Tag Archives: Veals Mail Order

Bristol Channel reef fishing – a beginners guide

If the thought of getting out on the Somerset reefs to tackle the rough stuff fills you with dread, this could be just the read you’re looking for. Jason Atkins breaks it down with some sound advise for those looking to venture out on to these often fish-filled venues for the first time…

Safety first

The very first thing I would recommend is going out with someone who has experience of the reefs here in the Bristol Channel. First hand experience of the terrain will not only help you find the fish, but also keep you safe and there are some great guides working here if you’d like to fish with someone. If this isn’t possible, let someone know where you are fishing and what time you are likely to return home. Aim to arrive at any of the Somerset reef venues such as Hinkley, Shurton, Lilstock, Saint Audries two hours before low water. Consider your first trip as surveillance and any fish a bonus.

A double digits cod for a younger Jason

Fishing out on the low water reefs can seem daunting at first, it can also leave people disheartened after all of the planning and getting excited to get out on the reef fishing for the first time only to end up having a nightmare once you’re out there, constantly loosing sets of end tackle, or even worse, loosing a good fish because of this. I have spoken to many anglers after fishing these rougher reef venues for the first time when we have all met back up in the carpark for a chat, some have told me how dreadful the day was and how much gear they lost and a lot of the time there are a few things they could have done to make the day a lot more enjoyable and productive. 

What should I look for when fishing out on the reefs for the first time?

The best advantage you could give yourself for fishing a rough ground reef for the first time is learning the mark, unfortunately this cannot be done over night and will take some time, but with technology today you can speed up this process by searching the internet which will have a lot of different guidance and tips for tackling different reef marks for the first time. You can also download applications for your smart phone such as Google Earth which will give you an idea of the landscape you are fishing over.

A sleek hound of 16lb, know your mark and find the fish

Personally when I learn a new reef venue for the first time I like to go out over a large spring tide for a walk with no fishing equipment just have a look at the type of ground I will be fishing over, this gives me the opportunity to find features that may attract fish or cause them to come into that area, it also shows me how rough the ground is so that I know what type of ground I will be fishing over and where the snags are likely to happen, no one wants to be constantly getting caught up in other anglers lost tackle or getting caught up on a snag every other cast. Once you get out fishing for the first time on the mark, if you do become snagged up frequently in one area, move along slightly as you may then find clearer ground to fish over just a few yards away. 

End tackle 

It doesn’t need to be complicated. In terms of rigs, a pulley rig will cover everything you need to do when fishing out on the reefs. My pulley rigs are constructed from 100lb monofilament rig bodies with a minimum hook length breaking strain of 80lb. I have fished lighter hook lengths in the past but this has resulted in line break offs as fish attempt to run around the rocks and it can chafe off near to the hook. This is attached to a 80lb-100lb swivel for connecting the rig body and hook length and the same swivel for connecting to the clip on the shock leader.

A VMO Premium Pulley rig, perfect for the job

A 6oz wired lead is ideal for holding on the bottom and this should be fished on a rotten bottom with four inches of 12lb monofilament attached as a break off point. If the lead does become snagged up, this will allow you to get your rig back and also the fish with only the loss of the lead weight. No one wants to constantly keep losing end tackle and have fish roaming around with hooks and tackle attached to them. This will also prevent littering the bottom with end tackle which will eventually ruin the mark you are fishing as it takes a long period of time for this to break up and corrode.

A simple rotten bottom clip primed and ready to cast

Bass are very much on the cards here

Equipment for the job 

You don’t need expensive fishing tackle to target these venues but you need to have faith in the rods and reels that you are using. Being comfortable with the equipment you have is one of the biggest factors of being productive in the short period of time you have on the reef. These sort of venues can hold larger fishing and also unexpected fish so it’s best to be prepared for the job. The majority of these areas have a strong tidal run so I opt for a rod with a bit of poke in the lower and mid section but is slightly softer in the tip. This will prevent leads from pulling out of the bottom once they have settled. If the lead pulls out and starts to drag around with the tide over the rough ground then you are increasing the chances of loosing your gear in the rocks. A good fixed spool or Multiplier reel with a high retrieve is favoured, I use a Daiwa 18 Saltist 20H – Mono Mag loaded with 18lb to 20lb main line so that I can get my end tackle up clear of the bottom to prevent getting snagged up.

