Sunday, 29 May 2016

28/5/16 Tope Fishing


Sam's first ever tope

Uptide tope

 What's this doing here.

Sam had expressed an interest in catching a tope, a specie he'd yet to encounter, so a plan was hatched.
 Ideally I'd be looking for sub 5m tides tasks for this task i.e neaps that come around every fortnight. Usually just three or four tides fit the credentials but, in the current set, only two tides were smaller than the benchmark, and these fell on days with forecasted wind speeds too high for comfort.
In the event I chose the best day wind wise, but it coincided with a 5.1 m tide which is pushing the envelope just a little however, I felt it was worth a try especially as , consulting my records showed that I'd managed it (just)in previous years.
The small tides are necessary because of the depths of the chosen marks which average a hundred feet, and are in an area of extremely strong tide flows. Too bigger tide would make the mark near impossible to fish due to the amount of lead required to keep baits down on the sea bed effectively.
Not wishing to waste time on bait catching , as mackerel are still very thin on the ground once again this year, we opted for frozen baits which have served me well in the past.
 In my experience, tope don't appear to be fussy when it comes to dietary requirements and if they're there, they'll 'have it' whatever you put in front of them.
The fishing was steady , If a little slow  compared with previous trips to the mark, and the best sport came around the slack water periods but, I was pleased with the end result considering the size of tide.
About ten tope were caught, Sam indeed getting his first ever, along with a few companions and commenting that he'd rarely experienced such a hard fight from U.K species. Most fish were in the 'upper teen' bracket with one or two in the low' twenties'.
 Biggest on the day was  a thirty five pounder to one of my baits and Sam's photography skills were gainfully employed on this one.
A few things of note; the strap conger pictured above is the first of its kind I've seen from this mark although various rays and dogfish are often found here.
I progressed a little with the 'up tide, down tide' method  simply swapping the standard lead for a 'gripper', casting a short distance up tide, or even dropping the lead straight down, and letting out a big 'bow' of line before setting the rod in its rest.The 'trick' worked well producing a few tope and, despite the lack of direct contact, bites showed up well and were successfully connected with clean hooking , due in no small part to the use of circle hooks.
;At one point whilst listening to varied 'banter' on the airwaves, I heard the word 'thresher' mentioned. Having done a bit of digging around on the web, it turns out that a small thresher shark was spotted breaching not that far from our location-food for thought indeed.

26/5/16 Wrecking

Perhaps because of the distances involved, and the quantity of fuel required, apart from the odd trip, I've still yet to get around to trying wreck fishing on a regular basis from my own boat.
Father and son team, Martin and Brian, on the other hand, are regulars on the  'wreckage' and very successful at it to boot.
Usually, at this time of year cod show up on some of our wrecks at a moderate distance form port. Martin had ventured out a few days prior to this trip but reported that water clarity had been poor due to an algal bloom known as 'May rot'. He said he could see fish on the wrecks on his sounder, but was unable to catch them apart from a few foul hook ups.
In the event he had to move further out to sea to find clear water and today proved to be a similar situation with us having to travel so far, that the fish were speaking with a French accent.
Martin's skill as a skipper shines when wreck fishing and his boat positioning ability is second to none. We drifted many wrecks during the day and picked up fish on practically every one-mostly Pollack it has to be said but, with the odd bass and target specie cod thrown in.
Forty plus miles off and the easterly wind was having quite an effect bumping up the sea and speeding up our drifts and causing our lures to 'string out'.
 I opted to fish most of the time with a streamlined metal jig  of about 200g fished direct to the main line and this seemed to work very well indeed. With  fine PE1 braid and a comparatively light 60g spinning rod the fishing was very entertaining indeed and my 'new' Van Staal' reel was more than up for the challenge making it a very versatile tool indeed.
|By the end of the day we'd steadily managed to fill up a couple of big boxes, returned many more fish when possible to do so, and probably travelled well over one hundred miles in the process.
Quite a run out.

