Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary

It’s a great time of year for sea angling coming up with the cross over of summer and winter species bringing some of the best fishing of the year.

Between now and the time when the sea temperatures drop (later every year in most regions) you have several months when its possible in some regions to catch a complete range of sea species at the same time. From bass to codling, gurnards to whiting and mackerel to bream and thrown in for good measure are rarities like trigger fish, blonde ray, shore tope, red mullet and a lot more.a So make the most of your sea fishing from now on – Don’t leave it until you need thermals. Get out their in the last of the sunshine and experience the fantastic fishing that can be found in autumn.

My last few pegged evening competitions have seen me suffer from bad draws, that’s my excuse anyway, although a run of high numbers on Folkestone pier has seen me stuck in the pensioners section at the shore end. You know, the area on the pier where only those who want a short walk or can’t be bothered, fish. In my case its only a blip, the better draws will return sooner or later, but the situation reminded me how the spot you fish from can be so important, especially if it has NO fish. This is a major problem for a large number of sea anglers who fish through the winter months. They fish in the wrong places, somewhere there are no fish and I don’t think there could be a better way to fail than that!

Lots of anglers are simply in too much of a hurry to get fishing and plant themselves and their fishing gear at the first vacant spot they come across. Others base their venue choice on fishing tackle shop rumours and hearsay, or the past history of a venue. “If it produced cod in the past it will do again” The truth is that the stocks of cod and codling fluctuate every year and in some years, especially in present times, the shoals have been so decimated by the commercial fishermen that they no longer overspill to the shoreline. Catching them relies totally on good preparation and reliable information plus a slice of experience. So when the season starts think carefully about where and when you are going to fish because that will influence your success far more than the best fishing tackle, bait, casting distance and terminal rigs!

I am currently working on the first autumn issues of Sea Angler magazine and the major subject is “How good is this autumn/winter season going to be in terms of cod?” Well contacting anglers all around GB it does appear that there are conflicting opinions and this does stem from the results last year. The various regional populations of cod are in different states of health in terms of size and numbers and this is the case every year. Basically, the success of any spawn governs the next few generations of fish that will appear in any given region and so a flush of codling usually means that the following years there will be more and bigger cod. However, as the fish grow bigger their numbers decrease and the commercial pressure on the fish in each region also effects the situation.

Looking around the coast the prospects for cod in the various regions are mixed, in fact very different.

ENGLISH CHANNEL: Here in my region of the English Channel there are currently lots of small codling in deep water and it is hoped they will move inshore in the coming months. The English Channel also produced a few very large fish last winter and its expected that some of these really big fish will have survived for this year – So for a lunker over 40lb the northern end of the English Channel may be the place to head, especially if you fish the boats, Try Eastbourne.

EAST ANGLIA: In East Anglia a flush of codling last year suggests that this region will see far more fish over the 4lb range – Although it’s a fact that as they reach this size (Gill and trammel net mesh size) they are far more likely to be caught by the commercials. Best venue could be Orford or the Dirty Wall at Aldeburgh.

NORTH EAST: In the North East there have been lots of codling in the estuaries and current thought is that the cod fishing will be better this year – A bonus in the region is the many rough ground venues, which although difficult to fish, do protect the fish from the nets etc. Best venues are those with heavy kelp, try Newbiggin.

SOUTH WALES: South Wales had a bumper cod season last year and that my pick of the regions for cod fishing this winter, anywhere from the Bristol Channel out to Swansea on the South Welsh coast should be good. Best shore venue is Cardiff or Penarth.

NORTH WEST:  Around the North West the Mersey is always a bright spot for codling although the bigger fish have been in short supply in recent years and the Irish Sea in general has experienced a decline and so Irish East coast angler should not expect too much. However having said all that, this the winter spawn will dictate next years codling stock and because the species can reproduce in such huge numbers when conditions are right and predators are absent, anything can happen and the glory days of the past could return over a couple of seasons. Fingers crossed.

Before I go, a few autumn tips:

Mullet, some big ones start to appear at this time of year and although they are generally regarded by many sea anglers as difficult even impossible to catch, this is not true you just have to fish at the mullet’s level. They will shy at thick line and big hooks, prefer bread to lugworm and don’t like lots of noise or movement. Essential is a mesh bag of bread and boiled fish (mackerel, gar, scad, sardines etc) to attract them to your swim.

Don’t forget to stock up your bait freezer with some mackerel before the shoals break up and leave your region. Mackerel is an invaluable winter bait for most species and its best frozen from fresh.

As the summer ends some regions can be clogged with surface weed, which can be a problem when it jams around your shock leader knot in the tip ring. Switch to a tapered shock leader, which offers a smaller less obtrusive leader joint. The TF Gear Aftershock tapered leaders are currently on offer at five for £6.75. Bargain!

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Alan Yates

About Alan Yates

Born in the channel port of Dover, Alan Yates spent his boyhood bass fishing from boat and shore. After a highly successful match fishing career, during which he competed for England 15 times, twice winning gold, Alan went on to become a full time angling journalist. While writing for, among other titles, Angling Times and Improve your Sea Angling, Alan also wrote his seminal work, Sea Fishing. Founder of the Sea Angler’s Match Federation, Alan fought for catch and release in match fishing and sea fishing more generally.