A winching machine if ever there was one

Tides 

Different stages of the tide can produce difference species of fish on the reef along with the size of the tide on the venue your fishing. Neap tides will keep more depth of water in front of you at low tide and can help coax the fish in closer, especially when the sea is rough. The downside of neap tides is there will be less tide movement and a lot of species such as codling and smoothhounds will run along reefs using the running tide. The spring tides will expose more ground on the reef but you will be fishing over shallower depths, this can be favoured for certain species as you can fish out on to ground over low water which you may not be able to cast to on neap tides. Ideally you don’t want to fish on the highest spring tides as you may run out of water and this will push the fish out further, also after a storm this will push in large volumes of weed and debris, so this is another factor you will need to consider. I have found over time that trial and error is best and see what tide stage works better on the venue you are fishing. Great care should be taken on the flooding tide and it is highly advisable not to stay for any longer than one hour in to the flood on your first visit. Once you have a better understanding of how the flooding tide effects your venue, you may wish to fish for longer next time around, knowing that you can do so safely.

A nice brace of thornback rays

Bait

The type of bait you use on the reef will depend what time of the year it is and the species of fish that you are targeting. Personally during the summer months I focus on using squid and crab baits on the reef as these will be favoured by smoothhounds, bass and huss. I have had some of my larger smooth hounds and bass on squid but this can be dependant on the type of food source that is around at the time of the year. While you are fishing on the reefs it is useful to look around the rock pools and gulley’s to see if the crab have moved in shore as this is a good indication of what bait to use. Going in to autumn I like to mix up my baits, when fishing two rods I may opt to use a fish bait such as bluey or mackerel as some of the larger conger eels can be moving around the reefs at this time, I have had conger eels over 20lb in the past less than 30 yards out on mackerel baits but this will also give you the opportunity of finding a bass at the same time. During the winter months I focus on both lugworm and ragworm for the cod but it is not unknown for other species to also pick up these baits.

Take a look at the Bristol Channel Venues guide on the Veals Mail Order website for further details of each particular reef. Stay safe and have fun!

Jason

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

Book a boat part 1- Anglo Dawn, Salcombe

With many of us now looking at planning future fishing trips, we thought it might be nice to take a closer look at some of the fantastic charter boats operating out of the many ports around the UK coastline. Today, we focus on on ‘Anglo Dawn’, operating out of Salcombe and skippered by Chris Roberts. Chris will take it from here…

 I have been chartering since 2003 but have fished for my entire life. I have fished commercially and with rod and line. My father taught me to fish and one of my earliest memories was being tied to the mast of the boat and on another occasion catching dogfish. A little later on I moved to Australia to pursue a rugby scholarship and whilst there, out of season, I worked on a commercial drop-liner that fished the continental shelf, the Great Barrier Reef and occasionally ventured as far as one hundred miles offshore. 

Chris Roberts- Skipper of Anglo Dawn

I returned to the UK in 2003 and earned my yacht masters qualification and began chartering.

I’m also currently about to pass out as a coxswain for the Salcombe lifeboat. 

My vessel is Anglo Dawn, a 36ft Offshore 105 that will happily cruise at around 15 knots but can top 20 knots thanks to 370hp under the hatch. The boat is well kitted out with Garmin electronics, heated wheelhouse, onboard toilet and Icey-Tec cool boxes for stowing your catch. Deck space is very accommodating and there’s plenty of room throughout. 

Since I started operating out of Salcombe, we have seen some brilliant fish come to the boat including-

Ling 39lb 12oz

Cod 27lb

Pollack 25lb

Coalfish 25lb 8oz 

Conger 85lb

Bass 13lb 10oz

Plaice 6lb 5oz

John Dory 6lb 8oz

Turbot 14lb 

Blonde ray 29lb 

Brill 8lb 8oz 

Huss 13lb 

Black bream 5lb 

Blue shark 125lb (formula)

Porbeagle shark 70 lb (formula)

Now that’s a ling!

