A Beginners Guide To Sea Fishing

Sea fishing can seem complicated and confusing to someone new to the sport. However, as Chris Middleton explains, a single well-chosen fishing rod, a relatively small number of rigs, and selection of bait can see anglers successfully catch fish from a wide range of sea fishing marks.

Sea fishing needn't require a complicated set up

Sea fishing needn’t require a complicated set up.

Rods, Reel and Line

There’s a huge range of different fishing rods on the market, which cover every imaginable type of sea fishing. However, a good quality all-round 12 to 14ft beachcaster will cover a wide range of fishing situations, and is the ideal choice for starting out with sea fishing.

Most anglers start off with this type of rod and then move on to more specialist equipment once they’ve learned the basics of sea fishing.

A fixed spool reel

A fixed spool reel.

The two main types of reels used in sea fishing are fixed spools and multipliers. While many anglers will claim multipliers offer the best performance, fixed spool reels are the easiest to use, and make the most sense for someone new to sea fishing to start off with.

It’s best to begin with monofilament fishing line in 15lbs breaking strain with a 60lbs shockleader to absorb the power of the cast. Again, many anglers begin with a fixed spool reel and then move on to using a multiplier once they have gained confidence in their casting ability.

Terminal Tackle and Rigs

Clipped down bait on ready made rig

Clipped down bait on ready made rig.

‘Terminal tackle’ is the term used for the various pieces of equipment which anglers tie onto the end of their line – hooks, links swivels and beads are all terminal tackle, and go together to make a ‘rig’. There’s a huge selection of terminal tackle for anglers to choose from, which can seem overwhelming to someone new to the sport.

Many new sea anglers purchase rigs ready-made. This is a great way of learning how rigs work and how to construct them, with many anglers soon progressing on to creating their own rigs.

Fishing Marks

Anglers using an all-round beachcaster and fixed spool reel can fish a wide variety of marks (fishing locations), but here we will concentrate on just two:

Beaches:

Sandy beaches are a great place to begin sea fishing as they offer snag-free fishing. It is always best to visit a beach at low tide and look for features which will attract fish such as gullies or depressions in the sand.

Sea fishing from a sandy beach.

Sea fishing from a sandy beach.

When the tide comes in natural sources of food such as dislodged shellfish, marine worms and small fish gather in these places, making them an excellent area to place to cast near to.

To catch larger species such as bass and cod, try a single size 2/0 hook in a clipped down rig, but flatfish species – particularly flounder – can be caught in very shallow water. Two hook flapping rigs with size 1 or 2 hooks are the best choice when aiming for these species.

Piers:

Piers are a popular angling mark due to their easy access, and the ability to place a baited hook into deep water. Many piers have restrictions on when fishing can take place, so it may be necessary to purchase a ticket to fish from some piers. Check with the pier’s local authority before you head out!

Anglers fishing from wooden pier

A pier is a popular spot for fishing from.
Image: Shutterstock

Whatever kind of pier you’re fishing, casting distance is usually less of an issue (due to the already deep water). This is a factor which attracts many anglers who are still learning to cast.

Two hook flapping rigs are a good choice from piers but it can pay to use size 1/0 or 2/0 hooks in a strong pattern. This size allows smaller fish to be caught but will still retain the strength to handle a larger fish if one takes the bait.

Specifically targeting larger fish? Step up to size 3/0 or 4/0 hooks and use a pulley rig as this will increase the chances of landing a large fish. A huge range of species including cod, whiting, flatfish species, bass and rays can be caught from many piers around the UK.

Bait

Ragworm on newspaper

Ragworm make a great all-round bait.

Ragworm is one of the most effective baits for sea fishing and can catch everything from small flatfish to specimen sized bass, cod and rays. Indeed pretty much every fish species in the UK can be caught on ragworm. Another advantage is that ragworm is easy to acquire from any tackle shop. It’s easy to present on the hook, and stands up well to casting.

Fresh mackerel is another top bait, and is even easier to get hold of from supermarkets and fishmongers. Strips of mackerel are rich in fish-attracting oils and the vast majority of species around the UK can be caught on mackerel baits.

A relatively simple sea fishing set up can equip anglers to successfully catch a range of different species from a number of different marks. Keeping equipment, rigs, hooks and bait simple is the best bet for those new to the sport, with more advances and specialised rods, reels and terminal tackle being used once anglers have got to grips with the basics.

Chris Middleton writes for British Sea Fishing where you can find find information and advice on all aspects of shore fishing around the UK with information on techniques, bait, tactics and fishing marks across the country. As well as this there are features and articles on wider issues such as commercial fishing, conservation and the sea fish species and other sea creatures found around the British Isles.

When Fish Bite Back

fisherman in boat with pike under water

Image source: Shutterstock
Pike are known to be fierce

British rivers and beaches are becoming filled with threats. Giant pike, venomous weevers and even great white sharks have all been encountered in our traditionally safe British waters. But how much of a threat do they really pose?

While we agree with Richard Peirce that British waters possess the right conditions and plenty of prey for White Sharks, to date there is no documented evidence (photos, video, teeth, carcass, etc) of their presence here. It could be a bit of a stretch to state “…White Sharks have been encountered in our traditionally safe British waters.

We’ve been finding out what happens when anglers (and other people) come face to face with fearsome fish who aren’t afraid to bite back. Here’s our roundup of piscatorial perils.

Sharks

Blue shark in UK waters

Image source: Shutterstock
Blue sharks are one of 21 species that visit the UK

Did you know there are at least 21 species of shark in UK waters? Smaller species like the lesser spotted catshark are regularly sighted, while blue sharks and basking sharks prefer to visit in the summer months. Most encounters pose no threat to humans, but there have been occasions when sharks have bitten back.

Angler Hamish Currie was had a lucky escape when he landed a 7 foot Porbeagle shark. As he struggled to catch the giant fish, it lashed out and bit a hole in his steel capped boots!

The guys at britishseafishing.co.uk aren’t surprised by the attack:

“…porbeagle sharks do not take kindly to being caught on rod and line, and most injuries sustained by people are when the shark is caught and brought on board a boat.”

The good news? Very few sharks pose a danger to humans. The Shark Trust tells us there have been no reports of unprovoked shark bites in UK waters since records began in 1847. They go on to say:

“With so many sharks in decline, we believe that shark encounters should be seen as a privilege rather than a cause for alarm.”

But there is one species of shark whose presence triggers more alarm than most. And it could be coming closer.

The Great White

Great white shark head

Image source: Shutterstock
The great white shark-coming to a coastline near you!

Cornish birdwatcher Brian Mellow is convinced that he saw a great white off Cornish coast last summer, when a wave crashed over the fish, revealing its profile. He told the Express:

“I’ve seen other sharks before and it wasn’t a basking shark, or a mako shark or a porbeagle.”

