Summer Sea Fishing Safety Tips

Men fishing from rocks in Rhossili Bay, South Wales

Men fishing from rocks in Rhossili Bay, South Wales
Image source: David King Photographer

Fifty people lost their lives while sea fishing in the four years from 2011 – and most of them were shore anglers who were, to quote the RNLI, “fishing from exposed areas of shoreline.”

Not only is this staggering loss of life tragic, it’s also unacceptable. Failing to take adequate precautions to stay safe while out fishing gives the whole sea fishing community a bad name, risks the lives of the people who come to rescue you, and – worst case scenario – means you never get to go fishing again.

To make sure you don’t become a statistic, check out all the safety advice you can find online. The Angling Trust is a good place to start. And while you’re at it, here’s our guide to staying safe while you’re sea fishing from boat or shore.

Shore Anglers

Fishing from rocks can be exhilarating.

Fishing from rocks can be exhilarating.
Image source: Mogliami

You get a buzz from fishing from those hard-to-get-to secret spots using light rock tackle, but you want to enjoy your day and get back in one piece? Or perhaps you love nothing better than standing thigh deep in the surf, spinning for bass? Great. Here’s what you need to do to survive the experience:

  • Fish with a friend. If you fall, who will raise the alarm? The minimum unit of survival is two, so if you’re searching out an isolated spot from which to wet your line, always fish with a buddy, and always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. If you don’t have anyone waiting for you at home, a quick phone call to HM Coastguard to let them know your plans is a good idea, but do remember to tell them when you’re back or they’ll send out a search party.
  • Wear a life jacket. Today’s life jackets are comfortable to wear, inflate automatically, and don’t get in your way. If you hit the drink, a little gas canister inflates your lifejacket, and you don’t drown. Why wouldn’t you wear one?
  • Wear boots. If you’re clambering over rocks, no matter how hot it is, nothing less than a stout pair of fishing boots will do. Beach casting? Wear crocs – if you tread on a weever fish with your bare foot, you’ll know all about it – the pain is enough to make a grown man weep.
  • Wear sun protection. Wearing suncream and good quality sunglasses protects your skin and eyes from sun damage. But it’s absolutely essential to wear a hat. It does more than keep the sun off. A hat prevents you from overheating which is when the unpleasant symptoms of heat exhaustion morph into lethal heat stroke. What’s the difference?
Heat exhaustion – too much sun makes you dizzy, pale, sweaty, feverish, and nauseous. You’ll have a headache, your pulse might race a bit, and you might throw up, but a cool drink, a seat in the shade, and a lie down at home should see you right.

Heat stroke – sees your core temperature rise. You’ll stop sweating because you’ll have no more fluid left to sweat; your skin will grow rosy red, and hot and dry to the touch; your pulse becomes rapid. You’ll get confused, restless, and possibly aggressive, you may suffer seizures, but as time passes, you’ll lapse into unconsciousness, and eventually die. If your buddy starts showing signs of heat stroke, don’t mess about, cool them down NOW! Chuck a bucket of cold water over them, strip them off, wet them, fan them. Get them out of the sun. Call the emergency services. You don’t have time to hang about; heat stroke kills.

  • Be prepared. No matter how competent you are, accidents happen, so always be prepared. If you’re fishing from rocks, be aware that even when it looks calm, swells can sweep unwary anglers into deep water. Take a rescue throw rope with you – not only does it come in an easy-to-handle bag, the bag doubles as a grab handle, the rope also floats, and the bright colour makes it dead easy to see when you’re thrashing about in the water.
  • Make sure your phone is fully charged. And carry it in a waterproof case. If there’s no reception where you’re going, consider taking an inshore flare pack and a waterproof strobe light.
  • Pack a basic first aid kit. Have enough basic equipment to deal with minor incidents and injuries without spoiling an entire day’s fishing.Be sure to wear appropriate clothing to deal with a soaking, as-well-as a decent waterproof coat which should be brightly coloured because if the worst happens, you want to be found – never trust the forecast, even in summer. Coastal weather changes fast.
  • Know your tide times. The coastguard, RNLI, and lifeguard service would have a much easier life if only anglers knew their tides and didn’t get cut off by them. Buy yourself a local tide timetable and learn to read it – remember to check whether your tide table adjusts for BST or not.

Boat fishing

Conditions can change quickly when fishing out at sea.

