Sunday, 17 August 2014

15/8/14 A Change Of Tide.

I've been receiving a bit of well meant 'stick' on the Facebook of late after posting pictures of the conger that I've been catching recently. I was 'criticised' for not wearing a lifeline in the pictures and not attaching myself to the boat especially as the fishing was in darkness.
Usually, I accept any advice readily but in this case feel the need to justify my actions and explain why I think a lifeline would be a hindrance, if not downright dangerous in this situation though of course, the reader should carry out an evaluation of the risks themselves, and make their own mind up.
My Warrior is a BIG small boat but, it is still a 'small' boat with relatively limited deck space. Bring a 7 foot long conger on board and suddenly it becomes a very crowded place indeed.
 Crews that I've taken conger fishing have all been excellent at keeping the deck completely clutter free and following instructions to the letter when necessary, and the same can be said when tope and shark fishing. With an element of forward planning and having kit, such as gloves, weigh sling, pliers at the ready, everything so far , has gone very smoothly with all the bigger fish species I've had on board.
What tends to happen , especially with conger, is that there is a lot of strategic shuffling around the cockpit, swapping sides to balance the boat, manoeuvring  to take pictures, measuring, weighing and of course returning the fish.
 A 50lb plus conger needs two people to handle it safely in this environment. In this situation I'm of the opinion, that any form of lifeline or tether would be a real pain in the back side and more than likely be a trip hazard.
What I suggest is that people try it for themselves before drawing any conclusions and I don't mean conger fishing in a charter boat with an experienced skipper on board!
The Warrior has excellent freeboard (one of the reasons I chose the boat) and I'm only fishing for these conger in calm sea conditions,  both of which greatly reduce the chance of going over the side but, there's always THAT chance and I will admit that I SHOULD be wearing a lifejacket and make no excuses whatsoever that I'm not.(Don't do as I do, do as I say)
The boat is equipped with a full compliment of life jackets but personally, I only wear one when I feel that it is necessary-perhaps when sea conditions 'kick up' and I've only ever felt the need to attach myself to the boat with a lifeline on one occasion-when motoring home alone in a heavy sea in my Orkney 520.This may be the wrong attitude but I'll leave the reader to decide on this issue.
I wonder how many regular small boat anglers actually wear a life jacket all the time.
The biggest problem the Facebook comments have created for me, is that my better half now worries about me being out fishing at night and indeed, on the last occasion lost sleep over it. She will get over it but she will take some convincing.
The  'real' problem at night is being able to see when you're motoring, and avoid hazards -usually pot markers. To be honest, this is where the small boat ,where you can stand to helm and look over the cuddy , really scores. I've been out in bigger cabin boats at night and its far more difficult to see what's ahead through a screen or window.
 In the Warrior , once your night vision kicks in you can actually see very clearly indeed and again, with reduced travelling speeds I've not had any problems on night trips despite the plethora of badly marked 'junk' out there.
If I do accidentally pick up a pot line, which I have done during daylight, its easy to just trim up the outboard and set it free. Should a line become tangled with my prop, I always carry two very strong zip ties ready looped up so I can quickly attach my bait knife to my boat hook and safely cut the rope without leaning out over the stern-useful tip this one.
Anyway enough of that safety stuff-what of the fishing. I took Brian for a return trip to my conger mark this evening but on a much bigger tide that was flooding on the mark during the session. Despite the increased size of the tide the flow was greatly reduced compared to recent trips though with very little breeze, the boat held steady and I was still able to position her accurately.
The first anchorage produced very few bites at all although I did pick up a nice undulate ray on a the half mackerel bait.
With things a bit slow in comparison to what we'd been accustomed to of late, I decided to move the boat to a different part of the mark and anchor with baits fishing over what was obviously VERY rough, snaggy ground. This proved to be a wise move and three congers were brought to the boat in quick succession ,though nothing particularly big-upper doubles maybe.
For some reason the flood tide at this mark appears to be less productive despite the fact that, on the first anchorage, we had a shark chum sack pinned to the sea bed, and Brian's excellent bait dropper was used to deposit a few free offerings.
I suspect that the steadier flows that come with ebbing tides here are more effective at getting  scent from the baits into the eel's lairs, or maybe there are just more eels on that side of the mark. At the moment, this is all pure conjecture and a few more tides need to be fished before any conclusions can be drawn however, if the evenings are calm when the tides come 'right' next week I suspect we'll be back for another go. I need to get Brian that big eel.

I'm hoping this post might generate a bit of discussion or some comments??? Please feel free, I'd like to know who is out there.

13/8/14 200 hours.

