David Porter Sea

Bass Fishing Using a Sliding Float

In this weeks blog, the focus switches back to those hard fighting bars of silver, the bass and float fishing in saltwater. It’s been really difficult for me this week to synchronise available fishing time and the local tide table, but tides and weather were favourable for a spot of float fishing at one of my marks. As usual I planned a short early morning session before breakfast. So it was the case of a 05.15 alarm and arriving at Ness Point in Lowestoft at around 06.05.

I have mentioned Ness Point in a previous blog and it is the most Easterly point of the British Isles.The low bulk of the point is characterised by buildings from Lowestoft’s present and historical industrial past. Over the years to protect industrial complexes such as the Birds Eye factory, a substantial granite rock sea defence has been placed in front of an existing concrete sea wall. This barrier extends several metres out from the seawall into the North Sea and as the tide ebbs more of the rock structure can be seen. I was extremely disappointed initially when the civil engineering works completely changed a fishing mark I had known since I was a young lad. Most of the mark is difficult to fish now unless the angler is prepared to clamber out on rocks and fish with the natural balance attributes of a mountain goat. Such risk taking is not for me, so I tend to seek out the places where I can fish with a high degree of safety. The granite rocks are covered with seaweed and have matured over the years providing an environment that attracts a diverse community of sea life. Many stretches of our coastline have been subject to similar sea defence works, so you may have a suitable location local to you, or other man made structures such as piers and jetties: and of course not forgetting natural rock structures. All of the aforementioned are suitable for the float fishing approach.

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A man made reef that is particularly attractive to predatory fish such as bass

Bottom fishing amongst the rock boulders is possible, as I know one or two anglers who specialise in it, but I much prefer using a sliding float method, as I can alter my depth, have more control and find the fish easier.

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The fluorescent orange tip of my float is just visible a couple of metres out from the side of a concrete breakwater seeking out gaps between the rocks

I use my trusty twelve foot AFAW lure and bait rod, as it is light to hold but has sufficient backbone to handle a decent fish. A robust fixed spool with a good drag is essential and I use a Penn Captiva 4000, loaded with 8 to 10lb bs. The float rig setup is easy, as they can be purchased as a kit from tackle shops and they come with everything you will need and a set of instructions. I always replace the hooks with my own preference, as the hooks that are supplied are often quite crude and heavy. I normally use a size 2 or 1 hook, but this very depends on the size of fish targeted and bait used. Most kits supply an elastic band as a float stop, but a stop knot made from monofilament or preferably power gum is much better. Essentially in a kit you get a suitable float, a bead, a swivel, an elastic float stop, the correct bullet or ball weight designed to cock the float and a hook. I tend to use ragworm for bait, as it is easily obtainable and fish two worms making sure that a significant amount of tail is left wriggling attractively, as we are relying not so much on the fishes sense of smell, but rather on sight. Baits such as live prawn and sand eel are superb natural lures for bass if they can be obtained. A stiff extendible landing net handle is required and mine came as a subscription gift from the Match Angling Magazine and was designed for commercial carp fishery angling. A decent sized net is also a requirement. On piers and other man made structures, a dropnet may be more suitable.

Where are the fish is the next question? And my observations seem to suggest to me that the fish patrol certain areas and from that it can be possible to deduce where they will be at a certain stage of the tide. The mark I was fishing more often than not produces bass at low water, yet approximately half a mile away along the seawall I normally contact the bass for a short period around half flood when bottom fishing. The fish seem to patrol an area moving north along the line of substantial debris remaining of an old smashed up concrete seawall. From that I can glean enough knowledge to have at least a better than random chance of contacting with a fish.

Other species of fish will appear from time to time such as one of the wrasse family, which although they tend to be small they are nevertheless a welcome sight.

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A very colourful male Corkwing Wrasse. The male fish are very bright in their coloration, but the female is more subdued

Most of the bass I connect with are in the size range 30 to 40 cm in length, but every so often a larger one shows. If you catch one of the smaller bass the likelihood is that you will bag several. The larger fish tend to be more solitary.

One for my son Thomas, from last summer.

So what happened this session….the result was one bite and a beautiful hard fighting bar of silver of 50cm in length, which was 8cm over the size limit and weighing somewhere in the region of three pounds. On the light tackle the bass gave a good account of its self, but on this occasion I messed up a bit by allowing it to get into the shelter of the boulders. With patience I managed to play it gradually out so that I could net it . Mission accomplished, with a bass caught before breakfast. The fish was neatly hooked in the corner of its mouth and the hook was easily removed without any fuss. I took a quick photograph and admired the natural wild beauty of the bass for few moments and returned the fish to its environment. I was back home at 07.55 and enjoying a cup of tea.

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A nice 50cm bass caught by me during a recent trip to my seawall last week. The fish was subsequently returned.