Commercial fishing boats and divers in Scottish waters have also spotted potential great whites. Witnesses include two divers who were circled by a very large shark that was much bigger than any porbeagle.

“We had no idea what it was, but we estimated it at 13ft to 14ft long. We had never seen a shark anywhere near that big. It made us very nervous. We got out of the water as quickly as we could,”

Could there really be great white sharks in UK waters? Richard Peirce, chairman of the Shark Trust, believes that British waters possess the right conditions and plenty of prey:

“The real surprise is that we don’t have an established white shark population, because conditions here mirror those in parts of South Africa, Australia and northern California. Research has shown that white sharks tolerate water temperatures in a range which would make British waters perfectly suitable for this species.”

Perhaps we’ll be seeing more sightings in coming years. The Suffolk Gazette’s shark attack parody story would have us think so!

Giant Pike

Angler in cap with pike falling out of hands

Image source: Andrewblackfishing.co.uk
The pike that bit back

In August 2016, coarse fishing blogger Andrew Black was injured when the large pike he caught decided to get its own back:

“I had caught a twenty and was doing a self-take- just as the camera clicked the pike flipped and I somehow caught it tail up / head down, just before it went ballistic and started to thrash around mouth open and clamped on my leg, ripping my trousers in the process!”

Water skier Daniel Blake was bitten on the foot by a pike while waiting for a boat on Llangorse lake in Wales. Llangorse is known for its giant pike and James Vincent of Britain Explorer believes that they may have inspired the mythical tales for which the lake is famed:

“It’s said to be the home of a mythical creature, Gorsey the afanc. Afanc is Welsh for lake monster”

Indeed, in 1846, an angler reported catching an enormous Pike weighing 68 Pounds (31kg) while fishing on the lake. It’s an unsubstantiated claim, but if true, this pike would still hold the worldwide record for the biggest pike ever caught.

But Pike don’t restrict themselves to attacking humans. In 2015 a huge Pike attacked a swan on an Irish lake. The attack was brutal, rupturing the swan’s eye and ripping its lower bill from its face, as well as tearing its throat. Gruesome.

Weever Fish

Weever fish in net

Image source: British Marine Life Study Society
Watch out for weever fish

In the summer of 2000, Jo Foster was walking through a metre of water on Crantock Beach near Newquay, when she suffered an excruciating sting. The culprit? A weever fish which left three puncture marks in her toe:

“The pain responded to hot water treatment, subsiding not immediately but after 20 minutes. However, the wound swelled up and 2 operations, the second requiring a 6 day stay in hospital”.

Alexandra Connolly endured a similar fate on a beach in Ireland when she waded into sea and suddenly felt like she’d been punched on the foot:

“While hyperventilating, my mind began trying to work out what had happened. I decided that I’d been stung by some creature with a nerve toxin venom and that I would soon begin to die.”

The pain subsided, but Alexandra had to take antibiotics for several weeks.

Weever fish are normally found on beaches in summer and are sometimes mistaken for small pouting or whiting. The fish uses its venomous fin spines to defend itself and capture prey.

Usually buried under the sandy seabed with just its dorsal fin visible, the weever’s sting is very painful. But the venom can be treated by bathing the affected area in the hottest water you can stand. Expect the wound to swell, and always seek medical advice.

Blood-sucking lampreys

Man holding lamprey

Image source: The Environment Agency
The lamprey is making a comeback

Fishing Tails blogger Sean McSeveny recoiled in horror when he landed a lamprey while fishing on the River Frome. But why was he so reluctant to handle this unusual fish?

To start with, lampreys look pretty terrifying. Growing up to a metre long, their permanently open mouths contain a disc of razor sharp teeth and a powerful sucker which they use to suck out their victim’s blood.

These prehistoric creatures have also been known to attack humans, so Seans’ comment of “this thing will give me nightmares” is understandable.

Record numbers of lampreys have recently been recorded in UK rivers. This might be concerning, but in fact it’s good news. Not only do they keep rivers healthy by processing vital nutrients, but their revival signals a huge improvement in water quality, which is good news for all species of fish.

But the boost in the lamprey population isn’t just down to cleaner rivers. The removal of man-made weirs, and the Environment Agency’s use of lamprey tiles have opened up 12,500 miles of English rivers, enabling fish to migrate much more smoothly. Lamprey tiles are inexpensive cones which help the fish to swim upstream using their sucker-like mouths as anchors. Fisheries expert Simon Toms is optimistic:

“Now that water quality has improved and some of these barriers have been removed we are seeing lampreys return to the upper reaches of rivers such as the Ouse, Trent, and Derwent, where they were absent as recently as 30 years ago.”

And if we still haven’t convinced you to look differently at these terrifying fish, there’s one final nugget of information that might persuade you. They make brilliant pike fishing bait. Andy Webster of Pike Angler explains how:

“Lamprey can be used whole or in sections. A neat tip is to use them almost whole with just the last inch cut off of the tail. This allows the blood to seep from the bait and leave a scent trail for the pike to follow.”

Lampreys are tough skinned and very bloody, making them perfect bait for pike.

Razorfish

Beach covered in razorfish shells

Image source: Shutterstock
Don’t put your feet near razorfish shells!

Razorfish are actually shellfish, named because their half shell resembles a cut-throat razor. They normally burrow 18 inches into the sand on the edge of the low-tide mark. Fish love them, and they make great bait, but expect pain if you step on one!

One of the worst recorded cases of razorfish injuries occurred on a Devon beach in 1998. 800 people cut themselves on the shells! 14 ambulances rushed to the scene and 30 victims were hospitalised. The experts from the British Marine Life Study Society explain why this unusual event took place:

“Razorshells live buried under the sand, but will rise to the surface of the sand to feed. Many of the Razorshells seem to have died during the heatwave leaving the sharp remains of the shell above the surface of the sand in the shallow water.”

It pays to check underfoot when you’re enjoying a summer beach holiday…

Have you experienced any fearsome fish attacks? Tell us your stories. Head over to our Facebook page and get posting.

Fishing Superstitions

 

Image: Maritime Museum

Image: Maritime Museum
There’s a long list of things NOT to do on a boat

Leave all your money at home. Never take bananas on board, and don’t mention the word ‘pig’. Generations of anglers have depended on beliefs like this to give them a sense of control over a powerful ocean.

Sea fishing is still one of the top five most dangerous jobs in the UK, which might explain why it remains steeped in superstition. We’ve plumbed the depths of the blogosphere and our Facebook page to discover some of the most famous.

From God to gore

Priest holding cross over bible

Image source: Shutterstock
Fishing is rife with religious superstitions

The familiar phrase “may God bless this ship and all who sail in her” may sound like a prayer, but the accompanying custom of smashing a bottle of wine over the bow of a new vessel has pagan origins. Experts at the Royal Museums in Greenwich tell us that launching ceremonies in the past were much more grisly than today’s, often involving human sacrifice:

“The Vikings, for instance, used to sacrifice a slave to win the favour of their sea god. But with the introduction of Christianity, this custom was dropped, and a goat was offered in the place of a slave.”