I've now owned my Warrior 175 Export 'Jupiter's Moon' for 21 months and during that time have completed 84 trips in her and, according to the trip meter on my GPS, I have travelled over 1800 nautical miles !!!
I estimate the fuel usage to be something around a litre per nautical mile but easily achieve less than this (better) when i'm able to run quickly on a flat sea. There can't be many vehicles that use less fuel the faster you travel!
One useful little device that is included with my Suzuki main engine, is that it tells you when it needs a scheduled oil change. Every time you start the engine, the tachometer cleverly indicates how many hours the engine has run and, when a service is due, the oil pressure warning light flashes intermittently and a buzzer sounds.
  I've been watching the tacho closely on recent trips as it approached the 200hour mark and on the last trip the warning signals were activated and it was time to drag her out for a service. Amusingly, and because i'd failed to read the operators manual properly, the last time this notification system activated at 100 hours i thought there was something seriously wrong with the engine and stopped it dead whilst at sea. It took a while for the penny to drop and i realised it was just asking for a 'transfusion'.
The 200 hour service requires replacement of the pump impeller as well as the full 'works'.
In order to maintain the warranty on the 'big' Suzuki the service must be carried out by an approved mechanic and this costs big money. I've no complaints about the marine engineer who has serviced this engine so far but, like all marine engineers, he's not cheap at all so I decided to take a calculated risk,bin the warranty and do the servicing myself.
Whilst i don't have any formal mechanical traning, i've always serviced my own road vehicles, have the necessary tools and feel competent enough to do so however, I would never touch someone else's boat nor recommend that anyone does it themselves unless they have a modicum of 'know how'. Outboard motors are very simple machines indeed and my Suzuki is no different to most-it's basically a four cylinder,twin cam 2 litre car engine which sits vertically and is attached directly to rudimentary 'gearbox'(the outboard leg)
According to the schedule in the handbook, the service includes a series of inspections and the changing of, spark plugs, engine oil and filter, gearbox oil and impeller. I used genuine Suzuki, or OEM specified parts throughout and despite being extremely cautious and thorough, the whole service took me about three hours in total and probably saved me about £300 in costs.
There were absolutely no glitches in the process but, its worth passing on a couple of pointers here to those wishing have a go themselves.
A basic tool kit including socket set will suffice but you'll need a filter strap wrench and a 6mm allan socket for the oil drain plug.
Warm the engine thoroughly before draining the oil (ears and hose line attached of course).
This thins the oil and ensures all the dirty stuff gets drained out. You can see how black it is in the picture.
Make sure you have a big enough drain tray for the engine oil-there are 5.5 litres of it in the 100 hp Suzuki.

There are six bolts holding the leg in place and one of them is accessed by removing the trim tab. Mark the trim tab's position before dismantling otherwise when you put it all back together ,your boat will go around in circles!!
The leg is heavy and unwieldy so be careful when removing it and place it on something protective(i used a sheet of plywood) and don't forget to disconnect and reconnect on assembly the speed indicator tube.
The impeller housing has four bolts and its worth checking the internal faces for wear and replacing if necessary. Mine were still like new even though i don't regularly flush with fresh water however, i do run my engine periodically even if its not being used due to bad weather and always run it in 'clear' water if  I've come in from a trip when the marina is shallow, or its being dredged. The key is to flush out any sediment that might settle in the cooling system .
Get a replacement gasket for the pump housing as it's very delicate and could be damaged when dismantling.
When reassembling the impeller and housing apply a thin coat of marine grease to the components and gently rotate the drive shaft in the correct direction to aid assembly. It also worth greasing the drive shaft, and gear shifter splines.
Get a bespoke hand pump and adaptor to fill up the gearbox oil. They are very cheap , worth their weight in gold and usually come in a kit with a litre of EP 90 and an impeller.
Make sure you get the right impeller by quoting the engine serial number when ordering. I got sent the wrong one initially. Doh.
Get an extra litre of EP 90 gear oil in case you spill any and, rather inconveniently, the leg takes 1.1 litres anyway.
Keep your 'old' spark plugs as spares (mine were still like new).
The only job i didn't do was to check the valve clearances as I neglected to order a spare gasket and didn't want to risk relying on the old one to reseal. This job will be done when she next comes out for a shark run which should be in a month's time.
Overall the process was pretty straightforward and enabled me to get a good look at my engine and see what everything does and how it should function.
One issue I did manage to address was the route of the fuel line inside the engine cowling which caused me so many problems just over a year ago. In a nutshell, the fuel line is routed too close to the gear selector cable bracket and is prone to being worn away with use. It had actually worn through a year ago causing a fuel leak, and was replaced with a heavier duty line at the time.
On inspection during this service, the pipe was starting to wear again, so I decided to dismantle the whole fuel /electric/cable input point (I don't know what else to call it but, its where all the cable leads etc enter the engine casing) and see if I could rearrange things.
I now believe that the cables, pipe, leads etc were incorrectly routed at initial assembly resulting in the fuel line being in the wrong place. This has now been remedied and should cause no problems in the future. Whether the responsibilty lies with Suzuki or Warrior I'll never really know but my marine mechanic failed to notice it although to be fair, the fault is not immediately apparent.
Whilst the boat was out of the water I also gave the baby Suzuki 6hp 'wing motor' the 'once over' checking the plug, levels and all the grease points etc and running her up to working temperature. Although its had very little use I'll probably change the oils next time the boat is out of the water and drop the leg off to get a look at the water pump .
 One thing I ALWAYS do with the 'six' , is flush it with fresh water every time I run her up as she is prone to clogging up with salt deposits if left.
Regular use of any mechanical device keeps it in good working order and this is very relevent to outboard engines especially considering the environment they work in.
 I've also now made up another complete fuel line so I can connect the 'six' directly to the main fuel tanks and not rely on the small built in tank. This will mean that she's always running on fresh fuel and it'll be useful having a  back up fuel line in case something on the main fails.
Finally the boat was given a thorough scrub up and the hull bottom polished once again(I can do topside on the pontoons) just to keep her pretty, before dropping her back on to her mooring.
The whole process took about a day at a leisurely pace and was hassle free-certainly a whole lot easier than servicing a car as everything is easily accessible and there is much less to do, and I suspect that  the experience I've now gained might be very useful in the future.
If you've any comments or questions feel free to respond on this site or email me at

