All posts by Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary – June 2015

Well June is here and finally the weather is getting better. I have made several trips this month with mixed results – The long hike along Samphire Hoe, Near Dover, was made easier with a trolley and I have a large four wheeled freshwater version that allows me to take all of my sea fishing tackle… and the kitchen sink.

A trolley to help with the long walk.

A trolley to help with the long walk.

The Hoe may be a long walk to my favourite spot at the western end, but its wheelchair friendly with slopes rather than steps to negotiate which makes it ideal for the trolley. I always fish the venue over low water when it’s calm and then the first of the flood, first because it’s less crowded with mackerel anglers and second because the ebb and first flood is the best time for the bass and pollack on a float. The ebb tide is not so strong so a sliding float, baited with a ragworm or frozen sandeel can be trotted down tide with ease and in comfort. Using a sliding float you need to continually adjust the depth by moving the stop knot on the mail line. The system is simple really, but a couple of novice anglers nearby were moaning that their float would not stand up – Really! I explained that they were fishing too deep and should move their stop knot nearer the float. We do take things for granted sometimes, not realising the simple things can baffle the novice – The happy ending was that they eventually cottoned on to the need to keep adjusting the depth they fished with the tide and caught plenty of pollack.

I have landed a few bass on the method, but netting them alone with the ledge below the wall is awkward. On this trip, no bass, but a 47cm pollack gave me some fun, not a monster, but from the Kent shore round about as big as you will get, great eating too.

Alan Yates 45cm pollack - at Samphire Hoe

Alan Yates 45cm pollack – at Samphire Hoe.

There were also plenty, but not too many dogfish, plus a few pristine and brilliantly bronze banded pout (is there a prettier fish straight out of the sea) along with some vivid green ballan wrasse. The venue is fairly snaggy and so the float for fishing alongside the wall is the most effective way to avoid hook ups – For the bottom little beats a Pulley rig, one hook only, fishing 30lb straight through. The Hoe has been taken over by new management and the day fishing ticket has gone up to £6 available from the bailiff on the wall, freshwater style, parking is a couple of quid and the wall open around 7am..

I also fished at Littlestone inside Hythe Bay and Dungeness Point – it’s a very shallow venue, great for lug pumping, but after or during a SW storm its sheltered and produces lots of fish. A bonus in summer is that the water is always coloured whilst elsewhere its gin clear and the fish love that. My day was punctuated by silver eels, now protected I landed several that wrecked by light mono rig, but included a couple of big beasties. Great to see them making a comeback despite their slime they give you a good bite and raise in adrenalin for a few minutes until you realise they are not a bass. I also landed lots of pouting and these too have made a comeback this year in the English Channel, I also had whiting, a double shot of schoolies and a small smoothhound. All on lugworm fished at 100 metres over high tide. The venue and the surrounding beaches have also been producing rays at night.

I was using the new Force 8 fixed spool reels with my Force 8 Continental beach casters – A great summer combination fishing light, although the new rods cast three hooks and a five ounce lead with ease. There is something about fishing with 8/12lb line on the beach – I’m using tapered carp leaders (40lb) and the whole set up promotes more refined bait presentation and yes I am seeing more bites and catching more fish, be some of them smaller. But getting a bite and catching something on some days is an achievement. I’m yet to test the set up on a big smoothhound and I guess a double figure hound will test the gear and my ability to flick the drag into action. Don’t I just hate yellow breakaway leads (150grams), I’m always going on about it, well Breakaway are now producing impact leads in Luminous – Great!!!

Mark Scott with a Wigtown bay smoothhound.

Mark Scott with a Wigtown bay smoothhound.

My only match this month was the Dover Sea Angling Association midweek species competition fished from the Prince of Wales pier at Dover in less than ideal conditions with an East wind gusting Force seven straight into the harbour and the competitors faces. The event was two rods with two hooks on each with one cast out and one down the wall and fished measure and return. Winner, pegged near the old Sea Cat gate was my son, Richard Yates of St Margaret’s with nine species. This included dogfish, pouting, whiting, and pollack, flounder, eel, weaver, blenny and wrasse all caught on a mixture of lugworm and ragworm. Richard claimed the top prize for the most species plus four biggest fish prizes. He fished Continental style with light gear and small hooks which is the way to go for species. My only claim to fame in the event was the biggest pouting which was a 40cm specimen. Other winners included Tim Fagg (dogfish and dab) Martyn Reid (smoothhound) John Wells (flounder) Alan Underdown (pollack).

Sorry about the pic of my biggest pollack from Samphire Hoe – No one has yet invented a selfie stick that can take a picture of you holding a fish – Ideas please to TF Gear!!!!
Talking about smoothhounds – some large creatures have been showing up all around the UK with venues in the Solent, off Lincolnshire and Humberside and even the Kirkcudbrigtshire coast in South West Scotland producing some large specimens.

John Lewis with a decent  South Wales smoothound

John Lewis with another decent smoothound- from the south Wales coast.

Peeler crab is THE essential bait, don’t let anyone tell you different. Fresh crab switches the hounds into feeding mode, boat or shore. Other prominent species at present include the rays with plenty around plus some big stingers with the species like the rest enjoying a big comeback.

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary MAY 2015

This month the mackerel feathers, floats, mini lures, etc are returned to the fishing tackle box – Its summer, well the calendar says its summer, although that cold easterly wind reminds us to keep that spare jumper handy!