Christianity is also responsible for a raft of unlucky fishing dates. Superstitious? Then you should avoid fishing on Fridays, as it’s the day when Christ was crucified. The first Monday in April is also out of the question, as it’s believed to be the day when Cain killed his brother Abel. And never fish on December 31st, as it’s thought to be the date when Judas Iscariot hanged himself.

Even the clergy were considered to be unlucky. According to Morag Skene from The North East Folklore Archive (NEFA), if a fisherman passed a priest or “sky pilot” on the way to his boat, he’d either turn around and go back home, or risk impending doom.  Scottish blogger, Ian Kenn, elaborates:

“Once on board, even the mention of the word minister would have upset the spirits of the sea so if there were any references to vicars, priests, ministers or parsons it would have been done under the guise of something such as “the man wi’ the bleck coat.”

The fact that priests conducted funerals didn’t do much for their reputation as bringers of misfortune either.

Food and drink

Bunches on bananas

Image source: Shutterstock
Bananas are banned on board

Meals at sea were always accompanied by a side order of superstition. The saying, “pass salt, pass sorrow” stems from the belief that fishermen shouldn’t pass the salt cellar from one man to another without putting it on the table first. And even the humble loaf wasn’t immune, as Fishing Arts blogger, Stephen Friend, explains:

“Cutting bread and then turning the loaf upside down was said to anticipate the boat turning over and sinking.”

Bananas on board also brought bad luck. Steve Williams explains the background to this superstition on Facebook:

“Apparently donkeys years ago a cargo of bananas were being transported overseas and through bad weather the ship capsized and all people on board drowned. The only thing floating were bananas, that’s the old story.”

But is this just a story? Facebook follower Roger Tipple is convinced that bananas spell bad luck:

“I went pike fishing on a boat and near the end of the day I was blanking whereas my boat partner had a few good fish. I grabbed my food bag a saw the misses had packed me a banana which I slung away as soon as I saw it next thing I know I’m into a good fish which turned out to be 19.2 and the biggest fish of the day. Moral of the story DON’T TAKE A BANANA.”

Facebooker John Deans suggests a more logical explanation:

“The actual reason is bananas turn other fruits bad so all the sailors got scurvy. That’s why bananas shouldn’t be kept in the fruit bowl either.”

According to superstition, as well as being careful about what they ate, fishermen needed to be careful about how they ate. Stirring tea with a knife was strictly forbidden, and one should never cross one’s knives on the galley table!

On board

Trawler boat in stormy sea

Image source: Shutterstock
Could superstitions prevent storms?

The superstitions began before a trawlerman even set foot on his boat. In his book, SUPERSTITIONS: Folk Magic in Hull’s Fishing Community, Dr Alec Gill tells the story of six children in the Casey family, who helped dad Fred pack for his three-week trip. His own superstition meant that once something was put inside his bag, he couldn’t take it out or he’d never make it to sea:

“Eager little hands, innocently, dropped toys into his bag, and many a time Fred went off to Bear Island with a load of useless (and embarrassing) junk.”

And the superstitions followed fishermen on board. Upturning a hatch cover or sleeping on one’s stomach was also forbidden, as these actions could apparently cause the boat to turn over and sink. Superstitious fishermen never wore a watch on board either, nor did they take money to sea. Blogger Steve remembers:

“If they went to sea skint, they would have a good and successful trip. I can recall my grandfather talking about kids scrambling for money when the sailors threw their loose change into the air for the expectant and waiting children prior to setting sail.”

Facebook follower Rob Moore also recommends leaving one particular piece of equipment at home when you go fishing:

“Don’t bring the scales. Always blank when I bring the scales.”

Do you have any gear you think is cursed?

Women

Golden figurehead carved on boat

Image source: Shutterstock
Female figureheads keep the sea calm

Women weren’t welcome on board fishing boats, but they were responsible for keeping their their men safe by following superstitions on the day of his departure. Wash your husband’s clothes on the day he left for sea and you could cause him to be washed overboard. Wave him goodbye and a wave might sweep him away.

Women were also advised to avoid calling out as their husbands left for the dock and going down to the dock to see him off was not an option. Some women left their tea pot or ash pans full until the next day for fear of washing their husbands away!

But despite all their efforts, women could still cause misfortune. In particular, red headed women, who were believed to bring bad luck to a journey. Happily, if a fisherman did happen to meet a flame-haired female en route to the dock, there was a solution. Aberdonion, Eddie, who blogs at The Doric Columns explains:

“The bad luck could be avoided by speaking to the person before they had a chance to say anything.”

Once on board the fishing vessel, woe betide any fisherman who allowed a woman on board. According to author Mark Riley this was because the god of the seas is a beautiful female who doesn’t like men to pay attention to other women:

“Having a woman aboard makes her angry and she will stir up the ocean creating great waves to destroy the ship and all aboard her. If a woman was aboard and the sea became rough, the woman aboard should take off her clothes baring her breasts as this would calm the sea once again.”

This is why bare breasted female figureheads which often adorned ships were supposed to keep bad weather at bay.

Animals

young rabbit on grass

Image source: Shutterstock
The rabbit’s sacred roots led to superstitions

According to blogger Ian Kenn, the word ‘pig’ has always been considered bad luck for fisherman. The names ‘curly tail’ and ‘turf rooter’ are much more preferable:

“It was believed that mentioning the word “pig” would result in strong winds and actually killing a pig on board a ship would result in a full scale storm. If the word sow or pig is mentioned in the hearing of a fisherman, he cries out “caul’ iron” (cold iron).”

One possible reason for this superstition is the fact that pigs possess cloven hooves like the devil. But boars were also venerated by the ancient celts, and many Welsh stories feature magical boars.

Ever heard rabbits referred to as mappies or lang ears? If you’re a sea angler you’ll probably know that the word itself shouldn’t be mentioned on board a fishing vessel. But why is this? In response to NEFA’s Morag Skene talking about superstitions Dr Patrick Roper explains that rabbits and hares seem to be interchangeable and that before the rabbit was introduced, the hare was regarded as a sacred animal by the British:

“Among other things it was thought to be able transform itself into all sorts of different creatures, especially witches.”

It doesn’t help matters that hares are born with open eyes, which supposedly gives them special powers over the evil eye.

Fishermen also believed that they should never kill a gull or albatross. These birds were thought to carry the souls of dead sailors and to kill one would have resulted in the loss of the soul it was carrying.

Lucky hat?

Angler wearing cap and sunglasses holding fish

Image: Eat Sleep Fish
Pete Tyjas in his new ‘lucky hat’

Pete Tyjas, editor of ‘Eat Sleep Fish’ isn’t superstitious at all. Oh, no. Not at all. Apart from one thing – his fishing hats:

“It takes time to break one in and if I’ve had a bad day on the water I never wear it again.”

