Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary May 2014

Alan Yates catching Carp

Alan Yates catching Carp

As some of you may know, I have been laid low in recent month by rheumatics – I was diagnosed with Polymigela after just about every test you can undergo – Didn’t like the MIR scan. Anyway, it has affected my neck, ankle and foot and I have been unable to fish for two months. Just this week I have returned to fishing I have had a great sense of what it is like to be disabled, no driving for two months, difficulty walking, maneuvering tackle is a particular pain, casting and all those things we anglers take for granted have caused me problems and its now down to the drugs and time for me to get better.

I managed a couple of coarse fishing competitions in the local ponds and I even managed to win, catching some carp and the next step is back to the sea. One thing I have had to accept is just how physical sea fishing is compared with coarse. Casting and those long walks with 30lb of tackle box, a bucket and a rod holdall are now a fearsome challenge and the trolley is out.

With summer just about to arrive it’s a nice calm time of year to fish and I must admit to the fact that I like the change away from fishing baits at range on the sea bed. The variety of fishing includes lures for bass, a bit of LRF and some float fishing and with my present limitations it’s the float that coming out.

There are several ways to fish a float from the shore and most anglers just add one to their basic beach casting outfit whilst bottom fishing. This involves a short sliding float rig that is simply clipped on to the main line (an American snap link is ideal) of the beach caster after its cast out. The rig then slides down the main line to the surface where the line enters the water. The rig doesn’t need to be any longer than 8ft. Great for catching the bonus mackerel and garfish and the method goes someway to improve the action when the sea is flat and clear and not a lot stirs on the sea bed.

The second way to fish a float is to go all out and adopt a lighter outfit and fish a slider or adjustable depth float on the main line with a single or two hooks. This outfit can then be cast where you want and the depth you fish adjusted via a stop knot on the mainline that can be set to suit the depth you want to fish. Rod wise a spinning rod will suit the tactic, whilst many are increasingly adopting a longer quiver tip continental rod style like the All rounder in the TF range, look out for the new Continental which is perfect for the method. The particularly effective thing about this type of set up is that the float and the bait can be continually moved, drifted, trotted in the tide etc with the longer rod giving more control, especially when drifting a long way back in the tide using a micro braid line. I prefer to call the method float/spinning and lots of anglers who fish a float in summer neglect the latter. They simply let the float go on its way down tide feeding out line to its demands. BUT a far better method is to continually stop the float in its drift, which causes he bait to rise and move. This adds to the baits attractiveness and increases the catch and can be used to target all manner of summer species. Another alternative is a bubble float and this can be loaded with water for casting weight and especially suits those fishing with a sandeel on a long trace for bass etc.

Integral to most float fishing is ground bait and it’s here the majority of sea anglers cannot be bothered. BUT again a small bucket of loose feed made up of bread, boiled fish, bran with a fish oil or extract etc added will increase the scent of the slick and draw in more fish. In clear water from the rocks it can be a terrific way to fish because you will spot the fish moving in on the feed.

Tackle can also be refined to suit the species and you may find lighter line and a smaller Waggler float more suitable if the mullet show up. In a lumpy sea a larger bulbous float will be easier to see at long range and will and can be cast or will drift further. The method can be used to catch more or less all the summer species in some regions and even using bread bait it can catch pollack, bream and mackerel.

Staying with the summer, top of the species list in the coming weeks for many are the smoothhound and as the shoals push around the UK coasts lots of sea anglers will have the chance of catching the most powerful fish they have ever hooked from the shore. It’s important though to fish the correct venues because the hounds do tend to leap frog around the UK coastline. They are found on some venues and not on others and this is mostly down, to food and spawning. So a top tip is to find a smoothhound venue. Do not simply fish your local venue and wait for the hounds to come to you – Travel to them because the best are mostly well known. On top of that the species is continually expanding its size and range and it pays to keep an ear on results. Fish the evening tides when its calm and still, into dusk can be deadly!

Smoothhound venues to head for this month:

Bristol Channel: Almost anywhere from Minehead to Weston S Mare.
South Wales coast: Cardiff, Barry, region, venues including; Rhoose, Nash Point, Portkerry, Aberthaw, Monknash and Ogmore.
Sussex: Pagham
Hampshire/ Sussex: West Selsey, Bracklesham Bay, Lepe, Gillkicker and Hayling front..
Dorset: Chesil beach
Kent: Dover breakwater, Sandown, Reculver.
Essex: Charter boats in the Thames estuary. Walton and Clacton, and Orford Island.
Lincs: Chapel St Leonards, Ingoldmells, Sandiland.

Greg Dixon With a Double figure smoothound from Selsey

Greg Dixon with a double figure smoothound from Selsey

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