Wednesday, 19 June 2013

19/6/13 A Fifty !

 51lb tope...a new P.B

Took my mate and ex pontoon neighbour Steve Wells out with me for this one-a trip we've been meaning to do for sometime. Steve has recently sold his own ride but continues to do an awful lot of boat fishing at various locations around the country and, as a seasoned sea angler, his experience and wealth of knowledge shines through.
Steve is a fan of uptide fishing but, with a subtle difference-he doesn't actually cast uptide. I suppose his method could be called 'down tide uptiding' as he simply drops a grip lead to the sea bed from the stern of the boat, then pays out enough line for the tide to create a bow which will in turn dig the gripper in.
 The advantage is, that even in strong tide runs, it's only necessary to use a lead of half the weight of a normal down tide set up.
The disadvantage is, that the angler is a bit out of touch with the bait, and pick ups aren't quite so straightforward to hit. It all takes a bit of practice and adapting to the method. It's also NOT a method for tope on circle hooks. I suspect the reason for this is that there is a constant tension on the line and the circle is not allowed enough time to do it's job.
On recent tope trips all my fish have been taken on a down tide circle rig. As soon as a bite is detected the reel is thrown into free spool, the clicker disengaged, and the tope allowed to run freely feeling zero resistance. A few seconds later, the line is gently tensioned and the tope is usually, cleanly hooked in the scissors. It works very well but, the areas I'm targeting for tope require small tides to fish effectively because of the depth of water and tide strength. Even a small tide at mid flow requires 1 1/2lb of lead to stay in contact with the sea bed.
The 'uptide' method works much better with a 'J' hook. We proved that conclusively today. Generally, one waits for the lead to 'trip' and they hook themselves and Steve tells me that he rarely experiences a deeply hooked fish. The 'J' hook is certainly much easier to release using a 'T' bar at the side of the boat.
We punctuated the long run out at 24kts with a quick search for some mackerel which as ever, proved difficult to locate. With a few in the cool box and a back up of frozen we set down on Steve's first choice mark , an unnamed small wreck in about 50ft of water that's now in my plotter as #42. It was quite easy to locate and orientate on the sounder and we laid the anchor about 60 yards uptide of the structure.
The tide was completely slack at this stage but we still quickly found a  double figure tope each which was a promising start..........and then the mark died. Not a touch.
Steve is a very patient angler and I was quite prepared to sit it out and see what the mark could produce but , after a bite less hour, we agreed to move on, this time to mark #41.
Skipper Neil had advised me to seek higher ground nearby on this area to anchor but, flushed with the success from my last outing and hearing from Alex that a friend had struggled the day before close by with just one small tope, I chose to stick the boat dead centre in the  100ft gully where i'd done so well last time out. I also wanted to see if I could hold anchor, especially as the tide was now flooding properly and far stronger than on my previous visit.
Instructing Steve  who loved to play 'crew',  to 'lay' the chain, the pick instantly got a grip and held us rock solid just a few yards from 'the' hotspot, itself quite a satisfying manoeuvre.
Bites were virtually instant-they were in residence.
With 1 1/2lb failing to hold down tide, I joined Steve on the 'grippers' and fished the 'down tide up tide 'method. At first my crew conclusively out fished me by more than two to one  but, I gradually gained proficiency in the method and pulled a few back myself never quite redressing the balance.
Most of the tope were in the 20lb bracket and were released at the side of the boat but Steve did 'wrestle' (see the picture) one on board and this weighed in at 34lb.
Finally, despite picking a few mackerel up on 'static' feathers whilst toping, we ran out of fresh bait and out came the frozen stuff. A very gentle bite to my rod then produced something a little bigger and a dogged scrap ensued. Once at the surface, it was clear that she was a good'n so the decision was made to bring her on board. Actually, Steve hauled her over the side pretty much on his own before i'd even had a chance to put my rod down.
Once on the deck, I straddled her, pinning her down, and covered her eyes with the weigh sling.  She soon calmed down enough for us both to squeeze her into the completely inadequate pike bag and get her on the scales. 51lb corrected and my new personal best.
A couple of quick snaps were taken-the seated method being far more suitable for my own well being, and she was soon back over the side powering down into the depths and none the worse for her experience.
Having now accurately weighed a sizable tope, I now know that the big tope I caught a couple of years ago was of a similar size but, today's will hold rank as my best.
Once the tide had slackened we returned to 'normal' down tide techniques and continued to pick up fish though things did slow down a bit.
As evening crept upon us a sudden breath of wind signalled the possible approach from the south west of a thunder storm, so we high tailed it home. Final tally was 22 tope to the boat, I think I might just have been short of double figures.
The down tide/up tide method is certainly worth persevering with as it allows fishing in much stronger currents at these usually 'small tide' venues. I suspect it would work quite well with January's blonde rays and perhaps other applications and whatever the case, it's a useful tool to have in the armoury.