 

A heavy set cod and a happy customer

A lumpy pollack

Salcombe is set in a beautiful picturesque location and being the most southerly point means less steaming time to reach the more productive grounds. 

The picturesque Salcombe estuary

Parking is never a problem as I pick my anglers up from the large long-stay car park. 

The variety of the fishing found here is incredible with everything from two hour mackerel trips,

drifting the Skerries banks for plaice, rays and bass, offshore drift fishing over wrecks with artificials for species such as cod, pollack, bass and inshore work for species such as big bream and gurnards.

A lot of the best fishing is just a short steam from port so this ensures more fishing time. 

The banks in particular produce some excellent ray fishing with small eyed, blonde, spotted and thornbacks all regular captures. Bass are also very much on the cards.

A fine bass for skipper Chris

For those who prefer traditional deep water wreck fishing at anchor, we regular fish for the big conger and ling that inhabit the wartime wrecks that are strewn across the English Channel.

If you would like to enquire with Chris about making a booking, you can contact him on 

07967 387657 or visit his Facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Boat-Service/Anglo-Dawn-Salcombe-Charter-Boat-Skippered-by-Chris-Roberts-1414306782132263/

Fish selfie pictures- getting it right

Taking a good picture of that dream catch is something that we’re all keen to do. Modern technology built in to the phones that a lot of you are likely reading this on means that the majority of us have access to a pretty swanky camera. But if you’re alone, just how do you capture that moment in a way that truly brings it to life? Simon Lancastle teaches us how to master the fish based selfie in today’s blog entry…

Capturing a dream- the humble selfie. We have all been there, out fishing alone and catch something special. Now what do you do? Taking a picture of your fish on the ground is one option, but for me, it’s the selfie every time. Once you’ve practised a bit, this really is something anyone can do with a modern camera phone.  Here, I shall run through how I take mine, and what little is needed to get a pleasing end result. The first thing I’ll say is that there is nothing complicated about this and you don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment. In fact, I’ve not owned a proper camera for years, instead all of my pictures are taken with a smart phone and not a new one at that. I always buy something a couple of years old to keep costs down. The pictures you see here have all been taken on a phone when I’ve been fishing by myself. 

A stunning catch perfectly captured

Fishing alone in the dark? No problem

The one thing you will need to purchase is a small tripod to hold your phone that you should be able to pick up relatively inexpensively. This will hold the camera steady (camera shake can ruin photos) which is essential for crisp, clear photos, especially in low light conditions or at night. Next, access your phone’s camera settings and make sure that the picture resolution is set as high as possible. When it comes to taking the picture itself, you have three options. 

  1. Activate voice control, if your phone has this feature. This is what I use and I can tell the camera when to take the picture.
  2. Use the self timer on the camera. Ten seconds should give you enough time get in to that predetermined position.
  3. There are various Bluetooth remotes that you can use to take the picture once paired with your smartphone.

A typical smartphone camera tripod. A worthwhile investment!

Being set up and ahead of the game means that it’s just so much easier and you’re not rushing. So, consider what you’re trying to achieve as the end result. Framing yourself and the fish without cutting your head or the fish’s tail off is what you should have in mind. 

Secure the camera to your tripod and take a couple of dummy shots so you know where to stand/kneel in relation to the camera.

All set to go- say cheese!

When taking your picture, you should be facing in the general direction of the sun. This will keep things simple. Later on, you can experiment with a setting sun behind you, which often makes for an attractive shot. Consider also if you might be giving away your location, if this is something that concerns you. 

Once you’re happy with the dummy run, you’ll know that if and when you catch that special fish, everything is ready to go. Not only does this mean you’ll have a great chance of capturing a good picture, but also that your fish can spend as little time out of the water as possible.

A rare cushion carp ready to go back in the pond

It really is that simple and a quick practise at home to sort out any potential issues with the voice commands and where to stand relative to the phone etc will speed all of this up.

It’s then a matter of trying the different auto modes available on your phone to see what gives the best picture. At night things can be a bit more tricky, and sometimes I find it best to use a spare flood headlight to light up the fish, rather than use the flash.

I take a shot and look at the result, and work from there as quickly as possible.

