This month can be slow for shore anglers in some regions with the sultry, balmy weather and clear water keeping the fish well away from the shore in daylight. But in darkness and in regions of coloured water, like the major estuaries, things can be a lot different and it really is a case of a change of venue or tactics to continue catching.
One species that show at this time of year are the sole and lots of venues around the country offer the chance of this unusual flatfish. For most the sole is considered nocturnal, but the facts are that on clear water venues they do mostly feed at night, especially near dawn, whilst in muddy water they are more common in daylight.
Tactics are simply enough once you have found a venue and its worth pointing out that sole do not show everywhere and sole venues are precise in many regions – Just a matter of miles from a shoreline that produces sole will be a venue that does not. So first look for a venue that produces sole regularly, the species seems to like shell grit and muddy sea beds and catching them once on the right venue is not that difficult. Fishing light with small size 2 or 4 hooks is essential, whilst baits include lugworm and ragworm. One top tactic is to fish short because the species are not shy of the shallows or the low tide gutter on many venues. Lots of anglers use two rods for this reason with one cast short and one cast further our which covers the options.
Talking about fishing light, there is a growing trend in sea angling to fish “Continental style” with lighter rods, thinner lines and small hooks. Much of it is to do with a reduction in the average size of fish and dwindling stocks as we fight to keep our sport interesting. However, it is also the case that anglers have realised that the fish do shy away from heavy gear and that lightening down can bring more bites and action. Check out YouTube where anglers have lowered Go Pro cameras alongside the pier wall and you can see clearly fish do shy away from heavy sea fishing gear etc. The biggest plus thought of going light is that small fish are allowed to fight, especially using micro braid lines and sea fishing is no longer hit and haul or playing cranes.
UK sea anglers have used over heavy tackle for years and that is much to do with manufacturers offering a limited range based around ancient designs and techniques. Swivels and hooks for instance, a few years back most would not look out of place on a crane, or for use with the largest fish species, but modern improvements in materials like carbon steel, design and construction have increased their strength and allowed a reduction of size down from the giant weed collecting swivels or hooks that could tow a bus! It’s similar with rods, reels and line, the distance casting revolution of recent years did much to improve rod and reel design, quality, strength and performance promoting lighter tackle which is more responsive to fishing enjoyment and sport. Check out the TF Gear range for the new TF Gear Force 8 Continental model or the Delta Slik Tip and the quiver tip favourite the Delta All rounder. All great for another option – fishing light!
The toughness and knot strength of monofilaments, copolymers and fluorocarbons is also particularly improved, so much so, that you can now go to a lighter breaking strain line with less risk of failure, whilst using the modern lower diameter micro braid lines is proving a practical advantage when fishing fine.
In general sea angling around the UK has had no need to go to the lengths of finesse that coarse anglers do. Sea fish are not always returned and so do not learn about line and hooks like their freshwater relatives, mullet and a few other clear water species being the only exceptions. Meanwhile the sea is often a hostile whirlpool of deep and chocolate brown water that hides tackle anyway.
The first problem fishing light tackle in the sea is dealing with the wind, tide and the rugged seabed, that’s the reason why tackle has always been tough and strong in the first place. You need to get a bait out to a decent distance, punch it through a headwind, so that its stays put in very strong tide. After that you sometimes need to retrieve it through a maze of kelp and rocks. Then there is the safety factor of casting that involves swinging the lead in power casting styles like the pendulum, the big distances they produce comes at a price with tackle beefed up for safety’s sake. But, the need to use an 80lb shock leaders may be more to do with an angler’s casting ego than practical thought about presentation. In terms of casting safety any move to fishing light can only involve the use of the fixed spool reel and an overhead casting style. This combination is far safer than the multiplier and pendulum cast.
A big plus for sea anglers that change to the fixed spool is that the modern reels are designed for long range casting, some with a carp fishing pedigree, are far superior to the models of the past. Long profiled /coned spools, stronger gears, ball bearings all make modern reels more efficient for sea angling and casting.
Crucial to the use of lighter tackle is the line diameter and lines as low as 6lb and up to 15lb are used with the lighter rods and fixed spool reels making this possible. The major problem when lightening down tackle is that terminal rigs must also be balanced to the rod action and line strength. It is pointless using a lighter rod with heavy line as it is using ultra thin lines with standard 8oz beach casting rod. However, a move to far lighter rigs involves thinner lines and a major problem with. multi hook rigs in very light line are prone to tangle easily. On the Continent really long snoods are commonly used and there the anglers say that the longer the snoods the less they tangle, although they must NOT be able to overlap.