Lures make a return to the fishing tackle box

Lures make a return to the fishing tackle box.

This time of year sees lots of species movement around our coasts and it’s a time to keep alert to what’s going on because the fish can appear and be gone in a week as they migrate north. Here in the South East the fish move through in a rush and it’s so often the anglers who are out and about regularly that make the best catches. Take the mackerel and garfish, they are now rare during mid summer. In the region with May the time they move through, you can make some great early catches of mackerel this month, but look the other way and they are gone all in a rush. One of the reasons why catching those early mackerel can be a good idea is that many consider they are the best for freezing down because they have not got the oil content of the late summer fish which have stuffed themselves with oily whitebait and other tiddlers and are said not to freeze down so well because the flesh is soft when they thaw out. How true this is I am not sure, but I have noticed a difference in the quality of the flesh of different batches of frozen mackerel. Same from the shop – have you noticed how some frozen mackerel, sandeel, even squid catches and others don’t and could this be the reason? It’s also worth mentioning on this subject that garfish flesh is far less soft when frozen than mackerel and many anglers consider it a better bait when frozen than mackerel.

Good news for fixed spool users this month is the arrival of the new TF Gear Force 8 fixed spool reel – Having been forced to swap from multiplier to fixed spool I nagged TF for a better fixed spool model. The cheaper models are great, but it’s like most things when you improve your skill, you want better equipment and that costs more. Well the new Force 8 fixed spool has arrived and I am well pleased with the result. It’s got all the features of the expensive models, but only sells for £129.99, currently on offer at a £79.99 introduction price.

The new TF Gear Force 8 white edition reel

The new TF Gear Force 8 white edition sea fishing reel

It includes a long tapered casting spool, 4 to 1 retrieve ratio, pucker front drag with quick wind off setting, a full set of bearings (7) a comfy handle and a cotton reel like line lay system all in a compact and balanced design that sits neatly under the butt and rejects the fixed spool past reputation as gawky. On the beach it casts great with 12 -15lb mono, not tried mine with braid yet – My only complaint and that may be rectified very soon, it doesn’t come with a spare spool. The big thing about fixed spool reels is that a couple of spare spools give you spare reels because the spools can be swapped in seconds and they can be loaded with different size and type of line – far more versatile than the multiplier.

Dogfish love or loathe - either way they are easy to catch!

Dogfish love or loathe – either way they are easy to catch!

I have been out on the club match scene locally recently and it’s noticeable that dogfish numbers have increased – SLIGHTLY!!!! The problem is that whilst it’s great to get a bite when you are fishing, after a couple of dogfish they get boring and on many venues it’s the guy on the dogfish hot spot, end of the pier etc, that wins the event. My local club, Folkestone SAA have tried to solve the problem with a three dogfish limit – You can cull up with fish so that you bring your three heaviest to the scales at the match end, but you are only allowed three. Not a bad idea, conservation, but killing a few to try to control numbers, although after a few events the general feeling is that a limit of five would be better. Other clubs in my region catch and release all dogfish so the count for 500 grams which also works well although at the end of the day being good at catching dogfish is what match fishing is all about in many regions! My advice in that respect is learn to cast long and fish with quality frozen sandeel, although in some regions a single black lugworm or a lugworm tipped squid bait works well. But beware when using tipped baits for dogfish, often the fish go for the main bait (worm) up the hook shank and line and can miss the hook point.

A typical summer shore Smoothhound

A typical summer shore Smoothhound

Species to look for this month include the smoothhound with the potential for some big specimens through the English Channel and up into the North Sea around Lincs and the Irish Sea and Bristol Channel. The species is growing in numbers and size and although the well known venues where the bigger breeding fish are found in a few small areas, the main run of fish is getting bigger on many of the other venues so keep an eye on your rod because even a three pound fish can pull your rod over! As for the best bait – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, the best bait for hounds everywhere is crab and that goes for the boat or shore – A whole common shore peeler, a hermit, a lump of edible, velvet or spider cannot be beaten.

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

 

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary April 2015

It’s April and the codling are still around and recently I have been out at Seabrook and Sandgate in Kent catching codling and plaice from the same venue – A reminder of the past when this was commonplace.

Alan Yates 3lb Codling

Alan Yates with a late 3lb Codling

The return of the plaice in the English Channel and Irish Sea is undoubtedly due to reduced commercial quota limits which have restricted the trawlers and this has not only given the plaice a chance to spawn and increase, but other species as well have not been scraped and churned from the sea bed and thrown back dead. This must have had an impact on the codling and maybe even the rays as well which are also enjoying a comeback. Long may it go on, but the commercials are screaming for quota increases and when this happens it may well see the plaice vanish again. They are a very slow growing species not being able to spawn until three or four years old and that’s the main problem with their survival.

Alan Yates with a trio of Plaice

Alan with a lovely trio of Plaice

With summer coming lots of excitement for sea anglers with the arrival of the mackerel, smoothhounds and the bass which will all get anglers out for different reasons? Last year the mackerel season through the English Channel was poor and from other reports it was as bad elsewhere – Overfishing and the ability of the commercials to scoop up huge shoals of fish in one go has decimated stocks and a bad sign last year was that those that did show were tiny or huge – a sign of a species decline because it’s the middle size fish that do the spawning etc. The major mackerel venues will still produce fish and the main shoals move up into the North Sea from May onwards and in recent years this has meant they have bypassed the South as they move further North and this may have contributed to the shortage. The summer season being poor, but the fish return late in to autumn. The good news is that mackerel lures have become so deadly that the latest are really effective so don’t just stick to feathers and tinsel – look at the latest mini fishing lures, the Sabikis and Shrimpers which also catch herrings and launce as a bonus.

