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.

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