Monthly Archives: February 2018

Plaice fishing along the south coast

Wayne Hand shares with us his approach towards spring plaice fishing on todays VMO blog entry. Even if the weather doesn’t know it right now, spring will soon be with us and with a few fish starting to show, it’s a good time to get your tackle sorted in readiness for some hectic sport.

 

Wayne Hand with a spring plaice

Wayne Hand with a spring plaice

Plaice can be a target for many anglers during the Spring & Summer month’s along many parts of the south coast.  For an angler like myself based in the South West, I would generally target our spotted friends from March to September. Numbers can be steady all year with the bigger fish landed towards August & September after they have had a few good months to fatten up.

 

A brace in the sunshine

A brace in the sunshine

Location & times

If you enjoy your flatty bashing then plaice can be targeted as early as January along the south east coastline with Brighton being a prime venue. The fish will turn up very early along the Sussex coastline, but please be aware that if you like taking a few plaice for the table then these fish will on average be very skinny. It’s the time of year to generally target them for the sport rather than for the table and they should be handled with care before returning them to the sea. Most areas will fish well from March onwards, with venues such as Chesil beach in Dorset being a favourite of mine. If you are not familiar with Chesil beach, it is an 18  mile stretch of shingle and plaice can be landed along its length, but they definitely show a preference for marks at the western end such a West Bexington and Cogden. Plaice can also be located along other areas in Dorset such as Sandbanks or Southbourne and the beaches in Devon such as Slapton & Beesands can hold a good number of plaice throughout the year.

Tackling up for plaice

A specimen plaice is only 2.5lb, unlike others species of fish, this allows you to scale down the rods, reels & terminal tackle to allow for some good sport.

For targeting plaice I use a setup consisting of a Tronixpro Cobra Light rod, occupied with a Tronixpro Virtuoso XT fixed spool reel. The reel is loaded with .18mm diameter fluorocarbon line with a suitable shock leader. This set up allows me to put out a 4oz rolling lead at range to hopefully locate these target fish on a drift, as plaice feed mainly by sight on clean sandy bottoms, you can get away with using all this light gear without fear of any snags or any chance of leaving dead kit on the bottom.

 

Wayne choice of plaice rod- Tronix Pro Cobra Light...

Wayne choice of plaice rod- Tronix Pro Cobra Light…

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…Armed with a Tronix Pro Virtuoso XT

 

Techniques & Rigs

Although plaice are aggressive feeders, within a full tide cycle there can be quiet times where they are less active, so as anglers, we need to use a method from the shore to allow us to search out the sea bed.  Using the tide to move our baits around instead of waiting for the plaice to find the bait is known as the Rolling lead technique. Being an aggressive feeder, plaice find it very hard to resist a passing bait and will primarily feed on sight, so day time hours are the prime time. To enable our baits to be more visual we ‘bling up our rigs’ by adding beads on the hook length or attaching a luminous lead to the rig. A plain lead can be used to cover the sea bed as it trundles around in the tide, or it can be purposely moved by retrieving a few yards of line in order to reposition the baits.

As you can see, I am using a rig called an up & over pulley rig, this is a tight compact rig which has little drag on casting. The rig will unclip as it hits the water allowing me to present a bait at range without fear of tangling. Plaice have small mouths, so you need to scale your hooks accordingly, please go careful unhooking plaice, if you damage there gills the fish will die- I find a Varivas 1/0 Aberdeen a great hook for connecting with the fish, also big enough for me to handle with care when unhooking, meaning the fish will not swallow the hook right down like a size 2 or 4 hook and therefore enabling me to release the fish unharmed.

Keeping it colourful

Keeping it colourful

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Bring on the bling!

Bait

Most anglers target plaice using Blow & Black lug along the Sussex beaches, we find more along the Dorset coast that rag tipped with prawns can be the winning bait, while some anglers targeting smoothhound or cod along Chesil in the Autumn months accidentally land 3 or 4lb fish using crab. Every angler has their own favourite bait’s, but those are mine.