The smoothhounds too are subject to a longer summer migration route nowadays and it’s noticeable how they are moving further north each year, whilst the Solent was the hot spot for years the species now invade Lincolnshire and even further North and some of the southern venues are not as productive as they were. That is a key to catching big smoothhounds – fish where they are and not where they used to be!

Bass – well lots of anglers will be out with spinning gear and fishing the latest plastics for bass is all the rage and no wonder – It’s a clean and instant way to fish. No messing with smelly worms or bait, you can grab a rod and go fishing in an instant and wander where you like. No standing in the rain waiting for a bite for hours. OK lure fishing is not always successful and there are lots of skills and local knowledge attached to success but its fun fishing and getting a bass to take you lure is addictive. If you haven’t already try braid line on your spinning outfit, its lack of stretch increases the “feel” of the set up, anything touches the lure you will know about it and that goes for sea bed snags etc as well. Most anglers use a short mono leader to help cushion the abruptness of the braid with around 4 metres plenty. As for lures – there are so many new plastics available we are spoilt for choice although the sandeel shape does seem to rule with the lead head with a paddle tail design best for casting and lifelike action. Look out for the Black minnow and the Savage gear sandeels.

The latest from the European Union is a bass limit imposed on sea anglers of three fish a day – The Angling Trust are urging anglers to make this an election issue and to contact their local candidates for support for a balanced set of measures that include the commercial sector as well as anglers. These to include monthly vessel limits, a higher minimum legal size and seasonal closures. Personally, I have rarely landed three sizeable fish in a day and so am in total favour of the limit, although if I know the EU they will not restrict the commercial sector at all!

Before I go here is a picture of the biggest ling ever caught from the shore. It came from Bodo in Norway and was landed by Phil Hambrook of Ash in Kent. He has specialised in deep water fishing in Norway after losing a giant ling several years ago and his latest fish is a massive 59lb 8oz that took a mackerel head. It’s a potential World record for the species. Phil and his four pals have included halibut to over 50lb, cod to 25lb and haddock to over 11lb all from the shore.

Phil Hambrook 59lb 8oz new record ling Norway

Phil Hambrook 59lb 8oz new record ling, Norway

Tight lines, Alan Yates

Fishing for Plaice – Bling it up!

Gordon Thornes plaice- Greenfield match
The first few weeks of spring usually brings a calm sea, clearing waters, sunshine and plaice – It’s time to break out the bling, decorate those hook snoods with beads, sequins and the like and go in search of plaice.

There is something about catching plaice that stirs the imagination, the rod tip nods and

on the strike and retrieve resistance builds, the tackle seems to hang deep and then the lead surfaces ahead of a big flattie using every ounce of its width and strength to stay on the sea bed. They say plaice don’t fight, but catch one on light sea fishing equipment from the pier, beach or boat and they will prove that opinion wrong!

Giant dustbin lid plaice are a catch of the past and the species has been a real victim of over commercial fishing. As a popular plate fish its numbers have been thoughtlessly plundered, whilst the average size has fallen to under 1lb nationally. But, the good news is that during the last few years, especially through the English Channel and to the west, a quota limit seems to have allowed plaice numbers to increase slightly and the fish have returned in numbers.

I would say where to fish for plaice is more important to the shore angler than how – Just a few regions consistently produce the species in numbers. The best plaice fishing venues are mostly through the English Channel and up the Irish Sea with a few specimens taken from the shore line through north of Cumbria. The species is also not so prolific in the North Sea although several piers and harbours in the North East do produce regular pockets.

The best plaice fishing venues

Beaches around the Channel Island
South Hams beach
Slapton and Beesands in Devon
Chesil beach in Dorset with Cogden and Abbotsbury consistent
Poole harbour produces the odd specimen, especially the dinghies

Eastney, Southsea and Lee on Solent in the Solent in Hampshire are the southern plaice hot spots and although the species thins out toward Sussex and Kent the odd specimen is always possible from venues at Pevensey Bay, Dover Breakwater and the Prince of Wales pier at Dover.

On the Irish Sea side of the UK plaice are few in the Bristol Channel, but the North Wales estuaries like the Dee at Mostyn and Greenfields and the Mersey at Birkenhead and further

to the North west venues around Fleetwood and Morecambe Bay in Lancs produce good catches, whilst north west plaice marks include the beaches between Workington and Maryport at Blackbank, Redbank and Grasslot, The Whitehaven piers and further north the western Scottish Lochs.

You will find plaice on a variety of sea beds from plain sand and mud to sand and shell grit banks to patches of sand between rocks, weed and pea mussel beds. The best terminal rig for catching them is dependent on the venue with the Wishbone rig an often quoted favourite. Its two hooked design includes bait clips to streamline bait and rig making it suitable for distance casting. This fits the requirements of most plaice venues where the fish are often found at range, but not always. Where long range is not required a one up, one down flapper rig with longish snoods is the alternative.