Conditions can change quickly when fishing out at sea.
Image source: Federico Rostagno

Everything you’ve read already applies to fishing from a boat or kayak. If you’re using your own boat, you need to make sure you get your engine (plus your auxiliary) serviced regularly, especially at the start of the season, or after a long layup. The emergency services don’t call the summer the “silly season” for nothing – make sure you’re not the one they’re wrapping in a warm blanket while they carry on the search for your missing crew mates.

  • Educate yourself. The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) offer myriad power and sail boating courses run through yacht clubs, and commercial outfits right across the country and beyond. As a bare minimum you should know how to safely pilot a boat in familiar waters by day – check out the range of courses on offer in your area, and make sure you know what you’re doing before you head out onto the blue.
  • Carry safety gear. It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised just how many people get into trouble because they don’t carry any safety gear. If you’re heading to sea, you must carry everything you need to get you out of trouble. That’s everything from spares, fuel, and tools, to oars, plenty of rope, a compass in case your GPS packs up, a comprehensive first aid kit, and an inshore flare pack. On a boat? Always wear a lifejacket.
  • VHF Radio. Your mobile phone cannot be relied on at sea, so make sure you invest in a decent VHF radio – either fixed or handheld, and do take the RYA’s radio operator course – there’s no excuse not to because you can do it online.

No matter how good the weather or how confident in your abilities you feel, never underestimate the ocean.

About the author:

As well as being a keen sea angler, Robin Falvey is an experienced surf lifeguard and has been a lifeguard instructor and assessor for the Surf Lifesaving Association of Great Britain. He has worked closely with the RNLI and Coastguard on rescues and first aid incidents at sea and ashore.

Summer holiday fishing for mackerel

fishing for mackerel

A good sized mackerel caught from a small boat.
Image source: Shutterstock

Mackerel are one of the most popular fish for UK anglers to target and for good reason. They’re relatively easy to catch, put up a great fight once hooked, and taste great.

Mackerel fishing doesn’t require a great deal of equipment or complicated fishing tackle so it’s an ideal way to get children interested or for holiday-makers who want to try their hand at sea fishing. Here, Chris Middleton shares his top tips to give you the best chance of success.

Understand your quarry

Using a light rod and a spinner is one of the most common ways to catch mackerel.

Using a light rod and a spinner is one of the most common ways to catch mackerel.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

Mackerel visit UK waters in the summer after spending the colder winter months in deeper offshore waters. They generally arrive around the British coastline in May and stay until late-September, although this can be later around southern England.

Mackerel are a relatively small fish – the UK shore caught record is 5lb 11oz but the average size for mackerel in the UK is only around 1lb or so. Despite this they are fast, active hunters which feed on smaller fish such as sprats and sandeels. For this reason the main method for catching mackerel is with artificial lures such as spinners, feathers and daylights.

Where to find mackerel

Piers are one of the most popular marks for mackerel anglers to fish from.

Piers are one of the most popular marks for mackerel anglers to fish from.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

Mackerel hunt for their prey in mid-water so fishing from places like piers, breakwaters, jetties and other artificial structures which extend out into the sea is the best way to access this deeper water. It’s also possible to catch mackerel from steeply sloping beaches. Indeed, Chesil beach in Dorset is one of the UK’s top mackerel fishing marks. However, shallow, sandy beaches are unlikely to offer water deep enough for mackerel to be present and are therefore best avoided.

Visual hunters, mackerel can be caught at any time of the day, but it’s worth noting that rough seas and choppy water can send them out of range into deeper water. Your best chance of success is usually during a steady spell of good weather and calm seas.

Best tackle for mackerel fishing

A mackerel caught with a spinner.

A mackerel caught with a spinner.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

Mackerel fishing doesn’t need to be complicated. Most anglers use a spinning rod of 8 – 10ft in length which can cast lures of 1 – 2oz coupled with a simple fixed spool reel. You can often buy rod, reel and line combination deals that give you the full setup for a reasonable price.

The main types of lures used in mackerel fishing are:

Spinners: These are solid metal imitation fish fitted with hooks. There’s a seemingly infinite number of spinners on the market but simple, traditional silver spinners seem to work best for mackerel. Alternatively, try this set of four of the most deadly coloured lures.

Feathers: These are hooks which have been fitted with brightly coloured feathers to make them resemble a small fish. They’re bought ready-made on rigs usually containing three to six feathers. Using feathers is an effective way to catch mackerel, and there’s always the chance of catching multiple mackerel if a shoal attacks the feathers.

Daylights: Similar to feathers, these lures are made with synthetic plastic material instead of feather. You’ll need to remember to buy weights if you’re casting feathers or daylights.