Friday, 14 June 2013

14/6/13 Back On Form

 5lb 2oz

The boat has been sitting idle on its mooring now for nearly two weeks whilst I wait for an opportunity  to get out. Strong winds have been the cause and yesterday it was literally 'blowin' a hoolie' out back.When it has been calm enough ,I've been working....'C'est la vie'.
 One has to be very philosophical when it comes to running a small fishing boat. Although our changeable weather can be frustrating, there is simply nothing we can do about it so, my attitude is 'get over it and get out fishing'.....for something else.
I took Jan, Neil and Mick tench fishing to the pits a few evenings back and rather disappointingly, we blanked. Now I don't really mind blanking when i'm out on my own, but it was a shame, on this occasion, that I couldn't introduce them to the fighting qualities of this feisty fish.
This afternoon, I decided to return for a few hours in the middle of the day. Not my favourite tench time but, it was cloudy and overcast so light levels were low.
I chose, probably for the last time this season, to fish my favourite corner swim. Pastures new are beckoning as there is more to learn about this venue so future trips will be to 'new' swims on 'new' pits.
Whilst the sky remained cloudy, three tench took a fancy to my maggot baits one of which, yet again, snapped my hook length. The takes on the bolt rigs are so fierce that I do need to consider an alternative set up for my reels when using this method especially as my main line is braid which, having zero stretch, is completely unforgiving, but necessary when bullying these tench out of the lily pads which they love to dive into.
 I tend to slacken the drags right off but the rods still try to leap into the water when the tench strike. An open bail would work I suppose, if I could find a way of  trapping the line but a baitrunner type reel would give much better control.
The first fish was the 'proper porker' in the net pic. The fattest tench I've ever seen at 4-07 followed by a nice 5-02 from the same near bank lily pad.
Once the sun emerged from behind the clouds the feeding seemed to abate however, entertainment was provided by this plucky little blackbird who continually thieved my maggots during the remainder of the session-obviously feeding her brood.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

7/6/13 Hamble.

The River Hamble at mercury marina has been a regular haunt of mine in the past when searching for the elusive mullet. The venue was chosen for this year's first attempt at the specie as it usually produces the goods in the early part of the season.
Unfortunately today , for me at least,that wasn't to be the case however my fishing buddy Dave scored two golden grey mullet around the pound mark , whilst I could only manage a small bass and, a first for me, a tiny smelt which bore a striking resemblance to the Fiiish Minnow soft plastic lure, which I've been using with great success recently for bass.
Thunderstorms and a strong north wind didn't help matters but it made a pleasant change to do some 'simple' fishing.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

3/6/13 U..tope..eeeaaaah!

