Posts Tagged ‘alan yates sea fishing diary’
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 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.
There is an old saying that goes “You win some, you lose some” and it sums up my recent angling exploits. Fishing a Dover Sea Angling Association mid week species open on Dover’s Southern breakwater. Not a large entry, so the rules were flexible with two rods and three hooks allowed. The idea was to catch the biggest of each species. Now the breakwater wall is alive with dogfish both on the outside into the open sea and in the harbour behind. The species have increased in numbers, like they have elsewhere, to the extent that on occasions they are thin and obviously struggling for food, but that’s another story. So catching a dogfish was not a problem, avoiding them was! To start I fished one rod with a float for mackerel and garfish and the other down the wall with booms fished just under the surface for bass with a head hooked ragworm. Three hours into the event with the sea chocolate brown with the May water, not a bite, except for dogs. Nearby Mick Tapsell from Folkestone even caught a doggie fishing near the surface on his bass booms. With the tide flooding and the evening coming hopes of a last hectic hour were proven when Folkestone’s John Wells of the next peg to me hooked a bass of 3lb, I followed suit with a smaller fish and then the float dived under and I had a mackerel. Peak tide on the breakwater wall and the tide run changes to flood hard towards Deal and then as it slows it’s the hot time for big fish, cod in the winter and in the summer smoothhounds and so I baited with a one up one down rig with two big peeler crabs on 3/0s and cast the Force 8 as far as I could.
A small bite signalled something was at the bait, probably a dogfish, but on the retrieve the rod bent over and the clutch slipped as the fish reached the wall. “Net” what a lovely word – Anyway I landed an 11lb thornback ray and a 3lb 8oz smoothhound on the same cast, what a result and my first ever thornback from Dover breakwater. The species have been on the rise around Kent and are now starting to appear from the piers and other beaches, how long before one is landed at Seabrook or Hythe? So a great weekend when everything came together.
In between I won two small midweek coarse matches before going to Grimsby on the river Humber to fish the Penn sponsored Clubman final for the Sea Angler Magazine team. The event, which I organise through the magazine, is a national club team event and apart from a host of sea fishing tackle prizes the winning team fishes against a team selected by the magazine from the anglers that either write, or are regularly featured. In this case the SA team was myself, Chris Clark, George Smith, Paul Fenech and my old mate John Wells who stood in at last minute for Editor Mel Russ.
The team we were fishing against were 2011/12 Clubman Champions, the Senhouse Street SAC squad from Cumbria and they were captained by Mark Scott and included Paul Crellin, Rory Campbell, Mike Edmondson and Dave Brunton. George guided us to the venue, which was the Courtalds Strait on the south Humber bank – A stretch of sea wall famous for its cod in winter whilst in summer flounders and eels with the bonus you could fish from your car!
The ten competitors were pegged out with plenty of room and after the starting whistle it was clear that the down river end was the hot spot and an end peg vital. Well my luck had changed and I drew a middle number and ended up last individually! This was the one I lost and I suppose there is a certain irony in that it’s often the more important competitions that your luck deserts you, lots of match anglers will relate to that.
Team wise Sea Angler won by some 300 cms with George Smith and Chris Clark top on the day with enough points to the event one their own. George did particularly well from his end peg with 18 fish and you can read all about it in a later edition of Sea Angler.
I am currently testing and reviewing bass rods, lure bags and lures for Sea Angler Magazine over the next few issues and the collection from the various manufacturers is amazing. I must say the quality of most of the gear is really good with some excellent value for money. You can pay a small fortune for a bass lure fishing rod or buy one fairly cheaply although the quality and performance is definitely proportional to the price.
Look out for the lure review especially its got most of the lures that the bass angler will need including the latest holographic plus and soft plastic baits.
It’s the hot time for bass coming up in many regions with some bigger fish starting to move around at the end of the summer. Hopefully I shall be off to Ireland for the peak bass season there with TF Gear and that’s the plan for the next DVD.
The current free DVD from TF Gear comes with the latest edition of Sea Angler magazine and includes lots of sea angling info and tips that should prove useful to the novice and improving sea anglers. Paul Fenech and myself spent a day on the beaches at Sandown and Seabrook in Kent making it with cameraman Lloyd Rogers. I have since upgraded my own camera equipment and hope also to bring you a few video blogs in the near future.