24/5/16 Black bream

Black bream have been showing in good numbers on our local marks for quite a while now so I thought it was about time I got in on some of the action.
Joining me for the trip was Sam and a very early start was made in an attempt to fish in peace and quiet before the main 'fleet' showed up on our chosen spot-one of our more well known marks. This actually proved to be quite unnecessary as very few boats had decided to venture out on the day perhaps due to the forecasted easterly winds.
The saying goes 'when the wind's in the east, the fish bite least' and this may indeed have some substance as the bream weren't exactly easy to find in quantity. We ended up with about a dozen  or so fish, less than I'd usually expect to catch, and they took some finding with several changes of venue during the day although Sam did manage to pick up a smoothound on a bream bait which livened up proceedings.
Also scarce were bass. I'd hoped to show Sam some of our local 'spikies' by doing a bit of lure fishing but , apart from a few wrasse, the fishing was very slow and I failed conclusively to locate any of the target specie.
So, not exactly a blistering first day afloat on 'Jupiter' for my mate but nevertheless, he seemed to enjoy himself and , at the end of the day, that's all that matters. He certainly proved to be competent crew and will hopefully be joining me on future trips.

Monday, 23 May 2016

21/5-22/5/16 Christening A New Toy

Van Staal--madness

 Seems to work O.K
It's sting ray time again and , as I'd heard on the grapevine that one or two might have been caught locally(never trust the grapevine) last night I decided to dust off my beach rods and head to the shingle with Simon. In short, we failed to find the target but did get a schoolie and a dogfish (wow) however, Its early days yet and plans were hatched for future forays both local, and afar.
Let's hope this year I can actually succeed in getting one!
What is turning up on our beaches are undulate rays, and some very impressive specimens at that. Several good double figure fish have been reported,  and it appears that this situation is the conservation success story of the decade.
 Undulate rays are a protected specie, I'm told, although I'm unsure as to the exact level of their protection. Whatever the case, there seem to be plenty of them about and its great to see the shore boys and girls, who have to work exceedingly hard for their fish, pick up some good catches.
I didn't return from my beach session until the small hours so, an early start on the boat this morning was just not going to happen.
Marina buddy Brian had just completed some service and repair work on his Orkney and was eager to get it afloat, and out fishing, so I was invited to jump on board with him for a few hours in the afternoon, and fish lures.
A convenient local mark was selected and we headed out at breakneck speed as Brian had just cleaned his bottom!
On arrival, Neil on 'Spirit' was drifting the mark and out of respect, we elected to give him and his customers plenty of space to 'work'.
 Interestingly the bass were showing well off the mark, over clean ground, which is sometimes the case at this location, but rarely did we see any dense concentrations of fish on the sounder.
 We elected to try a slightly different approach to normal in that we were casting our soft plastics well away from the boat, allowing them to touch bottom , then retrieve at a speedy pace in a standard 'spinning' fashion. If fish showed under the boat then we reverted to our more normal vertical tactics and the ploy seemed to work well, with bass caught on every drift ,and us soon losing count of those captured.
Most were on the small size , with the odd better one as above but, it was highly entertaining and hectic fishing although it has to be said that fishing with |Brian is always entertaining regardless of the catch..
Occasionally, bird activity would help us relocate the shoal which appeared to be quite well spread out and moving, but rarely was it necessary to drift on to the main reef to catch.
You may also notice a serious bit of 'bling' in the picture at the top of this entry. Yes, I've treated myself to a Van Staal bail less spinning reel having become a little fed up with actually managing to wear out lesser reels.
This particular example has some heritage in that it was previously owned by two fanatical lure fishing mates before I managed to secure a deal on it. Well, you don't think I'd buy a new one do you!!!  After all , I've paid less money for good cars!
The reel looks like an antique, feels like a tank , the line lay needs some careful 'fettling' and not having a conventional bail arm takes a little time to get used to but, It's superbly engineered , has a silky smooth drag, and should outlast me.
Van Staals are something of a 'Marmite' reel and certainly not everyone's cup of tea but I like it very much indeed and, as I promised the previous owner that I wouldn't sell it on, it's here to stay, for better or worse.