In this case the bite was positive and this tends to be the case on most occasions. Be prepared because the bass tend to go ballistic especially on light tackle, and this is an obviously a entirely different situation to dragging a fish through the surf in tow with a 175gram sinker. Bass tend to run in the opposite direction to any pressure, so that fish will tend to run into clear water, which allows you to play the fish out in clear water away from the rocks. Once the fish is played out it can then be eased gradually towards your preferred netting position. I mentioned about messing up and sometimes things don’t go according to plan, so it is crucial not to panic and rush things. The most important thing and I cannot stress this enough, is do not take any risks and jeopardise your own safety.

Now is the time to target these fantastic wild fish and I hope that you are successful. Tight lines!

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David Porter Sea

A Surprising Result

My angling life has always been full of surprises and last weekend was no exception other than the fact I struggled when all around me caught fish; and good fish at that. I arranged to fish with my son, Tom and a friend, Kevin Bullen to fish my local North Suffolk beach , as Tom and I had some success a few days before catching smoothhounds, thornback rays and yes, a late codling.

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A late codling taken in Autumn like conditions a couple of evenings before.

On this occasion we were welcomed, as we walked down the steep slope leading to the beach, with what is best described as a good winter like cod sea. There was a very coloured sea and heavy swell pushed along by a fresh north to north east wind and the temperatures had plummeted from the low twenties to some where in the region of the low teens and feeling decidedly chilly. Tom and I looked at the view before us with a great measure of disappointment thinking that our chances of catching the smoothhounds and rays had diminished greatly. Both species seem to show stronger in flat calm sea conditions. Kevin had arrived shortly before us and had the same misgivings but nevertheless had tackled up at his chosen spot, which was slightly to the north of us. With a large measure of forbearance, Tom and I did the same setting up one rod each. Quick discussions amongst us determined that we would fish a couple of hours and then pack up early if it proved to be as quiet as we expected. More anglers were arriving at the beach and by now there was a line of several anglers stretching into the distance. Tom was first into fish taking a tiny little thornback ray. I had decided to fish short hoping that a bass or two would be feeding in the choppy sea; Kevin was taking a similar approach using a whole squid cast a short distance. I was standing by the rods next to Tom, as the tip of his rod lifted and the line slackened. He had hooked into a very energetic smoothhound that moved at speed along the beach. It was a very reasonable fish around the five to six pound mark. The swell and strong undertow meant that I had an active role in landing the fish by positioning myself at the back of the fish and helping to beach it before the undertow carried it out to sea again. It’s always an exciting time landing a decent fish in a good swell and I was rewarded with wet feet. We were elated because it was totally unexpected.

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First fish to Tom taken on a peeler crab and squid cocktail.

Second to connect with fish was Kevin, who hooked a superb fish of over nine pounds. We were unaware of his success until we saw him beaching his fish. In Kevin’s own words, “ the tip of my rod dipped and just continued to move and I grabbed the rod before it was dragged out of the rest”. Kevin, who has had some great catches of smoothhounds this summer, including one double figure beauty, “ it was the best fight I have had from a hound, as it was really difficult to land with the swell”. Reflecting on his catch later he said, “that fish in that swell was a nightmare” and ” I never thought that there would be hounds in this conditions this morning . It must be thick with them out there”.

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Kevin’s fine fish taken on peeler crab.

At sometime while all this was happening, my rod straightened in the rest and the line slackened falling quickly. I excitingly picked the rod up but the fish had dropped the bait. The next angler to the south of us was then struggling with a large fish and as I walked towards him to assist he finally managed to beach a very large smoothhound after several abortive attempts to beach it on a wave.

Things went quiet for a period and Tom’s rod tip dipped, tightened and then straightened in the rest. Picking up the rod he was certain that this was a big fish. It didn’t run fast like the smaller fish, but it kicked with real weight and it was a tackle testing slugging match. Bringing it into the shallows was the easy bit, as it was a real battle steering the fish to shore through the swell and strong undertow. It was wet feet time again as I waded into the surf to assist Tom and grab the fish in the shallow water before it was dragged out to sea again on the backwash of an incoming wave. It looked enormous in the shallow water and it was not an easy job to manhandle the fish clear of the backwash.

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What a beautiful fish! Again succumbed to a peeler crab and squid cocktail.

The fish was quickly unhooked and weighed in a carp weigh sling, and photographs taken. The fish weighed 10.24 pounds, our best of the season by some margin and a couple of pounds short of Tom’s personal best. The fish was returned to the water and swam strongly away after a short recovery period. The run of fish was over, with four caught and both Tom and Kevin left me on the beach to have an extra cast or two over low water. After a few minutes of them leaving, my rod straightened in the rest and the line slackened. Yes! No, it turned out to be a small thornback ray of about two and half pounds. Oh well, can’t win every time. More bass fishing next time in the blog. Tight lines!