It was a difficult time when he realised that his favourite trucker hat just wasn’t warm enough. He tried out the one in the picture above, which his wife Emma had worn a few times but he hadn’t broken in himself. How did he fare?

“the day went really well, we caught fish, had some fun and any bad mojo doesn’t seem to have rubbed off on the hat”

The picture shows his first catch of the day, so Pete’s relieved. However, the Facebook thread released a flood of ‘lucky hat’ comments from ESF’s fans. More than one angler confesses to having up to three lucky hats. How many do you have?

How to improve your luck

Full moon in black sky

Image source: Dave Lane
Does a full moon mean fabulous fishing?

Many superstitions instil fear but apart from the right hat, there are plenty of other ways to add a bit of good luck to your voyage. To begin with, it’s always been considered good luck to sail on Wednesdays as the Norse God Woden was seen as a protective towards mariners.

Iron is thought to be a lucky metal, so fishermen nailed horseshoes to the mast as protection from bad luck, bad spirits and even witches. You could also increase your chances of a good catch by ensuring that your nets are “salted in” at the beginning of the season. This often took the form of a blessing, and a sprinkling of salt.

Pop a silver coin under the masthead of your boat and you’ll enjoy a successful voyage. Other good luck charms included pieces of fur, or the wearing of a single gold earring. This was supposed to improve your eyesight and guarantee a decent burial if you ran out of luck at sea.

One of our Facebook fans Colin Wakeling reckons he has the best luck when he fishes by the light of a full moon:

“Defo, I’ve had four 40lb plus carp ,all caught on a full moon phase. Couldn’t believe it, but it’s in my catch book. So, when the moon is full I try to get out fishing. Daft not to.”

Which fishing superstitions do you follow? Head over to our Facebook page and share your stories.

Fish That Wander

Unexpected visitors have been visiting British waters. Ice age monsters and travellers from the tropics are among the recent catches from amazed anglers.

We’ve been finding out what happens when anglers come face to face with rare or exotic fish. Check out these tales of fish that wandered – and got lost.

Brilliant billfish

dead swordfish on beach

A Welsh whopper
Image source: Glaucus.org.uk

In 2009 a dead Broad-billed Swordfish was hauled in at Barry Island beach after a fin was spotted poking out the water. But a massive swordfish isn’t the only aquatic monster to have appeared on Welsh beaches in recent years. History teacher John’s early morning stroll along a Welsh beach was interrupted when his dog discovered an Atlantic blue marlin weighing a whopping 200 pounds. John recalls:

I should have stood there with a fishing rod and blagged it as the biggest fish caught in Fresh East this century and had a photo taken – I would have been pinched by all the local fishing clubs!

Is global warming the cause? Doug Herdson of the National Marine aquarium in Plymouth reckons the jury’s out, as the marlin could have been caught by the strong currents of the Gulf Stream:

Unusual big-game fish have been visiting Britain on and off for the past century… if the seas do continue to get gradually warmer, then more billfish may venture up to the Bay of Biscay and further afield and we’ll see numbers of visiting fish, rather than just the odd straggler.

The Welsh coast is a long way from home for both Marlin and Swordfish who normally live in in the warm waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean.

Amazed by a Mola Mola

The mola mola is the heaviest of all bony fish species. Also known as the ocean sunfish, it’s about the size of a dustbin lid. Some impressively clear footage of a mola mola was taken this summer by diver, Ian Hope-Inglis, from Devon. He spotted the fish on a reef as it was being cleaned by a group of smaller fish:

We were diving not far from the harbour entrance at the Mewstone when my diving buddy gestured for me to come and see something – I thought it would be a lobster. I turned around and the fish was there; I have rarely seen the fish in a book let alone in real life.

Ian’s close encounter with the fish is a rare occurrence, as any disturbance normally sends them swimming away at top speed. Wildlife Trust blogger, Joan Edwards, wasn’t quite as fortunate as Ian when she first encountered a mola mola while diving off the Plymouth breakwater 20 years ago:

We didn’t have digital cameras then and, by the time I had got my light meter sorted, it had vanished off into the gloom.

In the winter of 2015, several sunfish were washed up onto Norfolk and Lincolnshire beaches. It’s likely that they, too had followed the Gulf Stream, feeding on swarms of jellyfish.

Unlucky lamprey landing

mouth of lamprey fish

This prehistoric horror has razor sharp teeth
Image source: Sean McSeveny

Fishing Tails blogger, Sean McSeveny, was salmon fishing on the river Frome when he hooked into something weightier than the brown trout he’d caught earlier:

The fish headed upstream, taking line from my reel. It didn’t take me long to get it under control and heading back towards me. It was at this stage that I thought I may have hooked an eel, then as it got closer I found to my horror that it was a Lamprey.

This eel-like creature has a circular mouth packed with razor sharp teeth, and can grow to over a metre in length. Sean continues:

I shouted David to come over as I landed it. To say that neither of us were eager to handle it was an understatement. Even more so when I was taking a picture of it, and it rolled over to reveal the most terrifying set of razor sharp teeth you could imagine.

Once a favoured Viking meal, the lamprey predates the dinosaurs by over 200 million years. Cleaner waters and the removal of barriers to their spawning migrations mean that this rare fish is making a return to the UK.

Pink Salmon Surprise

head of pink salmon

Look out for those teeth
Image source: Spey fishery board

The Environment agency need your help! Have you spotted any pink salmon, otherwise known as Oncorhynchus gorbuscha? This species isn’t native, as it’s typically found in the North Pacific basin and surrounding areas. But in August 2015, two anglers caught a number of these fish in North East England. One was also spied in Scotland’s River Spey, where Brian Shaw of the Spey Fishery Board saw the salmon first hand:

The fish weighed 2.5lb, typical of this small species of salmon. The distinctive spots on the tail aid identification. This looks to be a female as the males develop a distinctive hump on the back at spawning time. It is spawning season now for pink salmon and judging by the colouration it looks to be quite mature.

tail of pink salmon

Distinctive spotty tail
Image source: Spey Fishery Board

If you’re unsure about identifying this fish, look out for its spotty tail and impressive mouthful of teeth. And if you come across one, contact the EA’s Richard Jenkins on 0800 807060: with a date, location and if possible a photograph, which would really help us identify them and build up a picture of where they are.

Poisonous Puffer Fish

dead puffer fish on beach

Puffer fish – unpuffed
Image source: Liam Faisey

Richard Fabbri from Weymouth Watersports was on his daily beachcombing trip when he came across an oceanic puffer fish on Chesil Beach:

I saw this weird fish and initially I thought it could be a cuttlefish because of the strange shape and size. But as I got nearer I had a rough idea that it looked more like a pufferfish, so I took a few photos and took it down to the Chesil Beach Centre to their wildlife experts there.

