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.
In total, between the four of us we must have caught caught 8 smoothhounds, 5 skate and over 40 dogfish. Here’s a few more photos of some of the fish we caught.