The best method for catching mackerel

Multiple mackerel caught on daylights.

Multiple mackerel caught on daylights.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

The great thing about fishing for mackerel is that the same method is used for spinners, feathers or daylights. Cast your lure out as far as you can and then reel it in through the water to tempt the fish to attack it and get hooked.

As mackerel are a shoaling species they can descend on an area very quickly. A spot which has produced nothing for a number of casts can suddenly become alive with mackerel, producing a fish every cast.

If you’re not having any luck, try varying the speed that you reel your lure in. Reeling in quickly will bring your lure back high in the water, while reeling slowly will retrieve it much deeper. Try various depths to give yourself the best chance of locating the feeding mackerel.

Another tip is to watch for sea birds diving into the sea (a sure sign that small fish are present and mackerel will be nearby) or bubbles appearing on the surface of the sea. This happens when mackerel chase small fish upwards through the water, causing them to panic at the surface and the sea to look as if it is bubbling. This is a clear sign that mackerel are present and a productive fishing session will follow.

Eating your catch

Hot mackerel straight from the barbecue is a real treat.

Hot mackerel straight from the barbecue is a real treat.
Image source: BravissimoS

Mackerel is a tasty fish which is full of healthy omega-3. Once gutted, it can be very simply barbecued, grilled or fried, although take care to avoid small bones which can be difficult to completely remove. There’s not much that tastes better than a fresh mackerel thrown on the barbecue on the beach within hours of being caught.

For more ambitious chefs mackerel makes excellent pate and can even be substituted for sausage meat in scotch eggs. If you have a bumper haul, gut, fillet and freeze your catch for another time. Try some of these recipes from Great British Chefs for inspiration.

More about the author…

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.

The Airflo Airlite V2 Switch Rod – 11 Foot 8 Weight

With a new season of chasing creatures of the salt in mind, our sea fly fishing guru Darren Jackson takes a new rod out for a spin with a selection of fly lines.

I’ve done a fair bit with switch rods and light double handers over the years and they really are just a joy to use; they make things so effortlessly easy.

I recently got my hands on a new Airlite V2 Switch 11ft 8wt to play around with and took along some standard Airflo Forty plus and Sniper lines, with densities ranging from floating down to a Di3 to have a good chuck.

Airlite V2 11ft 8 weight on test

Airlite V2 11ft 8 weight on test

Each line performed brilliantly well, but the Snipers are definitely the stars of the show on this rod (for me personally!) Simple/relaxed over head thumps were throwing my fly respectable distances, as they were with both line types; it was just a little more effortless for the Sniper with its short (30ft) aggressive head.

This line really drags big heavy patterns out there without to much fuss; I’d best describe it like “a three year old taking an out of control Rottweiler for a walk!”. The Sniper is never going to win gold for presentation, but for what I do (bass fishing on the coast) it’s a issue that’s not even worth taking a second to think about.

Single hand casts with a double haul thrown in sent the fly incredible distances and my backing to running line connection was making a regular appearance. That extra one foot of rod length allowed me to get considerably more of the head and running line out through the eyes with extra control, and with no signs of it collapsing/hinging than what I can comfortably manage with my 10 foot rods which, in turn, equates to longer casts.

The Sniper fly line from Airflo

The Sniper fly line from Airflo

For the record, I find the Forty Plus Sniper line performs so much better with longer leaders and a good stiff butt section. Basically extending the head a little which in turn allows more flight time and gives the line/head/loop more time to turn over before things catch up on their self. Take your time with the Sniper and it performs,try powering it out there with a short leader,combined with the short head,and it just wont work and dumps in.

I’m no casting instructor and those who are more technically advanced with the whole casting thing will get where I’m coming from (I hope). For those out there who are using the Sniper line,try it and see how you get on.

As it stands, I’m still relatively young and fit and found it no issue what so ever performing single handed casts with this rod,as time goes on and I grow older and weaker I’m not sure I’d like to be doing it all day. Saying all this, it’s not really what the rod was designed for in my eyes. Yes, overhead casts can be performed with relative ease but,technically,it’s a light double hander and should be used as one. All manner of speys, skagit, roll casts etc.are a doodle with this rod and if I was to fish small to medium sized rivers again for salmon and sea trout I’m not sure if I’d reach for anything else.

Airlite V2 ready for action

Airlite V2 ready for action

Things are really starting to move now, water temp is climbing everyday and I just can’t wait to hit the shores and give this rod a dam good thrashing. It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of the Airlite range of rods, I’ve used and abused them for over ten years and they have taken the worst I can throw at them with out issue. If the new V2 can take half the punishment I’ve given the older models we’ll get along just fine.