The big advantages of increasing rod lengths to 15ft and above is that a longer rod allows the use of a longer rig length and this allows hook snoods to be placed farther apart so that they can be fished over a wide area as well as up in the water and do not overlap or tangle.
Longer lighter snoods also allow the hook bait to react naturally in tide and this is an important consideration when fishing either up or in clear water. The addition of floating or pop up beads also enhances bait presentation and allows baits to be raised to the levels the fish are.
Lots of shore anglers fishing light in summer use small hooks, which are essential to the more delicate bait presentation for some of the smaller species. However, there is every chance that you may hook a large smoothhound or a bass and so it’s a good idea to opt for the strongest patterns.
For many this and next month are last chance saloon for catching mackerel as the large shoals move south and it’s a case of making the most of the conditions whilst the fish are around, especially if you want to keep a few for the freezer for the winter whiting. On that note don’t forget the garfish – they are a very underrated tipping bait for lots of the autumn and winter species – bag them in the freezer as well.
Lots of anglers around the country are experiencing the changing season – One minute the fish are around and then they are not and it does seem that mass migration of species is far more acute nowadays than it used to be. Could be its global warming that is sending the fish further north and that they are bypassing southern venues on their travels? Whatever, something like this is happening and I suppose to an extent it always did in the past. In the south it’s the summer doldrums when the sea seems devoid of fish, even the mackerel have passed by! For the shore angler another reason is the amount of sunlight each day – with clear water the fish just will not come inshore in gin and wait until darkness to venture into the shallows. That’s the time to fish for conger, bass, hounds and others and the deeper water venues you find are better.
But it’s not all doom and gloom because once we are past the longest day then the light evenings start to close back and change is underway, least of all those fish that passed us by on their way north are due to travel back south into Autumn and some great sea fishing is to come. The trick is not to miss it and of course the timing varies around the different regions. In the North it’s a case of making hay whilst the sun shines and fishing hard before the shoals depart south. In the South it’s a case of getting out as soon as the fish show; the codling start to show as early as August some years and September can be the best month with a mix of cod and bass. In all regions it is a case of ignoring those old traditions of the “Cod Season” and being ready when the fish are around.
TF Gear has a new range of beach casters and they based on models from the Continent. Both fixed spools they feature the slim line feel and lightness of the long casting sea fishing rods from France, Spain, Italy, etc. Both include low rider rings which can be used with both multiplier and fixed spool reels plus braid, mono or fluorocarbon lines. Standard with these rings is that the butt ring is reversed which gives the rod a unique appearance and more than one novice has proclaimed the ring is on upside down! But this is not the case and 100% of continental rods using low riders feature this reversed ring build. It’s done simply so that the rings legs prevent a loop of line going over the ring during the cast – especially braid and especially using a fixed spool reel.
The new models include the Force 8 Continental which is extremely light and designed for fishing small baits for small species using light lines and leads. With braid line its balance and feel are incredible and fishing for mackerel, pollack, scad, mullet, school bass etc is a new experience for the user. A word of warning though –it’s not designed for casting a whole Calamari squid and it’s also not designed so that the tip can pull free of snags what it is designed for is a new feel the fish sea angling experience – Enjoy!
The second model is in the Delta range and is the Slik Tip and is aimed at the in between UK fishing and the Continent – It’s a step lighter than standard UK beach casting gear and at a price that won’t annoy the wallet!
One of the big plusses with these rods fitted with low rider rings is that the guides do not affect the movement and balance of the rod as much as the larger standard UK style beach caster rings. Therefore the rod slices the air better when casting and resists the wind in the rod rest better – great for bite spotting.
Dogfish is considered a sea angling swear word and few anglers have a good word to say about a species that seems to have taken over the world in many parts of the UK. OK for match anglers they are obliging bites when nothing else stirs, but so often they take a bait aimed at other species and are just a pain. It’s got so bad in some regions that even the match anglers are not supporting the doggie dominated events.
So what can we do to reduce dogfish numbers or make them more enjoyable to catch? Well having recently been laid up and not fishing my freezer was empty of fish so I took four home for dinner – Had I forgot how tasty this fish could be because of the fiddly skinning and preparation? Rock salmon is now returned to the Yates menu and I shall spread the word that this wonderful species is great on a plate.
I have got my hands on the new TF Gear Force 8 Beach Shelter - and I seriously recommend you take a look! At last a shelter that has pouches for beach stones in the base which makes for a much easier erection, the Viagra shelter goes up in seconds and stays there is a strong wind.
