With codling showing all around the UK at present it looks as if we are in for a reasonable winter, although the question is will the fish survive the nets for next year when they will be considerably bigger, in fact big enough to greatly improve the quality of the UK shore fishing? That is yet to be seen, although even the most cynical will expect a few to survive to make the 6lb mark and they can really pull the string.
Back to the present and my return from a week in Portugal was greeted with the first frost of the winter, I drove back from Gatwick airport amongst the gritters and the reality of winter has arrived. For me it’s time to loose the summer garments and break out the winter sea fishing tackle including hoodies, thermals and swap the brolly for the full Hurricane shelter. Time also for those 8oz leads to go back in the tackle box for a spot of low punchy casting into the teeth of the gale – they do tow the bait well and make a great difference on the stormy beaches.
I have also given the bait pump an overhaul with new washers which always give it some extra suction and a soak in fairy Liquid makes them even better. I am a bit concerned I will not be able to hack it with my bad shoulder, but the simple fact is lugworms will be difficult to come by in the tackle shop and pumping your on is the only option. I have laid down a supply of frozen blacks in the freezer and they do work well, especially after Christmas when the dabs arrive and the constant storms means the fish are accustomed to finding dead smelly marine life unearthed by the slightest swell. In the meantime nothing beats a fresh out, juicy, black or yellowtail for those codling other than perhaps a peeler crab, although supplies of peelers too start to dwindle this month. Also watch out for those shellfish being washed up after an onshore wind – Cockles, butterfish, razor fish and the larger clams all make a hook bait, but do work best when they are being washed up. Here in Kent Dungeness can be littered with shells after a good blow and being just inside the Point at the right time you can fill a bucket. I particularly like those large red queen cockles which are great for codling, bass and dabs as well.
Another bait which comes into its own around Christmas is fresh sprat and herring, the whiting love it in strips or chunks, whilst here it’s renowned for the biggest dabs which are nicknamed “sprat dabs” because of their liking for sprat.
Reports suggest most regions of the country are reporting codling and it’s noticeable that
the bigger fish are in the estuary regions where there are lots of shrimps. The rough ground codling also seem to grow faster, whilst from the clean sandy beaches the millions of hungry whiting mean the codling are lean. Those whiting are a pest particularly after Christmas when the pin size fish invade the shoreline, but don’t dismiss fishing a live bait rig at this time because the bigger fish and a late bass are fond of those small whiting.
Looking into the New Year it’s a time when only the match anglers have fun in many regions. Once those bigger specimens of all species have left to spawn its tiddlers only, especially from the clean beaches. My advice is to head for the deeper water of the piers, rocks or the boats for the bigger fish.
Here are a few New Year shore competitions to look out for:
1st of January Holt SAC New Year Open at Kelling. Details from Mike 07858758669 / Peter 07769908480 / firstname.lastname@example.org
3rd of January the Pembroke & District Angling Club. Air Ambulance Open at Amroth.
Fishing is 10:30pm until 2.30pm. £200 first prize for the heaviest bag flounders only. Reg Amroth Arms. Details: John 01437 563552
4th of January the Wyvern Open shore at Slapton Sands, South Devon. Fishing is 1pm until 6pm. Tickets and details from Mike Spiller 01404 43397.
10th and 11th of January the Asso Two Day Open is being fished at Seabrook and Hythe in Kent. Fishing 12pm until 5pm. Pre book only. Limited to 120 Entries. Details: 07866 714497
11th January East Anglian League and open at Sizewell. Fishing 10 am until 3pm. Contact: Rob Tuck 07855 848967
25th of January the Amble Open. Fishing 9.30am until 2.30pm. Register on the day at the Radcliffe Club, Amble from 7am. Tickets local tackle shops. Entry fee £12 all classes. Contact Jimmy French on 01665 711007 or Tony Cook on 01665 602034.
25th January the Fords Sports and Social S.A.C 40th Open Beach Fishing Festival.
At Weston Shore, Southampton. Rolling Mill to Beach Lane Netley. Fishing 11am until 4pm. Entry Fee is £11, juniors £4. no pegging beach prior to signing in. Steve Eales 02380650519.
Finally, I am just back from a few days fishing in the Algarve, Portugal, my first holiday of 2014 and it was great to fish in the sunshine with the new Continental TF Gear beachcasters. Real light line fishing for some speedy gilthead bream. I was surprised by the
result and the trip lead to a feature in the New Year edition of Sea Angler magazine so look out for it.