Setting off at 8 a.m with a friend, heading towards some rockpools that we’d never fished before. Expecting nothing but hoping for everything, or at least a new species. It turned out to be harder than we thought it would be, more frustrating than we thought it would be, warmer than it was meant to be but still very enjoyable.
We had to really work for our fish in these rockpools. Slipping and stumbling over the seaweed and rocks, I dropped my lure in every little bit of water I came across. It was tough going so we split up to try and find some occupied pools. Eventually, after about 45 minutes of searching I found a small pool that was deeper than the rest, dropping a lure in I immediately had a take.
A very welcome common blenny or shanny. Just as we were about to leave the rock pools, I found a big stone that created a ledge: it looked very “fishy”. These small fish are very fast and another common blenny shocked me by taking my lure as quick as a flash, back into his little shelter. It was safely put back after a quick photograph.
Our next location was about a 10 minute drive and as equally frustrating. We decided to fish the river Tyne for the first time, we were quickly getting small bites on our dropshoted gulp/isome but hooking up seemed difficult. We soon realised why when I pull up a small but cool looking codling, the fish were tiny. After a few more fish, Andrew changed to a smaller hook and pulled out one of smallest Long spined sea scorpions we’ve ever seen. I changed to carolina rig to try and tempt a flatfish but had no luck. We moved on.
South sheilds pier is a mile long and our next spot. The last time we fished this pier we caught one fish between us so anything over that and we’d be happy. We got the car parked and headed off, stopping before the gate to try for a mackerel. Half way up the pier it became apparent that we would be catching plenty of coalies today. Infact that’s all we caught for the next hour. Different techniques caught different sized coalies, small metals and isome doing the job.
We had to head home, walking off the pier I was itching to throw my metal out again as I’d seen a few mackerel brought in. We stopped at the same spot we fished when walking onto to the pier to have a try. First chucking and I was into a fish, I instantly knew it was a mackerel. Tightening my drag, I could enjoy the fight. Hoping that it wouldn’t come off I lifted up the side of the pier, thankfully it was hooked by an assist hook that a good friend made, it had no chance of coming off.
During my long and awful 10hr drive home from Brixham to Hartlepool, I had time to think about the fishing I had done and the people I had met. While my family slept and gazed out of the windows at mostly stationary traffic, my mind wandered to the week we’d just had, specifically the fishing.
Arriving on Friday I was keen to get out and see what I could catch, searching for spots that a local angler had giving me. I was excited to wet a line. The first spot I fished was underneath a small pier, on slippy, seaweed covered rocks. Using a 1.5g jighead and a small length of pink isome. I was straight into what I thought was a lot of small pouting, these turned out to be poor cod, a new species for me.
The second day I was up early to fish another mark and started to find more species. Corkwing wrasse were everywhere, aswell as small pollock and more poor cod. My 4th species that morning was another new one for me: a rock goby. Easily identified by the yellow/orange tip on the first dorsal fin. All of these fish were caught using a small length of Berkeley gulp, camo in colour, fished on a dropshot rig and a size 12 hook.
I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to fish Plymouth after all the great fish I’ve seen caught from there. So, when we went to visit the National marine aquarium there I took my rod and managed about an hour fishing on a small pier on some steps. I was fishing in 2ft of water so I wasn’t hopeful of getting anything but after a few casts, some definite interest and some positive follows I was into an unfamiliar fish. A common dragonet, another first for me and definitely my favourite of the trip.
After a couple of days without any fishing, enjoying family time, some nice drinks and amazing food, I met up with Brixham regulars Richard Salter and Jon owens. Charlie lerfer also made the long journey to join us for the day. We fished Brixham breakwater, starting at the base and ending up near the end. We caught a lot of fish between us and a total of 10 different species. I arrived before anyone else and before any of the guys turned up I had already had a goldsinny wrasse, corkwing wrasse, rock goby and a small pollock. Jon turned up next and pointed me in the direction the black gobys, I caught one straight away. Richard and Charlie turned up soon after this and we fished the same spot for a couple of hours.
