One of the worst winters on record for weather has taken its toll on shore and boat angling, not only venues made unfishable but piers damaged and closed, charter hours lost, competitions cancelled and a general feeling of when will it end? Well so much doom and gloom, but it has its upside and that is that the commercial nets have also been hit hard and a few extra small fish may have survived the winter this year and that may improve the fishing in the spring…
I have taken some time off to sort some of my fishing equipment and generally plan ahead – the Spring IS just around the corner and although those last few weeks can drag, it will get here. OK so I have more terminal rigs that Gerry’s of Morecambe, all my reels are loaded with new line and my tackle box is pristine. All I need is to get out on the beach for a few casts, but that’s just not going to happen until the sea flattens off and clears. First up is a plaice trip but as I said, red spots don’t like coloured, rough or silty water – Chesil Beach at Cogden is a favourite venue to head for, but only when that sea settles! In the meantime the tackle box retains my attention and one of the many jobs I keep promising to do but never get around to be replacing grip wires in my lead collection. Normally when a wire or a bead on a lead goes, I dump it in the throw away bucket for fishing the Irish rocks, or Samphire Hoe. It’s essential when fishing rough ground to have plenty of spare leads and to not worry about losing them. But the throw away bucket is overloaded so its wire cutters, pliers, beads and wire time. The tasks brings about several options, for starters you can change the shape colour of the breakout beads, I hate blue and yellow and prefer red and so replace this missing etc with round red beads, make sure you use decent strong plastic beads because some smash just looking at the beach. You can also change the grip wire length, bend them differently or simply straighten out and upgrade the lead in general. Whatever, the result is a box of new functional leads.
Another worthwhile spring clean job, is your sea fishing rods, because if you look closely you may have a cracked ring. After the countless times my rod has been pulled off the rest this winter I will be surprised if I haven’t got a ring that need replacing. The beauty of Fuji’s, Seymo and the other top makes is that they take lots of shit, but even the best cannot survive many more than one a gale driven clatters on concrete, rocks or beach stones and can be damaged and it pays to look.
First wash the rod free of sand, weed and all the other crud it has collected with use and give the rings and the reel seat the once over with a tooth brush. This will remove most of the unwanted and reveal the ring back at its best. Reel seats really benefit from a good scrubbing and you will find them less likely to jam afterwards. Examine the rings closely under a good light, the smallest crack can skim whisks of mono almost unnoticed. Of course losing a ring is a disaster on a beachcaster – it’s like scratching the door on a new motor UUURRGHH!!! For me it’s the menders and I mean specialist rod repairs not DIY. Sometimes an on the beach a temporary repair may be required and that’s fairly simple. I cut one leg of the rig whipping off. Wriggle the other ring foot free and remove the ring. Insert a new ring in the whipping and then tape up on the other side – good as new, for some!
One economic way to re-invent a tired beachcaster is to replace the shrink wrap handle. Most tackle dealers nowadays offer a range of different types, colours, materials of shrink wrap. You can buy it to the length required and simply shrink it on. Don’t be tempted to do it over the old handle though, remove this and thoroughly wash and dry the rod section before putting on the new shrink wrap. To close down the shrink wrap tightly you can use a hair drier, whilst boiling water from a kettle spout is more dangerous, it does a better job!
Best of all the rod refurbishments are those offered by lots of the major firms – Send your rod back to them and for a fee they will replace it to its original glory, well worth the money if you are fussy about your sea fishing tackle.
Already there are rumours about plaice – the first sunny day for months and tall plaice stories have started. Now let’s get one thing clear before we start talking about plaice. They are frail, thin and pasty when they first arrive inshore in March after the vigour’s of spawning and not worth eating or retaining so please unhook carefully and return. In a matter of months they will be returned to their red spotted plumpness and then will be prized for the table.
Time now to make up a few rigs with the usual plaice bling, beads and glitter, my tendency is to make the bait stop on my clipped rigs the bling and there are lots of options ranging from pop up bead, plastic beads, luminous beads, sequins, glass beads, vanes, luminous tubing etc. Don’t skimp either plaice often respond the flashiest hook bait and the rule is anything goes!
A recent letter in Sea Angler magazine criticised me for keeping (and grinning) with a catch of small dabs and whiting (4 dabs and seven whiting) Now excuse me, but I eat a lot of fish and the number I retained that day was a small percentage of that caught and returned – You see there is not much else in the sea around the UK coast in winter and I enjoy a few dab and whiting fillets.
The sequence of Atlantic gales battering the British Isles is devastating news for commercial fishermen.
Unable to put to sea for weeks, some fishing families are feeling the pinch like never before.