In summary

I hope my blog has given you a little insight into plaice fishing if you were unsure before, also do remember, fishing more than anything is based on an opinion, so please ask questions and do your own homework before targeting these beautiful creatures.

Please be aware that the minimum size limit for a plaice is 28cms, if you wanted to take one home for the family to enjoy, please make sure if is over this size. Good luck and be safe!

Wayne Hand – Tronixpro ambassador and VMO contributor.

Wayne includes a selection of photo’s featuring the highlights of a recent shore fishing session with a few friends at Brighton…

 

Jon Patten with two typical examples

Jon Patten with two typical examples

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The author, in on the action again!

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Steve Harder (left) and Steve Perry. Blue sky and smiles all round

 

South Wales small eyed ray fishing

The south Wales coast has a long standing reputation for producing small eyed rays, but a lot of these fish are caught by just a few anglers. Dean Booker has certainly found his share over the years and tells us how, where and when on todays blog…

Small Eyed rays are a prime target species along the south wales coast and are present in good numbers for most of the year if you know where to look. Marks such as Sand Spit at Sully, Monk Nash Beach and Hutchins in Portcawl have a track record for producing the goods. These venues offer a realistic chance of catching a ray with the average size of the fish around 6 or 7lb, but you may well encounter other species along the way.

Dean Booker with a respectable small eyed ray

Dean Booker with a respectable small eyed ray

Numbers of blonde rays have increased dramatically over the last few years which is great to see and they are obviously a welcome catch, but because of this it makes things harder when going all out for a small eyed.

Blonde rays used to be thin on the ground and it was once possible to catch half a dozen small eyed rays in a session, but it is now the blonde that is more likely to take your bait meaning that the small eyed is a greater challenge that needs thinking about. Dogfish and conger are amongst the other species that may find you bait when wetting a line here.

There are three venues in my opinion that really stand out if it is a small eyed ray you are particularly interested in catching. Witches Point, Ogmore Deeps and Porthcawl Pier.

Although other species are encountered here, 99% of the rays caught are small eyeds.

Anglers tackling the Sand Spit

Anglers tackling the Sand Spit

Ray season

The small eyed ray season usually starts in March towards the tail end of the cod season on the first set of spring (big) tides and they will then be present right through to Christmas time. Day or nights seems to make little difference to the catch rate and it’s more a case of catching it right. Both settled and rough seas can be productive so don’t be put off if the weather is a bit nasty.

Tackle

When it comes to tackle, my current choice of rod is the Anyfish Anywhere Tournament Grand Prix. I fish with a pair of these and although many people may think they are over gunned for tackling rays on the sand, I really love the through action and the rods seems to suit my style of cast. When conditions are more favourable, I’ll occasionally switch to some lighter Century  models, just for a change. Casting distance can often pay off on many of the marks and it’s important that your rod can handle 7oz of lead to ensure the lead and bait is nailed to the bottom in what may be a racing tide. Make sure you cast up tide and let out a bow of line. Smaller leads may struggle to take hold on the sand and if your tackle is not on the bottom, you will not catch a ray… end of story. I’m a huge Daiwa fan and all of my reels are Saltist BG30 multiplier reels. They are great for casting and if maintained will last for years. I own several and they are all running at different speeds to suit different conditions on the day.

A fleet of well maintained reels

A fleet of well maintained reels

Rigs are simple and my preference is for a long pulley rig (five foot). 5/0 Varivas Big Mouth Xtra hooks baited with sandeel and squid are the only way to go. Step up the body and trace to 100lb. This extra thickness will not put fish off but it could help you to land a bonus fish if it finds your bait.

Sandeel wrapped in squid is all you need

Sandeel wrapped in squid is all you need

Over the years I have been lucky to land some good sized small eyed rays from the areas mentioned including a best of dead on 13lb as well as a number of hight 12’s. These fish have been the result of a lot of rod hours so like with any species, it’s a case of getting out what you put in.

Safety

Safety should never be an after thought no matter where you are fishing but I’d like to mention a few things regarding some of the venues mentioned in this piece-

Sand Spit

Do not try and access the sandpit before it fully uncovers if you have not fished here before. If you cross at the wrong point, you may become stuck in deep mud.

