There is a degree of excitement about the darker evenings and the autumnal nip in the air – summer has been great, although the shore fishing was hampered by sunshine and clear water and not all regions were blessed with a smoothhound run and I for one deserted to freshwater on more than one occasion. But now the winter looms and its time most serious sea anglers get the gear out. Initial reports suggest the whiting are back in large numbers, now depending upon the region, that could be good or bad news. Year class fish under 27cm are a pain in some regions because the food source they seek is limited and they stunt to razor thin bodies that swarm around baits stopping anything from else from taking it. In contrast estuary regions which are rich in shrimp boasts plump, fat whiting that pack on the weight with fish upwards of 12oz. Whiting are a deep water fish that feed on fish once they are mature and few stay inshore when they reach the 1lb mark, like the cod it’s the immature that live inshore before their food demands send them out into the deep sea. All this means that whiting, size from the shore, like the cod, have always been controlled by the numbers. In years when there are lots of whiting an overflow of bigger fish reaches the shoreline, on others the big fish are scarce. This year looks like an overflow year with plenty of bigger fish to be caught, although my advice is to fish those dirty estuaries rich in shrimp for the better quality fish. As for cod, well most anglers will be blinkered towards them and initial reports show small fish starting to show with a stray 15lber from the Brighton shore recently causing excitement although I think it was a fluke. However, as I write a south westerly gale is building and blowing and that may just be all the codling need along the English Channel and Atlantic facing coasts, whilst in the North Sea things should also improve once an onshore North easterly arrives.
My latest trip was an early morning try on Samphire Hoe near Dover, before the current gale – A great venue if you don’t mind losing a bit of gear, although I have to say experience limits the losses for me. But so many anglers in the Kent region won’t fish at Samphire Hoe or other equally snagging venues, because they lose sea fishing tackle. Well thast OK, but the fact is that the horrendous weed and boulders of the Hoe are home to a host of fish and they are relatively safe from the nets. This is a fact all around the country, clean sand has often been trawled to death and it’s the more mixed or rough ground that cannot be netted where the fish populations are at their best. OK this does mean that rock loving species like wrasse, pout, pollack etc are more prevalent, whilst plaice and sole are fewer. But give the rocks a look, fishing amongst snags is not that difficult if you give your tackle and tactics some thought. Fewer hooks get hooked up less and reeling in fast, lifts tackle up and over the snags!
My latest trip to the Hoe saw me stick with the sliding float and I fished a single hook baited with a sandeel 12ft deep. This meant I was well above the snags and by letting the float drift in the tide with a lift of the rod I could impart some natural looking movement in the frozen sandeel. It worked because I caught bass and pollack before switching to a rod with two hooks on the sea bed to catch wrasse and pout. Nothing big, but a successful and mixed day and perhaps one of the last before winter sets in proper, although with the changing seasons it does seem that autumn reaches out to Christmas nowadays in the south so the opportunity to fish the float hangs on if the sea remains calm and clear. Last year I landed garfish from a Kent pier in late November!
Talking about global warming, it seems very much alive in terms of sea angling with a continuous stream of tropical and semi tropical species landed in recent years from the UK shore and boat. Some of the rare species that have turned up may have been lost or off course, whilst others are undoubtedly here because of the changing migration patterns and habitat caused by man’s over fishing. Take out one species and another will thrive in the habitat and room that is untapped and that is the key to what is happening around the world in my opinion and not just the World’s oceans hotting up. Even so, the latest rare species to turn up is so remarkable it must pose questions related to the climate. Martin White a gardener from London landed a 2lb 8oz American striped bass from peg 60 on Dover breakwater. The fish was witnessed and weighed by Breakwater steward Tom Preston of Folkestone. Striped bass are a relative of our bass and as far as I am aware one has never been recorded in English waters, indeed there is no British record. The species spawn in freshwater and although they are sea going, they are found around the major American river estuaries and so how one got across the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean is a mystery. It is a fact though that the species has been stocked in river systems throughout the world, including in Iran and Russia so the breakwater fish could be a Russian fish heading home to its estuary in North America. Bass, the European species, are a popular sea sport fish around Europe because they take lures and grow to double figures, in America the striped bass are an even bigger target protected totally from the commercial fishermen they are the major sea sport species.
Deal and Walmer’s Piscatorial Past by Dave Chamberlain, photographs by Basil Kidd document the remarkable sea angling catches of the 1960 and 70s and the dramatic decline of the shore and boat fishing in the South East of England since that time. Some readers may say that the anglers themselves did the damage with their disgraceful piles of dead cod and pollack. Others that it was the commercial fleets who have also long gone. Whatever, the fact remains that in those days when PC didn’t mean anything other than Police Constable huge rod and line catches of fish were commonplace and they were simply laid out and photographed.
Dave Chamberlain was a charter skipper in those day and he and his beach launched boat, Morning Haze plied their trade from the Deal shore – Basil Kidd, now departed, was the local news photographer who would go anywhere anytime for a big fish picture. Between them they have produced a remarkable history of the changes that have occurred to sea angling nationally and this small section of the Kent shore in the very recent past. A great addition to any sea angler’s book collection.
The Book ISBN 978-0-9548439- 4 -6 is published by Beaches Books and is available for £4.99 on Amazon or E Bay.
My major event next month is the Dover Sea Angling Association three day Pier Festival fished on Dover Breakwater on October 12/13/14th. Entry fee £20 per day, optional pools £5 per day. All three days are for Penn points. Enquiries Dover SAA 01304 204722 or Alan Yates 01303 250017 E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The TF gear sponsored Kent Classic Open at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey takes place on the 17th of November. The venue is not that renowned for its fishing and if the weather is calm and clear it is a bit of a flounder raffle and that gets the entry up because everyone has a chance. You can also fish with the wife or kids which is attractive for families. If it’s rough and the water coloured then those whiting turn up and it’s a bit clearer cut with one of the many matchmen winning. The fishing is from 9.30am until 2.30pm.The match is pegged and pre book only contact is Trevor Back 01795 483676. Email – email@example.com