Fish markets are empty or under-supplied, prices are soaring to their highest levels for years. For the consumer, the storms mean shortages, price hikes, and no fresh fish.
Looe in Cornwall is renowned for fresh fish from its day boat fleet. But some boats have been stuck in port for nearly two months now. That’s because static nets are the sea fishing tackle most Looe fishermen use. They set the nets one day and return to haul them the next. According to a fisherman interviewed by the BBC, there hasn’t been a two day weather window to allow boats to get out to work since before Christmas.
In fact, the port would be completely closed if it weren’t for one local mariner nicknamed, ‘Richard the brave’. The lone fisherman ventured out to sea, risking all to bring home a catch.
Fish markets closed
The South West fishing industry has been battered by the recent storm surges, resulting in extreme shortages of fresh fish that saw Plymouth fish market close for a time during January.
More recently, the past weekend’s storm means there is very little fish available for sale this week – although anyone courageous enough to take on the mountainous seas and wild winds can expect top dollar for their catch.
Newlyn fish market was riding high this Monday thanks to successful hauls of hake and whitefish from local boat, Ajax. The skipper’s twitter comment on his catch: ‘Big money’. But for every boat that puts out to sea, there are many more that have stayed behind, leaving industry leaders, fishermen and others reliant on the fishing trade for income wondering when the weather will finally clear.
For some Cornish fishermen even an improvement in the weather won’t see them heading out to sea anytime soon. During last Wednesday’s storm, the inner harbour doors at Porthleven harbour were smashed to matchwood by a sea described by shipping forecasters as, ‘phenomenal’.
Waves blown before storm force winds surged into the port sinking ten boats, damaging some of the vessels beyond repair.
Incredibly, efforts by fishermen and the emergency services to save the remaining boats in the harbour were hampered by the press of crowds of people who abandoned their cars at the side of the road to watch the waves.
Fishing is a risky business, and never more so when gales keep fishermen in port for too long. With finances stretched and the prospect of excellent prices for fish landed, it’s hard to resist the temptation to put safety aside and head out to sea in bad weather.
Fishermen riding their luck can make good money, but when it goes wrong, they pay a high price. In November last year, the five man crew of the French fishing boat, the Panamera wasplucked to safety by helicopter 25 miles off the Lizard when their boat began taking on water. It later sank.
In January, four crewmen were rescued when their fishing boat got into difficulty in bad weather and sank off Tynemouth.
And at the beginning of February, the crew of another French fishing boat had to be rescued by helicopter crews from RNAS Culdrose. ‘Le Sillon’ was struck by a monster wave off the North Cornish coast. Its bridge windows imploded, all the electrical gear was destroyed. The boat lost steerage and was later wrecked at Porthcothnan.
More to come
The position of the jet stream across the Atlantic means that winter storms will continue to lash the British isles for at least the next 10 days. Forecasters predict rising pressure and a return to more settled weather only towards the end of the month when hopefully fishermen will be able to begin to recoup some of the losses they’ve incurred.
The rays are around on the Kent shore with a January thornback for Dover specimen hunter, Brian Price, one of three in a couple of trips to Sandwich Bay.
The mild winter, it may have all changed by the time you read this, has lulled anglers into the false dawn of spring. Thoughts are already on plaice bling and rays and surprise, surprise the latter are already showing in Kent. Are they late autumn or early spring is the question? The answer I believe is that ray numbers have increased in recent years as they took over the habitat of the missing cod etc and they are now appearing inshore earlier simply because of the overflow of stocks. In my region rays always were a winter species for the boats when the cod left, now they are a winter species for the shore rods and have replaced the cod. Now rays are never going to set the world alight in terms of their pace or guile, but for sheer plastic bag in the tide pull they take some beating – Shame they don’t make the 100lb mark – I remember some diamond rays I hooked from the Beach in Africa that just run all the line off and Gambia’s sting rays take some stopping once they beat the 50lb barrier. All in all ray fishing can be fun when there is nothing else of any size to fish for, some people even eat them!
However, its plaice that get my attention now that the light evenings have hit 5.30pm. The species have been in decline for the last couple of decades with the numbers and average size having dropped dramatically, but last year they made a small comeback along the Channel coastline. OK, not mega size plaice of the past but enough tipping the pound to suggest they were worth fishing for deliberately. Anglers flocked to venues like Brighton and even Kent could boast of a couple of plaice venues with Dengemarsh and Seabrook amongst the pick, the reason given for the upsurge in the plaice population was that the commercial quota limit had been reduced. Well an MZ is about to come on line in Hythe Bay and that should do the region’s flattie population a power of good because soles and plaice are plundered mercilessly by the regions trawlers.