David Porter Sea

Bank Holiday Moody Blues

I have always enjoyed bank holidays for the extra fishing time it allowed, but now being retired it is not such a longed for event because I am no longer constrained by the responsibilities of work. Over the years and even during my school days I can remember angling milestones passed and secured for posterity on bank holidays such as the landing of my first proper cod, weighing eight pounds caught on an Easter Monday at Ness Point in Lowestoft. I have also been fortunate to land many good catches of individual and bags of fish during such times. So the upshot is that I still approach holiday times with an heightened anticipation. This year was no different with reports of good smoothhounds appearing in Norfolk and a sprinkling in North Suffolk, so that would be my target fish. The smoothhound, is a crustacean eating member of the shark family, and grows to a reasonable size of around thirty pounds at maximum. Any fish over five pounds can be looked upon as a fine angling adversary as they are an extremely hard fighting and fast moving species caught on the appropriate tackle.

Pakefield Beach, south of Lowestoft was my favoured venue, as it is a clean sandy beach, which allows me to take a light tackle approach to the fishing. At last summer has finally arrived and the recent Whitsun bank holiday a couple of weeks ago was scorching hot, attracting large numbers of day trippers to our beachside resorts and Lowestoft and Pakefield were not the exception with the beaches crowded.
I arrived to set up my fishing tackle at around 5PM just as the crowds were thinning out.

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A now deserted Pakefield beach with the day trippers on their journeys back home

My levels of anticipation were high, as the beach had been in great form last summer with some good quality smoothhounds appearing on certain tides, but as with most venues smoothhound movement can be random with fish appearing one tide and then disappearing for a day or two.

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Nice sized smoothhound caught at Pakefield last summer during an evening of pack mayhem, as the fish were in a feeding frenzy.

The conditions were perfect as a light onshore breeze died away and the sea condition was flat calm. I had plenty of fresh live peeler crab which is the supreme bait for the smoothhounds and these were presented on a 2/0 circle hook pennel arrangement attached to medium length pulley rigs.

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The perfect smoothhound bait.

I varied my casting distance at times during the session, but concentrated mainly at the maximum distance my aging frame can now comfortably manage, as the venue is flat and tends to produce more fish at long range. The result was a bit of a disapointment as the better sized smoothhounds did not show. I managed to land a half a dozen smoothhounds pups up to a couple of pounds in weight, two large dabs and a school bass.

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Soon after the disapointment of the bank holiday fishing trip, I arranged a second target session for the smoothhounds with my number one fishing companion, Tom, my son and this was to be six miles north of the Pakefield. Unfortunately this session went slightly awry with the sudden disappearance of his family pet tortoise, Indy, who went missing from Tom’s garden just before we were due to fish. After much searching with support from my wife and I, Indy was nowhere to be found, so our prearranged session had to be cancelled. A short while later I happened to note on Facebook that a friend, Alan was fishing the Pakefield stretch in the hope of catching a smoothhound or two so I decided to join him albeit late in the tide and armed with a single rod. I reasoned that this would be a real tester to find out if the smoothhounds were indeed in residence. All this did was to add to the frustration as again the fish refused to show and we both struggled, despite the perfect warm conditions.

Indy has subsequently turned up and is safely back in his garden home after safely negotiating several busy roads before being spotted in the centre of a road where he was picked up and rescued.

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Indy the escapologist tortoise back in the safe environment of his garden

The whole holiday week had left me feeling a bit down on my luck and deflated on the smoothhound front, so I suffered from a rare case of the Bank Holiday Blues. Thankfully this situation did not last too long, as an early Monday morning session was planned following the bank holiday week. Yet again the fishing gods conspired against me and I had to redirect my attention to an early morning trip to A&E, as my wife Bridget, had suffered a scold from very hot fat when preparing Sunday tea. I had to rearrange my fishing to the flood tide that evening and this time I managed to make it to the Lowestoft North Beach without any complications. The conditions were perfect again with a light breeze from the south and nice calm sea conditions. The beach here is much steeper and gives access to deep water at a reasonable distance, but the tides are very strong and the ground is rough in places.The fishing was quiet with the odd dogfish and whiting showing early in the flood tide. I used the pulley rigs again and the bait this time was frozen peeler crab and dirty squid presented as a cocktail.

