Tag Archives: Fishing

Book a boat part 2- Channel Explorer, Portishead

Chris Buxton, skipper of Portishead based vessel Channel Explorer tells us about the kind of fishing we might expect to see out of the coastal Bristol Channel town of Portishead, in part 2 of our ‘book a boat’ series…

As a keen angler I was very lucky to have grown up right on the coast of the fast flowing waters of the Bristol Channel in the small Somerset town of Clevedon. I learned my trade on the rich fish filled waters of the upper channel around Clevedon for nearly 30 years before taking the plunge and running my first Charter boat- Channel Explorer. 

Plenty of deck space equals comfortable fishing

I’ve been privileged to have received some help along the way, particularly from Daniel Hawkins who runs ReelDeal charters from Ilfracombe-  Dan is a great guy and highly respected skipper. 

I now own Dan’s original boat, a 10 meter Colne Catamaran twinned with 150hp mercury’s on the back that can get us going to speeds of up to 42knots, so getting to the marks takes next to no time. We have some very good fishing from the beautiful marina at Portishead which is 3 miles up the coast from Clevedon or junction 19 of the M5. All our fishing is done at anchor with the majority of anglers opting to uptide in the fast waters. Winter fishing can be excellent and we are very lucky to still get a decent cod run in the Channel. From September to May is when these fish run with bags of up to 84 sizeable fish having been taken so far this 2019-20 season. 

A typical bag of cod aboard Channel Explorer

We also catch plenty of Rays ,Congers ,Whiting and odd dogs amongst the massive Cod shoals. 

May through to September is a time we can pretty much target anything with all the ray species available, hounds in excess of 20lb, tope, bass more cod and my favourite- the Dover sole. 

The sole fishing is something I’d like to think we specialise in as they are large fish with 90% of fish landed over the 2lb mark and up to a few ounces short of 4lb. 

I’m after a 6lb fish and pretty certain they are down there in the murky depths. 

Channel Explorer runs pretty much everyday weather permitting and can take 10 Anglers with plenty of space, so when we can get back out on the water why not book a trip with us and I’ll doe my best to put you on the fish.

Contact Chris on 07804 241017 to discuss your booking

Chesil – the year so far – part 1

Today we welcome Ben Stockley to the blog. Ben enjoys regular success on Chesil and we knew that his year so far would make for a good read. Look our for part 2 coming soon…

Chesil – the year so far – part 1

Wow, where is 2016 going, already we are into July, the longest day has passed and the nights are drawing in a little earlier every day. I have packed in a lot of fishing so far this year, many of you will already know that I am expecting the arrival of Stockley Junior in early August and I have made it my mission to do as much fishing as possible ahead of a very busy end to the year!

Samalite league champion 2015

Samalite league champion 2015

January Prolonged bad weather and the usual post Xmas fish famine on the Dorset Coast meant I only managed a couple of pretty slow trips out. The 1st round of the new Samalite League season was held at West Bexington in heavy rain and a strong Southerly wind. A limited bag of Dogs, Pollack, Whiting and Poor Cod helped me limp home to a 4th in zone but I was pleased as it meant I’d made the prize table and started the defence of last year’s league title in a positive manner.

A plump cod from a cold Chesil

A plump cod from a cold Chesil

February More wet and windy weather did nothing to improve the prospects of what promised to be another challenging month although I did manage a few more sessions, albeit mostly honing my match fishing skills catching dogs and whiting, generally making the best of what lean pickings were on offer. One particularly pleasant sunny day was spent at the end of the month hoping for an early red spot on Chesil. The water colour meant that I had to be entertained by a steady stream of dogs and Whiting until a late season Cod of 7lb 2oz put a big smile on my face and sent me back home happy. He’d picked up a small rag bait on a size 2 hook intended for flatter, spottier customers. I also enjoyed a couple of trips to Jerry’s Point in Poole Harbour , the best of these trips resulting in 6 plump flounders to 1-12 and a few school Bass which was fun on the light continental gear I had used. With 2 days of the month remaining, I decided not to follow rumours of sporadic Plaice reports from the western fringes of Chesil and try a mark at the Eastern end of the bank for an early ray. It proved a reasonable decision and although the quality was not up to later in the season, I recorded 2 Small Eyed’s and a Blonde  along with the usual dogs, whiting and a bonus Dab all in daylight. Round 2 of the Samalite saw it moved from Chesil to the backup venue of Preston Beach. Fished to measure and release rules, I recorded a comfortable zone and outright match win by fishing lug, white rag and maddies to bag 1 small thornback and 8 whiting for 228cm. This was my 3rd zone win in a row on this venue which has been kind to me of late!

