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.

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: www.fishtec.co.uk

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

 

Fish & chips apocalypse

With sea temperatures rising, traditional sea-caught fish could be off the menu in as little as 50 years, meaning fish and chips will probably be a luxury item for future generations.

Fish could be so scarce that you wouldn’t even get a bite if you took your own sea fishing tackle and went fishing yourself – and who’s to say that will be legal in the future!

Fish and chips 2.0

Fish and chips sign

Image source: Sarah Jane Taylor
Fish & chips – but not as we know it…

So a future without fish and chips could be a reality – and we’re seeing the early signs of that already with the decline in some species of fish like cod due to overfishing. This has resulted in the rise of fishy alternatives in some UK chip shops with hake, pollock and barramundi (and chips) just a few of the examples.

But with the current global population of 7.3 billion growing by an average of 74 million people a year, it is predicted to peak at around 10.5 billion by 2050. That’s around 50% more people, which is bad news for fish and your fish and chip suppers. So hold that thought and examine our suggestions for the brave new world of fish and chips.

Squid and chips

Squid and Chips

Image source: lsantilli
Popular – but has it got broad appeal?

Calamari with a little salt and pepper is very popular as a starter in restaurants around the world, but is it big enough to sit on the newspaper throne with the chips?

Well it’s certainly tough enough with its ‘chew harder’ texture but it’s very different to traditional fish and chips and it is a popular appetizer for a reason – it’s not very filling (unless super-sized). It could be pricey too for what you get — at least five squid a portion.

Overall, we think it lacks the near universal appeal of traditional fish and chips. Sorry squid!

Sardines and chips

Sardines

Image source: stockcreations
You’d need a few to count as dinner!

Whilst some of the larger fish are endangered the smaller ones like sardines are getting on okay. In Portugal, one of the biggest exporters of sardines in the world, they are already very popular as a main dish.

Sardines can also be much bigger than the type we are used to seeing in tins and 3-4 good-sized sardines with chips would be a substantial meal, although they might not be the best fish for battering.

Salad and chips

Overweight man salad plate

Image source: Ollyy
A sad, dystopian future.

Oh – the thought of it! There will be uproar for sure as carrot-sticks, bean sprouts and pickled onions just aren’t unhealthy enough to give you the greasy satisfaction only cod in batter can.

Sure, the chips could be greasier and cooked in lard and there’s the nostalgic hit from the onion’s vinegar, but carrot sticks (not even battered) just aren’t up to it – unless that is, the future is exceptionally healthy. Sounds boring.

The future

Robot fishing on a river

Image source: iurii
What is the future of our nationals favourite supper?

The UK’s fish and chips industry has a turnover of £1.2billion and there are 10,500 chip shops nationwide, so with money and profit as the driving force there will probably be an excellent alternative (created).

The jury is out on food science, because for the most part it’s controversial due to it’s caginess about revealing ingredients, but it’s highly likely that there will be a scientific solution to the fish and chips problem. Whether it’s grown, produced or beamed down from space we cannot predict but it’s probable that it will taste just like cod in batter. It’s entirely up to you if you eat it though.

No-go fishing zones: The big debate

No-go fishing zones – how do you feel about them?

A long term study has found an 80% difference in the biomass of coral trout between areas where fishing is allowed and no-go zones.

So is there a case no-go fishing zones in the UK? Or does the angler have a right to take his fishing tackle and go and fish freely?

Australian evidence

Great barrier reef

Image source: Tanya Puntti
The study took place across the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science carried out long-term studies across the Great Barrier Reef and the results are impressive. Supported by substantial underwater data collected between 1983-2012 from around 40% of the reef’s marine park, fish numbers in protected zones have expanded to levels not seen since the Europeans first landed in Australia.

The biomass of coral trout more than doubled in protected areas and in areas where fishing was banned there was an 80% difference in coral trout biomass. Biomass is measured in both the number of fish and their size and the coral trout were found to be much larger in no-go zones, which allows them to spawn more offspring.

Current situation in the UK

Port Isaac

Image source: Ian Woolcock
Currently no-go zone free.

So how about no-go fishing zones in the UK? Well, currently there are none. There are Marine Protected Areas, where limits and restrictions may apply. According to the government: “There are now just under a quarter of English inshore waters within marine protected areas.”

However ‘limits’ and ‘restrictions’ seem a bit grey, compared to No-go zones, which make their point perfectly clear. No-go zones could potentially be easier to manage, so in theory would protect fish stocks from European trawlers. Though this would also impact the UK’s fishing industry.

A fisherman’s right

Man fishing on the beach

Image source: A7880S
An historic right?

There is also the historic right of an angler being able to fish unregulated in the sea. Surely a hungry man can fish for his dinner in the big blue sea like he has done for thousands of years, right?

Well, not everybody sees it this way and there have been attempts to sabotage and disrupt competitions and upset anglers. PETA – the international animal rights organisation — have used provocative and hard-hitting advertising campaigns to sway public opinion against angling. Not only do they favour no-go fishing zones, but want fishing outlawed altogether.

Angling isn’t the problem

Fishing equipment

Image source: Sandra Cunningham
Individual anglers shouldn’t be blamed.

We’d argue that PETA is wrong targeting sea anglers as in economic terms sea angling is very good for the economy and doesn’t harm fish stocks. It is commercial fishing that is the problem.

The book and documentary, The End of the Line, explains that anglers spend billions of pounds on fishing equipment, bait and travel-related costs, but only take a small fraction of the number of fish that commercial fishing fleets do.

But due to being under the spotlight and pressure from PETA it’s essential that sea anglers follow a code of good practice such as observing minimum size limits and not fishing endangered species. Of course, there will always be a small minority that spoil it for the many, but when done responsibly sea angling has minimum impact on the marine environment.

No-go vs Go-go

Great barrier reef close up

Image source: Dobermaraner
It works in Australia, but would it work here?

There’s an argument that it would make no sense to enforce no-fishing zones for sea anglers due to the practice not being the real problem. But due to the success of the Great Barrier Reef, could it be beneficial to introduce tighter regulations to protect vulnerable areas from commercial fishing fleets from home and abroad?

About 30% of the Great Barrier Reef is now protected from any kind of fishing and this has proven necessary to safeguard the future of the reef and drastically increase fish stocks. Over fishing has destroyed other reefs around the world, so it is essential protected zones are managed.

This is the age we live in and never before has humanity had to consider the reality that resources — energy, food, water — can and will dry up and disappear. The challenge is leaving something in our oceans for the generation, so the planning must surely begin now.

Are you in favour for no go fishing zones or against?

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

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

Boat skipping at the wheel

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.

 

Stormy seas at jetty

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?

Bright fishing boats at a harbour

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!

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

 

 

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

Stunning beachscape featuring seaweed and sunset

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

Bronze Sexant on wooden background.

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

Full moon reflected on the sea

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

Brass Tide clock on wooden background.

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

Brass Barometer

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

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