The tidal flow increased and it was difficult to hold bottom and accumulations of sludge like weed made the fishing far from straight forward, so I had to reduce the length of my casts. As the high water approached it began to look like I had made the wrong call again, when suddenly the tip of one of my Century Fireblades dipped and then continued to pull downwards. Picking the rod up brought an instant response as the fish kicked and moved strongly downtide. Yes…..this was a smoothhound and not a thornback ray, which became clear as the fish moved fast through the water. As the tip of the rod lunged over I had to loosen the star drag on my Penn multiplier reel and the fish took several metres of line in a powerful run. I ended up landing the fish about forty metres downtide from where I hooked it and close to my nearest angling neighbour, Andy, who kindly took the photographs for me. The fish was carefully unhooked and returned to the sea; swimming off strongly after a short recovery period. The fishing gods had finally smiled down upon me! My smoothhound weighed an ounce under eight pounds on a very old battered set of scales which are gummed up with the accumulated sand and grit of many years, so it was almost certainly slightly heavier than the recorded weight. Subsequently, I have purchased a nice digital set and not before time. One other point I should make is that I used a carp fishing weigh sling when weighing the smoothhound to minimise stress and damage to the fish.

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The equilibrium has been restored and all is okay in my fishing world again! Yes, I am smiling again! It’s been a frustrating few days of fishing, but it all came good in the end. And I am pleased to confirm that my wife, Bridget is recovering just fine from her accident with the hot fat.

David Porter Sea

Bass Fishing From The Shore In North Suffolk (part two)

The weather has been extremely frustrating with frontal systems sweeping in that seem to produce air temperatures more applicable to early Spring than mid May. Normally by this time we would expect that the summer visitors, such as the bass and smoothhound are well settled in our coastal waters. The signs are good with the fish showing in some areas, but they do not appear to be widespread on the East Coast at the time of writing.

I decided to chance my arm at one of my local marks for a crack at an early bass. It was to be an extremely speculative session lasting all of fifty minutes or so of actual fishing time. I had allowed myself forty minutes of travelling time, which was a bit optimistic with the Lowestoft Town Bridge a notorious traffic bottleneck to negotiate, but I managed it. The chosen venue was the Lowestoft South Beach, which is a shallow sandy beach bordered by a concrete promenade that stretches into the distance towards Pakefield. There is ample parking along the main road route. I would be fishing two hours from high water.

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Lowestoft South Beach as it stretches South towards Pakefield.

The weather during that early morning session broke the mould as it was windless and warm as the Sun’s rays broke through a thin veil of cloud. The previous day had been cold with gusty winds blowing from the North turning the sea into a churning vindictive maelstrom.

The tackle requirements were simple and I could travel a light, with a rod and all of my other tackle and equipment contained within a bag hung from my shoulder.

I chose to use my Anyfish Anywhere 12 foot lure and bait rod which will cast up to 90 grams and my small Akios 555SCM multiplier loaded with ten pounds monofilament line and a twenty pound casting leader. For a rig I used a single hook running paternoster with a two ounce Breakaway Flattie pattern lead and at the business end I tied a size 1 Mustad offset Aberdeen match hook. Bait was lively ragworm purchased three days earlier at the Gorleston Tackle Centre.

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The moment had arrived for my first cast to catch a bass in 2021, and I lobbed the bait out thirty metres into the flat calm sea. The fish are often in the calmer water behind the rollers or they congregate in the vicinity of a feature, such as a gulley, depression in the sand, a patch of stones or a breakwater; all of which hold food. This being the case it is good practice to observe the beach at low water regularly, but be aware that storms can alter the topography of the fishing mark. When I fish using a light hand held rod I stand parallel to the surf line so that the line is at ninety degrees to my rodtip.

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My stance with the rod parallel to the surf line. This photograph was taken on a much colder day in more like early Spring conditions with an onshore wind.

I did not have to wait long for my first take as the tip of the rod violently wrapped around, similar to the take of carp in a commercial fishery. A sharp strike and I was into my first bass of the year. It swirled on top of the water and made for the sanctuary of a nearby breakwater. After a delightful couple of minutes of furious swimming and thrashing on the surface I guided the fish onto the shore. It was small and plump, but measuring in at 40cm it was a very satisfactory result. A good point to make here is that this fish taken on a standard surfcasting rod would not have provided such enjoyment, as the fish would have been overpowered and not allowed to show it’s true mettle. Twenty minutes later I landed a second bass of a similar size and this fish was trapped because of its own curiosity. I always try to overcast when fishing light and gradually retrieve the end tackle by recovering a small amount of line every so often, and this is done not so much as to give movement to the bait, but to disturb the bottom raising a column of suspended sand near my bait. The idea is that the curious fish will investigate the disturbance. This tactic dictates my choice of the Breakaway Flattie lead as it is designed to achieve this effect.

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A great looking bass in perfect condition.

After landing the second fish it was time to pack up, but it was a case of mission accomplished so I was quite pleased how things had worked out. The fish were in residence and I had caught a couple which had been returned to the sea, so roll on the next session.