A small ray. Very welcome in February!

A small ray. Very welcome in February!

A match double shot...

A match double shot…

March The continued poor fishing locally saw myself and a mate venture over to Witches Point in South Wales for the 1st time. A beautiful spot but sadly it did not fish well and amongst a handful of locals I managed the only ray, a modest Small Eyed of just under 7lb. On the 12th, I gambled on an unfashionable area for Plaice fishing at the extreme Eastern end of Chesil although it had been consistent for me in recent years. I hoped the better water clarity at this end would fish better. I managed a couple of beautifully marked flatties and 3 small rays on the sandeel rod which promised better fishing to come. I had a great day out at West Bexington on the 20th. A slow start burst into life as the flood tide eased and I managed 5 nice Plaice the best weighing 1-15, 1-7 and 1-4 plus 3 Thornback’s up to 6-2, again all in daylight. The best 2 Plaice arrived as a double shot which was a nice moment after a few weeks difficult fishing. The month ended with a nice Spotted ray of 3-10 in Chesil Cove after a last minute response to perfect weather conditions and an unplanned session.

Perfect spring plaice

Perfect spring plaice

April The month came alive for me on the 5th, despite the murky water Chesil provided me with a cracking Small Eyed Ray of 10lb 3oz, a plump Dab and 11 prime Plaice. My decision to fish a Ray bait on a 2nd rod due to the conditions had paid off nicely.

10lb 3oz small eyed ray

10lb 3oz small eyed ray

3 Days later, I fished the exact same spot, the water was much more coloured and ruled out Plaice fishing so both rods carried fish baits hoping for more rays. To say I was battered by dogfish would be an understatement and eventually I switched to a 3 hook rig with stronger Varivas Aberdeen’s and 25lb snoods to give me 3 chances and the opportunity to sit down for 5 minutes!! This paid off handsomely and the result was another fine Small Eyed of 9-12 and 2 Thornies of 6-5 and 5-9, happy days!

A Thornback ray adds to the variety

A Thornback ray adds to the variety

The following week I decided to fish a Purbeck rock mark with my friend Simon. A horrible ground swell was present and as we were 50+ feet above the waterline, anything large that we hooked was going to provide us with a netting nightmare! I gave Simon’s netting prowess a thorough examination as a beautiful PB Bass of 13-6 graced me with its presence before a smaller sample of 4-10 also showed up. Pollack to 2-8, Huss and some nice 3 Beard’s iced the cake on a night to remember!  The rest of the month was filled with some reasonably good Plaice fishing on Chesil with some nice settled, sunny days to enjoy.

13lb 6oz of prime bass

13lb 6oz of prime bass- OK, that isn’t Chesil, but what a fish!

Are the mackerel in?

Are The Mackerel In?

It’s a question we hear every year around this time. The mackerel is probably the easiest fish to catch in the sea if you know how, but as with any species of fish, they have to be there to start with. But there is more to the humble mackerel than just a small fish that makes for an easy catch, a tasty meal or a versatile bait for more predatory species and the clue is in that very word- predator.

The Mackerel is a vital link in the food chain that dictates the movement of other species and without it, our results as anglers will suffer. Early indications show that on the south coast, venues such as Chesil beach are almost devoid of mackerel. This in turn will have a knock on effect as without their arrival inshore, the species of fish that predate on them will in turn have no reason to move inshore.

The flip side of this is that the lower Bristol Channel has seen a huge influx of mackerel over the last ten days, meaning that those species that feed on them will not be too far behind. It is no coincidence that the bass and tope fishing over the past few years has been very poor and it is likely that this can directly associated with the lack of mackerel in recent seasons.