Pufferfish only make very occasional visits to the south-west coast of England in late summer, but Cornish angler Liam Faisey suggests that this could be changing:

The oceanic pufferfish is a very rare visitor to UK waters, preferring warmer waters, with only a small number having ever been recorded before. It appears that the warmer summer and subsequent higher water temperatures has brought them into UK waters.

Pufferfish usually inhabit the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, and can grow up to 61cm. They’re famed for their ability to inflate themselves with water or air to keep predators at bay. As an added deterrent, they covered in tiny spines which lodge in other animals’ throats if they try to eat the fish. This explains why only expert chefs are able to cook them, as they have to remove the poisonous parts of the flesh with extreme care, to avoid contaminating the rest.

Tropical Atlantic Tripletail

Dead Tripletail fish

Did this tripletail travel via the Gulf Stream?
Image source: Museum of Wales

In 2006, an Atlantic Tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis) was caught in a fisherman’s net in the Bristol Channel. As the fisherman didn’t recognize the 60cm specimen, he took it to the Museum of Wales for identification. Research fellow, Graham Oliver, who works for the museum says:

We know that these fish like muddy estuaries, which may be part of the reason it was in the Bristol Channel. They are semi-migratory, often associating themselves with floating debris, and it is possible it travelled here via the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

Tripletails usually live in tropical and subtropical waters, and this fish was another first for UK waters.

Almaco Jack aperitif

fisherman with almaco jack fish

Scott and his Almaco Jack
Image source: Glaucus.org.uk

It’s tricky to identify juvenile Almaco Jacks, and fisherman Mark Cook found that out the hard way. When he landed an electric blue Jack, he figured he’d just about hit lunchtime. He’d already gutted and filleted the fish when a local expert pointed out that he was about to cook an extremely rare catch! Scott Shepherd wasn’t so hasty (or hungry) when he caught an Almaco Jack off North Devon, his weighed in at 1 lb 14 oz and was returned to sea.

Almaco Jacks are normally found in the balmy waters of the Caribbean but between July and September 2007, six were found along the south and west coasts of Britain, doubling the number of sightings since the first in 1984. Could the sightings of these fish be related to climate change? Lucy Brzoska, writing at the Natural history of Britain website, reports that there’s speculation as to whether there’s a colony becoming established in the Bristol Channel.

What’s the cause?

fish and chips on the beach

Have native fish had their chips?
Image source: Shutterstock

Why are we finding so many non native species in our waters? The general consensus is that climate change is to blame. As the air temperature rises, the ocean absorbs some of this heat and becomes warmer. Robert McSweeney of Carbon Brief notes:

North sea temperatures have risen by 1.3C over the last 30 years and are predicted to rise by a further 1.8C over the next 50 years.

The increase in sea temperature may be attracting Mediterranean and tropical species to our shores, but it also forces cold-loving species further north. The plankton that young cod rely on prefer cool water, so as the sea warms up they head north. The problem with this is that the young cod won’t follow them because the water in the north is too deep. This has led to a decline in cod population.

With chip shop favourites becoming scarcer, we’ll need to develop a taste for hake, gurnard, mullet, and the other warm water lovers coming our way. Professor Stephen Simpson of Exeter University, quoted in the Guardian, said in 2014 that these are the fish in our waters today, and to prevent us from having to import huge amounts of fish, we should be eating them. Anyone for John Dory and chips?

If you have any out of place fish stories, head over to our Facebook page and share your experiences.

Five top tips for Autumn Bass Fishing

Fishtec’s customer service man Ceri Owen looks at autumn fishing for Bass – a prime time of year to catch this species! His top five top Bass fishing tips are sure to bring you success when sea fishing this autumn.

5 Tips to help you catch more bass...

5 Tips to help you catch more bass…

Tip1. Look for high tides 9 meters and above (remember to know your mark well as safety is an issue). A high tide encourages Bass to enter the shore-line zone in search of food.

Tip 2.
Fish under cover of darkness, always a great leveller. Bass loose their caution and feed hard when the sun goes down.

Tip 3. Do not cast that far – usually just beyond the breakers will be far enough. Fish come in very close to where the tide is stirring up the sand.

Tip 4. Do not be afraid to use BIG baits – usually cocktail bait (worm, mackerel, squid) are a great combination.

Tip 5. Give bites time to develop as bass in shallow water can be very gentle with their take and even sit on a bait for a while. So after the initial bite don’t rush in and strike, let it develop slightly, as a Bass will quite often hit a bait, drop back and return just like it would when striking a prey fish.

Point 5 is exactly what happened when catching and landing the fish picture below, a good Welsh coast Bass of 7lbs.

A Welsh sea bass of around 7lb in weight

A Welsh sea bass of around 7lb in weight.

Another of 4lbs fell to same tactics well hooked and returned safely.

Remember if you are not catching do not be afraid to move spots and search for the Fish!

Good luck and I hope my top five Bass fishing tips help you catch more fish.

Ceri Owen.

The Seethrough Bait Fish

Welsh saltwater fly fishing ace Darren Jackson heads to the coast to fish for Pollock and unleashes a truly devastating fly pattern – the Seethrough baitfish!

As much as I would like to take credit for this pattern I can’t, and I don’t know who the credit should go to for this superb fly! Whoever did was a very creative, forward thinking fly tier and angler indeed.

The Seethrough baitfish

The Seethrough baitfish.

From the little I know I believe the pattern was originally designed for Seatrout in the salt by a Danish fly fisherman ( I could be wrong ?) I can’t find, or source, much info on it. I was instantly taken by the pattern and it’s use to me as a Bass/Pollock/Mackerel  lure. I could just imagine it being a extremely effective pattern for when they are smashing small bait fish and so it proved to be on a outing a couple of weeks back on the Pollock.

A chartreuse colour variant of the seethrough baitfish.

A chartreuse colour variant of the seethrough baitfish.

I turned up at the mark at midday with every intention of targeting Bass but, faced with a sea of glass, clear skies and a blazing sun beating down I was not confident of many Bass being around. I’ve caught many a Bass in such conditions but I much prefer it overcast with a little chop on the water to give them some form of cover. It’s also been a tough start to my Bass season and they have been thin on the ground, with a couple of blank sessions under my belt already I don’t think they are here in any sort of numbers yet, certainly not where I’m fishing anyway. I was out to get a bend in the rod so decided to tackle down and setup for the Pollock; off with the intermediate and on with the Airflo Di5 40+ extreme fly line with a couple of feet of T14 on the end. The T14 sinking tip is a great addition and advantage at this venue, not only does it get my flies down quick but it sinks my line at just the right angle.

I’m fishing off huge boulders which slope away in to the depths at around 45 degrees, through experience and countless sessions at the mark I can count my flies down and bring them back right up the face with out to many losses. I’ve tried many a line and method but, this would seem to be the best, level sinking lines just pull my flies straight into the snags.

Fishing off steep boulders with the T14 tip - and two at a time almost every cast!