Wishbone rig

Plaice have a fairly large mouth, which when extended can engulf a large bait with a size 2 and size 1 long shank Aberdeen the perfect hook size and pattern. These smaller sizes

being easier to remove than the larger sizes should you want to return the fish.
A range of baits will tempt plaice with the marine worms favourite, although location does influence bait choice and although lugworm are considered best by many, in some estuaries where ragworm are more prolific they produce more fish. Other baits that catch plaice regularly include peeler crab, harbour ragworm (maddies) snake white ragworm and a strip of squid which works well from most boat locations.

Plaice are attracted by movement and colour and are renowned for responding to bling, any bling! But don’t forget the basics first – deadly are wriggly ragworm tails and the potent scent of worms and crab juice, make sure that a few worm tails are hanging (Dip the bait in the sea before casting and they will stay intact)

It is the standard when fishing for plaice to add beads, sequins, vanes, spoons, in fact anything that glitters, reflects flutters or moves etc to the hook snood and this without doubt does increase the chance of a plaice taking the bait. More or less anything goes.

Bling for Plaice

Also when shore fishing for plaice it is possible to attract fish to the baits with movement and the attractors by simply lifting the rod tip occasionally, or releasing some line in the tide causes the baits and lures to flutter.

PLAICE FACT BOX

Latin Name: Pleuronectes platessa
Nickname: spottie or red spot.
Minimum legal size: 28cm
Specimen size: Average 2lb depending upon region.
British shore record: 8lb 6z 14drams caught at Southbourne beach, Bournemouth.

ID: Nobbly head. pronounced red, orange spots on top side, chevron white or clear on undersized smooth skin, rounded tail.

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

 

 

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Feb 2015

Hythe-ranges-cod-Chris-Snow-2lb-codling

The early spring sunshine brings lots of false dawns at this time of year with spring seemingly about to arrive daily, especially around the south of the Country. But extremely low temperatures, snow melt water and icy winds lay in wait to dampen enthusiasm for many shore anglers and the only true pointer to springs arrival are the extending daylight hours.

Lots of anglers may believe that temperature plays the biggest part in the arrival of spring and the start of the improvements in fishing it brings, but it’s the daylight hours that count the most. Look on the land to see why – sunshine hours are steady, regularly improving each day, tangible proof to life that spring is coming. The light does raise ground temperature, but it’s the extending length of each day that sets nature on its spring journey! On the shore the sunny side of the groyne sees the sand and mud warm in readiness for the crabs to moult, whilst shallow water calms and clears allowing the water temperature to increase.

It’s a great time of year with the change in the fishing tangible – The pin whiting so long a winter pest, start to thin out with small pouting amongst the arrivals. They are good news for the match anglers and bass food so don’t knock them! In recent years it’s a time for the rays to show along with returning dogfish and whilst the rays may be spasmodic in terms of which species and location they, especially the thornback, have become a major spring species in many southern regions.

This year with the codling fairly prolific throughout the winter, they too will show in spring and this year should be the first proper spring codling run for several years. Too small to spawn they did not leave to the deeper water at the end of the winter and will linger and fatten around many coasts to take advantage of the peeling crabs before then heading to deep water and an all fish diet.

Other spring species include the plaice and they too have enjoyed an upsurge in local populations in some regions – said to be because of a plaice quota reduction on the commercials. Whatever, it’s nice to see these very slow growing flatties making a comeback, although in the early weeks of spring fresh from spawning they really are lean and not worth eating so return if you can.

Chris Clark of Lymington with a big undulate ray – was it late winter or early spring?

Chris Clark of Lymington with a big undulate ray – was it late winter or early spring?

 

Time to get the sea fishing rods out if you haven’t already – I’m particularly looking forward to the extended evenings, which make a late afternoon beach or pier session once again worthwhile. Night fishing is great in the winter, but daylight fishing is so much more enjoyable!

The debate about bass preservation rumbles on with EU proposals to raise the bass minimum size limit much talked about and generally supported by anglers. Whatever the limit set it will never be high enough and the commercial lobby will oppose it and angling has a fight on its hand if the commercials think they can have a legal limit lower than anglers! Catch limits are also essential and I as I have said before would also like to see a bass upper size limit. The Angling Trust is doing its best to fight the sea angler’s corner and all power to them – you can help by joining them as a member, a small price to pay for a voice!

On the tackle front the year brings, amongst a few new developments in the TF Range, a new fixed spool reel. I had to switch to fixed spool reels because of a ruined shoulder caused by years of dogfish and weed hauling and must say lightening down in general has helped make much of my shore fishing prove far more fun when the going gets tough. I have tried braid line, 10lb mono, 4oz leads, lighter rigs, tapered leaders and all in all I must say it’s been an experience. But one major factor was that I got fussier about reel performance and found some of the cheaper fixed spool models less effective than I required. And so we are introducing a new lighter model with a more sophisticated line lay for increased performance both in terms of casting and feel – I hope you enjoy it.

TF Gear Sea Fishing Reel

New TF Gear Sea Fishing Reel

Finally, have you noticed that suddenly mono line quality has improved dramatically with the arrival of more lines containing co polymers? A tougher outer shell, higher knock resistance and overall improved strength are now something you can take for granted and I urge anglers who think they are using the best line to look again, because some of the new kids on the block are awesome and they are in the Fishtec catalogue!