Canterbury, Kent sea angler, Andrew Griffiths is in the news after catching an impressive porbeagle shark. Andrew who fishes annually out of Milford Haven, West Wales aboard, White Water, perhaps the most successful shark charter boats around the UK, hauled in one of the biggest porbeagle sharks landed in the British Isles, certainly the best ever caught aboard White Water skippered by Andrew Alsop. The fish was caught on a live whiting fished on a “ready rod” This is a rod baited at readiness for any sharks seen close to the boat around the chum which is a fairly common occurrence and tactic when sharking, especially overseas. The rod a Shimano travel rod was cast at the fish and it took Andrew 40 minutes to boat the powerful shark during which time the skipper had to back the boat up towards the fish to regain Andrew some of his line. The fish was returned alive after measuring (82”long with a girth of 46”) with the length for weight chart crediting it as 234.4lb.
JULY TIP OF THE MONTH
July can be a difficult month for lots of sea anglers around the UK, not only with the daylight beaches etc crowded with holidaymakers, but the humid conditions definitely put the fish off feeding and coming close to shore. In some regions, particularly the south, some species have passed through on their migration north, whilst in the far north some may not yet have arrived. All in all it can be a frustrating time and it pays to be a little more selective with your venue choice. Those remote rock marks and deep piers are favourite from the shore, but a trip wrecking on a charter boat is also worth considering because the calmer weather is the most favourable for reaching some of those far off barely fished virgin wrecks. Check out the Whitby and Tyne charters for a deep North Sea trip, Milford Haven is also a worthwhile destination for sharks, whilst on the English Channel coast big congers and some huge black bream are in range.
Tight lines, Alan Yates
I love it when a plan comes together, mainly because it doesn’t happen very often. In my roll as contributing editor to Sea Angler magazine I go out on a feature with a photographer almost weekly and finding pictures of fish when you are tied to a day, any old tide and 9 to 5 working hours is almost impossible. BUT occasionally my trip out with Sea Angler magazine photographer, Lloyd Rogers is successful and that makes a big change for both Lloyd and myself from the normal run of the mill tackle reviews, baits pic that we would normally deal with. Recently I had a call from the magazine, could I use Lloyd for a beach trip, short notice, he had a cancellation. First thing I do in this situation is consult the tide table, and wonders of wonders the tide was perfect and so Lloyd and myself set off for Sandwich Bay in Kent with my angling mate John Wells along for back up.
I chose to fish the ray hot spot near to the Sandwich Bay Yacht club slipway and on arrival, a dismal dull dirty day, the beach was deserted. First cast a typical doggie bite and then a line full of May water suggested that the reason no one is fishing. But no the bite culprit was bigger than a dogfish and a thornback around 6lb surfaced. That’s what you call instant success, but better was to come when on my second cast a much bigger ray christened my new TF Gear Force 8 beachcaster. The fish were fairly close in at 80 yards and the bait was an Ammo sandeel with a Bluey wrap on a 3/0 hook fished on a Pulley rig. I tend only to use a single hook rather than a Pennel when fishing catch and release. Both rays went back to fight another day and that’s perhaps one of the reasons there are plenty around at present. You can read all about the days fishing in Sea Angler in a future issue. In the meantime there is nothing like a bit of success to fire the belly for even more fishing and my next target are some bass.
The May Water is a little late this year undoubtedly because of the freak weather we have had – it’s a pain jamming leader knots and rod rings and its sticks to everything when you remove it because it flicks and splatters off your line. For glasses wearers a nightmare. Well I am sorry I don’t have an instant fix to combat these brown globules that coat line and sea fishing tackle, but if there is a tip its long finger nails or a pair of surgical gloves to pull it off the line as it gets to the reel. Another way to combat it is to bang the fishing rod with the palm of your hand during the retrieve; this can help shake week and gunge off the line.
Finally, don’t leave it on your fishing gear, wash all your reels and fishing rods off when you get home because it’s highly corrosive and smells terrible after festering in the garage for a week!
On the current DVD from TF Gear and Sea Angler magazine I included a review of the TF Gear shelter range. That’s the basic green brolly, the Force 8 brolly and the Hurricane shelter. I am a particular fan of the Force 8 brolly because it is the only sea-angling umbrella THAT IS ACTUALLY MADE SPECIFICALLY FOR SEA ANGLING. Not a lightweight, flimsy rust bucket coarse brolly, but a brolly that has fibre glass, a tough removable hood and built in skirt with shingle pockets, it also has a straight insert support pole for maximum room. Give it a look you will be impressed by how well it is made. A great shelter for match and freelance anglers that have to move with the tide.