Back to the plaice and it’s time to check out the bling that you can add to hook snoods to attract plaice to your baits. I am a big fan of pop up beads, the luminous pattern with pink spots from Gemini, although beware because they can lift bait clear off the bottom – too many beads and you will be fishing for garfish on the surface. Sequins and plastic beads are also favourite and during a trip last year aboard Brighton Diver out of Brighton after plaice – I discovered the deadliest bead combination ever. Twelve standard plastic coloured beads on a snood with red, green and yellow bringing the best results. Bait was lugworm and you could do worse than add a sliver of squid to the hook point, plaice seem to like that! As for spoons, they also work with a short snood full of beads and sequins and if you bend the sequins alternatively that adds extra reflection angles! Not so keen on blades because they spin and cut casting distance although in summer they do add the chance of a mackerel to the catch.
I am just back from the Irish Winter beach festival fished from the Wexford beaches where I switched to fixed spools and light line because of an arthritic shoulder, but reeling in left handed did me little good in the event and I finished half way down the list. But I did fish Continental style with the new range of lighter blanks from TF Gear including the Force 8 Continental and the Delta Slik Tip (look out for them in the coming week) It’s a whole new ball game fishing with light sea fishing tackle and the one thing that struck me is the decrease in tide pull using lines below 12lb. This brings plain leads into the game, or should I say wireless leads because I tried some weird shapes and removed wires. All I need now is a watch lead mould because they hold bottom well with a light set up. I also used a variety of cone and pyramid leads with the double cone coming out best – where can I get them from, my last lots came from Portugal?
The winter beach was won by Paul Tyndall of Bray another of the up and coming Irish Match anglers – I tell you what I was impressed by the standard of the Irish – to a man they fish light and small and I reckon if the Irish World team was picked from the anglers that fished the winter beach event Ireland would win a gold medal. But Ireland has a county selection problem and that means they rarely field a team of top anglers, time for change there.
All this talk of spring is all very well, but what if it does turn cold? Catching anything from the shore once the temperatures have fallen and the frost have got a hold is a challenge. On many venues cold rain or snow melt water, exposed sand that has frozen overnight combine to drive the fish away and that’s on top of the terrible weather – Just rockling, small coalfish, tiny codling, dabs, whiting and the odd flounder remains and in such conditions, fish on and you must accept the consequences.
The problem is that fresh and sea water do not completely mix – they layer because fresh is lighter and floats above sea water – That’s why Icebergs float, they are fresh water! This means that layers of freezing cold freshwater can invade the inshore regions. This is particularly common in the large estuaries like the Thames, Solent, Severn, Mersey, Tyne etc after heavy rain or snow where the fresh water layers can drive fish completely away from a venue during an ebb tide, whilst on the other side of the river the fish are prolific in the salty flood tide.
Small rivers, streams, even road drains and localised fresh water outfalls can affect the fishing on all types of beaches even well away from the estuaries. Beware too of snags comprised of trees, bushes and rubbish spewed into the sea with the flood water at the mouth of the stream etc
Another major hazard for the winter angler is that a shallow region of sand and sea bed exposed to an overnight frost will cool the incoming tide so rapidly that the fish will avoid it. – My rule after for February and March is: NEVER TO FISH WHERE I CANNOT CAST PAST THE LOW TIDE MARK – In other words always fish on a sea bed that is never exposed at low tide!
My next away trip is to Norway, which I may have mentioned before, in a quest to catch shore cod after the worst cod season in my memory. It seems the cold is going to be my biggest problem with Norway in March a bit chilly. Thermals, onesies, floatation sallopettes and a Delta Marine jacket plus woolly hat, thermal socks and gloves, even my Rockhopper boots have snow grippers. The only trouble with flying is that it doesn’t leave much room for the tackle!
Last year I fished for the Dover Sea Angling Association team in the World Club Champs in Portugal –This year it appears that England is not represented at the event in Spain – the probable reason is cost because it’s around £2000 what with accommodation, flights etc. If you can raise a club team get on to the Angling Trust.
It’s odd how the New Year brings renewed interest and optimism to sea anglers – Suddenly the match entries are up and anglers are out on the local beaches and piers – Its all that new sea fishing tackle from Christmas to try I suppose. But the bad news is that the enthusiasm is short lived – The end of January, February and March are the worst months of the year for shore sea angling around the UK in general and the reason is that most species move away from the shore to spawn and all that are left are the tiddlers that cannot spawn and the few species like flounders, dabs and rockling that spawn closer to shore. It’s a time when tiddlers are it and no amount of imagination can conjure up a big cod on many venues let alone a double calamari squid! In the boats it’s a different matter with the chance of a very big fish from some of the wreck fishing port when the weather allows a long range wreck to be reached.
