Monday, 21 January 2013

21/1/13 Gentlemen Prefer (Big) Blondes

I nearly didn't go sea fishing today. In fact it was very much a last minute decision once i'd got myself out of bed whether to endure a run out in the boat or,go pike fishing up the river.
Windguru reported  low single figure wind speeds and that, coupled with a very small 4.4 m tide gave an ideal, and rare for winter, combination of conditions to target a specie which i've been wanting to have a crack at for some time-blonde ray.With the recent cold and snowy weather , I will admit that i did stumble a bit, but soon talked myself into it, bit the bullet and decided that I could fish for pike on any day............................well, almost.
Apart from Rusty who had gone wrecking, i was the only boat out from the marina, and indeed the port. All the charters had elected to stay at home today.
Having done my research,mark 21 was the selected venue and, in the flat sea, the boat skimmed out there at just under 20kts sipping the fuel-a pleasure in itself.The view of the snow covered downs in the distance was quite spectacular.
By the time i arrived , the tide was still ebbing and, after a quick scout around to see what lay beneath, I settled down bang in the centre of the mark. Conscious of  recent problems with my anchor slipping, and the fact that , despite fishing over a bank, i was still in 75ft of water, I took my time to lay out the anchor and chain very carefully.This indeed paid dividends , because although i'm still using the 5 kilo bruce,and am reluctant to go any bigger, I didn't slip an inch all day.
However, this could indeed be because of the nature of the sea bed on this mark which is predominently sand, and therefore easy for the anchor to get a secure grip.
Rigging two rods, 20 and 30lb with 6/0 pennels on 40lb Amnesia traces around the 4ft length, bait was my favourite, whole unwashed squid from Malcolm at Tropicana. I have to say that this recent batch of squid are very impressive with some huge specimens up to 8 or 9 inches long.
Rays tend to show very delicate bites sometimes merely settling on the bait without moving off at all and munching it in the process. Hence the need for the relatively short trace to facilitate decent bite indication and avoid deep hooking where possible.
I have experimented with circle hooks when fishing undulates but am not entirely convinced they provide any advantage especially when using such big baits.
8oz of lead seemed to pin the baits down nicely in the flow and first drop down produced small 2-3lb spotted , and blonde ray to each outfit. As different species of ray tend to gather on the same mark this indicated a good start. At least I felt fairly confident that I was in the right place.
Next drop down and after a few minutes the 30lb rod tip rattled a little and i tightened up to something a bit larger-in fact it felt huge and proved quite a handful to get to the boat.Unfortunately the fight was quite subdued and , on reaching the surface, it became apparent why this was the case. I'd indeed hooked into a big blonde, but the trace had wrapped around the fish's tail causing a good deal of resistance in the tide, and also restricting his ability to scrap- he being a fully claspered male weighing 22lb 08oz.-a p.b
Whilst slipping him back, and before i even had a chance to rebait, the 20lb outfit kicked off and this time, the fight was far more lively especially on the lighter rod.Up came a female this time and, at the similar weight of 22lb-04oz these first two fish could have been brother and sister.
Sport continued for the remainder the ebb with a couple of smaller blondes at 18 and 19lb, then a 15lb fish followed by a small single figure thornback ray as the tide slowed down.
A solitary dogfish also showed up-the smallest and only 'fodder' fish of the trip.
Things went a little bit quiet over the slack water which, on the small tide seemed to last for ages but i did manage to let go of  a decent fish whilst answering the bloody phone, followed by a really nice fish of 24lb 08oz-another p.b.
As the tide 'got away' on the flood it became apparent that i was going to need more lead to hold bottom effectively. The 20lb rod was soon dispensed with a the 30lb outfit rigged with the biggest weight on board- i think about 1 1/2lb. I'm really not used to, nor equipped with big weights which is something i must now address especially as I have the capability, with the new boat, of fishing much deeper marks.
I would be glad of the 30lb outfit for the next take as it was again a big ray, and again had become 'tail wrapped'. In the now not inconsiderable flow, i just managed to get the fish to the surface before the trace let go and this was my signal to up the strength of hooklength to 60lb-you live and learn.
Finally, after the initial tide surge had subsided somewhat, a fourth biggun at 23lb-08oz came to the boat, successfully this time, but it was time to call it a day and head back before dark.
What was initially perceived as an engine problem on the return journey, when the dash board oil warning light began to flash,turned out to be nothing more than a first service reminder. How quickly that ten hour running-in period has passed, and it's now time to get the boat out on the trailer for a swift oil change, and possibly a second coat of polish to protect her gelcoat.
The run home was equally smooth and rapid with a noticable reduction in fuel consumption over the flat water. I reckon i've done well over the one Nautical Mile per litre of fuel this time around which is really good news.
.Blonde rays certainly are very impressive creatures and, the word on the street is, that there is a possible record fish to be caught in our local waters. I dont know about that but, more seasoned 'blonde' enthusiasts have recently taken local fish to 34lb.
 All of today's fish were successfully unhooked and returned and with 7 big blondes, four over 20lb on board, probably one of the best boat trips I've had so far.
4.4m tide LW 1233

KIT CHECK: I'll only review good stuff. Bad kit, and there has been plenty, just gets binned or flogged on ebay and forgotten.

Sundridge Crossflow Pro two piece floatation suit.
With the amount of winter boat fishing i'm doing I thought it would be a good idea to get a 'proper' floatation suit.I've used Sundridge kit before-a two piece minus ten suit for winter piking that's survived eight seasons of hard use and , although i 'm on the second pair of salopettes, the first pair are still usable.I'll probably still have it in another eight years time.
I'm a firm believer in buying the best kit you can afford especially if that kit gets 'used'.Cheap kit has never done well for me in the past, the rare exception being a thirty quid , four piece spinning rod of no particular pedigree.
The top of the range Sundridge is still good value for money, particularly when you consider that I paid the same sort of money ,about £150,for a pair of motor bike trousers, or a ski jacket.Fishing kit is still relatively cheap.
In short it's properly breathable, incredibly warm and, does exactly what it says on the tin.I travelled to Poindestres In Southampton for mine which was worth it as they had every size in stock and I got exactly the right fit which is essential with this sort of kit.
With a heavy fleece underneath the whole package does become a little too bulky but still light in weight. Today I swapped between heavy duty fleece and top coat with only a T shirt underneath and stayed extremely comfortable-A light fleece underneath would be perfect and as i tend to feel the heat anyway , the two piece version is essential for me so i can simply slip off the jacket when doing strenuous boat duties-anchoring, mooring etc.
Although it provides extra buoyancy,It is still meant to be worn with a life jacket and my Crewsaver 150 fits well and remains unrestricting.
There's enough good sized pockets with 'fleecy 'handwarmer' options on both jacket and trousers and the knee area is reinforced which is essential for boat use.Oh and there's a whistle included.
'Nuff said really. Its so well made that I'll bet i've still got it in ten years time.

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