WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING
It’s that time of year when spring continually threatens to arrive, but drags its feet daily and March is going to be a long month. I remain busy with club matches and have enjoyed some success with dabs, dogs and whiting from the Kent beaches and piers and a few plaice turned up at a recent pier match and they are the first sizeable for a few years in the region. The whiting too have enjoyed a good winter and there is a certain irony that they are now making the size limit now that the match season is over. Whiting are though no longer a winter species and are in such large numbers they appear almost year around?
Now thoughts turn to thornback ray with the species experiencing a big spring revival in many regions, including Kent, in recent years. The rumours of “skate” have started with the Isle of Sheppey in North Kent always the first to produce. The rays are a shot in the arm for the shore anglers simply because they are something “big” to catch. They may have a poor reputation for the fight, but their sheer size means the rod bends when they bite and when you pull them in. Great fun after a winter with few cod.
Top tip for catching rays is to try a large chunk of Bluey on the hook. This oily mini garfish species is a great bait for lots of the summer’s bigger fish and catches straight from the freezer. Cut a section in a wedge shape and carefully wrap and lash it around a frozen sandeel with bait cotton (Skin out or flesh out is a personal choice). A bluey sausage is favourite ray bait from many early summer venues. In some regions peeler crab catches more thornback rays and its not long before the crabs moult in mass making them an essential bait for the rays in many estuary regions, whilst they are the go to bait for smoothhound everywhere.
There is much debate at this time of year on whether its best to use a two hook Pennell rig for large baits and large fish like the rays and smoothhound, or to stick with a single hooks for conservation reasons? Obviously the Pennell does increase the chance of a hook up, but it also increases the risk of damaging the fish – It’s a personal thing although I still prefer a Pennell for the largest hook baits.
I am all booked up for The Gambia in April and the week long shore competition I am fishing has an interesting twist – Its one hook only. Organiser, Bernard Westgarth who has a house in the Gambia is convinced that one hook will provide a more level playing field for competitors of all abilities. In other words it will take away all the advantages the matchmen have. But has he forgotten that it will also take away most of the fish with one hook definitely lowering the odds of a catch? Whatever, I am off for a deserved winter break with the family and with a single hook out I shall have more time to soak up the rays.
For last minute info on the event contact Bernard on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or check out his web site: www.fishthegambia.com
The Sea Angler Magazine Clubman series has finished and as the main organiser I am awaiting the final results before deciding the winners. There is now a couple of months rest for Club anglers with the Clubman restarting on May 1st. The event is in its fifth year and is open to all angling clubs and anglers, it includes sponsored prizes from Penn for the top five individuals and the top team (four). There is also the prestigious final where the winning team and top five individuals get to fish against a select team from Sea Angler magazine.
The event is organised by e mail only and you can enter your club via myself: email@example.com or via the entry form in the magazine.
TACKLE AND SPRING TIPS
The new TF Gear rigs are now available and apart from a couple of manufacturing glitches they should be perfect by the time they reach you – if not take em back! A few words about the clipped rigs, they are made with stops so that hooks can be replaced and snoods changed. All the snoods are adjustable and this may confuse a few novices. The stops used for all the rigs can be moved, not too easily, but with the flappers they allow the angler to convert a rig from three up to two up one down something you cannot do with crimped rigs. The winders each rig comes on too is far easier to store dry, thus increasing the working life of each rig – Contrary to popular belief I am using the rigs myself.
A new quiver tip rod model is now available it’s a 16ft three piece aimed at the match summer angler who want to fish light and see bites. Great for garfish, mackerel, bream, pout, flounder, etc and from the pier scad, pollack, bass and mullet. Look out for the Delta 16AM – 16ft All Rounder. (On offer at £134.99) If you buy one remember it has three tips with the other two stored in the butt!
Whilst feathering for mackerel carries a certain stigma with some anglers it’s a legitimate technique for many and who can blame anglers for taking advantage of such a stupid fish as the mackerel. Indeed they grab anything that glitters and a sack can be filled in no time. However, it’s a great idea at this time to year to add a couple of mini feathered rigs to your kit because lots of other species are just as gullible when it comes to mini lures and lots of these make great bait. Check out the wonderful range of mini lures now available because they catch herrings, scad, sandeel, mackerel, pollack, coalfish, bass and more. Look out especially for the tiniest Shrimper, mini hokkai and Sabiki patterns