Boat caught mackerel, Porlock Bay June 2016

Steve Parsons with a string of mackerel, Porlock Bay June 2016

With a little luck though, the coming weeks will see an improvement to the tope fishing out of Minehead and Porlock, especially if efforts are concentrated west of Porlock where the bulk of the mackerel appear to be located at this moment in time. How the south coast will fare this summer is yet to be seen, but unless the mackerel turn up here any time soon, it could have dire consequences for summer sport.


A Quick Guide To Cardiff Barrage- by Zak Lia

We felt it was time to invite a guest blogger, so this week we welcome 16 year old Zak Lia from south Wales. Zak is an incredibly keen young angler who lives and breathes fishing, a rare thing in this day and age of smart phones and X Boxes! Enjoy…

Cardiff Barrage

Cardiff barrage is a very underrated sea fishing mark, but if you know where and how to fish it, it can produce some excellent sport. The thing I love so much about the barrage is that  you can catch such a wide range of species right under your feet. The ground is completely clean so tackle losses are minimal. This is the perfect ground for species such as bass and thornback rays that come in over the mud to feed on shrimps and crabs. Sometimes scratching close in will produce bigger fish but occasionally they will be at distance in the shipping gully and are usually caught during the biggest tides of the year. Along the barrage there are various marks that tend to produce a variety of different species.
The barrage is best fished 3 hours down to low water and for 3 hours of the flood, but fishing closer to the fish pass will allow you to fish another hour on the flood and ebb. 

The most famous bass mark is the fish pass, which is renowned for producing bass up to 7lb. The bass tend to feed there because there is a constant supply of food that is being pumped into the sea water. Casting is not an issue as even the inexperienced angler will be able to reach the pass with a modest cast.
Another productive mark is the pink hut. This produces bigger fish but in smaller numbers and conger eels, bass and rays are common captures along this stretch. Large baits at range prove deadly for conger eels where as bass are caught closer in on either crab or worm baits. During settled conditions, flatfish are caught all along the barrage with flounder and Dover sole the most likely captures.
A wishbone rig loaded with ragworm is a popular approach.
I recently took part in the SWSA rover competition and enjoyed a productive days fishing. 
After bagging a few codling at another local mark I decided to make my way to Cardiff Barrage. I knew indefinably that it would produce fish but whether they would be in size or not was the gamble I had to take. After setting up base camp i proceeded to clip on a 2 hook flapper loaded with ragworm. After being in the water for less than 2 minutes, the rods tip went crazy and I picked it up from the stand. The rod indicated a classic bass bite and began to pull away. I lifted the tip and made a good connection with the fish and lifting the tip I felt a few head shakes. The bass put up a bit of a scarp but was soon subdued and on the deck, just before the hook pulled free. Close one! After carefully weighing and measuring her, she was returned it to live another day and at close to 6lb this was a very pleasing fish for the venue! 
Zak's Plump Bass

Zak’s Plump Bass

NEW- Varivas Saltwater Super Match fishing hooks now in stock!

The long awaited Varivas Saltwater Super Match hooks are finally here!

We are really excited about this new pattern of Varivas hook from Japan. This is a lighter gauge hook that we have previously listed but is so amazingly sharp it has to be seen to be believed. Take a look at the website for the full tech spec, but we know these are going to be a winner, especially for match anglers and those targeting flat fish or anyone who fishes with multi hook rigs.



Exciting new Varivas hooks coming soon

Since we started importing Varivas hooks well over twenty years ago, we have seen umpteen specimen fish and a handful of British and international records landed on them. Over time, the range has increased and in keeping with modern trends we have decided to expand it further by introducing not two, but three totally new patterns.

Andrew spent the weekend trialling one particular hook- namely the Varivas Saltwater Super Match. A similar style to the existing Saltwater Champion, this new version is even sharper (we didn’t think it possible!) and is finished in a light bronze colour. Although original trials have found the hook to work extremely well for flatfish, Andrew selected one of the larger sizes and edged his bets for a bass or two by presenting a peeler crab bait just a few feet from the edge.

After an hour or so, a couple of sharp tugs on his rod tip signalled some keen interest and before he realised it, Andrew was merrily playing a bass in through the shallow water.