If you have ever tried to erect a shelter on your own in anything above a force five, you will know how difficult it is. The new Force 8 Shelter solves that problem because you can pile stones in the pouches before you pull it up. What’s more the F8 is collapsible and folds down to half its length for carriage – great for being strapped on top of the fishing tackle box!
I am arranging an LRF Championships (Light rock fishing) at Samphire Hoe, near Dover on the 10th August. It’s an experimental competition. You can fish with any form of LRF gear. Basically a short spinning style rod, singe look bait/lure. It’s all catch and release with fish photographed on the smart phone on the days fish measure. Fishing in 10am until 4pm, (Book in car park from 8.30am) all are welcome and it’s a complete rover anywhere around the Hoe. Prizes for species pts, biggest and best average fish. Contact me Alan Yates on 01303 250017 E Mail: email@example.com
Tight lines, Alan Yates
The arrival of the mackerel around much of the UK coastline this month kicks off one of sea angling’s busiest times of the year. Apart from the fact that the smoothhound, ray and bass shoals are extending and exploiting their range around the coastline, summer brings an influx of new anglers. The holiday anger after mackerel that crowd the piers and beaches during daylight to fish with with lures and feathers with which the mackerel can often be caught in numbers and fairly easily. On many venues numbers are swelled by ethnic anglers who have seized on this easy style of sea angling and like it or not they have regenerated many summer venue as well as brought business to fishing tackle shops and charters skippers in the region. Feathering for mackerel is not every sea angler’s favourite method, indeed many ardent bottom anglers frown on the tactic and that is mainly because of the behaviour it can promote on a crowded pair, apart from the dangers of being impaled on a lure hook that is! Associated with feathering is the frenzy of anglers who give little thought to the fish or other anglers – They catch as many fish as they can, many are often left to flap their life away and then discarded when they become ruined by the sunshine. Litter is left and most piers have the stench of urine whilst burnt seating, damage and mayhem have lead to many venues being closed or threatened with closure. It is the case that you just cannot leave Joe Public to police himself and anarchy is the eventual result of doing so, especially with mackerel anglers.
But let’s not dwell on the down side, mackerel fishing can be great fun and is enjoyed by thousands of sea anglers and for many is a first step into proper sea angling.
For those that just want to catch a few mackerel for the bait freezer or barbeque the answer is to stay away from the crowded and popular venues and to use a more sporting method than six feathered lures. OK, if you need a quick fix of mackerel six big fizzy lures with a heavy lead (5oz min) will usually get a result. But a single silver sprat spinner fished at dusk will produce more sport.
Then there are the other methods to fish for mackerel and by far the best is with a float and a sliver of mackerel or garfish as bait. Cast and retrieve that slowly on a lighter spinning type rod for maximum fun.
Another tactic is to use a sliding float rig and this is a short float rig made up to an American snap link which is simply clipped on the main line of the rod already cast out and then slide down the line to the surface. The method allows the angler to fish a bait on the sea bed and a bait for mackerel or garfish etc on the surface.
Summer brings another problem for sea anglers and one is keeping both your bait and catch fresh. TF Gear have solved the problem with a couple of custom made cool bags and I am especially pleased to see the new cool bag. It is made to fit snuggly on top of the standard Beta angling seat box and big enough to contain a standard size seed tray or cat litter type tray to hold the bait. It can then be clipped to the top of your seat box. Perfect for the worms going fishing and the catch coming home and especially relevant at this time of year when the mackerel are around and you can catch and keep them fresh until they arrive home for the bait freezer.
The second new item is a sand eel bag complete with liquid freezer sachet and compartments made to fit the standard packets of sandeel. Keeping your sand eels frozen is vital to their success and you can remove them one at a time or baiting up without thawing the lot.
It’s nice to be able to report that I am back fishing with a few more trips to the pier under my belt since my rheumatic problem. The down side is that I do have limited use of my shoulder and have had to switch to a fixed spool reel and long Continental rod – The new Force 8 in the TF Gear range at 15ft is ultra light and ideal. But I am never going to threaten 150metres plus and have had to accept the reduction in distance – Like so many other anglers older, disabled or simply limited in power. Not all doom and gloom though because the lighter sea fishing tackle and mindset has fuelled some fun fishing with size 4 hooks and 8lb line a whole new ball game – I am learning how to fish again and so far the results are encouraging.