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Late December 2014

Mick-Tapsell ray 4.220kg Ad pier Dover

The lengthy spell of mild weather continues into the New Year and lots of shore anglers are going to be shocked when the weather finally breaks and the heavy frosts and snow arrives. Then most of the quality fish move away to deep water. In recent years the autumn season seems to have extended, but when winter comes it does so with a vengeance and we are just about to experience that happening. Currently it’s remarkable that from many parts of the country the rays are still around. I fished a Christmas match at Dover recently and the Admiralty pier which has been closed for months was reopened especially for competitors in the Dover Sea Angling Christmas match – A great gesture by Dover Harbour Board and it suggests the pier will reopen to the public soon. However, that match produced a cracking thornback ray of 4.222kg for local angler, Mick Tapsell, it was amongst three which is rare for the pier, let alone in December. Then my old mate Chris Clark lands a giant undulate in Dorset whilst fishing for a Sea Angler magazine feature, whilst around the rest of the country the rays are still turning up. The question is, are they changing to an all round year fish rather than just a summer species? Of course the answer is that they have always been around all year, but numbers were so small we never noticed. Now the rays, like the dogfish, have expanded their population and are inshore in late winter and early spring with populations overlapping – they are indeed an all year around sea species. Look out for the Hants and Dorset small eyed rays turning up in March with the Kent thornbacks kicking off in February, that is if they don’t show all winter.

Currently the codling are inshore in good numbers and they should stay until spring because they cannot spawn yet. If they could they would be off into deep water in most regions around February to spawn. This first two months of the New Year are annually a time for tiddlers, because all the larger specimens depart our shores to spawn. This year the codling will stay and that will make shore fishing on lots of venues worthwhile in the New Year and right up to spring. That will make a great change from dabs and the dreaded rockling, which for some anglers are the only February species around. The question about the cod that remains is, will enough survive to return next winter when they will be five and six pounds? The last time we had such a flush of codling it was in the glory years of the sixties and the 2lb fish of 1963 fuelled the cod bonanza that the older generation remembers. Could this happen again? Well if the commercials allow it. With Brussels having just upped the cod quota for the North sea I fear for the worst – It would be a tragedy if come next October no cod turned up, but with the French trawlers combing the upper English Channel and the cheating commercial fishermen who get around the small mesh size by filling their trawls with string what chance have the fish got?

Neville Broad 5lb Cod Dungeness

Neville Broad of Sheerness with a 5lb cod from Dungeness, that’s the size the current crop of codling should return at next winter.

And then there is the question of bass – has no one noticed how few really big bass have been caught this year? Those large spawning fish have almost been completely rounded up and although we have plenty of schoolies around at present – I dread that may end soon. A lot of Angling Trust and Government hot air about bass stocks currently, but nothing is actually being done to protect stocks.

Tactics for the coming weeks include a supply of stickie lugworms, despite the codling around and they like freshout lugworms best, I just love catching and eating dabs which are at their plumpest at this time of year. Slightly off worms are a bait the dabs are always on the lookout for, because the worms are continuously buried dead and unearthed decaying by the storms and the lesser waves. Dabs can have tunnel vision for stickie worms on some winter days.

Before I go some positive news and that is that I fished my new Force Eight Continental beach casters in the rocks recently – Pulley Pennells and all and I landed three codling and a bass using 30lb all through. Not big fish, but what a pleasure to be able to fish light and you can read all about it in a future issue of sea angler magazine.

Tight lines and a Happy New Year,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary December 2014

mix of baits Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary December 2014

That disgruntled look on the tackle dealer’s face when you ask him if he has any bait tells a story – Those first heavy frosts, the torrential rain and the failing daylight all conspire to make lugworm more valuable than gold at this time of year, well the way prices are rocketing they soon will be. (£5 for ten blacks) What makes things worse is that anglers in generally are just not appreciative enough of how difficult it is to dig or pumps worms and I always suggest those that whinge and moan should try digging their own worms before they complain. Especially when it comes to the size of the worm – the diggers just cannot get giant worms all the time.

The simple fact is that the diggers and pumpers cannot get enough worms to make their efforts worthwhile, especially during the neap tides. That’s why the late summer and autumn army of part time, beer money diggers and pumpers vanish in December – they just cannot collect enough bait per tide. So it’s left to a hardy bunch of pros that dig in any weather to supply an increasing demands. This season is going to be exceptionally difficult because there is a glut of small codling that’s fuelling a bigger demand for lugworm.

So what is the solution? Well for the majority its, talk nicely to the tackle dealer time and hope he can help you out. Or more reliance of the stock of frozen worms and squid you have in the freezer. You don’t have any frozen bait? Well sorry but you should have seen the shortage coming and prepared. It’s a pain having the best tackle on the planet and no bait to fish with, but there IS always a way to raise something to put on your hook and a visit to the largest supermarket in your region that has a fish counter is called for. Desperate to fish, there are fresh farmed mussels which make a great bait tied on the hook with elastic cotton. The fresh frozen tropical prawns also catch, again tied on the hook with cotton. As for squid it’s usually available and if you can’t get Calamari try the larger English type squid or cuttlefish fresh or frozen. In some fishmongers and in some regions direct from the boats, etc you may find fresh herrings, sprats and even a mackerel so all is not lost.