Armed with the valuable knowledge I'd gained from my recent outing aboard 'Spirit Of Arun', on the charity tope trip of a couple of weeks ago,I decided today, to try and get my first of the specie on board Jupiter.
Tide was 4.7m and the wind speeds during the morning were looking perfect for the long haul down to the mark.
Unfortunately, my intended crew-Pete Cook, had to cancel yesterday, the hunt was on last night to secure a last minute replacement.I needed someone with experience and, as Dave Nevatt hadn't previously been out in my Warrior , and it was a week day, i knew he'd be up for it.He actually agreed to come along whilst sailing home from a boat trip out of Hove last night-the man loves his fishing.
We left port at just after 0730 making a slight detour en route to an area adjacent some local reefs to try a pick up some fresh mackerel which have been a little difficult to locate lately.
It took a couple of moves to find them,but we soon had ten or so in the cool box before speeding off at twenty plus knots to the mark.
Upon arriving, I was a little concerned about anchoring the boat securely in such deep water.The chosen gully , at 100ft, was somewhat deeper than I'd previously experienced ,and although i do carry an additional anchor warp to join to the main if required,I did wonder if the 5 kilo bruce would be enough.
I needn't have worried. Keeping a close eye on the plotter's trail line function, the anchor dragged for a few yards then dug in deep, holding us rock steady in the considerable flow,  and positioned centrally in a wide gully.
Half mackerel baits(either end) on 8/0- circles attached to 5ft long 250lb mono traces  on a standard running leger rig were employed, and within seconds of my ten ounces bumping the sea bed, the rod bent over and the ratchet on the Avet screamed to signal an immediate take.We hadn't even set Dave's gear up.
I gave  the tope plenty of time to run freely with no resistance before gently tightening up-essential to prevent the fish dropping the bait.A brilliant fight ensued but, once tired the tope wallowed on the surface long enough for me to slacken the lever drag, hand the rod over to my crew,don welding gloves, get a firm grip on the tope's tail and dorsal , and haul her on board.
Remembering Spirit skipper Neil's proceedure for dealing with these toothy critters, I straddled the beast pinning her securely to Jupiter's deck, lifted her snout with one hand whilst swiftly nicking out the circle from the corner of her mouth with the other hand successfully managing to retain all of my digits in the process.
A quick measure and wrestle with her for the camera and she was safely sent back down into the depths none the worse for her experience out into the 'other world' -job done.A cracking first tope for the boat at around 40lb.
From then on, it was 'game on'. Virtually a fish a drop and, on a couple of occasions both of us hooking up at once in what was probably the most hectic fishing i've seen on my own boat.A couple more were brought inside for weighing and photography but my pike weigh sling proved to be totally inadequate, the  weighed fish however, which at 25lb was the smallest, gave us a good reference to work from when estimating sizes, the majority being successfully 'T' barred at the side of the boat.
In total we 'touched trace' on 25 fish with three over the 40lb mark, and split, numbers wise, almost exactly between us. The skipper naturally getting the 13.There were also several missed runs and dropped baits but generally , if left alone, the baits were soon retaken .
There was evidently a snag of some kind near us,because several sets of end gear were consigned to 'Davy Jones' locker' and indeed, at one point, i feared that we might run out of traces and had to resort to knotting a new circle to the heavy mono when i broke a hook clean in two with the long nose pliers-not easy.
Despite allowing the tope to run,, virtually all the fish were neatly lip hooked -the circles proving their worth.
The fresh bait soon ran out and we resorted to the back up mackerel, acquired and quickly 'iced' on the last trip out.Contrary to perceived wisdom, they didn't care a jot, and continued to feed voraciously on the frozen stuff.Perhaps today they were just 'up for it'.
As the tide slackened off completely and began to flood, the bites did slow down a little and by then a brisk south-easterly had picked up, so we decided to call it a day and slowly make our way back to port with the tide, but against the wind.........bumpy-yes, uncomfotable-no. Reducing speed down to 13-14kts we still made good headway without too much slamming.The boat handled it brilliantly yet still sipped on the fuel. By the time we'd returned to the river entrance we'd only just 'done' the first tank.Roughly 30 nautical miles on 24litres of fuel is excellent economy.
Despite suffering throughout the day with an aching back,leading to the occasional 'lie down' on Jupiter's deck, Dave had thoroughly enjoyed his day out and proved to be excellent crew-his seasons of boat angling experience quite evident. It was actually quite difficult to get him to agree to go home- i seem to remember the same situation the last time we ventured out on a boat together after bream.
A truly brilliant day's fishing for a spectacular specie.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

31/5/13 Showing Off......

Jupiter' to my mate Rusty today, who is seriously thinking of going down the Warrior route-'sensible man' I say.
This month has been a pretty good month for me fishing wise and , looking at the sea state from my bedroom window this morning, it would have been criminal not to squeeze just one more trip in before June dawned.
Russ had texted me with a request for a run out in the Warrior to check out how she performed and , like any confirmed petrol head, I cannot resist a bit of blatant 'showing off', so after a quick phone call , we were crossing the river bar within the hour, with barely inches to spare beneath Jupiter's hull.
The Kingmere reef is our 'traditional' bream mark and it was here we headed mostly because, I'd yet to try it for myself this season.
The flat sea really meant I could stretch the boat's legs, and show Russ what she was capable of and, within seconds of leaving the harbour she was skimming the surface at close to 30kts- I was even quietly impressed (frightened) myself. Actually, she feels rock steady at speed.
A few bream to two pound plus co-operated on the reef, along with pollack and pout before we decided to try for some bass on #6 despite the tide being both flowing in the wrong direction (flood) and being pretty meagre in size anyway. I was aware that chances were slim but just had to prove it to myself. Russ picked up a colourful ballan wrasse before we abandoned the reef and headed out in search of mackerel for bait.
Beyond Black Ledge the water took on a murky appearance which I'm assuming is the much talked about 'May Bloom'. I'm not entirely sure of this but it certainly didn't look conducive to good mackerelling-apparently they dislike it in their gills, so we relocated to clearer waters inshore at one of 'Phil's skate marks' and bingo.....twenty odd 'mackies' were feathered up and in the bait box.A few dogs finished us off and by then we'd completely lost the tide and it was time to call it a day.
All this whizzing about gave Russ a fair idea of what 'Jupiter' is capable of and he went away impressed and with a lot to think about.
Interestingly, the 'big three' as I've now christened Littlehampton's regular charter fleet, are mixing it up on the fishing front.I was unaware that our plaice fishing was available virtually throughout the year until a conversation with Dave Nevatt revealed that over in Shoreham they fish for them year round.
It's just that sometimes other species are available to L.A crews and they are fished for in preference. With this year's spring being about a month late the guys have continued to go for plaice because the bream fishing has only really just got off the ground in the past few days.
I'm unaware of the situation regarding hound fishing and I've yet to try for them myself but, pups are showing on our local beach marks so I'll bet their parents are out there in some numbers and the situation is no doubt similar on the ray front.
I suppose the charter boys have to supply what their customers want and, for visiting day anglers, that probably means our bream fishing and when the time is right, bass. All very interesting stuff.
 Anybody want to shed any more light on this? Be good to hear from you.

