Alan Yates New Years Sea Fishing Diary


Folkestone sea angler, Alan Rickards with a 1lb plus dab from Folkestone pier

It’s odd how the New Year brings renewed interest and optimism to sea anglers – Suddenly the match entries are up and anglers are out on the local beaches and piers – Its all that new sea fishing tackle from Christmas to try I suppose. But the bad news is that the enthusiasm is short lived – The end of January, February and March are the worst months of the year for shore sea angling around the UK in general and the reason is that most species move away from the shore to spawn and all that are left are the tiddlers that cannot spawn and the few species like flounders, dabs  and rockling that spawn closer to shore. It’s a time when tiddlers are it and no amount of imagination can conjure up a big cod on many venues let alone a double calamari squid!  In the boats it’s a different matter with the chance of a very big fish from some of the wreck fishing port when the weather allows a long range wreck to be reached.

Sadly most shore anglers give up until spring, whilst a few hardy souls and the matchmen fish on through the worst of the weather. I must admit it’s a time of year I enjoy – it’s probably the challenge of getting a bite that does it for me and because it’s mostly small fish you get to appreciate what you have and make the most of it.

Typical February fishing gear is a lighter match rod, 12lb line or braid on a fixed spool, wire booms which allow you to fish lighter hook snoods tangle free, more beads and sequins and smaller hooks, Catching the smaller mouthed species may not be enjoyable in terms of the fight they put up, but the difficulty of catching them does it for me. Obviously it’s not so much fun if you are not fishing a competition although the challenge to get a bite, any bite can be addictive.

Talking about where fishing is going, it is so bad in places and at times it is impossible to ignore who is to blame. The greedy commercial fishermen have all but decimated our seas and no amount of bull from them about there being plenty of fish around will alter the fact that I am not alone in NOT being able to catch anything worth landed, especially in the winter and in terms of cod! Sea angling, especially from the shore is DIRE and yet millions of us in the UK continue to fish.  That’s why I believe that no matter where the fishing goes there will always be anglers who will make the most of the smallest fish – you only have to look at the Continent to see that.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs DEFRA via the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Inshore Fishery Conservation Authority (IFCA) recently produced the result of their 2012 sea angling survey of England. The document makes interesting reading and its like will eventually put an end to the commercial exploitation of our sea by commercially fishermen as it is gradually realised that sport angling produces more revenue and leisure time activity for the nation than commercial fishing. What’s more because fish caught on a hook  can be returned and caught again and again the revenue etc is ongoing and continuous unlike the commercial fishing which even kills the undersized fish it catches and has already wiped out most of the prime fish species.

The survey estimates there are 884,000 sea anglers in England, with 2% of all adults going sea angling. These anglers make a significant contribution to the economy – in 2012, sea anglers resident in England spent £1.23 billion on the sport, equivalent to £831 million direct spend once imports and taxes had been excluded. This supported 10,400 full-time equivalent jobs and almost £360 million. Taking indirect and induced effects into account, sea angling supported £2.1 billion of total spending, a total of over 23,600 jobs, and almost £980 million.

The survey also found that sea angling also has important social and well-being benefits including providing relaxation, physical exercise, and a route for socialising. And that anglers felt that improving fish stocks was the most important factor that would increase participation in sea angling.

Almost 4 million days of sea angling were recorded over the year. Shore fishing was the most common type of sea angling – almost 3 million angler-days compared with 1 million for private or rented boats and 0.1 million on charter boats. Anglers had most success on charter boats, catching 10 fish per day on average compared with around 5 from private boats and only 2 from the shore.

The most common species caught, by number, were mackerel and whiting. Shore anglers released around 75% of the fish caught, many of which were undersized, and boat anglers released around 50% of their fish.

Remember the survey was just sea angling in England.

For a full copy of the Survey:

The storms are raging as I write have closed several of the popular piers in my region. Dover Admiralty pier which has been the best pier for a shore cod over the last decade has been closed for all of the cod season and is not expected to reopen until the end of January. Even “indestructible” Folkestone pier suffered damage in the current maelstrom with tarmac ripped up and railings smashed. Deal pier has a catalogue of closure during the storms and worse may be yet to come, whilst a similar fate awaits Dover breakwater. All this suggests that the winter weather is worsening annually, although it’s fair to say that materials and repairs are not of the quality they were when most of the older piers were built and that Health and Safety has resulted in some unwarranted and unnecessary closures (in many anglers opinions)

AND it’s not all doom and gloom for the piers – Hasting pier repairs are starting and I for one look forward to the return of the Hastings three day pier festival  in the future.

