Category Archives: Sea Fishing

There’s nothing better than launching a 4/5oz lead from the shore or dropping a Jelly worm over a wreck with with nothing but the nod of the fishing rod to tell you what’s happening below . Sea fishing can be exciting at the worst of times, TF Gear consultant Alan Yates describes the best way to catch saltwater species around the UK.

Should children be boat skippers?

When the Cesca, a 16 meter crabber sank off North Wales coast last month, the story made national headlines.

The boat took on water, suffered engine failure and sank. Skipper, Jake Bowman-Davies kept a cool head; he initiated the correct emergency procedure, put out a distress call and later made the agonising decision to abandon ship, successfully shepherding his crew into the life raft.

What made the story a sensation wasn’t the skipper’s evident bravery, resourcefulness and sang froid, it was his age. Jake Bowman-Davies is just sixteen years old, an age at which many teenagers can barely organise their own sea fishing tackle, let alone take responsibility for a fishing boat and its crew. It begs the question that, courageous and level headed though the young skipper most certainly is, should he have been in charge of a commercial fishing vessel in the first place?

The rules

bigstock Captain keeps the wheel 69475888 Should children be boat skippers?

Image source: Radist
There are currently no age restrictions on becoming a skipper.

As it stands, there is no legal requirement for skippers of commercial fishing craft under 16.5 metres to hold a skipper’s ticket, and there is no legal minimum age to be a small boat skipper. To be employed on any fishing boat, all you need is to have completed the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) statutory safety training in sea survival, first aid, fire fighting and health and safety, for which there is currently no minimum age limit.

Some newspapers claim that 16 year old skipper, Jake Bowman-Davies is the country’s youngest qualified skipper. But they are wrong. In fact, Jake does not hold a skipper’s ticket, a fact that Simon Potten, head of safety and training at Seafish is keen to point out: “He is not eligible for a Seafish under 16.5m Skipper’s Certificate until he can evidence a minimum two years’ experience as a full-time commercial fisherman – since leaving school. This effectively rules out anyone under 18 years of age [from holding the Skipper’s ticket].”

We should point out that Jake Bowman-Davies has completed all the required training for the Certificate. Clearly what is at issue is not the level of competence that the young skipper displayed under pressure, but whether he should have been put in that position at all.

 

bigstock Old wooden jetty pier during 66010927 Should children be boat skippers?

Image source: Michal Bednarek
Young people may suffer worse from extreme stress.

Regardless of Jake Bowman-Davies’ obvious abilities, he is still a child. Pressure groups campaigning for an increase to the minimum age requirement for joining the armed forces point to evidence that suggests personnel recruited at 16 are more likely to suffer from mental health problems like post traumatic stress disorder than those who enlist at 18 years of age.

Young people subjected to extreme stress are more likely to have difficulty processing and coming to terms with events. Experiencing a sinking, or serious injury at sea is nothing if not traumatic. We are not suggesting that this particular skipper is struggling, but we are saying putting young people in a position of leadership at 16 could be too early to assume such a hefty responsibility.

The case for?

bigstock Colored Boats 8215662 Should children be boat skippers?

Image source: pink candy
It’s all about having the correct training and experience.

Age is no bar to experience, and the simple fact is that fishermen’s sons are often making regular trips to sea with their fathers well before their voices have broken. A sixteen year old skipper may not be old enough to vote, but he or she might already have several years of sea time under their belt.

And just because someone is young doesn’t mean they’re not capable, as the calm and collected, as Jake Bowman-Davies proves. And of course being older is no guarantee someone will do the right thing in a life and death scenario.

Perhaps what is most important is not age, but training. As Seafish’s Simon Potten says: “we actively encourage fishermen of any age to undertake the training courses required for a Skipper’s Certificate as there is no age limit. The more safety training fishermen get the better.”

What do you think? is 16 too young to be a commercial skipper? We’d be delighted to receive your comments on Facebook and Twitter.

Fishing for Plaice – Bling it up!

GordonThornesplaice Greenfield match Fishing for Plaice   Bling it up!
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.

wishbonerig Fishing for Plaice   Bling it up!

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.

beads and bling Fishing for Plaice   Bling it up!

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

 

 

5 Surprising items every fisherman should own

Are you an avid sea angler? For true devotees of the noble art of sea fishing, investing in a wide range of sea fishing tackle is just the start.

It’s also important to own things that connect you to the ocean and the sport you love. We’re talking nautical knick-knacks.

Not only do they perform a useful function, they also look good about house and they’re a talking point, helping to cement your reputation as a true salt. Here are our top five things every sea fisherman should have.

1. Seaweed

Seaweed 525x297 5 Surprising items every fisherman should own

Image source: lovleah
Keep your eyes peeled for an attractive clump next time you’re out!