Tightlines, Daz

How to Dress for Winter Sea Fishing

The coldest months are the best time to target species such as cod, but dress carefully to stay safe and warm. Image source: Alan Yates

The coldest months are the best time to target species such as cod, but dress carefully to stay safe and warm.
Image source: Alan Yates

Winter can be one of the most productive times for shore fishing. The largest cod – those well into double figures – are caught during the winter months, while species such as whiting, flounder, dab and coalfish can all provide action for anglers who are waiting for big cod to bite.

The best winter fishing usually coincides with strong winds and rough seas. While these may be the best conditions for catching large fish, they’re some of the most challenging for anglers. Chris Middleton tells us how to stay safe and keep warm when the cold bites.

Why it’s important to keep warm

ice-fishing

Anglers fishing in the coldest conditions – such as Iceland – rely on thermal suits.
Image source: Shutterstock

In winter the temperature can drop well below zero, with cold winds, rain or sea spray making conditions even worse for anglers. Failing to wear suitable clothing makes for uncomfortable fishing, and in extreme cases can put an angler’s health, and even life, at risk. A two degree drop in body temperature is all it takes for you to suffer hypothermia. A mild case will result in irritability, confusion and unconsciousness. Ultimately it can end in death.

The good news is that the right clothing can make winter sea fishing one of the most exciting sports you can imagine. Advances in materials and fabrics mean that modern thermal suits, flotation suits, jackets, hats and gloves will keep you safe, dry and toasty warm while fishing in any type of weather.

Thermal suits

Fishtec-thermal-suit

Some anglers find one piece suits warmer, but two-piece are more versatile.
Featured product: Imax 2-piece Thermo suit from Fishtec

If you’re serious about fishing in winter, a thermal suit is an essential investment. Today, two piece suits which offer a separate jacket and trousers/braces bottom are the most popular option, although one piece suits are also available.

As thermal suits are very effective, anglers don’t have to wear too many layers underneath them. Many find that a T-shirt and sweater along with jogging bottoms is sufficient, but those looking for extra warmth could always add additional layers.

All good thermal suits feature a heavy-duty outer shell and a warm thermal lining – a combination with keeps the wind and rain out and allows anglers to remain warm. Other features include a detachable hood, thermal-lined exterior pockets, Velcro adjustable cuffs and an interior pocket with a zip (ideal for keeping a mobile phone, car keys or other valuables.) The Imax Thermo Suit from Fishtec provides all of this for just £89.99. Alternatively, the Imax ARX-20 Ice Thermo Suit allows anglers to fish comfortably at temperatures as low as -20 degrees.

Flotation suits

Fishtec-flotation-suit

Not a replacement for a life jacket – but it could help save your life.
Featured product: Daiwa Sas MK7 2 Piece Flotation Suit from Fishtec

Flotation suits offer the same warmth and protection from wind and rain as thermal suits, but with the added advantage of buoyancy for anyone unlucky enough to fall into the sea while fishing. These suits offer a higher level of security for anglers who fish from rock marks or other exposed fishing marks.

These suits typically offer 50 Newtons of lift (less than a life jacket which is designed to be used in tidal waters) so they’re not designed to be used in place of a regular life jacket. But they will help keep you afloat if you fall in – potentially saving your life. There are two choices of flotation suit – a one piece style, or a two piece that consists of a jacket and separate trousers with shoulder straps. Most people find the two-piece version more versatile as you can wear the jacket alone when it’s not cold enough to warrant the whole thing. The Daiwa Sas MK7 2 Piece Flotation Suit from Fishtec is a high quality option from a well-known manufacturer – a good investment at £114.99.

Jackets

Fishtec-sea-fishing-jacket

Fishing jackets have corrosion-resistant zips, ideal in wet, salty conditions.
Featured product: TF Gear Force 8 Waterproof Jacket from Fishtec

Of course not all fishing takes place in the coldest or most extreme weather! Mild winter night fishing for cod, or an autumn evening lure fishing for bass will require a warm jacket rather than a full flotation suit.

Modern jackets constructed from breathable materials don’t restrict movement and allow you to cast to your heart’s content. However, they are very warm and waterproof, meaning that you’ll be protected if the temperature suddenly plummets or there’s a flash downpour. The TF Gear Force 8 Waterproof Jacket is an ideal example – totally wind and waterproof with polar fleece lining, comfortable elasticated cuffs and a lined hood with draw cord.