If you’re fishing on mud or sand, it’s well worth giving the fish a quick rinse in the shallows before hand to clean it. Shiny, clean fish are so much more appealing in a photo. 

Once you have a few shots, hopefully one or two will show promise and the fish can go back. The main thing to remember is to get the fish back as soon as possible and not spend too long with it out the water. Unless you’re keeping your fish, its welfare should be your main concern. Unhooking mats/slings  provide somewhere to place your catch prior to snapping away.

All modern phones have a basic photo editing app and it’s worth getting familiar with it. Once you’re back home after your session, you can apply some basic edits that are really easy to learn, such as straightening the horizon or brightening up a dark picture.

This is all pretty simple stuff and with a little practice you’ll be taking some great shots.

If up until now your pictures consist of your prize catch sat on the lid of your seat box, hopefully this advise will give you the confidence to take a nice clear shot of you actually holding that fish. All that remains to do is catch something to take a picture of!

Big bass fishing

Craig Gosling is known for his bass fishing exploits. Those ‘double figure fish of a life time’ that come around once in a blue moon, well, Craig has landed no less than 51 double figure bass from the shore. Let that sink in and read just how he goes about targeting these stunning fish in his warts-and-all guest blog entry. Watercraft is at the forefront of his approach and something that few anglers seem to understand nowadays… 

“So, a Veals Mail Order blog. This is my first blog for VMO, though I have plenty of diary entries over the years to refer back on. I’ve got to confess, having read some of the outstanding reports on the Facebook page and blog from some outstanding anglers over the past few months, I was reluctant to pick up the tablet, but big bass are the talking point here in the south east of England and the guys at VMO seem to think I know more than most about how to go about targeting big bass…

Craig with one of countless big bass

I love this game, I really do. I’ve met some great people over the years and some right idiots, or, the “muggles” as i call them. Muggles will ask away all the time and apply none of it, then there’s the actual anglers, the ones that have it in their blood and take notice. I’ve learnt over the years that these are the guys that when you say ‘meet me here at 2am Tuesday’, will actually turn up at 1:30am so as not to miss anything. I’ve all the time in the world for these people!The classic muggle will ask, listen ,apply ,then after 20 minutes retrieve and clip on a two hook flapper baited with ragworm, just because nothing happened. These guys probably shouldn’t read on!

What patience looks like

Over the years I’ve learned many things about bass that I’ll share with you here.

For instance, big bass come from EVERY BEACH and almost every river. If you’ve caught a school bass at a particular venue, at some point a big double would also have passed through there- I can guarantee it. A subject I wrote about years ago remains as relevant today and that is longshore drift. It’s every bass angler’s best friend and a recent trip to the Isle of Wight saw me put this knowledge to good use. Tackling a new venue I encountered neither the water clarity or the tides to see what i was putting a bait into. 

A nice force 2-3 ‘surfy’ evening with a sea like chocolate greeted us and I walked the beach around one small headland, then another and there it was. Bingo.

The waiting game

Weed and bloody great rafts of it stretching from the waters edge to some 20 yards out. “That’s me for tonight “, I said to myself.

The reality was, fishing in to it was going to be challenging to say the least. A bigger grip lead than I’d like was selected as it was key to what I had in mind. My plan was to cast a bait out beyond the weed line and retrieve steadily back until it sat right on the edge of it and hopefully hold in place. I opted for 7oz leads and the longest rod I had in order to hold it up high, well above the weed line. I’ve noticed that on both the Sussex and Dorset coastlines, banks of weed are deposited during spring tides that then rot on the beach attracting flies and so maggots. My logic has always been that smaller bass (2-3lb) will work the edge of the weed, but the larger fish I am interested in will stay slightly further out. My approach has always been to give them something a big fish can’t resist such as a nice six inch mackerel section or a whole joey mackerel, fresh as you can get. 

Another big bass falls for a joey mackerel bait

Whilst the smaller fish cruise below the surface competing for maggots and larvae, the bigger specimens will go out of their way to hunt on the bottom for that more potent bait  and on this and many other occasions, this have proved correct. That night was one of three sessions where we actively hunted the weed line and although it wasn’t comfortable fishing, it was hectic, sweaty fun with fish after fish failing to go below seven or eight pounds. 