The next session turned out to be four days later and again it was to be a short session of about two hours actual fishing time at the South Beach. This time the conditions were totally different and the weather had reverted back to its changeable pattern, and the wind was fresh and blowing from the South East. The sky was grey and overcast and that was no visible sign of the Sun’s warming rays. The sea state was choppy and surf was rolling in, hopefully providing perfect conditions for a bass hunt. I was fishing the middle part of the flooding tide. The tactics were exactly the same as during the previous session, but this time I choose to use a two hook paternoster with shorter snoods because I expected fish to feed freely in the prevailing conditions. I was quickly into fish taking one of 35cm the first cast on a cast of about twenty five metres. A short while later I hooked and landed a slightly larger fish of 40cm.

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I started to get a number of bites which were distinctly different to the violent wrap around takes of the bass and these comprised of the lifting and settling of the lead usually following the retrieval of a small amount of line when displacing the lead. I ignored a couple of the bites expecting a bass to grab and swim quickly off with the bait, but nothing happened. I finally struck at one of the bites as the line slackened and was instantly into a fish which was not so dramatic nor vigorous in its attempts to escape.

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The answer to the puzzle was a plump flounder in superb condition and this first one was followed by two more, with all of them falling to the slowly retrieved bait technique.

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A fine conditioned flounder that has spawned in deep water during the early Spring and is now packing on weight before returning to the East Coast estuaries.

I was very pleased to see a flounder or two as I rarely catch them during my sessions on the open beach targeting the larger species. I have had good bags of flounders from this beach before during the late Spring and early Summer period but not recently.

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I look extremely well wrapped up against the wind and for good reason as the fresh onshore breeze was chilling. Still with the fish feeding well the uncomfortable conditions were not such a problem.

I topped the session off with a fine plump bass that measured 49cm and probably weighing somewhere in the region of three pounds. The bass hit the bait hard and went ballistic when hooked, by first swimming quickly through the water one way and then running in the opposite direction as I played it and applied pressure. The rod took on a dramatic bend as the fish tried to escape taking a bit of line against the drag. Gliding it in with a wave was an exciting moment, as it thrashed about on top of the water before finally submitting to pressure. I carefully lifted the fish by hand and held it while admiring its beautiful silver profile…what a great looking fish! After a quick photograph the fish was carefully returned to the water, and after a few seconds of recovery it flicked its substantial tail and headed back out to sea. All the fish I caught were carefully returned to the sea.

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The best of four bass caught from the Lowestoft South Beach.

I finished the session with the smallest bass of the day, and my two hours of angling bliss had ended, as it was time to head for home as promised. This light tackle fishing for bass is addictive and most coarse anglers who fish for tench and carp will have appropriate rods and reels amongst their kit, so it’s a great opportunity to try something different. For me, it won’t be too long before the sound and smell of the sea and the dreams of the silver bass tempt me to fish again; perhaps tomorrow?

Next week my fellow blogger Alan Stevens, will entertain you with his recent sea angling adventures from the shore in South Suffolk, and it is sure to be a great read.

David Porter Sea

Saltwater Small Fry and the odd surprise

The long school holidays of my youth are times when I developed my unrelenting enthusiasm for sea angling and one particular fish comes to mind from those early days of angling and that is the humble and unfashionable Pouting. I recall a lovely little deep bodied fish that fed voraciously down the sides of my home seaside pier and often in large shoals. Even now I look upon a pouting in my hand as something to admire, and to be enjoyed as it is a great looking fish straight out of the sea, especially the larger ones with backs of copper brown, vertical bands of colouring etched on the shimmering flanks and white undersides; a memory of those early days of angling. As a lad, fishing with my mates we would have competitions to see who could catch the most.

The fish would often often congregate in the corners , nooks and crannies down the side of the pier seeking protection from larger predators. The larger pouting were always caught in the vicinity of the timber piled section at the pier head. Bottom fishing with rigs that included booms presenting baits on size 6 hooks at different depths would catch them. But there were also times when they would be caught using float tactics presenting a bunch of small harbour ragworm with the tails moving attractively in the currents.

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I still pick one or two larger pouting from time to time during cod fishing sessions, when fishing over rough ground and these can weigh as much as a pound and a half, although I have seen larger. In those early days there was often confusion over species identification and the diminutive poor cod was often mistaken for a small pouting.

On the pier, pouting and poor cod would turn up in bags of other desirable fish like the sand smelt, which could be caught in large numbers and are now popular as Pike dead baits. The sand smelt is a small fish, averaging about 175 to 200 mm in length, that descend into the inner harbours towards the end of the school summer holidays in very dense shoals. If you caught one it was likely that you could go on to catch a hundred. As with the pouting, my mates and I would have competitions to see who could catch the most. We used six or seven foot long solid glass spinning rods that cost a couple of pounds in those days and a small coarse fishing reel, such as the intrepid Black Prince or one of the early cheap Daiwa models. Terminal tackle comprised of a small corked bodied float terminating in a size 10-12 freshwater hook. In common with most small prey fish the smelt would congregate in great numbers wherever there was a corner or deviation in the pier wall which offered quiet sanctuary out of the main tidal current.