Hats and gloves

Fishtec-gloves

A quality pair of fishing gloves make long winter sessions much more comfortable.
Featured product: Imax Oceanic Gloves from Fishtec

It’s important to invest in high-quality, effective hats and gloves. Indeed, insufficiently warm gloves could allow your hands to get so cold you’ll be unable to carry out basic sea fishing actions such as tying knots, reeling in or unclipping terminal tackle. In serious cases gloves that don’t protect the hands properly have led to anglers getting frostbite. A pair of high quality thermal gloves – such as the Imax Oceanic Glove – are an essential item of clothing for winter anglers.

And don’t forget your head. While most thermal and flotation suits come with a thermal lined hood, many people also wear an additional woolly hat as extra protection from cold winds. Peaked, fleece lined hats which cover the ears are popular with some anglers when the sun is setting. Polarised sunglasses are also useful. The anti-glare properties help anglers spot fish such as mullet feeding just below the surface of the water. These Bolle polarised fishing sunglasses are a popular choice and a lanyard is probably a good idea!

Footwear

Fishtec-thermal-boot

Standard wellington boots may keep feet dry, but they won’t keep feet warm enough during winter fishing trips.
Featured product: TF Gear Thermo Boots from Fishtec

During a winter fishing session your feet can become very cold, especially if there’s snow on the ground or in frosty conditions. Invest in boots with a heat-retaining thermal lining that are specifically designed for harsh winter weather.

Indeed, many anglers have learned the hard way that normal walking boots or wellingtons are simply not warm enough on cold winter nights, even when worn with thermal socks. The TF Gear Thermo boots are an ideal example of this type of footwear and will keep feet warm down to temperatures of -10 degrees.

What should I wear for winter sea fishing?

Don’t get so caught up in decisions about rigs, venue and bait when planning a sea fishing trip that the correct clothing becomes an afterthought. Inadequate clothing will not only spoil your enjoyment, but could even threaten your health. Here’s a quick summary of the essential clothes you’ll need for winter sea fishing:

  • A good quality thermal or flotation suit
  • A wind and waterproof, thermal lined fishing jacket
  • High quality, thermal gloves, purpose designed
  • A warm, woolly hat, with peak if sunny
  • Thermal boots
  • Polarised sunglasses

Most wanted sea fishing Xmas gift survey – WIN £100

Fishtec Xmas gift survey vouchers

WIN a £100 Fishtec voucher – complete our simple survey to enter


Choose the sea fishing gifts you most want this Christmas and win a £100 Fishtec voucher.

We’ve shortlisted some of the most popular products for you to choose from in our simple survey below.

To Enter
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Once submitted you’ll be automatically entered into our free prize draw to win a £100 Fishtec voucher.

So what are you waiting for? It only takes 2 minutes…

Closing date: 5pm Thursday 16th November 2017

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By entering into this free prize draw, all entrants agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.

In the event that any entrant does not, or is unable to, comply with and meet these Terms and Conditions and the prize draw information, Fishtec shall be entitled at its sole discretion to disqualify such entrant, without any further liability to such entrant.

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This prize draw is free to enter and no purchase is necessary.

Fishtec may exercise its sole discretion to use the winner’s name for future promotional, marketing and publicity purposes in any media worldwide without notice or without any fee being paid.

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The prize for our Most Wanted Xmas Gift survey is £100 worth of Fishtec vouchers. No cash alternative for the prize stated is offered.

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If you have any queries relating to our terms and conditions please contact: c.thomas@bvg-airflo.co.uk

A Beginner’s Guide to Fishing Piers, Harbours and Breakwaters

Offering easy access to deeper water, piers and other man-made structures provide great fishing for beginners and experts alike. Dominic Garnett shares his top tips for getting the best from these venues.

Pier_Fishing_001

Andy Mytton and Paulina Garnett fishing tight to the pier’s structure.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Like many other sea anglers, I have a soft spot for piers and other structures. It was at a local harbour many years ago, in fact, that I really caught the sea fishing bug. Having had precious little luck from local beaches, the vantage point of the sea wall proved a revelation. No longer was I hampered by my limited casting skill and basic tackle; a ragworm lowered close-in led to rod-rattling bites and species I had never caught before. It was a huge confidence boost and without this breakthrough, I may well have abandoned sea fishing altogether and stuck to fresh water.

Since those early days, I have fished a wide range of piers, marinas and sea walls. I love the variety they offer. I also love being able to fish close in, because with the shelter and structure provided you can often ditch the broom handle rods and get maximum sport with much lighter tackle. In short, these venues offer big advantages and something to catch all year round.