Sadly most shore anglers give up until spring, whilst a few hardy souls and the matchmen fish on through the worst of the weather. I must admit it’s a time of year I enjoy – it’s probably the challenge of getting a bite that does it for me and because it’s mostly small fish you get to appreciate what you have and make the most of it.
Typical February fishing gear is a lighter match rod, 12lb line or braid on a fixed spool, wire booms which allow you to fish lighter hook snoods tangle free, more beads and sequins and smaller hooks, Catching the smaller mouthed species may not be enjoyable in terms of the fight they put up, but the difficulty of catching them does it for me. Obviously it’s not so much fun if you are not fishing a competition although the challenge to get a bite, any bite can be addictive.
Talking about where fishing is going, it is so bad in places and at times it is impossible to ignore who is to blame. The greedy commercial fishermen have all but decimated our seas and no amount of bull from them about there being plenty of fish around will alter the fact that I am not alone in NOT being able to catch anything worth landed, especially in the winter and in terms of cod! Sea angling, especially from the shore is DIRE and yet millions of us in the UK continue to fish. That’s why I believe that no matter where the fishing goes there will always be anglers who will make the most of the smallest fish – you only have to look at the Continent to see that.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs DEFRA via the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Inshore Fishery Conservation Authority (IFCA) recently produced the result of their 2012 sea angling survey of England. The document makes interesting reading and its like will eventually put an end to the commercial exploitation of our sea by commercially fishermen as it is gradually realised that sport angling produces more revenue and leisure time activity for the nation than commercial fishing. What’s more because fish caught on a hook can be returned and caught again and again the revenue etc is ongoing and continuous unlike the commercial fishing which even kills the undersized fish it catches and has already wiped out most of the prime fish species.
The survey estimates there are 884,000 sea anglers in England, with 2% of all adults going sea angling. These anglers make a significant contribution to the economy – in 2012, sea anglers resident in England spent £1.23 billion on the sport, equivalent to £831 million direct spend once imports and taxes had been excluded. This supported 10,400 full-time equivalent jobs and almost £360 million. Taking indirect and induced effects into account, sea angling supported £2.1 billion of total spending, a total of over 23,600 jobs, and almost £980 million.
The survey also found that sea angling also has important social and well-being benefits including providing relaxation, physical exercise, and a route for socialising. And that anglers felt that improving fish stocks was the most important factor that would increase participation in sea angling.
Almost 4 million days of sea angling were recorded over the year. Shore fishing was the most common type of sea angling – almost 3 million angler-days compared with 1 million for private or rented boats and 0.1 million on charter boats. Anglers had most success on charter boats, catching 10 fish per day on average compared with around 5 from private boats and only 2 from the shore.
The most common species caught, by number, were mackerel and whiting. Shore anglers released around 75% of the fish caught, many of which were undersized, and boat anglers released around 50% of their fish.
Remember the survey was just sea angling in England.
For a full copy of the Survey: www.seaangling2012.org.uk
The storms are raging as I write have closed several of the popular piers in my region. Dover Admiralty pier which has been the best pier for a shore cod over the last decade has been closed for all of the cod season and is not expected to reopen until the end of January. Even “indestructible” Folkestone pier suffered damage in the current maelstrom with tarmac ripped up and railings smashed. Deal pier has a catalogue of closure during the storms and worse may be yet to come, whilst a similar fate awaits Dover breakwater. All this suggests that the winter weather is worsening annually, although it’s fair to say that materials and repairs are not of the quality they were when most of the older piers were built and that Health and Safety has resulted in some unwarranted and unnecessary closures (in many anglers opinions)
AND it’s not all doom and gloom for the piers – Hasting pier repairs are starting and I for one look forward to the return of the Hastings three day pier festival in the future.
Picture above: Folkestone sea angler, Alan Rickards with a 1lb plus dab from Folkestone pier – its dab time, so remember to add a few beads and sequins to your hook snoods and don’t through away that lugworm, next week wnen its stickie it will be deadly for dabs!
Wishing all a Happy New Year
Two new prototype beach casters to be released by TF Gear in the New Year arrived for a final test this month and went straight into action at my local two day pier Festival at Folkestone. I finished second overall behind England Squad manager, Martyn Reid who is on peak form at present, although I did win one of the days with a haul of 50 fish and that included pouting to 750 grams, dabs and whiting. No cod I am afraid with Dungeness the only Kent venue producing cod of any size.
