Midway through October and still the weather is mild and relatively settled. Yes we are enjoying an Indian summer and for the shore anglers it’s been a long spell of mixed fishing with the crossover of summer and winter species somewhat prolonged this autumn. Could be that this is now becoming the norm with the mixed fishing lasting later into the winter every year due to global warming. Whatever, it’s welcome for sure. Only this week I landed a mixed catch of dabs, bass, whiting, codling, smoothhound and dogfish from my local pier and beaches. Fishing the Prince of Wales pier inside Dover harbour the anglers next door landed two smoothhounds, mine was just a goer, but the specimens landed by Kyros Andrea from Tottenham both topped the 6lb mark, both took a large squid bait. Kyros is a retired trucker who regularly travels to Dover to fish and these were his best ever smoothhounds.
A surprise bass amongst the dabs at Seabrook whilst using braid line on the new Continental beach caster caused me some excitement and those codling seem to be showing all around the UK, even in the sunshine and so it’s going to be a shock for many anglers when the weather does eventually change to winter. Looking at the continuous south westerly storms that are buffeting us, that all too familiar winter weather blocking pattern will soon introduce more easterly and northerly winds and lower temperatures. Anglers in the North Sea will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of onshore winds and more cod and here in the south when its calm nothing beats a calm sea and a frosty beach to spice up the night time whiting fishing..
However, now is a time to get serious with your beach fishing and going out prepared for the weather is an important factor. The waterproof thermal suit, a beach shelter or brolly, chest waders, warms socks, a hat and a flask are all essential to survival when the weather gets mean. Also important are the means to continue fishing when the wind blows and the sea swells. I pack a few heavier grip leads in the tackle box, those 7oz Breakaway green tops in fixed wire take some beating, although if it gets extreme then it’s a Gemini yellow head 7oz and nothing sticks like they do. Lots of anglers forget that the importance of a heavy lead apart from it anchoring to the sea bed is that it punches through the wind and tows baits far more efficiently than lighter leads. Which go off course in the wind. Bait clips also help you gain extra yards by tucking the bait snugly behind the lead for a more streamlined rig and bait. Now is the time to get your sea fishing tackle right. Make up a few rigs for extreme weather – the Pulley Pennell is a great choice for wind and sea both on rough and smooth ground and it’s the easiest clipped rig to make yourself. Lots of anglers also boost up their rig hook snood line to 25lb to combat conditions and that chance of a bigger cod.
One of the biggest winter mistakes made by many sea anglers, especially beginners is using too big a bait. OK big bait, big fish – that’s true, but a large bait is of no use if you cannot cast it far enough to reach the cod. So compromise between bait size, bait clips and lead size to maximise distance with your biggest bait and don’t fall into the giant bait fished in the gutter trap!!!!
The other common mistake of the novice is to recast a washed out bait. Replace your hook bait fresh every cast, fresh worms etc means a fresh scent so the bait scent trail the previous cast set up is continued. Casting timing is also important, keep an eye on how long your bait lasts against crab and small fish attacks and set you timing between casts around that.
The major problem once the cold weather arrives is obtaining bait. Lugworm prices go up every year as the worms become hard to come by. The problem is that the army of part time summer diggers cannot dig or pump enough worms to make it worth their while and generally it’s only the real professionals that dig all winter. Thus fewer worms and a bigger demand make bait scarce and easy for diggers and dealers to hike the price. One solution is to collect your own, although many will quickly find out that’s easier said than done. Winter lugworm digging in stair rod rain, frost and decreasing daylight is not easy. (Try it and you may not complain about the price or how small the worms are again!)
There are a few solutions and one is to freeze your lugworms. Black lugworms freeze best and when using them, tying them on with bait cotton makes keeps them more intact and on the hook because they do go soft. Frozen baits can be used to extend a limited supply of fresh although lots of anglers swear by frozen on their own. One tip – Treat frozen bait like you would your food, would you eat sausages that have been in the freezer for four years!
Sort your frozen bait in terms of how long it’s been frozen. Frozen lugworm from the spring tides can be used a week or month later when the tides are neap. That’s the way to manage frozen bait and not keep it for years!
Frozen squid is easy enough to buy earlier in the year in bulk, it’s cheaper. Break down into smaller amounts and store in the freezer and on some venues it’s all the bait you need, although for the current crop of codling fresh yellowtails or blacks take some beating.
You can obtain a supply by looking after your dealer – How many anglers buy their gear on the internet and then only visit the dealer when they are desperate for worms, small wonder he has none he will be looking after his regulars. So keep it in your mind to keep in with the local fishing tackle shop and with luck you will get a supply.