Fishing off huge, steep boulders with the T14 tip – and two at a time!

I set up a two fly cast with the new 20.2lb Airflo G4 Fluorocarbon; the fish at this venue for whatever reason don’t run to big sizes and a 5lb fish would be a good one. I’ve heard tales of big doubles but never seen one to date or anything close to that size, I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t or, couldn’t, throw out fish of such size,it’s a perfect location for them, deep water, cover and massive amounts of sandeel, baitfish, shrimp etc!. If I was expecting larger fish I certainly wouldn’t  be fishing two flies for these power house fish. There really is no need to go any lighter than 20lbs, the fish are not leader shy and it has enough beef to take the knocks and bumps of being pulled over barnacle covered boulders. The first dive of a Pollock takes some stopping and if you don’t want them to run you in you gotta hold on, the 20lbs fluro gives me the confidence to give them nothing.

An olive Seethrough baitfish fly

An olive Seethrough baitfish fly.

I put a small’ish olive bait fish pattern on the point and a seethrough bait fish pattern on the dropper. Almost from the word go it was a fish a cast and although I caught fish on both patterns it was quickly evident that the seethrough bait fish was out fishing my point fly by a massive margin, they just loved it. Just in case it was the position of the fly on my cast I swapped them around to see if it would make any difference , It didn’t. I eventually put two seethrough bait fish patterns on and for almost two hours it was just double shot after double shot of Pollock .I couldn’t even guess how many fish I caught ?, all I can say, it was lots, nothing of great size, the biggest would have maybe nudged 4lb with a average of around 2lbs but, it was incredibly good fun.

Pollock rewards.

Pollock rewards.

The Pollock love the seethrough baitfish!

The Pollock love the seethrough baitfish!

The seethrough bait fish is a fairly simple pattern to tie and I’m so pleased I stumbled upon it, I’ve really enjoyed playing around with different variations. I’ve used different materials to what the original uses and you can do the same if you chose to give them a go. As well as being a extremely effective saltwater pattern I think it could be killer for you trout boys on backend fry feeders.

A white variant - could be ideal for fry feeding trout!

A white variant – could be ideal for fry feeding trout!

There is a YouTube vid out there for tying instructions, check it out here: https://youtu.be/eGFx7w9xOtY

Tight lines

Daz.

Kayak Fishing – By Chris Ogborne

Kayak fishing is one of the fastest growing branches of the sport. Here angling expert Chris Ogborne gives us a unique insight, along with details of a brilliant offer to help you get started.

Kayak fishing is great fun

Kayak fishing is great fun!

Fishing is all about fun, we know that. Its rewarding, relaxing, and a therapy. It’s about excitement as well, and occasionally when it all goes right it can be downright exhilarating. On rare occasions it can also be a true adventure, and that’s the essence of kayak fishing – the very heart and soul of this amazing branch of our sport is ‘adventure’.

I’ve been kayak fishing around the UK shoreline for more than thirty years now and because my home base is in the far south west it’s inevitable that most of my trips are focussed on the stunning coast of Devon and Cornwall. The fishing’s great, the scenery even better, and for most of the time we get better weather than anywhere else in England. All of which makes for ideal kayak conditions.

It’s hard to fully explain the appeal without indulging in too many superlatives. For me it’s more fun than any other branch of fishing, more involving and occasionally more demanding. I suppose the very crux of the matter is that you’re down there at water surface level, right in the aquatic environment, and almost at eye level with your quarry. There’s no noisy outboard motor to disturb the peace or the fish, no pollution, and no real intrusion into the natural world. It’s just the slow rhythm of the paddle, the gentle sluice of water under the hull, and the genuine feel that you’re doing the ‘hunter – gatherer’ bit in the 21st century.

If all that sounds a bit poetic just believe me when I say that it’s only half the story. Once you get into kayak fishing you’ll see what I mean. It’s relaxing, it’s healthy and it’s arguably one of the ultimate challenges left in our sport.

kayak 1To further explain the appeal, let me show you briefly how easy it is to get started:

Choose the right Kayak It goes without saying that the boat is the most important factor, so choose one that’s designed for the purpose. There are literally hundreds of kayaks out there, but when you start to look at fishing kayaks the list gets shorter. Basically it’s all about three things:

Stability: You need to be confident and secure when you’re fishing
Speed: You don’t want to take forever to get to your chosen spot, and
Tracking: You don’t want a kayak that swings all over the place every time you take a stroke with the paddle

With this in mind you can discount any kayak under ten feet in length when it comes to fishing, as it just wont work. Ideal length is between 10 and 15 feet, depending on your build, fitness levels, and where you’re going to fish. For rivers, inland waters and estuaries then a smaller boat is fine, but if you’re going to sea then a more substantial craft is called for.

Choose the right accessories: This is a bit like ordering a BMW from a main dealer – it’s much too easy to tick all the option boxes! The truth is that you can fish very effectively with a minimum of accessories, but there are a few that are vital. These include:

Carbon paddle: These are SO much lighter and easier to use
Buoyancy aid: or life jacket – an absolute essential
Rod holders: You simply can’t go fishing without at least two, preferably three
Decent seat: This will seem like a VERY good investment after a full day afloat!

You can add the rest depending on your budget and your fishing, but as long as you’ve got these essentials sorted you’ll have a good (and safe) day out.

Get some training: As in any branch of fishing, it pays to seek help when you’re getting started. There are loads of BCU (British Canoe Union) trained experts all over the country and an hour with a good trainer will save you days of experimentation and mistakes
Another great tip is to start off fishing in calm and shallow waters – far better to make any early mistakes here than out at sea.

Sort the right gear: Airflo make some great kit for kayak fishing and I always like to cover as many bases as possible when I’m out for a day. The Elite kit 9 foot 5 weight is a great all rounder for fly, but I also like to have spin and drop shot options as well for saltwater fishing – the TF Gear Blue Strike fishing rods and reels are perfect for both. With these brilliant all-round rods you can also troll if you like – they really are great tools with multiple options.

I would also advise a decent bag as well such as the fully waterproof Airflo Fly Dri carryall to hold tackle, a spare fleece or jacket as well as food and drink. This will sit behind the seat for ease of access and can be held in place by the bungee netting over the kayak’s storage area.

You can also add in lanyards to hold a landing net, priest, GPS or any number of extras Bungee lanyards are among those ‘almost essential’ options that you really should consider.

************************************************************************************************

Channel Kayaks. October 2014. Photographer Freia Turland e:info@ftphotography.co.uk m:07875514528

Channel Kayaks.

For the last two years I’ve been involved with an exciting new kayak company called Channel Kayaks. Unlike most manufacturers, they sell direct to the public so they are able to offer a top quality product at a hugely competitive price.

As well as making brilliant kayaks they also specialise in what they call ‘Adventure paddles’ which is basically a series of days out around the coast where you can sample all the delights of kayaking at first hand, and under expert guidance. These days are run in conjunction with the RNLI so you’re guaranteed great water safety advice as well.