Another new sea fishing rod for next year is called the Slik Tip and it is an ultra slim line match rod based around a model I designed several years ago. Its essence is its stability in wind and its bite indication. You see it’s a myth that you need a soft, fine tip for good bite indication – All these types of tips do at sea is soak up the tide as they curve with bites then dampened by the line stretch. So you want a fine, but stiffish tip and the Slik Tip has got just that. Add low rider rings to its fine diameter and it sits in the wind as stable as you like and only bites can rattle it. To cut a long story short I fished a relatively short three hook flapper rig, six ounce fixed wire lead and size 1 hooks at around the 120 yard mark for a bite a cast and ten fish an hour average. Match fishing doesn’t get any better when you can watch for bites and count the fish on, much better that timed casts which are the only answer when the tide is bending the tip and bites are not showing. Nicking five minutes a cast by watching for bites gives the match angler a big advantage.
The other rod in the new range is the Continental and that I will try out in January at the Irish Winter beach Champs – It is a 15ft small fish scratching rod aimed at those anglers who want to fish Continental style, really light and delicately through the summer.
As I write this diary the cod are starting to appear around the Kent Coast, although most of the catches are limited to the boats and the deep water of Dungeness – If you have never been to the venue then you may not realise the main reason why Dungeness is still so productive for cod is that it’s so close to the English Channel’s deepest water. Just yards of Dungeness Point the depth goes down to 80ft plus. Check out a map and you will see how Dungie juts out into the English Channel.
The venue is worth a visit and some anglers will get lucky – Take Chris Radley of Hextable in Kent who beached an 18lb 8oz cod. The fish took a whiting which had hooked itself on one of the Pennell hooks on his rig. That’s a big clue how to fish Dungeness and any other cod venue for that matter. The bigger cod are eating whiting so always use two hooks on each bait, either live bait style or as a Pennell.
I have organised a novelty competition for 2014. It’s called the World LRF Championships and is being fished on Samphire Hoe near Dover on the 10th of August 14. Samphire is a walled promenade, not that picturesque but it’s packed with wrasse, pout, pollack, mackerel, etc during the summer and can be great fun to fish with Light Rock Fishing tackle. The rules allow lures or bait to be used and there are prizes for species, the best average and biggest fish landed.
Obviously it’s only open to those who fish proper LRF tackle and that are one hook.
Fishing is from 10am until 4pm. Catch measure and release with anglers allowed to keep their best fish only. Species pts, biggest and best average fish. Details from me on; 01303 250017
I presented the prizes for Barclays Bank SAC at their recent Championships held at Dover and it was great to get among a group of Clubmen in a very competitive and happy mood. Their match was won by two end pegs (one and two) which sometimes happens when you fish pier venues, but it’s a sure fire way of keeping all anglers happy. They also featured drawn pairs and team events – So often clubs make their competitions “fair” by doing away with the luck element, but then the entry and membership walk away when a few top match anglers dominate. If I had to play snooker against Ronnie Sullivan ever weekend who could blame me for voting with my feet. So I urge clubs to think about the decisions they make to make events fair – Far better to make them fair for all that just the top few!
A freakishly looking fish which is said to live over 900 meters below the oceans surface has been snagged by the Nunavut fishing boat is only the second of it’s kind ever recorded near the Hudson Strait, Canada.
This extremely rare and weird looking fish caused some confusion when it was actually caught but researches have identified it as a super rare long-nosed Chimaera. With so little research undertaken on this species of the Chimaera not a lot is known about their feeding habits or living quarters. It’s assumed these fish live well out of range of human contact in depths between 900 and 2000 meters. The Chimarea is not something you’re likely to hook with your sea fishing tackle!
Nigel Hussey from the University of Windsor, identified the fish as indeed the Chimaera. It was first thought that it was a Goblin shark, a fish which is equally as odd and also as rare. The Chimaera is one of the world’s oldest species of fish which goes by various names including ‘ratfish, rabbitfish, and the coincidental – ghost shark’. But they aren’t sharks. The group branched off from sharks, its closest relative, around 400 million years ago and have remained a distinct, and distinctly odd, lineage ever since and have been basically unchanged since they shared the Earth with dinosaurs.
Like sharks and rays, Chimaeras have a skeleton made of cartilage.
With a long nose, menacing mouth, a venomous spine and a gelatinous grey body the fish is one only to be talked of in spooky sea tails along side those of the giant squid, but maybe not so scary. The Chimaera is largely restricted to deep ocean waters, putting it out of reach of most fishermen and scientists. For these reasons the creature is poorly studied and understood.