We moved on to the end of the pier, I switched to a Carolina rig. I started to catch a few Ballan wrasse, all on a small length of pink isome.
Unfortunately, Charlie had to leave us to head home. Jon, Rich and myself fished on for few more hour. Once the quiet patch had passed, the tide started to turn and rise, we were back in to fish. Each of us catching wrasse, pouting and small pollock. Rich had caught a couple of tompot blennys, a species which I’ve never caught yet. I changed back to a drop shot rig to target one, Rich caught another and I had no luck. Definitely my bogey species. I finished the day with 8 species: Ballan wrasse, corkwing wrasse, goldsinny wrasse, pouting, pollock, poor cod, black goby and rock goby.
We had a 20 minute spell searching for mackerel until we called it a day. The Devon heat had gotten to all of us. It was great to meet up with these guys, I learnt a lot. Including how to rig and use a “stinger rig”.
Going back to the 10hr drive home, I remember saying to my wife Sam “never again, its not worth it”. I regret saying this because it is worth it, every second of travel. If you like LRF wether you’re a beginner or an experienced LRF angler, give Brixham a visit, you won’t be dissapointed.
So on this day, I went out for an evening fishing trip from 16:00 – 20:00, I was out on my buddy charter that runs out of Ramsgate called “better days”. I arrived at the marina early to try and see if there was any mullet and if there was I was going to have a cast for them with my fly rod which is something I’ve wanted to do for ages. Unfortunately, despite the crystal clear blue water I failed to notice any feeding mullet at all!
So off we went the engine roaring to life and the vessel starting to move, Dan called in for permission to leave the harbour and the fishing journey had started! it was a pleasant day to be on the water with the flat calm seas rolling in and lots of fish coming aboard. the first hound came up within a matter of minutes and they just didn’t stop coming! the bite really really improved as the tide started to slacken off. with many hounds showing, a few dogs and one bass and a super pretty gurnard decided to show its face taking 2 prawns. I felt like we did pretty well especially considering the NE winds.
I made a video on this day covering most of the catches all the way from 16:00 – 20:00 check it out here!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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!
Smoothounds. Sharks of the shallow. Undoubtedly the hardest fighting fish inshore UK waters have to offer. And a personal favourite for me to target on the kayak. Smoothounds fight hard, run like steam trains and have the attitude to match their stylish looks. They can take you for a sleigh ride and give you a real run for your money. Even once landed they will not give up and if you are stupid enough to let them they will crush your fingers!
I got invited to meet up with two of my mates on Saturday to target these stunners of the shallows. I spent most of Saturday on the Navionics app trying to find structure, drop-offs, sandbanks or gulleys. I believe finding the correct structure, and depths is vital to being able to find the fish. Due to us fishing into the dark I didn’t want to push too far offshore and thankfully found a nice bit of changing depth. close to the rocks which provided a food source. Once id pinned my mark it was onto bait collection. Within 10 mins I’ve found a couple of peeler crab. After spending a few hours looking for hardbacks id found 5 hours worth of decently sized hardbacks. As I got home I set up the rods, packed the kayak, put the bait in the fridge and was bouncing off the walls all night I couldn’t sleep. The Hardbacks and peeler are super easy to store, all they need is a bucket with shallow seawater and some seaweed over the top of them.
