Alan Yates Sea fishing Diary October 2015


The cod season has arrived and an increasing number of anglers are out after them, with catches from all around the UK being much improved on recent years. In some regions it’s possible to catch four fish over 3lb in a session and a few are making 6lb. Reports from various regions include the river Tyne being packed with small codling so the future seasons are also bright there. Inside the Humber estuary codling are showing at Immingham. In the East Anglia codling of 3lb plus are a regular feature of competitions and that shows they are around because the matches are not always organised for the best fishing, more towards social hours and the pub times.

Ian Dancey of Waterlooville, Portsmouth with two cod from Ferry Bridge, Chesil beach

Ian Dancey of Waterlooville, Portsmouth with two cod from Ferry Bridge, Chesil beach

In Kent Dungeness has already produced four codling in one session. Reports of cod from Brighton and Shoreham beaches show the English Channel has prospects, whilst the hot spot on some days is Dorset’s, Chesil beach. The Bristol Channel looks good with Blue Anchor, Dunster beach and Brean/Brean Down the top high water venues. The Fylde coast cod season looks good with codling showing already with fish averaging 1lb to 2lb. Best reports are coming from the northern end of the coast from the west facing beaches like Cleveleys, Dronsfield Road and Beach Road, Fleetwood.

Chesil beach - a great spot for catching cod!

Chesil beach – a great spot for catching cod!

All you need to do is get the sea fishing tackle out and head for the beach or pier, although a good overhaul of you fishing gear might be worth it before you venture out! Especially check you main  lines because they will almost certainly require changing. Look at rod rings for wear and hair line cracks and reels for salt corrosion. Terminal rigs that have been returned from last year’s fishing should be binned and it’s not a bad idea to tie up a few new ones, especially because every season advances in tackle accessories are made and you may miss out on something special.

Check out the TF Gear web site: or for a comprehensive selection of sea fishing equipment.

Bait wise, little beats yellowtail or black lugworm and squid as a front line codling bait, although a few fresh peeler crabs can be deadly on many venues, especially the rough ground and estuaries.

Ben Arnold of Brighton with an 11lb cod from Dover Admiralty pier - it won him the three day pier festival and is the first of the bigger shore cod from Kent

Ben Arnold of Brighton with an 11lb cod from Dover Admiralty pier – it won him the three day pier festival and is the first of the bigger shore cod from Kent


The way you handle your catch has become a far more important issue nowadays with political correctness demanding more attention to fish welfare. Dumping the fish in a fish box as they are caught is still practiced, but some anglers want to kill the fish that they catch, others simply release everything alive.

Personally I eat a lot of the fish I catch and so I do kill what I want to take home, but release those that are unwanted, or I feel need returning. There are of course rules and regulations governing legal minimum size limits and not all fish are legally big enough to retain, but those that are big enough are not always candidates for catch and release simply because many a hook hold is fatal to a fish, especially the small species and those species that always swallow the hook. So it’s an open ended situation and I sometimes take home fish I would otherwise have released. There are of course also catch limits nowadays, the new bass three fish a day is the first of many I think we have to come. Some species are barred from capture, eels, tope, shad to name a few.

Removing hooks is a major problem for a majority of sea anglers and lots of sea fish are killed by anglers who want to return a fish, but simply lack the technique and skill to remove a hook without harming the fish. Some hooks cannot be removed without damage, but the majority can if you know what you are doing. Using a sea fishing disgorger helps although many cannot work the likes of the Gemini effectively. It does take practise; get another angler to show you how.

If you are totally intent on fishing catch and release then use small hooks – these do less damage and are easier to remove. Size 8s or event 10s are not as practically efficient as larger sizes, but far more fish friendly if you can call a hook that. Such freshwater hook sizes being an example for their ease of removal with a simple freshwater stick (Stomfo) disgorger. Another good idea for C&R is to use crushed or micro barbs on hooks which make them easier to remove, barbless is less popular, but again it’s more fish friendly for those fishing catch and release.

Another major issue with fish welfare is handling the fish, grabbing a pouting, whiting, mackerel, etc around the middle, fighting the hook free and then releasing the fish does a lot of damage to the fishes protective, scales and slime coating. I am not in agreement with the theory that ALL mackerel handled die because of this. As a regular coarse angler I handle lots of freshwater fish and because they are caught and released regularly it is well known that they survive handling, although a wet hand, cloth or unhooked in the net, plus gentle handling is more commonly practised in freshwater angling.

At sea a problem is that different species are more delicate, some swallow hooks and some are reasonably tough. Bass for instance rarely swallow the hook and have a tough bony mouth and scaled body making them more resistant to unhooking and handling. Mullet on the other hand shed scales easily and need to be handled with great care. Dogfish are very resilient to unhooking and handling, whilst codling and the rest of the cod family and the other soft fined species are very easily damaged by a hook or handling and a very low percentage of those hooked survive. Dropping fish from a high venue is also a problem although this can be solved by the use of a bucket to net or even hooking the fish on the grip lead wire.