If in doubt, wait for it to expose fully. The flooding tide can backfill without you realising here so you really should visit for the first time with an experienced angler.

Witches Point & Ogmore Deeps

These venues are very exposed and if there is a swell running, never turn your back on the sea. This is one venue where a flotation jacket or life vest may be worth considering.

Dean's son.... gets in on the action

Dean’s son, Connor, gets in on the action

February – An alternative approach for a quiet fishing month

We all know how slow the fishing can be in February. But have you ever considered what fish may be feeding under your feet? A huge number of mini species remain at the base of rocks, harbour walls and jetties throughout the year and can provide some great fun with the right tackle. Bruce Hough gives us an insight in to how he approaches LRF (light Rock Fishing) in todays blog.

Generally, as sea anglers we spend much of our time in pursuit of that dream fish, and I’m no exception, but for myself it’s not all about the “bigguns” and during those sometimes long periods of inactivity when the big baits sit awaiting attention, I enjoy nothing more than dabbling in a bit of LRF (Light Rock Fishing).

By fining down your tackle and dropping very small baits down the edge it’s surprising the amount of smaller species that can be found below our feet.

The mini species, as they’re known, come in a massive variety of shapes, colours and forms, and with tackle to suit, can give great sport and endless fun for not just adults but also juniors, the elderly and disabled alike, especially during the warmer months.

Thumbnail sized slithers of fish, ragworm, a squid tentacle or a leg of a peeler crab matched to fine wire hooks of size 6 to as low as size 22 on a light paternoster style rig will account for the various Gobies, Blennies and Rockling.

A colourful array of gobies and blennies

A colourful array of gobies and blennies

as well as many colourful Wrasse such as the Ballan, Goldsinney, Rock Cook, Corkwing or Cuckoo.

How to catch wrasse

 

With perseverance and a little luck, more exotic species such as Dragonet or even Tadpole fish can be tempted.

sea fishing for cod

Despite its name, LRF doesn’t have to be solely from the rocks, in fact any structure such as piers, marinas, harbour walls, breakwaters and even some promenades will have a resident population of fish to target.

Another effective method is to add small baits to Sabiki Rigs, fished on the bottom these will tempt all the usual critters but when “twitched” will also appeal to the voracious Sea Scorpion, Poor Cod and Pouting.

fishing with lures

 

Try them off the bottom with small fish strips and they can be deadly for Sand Smelt, small Coalfish and Pollack.

Lure fishing for bass

Tackle for this type of fishing need not be expensive at all and a simple light spinning rod rated up to 28g coupled with a 2000 sized fixed spool reel will suffice nicely and handle any surprise bigger fish should they come along.

Mono from 5 -10lb will do the job but I personally prefer braid (Power Pro is highly recommended) for the low diameter and superior bite detection, which I tie direct to the chosen rig.

I also keep my lead weight/sinker as light as I can get away with to present everything as naturally as I can.
My choice of hooks come from leading manufacturers such as Trabucco, Yuki, Sasame or Sabpolo and are widely available, but for the majority of my fishing, I find that most coarse fishing hooks are also well up to the job and will handle any larger fish.
Sinkers can also come in a variety of styles including non-toxic, drop shot and slim line and shiny which can be used for added attraction. Among the accessories I carry are very small lures, jigs and artificial baits such as Isome which can be flicked out and slowly dragged and twitched along the bottom for various flatfish and even predators such as Bass or bumped over rocks and up through the water levels for Ballan Wrasse and bigger Pollack. There really is no end to the amount of experimenting that can be done.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that these little guys aren’t worth the effort or bait, match them with fine tipped rods and very light tackle and they’ll certainly “pull your string” and get the adrenalin going in their own little way.

So next time the going gets tough, get searching for those forgotten species that live in the crooks and crannies amongst the weed and rocks where you don’t need to be a tournament caster.

Can you uptide using braid?