Picture above: Folkestone sea angler, Alan Rickards with a 1lb plus dab from Folkestone pier – its dab time, so remember to add a few beads and sequins to your hook snoods and don’t through away that lugworm, next week wnen its stickie it will be deadly for dabs!

Wishing all a Happy New Year

Alan Yates

Festive ice fishing

Why not swap your plastic Christmas tree, with its dusting of fake snow for the real stuff this festive season?

We’re not talking about a winter fishing trip to your local lake, pond or river bank, but a serious ice adventure. It’s time to grab your fishing gear and hop on a plane – or sleigh – for our run down of crazy ice fishing festivals.

Go North

go north map

Winter fishing means one thing – head North
Source: Wikipedia

When the weather gets chilly, the coolest anglers head North – to North America. Why not join them? Embrace the cold by heading out to where it’s really freezing to try your hand at ice fishing. The great Lakes are a great winter destination, offering a fishing experience with a difference.

From Quebec to Indiana, as soon as the mercury plummets, lakeside fishing resorts switch from boat to snowmobile for the winter ice season. And to kick things off, it’s ice festival time!

Eelpout Festival, Minnesota

eelpout festival

Funny but freezing
Source: My Crazy Mind

Each February, more than 10,000 people descend on Leech Lake, Minnesota for the annual Eelpout festival. Ostensibly a fishing contest, the event has grown to include events like a frozen wet t-shirt competition, kissing the eelpout for good luck and the ‘polar pout plunge’ – donning fancy dress and plunging into the lake. Brrrr.

Not a great looking fish, the eelpout of festival fame is in fact a burbot – a type of freshwater cod that grows up to a maximum of about 25 kg in weight. It’s a bottom feeder with an appearance that’s best described as halfway between a catfish and an eel. But regardless of its looks, its popularity is unquestionable.

Tomcod Ice Fishing Festival, Quebec


Join in the fishing camaraderie cabin style
Source: Association Des Pourvoyeurs

Each year from 26th December, some 500 cabins are moved onto the ice of the Rivière Sainte-Anne for the annual Tomcod Ice Fishing Festival. Heated by wood burning stoves and lit by electricity, ice fishing is a comparatively comfortable affair. And with shelters accommodating anywhere between four and 35 anglers, it’s a pretty convivial way to spend a few days.

Travelling with the family? You’ll no doubt be delighted to know that also on offer during the festival, are clowns, live music, ice slides, ice skating, and even a tramway.

Mat Su Pike Derby, Alaska

If Quebec isn’t cold or dark enough for you, why not try the Mat Su Valley in Alaska?  Situated 45 miles north of Anchorage, the Matanuska Valley was settled by Americans for the Midwest as part of the New Deal relief program of depression hit America. The area is world famous for the the size of its vegetables – not surprising with specimen cabbages weighing in at over 100 lbs.

But in winter, you’ll be there for the annual Mat Su Pike Derby. The contest runs throughout February and March with prizes for the longest, heaviest, shortest and lightest pike. All you have to do is drill a hole and get fishing. Fish are cooked at the awards banquet, and leftovers are given to charity. And the best part? Pike is an invasive species in Alaska, so you’ll be doing your bit for the environment too.

Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, South Korea

Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

More than worth the jet lag
Source: Advanced Technology Korea

For what is probably the most popular ice fishing event in the world, you’ll need to book a long haul flight to South Korea for the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. Held every year in late January, the event attracts tens of thousands of people to try their luck for mountain trout.

Through holes cut in the ice, people of all ages try to catch a fish – something they have a very good chance of doing because the rivers stocked throughout the festival.  Once you’ve made a catch, one of the many cooking tents will grill or sashimi your trout for you to enjoy.

And if that weren’t enough, for the truly masochistic, there’s the bare handed fishing contest. All you have to do is strip off to t-shirt and shorts and leap into a purpose built fishing pool. Alternatively you could stay home, put your feet up and watch a fishing documentary.

Catching fish at last!

No matter how long you’ve been an angler, and I’ve been chasing specimens for over 50 years, a run of blanks saps your confidence. I don’t care who you are, you start to question your competence, your rigs and your baits. You know you’re doing nothing wrong, what you are doing has worked well in the past, but you simply cannot avoid that self doubt creeping in.

For that reason, it’s a good idea if you’re on a bad run to have a session at a relatively easy water, simplify your carp fishing tackle and get a few fish to restore the self confidence. That is what I did yesterday. After six gruelling two day sessions at the big tench and bream water with Alan Lawrence, after which we’d had just one tench and four jack pike between us, I was in need of the sunshine break which my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed in Tenerife.