That first night, when the tide finally ebbed, it revealed a gap in the leading surf, the first ten feet could only of been eighteen inches deep as the tide retreated, but i knew that if it could cover the back of a bass, it’s more than enough depth. I walked to the waters edge, simply plopped a mackerel head a rod length out and no sooner had I done so, it arched over in my arms. Now, I’ll admit there’s not much sport to be had at that kind of range, on that gear, but the weed made it necessary and the approach definitely worked with the target fish landed on consecutive nights. 

Patience is crucial. It’s something very few anglers really have and to be fair, once you hone your craft it becomes less essential. I’ve had doubles on the beach in as little as forty-five  minutes of rocking up whilst friends have been fishing just along the beach for five hours or more.

They say patience is a virtue- how true with big bass fishing

My record to date is eleven minutes after setting up, so as time goes on it becomes more about fishing two hours in the right place at the right time and less about waiting, watching motionless rods for hours on end. Over the years I’ve taken some flack for fishing with a rod rest and using two rods, but then, I’m used to fishing a Saturday night after a hard week at work and I want maximise the potential of a session. Besides, using two rods has taught me an awful lot over the time I have been fishing. I would always fish one with a squid bait and one with mackerel, one close and one far, with ratchets on each reel set. I soon learned what a “panicking live bait” looked like seconds before it would scream off. I realised that some nights the squid wouldn’t get a touch, whilst the mackerel got hammered and other nights the second rod was simply for live bait catching or “keeping me busy”. Two rods certainly enabled me to try different things. 

These days, I don’t use a ratchet and my hook up rates have gone way up.

by using a bolt rig style rotten bottom paternoster or holding the rod, successful hookups dramatically increased. I’ve had a fair few doubles over the years that give me what i call the “50/50”. This refers to your chances of recognising the take and equally hooking up. 

It’s when a big girl does just enough to lift the tip a little or cause it to sit up straight in the rest- if you don’t strike these as they happen, they are 50% of the time long-gone. Ratchets, I’ve come to learn, mean missed fish.

I’m 45 years old now but I never stop learning and the big bass never stop teaching. I really do believe once you think you know it all, you’ve lost the reason for going in the first place. So, you fancy targeting one, but you hate bass because they are a pain to catch and there’s better fish to target, better fish to eat and you prefer other fish because they fight harder? I’ve heard and read all of this over the years, but the reality for most is that big bass are around for most of the year now. They are tremendous fighters and probably easier to target nowadays than cod of the same size. And I never thought I’d be saying that. They are possible to catch on dead baits, live baits, lures, float and ledger tactics from rough and glassy calm seas alike. There can’t be many fish you could say that about!

My approach

this is just my approach, and its bulletproof for me (disclaimer- other anglers have their own approach that works for them, I respect that, but this is mine).

The first thing I’m often asked is about the right beaches to fish and all areas are different, So let’s start with beaches and then conditions. 

Take for example a big sandy bay. If you look out onto a seemingly featureless bay of sand, go out at low water and plumb about with a plain bomb lead for an hour. Try and find some gulleys by casting and slowly retrieving your lead, paying attention to when the lead comes up against resistance and becomes difficult to move (you’ll feel it better on braid). This is your low tide potential hotspot.

Gulleys like this produce bass of the size below (beach double)

 

Also look out for mussels beds or rocks at low tide, all of which are bass attractors. If you can’t find any potential fish holding features then you’re very much waiting for an onshore blow and a surf. Every sandy beach I know gives up bass in a good surf, and you wont need range if you have no features. If it’s calm and featureless, I would fish it at the point where the sand meets the shingle and there’s usually a slight dip or depression. On a calm night it’s a place the bass will run through. 

Most of the push-netters you’ll see fishing for prawns here will work these beaches just a few feet out at low tide and get plenty of prawns. It’s a no brainer where the bass will be.