A new TEAM competition has been arranged by ISAC (The Individual Sea Angling Club) It is for teams that have previously been selected to fish for the Home Nations in the CIPS World Clubs Championships and is being fished on 30th of November and 1st of December at Browndown beach, Hampshire. Organiser is Trevor Sutch of ISAC who is seeking sponsors for the event, which is for teams of ten anglers from the clubs that have been selected to fish the World Clubs Championships. www.isacangler.co.uk
My favourite match of the year is the Dover Sea Angling pier Festival which is being fished from Dover breakwater on the 12th/13th and 14th October 13. I am the main organiser and this year the event has been moved forward in the year hopefully to some calmer weather that will allow anglers to fish Dover breakwater, which is only reachable by boat. In previous years the boat has not been able to reach the wall and the event has struggled for fish on the Prince of Wales pier inside Dover harbour. Entry details E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The problem of an increasing number of seals taking fish around the coast of the UK was highlighted for me by the dramatic fishing demise of Dover Harbour. With commercial fishing of any kind banned inside the harbour for decades the harbour was always a natural sanctuary for a number of common sea species including bass, pollack, flounder, plaice and even pouting in summer and cod, dabs and whiting in winter. But all that has changed in recent years with the arrival of several large seals inside the harbour only dogfish can be caught consistently, which tells me that seals are not that keen on the doggies. Just up the coast from Dover harbour the River Stour estuary has a similar problem, but even worse the Canterbury coarse angling club report that seals are plundering bream, chub and pike stocks well up the river past Sandwich. They have secured photographic evidence, which they have passed to the Environment Agency for action. Seal cull? – No way. So politically incorrect it looks like we are stuck with them!
Another trip abroad to Italy this month was to fish the Magrini Championships in Sardinia. A third on the first day raised my hopes, but a blanks, along with six other GB anglers I might add, ended my chances. It seems the slow start to spring and summer even effected the Mediterranean angling with the Sardinian anglers complaining of a lack of fish. I must to admit to a liking for fishing ultra light for sea fish because most of the semi tropical species like those found in the Med pull for their size although in the case of Sardinia five hours for two undersized (15cm) weavers has tested my patience. Magrini winner was Irish angler J P Molloy who put in a consistent performance to become only the second Home Nation angler to win the event (joey Arch was the other). Only problem was winning five trophies and an armful of prizes ranging from Sea fishing rods to reels, meant a huge excess baggage charge on his return home. Never mind JP well worth the extra cost because few Home nations anglers can claim such a great win on their CVs.
Tight lines, Alan Yates
A busy month of competitions at a time of year I really enjoy shore fishing – Its scratchy with bites at a premium and to do well you need to scale down both your tackle and your angling ego. Lots of anglers fish through March still in their November cod goggles, but the bigger fish are no longer around in a majority of regions and its time for the dabs, flounders and those damn rockling.
OK the match anglers actually enjoy this time of year, as I said, I do especially when it’s calm and cold. Most beaches slow to walking pace in terms of bites in the frostiest weather and it’s a case of dropping the hook size, the bait size, the line size and fishing closer in. The low tide gutter often being the only hot spot on the beach. It’s a time when the casting ego has to be put in its place, although keep it handy because the first rays of spring are no far off.
My latest competition was the Ten Worm Challenge – A sea fishing competition with a difference with competitors allowed to use just ten lugworms as bait – Nothing else! The event received lots of publicity despite which the entry was small, I suspect novelty events are not for many serious matchmen, although it is the case that event organisers are continually looking for competitions which offer more of a level playing field for all anglers in an attempt to attract more to competitions.
The Ten Worm Challenge was a rover, fish where you like and you could use ten rods with one worm if you preferred. I opted to get out my Continental sea fishing rods and use the event as a practice for the forthcoming World Clubs Champs in Portugal where I am representing Dover Sea Angling Association. Size 4 hooks, 8lb hook snoods, 16-foot quiver tip and fixed spools reel loaded with 0.24mm line.