A recent debate on social media regarding the use of a braided mainline for uptide fishing sparked much discussion. Seasoned boat angler, Scott Smy, guests on today’s VMO blog to offer his thoughts on the subject…

A recent post on everyone’s favourite media channel Facebook posed the question…..’Can you use braid for Uptiding’? Considering the number of differing views this post generated I thought it would be useful to run through some of the pros and cons of using braid for uptiding, using the Bristol Channel as a casing point.

I guess the simple answer to the question from my and many other anglers perspective is ‘yes’; you can use braid effectively when uptiding. Having spent almost the best part of almost 30 years fishing from boats in the Bristol Channel (both on charters and my own craft) I would like to think I know a thing or two about uptiding in these generally shallow fast-running waters. I have to say for the majority of that time I had been using mono lines in 15-20lb breaking strain along with a 40-50lb leader. However, in the past couple of years my attention has turned to using braid and to be brutally honest I find it a complete joy to use when compared to mono.

Loaded up and ready to go. With braid!

Loaded up and ready to go. With braid!

The first thing you will discover using braid is that the bite detection is second to none and you can spot the first enquiry on the rod tip long before the fish picks up the bait properly and steams off downtide, which personally has resulted in a greater percentage of positive hook-ups compared to mono. However it is essential that rods are securely fastened down to the boat rail if left unattended as the take from a large smoothhound or ray can be savage to say the least and could lead to rods and reels disappearing over the side, never to be seen again. Also, once hooked the sensitivity of the braid makes playing the fish so much more enjoyable as you can feel every head shake, although this does mean that you have to be careful not to bully the fish too much.

I also find that fishing with braid allows the grip weight to hold much more affectively when fishing in strong currents. On a recent charter trip out of Minehead fishing an offshore sandbank for rays where the tide was steaming through it was noticeable that those uptiding with braid were able to find and hold bottom whilst those using mono struggled to hold until the tide had eased off. The one problem I have found with braid is that occasionally it allows the lead to dig into the seabed a bit too well and has resulted in having to try to pull for a break (trying to break out 30lb braid is not easy and should be left to the skipper).

A beautiful blonde taken on a braid uptide outfit

A beautiful blonde taken on a braid uptide outfit

I have heard of instances where anglers using braid have been cut-off when using it over shallow water reef/coral marks due to the amount of line you need to feed out. This can be a downside to using braid and whilst tying on a leader of 20ft of 40-50lb mono can help reduce tackle losses and make it easier for the skipper when bringing fish to the waiting net, there will be times when you just have to revert back to mono. However the majority of the time this isn’t an issue for the areas I am uptiding which would be considered to be at the lower end of the Channel which are generally a bit deeper and less snaggy than the upper reaches. I guess it’s a case of horses for courses.

A further downside to the use of braid uptiding is the problem of you fishing next to your mate who is still using mono. If you are all using braid on the boat then no problem. However, if some of your fellow anglers are using mono then tangles can become a problem and worst still braid has a tendency to cut through mono when it is under tension. Your mate fishing next to you certainly isn’t going to thank you when your braid slices through his mainline as a 20lb Cod hits the surface just behind the boat!

12lb Bullhuss

Tackle

Fixed spools are becoming increasingly popular on charter boats these days and they are ideal for uptiding when trying to cast from a moving deck. Having initially brought them for use on continental rods for shore fishing, I have been using the Penn Surfblaster 8000 reels for uptiding and have found it to be more than adequate. Apart from the ability to ‘pick-up’ the slack line very quickly (one of the main advantages of a fixed spool), it has a great drag system for when fish get close to the boat. Also being a reel from the Penn stable it is well-built and will certainly handle the pressure put upon it by a large ray or conger hanging in the tide.

A relatively soft action uptider is essential when using braid. I am a big fan of Daiwa boat rods and use the TDX 4-10oz which is probably one of the best uptide rods ever made.