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The pouting and smelt hotspots can clearly be seen, directly down the side of the wall in the corners. The heavy seaweed growth on the bottom landing of the steps provided harbourage and was particularly attractive to the smelts. As bass have become more numerous they now patrol these areas looking for prey.

Every so often a larger smelt species would turn up smelling of cucumbers, which gives the fish its popular name, the cucumber smelt. This species tended to show up a bit later in the year and I have caught one or two subsequently when fishing for smaller fish such as dabs during that quiet period for shore angling following the New Year. The sand smelt, is a species of wide distribution, but is very common in harbours and estuaries on the east coast. The smelt is now of angling interest again due to the popularity of light lure fishing and club species hunts. In earlier times matches were held in the Lincolnshire saltwater creeks with anglers using coarse fishing tackle to catch the heaviest bag of smelt…reminiscent of the gudgeon fishing parties held on the River Thames in Edwardian times.

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A fine sand smelt specimen caught by my good friend and fellow blogger, Alan Stevens, on lugworm bait recently during a boat fishing session. Notice the size of its mouth which is pretty impressive for a small fish.

Angling for smelts provide an easy introduction to the sport for kids and the coarse angler is extremely well equipped to enjoy some fun fishing. A fast tipped match rod suitable for roach fishing, with a matching reel loaded with a three pound breaking strain line would be just perfect, with the float type and size dependant on location and prevailing sea condition. A wide variety of baits can be used including tiny pieces of shrimp or fish.

Occasionally the business of catching small fish was interrupted by a hungry grey mullet that would take a fancy to the enticing hook bait and a soft strike with a turn of the wrist would be answered with a screaming run and bow wave as an angry mullet made for the timber piles of the pier. This was a frequent occurrence when fishing in the tranquil waters of the Yacht Basin at the bottom of the pier, on the harbour side. More often than not the fish would reach the security of the wooden piles and break the anglers’ line, however, I did manage to land a four pounder one evening that caused a few anxious moments, as I had no landing net with me. I had to play it out gradually easing it towards a set of concrete steps where I managed to scoop the spent fish out of the water with my hands. I also hooked and landed a small number of smaller mullet, but I certainly lost more than I ever landed. It made for exciting fishing!

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The weed festooned steps which was the best hotspot for smelts and other small fish and the where I would hook into mullet every so often. A galvanised steel security fence now prevents access to this great spot.

It is unfortunate that so called progress has resulted in the gentrification of Yacht Basin and it is now called a marina, which has meant that there is no longer access to the general public.

A second fish that used to upset the equilibrium and push the smaller fish aside was the odd coalfish, that reached a maximum weight of a couple of pounds. These were good fun to hook on light tackle as they would crash dive to the sea bed with some power for a small fish. These tended to congregate in the deeper water found at the pier head.

I sometimes wonder if those small fish are still there in large numbers again just waiting to be caught, but there so many more serious fish to target in the summer months now. It would be a shame for my Grandchildren to miss out on the fun, so perhaps, I need to have a bit of a rethink and factor in some time with the small fry.

David Porter Sea

Bass from the Suffolk Shore

As Spring arrives and the inshore waters begin to warm up, my thoughts turn to the prospect of seeking out that game and handsome bar of silver, the Bass (Marone Labrax), that populate our coastline and estuaries on the East Coast during the warmer months. After a hard season of poor cod fishing it is great to have such a worthy adversary to try and catch in really pleasant warm conditions. Bass stocks on the East Coast appear to be relatively stable with large numbers of 30 to 40cm fish showing last year and hopefully enough of these will mature as breeding adults in the future.

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A typical sized bass of the present stock at around 40cm which must be returned, but nevertheless it gave good sport on the appropriate light tackle.

It is important that catch and release principles are adhered to with such a slow growing species of fish. The majority of the stock is undersized and must be returned, but it should also be a consideration that bass take a long time to mature and the large fish of seven pounds plus are probably only at the start of their breeding cycle. It makes sense that large fish of a breeding age are returned safely and carefully to the sea, allowing fish time to recover sufficiently to enable them to swim strongly away. This way a healthy stable stock can be sustained.