20/5/16 Fishing With Sam

 Back in November I was asked to give a talk to a local fishing club about my small boat shark fishing. Despite being very nervous and, I'm told a little shaky vocally to begin with, the presentation seemed to be quite well received by those attending and proved to be quite a satisfying thing to do. Also appearing that night was a Sam Wadman who had recently made a TV appearance on the BBC's 'The Big Fish' competition and finished  a very creditable runner up.  Sam is very much a globe trotting angler having fished in some exotic locations and snagged some equally exotic fish, but back in 'blighty' we seem to share very similar angling interests so a meeting was arranged. 

'The man' very kindly managed to secure me a day ticket to fish on one of his club waters a truly picturesque stream fed lake which has a small head of genuine crucian carp . Not an easy specie to find nowadays due, I assume, to inter breeding with other 'lesser' carp species, I hadn't actually fished for crucians since I was a spotty teenager in the mid seventies.
Sam's had some lovely specimens from the water recently and this whetted my appetite for these elusive shy biters but the day was really more about meeting and sharing fishy experiences.
Another 'sparrow's fart' start was undertaken (I'm getting a bit better at  getting up early of late)and Sam's advice of light feeding so as not to attract too much attention from other, more dominant species, was followed but In the event, the crucians , typically, didn't show their faces.
 What did turn up however was a brace of pristine tench each along with a few very nice roach and an errant jack pike which took a liking to Sam's feeder. Disappointed? Not in the slightest although I'm sincerely hoping that I might , one day, get another chance to have a go at these, the most wily of fish.
I've been receiving a little friendly 'ribbing' on social media of late about my choice of method when it comes to my recent  tench fishing exploits. Apparently, my 'bolt feeder, buzzer' approach has met with some disapproval from more traditionally minded angling acquaintances so today I sought to repair the damage by fishing float and 'pin. I hope that goes some way to restore my reputation.LOL 

 Sam's tales of foreign travel and catches were indeed fascinating and have inspired me to think carefully about options for my own 'list' of future  trips but, in the meantime, I'm sure we'll hook up for some more domestic fishing together soon.

15/5/16 A Trip With Clive.

Small eyed ray-my first.

A 'thornie' for the 2016 species list
Clive is a very accomplished all round sea angler with some thirty plus years of  small boat fishing experience. He and his brother Kim run a very tidy  Orkney Day Angler 19, a favourite of mine, and when I was asked to tag along for a tope run , I jumped at the opportunity as a chance to chat at length with Clive about all things 'fishy' is too good to miss.
The Hodges brothers are part of a small group of local boat anglers, both private and commercial, who have assisted me over the past few years. It's been a steep learning curve but, without their guidance , I feel my progress would have been much slower, and I would certainly have not experienced some of the superb fishing our area can offer.
The wind forecast was reasonable so we motored west from the river, stopping briefly to attempt to collect some mackerel baits with unfortunately, little success.
This was not a problem, as we had a good stock of frozen bait on board and , in my experience, tope are less than fussy when it comes to food so, not wishing to waste time, we continued to the deep mark.
From the first drop , it was 'game on' and we managed a dozen or so tope to about 20lb in weight before swinging in the tide. Modest pickings by the mark's usual standard but deteriorating conditions were not helping matters. Clive did, at one point, hook into a better sized tope which gave a good account of itself until successfully escaping before we'd even managed to see it.
  By lunch time the winds from the South West had picked up considerably and assisted the now flooding tide to hamper our ability to anchor successfully.
After  slipping the third time, we decided to abandon the mark and head for an easier option-anchoring a shallow bank  #46 with perhaps the chance of a blonde ray.
In the event, a 'blonde' was the only specie of the more common rays to not show up.
I had a small eyed ray-my first of the specie which, on Clive's recommendation, was taken for the pot, an undulate ray into double figures, whilst Clive managed a couple of thornback rays which , along with tope ,will add to his species list.
He has a target of fifty different species for this year and it wouldn't in any way surprise me if he achieves it such is the angling skill of the man.
A most enjoyable day ended with a run home in a rough sea  at displacement speeds (seems all too common of late)which the little Orkney and its skipper handled with ease, and a quick lesson in how to prepare a ray for the table was carried out back at the pontoons.

