Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary April 2014

You never know what you'll catch on with LRF tackle!

You never know what you’ll catch on with LRF tackle!

The peeling crabs are spreading around the UK shoreline and where you live in terms of South to North and the air and water temperatures makes a difference to their arrival. In the South they started as early as March, whilst far north they may not show until June – Whatever, when they arrive the fish move inshore and for a short period there can be some bumper shore fishing with everything from bass to smoothhounds on the cards. I am old enough to remember in past when it was mostly eels and flounders that feasted on the crabs – well the eels and flounders have gone in many regions and its more likely to be ray, bass, and smoothhound and indeed Spring and Summer may now be more attractive in terms of sea angling from the shore, especially because of these species.

Collecting or obtaining a supply of peeler crabs is always complicated by the fact that the crabs are found in their different states of shedding their shell and it’s only when they are just about to burst out of the shell that they are best for bait. Peelers in the early stages of moulting need to be kept alive and nurtured to maturity, whilst crabs about to shed need slowing down with the aid of a fridge. It’s a tedious task, but those that have a supply of the perfect peelers when they fish will do best.  Remember this when you buy crabs from a dealer because you will have a mix, although some dealers will supply crabs to order, in other words those about to shed if you are going fishing that day and harder specimens for use later in the week – It’s a very important aspect of using peeler crab.

Last month I talked about the growing popularity of LRF, that’s Light Rock Fishing, indeed a feature I wrote in Sea Angler Magazine received lots of attention although not all positive. I think LRF is just another branch of sea angling that worth a try – I wouldn’t want to fish just LRF for the rest of my angling days. It’s a fun way to fish for the tiddlers and has the possibility of producing the odd bigger specimen.

I remember making a TV film on Dover breakwater many years back for Screaming Reels and presenter, Nick Fisher did not stop taking the Mickey out of me catching small pollack, pout, wrasse etc all through the programme. OK that was the nature of Screaming Reels at the time as it tried to inject some humour into angling, any kind of angling… I was seriously trying to show that fishing could be fun with the lightest sea fishing tackle even when the fish were small. This involved a freshwater quiver tip rod and micro braid line. Now I am not actually claiming to have started LRF, although the Screaming Reels film probably proves that those that think they did – didn’t either.

LRF may be typecast by its name, Light rock fishing being the very basis of a technique of fishing that has expanded and developed widely since it took off amongst serious sea anglers. The one thing it has done is to expose the UK sea angler’s hidden desire to fish with lures! LRF with tiny lures alongside rocks, piers, harbours, etc includes all the excitement and imagination of bass fishing with lures, although in miniature. As well as lures anglers also fish the tactic with bait and this has enhanced results, finesse and fun even more and the fact is that LRF is a fantastic way to escape the harsh reality that much of today’s sea angling around the UK is poor!  We sea anglers put up with a lot and apart from the barren seas left for us to fish by the commercial scourge, politicians and EU we have to contend with the fact that a majority of sea species average under 1lb, are seasonal and only show for a few weeks of the year and worst of all are lost in the vastness of the ocean.

On the subject of LRF tackle – I use the Blue Strike bass spinning rod from TF Gear – the lightest/shortest model. This fitted with 20lb braid on my fishing reels, might not be light enough for some, BUT I prefer to LRF for the bigger fish in general, especially in Ireland – for the blennies a lighter specialist model and more fluorocarbon line may be more effective, but as usual with tackle its horses for courses and not one cure all!

Time to put the Sibiki lures, floats and other summer paraphernalia in the tackle box. A great time of year when the sea is calm clear and lifeless except for a crazy shoal of mackerel and some surface popping garfish. A real challenge to make sport fun rather than carnage and like LRF it involves a bit more sneaking around in the early hours and low light to find those better bass etc light sea fishing gear, lures, a free lined ragworm head hooked so it can swim, tiny lures, have you ever tried fishing a floating soft crab at 4am, or crust in the corner of the harbour!  The possibilities are endless to get away from the summer stereotype with a bit of imagination and effort, give it a go!