Flatfish are also prone to damage when the hook is removed because of the trap door nature of their mouth, many swim away strongly look like they will survive, but die later. The reality is that with the best will in the world some fish will not survive and it is my personal policy, provided a damaged fish is sizable, that I retain it for the table.

If you have to kill a fish or want to prevent it gasping its life away in the fish box then a sharp blow to the head is still the best method. Most boat skipper use the aptly names “priest” whilst from the shore small fish can be dispatched with the fish measure or knife handle

At the end of the day, fish welfare is and always has been a matter of personal conscience and although anglers may differ greatly in opinion it is totally their own personal decision and no one else’s!!!

Tight lines, Alan Yates


Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary – July

A mixed month for me with several sea trips, a trout reservoir and a week in France carping. Midsummer and the weather can be tough for fishing in all disciplines and the sea angling tends to get hardest from the shore with the calm, clear water deterring all except mackerel and a few others from coming into the inshore shallows. The angler’s best bet is to take to the deeper rock marks, piers or the boat and for me it was the latter. Currently the smoothhound population is at its best ever with the hounds growing in size and numbers every year. This year Kent is amongst the many UK coasts experiencing a hound invasion. Catches from the beach have included fish to 20lb with 6 for 31kg in a recent event at Beltinge near Herne Bay. Which leads me on to another story..

Typical smoothhound caught off Broadstairs

Typical smoothhound caught off Broadstairs.

Shark sighting reports litter the Kent newspapers and the tabloid media this month, after all it is July. Look out for Graham Pullen catching a big one in Cornwall any day now. The amusing thing about these sensationalist reports are that Kent’s sea anglers may have had a hand in it! Recent competitions at Reculver and Beltinge near Herne Bay have produced lots of smoothhounds – these are a true shark which have had a population explosion around the UK in recent years. They are not commercially fished for because they taste rubbish and are labour intensive to skin and pack etc. Anglers return them and so the population has not only increased, but the fish have grown bigger and bigger. Recent catches of hounds, also called Gummy sharks and Gulley sharks because of their lack of teeth are coming from all around the UK with individual fish of 20lb plus (9kg) up to five feet long. During the latest competition at Herne Bay one of the competitors, a well known Kent angler, told a passerby who asked what he was fishing for? “Sharks” he replied. Now the fish are landed measured and returned alive and it’s my bet that the one spotted in the media reports was a returned smoothhound. Whatever, it must be stressed that these fish are harmless and swimming near them the worst that can happen is a nasty suck!!!

Back to my boat trip and that was out of Ramsgate after bass and hounds – You can read the full story in a coming issue of Sea Angler Magazine, but the conclusion of the day was we caught plenty of hounds. Someone asked me how big was mine – Now I don’t know because I very rarely bother weighing fish except in competitions. It was a double and I’m just glad to catch and return them and don’t really keep a tally or personal bests. Although having said that my best carp from the trip to France were both PBs, a 47lb 12oz common and a 45lb 8oz mirror.

Alan Yates 47lb 12oz French carp

Alan Yates 47lb 12oz French carp.

Back to the sea and its coming up to that time of year I always label the doldrums – Here in Kent we have had such a fantastic winter, spring and early summer that the doldrums are going to be hard to take. What happens usually is that all the fish swim past us north and for a short period in August the fishing is poor. Eventually when the fish return it’s a bonanza in October and November, I suppose you can’t have it all, but the most sea anglers in my region are hoping that enough of those codling from last year survive to return this autumn. They should be four to five pounds, well big enough to pull the string and some fun fishing ahead.

It’s mackerel time and I have the light gear ready for a few evening trips on the rocks or beach after mackerel – well bass too, but the mackerel are more reliable especially as darkness falls. Any lead headed rubber eel sort of fish shape works, not too big. The savage gear sandeels just are perfect.  Fish them on a spinning rod and braid for some really enjoyable sport all be it short lived at dusk.

It's Mackeral fishing time!

It’s Mackerel fishing time!

I’m a bit piddled off with the LRF scene – its getting silly now guys, grown men chasing scorpion fish, etc – It’s just not that bad in the UK, there are plenty of quality sized fish to catch and there is no need to target tiddlers. I am more inclined to think that the LRF style is a great way of fishing for some species with better presentation the key; it beats 6oz sinkers and 70lb leader line. But not to catch the mini species like bullheads and rock cook wrasses, I leave them to the small boys. Get out with your LRF style gear, beef it up a bit too and catch some good sized fish. Wrasse. pollack, bass, mackerel etc – the best angling fun on the planet – Oh and before I go off the subject – Bait is far better than lures for some species so don’t get obsessed with lures!!!!!

I’m up to Northumberland in the coming weeks to oversee the Sea Angler / Penn National Final. It’s being fished at Warkworth beach and includes all of the top sea match anglers in the Country – Worth a visit if you are a shore angler because lots of the competitors will be fishing Continental style with fixed spool reels and light line – It’s a different approach and a bit like LRF with everything scaled down and refined. Check out the range of continental sea fishing gear in the TF Gear range at:

Tight lines,

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.


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


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!


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


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 /

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.


Tight lines,

Alan Yates