The day had finally come! I was up at the crack of dawn. Last time checks of the weather and tackle and it was game on! I was up fishing at 7:00 and decided to grab the lure rod and see if I could pick up a morning bass, there was lots and lots of activity in the scorching morning sun. I was using the axia glide and had 3 bars of silver go for my lure and miss. On the way home I saw something cruising on the surface. When I stopped to take a closer look I saw it was a huge bass at around 7lb at least. unfortunately, it swam down into the deep before I could cast a lure at it. Fast Forward in the Day to 16:30 and I was walking the kayak down to the beach and getting ready for a launch at 16:45. By 17:00 I was anchored onto the ground perfectly and chucking lug baits hoping for bass until the sun went down. I managed a few big bites but nothing came from it. as the sun went lower I started to throw crab baits. The first bait thrown was a peeler crab on a running ledger rig with Cox & Rawles specimen extras. I put that on a really light rod hoping for some hounds on light tackle. To be exact it was a 10-40g lure rod with an Abu Garcia black max bait caster. on the other rod, I was using hardbacks hooked through the swimmer leg joints on the same rig. This rod is a 12-20lb Ugly Stik arguably the best boat rod available to man. we fished from 17:00-21;30 and surprisingly I didn’t get a single touch on peeler crab! all hounds came on live hardbacks. Between all 3 kayaks we had about 8 hounds landed. The sea couldn’t have been in better conditions, the swell was 0.3ft, and the wind was 6mph offshore you can’t ask for better than that! I made a video on the amazing session that you can find here:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over recent weeks I have been out and about quite a bit, both freshwater fishing the lakes of Norfolk in support of the John Wilson Fishing Enterprise and of course, doing my favourite thing – combing the coastline of East Anglia in search of new marks and early season Bass.
By fishing across disciplines it has reminded me of just how hard going it is to fish our shingle east coast beaches. Let me put it this way; fishing a commercial lake is like visiting the petting area of a zoo. Smooth tarmac paths leading you to friendly Meerkats waiting to take food from your open hand. Whereas fishing on an east coast shingle beach this spring has been like walking barefoot through Kalahari Desert thorn bush infested quicksand surrounded by a pack of hungry Hyenas waiting to rip your arms off.
Boy has it been hard work on the beaches over the spring. Strong on-shore biting cold winds, rough seas and copious amounts of rain have made our beloved sport somewhat questionable to anyone with an IQ north of seven. Global warming…yes please.
But no; I have blogs to write and my good friend and fellow blogger David Porter and I are committed to fishing all the Suffolk beaches throughout the year, reporting our efforts for your enjoyment. So whilst David was fishing the far north of the county as featured in last Sunday’s blog, my focus was on the other end of Suffolk where I was researching a new mark at the southern point of Shingle Street beach, accessed from Bawdsey. Target species being Bass and Smoothounds.
I arrived at low water intending to identify clues from exposed seabed and wave motion and wasn’t disappointed. An onshore stiff breeze was forming a 3 foot swell that was breaking along the beach in front of me with telltale clues as to where seabed features would most likely help congregate my targets as the water rose. The wind negated any chance of using lures so my tactics for the hours ahead narrowed to bait fishing and I was happy with the squid, lug, rag and crab baits that I had collected the day before from Colchester Bait & Tackle.
I could see a clay shelf, undulated with gullies perfect for bass that divided the end of the shingle beach and the rock sea wall that protected Bawdsey. This area would be in play in a few hours but for now I looked beyond this position to set up 100 yds further north on the shingle, spotting a distortion of wave action suggesting a cut that again could signal a perfect bass hunting spot.
With both my continental rods matched with Mag 4 reels in action, one with a two hook clip down and the other with a pulley rig I settled with great anticipation. I was feeling that buzz you get when fishing a mark for the first time.
That’s when the rain started – sideways and hard, encouraged by a squall that at one point actually moved me along the slippery shingle. I was soaked and freezing cold. Any movement was exhausting. Casting was constrained by the wind and I was only reaching minimal yards out into the breakers, but hopefully to where the bass were feeding. Seeking an additional distance to clear a submerged ridge with one rod I loosened the mags with the inevitable birds nest. Grrrrrr.