Alternatively, many bays have a few groynes. Hotspots are the ends of these as they attract crabs, gobies, other small fish and therefore bass.

if it’s blowing a hooley and you have steady sets of surf rolling in, study the length of the beach. Continual drift will show you where the shellfish, lugworm and the food stuffs get washed up. But don’t turn up with a mackerel head bait and wait it out, you’re far more likely to find a bass using what’s local to the beach as this is what the bass will be feeding on. If your beach has a sand and rock mix, find either sand between two rocky areas or the edge of a reef to place your bait. I fish a beach with a two-feet  high reef to my right and the tide runs right to left on the flood. It’s not going to produce much on the flood, but as the tide  turns and runs left to right, everything leaving the beach is funnelled against that area of reef and this is where I work my baits. Make no mistake, if you are too far off of that edge, it matters. I will often go out at low tide, tie off enough line to the reef and attach a rig winder or float so I can cast to it at high tide. Just being six foot away from this feature can mean the difference between success and failure on the day. If you use this tactic, be sure to pick up the line and float from the reef when the tide goes out.

All rocky beaches rich in crab, prawns and gobies are my favourite bass fishing grounds. I’m a fan of “fishing what you find” and gobies are a great bait. They should be lifted off the bottom somewhat to stop them hiding in weed. A single hook paternoster is the perfect rig for this, with a 3/0 hook through the bottom lip. A goby will withstand just about any cast, but you shouldn’t need distance. Find gulleys- bass use them as roads in and out. I’ve had big bass in water that erupted when I struck, remember, they need enough to cover their backs and that’s it.

Yet another double figure bass

Again, find mussel beds at low tide or shellfish or crabs. It’s seldom any good fishing fresh-outs (fresh lugworm) over rocks, but peeler crab can be highly effective.

Over high tide on rocky marks, bass will be be using gulleys to move around. Remember that a two foot deep gulley with rocks on either side becomes four foot deep when those rocks are lined with weed that rises two feet in the tide. There could be areas of rock that meet shingle and these again are a great place to present a bait. 

Time and time again, people simply don’t have the patience to wait two or more hours for a bite, but big bass don’t come easy and so it really is important to BE PATIENT.

if it’s calm and clear over reefs, live baits are second to none, but simply sliding them onto rocks or areas where they are hidden from view is pointless. Pick a patch of chalk, sand or shingle to fish to, put your lead out first (or free-line), then slide your live bait (pouting /goby etc) onto an area where they will stick out from a long way away, then be patient. Some nights it’s crazy from the off, other nights you’ll get nothing, but generally live baiting these areas is deadly. Again, BE PATIENT, it isn’t like ANY other fishing. If you expect a fish a chuck, you’ll be disappointed, but the one that you do get WILL make it worthwhile.

If you take for example somewhere like Seaford, where you are never on the sand as such, and it’s very deep, even at low and it’s blowing hard, then the bass will mooch around in the mele. Casting may be restricted in the wind, but this shouldn’t matter as the fish will be in the trough not too far out.

Over high, the bass will be as close as you can hold bottom, but when it’s calm and clear, again, live baiting is king. Calm and clear conditions are ALWAYS better at night and i will use my red light headlamp and bare minimum movement on the shingle. I will start by fishing for a live bait 30 ft out, and keep moving further out or in, until i find my baits. Whatever range you find your pout is exactly where you should fish it. 

I like dusk to catch them before they disappear as the bass come through.

How close is too close to cast a bait?

Well, here’s a clue. YOU CAN NOT BE TOO CLOSE IN. FACT.

It genuinely shocked some anglers when they saw me catch like this a lot last year on the Isle of Wight. Bass will feed incredibly close to the shore.

Bait

I’ll use different baits on different venues and for different reasons.

basic breakdown of bait is as follows. Fresh-outs (fresh lugworm) on a sandy storm beach at low tide, big squid baits at high tide. Reefs- I love crab at low tide during a blow, squid or mackerel chunks if it’s calm. It pays to know when crabs are peeling, prawns are about, when mackerel are in etc, so it’s important to be aware of everything happening around you in nature. I fished with Henry last year as bass smashed mackerel to bits in front of us, and the pout didn’t get so much as worried- talk about pre occupied on one food source. So when everyone is feathering up mackerel all around you, don’t sit on a blow lug bait expecting a run, use what is in abundance.

