I had a surprise this week when a photo session with Sea Angler photographer, Lloyd Rogers resulted in me catching my biggest ever wrasse from the Kent shore. You will have to wait until the feature appears before you get to see the pics.
Catching wrasse from the Kent shore is nothing new, I first recorded Ballans in the 1980s, although they were generally small fish in the ounces and an occasional high summer catch. But after Samphire Hoe was constructed they started to appear in numbers and it was predicted that they would increase in size. Samphire Hoe, near Dover is a 2km long sea wall that was constructed out of the spoil that came out of the Channel Tunnel and it is extremely rocky and weedy, ideal habitat for wrasse which have colonised it big time.
I suppose the reason for the increase in the wrasse population generally has got to be global warming and it’s in the sea that anglers have noted a drastic influx of species and changes in the migration patterns of some of our most common fishes. The wrasse though is not a commercial catch, indeed the fact it tastes like cardboard will mean it will survive the nets and because anglers generally put them back. Both facts may have contributed to their increase, plus they are exploiting the habitat left after the demise of the other species.
Big Ballan wrasse have become what I call the poor man’s big fish with populations around the UK expanding and it’s a fact that large wrasse feature in many sea angling magazine pages when in the past they were considered less meritorious. Pound for pound of course they are a powerful sea fish, whilst their colours and handsome looks add to their popularity as a catch. They are also not easy to drag from their rocky haunts and can be caught on bait or lures. Nowadays they are there to be caught when other prime species are not and like the dogfish, wrasse have become an accepted part of the sea angling scene.
Between the wrasse I have managed to catch a few codling, although they have been mainly small with a mix of fish between 20 and 40cm from the Kent shore. Listening to the Facebook grapevine it looks like most of the English Channel and lower North Sea have the same populations of 1lb to 2lb codling. Trouble is so many anglers exaggerate the size and around my neck of the woods fish of 5lb are being reported, its odd that not one of the Kent competition results and there are hundreds, has produced a codling of more than 2lb 8oz. However, having said that its been nice to sit on the beach and see the rod tip buckle over because even a 2lb codling can give you a great pull down or slack line bite.
Best bait has been black lugworm for me with a two hook Loop rig the ideal terminal set up for long range when the weather is rough and distance crucial. At other times I have stuck to a two hook flapper with size one Kamasan B940s. In the coming weeks a change in the weather will produce more codling with an onshore sea the best conditions, south west in Kent and along the Channel coast is best whilst up the North Sea a North East is usually considered ideal. Also look to fish after the gales have subsided, don’t leave it a couple of day, go when the wind drops.
Between the codling have been a few big bass and it’s the time of year when bass and cod are caught together or in consecutive casts on some southern venues. I love nothing than a really calm night to fish a small live whiting in the margins of a steep shingle beach. Some big bass are there to be caught from now up until Christmas and like others the bass season has been extended again thanks to global warming.
I am currently using my two Force 8 continental beach rods. They are 15ft and rated 5oz, although I am using 12lb line and 4oz leads with one rod on micro braid and one on mono. The comparison between the two lines is tremendous with the braid especially effective over rough ground – I used it to catch those wrasse and its lack of stretch and immediate pick up means tremendous bites, but fish can be bullied away from the rocks quicker than with mono., One word of warning with braid main line all through, you will find that it will snap light mono hook lengths so don’t go too light, not below 15lb for rough ground anyway.
The Continental sea fishing rods have been an eye opener for me and using 4oz on the strongest tide with micro braid has generally lightened up my sea angling without a big loss in casting distance or increase in tackle movement because of the tide. Four ounces holds in most tides with the finer line, only heavy weed offers a problem.
I’m off this week to make a new DVD for TF Gear and Sea Angler magazine with Chris Ogborne. We are going to Cornwall and fishing aboard Optimus Prime skippered by Rodney Kennedy. The main subject of the DVD is fishing light and hopefully that will include a shore trip so I can show you the new Force 8 Continentals in action. Look out for the DVD in the coming months it will be free with Sea Angler magazine and to all TF Gear customers etc.