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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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-
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.