For the purposes of this blog, Channel Kayaks have also come out with a very special pre-season price for you, as follows:

PRO kayak Normally £749 but NOW £520 (Perfect all-water kayak)
BASS kayak RRP £399 NOW £265 (Great for inshore and estuary)
TANDEM kayak RRP £579 NOW £395 (Two seater)

In all cases, this price includes the kayak, the seat, the paddle AND delivery within the UK, and as such it’s an amazing deal.

Just visit their website for all the contact details, or talk to them direct as there will always be staff to answer your queries or to help with free advice.

Channel Kayaks www.channelkayaks.uk
Or email byron@channelkayaks.uk
Phone: 01275 852736 or 07710745211

Kayak 2

Your top three sea fishing holiday destinations

Norway fishing

Image source: wikimedia.org
1000 years of cod fisheries at Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Norway is your ultimate sea fishing destination, Florida is second and Iceland third. Those are the results of our big fishing survey. What surprised us most was that two of your top three fantasy sea fishing holidays involve trekking to the Arctic circle.

So what is it about fishing in chilly climes that had you voting decisively in favour of the frozen North? And what does Florida have going for it that other places don’t? Let’s take a look.

Norway

Midnight Sun - Buldersanden, Troms

Image source: wikimedia.org
By the light of the Midnight Sun – Buldersanden, Troms

Norway’s Lofoten Islands are the Holy Grail of sea fishing angling. They’re the venue for the cod fishing World Championships held in the middle of spawning season, each March. Think millions of Arctic cod migrating from the Barents Sea – what’s not to like?

And if gigantic cod aren’t enough to lure you to the frozen wilderness, the seas off Norway also teem with haddock, halibut, coalfish and wolffish, all of which can grow to huge proportions.

And of course the scenery is spectacular. Barren rocky wastes in the far North give way to lush fjordlands further South. It’s a unique landscape full of sheltered bays, perfect for boat fishing because there’s usually somewhere to go whatever the weather.

Plan your visit between mid-May and the end of July, you can fish by the light of the Midnight Sun. During winter trips, you’ll not only avoid the crowds but you’re also likely catch a glimpse of the spectacular Aurora Borealis.

lotofen islands fishing boats

Image source: shutterstock
Heading out to bag a Championship-winner, Lofoten Islands

There are just so many great sea fishing destinations to be found in Norway. The Skagerrak coast in the South can’t be beaten for short drive times from mainland Europe. There’s even a sea bass festival held each August on the island of Tromøya. Other frequently-fished areas across the country include Fjordkysten (Fjord Coast), Trøndelag, Finnmark and Troms.

If you do your homework and book through a reputable organisation like Sportquest Holidays, you should find that most charter skippers can provide you with equipment and protective clothing, whatever your destination.

sheltered seas

Image source: shutterstock
Gorgeous scenery and sheltered seas await in Norway

Tips for sea fishing in Norway

  • Don’t skimp on warm clothing.
  • If you’re not willing to endure freezing temperatures cheerfully, you’re in the wrong place.
  • No special permits are required for deep sea fishing.

Florida

Key Largo

Image source: pixabay
Sunset and silhouetted boats, Key Largo

Forget Disney, it’s the Florida Keys that made second place in our Big Fishing survey. Over 16% of you said if money were no object you’d head for this tropical archipelago of sand-topped reefs that stretches over 100 miles from the tip of mainland Florida towards Cuba.

Think shark, marlin, barracuda, amberjack, cobia, mahi-mahi, grouper, sailfish, snapper, swordfish, tarpon, tuna and mackerel to name but a few of the species you can expect to get stuck into.

Sea fishing in Florida is best in the southern half of the state, from Tampa onwards. As for the Keys, wherever you choose to take your dream sea fishing holiday, you’re bound to find a professional sport fishing outfit to help you make the most of your time there.

Trophy shot from Key West

Image source: wikimedia.org
Trophy shots galore await off the coast of Key West

Tips for sea fishing in Florida

  • If you plan to retain any of your daily catch, you’d do well to bone up on Florida’s extensive fishing regulations, as they differ from species to species.
  • When packing for your trip, remember that the sun will be reflected off the waves at the same time as beating down on your head. Stay hydrated and protected.

Iceland

Fishing Iceland's open waters

Image source: shutterstock
Fishing in Iceland’s open waters

10% of our readers would make Iceland their first port of call for their fantasy sea fishing adventure. And it’s easy to see why: The abundance of specimen cod, haddock, wolffish, monkfish, Atlantic halibut, mackerel and pollack mean that a slow day’s fishing in Icelandic waters is likely to be anything but.

The Westfjords are the place to be. Every year, drawn by some of the North Atlantic’s largest fish stocks, more than 1500 enthusiasts make the trek to the villages of Flateyri and Sudureyri to try their luck.

When it comes to sea fishing, Icelanders know their stuff; fishing brings in nearly half of Iceland’s export revenue. And with volcanoes, hot springs, glaciers and rich Norse heritage, Iceland is a destination for those with a touch of seafaring romance at heart. And thanks to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, it’s not quite as cold as you might expect either.

You can charter a boat from almost any coastal town or village in Iceland, but most of the population resides in the capital, Reykjavik. It’s a coastal city, so if you want the option of some nightlife and creature comforts at the end of the day’s fishing, you could do worse than making Reykjavik your base.

nightmarish yet delicious, wolffish

Image source: wikimedia.org
The nightmarish, yet delicious, wolffish

Tips for sea fishing in Iceland

  • If cod is what you’re after, then winter is the time to fish for it. Be aware though, that this close to the Arctic Circle, winter days are extremely short – the shortest being around four hours. You may want to pack some vitamin D supplements.
  • To drive a chartered boat in Iceland, you must hold a Skipper’s Certificate.
  • The waters around Iceland are popular for whale watching. When you’re not busy hauling in your catch, keep an eye out for these breathtaking creatures as they surface for air and food.
open sea fishing

Image source: shutterstock
No better feeling

So these are your top three picks for fantasy sea fishing destinations, but with salt water covering two thirds of the planet’s surface, the possibilities are as broad as the ocean is deep.

Reel to Reel: Fishing on Film through the ages

old film camera

Image source: shutterstock
Reel to reel – vintage fishing clips

How much has fishing changed over the years? We thought we’d find out.

Check out our collection of charming vintage fishing film clips and see how they compare to the videos from today’s cutting edge of angling. We think you’ll be amazed by just how far fishing has come – and how much it’s stayed exactly the same.

Competition time

Flat caps at the ready! Back in the 1960s angling contests were no less hotly contested than they are today but just look at the acres of tweed on display…

A decade later and the Brits were competing in Denmark. Check out the snazzy plastic sun visors these British anglers wore while competing in the Woodbine challenge. Locals were apparently “bemused” by their interest in coarse fish in preference to salmon and trout.

