Friday, 20 June 2014

12/6/14 The Year Of The Undulate

Today's target  was actually  a smoothound for Dave, hence the decision to fish initially at 'smoothound bank' but as is the case with a lot of local marks this year, undulate rays were present and that's what took our baits. Half a dozen of them showed , all doubles and this begs the question; why are we seeing so many this summer?
It's possible that, because commercial fishermen are no longer allowed to land these rays , the stock is seeing something of a revival and this is indeed a popular opinion.
Personally, I think that, like many species , population levels alter randomly over time and one only has to look at the large numbers of smoothound showing in the past two decades locally to see that this can be the case.
In the 1980's a smoothound was virtually unheard of and yet, they are now one of the most popular shore species in our locale. Undulates are  prevalent at the moment,so much so, that beach anglers are targeting them so perhaps their time has now arrived.
Whatever the case they are a generally quite a big fish, stunning to look and well worth the catching.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

8/6/14 Time For Tope

Yesterday was to be the first tope trip of the year but was curtailed by the very serious threat of thunder storms and building south-westerlies in the afternoon.
As it happened, although because of work commitments today was very tight for time, it was a far better day to be out. Constant sunshine and a glassy sea made for fast travel times and i think Dave and me made the most of the available fishing time.
 Mackerel are extremely difficult to locate at the moment so, not wishing to waste valuable toping time, big frozen half baits were the order of the day on 9/0 circle hooks attached to heavy mono.Wire and j hooks for tope are very much a thing of the past in my boat.
Sport started shortly after dropping the anchor to the bottom of the 100ft 'trench' and remained steady whilst the tide was moving, only slowing during the slack water period. Twenty eight feisty tope came to the boat in just over five hours fishing, pretty much all double figure males with a smattering of 'twenties' to boot.
Bites were sometimes finicky and difficult to hit which is unusual for these fish and all but one was cleanly hooked in the scissors-the majority being easily released by 't' bar at the side of the boat. Selecting larger baits kept most of the cat sharks at bay though a few managed to get themselves hooked and on three occasions tope could be seen either chasing a dog, or just a retrieved bait right up to the surface.
I'm hoping that in future trips, which are limited to sub 5m tides,there'll be an opportunity to encounter some of the bigger tope similar to those that i had last year.However, usually these show earlier in the season and are replaced by the pack fish as the summer progresses.Let's hope that's not the case this year and when the mackerel do eventually arrive, the big tope follow.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

4/6/14 Back On The Bass

Along with my mates Clive and Pete, Martin is probably one of the most experienced and successful lure bass anglers amongst our local 'group'. Their catches reflect their ability and mine, by comparison, are decidedly 'average'. Sure I get a few fish and good ones too but, these three are definitely a cut above the rest among the privateers.
 In fact, Martin's pretty damned good at boat fishing in general so after a chance meeting on the pontoons when we found out we were both going out solo to the same mark the following morning, I jumped at the chance of his invite to jump aboard his boat and join him.
We'd both agreed it was to be a lure only early morning session mostly to avoid the worst of the weather, which was due to turn around lunch time and, although I'm not good at getting up really early in the morning  , according to the bass 'gurus' this is the time to be out there fishing.
We met on the pontoons at the 'reasonable' hour of 5a.m and headed to the mark on a very flat sea.
To begin with, the fishing was slow.........very slow. Martin took a few wrasse and to be honest, at that point, if I'd been out there on my own I'd have chosen to move to an alternative location.
This was to be my first lesson. Martin was confident that, although the bass weren't giving themselves away on the sounder, they were present, and would at some time choose to feed. We persisted by continually drifting the same area bouncing our soft plastic lures along the sea bed,even though the tide was dropping away, again not normally what I would choose to do, and eventually Martin was proved to be right.
Not big bass-most in the 2-3lb class but great sport and very consistent.
Gradually the fish began to show more regularly on the sounder , and in a denser configuration  especially as the tide speed reduced.
Occasionally the shoal would appear on the surface often for several minutes. It was calm enough to see this occur but bird activity more than gave away their location, and once we'd moved the boat close enough without spooking them,it was  time to hit them with hard plastic surface 'Patchinko' lures which seemed to kill on almost every cast until they would suddenly sound, and disappear for a while.
By mid morning the tide , although quite small, was flooding hard enough to make vertical soft plastic fishing all but impossible, and the wind had whipped up anyway so we decided to call it a day but not before Martin winkled out two decent sized fish in the 5-6lb bracket just for good show. Interestingly as the tide pushed hard, less evidence of the shoal was seen on the sounder and most of the fish caught were when the lure was fished hard on the deck, whereas during the slacker periods the fish could be taken well up in the water on a retrieve, or on the drop.
 My theory is that they may have spread out over the mark with their heads down during this time and therefore become a little more difficult to locate, especially as we were struggling to keep the lures on the bottom.
We very quickly lost count of what was coming aboard and a conservative estimate would be fifty bass to the boat at least.
 Martin chose to return all of his but I decided to take three for the table two of which were prepared as 'Cerviche'. Quite simply, the fish is filleted and cubed then marinated in lemon and lime juice with tomatoes, chilli and tabasco. The first time I'd actually eaten 'raw' fish and it was quite stunning.
So what did I learn? Well, lets just say it's given me plenty to think about but foremost was Martin's patience and confidence in the mark .
 The location itself is not unknown to me nor anything special and, as I'd said, is one that I'd regularly visit. Out of respect for Martin and one of our charter skippers, who also uses the spot on occasion, I won't even quote it by number. I'm unlikely to forget it anyway.
The main difference due to his experience is that Martin seemed to know exactly what the bass would do on the mark at any given time. He knew they were there, or indeed were likely to be there, as he'd caught them in the preceding days and therefore despite them not initially co-operating he decided to stick it out and this paid off.
When I think back to my own trips to known bass marks where I've thought they just weren't present and therefore moved on, it does make me wonder if they'd been there all the time but were just not up for it. The only way to find out is to go back and try!