In terms of terminal tackle I have found that using an uptide boom locked between 2 swivels is far more effective than having a sliding boom as this acts like a bolt-rig and results in more hook-ups, especially for fish such as hounds which have a tendency to tear off with the bait. Hook sizes vary according to bait but I rarely find you need anything larger than a 6/0 uptiding out of ports such as Watchet, Minehead etc. Hooks are always Varivas Big Mouth Extra’s which are proven and have never let me down.

uptide boat fishing rig

Simple uptide tackle. Note the nail in the lead to hold the hook for casting

Norway fishing holiday – Where to start?!

If you enjoy your fishing holidays, Norway couldn’t have escaped your attention. But where do you start when it comes to tackle? And what about that weather?

Today, John Strange of Guided Fishing Norway gives you a few things to think about…

Planning a fishing holiday to Norway takes a little thought in order to ensure you bring clothing and equipment which is suitable. You could be facing extremes in both the weather and the types of mark you could be fishing.

You’ll also be very limited by luggage allowances on flights, so it’s important not to waste space in your holdall with unnecessary items.

Clothing essentials

Norway fishing holiday

You will need a good quality set of waterproofs, preferably breathable, because with lots of thermal layers you can quickly overheat walking to a mark. Then you need decent quality thermal layers. A wicking base layer first, then some mid layers or a thermal suit, depending on season. Balaclava, gloves, mittens and hat are all very useful, as is the ability to add or remove these to regulate temperature. Decent woollen socks, combined with thermal boots finish off your typical Norway fishing outfit. But lastly and most importantly your boots MUST be studded for gripping on ice and rock.

Wrapping up for the weather leaves you to concentrate on the job in hand

Wrapping up for the weather leaves you to concentrate on the job in hand

 

Fishing equipment 

You’ll need a standard UK beach casting rod rated at 6-8 ounces. We recommend a glass tip as sometimes you’ll be fishing deeper marks, maybe hundreds of feet deep, and setting the tip is a real bonus when there’s no current. Bring something you’re personally happy casting with, not something someone else can cast 300 yards on a tournament field with. You’re fishing for potentially really big and powerful fish, so a rod which bends and absorbs some of this will be more appropriate than a rod designed for tournament casting on the field.

A glass tipped rod is great for settling the lead

A glass tipped rod such as this is great for settling the lead

Match the rod to a strong multiplier reel such as the Daiwa Saltist BG30 (the loud ratchet is essential) loaded with.43mm line but always run your reels on the slow side, as a birds nest in temperatures of -10c when the fish are biting is a real pain. Distance casting is not always necessary. Alternatively, a strong fixed spool like a Penn Spinfisher 6500LL makes a perfect Norway shore fishing reel.

Tough reels under typical Norway winter weather

Bring plenty of pulley rigs, tied with 100lb and 150lb line. Hooks from 2/0 up to 8/0 are generally good for most marks, with 100lb for 2/0 to 4/0 and 150lb for larger hooks. Many of the fish you’ll encounter in Norway have sharp teeth and it’s vital to use these heavier lines that won’t deter a fish from taking the bait but will certainly give you a chance off landing it! Even smaller baits on 2/0’s can catch big fish, so forget 60lb and 80lb snoods.

Always use rotten bottoms on all your rigs, it preserves the marks from line snags, and saves you hassle while fishing. Snagged tackle on the sea bed in hundreds of feet of water will remain there, especially when there is little or no tide. This can render a mark unfishable so it does pay to think about what you are casting out there.

6oz and 7oz grip leads are the mainstay out here and on average 20 leads will do you for a week. Bring a decent headlamp, plenty of heavy bait elastic, unhooking pliers, bait knife and scissors.

There’s no tackle shops out here, so think ahead and bring plenty of what you need and none of what you don’t. A good tip is to imagine a fishing session and think what you would actually need for a days fishing, this helps weed out items which will be sat in your bag all week unused.

And bring plenty of enthusiasm, because behind every picture of a twenty pound cod there are hours of hard work standing in pretty tough conditions. Enjoy your time here in Norway, fish hard and you just might get the catch of your lifetime.

Tight lines

John

Sea fishing in Norway Veals Mail Order

A world record shore caught ling for GFN’s Phil Hambrook