If you can get lugworm, any kind of lugworm – then appreciate it. Although many don’t and be-moan the smaller common or blow lugworm. Indeed it seems everyone has become brain washed into thinking that only blacks or yellow tails catch cod and that the smaller, softer common lugworm is useless as bait – Well let me say that in the past small common lugworm have caught lots of cod and a hook full of small worms can out fish one giant worm because one it gets washed out all scent has gone. Six worms on a hook and the juices last longer. Any lugworm is better than no lugworm!

Razorfish Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary December 2014
As for frozen black lugworm, it’s soft and sloppy and goes in the hook like mash potatoes, but add some light bait elastic and you can make it compact and attractive – so much so that lots of anglers fish all winter with little else.

The last bait source I can recommend is the low tide beach on some regions after a storm – Enough shell fish like cockle, razor fish, clams, queenies etc can be washed up in a single tide to keep you in bait all winter. You do have to watch the wind and tide for the perfect storm and be prepared to travel at an instant, but when it occurs you will have enough bait for the freezer for the rest of the winter. I prefer to freeze shellfish as it comes, again tying it on the hook with elastic cotton, but some recommended blanching shellfish which allows it to stay tougher when frozen.

My final piece of advice if its cod you are after which requires very little bait is to adopt a tactic that is becoming increasingly popular for cod around the UK and that’s live baiting. In lots of regions, especially in the South and East, there are so many small whiting present that any bait is devoured in minutes. So anglers have solved the problem of the pest whiting by fishing a double hook rig or a Pennell rig with a small worm or fish hook baited for the whiting so that when it gets hooked it stays on the rig until a bigger predator comes along and that gets hooked by the bigger hook. There are still bass around and with the bigger cod moving inshore this month it’s the method to use!

drew-Cass--11-lb-12½-oz-WG

Whitby sea angler, Andrew Cass landed this beauty of 11 lb 12½ oz on a big cocktaill bait during a four hour night club match.

You can of course fish with bait if you have plenty, but make sure it’s a giant mouthful the whiting cannot devour with a cocktail of worm, crab, shellfish and squid in various large combinations!

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary November 2014

The-first-big-cod-of-the-winter-for-the-boats-in-the-south-east-was-from-the-Varne-Boat-Clubs-cod-open.

Varne boat club angler with the first big cod of the season for the Kent dinghy group.

With codling showing all around the UK at present it looks as if we are in for a reasonable winter, although the question is will the fish survive the nets for next year when they will be considerably bigger, in fact big enough to greatly improve the quality of the UK shore fishing? That is yet to be seen, although even the most cynical will expect a few to survive to make the 6lb mark and they can really pull the string.

Back to the present and my return from a week in Portugal was greeted with the first frost of the winter, I drove back from Gatwick airport amongst the gritters and the reality of winter has arrived. For me it’s time to loose the summer garments and break out the winter sea fishing tackle including hoodies, thermals and swap the brolly for the full Hurricane shelter. Time also for those 8oz leads to go back in the tackle box for a spot of low punchy casting into the teeth of the gale – they do tow the bait well and make a great difference on the stormy beaches.

I have also given the bait pump an overhaul with new washers which always give it some extra suction and a soak in fairy Liquid makes them even better. I am a bit concerned I will not be able to hack it with my bad shoulder, but the simple fact is lugworms will be difficult to come by in the tackle shop and pumping your on is the only option. I have laid down a supply of frozen blacks in the freezer and they do work well, especially after Christmas when the dabs arrive and the constant storms means the fish are accustomed to finding dead smelly marine life unearthed by the slightest swell. In the meantime nothing beats a fresh out, juicy, black or yellowtail for those codling other than perhaps a peeler crab, although supplies of peelers too start to dwindle this month. Also watch out for those shellfish being washed up after an onshore wind – Cockles, butterfish, razor fish and the larger clams all make a hook bait, but do work best when they are being washed up. Here in Kent Dungeness can be littered with shells after a good blow and being just inside the Point at the right time you can fill a bucket. I particularly like those large red queen cockles which are great for codling, bass and dabs as well.

Another bait which comes into its own around Christmas is fresh sprat and herring, the whiting love it in strips or chunks, whilst here it’s renowned for the biggest dabs which are nicknamed “sprat dabs” because of their liking for sprat.

Reports suggest most regions of the country are reporting codling and it’s noticeable that

the bigger fish are in the estuary regions where there are lots of shrimps. The rough ground codling also seem to grow faster, whilst from the clean sandy beaches the millions of hungry whiting mean the codling are lean. Those whiting are a pest particularly after Christmas when the pin size fish invade the shoreline, but don’t dismiss fishing a live bait rig at this time because the bigger fish and a late bass are fond of those small whiting.

Looking into the New Year it’s a time when only the match anglers have fun in many regions. Once those bigger specimens of all species have left to spawn its tiddlers only, especially from the clean beaches. My advice is to head for the deeper water of the piers, rocks or the boats for the bigger fish.

Here are a few New Year shore competitions to look out for:

1st of January Holt SAC New Year Open at Kelling. Details from Mike 07858758669 / Peter 07769908480 /  holtseaanglers@gmail.com

3rd of January the Pembroke & District Angling Club. Air Ambulance Open at Amroth.