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2/6/14 The Forgotten Mark

Initially this short middle of the day trip was intended to be a lure only session targeting bass but, with a bumpy sea making the method less than easy, I resorted to dropping the grapnel on #9 and fish with big cuttle baits in the hope of seeing something silver.
Clive was not too far away and had succeeded in doing just that with a nice 8lb fish which I managed to photograph for him. He'd reported seven lesser bass but said that they'd both been extremely difficult to find and had been less than enthusiastic about accepting 'plastic' hence his decision to revert to baits. He'd also already been out for six hours ! You've got to admire his dedication.
When an open centre console boat with red logo turned up on the mark and proceeded to circle Clive far too close for comfort and subsequently anchor down tide well within his casting range, I decided I'd had enough and would try to break up the party.
Clive had invited me to join him and I was easily over a hundred yards distant giving him plenty of space but I still felt a little guilty that , by joining him on the mark, I'd probably attracted the unwanted attention of the interloper with no manners.
 By moving immediately, I thought I might draw him away but this proved to be fruitless. Luckily Clive reported to me later that no more bass had showed anyway and that he'd been really annoyed by the behaviour of the visiting boat .
Whether it's through ignorance or sheer inconsideration for other anglers, boats that turn up and anchor right in your 'swim' really wind us up, and It happens far too often. The boat in question is a local, though unknown to me personally, and if he's reading this, which is unlikely, I hope he takes heed.
Eventually I decided to move over to a reef mark at #6 and once again, drop the grapnel rather than drift in the building sea and a bit of a surprise was in store. I'd actually anchored on the edge of the reef and my big cuttle baits were settling  on 'cleaner' ground which I could easily feel through the braid.
Result.....a couple of nice double figure undulate rays and a hound to save the day and remind me of a piece of information, completely forgotten until now, that I'd been given about the mark a few years ago when I started boat fishing.