I chose to fish at Dungeness and to cut a long story short I finished with 32 fish and half a worm left after five hours, the clear winner with the next place catching by Mark Howard fishing next to me at Dungeness landing 11 fish. My secret was to fish small baits each tied on the hook with elastic cotton – That way the bait lasted ages. I think I will claim a Guinness book of record place with the catch, but only so as to create more interest in the idea, which was the brainchild of Seabrook sea angler, Tim Raymond.
Another event that attracts a huge entry because anglers see the event as giving anyone a chance of winning is the European Championships fished at Bridlington. It also coincided with the worst of the month’s weather and just three codling were landed despite a huge entry of 2095 anglers, with the winner Karl Wiepcke, Goxhill winning the overall which included a car with a single 3lb codling he caught at Aldbrough. Big fish matches are the way to go if you want a larger entry, whilst pegged, catch and release will only attract the most dedicated match anglers.
The other event I fished recently, also a biggest fish event, was the Pollack Challenge out of Brighton, which is an annual event for me aboard Paul Dyer’s, Brighton Diver, which also carries Keith Arthur and the Sky Camera crew. With the BBC Shipping forecast giving gales it was touch and go whether the event took place, but fish we did although heading out to a wreck at thirty miles was a bit lumpy to say the least. However, the day calmed and some nice fish where landed by the 100 anglers taking part, including a 17lb 9oz specimen for Brighton Schoolboy, Connor Bonwick fishing on Terry Lee’s Brighton based Sea Breeze 3.
Keith and myself ended with three pollack a piece caught on a mix of jellies and Sidewinders with Keith’s best of 11lb and the best on our boat was third overall for Alan Milford who landed a 14lb 14oz lunker first drop. If you not tried lure fishing for pollack over a wreck it’s worth doing although the two-hour steam there and back does tax the brain.
With snow on my lawn at the time of writing this blog its difficult to get involved in the spring prospects but there already seems to be plenty of plaice around in the English Channel and it wont be long before the rays push inshore. Rumblings about smoothhound on Facebook seem a bit premature when Britain shivers in its worst spring weather for years. But all can change overnight, hopefully and it’s the hounds that most are looking forward to. Last year it was noticeable that the species has moved into the North Sea big time with Skegness region on the Lincs coast one of the best hound venues, Selsey and the Solent kept their end up as did South Wales and even Kent got in on the act at Sandown. But first the crabs need to peel, fingers crossed for some warm sunshine.
Staying with the changing format of competitions this one just had to happen and is possibly the way more events are going to go in the future. The Gerry’s Fishing Open in the Morecambe Bay area on the 7th of September, fishing 10am until 4pm involves all anglers owning a Camera with time date function and removable SD card. Your catch is snapped with the days bag label and returned. Check in from 9am Gerry’s Fishing or contact Sam or Chris 01524 422146. Email – email@example.com or facebook event – http://www.facebook.com/events/607757792585921/
Another catch and release event worth a look is the Rutherfords Conoflex 2 day open. On the 29th and 30th of June fishing two zones at Copthorne Hotel and British Airways Business Park on the river Tyne. All fish to count but there is a maximum hook size of 4. Entry is £30 for the two days, to book or for more info ring Andy Rutherford on 0191 5654183
Two open sea fishing competitions were fished from my local Kent shoreline recently and they illustrated the differences in the types of shore fishing contests available to sea anglers. At Dungeness the World Dab Championships attracted 216 anglers to compete in aid of the Dungeness RNLI, whilst at Seabrook 42 anglers fished in the Anyfish Anywhere sponsored South East Open series. The Dungeness even with its tongue in cheek “World” title was a go anywhere rover with all the entry fees going to the RNLI, whilst the more dedicated match anglers went for the pegged, cash prize South East Series event. It could be said that the two required a different level of skill to win with the bigger element of luck required at Dungeness because of a 25cm dab minimum size limit, which is a great leveller in terms of angling skill.
However, no one had factored in the force seven westerly winds, which turned the dab event into a battle against, wind, sea and weed with more than half the entry catching nothing and the more skilled (The matchmen in fact), who could handle the conditions catching the most sizeable flatfish. Meanwhile, at Seabrook the dogfish turned up in numbers at the eastern end of Princes Parade and those anglers with a low number draw enjoyed a fish feast with 176 dogfish recorded.