On my return last week, Alan confirmed that the pit still was not producing and he had left it for a while to have a couple of sessions at a more prolific water to get a bend in the rod. I decided, therefore, to have a dawn to dusk session at a local gravel pit which has a good head of carp as well as some terrific roach, backed up by very average tench and bream. The carp were my target, hopefully one of the four known thirties in the water. But, with a fair head of twenties and lots of doubles, I was hoping for a run or two.

On my arrival to the lake at opening time 6.00am, I was not encouraged by the on-site bailiff who confirmed that the water had been very dour for weeks. The ridiculous amounts of cold rain had raised the water level quite dramatically, causing the fish to totally shut up shop. As well as that, although it was dry when I arrived, by 6.30am the rain was falling. What a summer this is turning out to be.

The swim I selected looked a cracker for a carp or two, where my right hand rod could place a bait off the point of an island under an overhanging willow at 70 yards. The left hand fishing rod would be cast to the same island twenty yards to the left, where there was a little bay overhung with what looked like brambles. In view of the information from the bailiff, I was unsure of how much bait to introduce initially. My plan had been to bait heavily to start with. After a little deliberation, I decided to go with the original plan and fired out about a kilo of 14mm baits around each rod.

By the time I was ready to cast out, it was around 7.30am. Alarms set, I sat back with a cup of tea under my umbrella to wait on events. I never had time to finish it. It must have been less than three minutes after the cast and the right hand carp rod was off to a real flier; I struck into a powerful fish that was kiting right at a rate of knots. By now, the rain was lashing down and that, as well as the oppressively humid conditions making me as wet under my waterproofs as on top of them, it was decidedly uncomfortable. The fish fought well, although it was obviously no monster. Eventually, it was in the net, a really pretty, fully scaled mirror of around 15lbs. Just as I was about to lift it onto the unhooking mat, the other fishing rod screamed off! Placing the net and fish back I the margins, I struck into another fish, this one going at breakneck speed. Immediately, I said to myself that this had to be a long, lean common, and I was spot on as it turned out. It proved to weigh just under17lbs. I had a problem during the playing. I had only set up one landing net, although I always carry two, so I had to jam the rod between my legs, with an angry carp ripping line off the clutch, as I hastily assembled the second net. By the time both fish had been unhooked, released, and I was cast in again I was absolutely soaked. I had fired out another 100 baits around each rod. That had been quite a start and the confidence builder I needed.

From then on until 2.30pm, with the rain virtually non stop, I was to enjoy the most incredible action. In all, that period had produced a further eleven carp, all over 14lbs with the best at 19lb 11ozs, plus three small bream. I would have loved a shot of the 19-11, a gorgeous linear mirror, but unfortunately, when I landed it, we were in the middle of an incredible thunderstorm with mega hailstones. It wasn’t worth damaging my camera and I reluctantly slipped it back and dived back under the brolly.

Strangely, the action then stopped as suddenly as it had started and from then until 7.00pm all was quiet. At around 5.00pm the rain had stopped at last and hot sun broke through. What bliss! It stayed quite hot for a couple of hours, drying my carp fishing gear nicely, and then I noticed further ominous black thunder clouds approaching once more. I had planned to fish until 8.00pm but decided to pack up there and then and get my fishing gear back into the van before it got another soaking. Like all anglers, I suppose, I gathered all the ancillary stuff together first and was just reaching for the first rod when the alarm shrieked and line began pouring off the spool in a blur. As I struck, I felt the first few spots of rain and played the fish as hard as I dare. By the time it was approaching the net cord the rain was getting heavy again and I was soaked once more, but this time I’d already packed the umbrella away. Quickly returning the fish, a mid double common, I quickly folded the rod into its sleeve and then, unbelievably, the second rod was screaming away. In a now torrential downpour, I played in yet another hard fighting common which I estimated at about 17lbs. Minutes after returning that second late arrival, I was making a mad dash for the van, unceremoniously dumping the sodden gear into the back before scrambling into the driving seat. It would have been impossible to have been any wetter and never before has a hot shower been more welcome!

Looking back on the day, it was what I needed. I had not managed one of the water’s bigger residents, but fifteen double figure carp, from about 14lbs to 19-11, makes for an incredible days fishing in anyone’s book. I couldn’t do it too often. The odds against a really big fish are too long but, as I said at the start of this blog, when you’re struggling, action like I’d just enjoyed is tremendously therapeutic. I shall go into my next big fish session with renewed confidence.


Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Feb 2012


A trip to Sky TV for the first episode of Tight Lines in February and I found myself in HD – What a shock although Keith Arthur looked wrinklier than me. Tell you what the  sea fishing tackle and gear demos we did on screen came out crystal clear and I predict Tight Lines will become even more adventurous with tackle demos in future weeks.

I had a disagreement with the local South Kent fishermen over the lack of cod in the English Channel – I have only caught one small codling from the shore this year and compared with results of the past when I once record 100 cod over 10lb in a season 2011/12 has been a disaster. I tell you another thing its not down to my lack of angling skill or effort. There simply are very few cod in the English Channel currently and that’s despite the boats producing a few lunkers in recent weeks. A whopping 39lber came out of Eastbourne aboard Deep Blue skippered by Steve Bradshaw.

Hard at work for Sea Angler Magazine I have been finalising the 2011 Penn league results, a tedious job getting all those hundreds of points and surnames in numerical and alphabetical order. Anyway the task is nearly complete and next comes the Final. Whilst I qualified for the final myself this year because its at my Dover home town I am not fishing, I cant have people saying I fixed it to be at Dover when I qualified. Anyway this year it’s a two-day final and as way of a challenge its one day on Dover breakwater and one day on Samphire Hoe, weather willing.

A well know match angler has been caught with fish in his possession before a big southern event and the repercussions around the match scene are still reverberating along the beaches and on Face book. My only hope is the Angling Trust does the right thing and takes action. Lots of sea anglers will not join the AT because they feel they are not represented. This will show what the Angling Trust are made of – Will they wimp out, or if the allegations are proven ban the angler concerned! As far as many are concerned it’s a test case and my membership is in an envelope on the desk awaiting the result. 

Back home from the Irish winter beach championships with more euros than I took, I had a pool or match pick up on all three days. Although no silverware, actually some great crystal vases are to be won at the event. The three day match was won by the Irish with a clean sweep over the top three, well done to David Roe of Dublin for winning two years on the trot. Second was Joe Byrne and third Rod Stewart look alike, Ian Knight. My only disappointment with the event was that it has now become a flounder contest with all three days fishing the shallower flounder beaches – Could it be the Irish have found a way to beat the English – steer clear of venues with lots of whiting, dabs and rockling where the snatchers excel?

Here the winter finally arrived on the eve of the Kent dab Champs which I organise each year from Folkestone pier. The snow hit the entry big time and only 15 managed to get to Folkestone pier on match day despite the pier being sold out. But, whilst the dabs were absent a number of codling, which didn’t count in the event, showed – Is it not always the way. Match winner was Lloyd Page of Sheerness with 4 dabs for 2lb 14oz from peg 40 on the piers inside stretch.

Fancy a trip to Gambia for a one-hook beach match? – I didn’t at first, but the idea has grown on me. Organised by Brit, Bernard Westgarth it’s on the 11th until 9th April – Bait supplied, entry for the three days is £200, flights and accommodation can be arranged. Contact Bernard:

Frozen lugworm is great bait during late winter – the dabs and rockling love it – But here is a tip from Kent angler, Leigh Chapman. He partly thaws his frozen blacks and then pops” them in the microwave oven. They literally “pop” when they are ready for the hook, firm and just like the live fresh thing – Amazing. Only problem I have found is a 13Amp socket on the beach to plug the Microwave into?

I have found the answer to those infuriating pyramid leads which hold bottom great, but retrieve like a sack of monkeys as they bury and bundle in the sand. A Sardinian designed lead with a pyramid at top and bottom which holds well and retrieves smooth. Great when accompanied by a Delta quiver tip outfit loaded with braid or mono.

TF Gear – Dave Lane Hardcore Bedchairs

The TFG Dave Lane Hardcore bed-chairs is one of the most comfortable and practical carp fishing bed chairs available.

Delivering all the essential benefits of pressure reliving comfort and theraputic support the Hardcore range offers complete, essential back protection. The deluxe mattress padding works in perfect harmony with the latest breathable technology designed to eliminate moisture and guarantee temperature controlled rest and recuperation.

Dave Lane describes the features and how to get the best out of the DL Hardcore bed-chairs.