A really busy month for sea anglers with lots of whiting from most beaches, especially after dark and they produce some hectic match fishing. The cod are noticeable by their absence on my Kent beaches, although the mild weather may be the reason for that and anyway the bass are hanging around. In the club evening events up to 60 whiting are required to make the frame and its frightening the club match anglers away in droves. Many, including, myself at times just cannot, or don’t want, to compete in the numbers game – It’s not enjoyable fishing, its hard work. Freelance wise it’s almost boring catching three whiting a chuck and as fast as you can recast. I fished Dungeness this week and the whiting just would not switch off, only the occasional dogfish, dab or rockling broke the monotony of the whiting. Even so I have never seen Dungeness so crowded on a weekday with anglers packed in like sardines between the RNLI and the Power Station. Undoubtedly a lot to do with the popularity of Dungeness, as well as the Dungeness Angling Association and their founder, Phil Tapp who sadly died recently. Phil put Dungy on the map when he negotiated the key for the gate to the concrete road allows angler car access. Phil will be sadly missed, but the Association survives with many good men to take Phil’s place, one of the best things that ever happened to Dungy!
I have just got my hands on a couple of prototype sea fishing rods that are due out in New Year and spring. I designed a slim line match rod that became popular in the past and longed for the chance to tweak the design. Now the TF Gear model is about to be released in the Delta range. Called the Slik Tip it’s a three piece multiplier or fixed spool match rod. Great on bite indication its sits still in the rod rest even in a gale and it’s ideal for club anglers, surf bass angler etc. Also new is the Continental and this is again a 15 footer, but designed along Continental lines, ultra light and slim its aimed at summer fishing with light line and tackle, the ladies might find it just what they want. One thing in line with most of the gear I have produced with TF Gear it’s going to be far cheaper than some of the overpriced “designer” rods available. I cant wait to get it in the surf for bass.
With the leaves leaving the trees at a rate this week it reminds us of the winter to come. Those chill winds make beach fishing tough going from December onwards. It’s noticeable that the T Shirt brigade leaves us in a few weeks and the beaches become roomier because of it. My favourite time of year, not because the drips freeze on the end of your nose, but because the crowds have gone. It’s also great to find the beaches litter comparatively free as well and I am sorry if this upsets some, but I have been appalled lately at the amount of litter left by so called sea anglers and it’s not all Octobers great unwashed or the foreign anglers either, I have watched some regulars leave litter and they don’t like being told to pick it up! All you need is a plastic bag in your kit to pack the rubbish into to take away, so simple.
Back to the weather and that extra fleece will be required soon, I am a great believer in comfort when I am fishing it keeps you fresh and alert and you are more likely to catch if you can concentrate on the rod tip rather than worry about cold toes!
Congratulations to Wales and England for their performance in the CIPS World Shore Championships in Spain. Spain took the gold medal and their performance included the top four individuals. Wales took silver ahead of England’s Bronze – Having been there I know how good a medal, any colour is in the Mediterranean.
Coming up (January 23rdth to 25th) is the Irish Winter Beach Festival which I fish annually. It’s fished from the Wicklow region beaches in Southern Ireland with the base for the event at Sean Ogs Hotel, Kilmuckridge. It’s a great event for the Craic –1st Prize is €500 and there are events for Teams of 2 & 4 over 3 days. Entry fee: €150 inclusive of Presentation Dinner. Accommodation at Seàn Òg’s may be reserved through Warren Doyle, 98, Seacrest, Bray, Co. Wicklow. +353 (0)1 2828769. Mob. +353(0)86 8069961. email@example.com
Last year the event was won by my mate Chris Clark of Lymington, although I have to remind him regularly that on day two he killed all his maddies and it was only the generosity of others that got him over the line!
I am all booked up for a weeklong trip to Norway at the end of February with my son Richard and a few mates. We are going to fish a week long big fish competition organised by Ian Peacock and Din Tur. It may well be my only chance of a big cod this winter because the Kent season does look dismal. It’s such a long time since I landed a double figure cod from the shore (I am really looking forward the Norway)
The popular Mustad rucksack has undergone a total facelift, making it one of the best in the sea fishing market.
First thing you notice is the absence of zips. They have been totally removed, so no more seized, saltwater-encrusted zips to worry about.
The whole item is saltwater-proof with a 35-litre main compartment, giving easily enough room to carry kit and spare clothing. Strong buckles as well as tough Velcro pocket fastenings keep everything secured. Carry-straps are extremely comfortable, and adjustable too so you get the best possible position to load the rucksack with your sea fishing gear.
As well as the new look, extra features include a reflective logo, quiver-grip that prevents a rod holdall sliding off your shoulder, emergency whistle and a hi-viz rain cover tucked into the base.
This is a well thought out, brilliantly designed rucksack that is fantastic for all sea angling applications.
Sea Angler Score Sheet:
Value for money: Brand new design without a price increase.
Practicality: It is very practical with lots of brilliant features.
Would we but it? Absolutely yes.
Sea Angler issue 498.
“Clever hi-viz rain cover is tucked into the base for added protection.”