Those that fish these Suffolk shingle beaches or maybe Chesil in the wind know just how demoralising and energy sapping shingle beaches can be on a good day yet alone in a hurricane. No wonder the beach was almost deserted. To be honest the only reason I stayed on was that I didn’t have the energy or the confidence of keeping hold of my equipment to pack up in the gale that now howled around me. I sat alone, keeping rods low, frowning out to sea taking the only comfort I could in that at least I was not on a boat being thrown around in the storm.
The wind moved the showers through quickly and in between rainstorms I re-baited hooks that were being stripped of worms within minutes by the most ravenous crabs I have seen in a long while. The size of your fist and with a degree of agility that would qualify them for the cast of Riverdance these crustaceans were seriously eroding my bait supplies and I began to regret fishing so early in the tide. Keeping one, putting it amongst my live peelers, was a bad idea when it began to rip my captive and less crusty supplies limb from limb. He was removed and calm was restored amongst the bait crabs.
I continually tried to convince myself that this was a reconnaissance mission for what was to come either today or, more likely, on my return another day and the investment I was putting in was worth it.
Three hours passed and nothing. Not a bite, only crabs and weed (the line clinging cotton wool type of weed that is so difficult to remove) occupied my thoughts as a procession of rain squalls progressively sapped my morale and any body heat that remained.
Finally my luck changed with a reasonable Pouting rattling the rod into action. At least I could avoid the walk of shame. It had taken a squid and lug combination and as I returned it to the water a flash of sunlight signalled the end of the rain.
I felt a faint hint of happiness return and soldiered on. Nothing again for an hour so I moved along to what was now a turbulent swirling confusion of breaking waves over the clay submerged seabed I had spotted earlier. At least the rain had passed.
I needed to use grip weights to hold my baits against the onshore gale returning them to shore. I knew that this would result in snags and more weed collection but the mark was finally in play. I had no chance of Smoothounds in these conditions but for bass it was just about perfect. And it indeed proved to be the case. Ragworm did the job and a huge take and a shaking head fighting my grip signalled it could be what I was seeking. Carefully guiding the fish through the waves it finally conceded to the shore and a Bass of just under 50cm laid on the golf ball sized pebbles at my feet.
Mission accomplished and with bait used up it was time to head home just as the light faded. The mark is most certainly one I will return to soon to fish two hours either side of high water, now I know the features of the beach. I want to fish the clay ravines with soft plastic gravity sticks or alibi snacks after dark and the shingle mark casting long with baits seeking those hound on a calmer day.
Once off the shingle walking became easy along the coastal path and my smile returned as I made my way back to my car. Mission accomplished for phase one of the Suffolk Safari. Hard work but worth every second to hunt wild seasonal fish in conditions that challenge you to your limits both physically and mentally. I slept well that night.
Thankfully now it seems summer has arrived and woohoo, the beaches will be packed with dog walkers, stone throwers and fire pit lighting dope smoking teenagers. But hey, it’s warm and dry.
After a year of busy blogging I am taking a break from my regular Sunday blogs for a while. I will write guest blogs when I can as we conquer the Suffolk and Essex shores. Thanks for reading my words over the year and for your overwhelmingly kind comments. Tight lines folks, see you on the beaches sometime.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As some of you may know, my dad recently moved to Switzerland for work. Due to travel restrictions and lockdowns, we hadn’t fished together since last year. Fortunately, last month he returned home and finally, after all my sixth form exams, we managed to go fishing together earlier this week. We wanted to do something special since we probably won’t be fishing together again for a while.
We wanted to find a charter boat but all the boats out of Essex were fully booked. After a quick search on the net for charters less than 2 hours away, we found Bonwey Charters out of Ramsgate which was very reasonably priced at £50 each including all frozen baits of squid, herring and shrimp. We also wanted some fresh crab so the day before we were due to fish, we headed down to Southend in search of some crabs. We’re unsure whether it was the recent poor weather or something else, but we only managed to find a few crabs of the right size. Despite the lack of crabs, we did find a dead pipefish and caught a little goby in our net which was pretty cool.