The results of both competitions reflect the influence of both luck and skill in angling and prove that neither can really be manipulated and that there is no real substitute for skill on a majority of occasions. Winner of the World Dab Championship title was Ian Harnett of the Isle of Sheppey who landed eleven dabs over the 25cm minimum size limit for a weight of 4lb 11oz, incidentally just 1.5oz more than I weighed in.
Winner of the Anyfish Anywhere event at Seabrook was Martin Jenkins of Dover with 13 dogfish for 8.900kg. Staying with big entry shore competitions it was the case in the past that a single big fish could often win. I re member a 2000 entry European and All England championships fished in the last century at Folkestone and Hythe, were I also came second and was beaten by a giant conger eel. The species were fairly common back in the seventies, but nowadays are unheard of from the Kent shore, Yes, the demise of the bigger species has had a big effect on competition entries because match anglers have concentrated their skills on catching the tiddlers to the extent that the average angler cannot compete unless the event carries giant minimum size limits, or is for the biggest fish! Events are nearly always about who can catch the most tiddlers like, dabs, rockling, flounders, whiting and in more recent times, dogfish. That species is having a dramatic influence on competitions around Kent with a move to specialist doggie bashing. The good news about dogs is that at least you can see them bite and they do pull the string. But lots of anglers hate them and because they are unwanted they promote catch and return, which is again not that popular amongst the average ability competition angler. Should dogfish be returned or culled, that’s a hot topic amongst lots of clubs and sea anglers. I pioneered a system in the Isle of Man, which involved keeping three fish, and returning the rest for a set score (500 grams is commonly used) other conservation systems involve retaining just one dogfish, the biggest.
The irony of the subject is that anglers return the one species that there are plenty of and kill those that are rarest. It’s all down to the plate at the end of the day. I have just had a meeting with others in the Dover Sea Angling Association team about fishing the World Club Championships in Portugal – The event in May is supposed to be club teams from all over the World, but as is usual in competition of all kind, there are always those that seek to bend the rules. In the case of the World Clubs its countries that pick an international team and then call it a club. Disgraceful really, but it goes on and that includes one of the British Isle teams. My team has a couple of international in it, but also a 76 year old and all members have been members of Dover SAA for over ten years. Species of the month is plaice – They are showing already from Brighton so I hear. The complete opposite to the dogfish, plaice are rarer than rocking horse dung in my neck of the woods. That was not always the case, but because they are slow growing and easily caught by trawlers their numbers have declined in recent year.
I am told that the reduction in plaice quotas for the commercials has lead to a small population explosion of the species in some inshore regions. I hope that’s the case because there is nothing like a plump red spot surfacing on the end of a trace. Tips to catch them include the customary bling, sequins, and beads, don’t forget the pop up beads and any manner of glitter, because it does attract the species. So get your sea fishing tackle out, add a worm bait, lug is best in my opinion and more the better occasionally, and that’s all there is to catching dabs. Why do I think lugworm is the best bait for plaice? Because lugworm tastes like plaice, don’t ask how I know that!
I am still on a roll fishing competitions with a string of club and open results.
In recent weeks and its mainly due to the fact that I am good at catching lots of small fish fast. Most match anglers fish like robots and this works well at times of year when there are a few fish about, but when there are lots of dabs and whiting, etc each casts timing becomes more crucial. The problem is that most beach casters nowadays have a fairly soft tip section and this soaks up the tide by bending, add the stretch of mono line and they but cancels out bite indication from the smallest fish. So the angler is not aware of what bites and attention the bait has had. Most anglers’ fish robotic ten minute, fifteen minute casts as a solution. The problem is that this wastes lots of time and a way to speed things up is to add five minutes to the cast if you blank and take five minutes off if you catch a full string (3). The complete solution is to use a rod that shows bites, even the smallest rockling or dab nibbles. Not easy if you are looking for a rod that will also blast three hooks to the horizon. I first solved the problem with a 15ft three-piece slim line rod with low rider rings. Being extra slim line the rod sits still in the wind and the slightly more rigid end of tip shows bites well. (It’s a fact that stiff tips are best for small bite registration because they rattle rather than bow which soaks up the movement) An alternative solution is a quiver tip but these do not cast heavy leads very well. Currently I am involved in designing a new TF Gear version of the low rider ringed beach caster and hope it will be available soon.
The difference when you can see every bites is amazing in terms of fish landed with 50 fish in a four hour match well possible and this is when fishing at long range. Lots of fish can also be caught at very close range with normal beach casters simple because there is less tide and bites can be seen more easily – A tip there, if you can catch the fish closer in do so because you will catch more!