Fishing is 10:30pm until 2.30pm. £200 first prize for the heaviest bag flounders only. Reg Amroth Arms. Details: John 01437 563552

4th of January the Wyvern Open shore at Slapton Sands, South Devon.  Fishing is 1pm until 6pm. Tickets and details from Mike Spiller 01404 43397.

10th and 11th of January the Asso Two Day Open is being fished at Seabrook and Hythe in Kent. Fishing 12pm until 5pm. Pre book only. Limited to 120 Entries. Details: 07866 714497

11th January East Anglian League and open at Sizewell. Fishing 10 am until 3pm. Contact: Rob Tuck 07855 848967

25th of January the Amble Open. Fishing 9.30am until 2.30pm. Register on the day at the Radcliffe Club, Amble from 7am. Tickets local tackle shops. Entry fee £12 all classes. Contact Jimmy French on 01665 711007 or Tony Cook on 01665 602034.

25th January the Fords Sports and Social S.A.C 40th Open Beach Fishing Festival.

At Weston Shore, Southampton. Rolling Mill to Beach Lane Netley. Fishing 11am until 4pm. Entry Fee is £11, juniors £4. no pegging beach prior to signing in. Steve Eales 02380650519.

Finally, I am just back from a few days fishing in the Algarve, Portugal, my first holiday of 2014 and it was great to fish in the sunshine with the new Continental TF Gear beachcasters. Real light line fishing for some speedy gilthead bream. I was surprised by the

result and the trip lead to a feature in the New Year edition of Sea Angler magazine so look out for it.

The-group-of-Portuguese-plus-mate-Clive-Richards-I-fished-with-on-the-Algarve.

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary October/November 2014

Alan-dabs-at-Seabrook


Alan Yates with a bag of dabs and a goer bass which won him a match from Seabrook’s Princes Parade with 8lb 4oz.

Midway through October and still the weather is mild and relatively settled. Yes we are enjoying an Indian summer and for the shore anglers it’s been a long spell of mixed fishing with the crossover of summer and winter species somewhat prolonged this autumn. Could be that this is now becoming the norm with the mixed fishing lasting later into the winter every year due to global warming. Whatever, it’s welcome for sure. Only this week I landed a mixed catch of dabs, bass, whiting, codling, smoothhound and dogfish from my local pier and beaches. Fishing the Prince of Wales pier inside Dover harbour the anglers next door landed two smoothhounds, mine was just a goer, but the specimens landed by Kyros Andrea from Tottenham both topped the 6lb mark, both took a large squid bait. Kyros is a retired trucker who regularly travels to Dover to fish and these were his best ever smoothhounds.

Kyros-Andrea-Totenham-6lb-hound-Prine-of-Wales-Dover
A surprise bass amongst the dabs at Seabrook whilst using braid line on the new Continental beach caster caused me some excitement and those codling seem to be showing all around the UK, even in the sunshine and so it’s going to be a shock for many anglers when the weather does eventually change to winter. Looking at the continuous south westerly storms that are buffeting us, that all too familiar winter weather blocking pattern will soon introduce more easterly and northerly winds and lower temperatures. Anglers in the North Sea will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of onshore winds and more cod and here in the south when its calm nothing beats a calm sea and a frosty beach to spice up the night time whiting fishing..

However, now is a time to get serious with your beach fishing and going out prepared for the weather is an important factor. The waterproof thermal suit, a beach shelter or brolly, chest waders, warms socks, a hat and a flask are all essential to survival when the weather gets mean. Also important are the means to continue fishing when the wind blows and the sea swells. I pack a few heavier grip leads in the tackle box, those 7oz Breakaway green tops in fixed wire take some beating, although if it gets extreme then it’s a Gemini yellow head 7oz and nothing sticks like they do. Lots of anglers forget that the importance of a heavy lead apart from it anchoring to the sea bed is that it punches through the wind and tows baits far more efficiently than lighter leads. Which go off course in the wind. Bait clips also help you gain extra yards by tucking the bait snugly behind the lead for a more streamlined rig and bait. Now is the time to get your sea fishing tackle right. Make up a few rigs for extreme weather – the Pulley Pennell is a great choice for wind and sea both on rough and smooth ground and it’s the easiest clipped rig to make yourself. Lots of anglers also boost up their rig hook snood line to 25lb to combat conditions and that chance of a bigger cod.

One of the biggest winter mistakes made by many sea anglers, especially beginners is using too big a bait. OK big bait, big fish – that’s true, but a large bait is of no use if you cannot cast it far enough to reach the cod. So compromise between bait size, bait clips and lead size to maximise distance with your biggest bait and don’t fall into the giant bait fished in the gutter trap!!!!

The other common mistake of the novice is to recast a washed out bait. Replace your hook bait fresh every cast, fresh worms etc means a fresh scent so the bait scent trail the previous cast set up is continued. Casting timing is also important, keep an eye on how long your bait lasts against crab and small fish attacks and set you timing between casts around that.