Bass have not always been as prolific on the East Coast and it took me nearly twenty years of angling to hook and land my first decent bass, which weighed five pounds. It was taken by accident in May 1985, as I was hoping to find a few late season codling feeding. I had always wanted to land one of the silver beauties as one of the great angling books, ‘A Tide of Fish’ that I read as a youngster had captivated me with both the author’s elegant prose and his description of bass fishing in West Wales. The author Clive Gammon was a journalist angler who worked in the United Kingdom and the United States as a sports correspondent. He also wrote articles for the important angling weeklies and periodicals in the United Kingdom. So with that catch of a five pound fish a dream had been fulfilled. My love of angling has been fuelled by such wonderful inspiring books over the years and if my enthusiasm ever flagged I have retired to my well filled book shelves for inspiration.

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Before I caught that fish, it seemed to me that regular catches of bass were a fairly rare and random event in my part of North Suffolk. Perhaps, it was a case of angling intuition, but I decided to target bass at the same location, the section of seawall which was overlooked by the Coastguard Station, for several weeks throughout the early summer of 1985. I ended up taking fifteen bass weighing up to just under seven pounds, although the majority of fish were smaller and around the three pound mark. The successful tactic was peeler crab presented on a running leger rig fished at low water in onshore wind conditions, which gave rise to some moderate tables of surf. I would cast cast a maximum thirty yards to the back of the second line of surf as it rolled in. I never caught more than a single fish in a session, but was successful on most occasions fished. The water was really shallow and the instant response from the largest bass as it was hooked was to trash on the surface in fury. The tip of the old fibreglass ABU464 bent over in a fighting curve and I had a few anxious moments as the fish tried to bolt towards sanctuary in the form of a wooden breakwater. I had the foresight to include a carp landing net and long handle with my equipment so I managed to land the fish without fuss once it lay on its side, played out.

Over time our summer fishing has changed and in my early years of angling, it comprised of soles, mullet and eels and not much else apart from the occasional accidental encounter with other exotic species, including the off chance of a bass. In more recent times the bass has become an important viable target and one which is greatly valued.

One of the most prolific venues close to my home is the Lowestoft South Beach where the fish are often found at very short range. It’s a shallow clean beach comprising of sand with patches of shingle where light tackle can be used, although the tidal flow is strong at times. I will often fish classic surf bass style by dispensing with a rest and hold the rod, feeling for bites. A light weight rod is preferred and a carp rod with a two pound test curve will suffice, partnered with a small multiplier or suitable fixed spool. Terminal tackle is simple again, with a running leger using a two ounce bomb lead and a size 1 fine wire hook. I prefer conditions where there is a bit of surf.

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Tom Porter with a fine conditioned five pound bass caught on the Lowestoft South Beach. He caught a second almost identical fish the same session. On this occasion the author blanked!

The bass can be very prolific here at times if the conditions are right although the majority of fish are school bass, but the larger fish are certainly present at times. There are occasions when conditions dictate that heavier conventional beach fishing tackle has to be used, but to maximise my fun and excitement I always try to fish as light as possible.

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A typical South Beach bass, which was one of seven caught in surf conditions.

My grandchildren do not miss out on the fun and have enjoyed their own bass catches on the South Beach with mainly small fish so far, but I hope to see new personal best fish landed in the coming months from the venue.

Just to the North of Lowestoft sits the holiday village of Corton and it is from the beach here that I believe the best chance of catching a large local bass exists. It came to my attention several years ago that a local fisherman living in the village regularly netted big bass into double figures during the May to June period. This small window of opportunity has yet to be fully exploited by me, but I managed to catch a couple of large fish both in early May, with one at eight pounds twelve ounces and a second one at just a couple of ounces over ten pounds. The former measured 74cm and the later 80cm and both were returned carefully to the sea. The fish were caught about three years apart, but the potential is clearly there. The water is deeper here, the tides run fast and the bottom is rough in places. Offshore is a popular mark for the charter boats who take out parties to fish and good bass often appear in those catches.

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Corton Beach stretches into the distance. It has also provided very good cod fishing over the years for me and my personal best fish of most species have been caught here.

There are other locations where bass can be fished for and I will hopefully cover these another time. I will finish with a brief look at float fishing for bass, which is a technique I have neglected for years. This summer past I used a sliding cigar float to some effect amongst the sea defences at Ness Point, the most easterly point in the British Isles. It is a bit of a disappointment to view, as it is heavily industrialised and has not got the natural beauty of other national landmarks.

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The Lowestoft seawall with the low bulk of Ness Point in the distance. The granite boulders have been a positive in that it has proved attractive to fish, however, care must be exercised, so I tend to fish areas where I can avoid climbing out over the rocks. Personal safety must always come first.

The local Council has attempted to improve the area, but left it far to late in the day to turn it into a spot that could be remotely described as attractive. But there are fish to be caught and bass have taken up residence amongst the man made granite rock breakwaters, which are never completely uncovered by the tide. The granite boulders provide a rich larder of food for the bass to harvest.

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A typical sized bass caught on the sliding float technique amongst the granite boulders at Ness Point.