I am holding an LRF Championships (Light rock fishing) at Samphire Hoe, near Dover on the 10th August. It’s an experimental competition. You can fish with any form of LRF gear. Basically a short spinning style rod, single hook bait/lure. It’s all catch and release with fish photographed on the smart phone on the days fish measure. Fishing in 10am until 4pm, all are welcome and it’s a complete rover anywhere around the Hoe. Prizes for species pts, biggest and best average fish. Alan Yates 01303 250017
As some of you may know, I have been laid low in recent month by rheumatics – I was diagnosed with Polymigela after just about every test you can undergo – Didn’t like the MIR scan. Anyway, it has affected my neck, ankle and foot and I have been unable to fish for two months. Just this week I have returned to fishing I have had a great sense of what it is like to be disabled, no driving for two months, difficulty walking, maneuvering tackle is a particular pain, casting and all those things we anglers take for granted have caused me problems and its now down to the drugs and time for me to get better.
I managed a couple of coarse fishing competitions in the local ponds and I even managed to win, catching some carp and the next step is back to the sea. One thing I have had to accept is just how physical sea fishing is compared with coarse. Casting and those long walks with 30lb of tackle box, a bucket and a rod holdall are now a fearsome challenge and the trolley is out.
With summer just about to arrive it’s a nice calm time of year to fish and I must admit to the fact that I like the change away from fishing baits at range on the sea bed. The variety of fishing includes lures for bass, a bit of LRF and some float fishing and with my present limitations it’s the float that coming out.
There are several ways to fish a float from the shore and most anglers just add one to their basic beach casting outfit whilst bottom fishing. This involves a short sliding float rig that is simply clipped on to the main line (an American snap link is ideal) of the beach caster after its cast out. The rig then slides down the main line to the surface where the line enters the water. The rig doesn’t need to be any longer than 8ft. Great for catching the bonus mackerel and garfish and the method goes someway to improve the action when the sea is flat and clear and not a lot stirs on the sea bed.
The second way to fish a float is to go all out and adopt a lighter outfit and fish a slider or adjustable depth float on the main line with a single or two hooks. This outfit can then be cast where you want and the depth you fish adjusted via a stop knot on the mainline that can be set to suit the depth you want to fish. Rod wise a spinning rod will suit the tactic, whilst many are increasingly adopting a longer quiver tip continental rod style like the All rounder in the TF range, look out for the new Continental which is perfect for the method. The particularly effective thing about this type of set up is that the float and the bait can be continually moved, drifted, trotted in the tide etc with the longer rod giving more control, especially when drifting a long way back in the tide using a micro braid line. I prefer to call the method float/spinning and lots of anglers who fish a float in summer neglect the latter. They simply let the float go on its way down tide feeding out line to its demands. BUT a far better method is to continually stop the float in its drift, which causes he bait to rise and move. This adds to the baits attractiveness and increases the catch and can be used to target all manner of summer species. Another alternative is a bubble float and this can be loaded with water for casting weight and especially suits those fishing with a sandeel on a long trace for bass etc.
Integral to most float fishing is ground bait and it’s here the majority of sea anglers cannot be bothered. BUT again a small bucket of loose feed made up of bread, boiled fish, bran with a fish oil or extract etc added will increase the scent of the slick and draw in more fish. In clear water from the rocks it can be a terrific way to fish because you will spot the fish moving in on the feed.
Tackle can also be refined to suit the species and you may find lighter line and a smaller Waggler float more suitable if the mullet show up. In a lumpy sea a larger bulbous float will be easier to see at long range and will and can be cast or will drift further. The method can be used to catch more or less all the summer species in some regions and even using bread bait it can catch pollack, bream and mackerel.
Staying with the summer, top of the species list in the coming weeks for many are the smoothhound and as the shoals push around the UK coasts lots of sea anglers will have the chance of catching the most powerful fish they have ever hooked from the shore. It’s important though to fish the correct venues because the hounds do tend to leap frog around the UK coastline. They are found on some venues and not on others and this is mostly down, to food and spawning. So a top tip is to find a smoothhound venue. Do not simply fish your local venue and wait for the hounds to come to you – Travel to them because the best are mostly well known. On top of that the species is continually expanding its size and range and it pays to keep an ear on results. Fish the evening tides when its calm and still, into dusk can be deadly!
Smoothhound venues to head for this month:
Bristol Channel: Almost anywhere from Minehead to Weston S Mare.
South Wales coast: Cardiff, Barry, region, venues including; Rhoose, Nash Point, Portkerry, Aberthaw, Monknash and Ogmore.
Hampshire/ Sussex: West Selsey, Bracklesham Bay, Lepe, Gillkicker and Hayling front..
Dorset: Chesil beach
Kent: Dover breakwater, Sandown, Reculver.
Essex: Charter boats in the Thames estuary. Walton and Clacton, and Orford Island.
Lincs: Chapel St Leonards, Ingoldmells, Sandiland.
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)