Fast forward to the 2015 World Angling Champs and what’s most striking is the professionalisation of the sport. The fishing, however is just the same as it always was.

Deep sea fishing thrills

Jump on board a trawler and chug your way out to sea for a 1960s cod fishing adventure, Icelandic style.

Now take a look at the next video, courtesy of the good folks at Sportquest holidays. The venue is the same, but check out how much quicker it is to get to the fishing grounds!

A rod’s a rod

Simple yet effective, in the 1930s rods were crafted by men working in harmony with their machines – not to mention plenty of good old fashioned elbow grease.

76 years later and the materials have changed but making a quality rod remains a skilled job with a strong craft element.

Child’s play

Worthing’s the venue for this charming summer holiday clip from the1930s. As the commentator says, the kids here are only too delighted to “swap hated books for baited hooks”.

Now it’s all about keeping the kids off the streets – here’s a novel approach – an indoor fishing venue.

They say you no longer even have to step outside your bedroom to experience the thrill of fishing. The latest gaming technology means fishing games that are just like the real thing – apparently.

But then again, maybe not. Just check this little boy’s reaction to catching his first fish. Some things never change!

Clever Tips For Catching Cod

 

Cod-Beauty-Shutterstock

Image source: Vlada Z/Shutterstock
The beauty that is cod

Know your quarry. If cod’s your bag, this guide is for you. To help you in your quest for the ultimate catch, we’ve trawled the net for the best cod fishing tips from anglers and bloggers around the country.

  • Target species: Cod
  • British record (shore): 44lb 8oz (1966)
  • Average catch size: 5 – 15lbs
  • Spawns: Late winter to early spring
  • Habitat: Shoals in deep cold water
  • Preferred bait: Voracious feeder, scours the seabed. Also hunts dab, sandeels and pouting

Read on to find out how to make sure it’s fresh fish and chips for tea!

1. Be at the right place at the right time

Cod on the rocks

Image source: Fishing Tails
The Marsden area of South Shields

Local knowledge
Study your local area and speak to other fishermen before you decide where to set up. As Simon Parsons tells us on Facebook:

“You could have the best bait, the best rigs and the sharpest hooks in the world. If you’re not there at the right time for that particular place neither will the fish.”

Stormy seas

After a storm is the best time to catch a cod. Fishing Tails’ writer, Sean McSeveny, and a number of other anglers who posted on our Facebook page agree that churned up water means cod are likely to come inshore to feed on the abundant food churned up from the seabed by the waves. It’s a small time window though, so make sure you’re always ready to fish.

Cold catch

Ceri  Owen also mentions that cod like cold water, so storm-chasing after a frost or during a cold snap could improve your chances of a good catch. Study the weather forecast, and know when to make your move.

Darkness?

Most fish feel safer under cover of darkness, and many of you believe cod will come closer to shore at night. But they may also come into the shallows when there’s an offshore wind.
Christopher Middleton of British Sea Fishing tells us that whatever the time of day, you’ll always have a chance of catching cod in deeper water:

“Piers and deep water rock marks can be good choices for anglers looking to catch big cod due to the easy access to deep water they offer.”

2. Top tackle

Beach casting tackle

Beach casting tackle – strong and straightforward

Strong and simple

Keep your tackle strong and simple. Casting into rough water or around rocks means it’s important to minimise the chance of breakage. And remember you’re looking for big fish in deep water, so your tackle needs to be up to the challenge. Heavy lines, hooks and weights are a must.

Cod might not be strong fighters like pollack or bass, they can still be a struggle to reel in. Christopher’s advice for shore anglers:

“Use a 12ft beachcaster which is capable of casting at least 6oz, along with a powerful multiplier or large fixed spool reel.”

Rigs and hooks

Going after bigger fish means bigger hooks – at least size 3/0 to 4/0, or even up to 6/0. Large hooks also prevent bait stealing by smaller fish.

Try using a circle hook for the top hook of a pennell rig, says Fishtec’s Ceri Owen. Cod are known to swallow baits right down, and these can be difficult to unhook, causing unwanted fatalities. Ceri continues:

“The circle hooks tend to hook in the corner of the cod’s mouth. I realise that they can still swallow the one Pennell hook; however getting one hook deep down is better than 2 hooks, which results in more fish being returned.”

Want to know what a pennel rig is? Check out the images below. A clipped down pennell rig (left) is a good rig for fishing for cod from sandy beaches. For fishing for cod from mixed or rough ground, try the popular pennell pulley rig (right).

Cod rigs

Image source: British Sea Fishing
Clipped down pennell rig (left) and pennell pulley rig (right)

3. Best baits

Worms

Image source: Go Fishing – Sea Angler
Lugworms at their squirmy best!

Greedy cod

Cod are greedy fish that will eat almost anything including smaller fish. That’s great for anglers because it means you have a wide choice of baits with which to entice them. On the down side, cod can be unpredictable feeders; what works well one day may not work the next.

Live bait is best but it can be difficult to get hold of all year round. Sean bagged over 300 codling last season. His advice is to go prepared with a variety of baits:

“One day all they wanted was Crab, the next it had to be Black Lugworm and at the start of the season, when the Squid were about, it was Squid. If you have a selection of fresh and frozen baits with you, your chance of having what they want is increased.”

Sean often uses frozen bait, keeping in an insulated bag until he needs it. That way it stays frozen meaning he can take the leftovers home to use another day.

Decent portions

Don’t skimp on bait. As Ceri reminds us, two worms tipped with a squid or crab can easily be swallowed by a 1.5lb codling. Imagine what a 5lb+ cod can wolf down!
But while it’s important to use large baits, do keep them streamlined. Sean suggests using bait elastic to make your baits compact, and always clip them down.
Neil Wilson shared a handy bit of insight on our Facebook post. He says:

“Everyone rushes to get the squid & cuttle big baits out. I have found at the start of the cod season a live whiting or pout catch the big girls for some reason. Then when it’s REALLY cold the big smelly bait come into their own!”

4. Stay Safe

Shore fishing

Staying safe keeps fishing a relaxing sport

Do take safety seriously writes Fishtec’s resident sea angler, Ceri Owen. If the weather’s really bad wait until the end of the storm, before you go fishing. There were 381 accidental drownings in 2013, according to ROSPA. Don’t become a statistic

  • Wear appropriate clothing – dress for the weather!
  • Make sure you’re visible to other anglers, especially around rougher waters.
  • Carry a phone and make sure it is fully charged.
  • Take a torch.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Check the tide times – don’t get stranded!
  • Be aware of your environment and prevailing weather conditions – for example, don’t fish from a cliff or exposed area when there’s a big swell!

Tight lines!

So there you have it – some tips and tricks to help you catch one of the nation’s favourite fish. With a little work you’re sure to improve your chances of catching one of these beautiful fish, either for the thrill of the chase, or for your own table.