11/5/16 The Fog.

Thick fog shrouded our area of coastline today making navigation slightly more difficult than usual and highlighting the need , for me anyway, to ensure that I'm equipped with the necessary tools and skills should my electronics fail. A compass, chart and the ability to use them is all that's needed but a light hand on the throttle, and a keen eye are also essential and I try to ensure that I tick all the boxes where the above are concerned.
The only advantage of this sort of weather, if indeed you could call it that, is the ability to 'hide' and fish in peace so, I actually quite enjoy it when its like this in some perverse way.
Initially, I was to anchor up and bait fish for bream but, as I approached the chosen mark in the gloom I could see that it was quite heavily populated with boats so decided on a detour and, like you do, I got waylaid.
Investigating a nearby mark that was completely deserted, or so I thought as I could see no further that a couple of hundred metres at most, I started to see some tell tale signs of shoal fish on the finder screen so, set up a drift, and dropped the lures down.
The mark occasionally produces bass and they were there on the day in numbers, though not particularly big ones. However, I had continuous sport drifting with the flooding tide, which seems to work well here, and managed to keep up with the shoal on nearly every drift.
This was actually no mean feat as , with low visibility and no points of visual reference, steering became quite tricky and I was relying heavily on the compass to give direction on each return run as well as the plotter which, like most, has a slight time delay between where you are, and what shows on the screen.
I soon lost count of the bass caught but, as I say, most were of a modest size with perhaps a three pounder here and there.
As the flood tide lost its momentum the shoal became more difficult to locate and eventually bites ceased completely.
I had the tank on board so decided to try and gather some live baits over the slack water period but, could only manage  three pouting on tiny baited feathers before the tide began its ebb. A few drifts on the mark produced no takes and nothing showing on the 'screen' so I decided on a move back to my originally Intended mark which I guessed might now be empty.
On arriving it was indeed deserted allowing me to drift unhampered -most boats had opted sensibly, to head inshore in the deteriorating visibility which was by now down to just a few yards.
From the first drift it was clear that bass were present , and of a much better size as both lures and live bait were taken on nearly every run. I only managed to weigh one fish, at 8lb 2oz before my scales went 'kaput' but there were several reasonable fish in the catch with perhaps half a dozen over the 5lb mark. Some of the better ones are pictured above.
 All three live baits produced a fish each but a larger pouting was rejected a couple of times perhaps by smaller bass failing to hook up.
The fishing continued well but I decided to call a halt to proceedings a little earlier than necessary to get over the bar, in order to safely navigate home with time to spare.
Peering over the cuddy with the boat travelling at not much more than displacement speed was the order of the day  to maintain safe passage although, within a mile of the shore, the fog had lifted and I was able to open her up a bit and glide home with a big grin on my face.

10/5/16 Tinca Tinca

Spring tench fishing is a favourite pastime of mine and every year I try to make a few trips to some local gravel pits that have been kind to me in the past. The setting is very pleasant, the tench fight hard, and smaller 'silver' fish don't seem to be very common, so the target specie is generally allowed a chance to get in on the act.
Dave joined me for the 'sparrow's fart' early start and this proved to be a wise move as the fish were on the feed almost immediately in the low light conditions.
Being a bit of a traditionalist, Dave chose the 'float and pin' approach whilst I opted to be a 'hooligan' and fish two rods both on bolt rig feeders with bite alarms. Bait of choice was the humble maggot and past experience has shown that the red variety seems to be their liking.
Nine tench were landed equally shared among the rods, the biggest being a rather nice specimen of 6lb 9oz to one of the feeder rigs.
Light levels remained quite low , which is always preferable but, as lunch time approached, cloud cover reduced and the bites slowed down noticeably.
I did spy, what I thought, was the tail of a pike flash into my view as one of the tench was being played and this was confirmed later in the session when a rather nice pike well into double figures was clearly seen to glide through the swim . Perhaps an alternative future predator venue??
Rather annoyingly I should have landed three more tench during the session but I appeared to have either been bitten off, or my fluorocarbon hook length failed repeatedly. I'm unsure of which is the case. On testing the line it seemed to be sound but perhaps there may have been a pike in the area with a taste for maggots. Who knows.
A nice start to the tench campaign.