The boats are the place to head in the New Year for a lunker cod. The biggest I have seen so far is a 40lb 14oz specimen bucket mouth for Dymchurch dinghy angler, Davis Simes. He landed his monster at the Dungeness end of Hythe Bay and it wasn’t a fluke either because his club mates landed fish of 34lb and 33lb in the same session. My tip for those of you after a monster cod is to get aboard a charter boat in the coming weeks. My list of ports likely to produce the largest fish includes: Eastbourne, Brighton, Ramsgate and Whitby with cuttlefish fished on an 8/0 plus Pennel the suggested bait and rig. Good luck – give me a mail with the picture when you catch it: firstname.lastname@example.org
Most anglers talk about line in terms of breaking strain, but this can lead you up the garden if you are not careful because lots of the same BS lines available are different diameters and to the sea angler, especially those using multipliers, the diameter of the line is crucial. I have to laugh when I hear anglers say “ So and so line is really the best because its so strong” Little do they realise is so strong because its much thicker! Do you even measure your line diameter, I do? The fact is that some line makes are much thicker than others of the same strain and if you buy by breaking strain you may be being conned. At sea 0.35mm line is usually around 15lb line, but in the carp world 0.38mm is often 15lb and that’s because carp anglers want a tough, durable line. The cross over between lines for coarse, game and sea and the influence of co polymer variations mean that buying by breaking strain as well as believing quoted diameters is a minefield – So get yourself a micrometer!
What lines do I use? Nantec Red Mist mainline 0.35mm and Daiwa Sensor 0.35mm.
The next major match for me is the Gambian Beach Championships on the 11th to 14th April 2013. The event and the days fishing around it are my chance of a catching a bigger fish with captain fish and cassava the two species that are most likely to show. Last chance entries to: Bernard Westgarth on Tel 01325 720113 or E Mail: Bernard@fishthegambia.com
Looking further forward the World clubs Champs is on the 4th May in Portugal for a week and I hope to be included in the Dover Sea Angling Association team if they are selected and then later in the month I will fly to Sardinia for the Magrini Championships on the 24th May. I have been trying a new tactic when fishing light line hook snoods in the Mediterranean etc and that’s to fish with a bait runner – Bites can pull line off the spool and not break the lightest hook snoods (5lb) And the lighter hook snoods the more bites you get in the clear continental seas.
PIC: David Simes 40lb 14oz Dymchurch cod. Amazing!!!
Just as I sat writing this blog the mobile rang with a multi media message from my son Richard fishing out in the boat off Folkestone. A plump cod of 20lb from a mile offshore, some bigger fish are around so I will have to get out before February arrives and they all move away – You have been warned the big cod window is small so make the most of it! Top of the big cod bait list is a whole cuttlefish on 4/0 plus Pennell hooks – these are great from the boat because they are a real mouthful and the dogs struggle to take them!
I am not looking forward that much to fishing in the New Year, because from the end of January the mature fish of most species move away from the shore line to spawn and shore fishing in the majority of regions is limited to the immature fish. Its pin whiting, thin dabs, rockling and scratching time. The best I can hope for are some plump flounders and the odd codling in my region. Mind you although the chances of a giant fish may soon be gone, along with the glory, it’s a time when fishing can be a challenge – Just getting a bite can be an achievement and because I fish a lot of competitions that alone puts the buzz back into the sport and I can continue through the bad times. Some anglers take rather a long time to realise that the fishing is so poor and either pin their faith on an early ray or a late cod and continue biteless through the New Year to Spring, whilst most simply pack in shore fishing.
For me the acceptance that big fish are no longer available allows me to totally concentrate on the dabs, flounders and the rockling. Out comes the 16ft Delta quiver tip, the fixed spool reel with micro braid, wire booms, light hook snoods and the size 4 hooks, my most desired sea fishing tackle for this time of year. My fellow match anglers all adopt this tactic because if you don’t and continue to fish with a 4/0 Pennell and whole squid then it’s a long cold, boring winter. I am also lucky that the occasional trout session, piking or getting the pole out on the mild days in the lakes spices up the lean times, but overall I do prefer the scratchy months because match fishing gets more interesting than a fishing race. The odd bigger flattie can swing events your way and even the rockling can make a difference. I particularly like club competition fishing at this time of year. Avoiding a blank can be enjoyable, especially when you manage it when others around you don’t!