Float fishing for garfish!

Float fishing for garfish!

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary March 2014

WOW-sandshark-for-Richard-Yates-in-Gambia

Some good news for UK cod anglers – There is a huge glut of small codling showing in many regions around the UK with the fish moving inshore to feed on the spring crab moult etc. The codling are mainly under the 35cm minimum size limit, although it has to be said in many regions, like here in Kent, the codling are close to the limit and will grow fast over the next few months. So hopes are really high that next year’s winter season is going to be a good one, exceptional compared with recent years. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime summer is on the horizon and should be early this year with the mild winter and it won’t be long until the first mackerel arrive at the Northern end of the English Channel which along with the mass crab moult and the return of the small bait fish like whitebait, sandeel etc will fuel some excellent shore fishing. It’s a great time of year as species spread around the coast in the clearing water although it’s a whole new ball game in terms of the fishing.

Back into the tackle box go the feathers, the floats, all manner of lures and I have taken to adding an LRF (Light Rock Fishing) rod and braid reel to my summer shore sea fishing tackle in recent years as an alternative method for those days when standard beach gear doesn’t happen. LRF is mostly about catching the small fish when they are all there. Using a single small hook or lure with all the lead on the hook a small spinning rod and braid line allows the angler to fish the nooks and crannies with worm or lures.

It works best in the wilds of Ireland where you can trickle and tickle a lures alongside the steep rock marks and in and out of the kelp fronds and rock ledges from cliffs in search of wrasse and bass but here at home its surprising what you can catch close in if you scale down enough and although it is mostly about small fish, when you hook a bigger one the gear allows even a 12oz fish to perform. LRF from the pier, jetty, beaches etc, especially from a pier with stilts or piles can prove great fun for mackerel, garfish, scad, coalfish, pollack, even bass.

I recently fished from a beach on the Isle of Wight with LRF gear swimming a ragworm close in under the edge of the estuary lip – The bass where mainly under 2lb but they attacked the worm as I retrieved it slowly and on 15lb braid and a 7ft spinning rod – I discovered a way to make chequer (small bass) fishing enjoyable!

The hoards of summer mackerel anglers and the chaos they cause mean some venues are worth avoiding from now on. But, mackerel fishing is fun and necessary if you want the species for bait or to eat and so here are a few hints and tips to help you avoid the angler conflict and catch more mackerel.

Firstly the basic rules worth adhering to when you go mackerel fishing:

  • Do not encroach too closely on another’s fishing spot, ask if they mind first.
  • Cast with care and look before you cast.
  • Do not leave litter, gut mackerel on seats and do not urinate on the pier etc.
  • Only take the fish that you need.

The first mistake many novice anglers make is to fish for mackerel on a venue when the sea is coloured or even rough. Mackerel do not like silted and coloured water, as sight feeders they require clear water as do their prey.

The hot time to catch is dawn or dusk, usually around high tide when the mackerel ambush shoals of bait fish against a pier wall or beach.
The fishing tactic to catch mackerel involves a method called “sink and draw”. This involves casting a string of lures, allowing them to sink to the required depth and then reeling only as you lower the rod. You then lift the rod and repeat.

On occasions mackerel will take a bare silver hook, anything when they are in a feeding frenzy. Modern the lures are far more elaborate and sophisticated although they can fish better when they have caught lots of fish and are falling apart and are scraggy. The best lures are those that create the most fizz and water disturbance with white feathers still amongst the best along with favourite patterns such as Daylites, Sabiki and Hokkai designs.

Currently I am under the doctor for rheumatoid arthritis which had laid me low in recent weeks and my trips to the beach have suffered. I am awaiting an operation on my right shoulder and am expected to be out of action for several months and that’s one of the reasons I have adopted the LRF – At least I shall be able to dangle a worm somewhere.