5-7/5/16 Old Mates

The fifth of the month saw me running the boat out to one of our better known reefs in search of a bream or two, which have just begun to show up in our area. Pickings were slow on my first stop on the edge of the rock but, after  relocating the boat to a mark on the main reef #13, a few more modest sized bream began to show.
I always leave the sounder running even when at anchor and , glancing at the screen my attention was caught by several marks moving under the boat. Bass was my first impression and without thinking I cast a soft plastic about and was proved to be absolutely correct. The shoal hung around for a while and I managed to take about a dozen or so fish of modest size before things quietened down and this is indeed the first time I've ever taken bass in this way at anchor.
Deciding that drift tactics would be more productive, I upped the 'pick' and set about catching a few more, along with the usual run of ballans and Pollack. However by that point, the easterly wind had set in enough to make things a little uncomfortable so the anchor went back down again, and a few more bream were captured before I decided I'd had enough of riding a 'bucking horse'.
 The 'fun run' home, at displacement speeds was interesting to say the least and on stepping on the pontoons that rare feeling of still being afloat was experienced which goes some way to show just how rough the sea had become out there.
A couple of days later and things had calmed down a little.
Russ is an old fishing mate of mine from many years back in a 'pre boat owning' era when our main target specie were thick lipped mullet. He was a bit of a dab hand at it, to be honest, and is one of the select few anglers ,that I know of, who captured a seven pound mullet from our local river way back in 2002-no mean feat indeed.
Unfortunately, Russ has somewhat lost his way in the intervening years almost entirely giving up fishing for more 'active' pursuits involving quite stressful physical activity such as competing in triathlons of all things.
Wisely of late, he's seen the error of his ways , has rekindled his interest in our great sport, and was keen to try a trip out with me in the boat.
Our first target ,at #9, was to do a bit of lure fishing but, on the run out and within minutes of leaving the harbour, we stumbled across a big pod of porpoise which was great introduction for Russ.
Wrasse , pollack and the odd bass, just the one in fact, showed up to the lures but, in general, the fishing was comparatively slow however, my crew mate didn't seem to mind in the least.
We also spent a bit of time at anchor on the bream which weren't around in any  numbers although ,we did manage to boat a few.
Despite the less than spectacular fishing, Russ seemed to enjoy the experience and will hopefully be a regular on 'Jupiter' on future trips.

29/4/16 The Carp Pond

A brief  trip with Dave to a small private pond in a local Sussex village. Float fished sweet corn was the chosen method and the lean, but powerful common carp it contained seemed to develop quite a taste for it.
After an all too a brief meeting with one that slipped the hook, I eventually managed to successfully land a couple of these Impressive looking fish ,and the fight was equally entertaining.
Although I'm by no means a fanatical carp angler I can appreciate the appeal of these fish and its my intention to hopefully, one day, catch one on a surface bait so watch this space.