Some advice for those of you who are going to continue fishing though the ice age months. Firstly don’t fish over ground that has been uncovered by the tide. I ignore venues where I cannot cast onto a sea bed that has never been uncovered by the tide. Not easy in some shallow regions, but believe me worth it. Fish, even rockling and flounders don’t like ice cold water or sand. Similarly stay away from water that contains fresh water, snow melt water. etc.
As for fishing tactics there are a couple that pay off during times of low temperatures and particularly in the competitions. One is to fish in the low tide gulley or gutter – You can cast too far when there are no codling and ignore the dabs, flounder and rockling at your feet. It’s a time when the flapper rig comes into its own. The saying goes; “Clipped rigs for casting show, Flappers for dough” Yes I know it’s my variation of a saying taken from another sport, but its just as appropriate and true. So before you clip on a Loop rig and head for the horizon think about what might be under you feet!
The second vital tactic regards bait. Lots of the small fish are hugging the shoreline in search of marine life that has been dislodged, killed and buried by the storms. That’s why “off” or stale lugworm works so well for flatties. They know that a storm will store up a supply of dead worms and shellfish and that the next ripple of tide will uncover it. They move inshore with a nose for the decaying worms etc, very often a tunnel vision nose. So keep your worms over from one week to use the next. You can bait the softest or sloppiest of worms by almost sewing them on the hook and there is always bait cotton to help. Wrigley harbour ragworm are also a worthwhile bait to use when the going gets tough – they or small white ragworm can induce the tiddlers to bite because of the extra dimension of movement and bites are what you want.
SPRING IS ON THE HORIZON
Well not really. It’s a long run in until the light evenings return, the temperatures rise and the fish return to the shore, although the return of the thornback ray is a continuing saga! The success of the species has lead doubt as to whether the rays caught in January are early or late, but my opinion is that because they are in increasing numbers in many regions they are overlapping their deep water haunts and heading for the shore in search of food earlier every year and they are becoming the shore sea anglers major all year around big species – So lets keep them coming by returning them all alive.
Plaice made something of a comeback last year through the English Channel coast with venues at Chesil Beach and as far up Channel as Brighton producing lots of small red spots. Will they come back this year? Chances are they will, but plaice grow very slowly so don’t expect them to be much bigger plus those early fish are usually thin and wasted after spawning. Its fingers crossed.
The 2012 Sea Anglers Match Federation’s Inter Services Challenge Match takes place on the 18th/19th of January 2013. SAMF Team places will be open to members only. Army, Air Force, Fire Service and Police teams will take part. The event will include a night match at Browndown, Gosport and day event at Magazine Lane and Hythe in Southampton. Fishing is measure and return with bait supplied. Accommodation will be provided at Marchwood Sea Mounting Sea Mounting Centre and will be FREE of charge. Total cost for the bait and evening meal are expected to be in the region of £70. If you wish to be considered for the 15 man SAMF team please contact Darren Phillips before 24 Dec. Darren Phillips Tel. 07971215876
Also coming up is my favourite competition of the year is the Irish Winter Beach Festival, which is fished on January 24/25/26, 2013 from the beaches north of Wexford. First prize is 1000 Euro and a full accommodation package is available at Sean Ogs, Kilmuckridge. The man to contact is Warren Doyle Tel: +353 (0) 12828769 E Mail: email@example.com
Other big January events include:
On the 13th of January 12, the Air Ambulance Open fished at Amroth. Fishing is from 11am until 3pm and its flounders only. Entry £5 plus optional pool. Book in Amroth Arms from 9am. Contact is John O’Connor 01437 563552
On the 27th of January 12, the Fords Sports & Social S.A.C hold their beach Open between the Rolling Mills and Hamble, Weston Shore, in Southampton Water (Excluding Victoria Country Park) Fishing is from 9am until 2pm. First Prize is £400. Entry Fee, Adult £10, juniors £3, Optional pools £2. Sign on and draw for Zones from 7.am HQ, Weston Shore. Contact is Peter Oates 02380693143 or Steve Eales 02380650519
Richard Yates of St Margaret’s Bay, Kent with 20lb cod caught off Dab Alley, Folkestone on cuttlefish and two blacks on a 4/0 Pennell private boat.