The downside this year is that I missed my annual trip to Gambia to fish the West African Beach Champs but, my son Richard went and I have included a picture of him with a 25lb sand shark caught on his light continental fixed spool outfit and 12lb line.

Tight lines, Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary December 2013

Alan Yates 750 pout Folkestone pier

Two new prototype beach casters to be released by TF Gear in the New Year arrived for a final test this month and went straight into action at my local two day pier Festival at Folkestone. I finished second overall behind England Squad manager, Martyn Reid who is on peak form at present, although I did win one of the days with a haul of 50 fish and that included pouting to 750 grams, dabs and whiting. No cod I am afraid with Dungeness the only Kent venue producing cod of any size.

Another new sea fishing rod for next year is called the Slik Tip and it is an ultra slim line match rod based around a model I designed several years ago. Its essence is its stability in wind and its bite indication. You see it’s a myth that you need a soft, fine tip for good bite indication – All these types of tips do at sea is soak up the tide as they curve with bites then dampened by the line stretch. So you want a fine, but stiffish tip and the Slik Tip has got just that. Add low rider rings to its fine diameter and it sits in the wind as stable as you like and only bites can rattle it.  To cut a long story short I fished a relatively short three hook flapper rig, six ounce fixed wire lead and size 1 hooks at around the 120 yard mark for a bite a cast and ten fish an hour average. Match fishing doesn’t get any better when you can watch for bites and count the fish on, much better that timed casts which are the only answer when the tide is bending the tip and bites are not showing. Nicking five minutes a cast by watching for bites gives the match angler a big advantage.

The other rod in the new range is the Continental and that I will try out in January at the Irish Winter beach Champs – It is a 15ft small fish scratching rod aimed at those anglers who want to fish Continental style,  really light and delicately through the summer.

As I write this diary the cod are starting to appear around the Kent Coast, although most of the catches are limited to the boats and the deep water of Dungeness – If you have never been to the venue then you may not realise the main reason why Dungeness is still so productive for cod is that it’s so close to the English Channel’s deepest water. Just yards of Dungeness Point the depth goes down to 80ft plus. Check out a map and you will see how Dungie juts out into the English Channel.

The venue is worth a visit and some anglers will get lucky – Take Chris Radley of Hextable in Kent who beached an 18lb 8oz cod. The fish took a whiting which had hooked itself on one of the Pennell hooks on his rig. That’s a big clue how to fish Dungeness and any other cod venue for that matter. The bigger cod are eating whiting so always use two hooks on each bait, either live bait style or as a Pennell.

Chris Radley 18lb-8oz cod

I have organised a novelty competition for 2014. It’s called the World LRF Championships and is being fished on Samphire Hoe near Dover on the 10th of August 14. Samphire is a walled promenade, not that picturesque but it’s packed with wrasse, pout, pollack, mackerel, etc during the summer and can be great fun to fish with light rock fishing tackle. The rules allow lures or bait to be used and there are prizes for species, the best average and biggest fish landed.

Obviously it’s only open to those who fish proper LRF tackle and that are one hook.

Fishing is from 10am until 4pm. Catch measure and release with anglers allowed to keep their best fish only. Species pts, biggest and best average fish.  Details from me on;  01303 250017

I presented the prizes for Barclays Bank SAC at their recent Championships held at Dover and it was great to get among a group of Clubmen in a very competitive and happy mood. Their match was won by two end pegs (one and two) which sometimes happens when you fish pier venues, but it’s a sure fire way of keeping all anglers happy. They also featured drawn pairs and team events – So often clubs make their competitions “fair” by doing away with the luck element, but then the entry and membership walk away when a few top match anglers dominate. If I had to play snooker against Ronnie Sullivan ever weekend who could blame me for voting with my feet. So I urge clubs to think about the decisions they make to make events fair – Far better to make them fair for all that just the top few!