Monday, 2 May 2016

15-22/4/16 Norway 2016

I had a couple of bass lure trips in the boat during early April and managed to find quite a few fish but, as is the norm at this time of year, they were very localised and have yet to spread out over the reef marks.
 When this does happen, I can usually find a nice quiet spot away from other boats to fish, and this is my preference. Its a vast open space out there at sea but , it can get quite crowded at times.
One place that rarely gets crowded is Norway, and this year saw a return trip to the fish camp at Skjervoy high up in the Arctic circle to sample some of the excellent cod fishing.
Joining me this time was marina buddy Brian and the fishing proved to be every bit as good, if not better than last year.
We managed to get out on five of the six days heading some 16 miles off shore to marks in sometimes 150m of water. The average stamp of cod this year was much higher and 'twenty pounders' were so common that often we didn't bother to weigh them before returning them to the sea.
Within a couple of days our fish boxes, which each held roughly 20kilos of cod fillets, brought back home in the aircraft hold were full, so we found ourselves returning virtually every cod we caught. Often we'd find huge shoals of small coalfish up to a quarter of a mile in length  populating the water from 15m below the surface to 10m from the sea bed. What lay beneath were some very dark backed and impressive looking cod which , if we could get our lures through the 'coalies' provided some excellent sport.
Speed jigs rigged with a single assist hook did the trick here and I recommend anyone who is intending to fish in Norway take some in their kit along with the usual collection of big shads.
Highlight of the trip for me however, was my first  halibut-a fish which gave me a tremendous battle on the relatively light gear and took the grey/white (coalfish imitation??) shad that proved so successful last year.
I hooked the 'but' just off the sea bed and the battle involved three very strong line stealing dives before eventually I managed to bring the fish to the surface.
I was intent on returning the fish so elected, with some difficulty, to manhandle her on board by securing a gloved grip on the trace (250lb mono) anda second hand hold, a gill plate. It wasn't easy but I managed to slide her over the gunwale and what an impressive looking creature she was.
 I'll never know what she weighed as I couldn't lift her clear of the deck but that's not important at all. I got the pics and managed to successfully get her back in the water unharmed before, with a highly impressive kick of her huge tail, she descended into the depths of the gin clear water. What a sight that was I can tell you.
I'm unsure whether I'll return again to Norway as there is so much other foreign fishing that I still have to sample on my list however, I'd urge any keen boat angler to give it a try as the fishing, and the environment can be simply stunning, and hiring a self drive boat makes the whole experience  extremely satisfying as you're doing all the work yourselves.
Norway can be very expensive ,especially food prices which are very high, but these trips are actually comparatively good value as the accommodation and boat hire is reasonably priced and flights from the U.K are hardly expensive.
 Obviously, as with boat fishing at home, you are very much at the mercy of the weather and, in this respect , I've been extremely lucky on both visits losing only one day's fishing in twelve.
If you'd like any further information on this trip please don't hesitate to contact me direct as I'll be only too pleased to help.

Brian with a monster

Coalfish shoal

'Fishcamp' Skjervoy


 Almost 60lb of prime cod.

1/4/16 Future Piking Prospects

I can't really complain about the quality of the pike fishing that I've experienced this past winter from my local river and much of the success can be put down to the relatively dry weather conditions . In fact, I cannot remember a season in recent years where there has been so little flooding , and when we've been able to pike fish so often.
However, for many years I've been seeking a good quality still water that is fairly local, and that I can turn to when the river becomes unfishable during the colder months.
Piking buddy Jon has been fishing a Southern still water for some years and I managed to secure an introduction to the fishery bailiff through him, and an invitation to fish the water for a day.
 I've never been 'Interviewed' to join a fishing syndicate before and was somewhat apprehensive at the proposition but, in the event, I needn't have been concerned as said bailiff proved to be a most congenial chap with whom I shared many common fishing interests and, following a brief discussion, I was offered the chance to apply for a place next season.
The fishing on the day proved to be quite slow but, we both managed a small pike each and it was very useful to gain an insight to the water and get a' heads up' on the geography and various 'likely' spots to try next season.
The lake can be fished from a boat and this is almost definitely going to be how I shall approach it as I'm happier when fishing afloat for various reasons. It's a long way off but I'm already getting excited about pike fishing again but, in the mean time, there are plenty of other species to target in both fresh, and salt water.