Saturday, 9 August 2014

7/8/14 Double Trouble.

The reader may get the impression that I experience good fishing on every trip out in my boat but, of course, this just isn't the case. Whilst its indeed rare to completely blank there have been three occasions recently when very few fish have been caught.
Firstly, I took my wife out on a short afternoon trip primarily to teach her some vertical jigging with soft plastic lures over one of our local reefs but, as this only produced one small pouting, we decided to anchor up on some mixed ground. Alas just one small tope showed up on a mark that produced an endless supply this time last year.
Another target was mullet , anchoring the boat in the river on the ebb tide and trotting bread flake-the first time i've tried this from the Warrior. To cut a long story short we didn't even see a mullet let alone get a bite from one and it would appear that there are very few in the main river at the moment whereas the marina is absolutely  teeming with them.
A third trip, on a small tide suitable for tope, was with piking guru Jon Cook, his first trip on my boat. We tried my deep marks at the' Chair' and 'Owers ' for just three pack fish and plenty of  nuisance cat shark, not exactly a blistering result and again, not a patch on last year. Perhaps the general lack of mackerel locally is having an effect.
Finally on my most recent day time trip,my friend Alex was keen to get down on the banks to drift for turbot and brill . I'd been told that one of my favourite banks had been destroyed by the winter storms but upon investigation with the sounder this appeared to be far from the case and the bank, although a slightly different shape, has retained its most prominent features in particular a ridge that causes quite a surface rip as the tide runs.
Unfortunately the target species were not found and just one nice plaice of 2 1/2lb showed up on a ragworm bait-the only fish of the trip.
 I had wanted to anchor the bank and fish for blondes which i feel would have produced, but my crew was keen to persist with drifting other neighbouring banks although this proved to be equally unproductive.
Feeling slightly perturbed by the lack of action, I decided the fish weren't going to get the better of me and a return trip was planned for that evening. Marina neighbour Brian agreed to join me at short notice for a ;three hour conger outing on my new mark. After a quick turnaround ,a bite to eat and a fresh tank of fuel collected it was back to the boat for an 8p.m start-the first time I've ever done two runs in a day.
Weather conditions and tide time (HW 8p.m at Littlehampton) were perfect for the mark allowing the maximum amount of fishing time in darkness on the ebbing tide.
With no wind and a steady flow the boat was accurately positioned on the first drop of the anchor leaving the main structure just 30yards from the stern. Half mackerel and cuttle baits were sent down and, as darkness fell the first 'slamming'  bite to my rod produced a small bass of all things. Nice to know there are some about on this mark and food for though for future runs.
Shortly after and a far more delicate take, again to my half mackerel, produced something considerably bigger, and stronger- a good conger was 'on'. The fight was exciting with plenty of  line stealing dives but not too prolonged, my main concern being to get her well away from the snags as soon as possible.
Once on the surface it was clear that I'd scored another good 6-7ft eel and the decision was made to bring her on board for weighing. At 58lb she is indeed my personal best conger-a slimmer fish than Simon's of a few days ago but pleasing nonetheless.
Brian had been unlucky with a break off when his braid parted on something abrasive but eventually connected to his own eel to maintain an even keel and I was more than happy with this. Finally another undulate took my bait before the tide lost its pace just around midnight -time to 'call it' as we both had work in the morning.
So, another successful trip to the 'new' mark for eels and an end to a very long , but highly enjoyable day, and night on the water.
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