If you have a veranda, balcony or porch, you need kelp, a string of seaweed to dangle from a conveniently positioned hook. When you pop out to give it a stroke each morning, your neighbours might give you a funny look, but what do you care? You’re a sea angler.

But aside from it’s obvious connection to the sea, seaweed is an effective – albeit alternative – weather forecaster. The salt in the seaweed attracts the moisture in the air. Damp weed indicates a higher likelihood of rain, a dry brittle feel is a sure sign of dry, sunny, anti-cyclonic conditions. You could of course check the weather forecast – but where’s the fun in that? A true sea fishing fan needs to sniff the air and caress the kelp for himself.

2. Sextant

Sexant 525x324 5 Surprising items every fisherman should own

Image source: scorpp
Cool, quirky and actually useful.

It’s made of brass, it looks awesome, and if you really know how to use it, you’re so salty you make Ahab look like a landlubber. Strictly speaking, a land based sea angler has no need to possess a sextant. But if you do venture out to sea and lose sight of land, this instrument, along with your watch, is a nautical fall back you can’t afford to be without.

Before the advent of marine electronics and GPS, knowing how to use a sextant and chronometer to pinpoint your position on a chart was essential. A sextant is all too often treated as a quaint reminder of our nautical heritage. Until you lose your electrics.

3. Lunar calendar

Lunar Calendar 525x269 5 Surprising items every fisherman should own

Image source: ricardokuhl
Track the moon and land big.

When most people think of the lunar landings, they think in terms of “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But as far as you’re concerned, it’s all about the fish. Most people know fish often feed at dawn and dusk, but you’ll increase your chances of making a catch if you also factor in moonrise and moonset.

And if you combine this new knowledge with fishing on the new or full moon, you’re really making out your chances of catching a specimen. So if you really want to know when it’s best to cast, add a lunar calendar to your shopping list!

4. Tide clock

Tide clock 525x303 5 Surprising items every fisherman should own

Image source: Bin im Garten
Do away with your tide book and invest in a clock.

No self respecting sea angler would allow him or herself to be caught on the hop when it comes to knowing what the tide’s doing. But if you live beyond sight of the brine, keeping an eye on the ebb and flow can be aided considerably by owning a tide clock.

Unlike a normal clock, the tide clock has only one hand which indicates high or low tide and the hours until the next tidal extreme. A tide clock’s efficacy at foretelling the time of the next tide varies according to where in the world you live, but in semi-diurnal tidal regions like most Atlantic coasts, it’s fairly efficient.

That said, because tides are brought about by the gravitational influences of the moon, sun and rotation of the earth, your clock will tend to gain by about 15 mins per month, so don’t forget to also invest in a tide timetable!

5. Barometer

Barometer 525x342 5 Surprising items every fisherman should own

Image source: Baloncici
Get your own mini weather station.

“Noi viviamo sommersi nel fondo d’un pelago d’aria,” said Evangelista Torricelli. And he was right – we do live at the bottom of an ocean of air. What the 17th century scientist realised was that “air ocean” currents create whirlpools and eddies which in turn give rise to areas of high and low atmospheric pressure.

In 1643, Torricelli took a 1 meter long glass test tube, filled it with mercury and stood it open end down in a trough filled with the same metal. The level of the mercury fell to 76cm, leaving a vacuum above. This level varied with changes in atmospheric pressure; it was the first barometer. These days, your barometer is more likely to be of the compact, air filled Aneroid variety. Either way, if you’re a proper angler, you need your own weather station. Go tap that glass.

What do you reckon – have we missed anything out? Let us know your must have items on Twitter and Facebook!

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Feb 2015

Hythe ranges cod Chris Snow 2lb codling 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.

Clarkies undulate 525x348 Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Feb 2015

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.

tfgear reel1 Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Feb 2015

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

Fishing for Cod – Testing the new TF Gear Beachcaster

cod seven bridge Fishing for Cod   Testing the new TF Gear Beachcaster

Have you ever fished anywhere as wonderful as this? The Bristol channel, right along side the impressive Seven Bridge, reputable for it’s superb fishing, fast flowing, silty waters and in particularly it’s Cod Fishing.

Ceri Owen, one of our senior sea fishing customer service advisers took the new TF Gear Beachcaster rods out to test on his most recent trip to the shore, along with a TF Gear 65CTM casting reel and an handful of 8oz leads.

Looking to test these sea fishing rods to it’s maximum potential, the heavy weights cast into the heavy swell of the Bristol channel would certainly do that. Achieving maximum distance and great accuracy.

Ceri said the bite detection was superb, much better than any other Beachcaster he’s used yet it has the backbone to cast heavy leads and set them in to the San/Mud bank easily.