30/5/14 Two Complete Novices

I've always avoided taking complete novices boat fishing in the past as I'd heard that It can be hard work and at times frustrating but, when a couple of work colleagues expressed an interest in joining me, I found it too hard to resist accepting the challenge of introducing novices to our sport.
Collectively known as 'the kids' , neither 'Lil John' (yes, there is a 'Big John') nor Liam (a.k.a 'Choz') had  wielded a fishing rod before, though as lifeboat crew, Choz has ample experience of how to behave on a small boat.
I'll admit to feeling a bit under pressure to produce the goods so, initially chose to target bream as generally, after instruction, they're easy and fun for beginners to catch, kick back a bit and make a nice rewarding meal.
The first mark in the middle of the Kingmere reef  which has served me well this season,failed to produce enough action though, to be fair, we'd arrived at the location over the slack tide period which is generally pretty dead anyway.
Thinking I could do better,I quickly moved the boat to mark #8, which I'd heard on the grapevine had been fishing well lately, and almost immediately the bream co-operated with plenty of fish to just short of 3lb and two very happy tyros both of whom had quickly learned how to bait the hook, cast, hit the bites and play the fish.
 Thinking I was some sort of fish magician, they were well impressed with this and.after building a nice catch of  30 plus bream, most returned but with a few to take home for the pot and  the guys at work, I decided it was time to move marks, up the bait size and try for something a little more impressive.
Again first drop on the new numbers, and Choz's rod hooped over allowing him to experience  his first smoothound, quickly followed by more of the same along with a pack tope to add variety. With tongue in cheek, I announced to the guys that they could now consider themselves bona fide 'shark anglers'. I actually wanted to show them an undulate but they knew nothing of this, and anyway, it didn't matter.
Soon it was time to head home and back to work but, the short 'action packed' trip had proved to be a great success and here is the key, if you're taking beginners out , keep the fishing interesting-not always an easy thing to do.
Personally, I didn't actually manage to do much fishing spending most of time dealing with the catch and sorting the odd tangle, and re-tackle but, the trip was no less rewarding for me, and the 'banter' around the mess table that evening proved that the 'kids' had enjoyed the trip and were well and truly 'hooked'..........very satisfying.

25/5/14 Undulates and Hounds In The Rain

One of the most enjoyable aspects of owning your own boat, is showing off your skills and putting your mates on to fish, especially if they are not boat owners themselves. A boat trip to most shore anglers can be a very special occasion. I know I felt that way about trips out with mates before owning my own boat especially as the fishing can at times be comparatively excellent. I personally find finding fish  as satisfying as catching the fish myself. It's all about where you park the boat.
My angling buddy Simon has enjoyed some pretty successful trips on 'Jupiter' in the past with both bream and tope so when he told me that he'd yet to catch an undulate ray, yet another challenge was laid before me.
To be fair, the local undulate fishing has been pretty 'hot' of late with all the usual 'suspects' reporting good catches and from marks that I can see from my living room window so I can't really claim too much of the 'skipper's glory' for this one.
However, it did give me an opportunity to try out a new mark close to the 'scene of operations' from Brian's catalogue, that I'd been meaning to have a go at for some time. A patch of hard ground , surrounded by soft which has a heritage of both rays and hounds.
 Baiting our 4/0s and circles with my newly prepared cuttle strips, tipped with squid proved to be a great success, and generally resisted the attention of the small bream that can be found in the area.
Despite heavy rain which forced us to 'tuck up' under Jupiter's canopy( a really useful bit of kit), it was no time at all before Simon popped his undulate cherry and a final tally of eight double figure fish came aboard (most and biggest to Simon's baits) along with half a dozen smoothounds(I did all of these), a bold, bait stealing bream and the ubiquitous cat sharks.
Great company, and very satisfying fishing.

15-17/5/14 Ilfracombe Sharking

A three day trip down to Ilfracombe with 'Jupiter' in tow  in search of an early season porbeagle shark. I couldn't have wished for better weather conditions  and certainly learned a great deal about the marks I'm fishing, and getting to them.
Unfortunately, although fishing effectively  I failed to find the target specie although was blessed with some nice Pollack on feathers some of which were pressed into service as bait.
Such is the nature of shark fishing and at this time of year the porbeagles are fewer in number, but very often of a greater size, so I didn't go home disappointed.
Graeme and Wayne were in the locale at the same time and they proved this to be the case with Graeme catching a very impressive 'porgie' which caused quite a stir in the national headlines.Well done that man..........I'll be back soon.

8- 10/5/14 Two Tench Trips


It's tench time and, once again, I'm reminded of the cyclic and seasonal nature of fishing. It seems to come around quicker as the years pass.
Whatever, Dave joined me for these two trips on our local pits and , as usual, method of choice was feeder maggots as there is a distinct lack of silver fish at this particular venue which means the tench have a decent chance of finding the bait first.....and they do like maggots.
From the off a pad of lillies in Dave's swim proved to be alive with fish-good ones too some well into the six pound bracket. Conversely, my neighbouring swim appeared to be 'dead' and it wasn't until Dave had left for home , and I stubbornly refused to give up and stay on, before my first fish showed-a particularly ugly brute I might add.
On the second trip 'that' swim repeated it's good form (I'll have to sneak back when Dave's at work) although I did improve my tally with some nice fish from an alternative swim.
Enjoyable fishing but, if the winds co-operate and I'm able to get out in the boat, that might be it for me on the tench front for another year as the start of the river coarse season is only just around the corner. (I'm very late writing this up as it's the 8th June)