occasions. So a head hooked ragworm, or two, dangled into the tide via a set of booms up the wall is the way to fish.
On this occasion I thought, why not fish a float and so I rigged up a slider on my TF Gear Delta All-rounder and trotted a float down tide along the wall. On the business end was the standard 1.5oz bullet lead, it was a big bright float and a two hook wishbone on the end with size two carp hooks which are very strong, bait was head hooked ragworm, nice and wrigley. Into the tide the float drifted away – the harbour entrance was where I wanted the float to end up and although it took twenty minutes to get there, a whole spool full of line, my reward as soon as the float rounded the wall and went out of sight was two school bass. The long haul back was exciting because although they were both around the 36 to 40cm mark, they got the tip bending against the tide. Bass big enough to keep but the conscience says they had to go back unless they are Barbecue size (45cm). I managed to reach the pier entrance four times and on three occasions hooked a double of bass, one the fourth no bite and when I retrieved I found the hook length tangled around the float! Other shorter drifts caught wrasse, pollack, mackerel and a lone scad before the tide turned and I could not reach the killing zone. The beauty of the sliding float is that apart from the fact you can work the bait continually over new water you can lift, drop and tantalise and keep it moving naturally in the tide and this the fish just cannot refuse. One word of advice and that is to keep the snood line light – I used 8lb which fools the fish, you do though need a soft tipped rod like the Delta to avoid snapping the light snood line and a net in case you hook a biggy.
Angling litter has been an age old problem and more than one venue has been closed because of it, but the majority of anglers who are members of an angling club have got the message. Most clubs have serious rules governing litter as do the major National organisations, others have not and I would be as bold as to say that in the main its freelance and occasional anglers that are responsible for a majority of the rubbish left on beaches and piers. In my region it’s the mackerel bashers that pee on the pier, cut bait on seats, pinch lifebelt ropes and leave barbecues and rubbish everywhere in summer, whilst in winter the beaches get cluttered with flotsam which exaggerates the problem, although cod angler’s bait paper, beer cans and discarded line are prominent and a disgrace to the sport.
In Northumberland, Amble pier has recently been highlighted as having a litter problem and the local club and anglers are worried that it will effect the future of the pier and that applies to several other piers around the country. Please take your litter home with you or discard it sensibly. All it takes is a couple of plastic bags in the kit for the rubbish to go into after you have finished fishing. Staying with that subject please remember when discarding rigs, hooks and line that will eventually get to a rubbish tip and could be a potential hazard for birds. Cut line into short lengths, take bait off hooks and think about where you are disposing of the rubbish, mine goes in the garden rubbish incinerator.
August has been a bit slow in my region of Kent although things are just starting to improve with the first codling and the whiting returning. Some big bass, sole and still the odd big smoothhounds are showing and as the light evenings fade and the temperatures drop sport in general should improve, so don’t miss those early weeks of autumn – lots of anglers think the cod season starts in October well they are wrong in many regions codling are showing now, don’t miss them. It’s also the time to catch a rare species with the red mullet and the trigger fish among the species likely to show up as the summer species leave and the winter species arrive – its crossover time!
Some say junior anglers are on the decline because of computers etc, but I reckon the main problem is that junior coaching now requires so much paperwork and vetting, plus the litigation laws and general political correctness that lots of clubs and anglers will no longer get involved. Take me, I qualified as a coach in 1979 and taught angling at the local school every year for more than ten years. I have a certificate on my wall to prove it, but nowadays I cannot coach because my qualification doesn’t count anymore.
In my region there are a few clubs that look after the juniors and Deal 1919 AC are one – Check out the pic of their recent junior festival with club president, Pat Heath asking how big the one that got away was.
A competition date for the diary is the TF gear sponsored Kent Classic Open. At Sheerness on the 17th of November. The fishing is from 9.30am until 2.30pm. The match is pegged and pre book only contact is Trevor Back 01795 483676. Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Coming soon is the Dover Sea Angling Association three day Pier Festival fished on Dover Breakwater on October 12/13/14th (Reserve venues: Sat: POW Pier fishing 12noon until 5pm. SUN: Admiralty pier fishing 8.30am until 1.30pm; MON: Admiralty pier fishing 9am until 2pm) Its one of the few open events that I organise nowadays because the Penn League keeps me busy. And the Southern Breakwater at Dover is a popular venue because of the fantastic fishing it can offer from both the outside and inside wall. It’s only reachable by boat and the boat only runs in winds under force seven so that’s why there is a reserve venue each day. This year the date has been moved to early October in an attempt to find some calm weather. A big prize list of catch and tackle is on offer from sponsors and a total pay out of the entry fees.
Entry fee £20 per day, optional pools £5 per day. All three days are for Penn points. Enquiries Dover SAA 01304 204722 or Alan Yates 01303 250017 E Mail: email@example.com.