30/5/13 One Bass!

.........but a good'n at 6lb 8oz.
For various reasons I struggle to consistently catch bass from our reef systems and still feel that I've a long way to go with the specie.
I have three very good mates who are extremely successful with bass but in very different ways. I've pretty much gathered as much information from them as is fair and reasonable, and now feel that it is up to me to put that knowledge to good use but, it'll take time. The fun is in the learning.
This morning was spent helping 'bass junkie' Pete with his new Orkney Longliner 2 .I picked it up for him at the Orkney factory In Arundel, and dragged it behind the camper to his boat pound In Bognor where, with some help from a couple of fellow boat 'nuts', we managed to successfully transfer it on to Pete's launching trolley.
A pretty little boat this and the first one of it's kind out of the mould-serial number 1-it reminds me a lot of my 520 and Orkney seem incapable of producing a boat that isn't pleasing on the eye. The company have gone for an update with this 'new' Longliner and it is now a semi-planing hull rather that the old displacement plodder and, I must say, it's a lithe looking craft with a low hull weight to boot.Pete's got a 25 horse motor to go on the stern so it should really fly and I can't wait to have a run out in her. I hope the new design proves to be a sales success and manages to keep this recently troubled local boat building company afloat in the future.
With an afternoon to spare and reasonable weather conditions I decided to run the boat out again mostly to try to gather some mackerel bait for a planned tope run.
I couldn't find the mackerel and even though my mate Neil had tipped me off that he was 'hammering' the bass as usual, AND put me right on the mark, I couldn't bloody well find them either!!!!!!Bugger.
Frustated, I moved quietly over to one of my favourite reef drifts on #6 and finally managed to bang out the above bass on a jigged 60g Fiiish Minnow.Fantastic scrap on the light baitcaster.
Actually I should have had two more on board but successfully bumped them off......and 'that', as they say, 'is the way the cookie crumbles'.

29/5/13 Three Men In A Boat

I've been meaning to take Simon and Andy out in 'Jupiter' on a bream run for ages and it would also give me a chance to see how the boat would work with three anglers aboard. Just an afternoon sortie really on marks #7 and #9 and a chance to show these 'beach boys ' what we've got 'out there'.
The first mark proved to be a bit slow despite me hauling a nice bream on the first drop so we relocated and worked some soft plastic over the reef whilst I scanned the sounder. Fish were present, and in numbers, but just weren't interested in the lures......had to be bream I thought and this did indeed prove to be the case.
Once we'd dropped anchor and sent our baits down on an ever increasing tide, a good run of fish turned up with about thirty taken and all of a good size up to 2 1/2lb.
With not another boat in sight it was quite satisfying for me to put this 'new' bream mark on my map and the guys were having a lot of fun in the process despite the weather which, with some penetrating rain, wasn't exactly ideal.
Towards the end of the afternoon I received a text from a mate who had been concentrating on bass with live bait and lure on #6.He'd had a few and asked if we'd like to join him but unfortunately the tide had pretty much done it's thing by the time we'd arrived which was a shame because I would have loved to show these guys a 'spikey' or two.
Although easily achievable,it had been a bit of a 'squeeze' fishing 'three up' to be honest but, at the end of the day,it was a lot of fun and that is what fishing is all about.