Piers, promenades and other manmade hotspots

Pier_Fishing_002

Wrasse love structure and cover, and are one of several species you can find around most piers and harbours.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

While my main focus will be piers and breakwaters, I should start by saying that the same rules apply for various spots on the coast. Sea walls, harbours and any marks that offer depth and shelter are ideal. Most of these venues offer free fishing, although some piers require a modest day ticket fee.

You can expect to catch a variety of fish. The summer months are busiest, as mackerel, bass, pollack and other species come close in to hunt fry and sand eels. Winter months bring shoals of whiting, pout and sometimes codling. But there are also species you’ll find more or less all year round, such as wrasse and various rock fish (see Fishtec’s Guide to UK Sea Species for a general guide to catches by season).

Besides online resources, the local tackle shop is probably the best place to pick up advice. However, there’s no substitute for just heading out to test different methods and talking to locals. As these venues tend to be public, the locals may well have friendly advice and be willing to share their ‘insider’ knowledge.

Typical tackle for piers and structure fishing

Pier_Fishing_003

With no need to cast miles, light tackle is ideal for catching smaller fish from man-made venues.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

The gear used to fish man-made venues can vary from the toughest beachcaster to ultralight lure fishing tackle. As there’s little need to thump a lead out to the horizon, it’s usually possible to use lighter tackle than usual.

Starting with basic tackle for traditional methods, you can scale down the typical beachcaster for a shorter pier rod or even a carp rod (Leeda produce some ideal affordable rods, including a sea fishing pier model, for under £30). This will suffice for bottom or float fishing. If the sea is rough or the bottom is snaggy, you might err on the side of caution and start with 10-15lb line.

For much of the time though, lighter tackle will suffice and I often use a lure fishing rod. Dropshot or LRF tackle is an absolute delight for mini species (typically with 5-6lb braided mainline and a 4lb fluorocarbon trace), while a medium lure rod, typically coupled with 10lb mainline, will handle larger lures, longer casts and harder fighting fish.

On the subject of larger fish, you would also be well advised to include a dropnet or long handled landing net (Daiwa make an LRF net handle that extends to 5.9m), if you are to safely land that three-pound wrasse or surprise bass!

Common tactics and catches

Pier_Fishing_004

Mackerel are superb fun on light tackle; and much less wasteful than using feathers.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

For many shore anglers, the main event each summer is mackerel – the perfect beginner’s fish. Beachcaster and feathers work a treat, but I find it crude and quite wasteful. After all, how many of us really need to take more than half a dozen mackerel home? Much more fun is a light spinning rod, with a float rig or spoon or metal lure such as the classic Dexter Wedge. These fish are a revelation on light tackle. Try different depths until you find the level of the fish.

Pollack and bass can also be caught from piers, which is another great reason to pack a spinning rod. In fact, I often use a 9-10ft rod in the 10-40g bracket for either lure or float fishing. The sliding float is a classic method (click here for rig diagrams from britishseafishing.co.uk), with a strip of fish for mackerel and garfish, or perhaps a ragworm section or live prawn for wrasse, bass and other species.

I tend to fish standard beach gear and leger tackle less from piers and structures, but this depends on the location. If there are lots of snags, losses can be high. Nor is it always necessary to use big leads and hooks- and you will get far more bites on light tackle. In fact, when I do leger I find smaller hooks and lighter traces much more productive. I would only step up my traces above 10lbs if I was targeting larger bass, wrasse or conger.

Perhaps the most common mistake I see, is the use of crude tackle. The brutal truth is that sea fish are not as big as they once were and you will get far more bites on lighter lines and hook sizes from 1 to 8 (carp hooks are excellent) than you will on old fashioned shore rigs and hooks of 1/0 or bigger (although I would make an exception for large baits and night fishing for the big stuff).

Pier_Fishing_005

Scale right down and there are lots of mini-critters to provide fun on your typical dropshot or light lure gear
Image: Fishing with the General

Last on the list, but often my first choice method, LRF (Light Rock Fishing) tackle is a joy to use for all manner of smaller species. Pack plenty of smaller worm style lures and little shads and you might catch anything from pollack, to wrasse, pout and sea scorpions.

Tides and locations

Pier_Fishing_006

Early and late sessions can be best of all, especially if you hope to catch fish such as bass and other low light feeders.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Walk along most piers and you will find two typical habits: anglers tend to fish at high tide and head straight for the end of the pier. There is nothing wrong with this, but you will catch along most parts of these structures so there’s no need to fight for a space at the end.

