When you have been hammering away at the same old thing for a while, with the same results often what is needed is a change of technique, location or even species. I put this to Sheena (my wife) and she disagreed vehemently, but when I explained that I was referring to fishing she seemed much happier, and so did my two dogs. So with this in mind I booked a days sea fishing.
At this point most of you freshwater anglers are about to click elsewhere and go and look at videos of dogs or whatever floats your boat, but keep reading, you just may find this more interesting than you think. Now I would point out that first and foremost I consider myself a Freshwater Angler, and when it comes to sea fishing I would say I’m just about competent at best, however there are so many similarities that transferring from one discipline to another is a lot easier than you might have imagined. The tackle is similar albeit quite a bit heavier because of the weight of lead needed to hold bottom in the tide. I use a couple of 9’6” up-tiders which are basically the sea fishing equivalent of heavy duty quivertip rods capable of casting heavy weights of 4-8oz, Reels are Shimano Speedmaster 14000 XTC loaded with 80lb Braid, I use this strength to ensure safety when chucking big leads about but you could just as easily use 20lb mono with a good strong shock leader. Rigs are similar to freshwater too, running ledger, paternoster etc, again just beefed up. I used a running lead rig with a 4ft trace of 25lb mono to a 2/0 hook. Baits too are strait forward, Lug and Rag worms bought from your local tackle shop are great sea bait, but be careful the Rag worms can bite back! Most Charter boats can supply tackle to use, fellow anglers on-board are usually only too happy to give help and advice and you would be amazed at how you can put your freshwater skills to good use out at sea. Carp anglers especially, have a look at some of the more complex sea fishing rigs and consider how they may be adapted to your style of fishing. I would urge any freshwater angler to consider giving it a go.
My boat of choice was the Sophie Lea out of Brightlingsea.
It’s a 34ft twin engine catamaran which is quick and provides a very stable fishing platform, in addition there is loads of space on-board and today with social distancing in mind the owner/Skipper Lee had kept the numbers down and at 8am the 7 of us left port. Lee has been doing the job for 30 years so knows his stuff and headed to a mark off Clacton next to the wind farm where he assured us that there had been plenty of Bass caught recently. Now, Bass are like the perch of the sea, often you can get plenty of small ones 1-3lb (schoolies) but a bigger one is a joy to catch (British record is over 20lb) So I started out on one of their favourite baits Ragworm. Twenty minutes in and after a couple of missed bites I had a firm couple of taps on my tip followed by slack line as the fish dislodged the lead from the sea bed. I picked up the rod and wound quickly to take up the slack and lifted into the first fish of the day a very pretty bass of a few pounds which was quickly returned.
Things were looking good and I re baited and recast in anticipation. The same rod went again within minutes but this time with just a series of gentle taps and rattles and, as I suspected, I wound in a little whiting, poor thing didn’t have the strength to move the lead. Whiting are like Roach, They don’t grow particularly big and move in big shoals, some days you will catch plenty.
The next hour or so was very quiet for me with only the odd rattle from a whiting however Andy Broom next to me was into a good fighting specimen using Squid tipped with Rag worm. When it got next to the boat it went crackers and after a couple of good runs it was netted and brought on-board. An exquisite Starry Smoothhound. This is one of the many species of Shark that inhabit British waters and they certainly do fight well. (These can go to over 20lb!)
This was quickly followed by more action on the stern when Ben Hearne hit into a good Thornback Ray. He was using quite light gear and had a right old time getting this fish to the boat. (These too go over 20lb)
Every time it seemed that Ben had the upper hand it would surface 20mtrs astern then dive down using its wide body in the tide to take line again. After 15 minutes or so it was finally netted and what a beautiful specimen it was too. Poor Ben was shattered and had to pop a couple of blood pressure pills and take an hour out!
More action on the other side of the boat with Rays and Smoothhounds.
While I, being a thoughtful Angler, distracted all the Dogfish! These are another type of Shark albeit a very small one barely reaching 5lb and to be honest mine were barely reaching 2lb each. Most sea anglers dislike catching Dogfish and consider them a bit of a nuisance fish in the same way freshwater fishermen view small Eels.
As the tide was slowing I had 3 fish in quick succession a second Bass.
And a couple of small Thornback Ray .
At the top of the tide bites dried up totally and Lee decided we should move location for the final couple of hours. Half an hour later we moored to one side of a shallow area where the depth dropped steeply down to 30ft. Still fancying more Bass I stuck with Ragworm on both rods much to the delight of the local Whiting population buy finally my patience was rewarded when a series of small but firm taps resulted in a good ‘drop back’ bite. As I would down it soon became apparent that this was a better fish. My third Bass and the best of the day.
Bass are a superb eating fish but this one was never destined for the table and was swiftly returned with the words “Off you go fella. Go and grow bigger”, much to the surprise of the other anglers on the boat and the delight of the skipper, who I suspect would like to see more fish of breeding size returned to be caught another day.
And why not?…. his future business depends on it!
As we headed back to Brightlingsea I marvelled at the vast array of electronic ‘Gizmos’ at the helm of Lee’s boat though I couldn’t help suspect that he still relies a lot on good old intuition, after all there is no substitute for experience!
If, as a freshwater Angler, you fancy giving this a go, and you should, why not get a couple of mates together and give Lee a ring on 07774 492856. You wont regret it. Meanwhile as I mentioned at the start I’m a Freshwater man at heart so next week I’m off for some old school Tench & Crucian fishing….. Watch this space.
Tight Lines Y’all.