The warm summer weather rolls on and at the time of writing this blog it is still very warm for the time of year and although the winter season has started to kick in the codling are marked by their absence in many regions. In Kent its masses of whiting and dogfish and its difficult to get a hook back without a fish on it after dark – Seabrook is producing some record number of whiting with 50 in a three hour contest fairly common. Check out next month’s Sea Angler magazine for the low down on how the match anglers are managing to catch so many fish in such a short time.
My latest competition was the three day Dover pier festival, in days gone by over 200 anglers fished each day, but in line with match fishing generally the event was down to a dismal 60 odd rods. To blame in undoubtedly the lack of bigger fish and the whiting and dogfish snatchers making it difficult for the average angler to compete and most are know no longer giving their hard earned cash to the matchmen. The event was won by Folkestone angler, Mick Tapsell who landed 95 fish over the two days. I managed a respectable second with a poor start on day one setting me back, although I came through from tenth on the final day. The biggest fish prize over the three days went to John Chalk from Herne Bay with a bass of 1.116kg, he also landed the best fish on Monday, a codling of 950 grams, which was the best of three landed from the breakwater and is an example of the size of codling coming from the shore in the region at present…
Other events I have fished recently included a club evening match on Folkestone pier and that turned into a dogathon. Dogfish two three at a time for three hours is exhausting with the winner landing 35 plus, not that enjoyable. One event I did not fish was at Princes Parade at Seabrook where Kent angler, Paul Gunner won with 57 whiting for 23.15lb. Second was Cliff Sharp of with 20.50lb and third Ronnie Warne of Hythe with 18.55lb. Fourth place went to Linton Warne of Hythe who landed his best ever catch of 38 fish, but didn’t make the top three! However, worse was for Ashford angler, John Smith who landed a cracking 9.65lb bass in the contest, a new Seabrook Angling Society all time record and he didn’t make the frame either – Sometimes I think we have our priorities wrong, such a splendid fish deserves more credit than a bunch of scrawny whiting.
All of this adds to the call for a change of approach to match fishing, we need a new system, but what it’s going to be I have no idea? More sea fishing tackle prizes?!
Staying with sea fishing competition’s it was a pleasure to fish the 41st City of London Thames Fishery Experiment competition, at Gravesend. This annual event is organised to help establish the environmental condition of the river and is fished from the Gravesend foreshore on the Kent side with anglers zoned adjacent to the Port Health Lower Thames office. 8 County teams of 8 and three school teams compete for an array of different trophies, fishing over three hours. The event started in 1966 and first arranged by the Thames preservation Society who together with the City of London Corporation shared the organisation from 1971 to the present day. Event sponsors include the Fishmongers Company and the Port of London Authority with the Environment Agency also represented. The points scoring devised by the Natural history museum reflects the species rarity etc in the river.
This year the match times arranged around the banquet (rack of lamb with mint sauce) after the fishing , missed the best of the high tide, although several anglers caught fish on their last cast. Best of the catches though came on his very first cast to Essex captain, Mick Sharp who beached a 44cm bass by far the best fish of the day and along with whiting, flounders and eel was easily the best individual score of 75points which gave victory for Essex County almost on his own, the team score was 145points winning the Lady Howard trophy. Runners up were the Charles Stanley Angling Team on 85points and third The Thameside Angling Team on 80points. Schools winners were the London School for Girls with 25pt.
In total 99 fish were landed including bass, sole, eel, flounder and whiting. The poor catches, last year the event produced nearly 600 fish, being blamed on a number of factors including local dredging for the new port nearby and the late spring/summer season, although the short tide was mostly likely to blame.
I am looking forward to a trip to Norway in February to fish a shore competition organised by Tin Tur’s Ian Peacock. Cod, haddock, coalfish and a halibut are the target species, but its going to be chilly with sub zero temperatures and just maybe – snow. Details: www.dintur.co.uk. E mail firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. 01914472363
Check out Fishtec TV because I have a blog on there about the forthcoming cod season. Details:
Just back from Ireland where the Sea Angler magazine and TF Gear crew attempted to make a DVD in less than ideal conditions, both from boat and shore – The East wind has a lot to answer for, although heavy mist, rain and a muggy feel to the three days meant the air pressure was all over the shop and air pressure does seem to have a great effect on fish feeding at this time of year. A mate checks his fish pond before going coarse fishing in winter, if the fish are feeding he goes, if not, he still goes but is armed with the knowledge the fishing is going to be tough.