When scad are plentiful, they too make a great bass snack

A basic breakdown  

your hooks should be concealed in the bait, but not buried, and always try and tick two out of three of the following criteria

  1. Correct bait for the conditions.
  2. Right conditions for the venue.
  3. Tides- big tides will open up some nice access to features at low tide you can’t normally reach in a bay, but i prefer neaps when fishing over the rough ground.

I have been asked loads about hook over the years. Just use your head.

Bass have huge mouths and will engulf bigger hooks. 

I HATE TREBLES they are indiscriminate and often damage middle weight bass, with some doubles taking them right down. A big single hook is my preference because its always in the scissors or lip, and makes releasing them so easy, i find that smaller hooks are far more likely to attract bycatch and if you’ve spent time and effort in your chosen spot, they will spook it for ages. If you’re lucky enough to hook a big bass, take your sweet time, i saw a beast lost last year by a guy cranking like his life depended on it. 

Craig’s choice of hook- a single wide gape pattern

If its hooked, nine times out of ten it’ll stay hooked, so take your time, lift the rod tip high and let it have line when it wants it. I would recommend visiting a carp day ticket water during the winter as this will give you experience of playing fish on light-ish tackle. On such gear it gives a novice great experience of playing a fish instead of simply bullying it in, you learn to keep a tight line, apply side strain use the drag.

I hope this helps a few anglers out when we are able to get out fishing again. If you have any questions, please fire away and I’ll do my best to help.

Craig

The humble hook- explained.

Following on from our basic guide to rig making (see previous blog post) a few of you have contacted us to ask if we could explain hooks a little better. If you have anything you would like us to explain in greater detail, please also get in touch and we’ll do our best to blog about it.

There are literally hundreds of different kinds of fishing hooks, all designed to do a specific job and referred to as ‘patterns’. Hooks for sea fishing purposes usually range in size from #6 up to 12/0, with #6 being the smallest and 12/0 being the largest. The forward slash often confuses new anglers but to put this in to perspective, from smallest to largest, the scale is represented like this- 

SMALL #6, #4, #2, #1, 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0, 6/0, 7/0, 8/0, 10/0, 12/0 LARGE

It is worth noting that those sizes do not conform to any set dimensions and so one manufacturer’s pattern may differ in size to that of another. 

So now we have sizing out of the way, let’s look at some typical hook styles and discuss just what they are used for.

Aberdeen

A classic pattern designed for use with worm baits. in the smaller sizes they are an excellent choice for flatfish, though the Aberdeen is also popular with those fishing for a multitude of different smaller species. Larger size Aberdeen hooks have a long shank (the part of the hook between the eye and the start of the bend) and so are suitable for use with sandeel baits.

Aberdeen

Wide Gape

The gape of a hook is the distance between the point and the shank. A wide gape ensures that even when bulky baits are used, the point still stands proud and should ensure a positive hook up.Not only does the wide gape pattern present big baits well, it also stands more chance of taking hold in the cavernous mouths of fish such as cod and bass. 

Wide Gape

Circle 

Originally used exclusively by commercial longliners, the circle hook is now well recognised by sea anglers. The shape of the hook means that when a fish takes it in, it will roll in the fish’s mouth, taking hold in the lip and avoiding deep hooking. This design is popular with anglers using live fish baits for larger predatory species of fish such as bass.

Circle

Chinu

Possibly the most recent hook to become part of the anglers regular armoury here in the UK. The Chinu is an aggressive fish specie native to Japan and gave this pattern its name. The hook is short in both shank and gape, more akin to a carp anglers hook, but is heavy in the gauge and incredibly sharp. Popular in smaller sizes for species such as bream and trigger fish, but the larger sizes make an excellent smooth hound hook when using crabs for bait. 

Chinu

There are a huge number of other patterns, but these are the ones most widely used in the UK for the species we encounter here. There are also variants of the above patterns, take a look at a comprehensive range of high quality Japanese made hooks here.

Modern hooks are chemically treated to create the point, making them insanely sharp, so great care should be taken when handling them. 