We set off early at half 5 to ensure we made it to Ramsgate for 8. We arrived about half an hour early and met with the skipper Paul and the two other lads who were fishing Jay and Mick. The boat had plenty of space, it’s licensed for 10 anglers however there were only 4 of us fishing on the day. This meant that we were able to use two rods each. The harbour itself was beautiful and unlike anything near to us on the Essex coast. The sea was flat calm, the sky was blue, and the sun was beaming down on us. It really was a beautiful day. We left the harbour at about quarter to eight and made the journey to the mark we would be fishing. It took about an hour to get there and on the way, we had a chat with Paul and the other two lads as they had been on Pauls boat previously.
We prepared our rods on the journey so once at the mark, all we had to do was bait up drop in. We opted to use up and over rigs & pulley pennel rigs with huge 6/0 hooks while Jay and Mick were using a running ledger. The tide runs so fast around the mark that we were all using 12oz leads to hold bottom, which even increased to 16oz later in the day. It was only my second time fishing on a boat and Paul was very helpful showing me a few bits. It didn’t take long for the fish to find our baits and within five minutes, my dad was bringing up the first fish of the day. Unsurprisingly it was a dogfish. The target of the day was smoothhounds so although the dogfish was an encouraging start, it wasn’t quite what we were after.
The action continued and within half an hour, everyone had caught a couple of dogfish. The smoothhounds were proving illusive and Paul suspected that they would show up shortly after high tide at about 2 o’clock. Jay had the first good bite of the day after an hour or so of a dogfish on every drop. The result was a nice sized thornback ray.
Whilst the rest of us continued to bring up dogfish, Jay managed another ray, both were around the 7-8lb mark. The squid and herring that I was using was just attracting dogfish, so I decided to switch over to lugworm. It didn’t take long before my rod hooped over and I was into something different. The result was a 40cm bass which got a little too excited and shot an odd white liquid all over my leg and the boat!
Not long after returning my bass, Jay was in again and this time, it was target acquired and the first smoothhound of the day. He caught it on frozen king prawn and as you can guess, I switched one rod over to prawn. Unsurprisingly, it was quickly devoured by a hungry dogfish.
Over the next hour, my dad and I caught a few more dogfish while Jay and Mick, who were at the back of the boat were tearing it up and each caught another skate and smoothhound. By now, the tide was rushing through and the fishing stared to die down a bit.
We enjoyed some lunch while it was a bit quieter and only a few dogfish, a whiting, and a pouting were boated.
As Paul predicted, the fishing started to pick up again at about half past one. By half past two, another 5 or so smoothhounds had been caught including my dad’s first of the day and a 10lber caught by Jay. I, however, still hadn’t caught one despite my best efforts. I had tried the crabs which we had gathered the previous day, herring and squid but still wasn’t catching. All of the hounds bar one were being caught with the prawn so I decided to use the prawn and stick with it.
Thankfully, my turn finally came around and at about half past 3, I was into my first hound of the day. Unfortunately, it was also the last hound caught. The wind had picked up and the sea was getting choppy which made bite detection hard and our lines were starting to constantly get crossed. In addition, the fishing was also dying off. My dad managed the last fish of the day which wash two dogfish on one Pennel rig. The swell was so strong that he had no idea he’d even caught them. We headed back to harbour and I even fell asleep for the last 20 minutes of the journey lol.
Overall it was a fantastic days fishing in great company. Paul, the skipper was fantastic and his years of experience and wealth of knowledge showed through. Although we didn’t use any, all tackle is available to borrow for anyone that doesn’t have anything and frozen bait is also included. Hot drinks were provided all day and usually (before covid) breakfast is served on board too. As previously mentioned, the price is fantastic at £50 a head (usually £35/£40 before covid) and the whole boat can be booked for just £250 midweek or £300 weekends. Another bonus was the fantastic fishing. If you want to know more about Bonwey Charters, then I’ve linked the website below.