So it’s time to dust off that light tackle and check out those locations close to you in readiness for the return of that truly game fish, the majestic bass.

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Tom Porter with a bass caught using the sliding float technique at Ness Point. Note the large boulders that form the sea defence protecting the existing concrete seawall!
David Porter Sea

An Angling Memory of a Forgotten Fishing Club, a Bitterly Cold January Evening and a Codling

Most anglers at some point in their angling lives will join a fishing club and depending on their individual circumstances and interests, some will happily remain within a club structure for many years, or others will decide to move on and fish solely freelance. For young anglers and beginners it was and still is always a good option to join a club to tap into the accumulated knowledge of the membership. Clubs are good for social contact and perfect for the more gregarious angler who thrives on banter with his mates.

I must admit to have preferred not to match or club fish because of an idea that formed early on that matches are often fished either at the wrong time or at the wrong venue. Catching my chosen target fish has always been my raison d’etre for fishing rather than accumulating a catch of species that were not my focus at a particular time. Although it has to be said that we all have to compromise at times.

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I joined the now defunct Lowestoft South Pier Angling Club in 1970, as a very keen fifteen year old. All clubs have their share of both interesting and colourful characters within the membership and my club was no exception. The Chairman was a local angling legend, Sam Hook, who held the British rod caught cod record for fifteen years with a fish captured off the Lowestoft Claremont Pier in 1945. The demographic of the club was interesting at the point of my joining as the average age of the membership must have been close to seventy years. I joined along with three or four other teenagers and our arrival must have been a bit of a shock for the membership, but we were welcomed as overnight the club had a thriving junior section. I can remember one of the female members, Olive Scriggins, remonstrating with us as we starting messing around when fishing was quiet. She fished with her husband Harold and son Ronnie, and she had a voice that lives on in the memory as she admonished us. The club held regular Sunday morning matches throughout the year, with an additional Wednesday evening match in the winter season. Some of the members were difficult to beat match fishing their favoured venues such as the South Pier or the Lake Lothing (the Port inner harbour) with harbour ragworm for flounders, soles and eels.

I was an active member of the club for three months and won my second match on a very cold evening in January when beach fishing had plunged temporarily into the seasonal doldrums.The venue chosen was an odd one at the time because it was the shallow stretch of beach located between the two piers and in those days it was not considered a viable option by most local anglers. The South Pier marks the north boundary of the beach and parallel to the beach is the main promenade.

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On this particular evening, with a moderate but miserable cold wind blowing from the North West, it proved to be almost hospitable, with a substantial seawall providing shelter as a wind break and the promenade lighting illuminating the beach. There was a bit of sleet in the air and even in the lee of the wind behind the seawall it was still bitterly cold. I chose to fish a spot close to where a statue of Triton, the Greek Sea God, still stands prominently on the promenade.

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I fished with and shared my heavy tripod rod rest and Tilley lamp with Mervyn, who I had known since my first day at primary school. I had set up my eleven foot honey coloured hollow glass fibre beach casting rod with its comfortable full cork handle and screw lock reel seat. Although the rod went from my ownership many years ago I still have the reel, a classic Penn Surfmaster 150, equipped with a plastic spool loaded that evening with eighteen pound Gantel monofilament line with a thirty pound shock leader. The rig was simple comprising of a single 4/0 Mustard Aberdeen hook tied to a blood loop paternoster and a five ounce fixed wire lead. I could manage a consistent sixty to seventy yard cast, using a simple ground cast.

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As the rising tide was pushed even further up the beach by the biting wind causing us to huddle under the seawall the prospects did not seem too bright to young inexperienced eyes. Despite multiple layers of clothing the evening was chilling and after a couple of biteless hours, we began move around mainly to keep warm and secondly to exchange banter with each other. It was Mervyn that first saw the bite on my rod develop as the tip, which had been painted white gave a couple of knocks and remained in a static bent position over the rod rest. A fish had picked up the bait and bolted, hooking itself at the same time. I grabbed the rod and experienced that exhilarating response from feeling a fish kick to regain its freedom. Standing in the wash from the surf taking in a boot full of water or two I gradually eased the fish towards me. It wasn’t a big cod but it was a modest codling of just over four pounds. I landed it using a wave to good effect, and it lay flapping on the wet sand with its mottled yellowish green flanks and white underside illuminated by the promenade lights. I think that it was the only fish caught in the match and the thought of my success made the walk home ladened with fishing tackle a breeze.

I still treasure the memory of that evening despite catching many good cod from the shore during my fifty six years of shore angling for the species. Even now in my retirement every time I walk past that particular spot on the promenade the memory of that evening match still brings a smile to my face.

It goes to show that this sport is not always about catching the biggest fish, but there so many other elements which combine to give great pleasure. It is, however, also a cause of sadness as two of my young friends are no longer with us.

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