Thankfully, they remain one of the cheapest items of tackle available, so to re-use a hook after a session is bad practice. If a hook has been used in saltwater and stored away wet, it may no longer be as strong as it once was and so its strength could be compromised. It’s really not worth saving a few pence if it leads to the loss of what would have been a great fish capture. 

A diamond file or small sharpening stone can be used to breathe a little life back in to a dulled hook point during a session, but replacing the exhausted hook with a new one is probably a better option. 

‘If in doubt, don’t cast back out’ is a good motto to fish by. 

A thumping bite followed by a slack line is not the sort of bite you want to be missing, so when a fish picks up your bait you really do need that hookpoint to penetrate when it matters. 

It is good practise to store hooks in bits boxes that segregate each size. Being organised in this way will mean that tying rigs becomes faster too. Label up each section so there is never any doubt as to what you are tying to your trace line. 

   

A basic guide to rig making

Rig making can be a therapeutic and enjoyable way to spend some time. On top of that, it should be your number one consideration ahead of a planned trip to the beach. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail and if you arrive at the beach badly prepared, chances are that you’re not going to have a great days fishing. So what should we consider before we even tie that first knot?

The primary concern should be the species of fish you are hoping to target. Are they big or small and so will you need to upscale or downsize your choice of hook? Do they have teeth and so could they potentially bite through monofilament? What bait will you be using? Will the ground you’re fishing over be rough and so will you need to factor in some kind of weak link system to reduce tackle losses?

Once you have run over this basic check list, you’ll have some idea as to just which of the many rig types would suit your fishing. 

Get organised! 

Before you begin tying your rig of choice, it is essential to be sure that you have all of the components and tools to hand that you will need. Small ‘bits boxes’ or lure boxes that segregate tiny components are invaluable and will ensure that you can see exactly what you have there. 

A place for everything and everything in its place

Ten rigs is a good number to aim for, so make sure you haven’t run out of any particular clip, swivel or bead that will leave you frustratingly unable to complete the set. Useful tools include a small, sharp pair of scissors, round nose crimping pliers, a knot pulling tool and a lead to attach to the finished article so it can be given the once over before it is stowed away.  

The tools of the trade

Lay out all of the components you will need so that they are within easy reach.

Where to begin?

It’s always best to start any rig by tying the chosen type of lead link to the rig body. Decide, based on the design of the rig whether or not this should feature a bait clip and/or a rotten bottom clip.

Slide on the other components and once all are in place, tie an appropriate sized swivel to the opposite end. This is what would then be referred to as a ‘complete body’. Follow exactly the same procedure for consecutive rigs until you have your batch of ten. Hooks and snoods can then be added later. Having a big batch of bodies in storage is good practice and ensures that based on the species of fish you choose to target at any one time, the hook size and snood diameter/breaking strain can be decided closer to your session. If you tie hooks on to every single rig, the one size you choose will mean that your rig’s potential is limited. That is of course unless you like to fish at the same place for the same type of fish, week in, week out. 

Other tips for successful rig making

Ensure that you have a clear work space available such as a desk in the spare room or a garage work bench. A bit of peace and quiet helps you to focus, though a radio is always welcome.

Have everything to hand and make a note of the time when you start. Once you get in to the swing of making a rig you’ll get faster at it. If something goes wrong and a rig won’t clip down properly or a knot looks suspect, reject the rig. It’s not worth arriving at the beach and not having 100% confidence in what you’re using. 

To start with, keep things simple and opt for a tried and tested rig design that has been around for years such as the two hook clipped down or the pulley rig. There are dozens of variations out there but most are derived from these simple designs that have caught a lot of fish in their time.

A couple of hours well spent

Once you have a few of these under your belt, you can then begin to experiment with more exotic designs which adds an element of fun to things. Store your finished rigs in polygrip bags within a trace wallet or on foam winders within a storage box. 

If you’re in any doubt about what to tie, take a look at the diagrams of our Premium Rigs or use a purchased one as a template. 

Top tip

Knot pulling tools are fantastic, but chances are you will still need to be pulling monofilament with the other hand which can start cutting in to you fingers when the rigs pile up. A couple of wraps of insulation tape wrapped around your fingers will assist you in pulling knots tight and prevent line from cutting you. 

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.