The major problem once the cold weather arrives is obtaining bait. Lugworm prices go up every year as the worms become hard to come by. The problem is that the army of part time summer diggers cannot dig or pump enough worms to make it worth their while and generally it’s only the real professionals that dig all winter. Thus fewer worms and a bigger demand make bait scarce and easy for diggers and dealers to hike the price. One solution is to collect your own, although many will quickly find out that’s easier said than done. Winter lugworm digging in stair rod rain, frost and decreasing daylight is not easy. (Try it and you may not complain about the price or how small the worms are again!)
There are a few solutions and one is to freeze your lugworms. Black lugworms freeze best and when using them, tying them on with bait cotton makes keeps them more intact and on the hook because they do go soft. Frozen baits can be used to extend a limited supply of fresh although lots of anglers swear by frozen on their own. One tip – Treat frozen bait like you would your food, would you eat sausages that have been in the freezer for four years!

Sort your frozen bait in terms of how long it’s been frozen. Frozen lugworm from the spring tides can be used a week or month later when the tides are neap. That’s the way to manage frozen bait and not keep it for years!

Frozen squid is easy enough to buy earlier in the year in bulk, it’s cheaper. Break down into smaller amounts and store in the freezer and on some venues it’s all the bait you need, although for the current crop of codling fresh yellowtails or blacks take some beating.
You can obtain a supply by looking after your dealer – How many anglers buy their gear on the internet and then only visit the dealer when they are desperate for worms, small wonder he has none he will be looking after his regulars. So keep it in your mind to keep in with the local fishing tackle shop and with luck you will get a supply.

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary – End of September 2014

Alan Yates with a bass and sole.

Here at home it’s nice to be getting back in the swing of fishing after my bout of Rheumatoid Arthritis that laid me low for several; months. I can’t say I am totally mobile yet, but having walked two miles to a rock venue whilst making the new TF Gear/Sea Angler DVD I think I am over the worst.

I have been out on the local beaches at Folkestone swinging the Continental beach caster around. It’s the best rod I have ever used and I am not saying that because it was my idea. I’m saying that because it has come along at a time when fishing lighter is more successful and fun from the shore and the boat. In terms of Continental rods the TF Gear Force 8 Continental rods will surprise a lot of anglers who have not given it a second thought. Indeed I was fishing the Thames at the weekend and a couple of nearby anglers actually approached besotted with the rod and its action. I am fishing the rods with 15/20lb braid line on fixed spool reels and the combination has brought me more bites in recent weeks and its certainly kept me busy – never had so many bites and I am seeing everything. Two things I have discovered when using braid. DONT be too keen to strike because if a fish breathes on the bait the tip moves and you can strike prematurely if you hang on every tip movement. The other thing is that just like in coarse fishing, the abruptness of braid can snap off light lines snoods, so not only DONT strike but don’t go too light. The strike is just a lift of the rod tip.

The next reality of sea anglers is the arrival of real winter – This autumn has been glorious so far with high air and water temperatures keeping the summer species around and allowing T shirt fishing. Things will change suddenly and you will need those thermals and a shelter very soon. It’s a great time of year on the beach with the holiday makers long gone with their yapping dogs and screaming kids. Just the howl of the wind and the hum of the creeping surf remain, bring on those frosty nights when the whiting are climbing the rod tip with all the bait needed a strip of frozen mackerel or squid.

Of course its cod that most sea anglers think about most of the time and a few lunkers will be landed around the UK. You could get lucky because it is a bit of a lottery to catch a giant. One thing some of the really big fish are loners inshore to die or simply lost, many are diseased specimens which have sores or internal problems with a giant head and a skinny body. All they same a giant cod, is a giant cod and we will all be jealous of the angler who catches it, but that does bring me to the important part. be careful what you eat, examine you cod and any other fish for that matter, carefully before you fry it up! Of course there will be some beautiful conditions monsters caught, especially from the boats – Beet gut, dustbin sized mouth and in pristine condition!!

One of the problems anglers face as the winter weather arrives is a shortage of worm baits. The annual hike in the price of lugworm is undoubtedly due to the professional bait digger’s greed, BUT if you want the worms you will have to pay up or dig/pump your own and that is not an easy proposition when the wind is force six and the horizontal stair rods of rain are blitzing your eyes. Frozen fingers, a runny nose and frost bitten toes could be the consequences of digging your own!

Some winter tips regarding bait – Buy your squid in seven pound boxes from the supermarket, slightly thaw it so you can split them up and then refreeze in threes or fours, that will save you a fortune because it’s what the tackle dealers do?

Black lugworm over from a trip, or when they are plentiful, are well worth freezing, wrap then in plastic and then paper and use bait cotton to secure them when you fish, they are especially effective for winter dabs and whiting. Some anglers even load their hooks with worms and then freeze. Take the baited hooks to the beach in a food flask.

Keep your fresh bait out of the wind, rain and snow – Sea or freshwater can ruin lugworms and ragworm in minutes, whilst frozen worms can end up as a useless mush to keep them in a cool bag inside your shelter.

I had a debate recently over the worth of re-sharpening hooks and it’s my opinion that it’s best to tie on a new one. Carp anglers are into the sharpening process big time, but I say that sharpening does more damage than good unless you really know what you are doing and with the right tools because it reduces the angle of the hook point and you cannot put back the steel you take off – so tie on a new one!

Finally, I have said it before but will say it again. Take extra care of yourself in the weeks to come, warm clothing a shelter, a flask, a warm lamp and plenty of sleep before you venture out all night or in a blizzard. All add to the comfort of winter angling, especially after dark and a comfortable angler is more alert and will be more successful than a shivering wreck – those early hours before dawn can be extremely cold when the body is tired.

Tight Lines

Alan Yates