  • Deeper more restful sleep guaranteed
  • Mattress moulds to the shape of your body
  • Offers complete support for neck, back and shoulders
  • Strong load bearing frame – built to last for years
  • Premium alloy construction – so easy to carry
  • Fully adjustable legs – maintain level seating on any bank
  • Total comfort pillow
  • Extra layers of support
  • Luxury padded mattress
  • Breathable spinal column regulates temperature
  • Super strong frame
  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Fully adjustable legs

Dave Lane’s Fishing Diary

On The Bank

After my results the previous week in my new swim I couldn’t wait to get back in there for another try. The big, clean, gravel strip I had found produced two fish for me last time and I had given it a fair dosing of the Mainline New Grange bait before I left, so I was brimmed full of confidence. Usually I spend a few hours wandering around and looking for fish but I was sure I could get bites by sticking to my plan and waiting to intercept any carp that moved through the gap between the two big islands that split the lake in half.

It was a lot hotter this time around and, with a lot less wind, the baits sailed out to the 125yrd mark and cracked down on the gravel with a resounding thud.

Baiting up was again an easy enough exercise as I had my big inflatable boat with me, I just whacked out a marker rod and then paddled out with a couple of kilo’s of boilies, making sure I spread them right out to ensure I would land the rigs somewhere near at least some of the bait.

Because of the amount of yachts and canoes using the water I had to really pin the lines down to the bottom, using back leads and keeping the tips as low as possible. The weed didn’t help either and any loose strands that were floating about soon attached themselves top my line and started lifting up, into range of the sailboards below the yachts. Luckily it was quite a short day for the boaters and, by about half seven in the evening, everything was quiet again and the park took on its other guise as a tranquil and lovely place to fish, although I knew that by nine the next morning it would be mayhem again!

Throughout the evening a few fish started to roll out along the bar and, at about nine pm, the rod fishing a yellow op-up ripped into life, this was an early bite and it took me by surprise a little bit as most of the recent action had been during the night or early morning.

It wasn’t a big fish though, a common carp of about seventeen pounds so I slipped him straight back and , after checking my hook was still nice and sharp, I whacked a fresh bait straight back on the marks for the night.

More true to recent form, the next bite had me tumbling out of bed at four o’clock in the morning; it’s always such a shock no matter how many times you do it. One minute you are sound asleep, immersed in some mad dream or another, and the next thing you know you’re playing a fish with no real idea of where you are or what’s actually happening. By the time I came to my senses the fish had kited right around to the right and managed to pick up one of my other lines so there was a few moment of panic as I desperately tried to unravel the ensuing knitting. Somehow, with more luck than good judgement, I managed to free the other rod and played the fish out in the right hand margin with no other real dramas.

Because they fight so damn hard in here it’s often a scary time at the net but this fish was in no mood to muck about and I guided him straight into the waiting mesh and, as he slid in, I could see it was yet another common although a bit bigger this time, pulling the needle around to just over twenty three pounds.

You would think, what with two fish under my belt on the first night that I would have been happy to stay put, while the day away and, hopefully, bag another couple on my second night but no. For some bizarre reason that I still can’t quite fathom I decided to pack everything up, push it about a mile on the barrow and set up on the other side of the lake, where I blanked totally, unless of course you count a tench as a result!

Quite what drove me to relocate from a productive swim I don’t know but, unfortunately, that just the way I am, I have absolutely no patience and never have had and I always think that the grass must be greener on the other side. Over the years it has caught me stacks of extra fish but, sometimes, I wonder how many it has cost me as well.

Carp Kit

Over the past six months or so we have been busy developing a new range of leaders called the ‘Lok Down Leaders’ which, at first glance may look like any other Poly-urethane coated leaders but, believe me, they are completely different to everything that has gone before. The new leaders have a braided line running through the core whereas all the others have 35lb monofilament and the difference in suppleness is massive. Obviously a thick length of mono is going to be stiff and have the tendency to coil up off the bottom whereas a braid on the other hand is totally soft and hugs the contours of the lake bed. Also, by using different colour braids we have been able to create leaders that match into the lake bed you are fishing over, whether it be weedy, muddy or dark silt. The leaders come in three different lengths of 20”, 36” and 48” and two styles. The first style is a swivel ended leader that is ideal for the addition of a lead release clip or an inline lead while the second style is aimed at helicopter or chod rigs.

The bead on the helicopter/chod leader is one that I have been working on for some time now and my main concern throughout has been the safety element. Far too many helicopter beads have hit the market without enough thought into how easily the fish can detach the top bead and then, how smoothly the bead and rig can pass over the loop at the top should a breakage occur. By increasing the internal diameter of the bead and using a custom made sleeve to house the bead in use I have ended up with a perfect solution that stays exactly where you want it during normal fishing situations but detaches easily when needed. The sleeve is also fully adjustable to suit whatever depth of silt or weed you are fishing over, give them a try and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed as they really are a top piece of your fishing gear.