A rising tide is a good time to fish as the rising water brings in bait fish, followed closely by predators. The top of the tide is ideal for mackerel, garfish and other species; look out for shoals of prey and fleeing fish. If high water falls at dawn or dusk, even better.

Besides the fish we could class as “invaders”, which may only be present to feed for a spell, there are also many “residents” that live around the structure at all states of tide. As the tide drops you can still catch these fish, although you might need to scale your gear down.

The best spot is often right under your feet, tight to the structure, whether that means the legs of the pier, or the rocky bottom of a sea wall. In fact, it often amazes me how far anglers will cast when there are so many fish that lie closer in. Fry, crabs, shrimps and other prey all love the sanctuary of cover, so why not cast where the fish expect to find dinner?

That said, you will also find patches of sand and broken ground around manmade structures that are worth casting to. Clean sand may well provide habitat for flounders, plaice and other species less keen on rocky ground.

Further tips for piers and manmade structures

  • You will only realise the full potential of any venue by fishing at different times and states of tide. Be bold and try different rigs and conditions.
  • On busier venues, do watch out for others’ lines and respect fellow anglers. If you’re courteous, you will quite often pick up tips and advice from locals.
  • For some species, night fishing is superior to daytime hours. This is certainly true for fish like bass, dogfish and conger.
  • Mackerel and garfish are often easy to catch if they are present, but depth is crucial. Experiment until you hit them; typically mackerel will be at ten to fifteen feet, garfish a little shallower.
  • We’ve said nothing of mullet so far, but these are another worthy quarry- and a nice way to enjoy using your coarse fishing tackle at sea.
  • Jetties and the sides of boats are also very much worth targeting, but do be considerate and mindful of other water users.
  • Light tackle is ideal to get kids and beginners catching, right under their feet. Avoid crude tackle though, and scale down to hooks from size 4-10. Barbless patterns are much kinder to the fish, and easier to remove if wolfed down. Drop shotting with a section of worm or Isome can be especially deadly.

Five venues to try in the South & South West

Pier_Fishing_007

Brixham Breakwater
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

While I couldn’t hope to cover the huge number of piers and sea defences across the UK, here are five of my favourites across the south and south west:

Swanage Pier

A classic Victorian pier with lots to explore for a £4 day ticket (£1 for kids). Try right amongst the legs for wrasse and mini species, or cast out a float or lures for mackerel.

Weymouth Stone Pier

Weymouth is packed with manmade features, but the pier is especially productive. A great summer spot for mackerel and garfish.

Brixham Breakwater

You have both an outer and inner side to target on this lengthy sea wall. The outer side is perfect for mackerel and pollack; the sheltered inner has many small wrasse and the chance of a conger at night.

Mountbatten Breakwater, Plymouth

Get right among the rocks and this is a wonderful mark for LRF tackle, with the likes of sea scorpions, wrasse and even the odd topknot.

Brighton Marina

A big, imposing structure with plenty of species to go at. For youngsters and beginners, there are plenty of pout and smaller fish right under the walls. Bass are much scarcer, but try a large bait at night for the chance of a big one.

Catch more from our blogger…

Based in Devon, Dom Garnett is an author and regular blogger and columnist. You can read his “Far Bank” column every week in the Angling Times, while his website www.dgfishing.co.uk has his books and regular blog, which features sea, coarse and fly fishing.

Sea Fishing: The Canary Islands’ Best Beaches

Whether you’re in hot pursuit of first-class fishing opportunities or looking for a few hours angling during a well-earned holiday, there’s every reason to pack your fishing tackle on a getaway to the Canary Islands.

From spinning on the rocks to boat fishing off the coast, the Canary Islands have it all when it comes to sea fishing. We asked fishing enthusiasts at the Optima Villas team about the best beaches for angling on these volcanic isles. Here’s their insider’s guide to fishing the Canaries…

Fishtec-fishing-Canaries1

A marina in Lanzarote

1. Playa Quemada, Lanzarote

From boat excursions to shore fishing, this small fishing village retains the traditional Lanzarote culture, despite being just minutes from the large resort of Playa Blanca. Boasting an unspoilt, sheltered bay which protects visitors and locals alike from the prevailing winds and currents of the Punta Gorda, this quaint coastal village is brimming with a diverse selection of fish in its waters.