That’s not a bad rule to have for the rest of the winters because getting your sea fishing tackle out when the wind direction, sea conditions, tide and air pressure is all wrong, can have a massive effect on the fishes feeding habits, especially for those after cod. The wind for instance is a big turn on, or turn off, in many sea regions. That east wind carries the “When the winds in the East the fish bite least” stigma and it is spot on in many regions, add some North though and the East coast of angling usually fishes well “When the wind blows north the fish bite for all they are worth”. Along the English Channel and up through the Irish Sea is a South or West wind that is best “When the wind blows west the fish bite best” and “When the wind blows south the bait falls in the fish’s mouth”.
Overall an onshore wind may be the most unpleasant to fish in, but it’s usually the most productive, especially in daylight when it colours up the water. The fish don’t like sunlight and if that can penetrate the water to the sea bed they will not venture into it. That fear is universal among the major winter species, so the rule is. Fish in daylight when it’s rough and in darkness or very deep water when it’s calm!
OK like most rules there are exceptions and one to look out for is what I call a chalky or milky sea, sometimes the sea is only just coloured and the fish will come inshore. Another phenomenon to watch out for is an impending storm. Fish can desert the shoreline the tide before an impending storm and then appear as if by magic as it dies away! All things that help the shore angler to pick the best times to fish.
Only a couple more complications and they are the all important tide and the stock of fish available in a particular region. Why would a fish want to come close to shore to feed when the deep sea is packed with food? Well in summer there are lots of food like sandeels, mackerel etc for the cod to prey on out deep, but these migrate south as winter arrives and the bigger fish start to move inshore in search of whiting, pouting, etc. The changing fortunes of the cod angler depend upon the food available and spawning success of the species. Some winters there is an over flow of smaller fish which means they need to invade the shoreline to feed. On other years, fewer fish means they have an enough food in the deep water.
So assuming there is an overflow of fish they will then move inshore, but only in the best conditions to get an easy meal. The strongest tide tends to help fish travel to and from food, it also oxygenates the water and generally spices up marine activity, fish and prey. So the angler must first look towards the largest spring tides for the maximum chance of fish being present. Think about it, the water is deeper, and this means more cover for the fish, and more fish will be around. On a majority of venues the maximum fish activity occurs during the flooding tide towards high tide. Indeed many venues are devoid of fish at low water so it’s important to fish at that peak time and that can often be around mid darkness as well.
All this means that the absolute best times to fish are limited to a couple of tides fortnightly and explains why cod in particular are so difficult to catch. The various races of cod around the UK fluctuate in numbers dramatically and what with commercial overfishing, discards and the fact that the minimum legal size limit does not allow them to spawn its small wonder anglers struggle to catch a fish over 3lb.
So this winter – select your venue with care and a knowledge that fish are there to catch. Pick the best tides and I would say avoid the crowds.
RED HOT COD NEWS
There seems to be an excellent number of codling in the North East this year with fish to 3lb plentiful from the shore on the Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Northumberland coasts.
Rough ground offers the best chance of cod and codling because the nets cannot exploit it like they can clean sand, so check out the rocks and kelp!
Your best chance of a giant cod comes from the boat in the English Channel and I recommend the Eastbourne and Brighton charter boats for a possible 50lb cod, especially after Christmas.
Top of the cod bait list is a live whiting with the live bait rig worth trying. This involves a large hook with a small baited hook (2) attached with a whiting taking the bait and then becoming bait itself.
The other bait worth using this winter if it’s a big shore or boat cod you want is a whole ,or even two frozen cuttlefish – Remove the bone and fish on minimum 6/0 Pennell rigs. Bites will be few and far between but could be a lunker!
My tip for fishing from now on is to fish a large bait close in on a second rod – there are still some monster bass to be caught, especially in the South of the country.
The final solution for anglers looking to catch a BIG cod this winter is a trip to Norway where you can virtually walk on water over the cod. Contact: Ian Peacock Tel 01914 472363 www.dintur.co.uk E mail: email@example.com
COMPETITIONS TO LOOK OUT FOR
The British Sea Angling Championships being fished from Deal, Walmer and Sandown beaches in Kent on the 20th October. Entry forms have been sent out to previous competitors and are available in local tackle shops. The details of the event this year are as follows: The competitions includes the men’s, ladies, juniors and four man team championships and is open to all sea anglers. The fishing is from 11am until 4pm with the entry limited to the first 400 anglers (So get your entry in early as there may not be places if you leave it until the day 20th October) £6000 plus are on offer in cash and prizes including £1000 for the winner and £500 for the captor of the biggest round and biggest flat fish. The event is pegged from Kingsdown to Sandwich Bay and offers national Penn Points to the winners. The draw and late entry takes place at the Deal 1919 Angling Club headquarters 13, the Marina Deal on Saturday the 19th October from 7pm. The event includes bag labels that must be signed in with every fish caught by the adjacent competitor. Entries and details Deal 1919 AC Headquarters Tel 01304 363968 or 361248.