Bass on Varivas Saltwater Super Match

Bass on Varivas Saltwater Super Match

We’re really looking forward to seeing what the Saltwater Super Match and the other patterns bring to the beach and boat. One thing is for certain, though- we know you are going to love them! Keep an eye out for further news in due course.

How to catch Thicklipped mullet- by Mike Ladle

When- Mullet are most active in the warmer months of the year.  Say May to October.

Where- Thicklipped mullet are essentially fish of the open shore but they are often concentrated in harbours and the seaward regions of estuaries. They normally feed on small particles of food such as algae, detritus, fish-waste and seaweed fly maggots.

Mike Ladle with a fine mullet

Mike Ladle with a fine mullet

How- Most mullet anglers use 12 to 13 foot ‘coarse fishing’ rods, smallish fixed spools loaded with good quality 5 or 6lb mono line straight through to size 8 or 10 hooks fished below floats appropriate to the sea conditions.  Bread (paste, flake or crust) is the favourite bait and also the main element of most groundbaits. They can be caught by legering with slightly heavier gear, particularly in the tidal areas of river mouths. They are also susceptible to floating breadcrust or to fly fishing when they are feeding on surface drifting scum or the maggots of seaweed flies.  The power and stamina of mullet should never be underestimated and since they often swim around rocks, jetties and moored boats don’t fish too light. The golden grey mullet is much smaller and generally caught on legered ragworm from shallow sandy areas. The thinlipped mullet ventures well up into rivers and falls most often to a ragworm baited spinner. (For detailed tactics see Ladle and Rigden Fishing for Ghosts – Successful Mullet Angling (due out 2016) Medlar Press; or Ladle and Pitts (2013) The Second Wave Bloomsbury Press)

How To Catch Bass- By Mike Ladle

When-The bass is mainly a spring to autumn species. It feeds most actively between April and October.

WhereBass swim over any sort of ground, often within ten yards of the water’s edge.  On the whole the smaller fish will be found over sandy or muddy bottoms while large ones favour storm beaches, open rocky weedy shores or mixed ground with strong tides and plenty of water movement.

How to catch bass (2)

HowBass fall to a variety of approaches.  For spinning a 7-11ft, 10-50g rod, fixed spool reel and 20-30lb braid can be used to fish shallow diving plugs, surface poppers and unweighted or lightly weighted soft plastics with paddle or spiral tails. All are good.  For bait fishing similar gear can be used or if you prefer it a slightly longer heavier rod (11-12ft 2-3oz).  Fish with 4/0 to 6/0 hooks baited with large pieces of soft-crab, mackerel or squid.  Use the smallest running lead possible or ideally none at all.  Bait fishing with ragworm or fly fishing will generally tempt small bass.  The biggest fish tend to come to big lures (12-18cm) or baits (e.g. mackerel head and shoulders). Never rest the rod when bait fishing. (For detailed tactics see Vaughan and Ladle (2003) Hooked on Bass The Crowood Press; or more recently Ladle and Pitts (2013) The Second Wave Bloomsbury Press)

How to catch bass (1)

How To Catch Wrasse

When- Any time, as long as it’s not in the dark, apart from when they move offshore in March, returning in June after spawning.

Where- If it’s rocky, and weedy the wrasse will be there.  Ballan wrasse, the only species that grows to a decent size, favour rocky holes and gulleys but they like to follow the incoming tide and can often be caught in surprisingly shallow water.

How- Traditionally the wrasse are fished for with stout rods and heavy lines because the fish are inclined to seek cover under rocks or weed as soon as they feel the restraint of the line.  Modern tackle with low stretch braid allows the use of lighter rods particularly when fishing with artificial lures.  Distance casting is rarely needed so any reel with a decent clutch should be OK.  Baits can be fished either on a fixed paternoster or on float gear using strong hooks appropriate to the size of the bait.  By far the best way to catch large ballans is by baiting with hard crab either whole or in pieces.  Worm baits will generally tempt a range of sizes including other smaller species of wrasse such as corkwings or cuckoos.  Modern Light Rock Fishing gear involving small softbaits and dropshot tactics seems to catch lots of little wrasse.  Plugs and larger softbaits will tempt bigger ballans. (For detailed information see Ladle and Pitts (2013) The Second Wave Bloomsbury Press)

How to catch wrasse (2)

Lure-caught wrasse