Translated as Burnt Beach, it’s the black rocky bay which gives the village its name – and it’s the lack of golden sands which means that Playa Quemada is such an undiscovered corner of the coastline. Home to just three restaurants and several residential houses, this largely untouched bay is arguably one of the most idyllic spots for any anglers looking to fish in guaranteed peace and quiet.

2. Playa del Moro, Corralejo, Fuerteventura

Situated on the north east coast of Fuerteventura, the town of Corralejo is best known for its dune-backed beaches and endangered wildlife in the Corralejo Natural Park. With the island famous for its bonita tuna, barracuda, garfish and bluefish on the coastline – as well as the chance to catch mullet, bream, amberjacks, palometa and parrotfish on organised boat fishing trips, Corralejo’s waters are a must-visit for any keen angler.

As the day draws in, this former fishing village boasts an excellent choice of eateries and bars – and with the volcanic Montaña Roja promising spectacular panoramic views across the island, there’s plenty to see and do once you’ve packed up for the day.

3. Playa las Teresitas, San Andrés, Tenerife

Fishtec-Canaries2

Playa las Teresitas, Tenerife

With a history dating back to 1497, San Andrés is one of the oldest villages on the Canary Islands, and is located just a stone’s throw from the vibrant capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Set against the impressive backdrop of the Anaga mountains, the picturesque village of San Andrés boasts some of the most sought-after fishing opportunities on the island.

With the majority of residents relying on fishing as their source of income, the new 360m long jetty operates as a breakwater – as well as providing anglers with a much-needed fishing dock. If you’re looking to get a closer look at life under the sea, why not swap your fishing pole for a snorkel and scuba dive, taking the plunge into these unspoilt waters?

4. Playa de Melenara, Gran Canaria

The island may be a favourite stop off for cruise ships due to Las Palmas’ array of duty-free shopping opportunities, but it tends to be the black lava and white sand beaches which attract so many of us to this mountainous island each year. Playa de Melenara is just 7km from the historic town of Telde, where visitors can discover some of the most important archaeological sites on the island and see what life was like in the town’s pre-Hispanic past.

On the coast, Playa de Melenara boasts a beachfront promenade that’s packed full with bars and restaurants – and with the expansive Atlantic Ocean so close, experienced anglers looking for a new challenge can head out into the waters to try their hand at catching barracuda and marlin, as well as tope, smoothhound, dogfish and angel sharks.

5. Playa de Puerto Naos, La Palma

As the largest beach resort of La Palma, Playa de Puerto Naos is no doubt one of the most beautiful hotspots on this island – and still relatively undiscovered by tourists. With its volcanic black sand boasting light green hues due to the olivine crystals that are present on its beach, Playa de Peurto Naos offers something truly unique.

The strong surf means that sea bass (lubina) can be regularly caught from La Palma too, and with barracuda and wrasse common on the coastline, there’ll be no shortage of things to catch during your stay.

Whether you try your hand at shore fishing or cast your net further on an afternoon of boat fishing, the beautiful climate and well stocked fisheries make the Canaries an excellent choice for anyone in search of an exotic fishing break.

This article was kindly provided by the team at Optima Villas, Lanzarote. If you fancy some exciting sea fishing and need somewhere to stay, check out the choice of villas on their website.

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.

Sea fishing equipment for beginners

If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to get together some basic equipment that you can build on as you get more experience. Specialist kit and tackle is something you can pick up over time, but as a beginner, this is what you need:

  • A good quality rod
  • A fixed spool reel
  • Monofilament fishing line
  • A few ready-made rigs (to tie to the end of your line)
  • Bait (in a container to keep seagulls out)
  • A sharp knife
  • Pliers
  • A bucket (for any fish you catch)
  • Towel and wet wipes

Let’s look at all the equipment in more detail…

Sea fishing rods, reels and lines for beginners

There’s a huge range of different sea 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.

Sea fishing rigs for beginners

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 ready-made rigs. This is a great way of learning how rigs work and how to construct them. Once you’re familiar with a few basic ready made rigs you’ll soon progress to making your own.

How to catch sea fish

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

How to fish from beaches

Sea fishing from a sandy beach.

Sea fishing from a sandy beach.

Sandy beaches are a great place for beginner sea fishing as they’re often relatively snag-free. It’s 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.

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.

How to fish from piers

Anglers fishing from wooden pier

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

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!

Whatever kind of pier you’re fishing, casting distance is usually less of an issue (due to the already deep water). This one of the reasons a pier is great for beginners – you’ll have a good chance of catching even while you’re 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.

Best bait for sea fishing

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.