TF Gear Force 8 6 series CTM was loaded with 20lb TF Gear Red Mist and a TF Gear Aftershock Tapered Leader. Casting was totally smooth and reached 100+ Yards with next to no effort.

Fishing the channel is never easy, and Ceri had only planned a short trip but landed plenty of Cod on Black Lug fished on a Pennell rigs.

ceri cod Fishing for Cod   Testing the new TF Gear Beachcaster

2015 CLA Game Fair Update

IMG 0100 525x295 2015 CLA Game Fair Update

KAYAKS AT THE GAME FAIR

I’ve just come from a planning meeting for this year’s CLA Game Fair and one of the most exciting developments for many years is in the pipeline:

They’re creating a complete ‘Kayak Experience’ within the fishing village. Game Fair visitors can come and see the very latest kayaks and fishing equipment, but beyond that they will also be able to try them out on the lake! Wetsuits will be provided with full changing room facilities and experts will be on hand to help! offer advice and look after safety. Leisure, sport and surf kayaks will be involved, as well as kayaks specifically designed for fishing.

This looks to be a golden opportunity to sample this exciting and growing branch of game fishing so put the dates in your diary: Harewood House near Leeds, 31st July to 2nd August 2015. Save money and buy tickets now at www.cla.org.uk

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Late December 2014

Mick Tapsell ray 4.220kg Ad pier Dover Xmas 14 Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Late December 2014

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 5lkb cod Dungeness 525x333 Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Late December 2014

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

Rare Deep-Sea Greenland Shark


Sometimes watching footage of the seabed can be as exciting as watching paint dry, but when something like the mysterious Greenland shark appears where no-one has ever seen one before, people like Alan Turchik (National Geographic Mechanical Engineer) can get very, very excited indeed!

The camera which was placed 211 meters (700 feet) down on the seafloor and recorded over 3 hours of absolute nothingness, only to be briefly interrupted by a small jellyfish, but after staring at the sand for much of the time a Greenland shark bumped into the camera and lumbered through the frame! For a species which remains an enigma to scientists to the day, any new information such as sightings like this one – is invaluable.

Catching Turchik’s joyful reaction on camera expletive-filled reaction on film was pure luck. The cameraman Michael Pagenkopf wanted to take some shots of the team working on the boat for a film of the expedition, so he trained the lens on Turchik who was reviewing the video footage downloaded from the camera.

Just as Pagenkopf swapped his cameras battery and started filming, the picture on Turchik’s screen started bouncing around – It didn’t take long to hear how he felt about the sharks presence.

greenland Rare Deep Sea Greenland Shark

A Deep-Sea Enigma

These sharks are a conundrum, says Greg Skomal, a senior marine fisheries scientist at Massachusetts Marine Fisheries who wasn’t involved in the survey. Scientists aren’t sure how long the sharks live—a hundred years is one estimate—how big they get, or even if they’re predators or scavengers.

Based on the sharks’ stomach contents, “they seem to be chowing down on cod, wolffish, squid, and a variety of marine mammals,” says Peter Bushnell, a fisheries biologist at Indiana University South Bend. They may also be taking bites out of beluga whales.

 They can be as big as great white sharks, but that’s about as far as the comparison goes, growing to an estimated  7.3 meters (24 feet) long. With a maximum speed of just 1.7 mph and being mostly blind one would think they’re happy to eat rotting carcasses.

However, if the history of fishing is any guide, Greenland sharks are common as muck. The sharks were fished from the early 20th century until the 1960s; mainly for their liver oil, which was used as lamp fuel and industrial lubricant. In some years, over 30,000 were taken. That suggests a very healthy population.

In line with that, a recent expedition used 120 hooks on a longline, (not your normal sea fishing equipment!) and caught 59 sharks. “I think they’re fairly common,” says Aaron Fisk of the University of Windsor in Ontario. “When we want to catch them we don’t have any trouble.”

 

 

Quiz! What kind of fisherman are you?

Are you a hunter, a lounger, a competitor perhaps?

There are as many types of angler as there are anglers, from those who take their sea fishing tackle very seriously, to those who are more concerned with a snooze by the river.

And we thought, since it’s Christmas, why not have a little fun? Here we give you the chance to find out just what kind of fishing enthusiast you are!

bigstock Young man fishing on a lake fr 49801037 Quiz! What kind of fisherman are you?

What’s your ideal Christmas gift?

When you get to your favorite fishing spot, what’s the first thing you do?

When you catch a fish do you:

When fishing in company do you:

Later, you’re at the pub with friends do you:


Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary December 2014

mix of baits 525x349 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 e1418402128898 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 e1418402110443 Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary December 2014

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