Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary April 2015

It’s April and the codling are still around and recently I have been out at Seabrook and Sandgate in Kent catching codling and plaice from the same venue – A reminder of the past when this was commonplace.

Alan Yates with a late 3lb Codling

The return of the plaice in the English Channel and Irish Sea is undoubtedly due to reduced commercial quota limits which have restricted the trawlers and this has not only given the plaice a chance to spawn and increase, but other species as well have not been scraped and churned from the sea bed and thrown back dead. This must have had an impact on the codling and maybe even the rays as well which are also enjoying a comeback. Long may it go on, but the commercials are screaming for quota increases and when this happens it may well see the plaice vanish again. They are a very slow growing species not being able to spawn until three or four years old and that’s the main problem with their survival.

Alan with a lovely trio of Plaice

With summer coming lots of excitement for sea anglers with the arrival of the mackerel, smoothhounds and the bass which will all get anglers out for different reasons? Last year the mackerel season through the English Channel was poor and from other reports it was as bad elsewhere – Overfishing and the ability of the commercials to scoop up huge shoals of fish in one go has decimated stocks and a bad sign last year was that those that did show were tiny or huge – a sign of a species decline because it’s the middle size fish that do the spawning etc. The major mackerel venues will still produce fish and the main shoals move up into the North Sea from May onwards and in recent years this has meant they have bypassed the South as they move further North and this may have contributed to the shortage. The summer season being poor, but the fish return late in to autumn. The good news is that mackerel lures have become so deadly that the latest are really effective so don’t just stick to feathers and tinsel – look at the latest mini fishing lures, the Sabikis and Shrimpers which also catch herrings and launce as a bonus.

The smoothhounds too are subject to a longer summer migration route nowadays and it’s noticeable how they are moving further north each year, whilst the Solent was the hot spot for years the species now invade Lincolnshire and even further North and some of the southern venues are not as productive as they were. That is a key to catching big smoothhounds – fish where they are and not where they used to be!

Bass – well lots of anglers will be out with spinning gear and fishing the latest plastics for bass is all the rage and no wonder – It’s a clean and instant way to fish. No messing with smelly worms or bait, you can grab a rod and go fishing in an instant and wander where you like. No standing in the rain waiting for a bite for hours. OK lure fishing is not always successful and there are lots of skills and local knowledge attached to success but its fun fishing and getting a bass to take you lure is addictive. If you haven’t already try braid line on your spinning outfit, its lack of stretch increases the “feel” of the set up, anything touches the lure you will know about it and that goes for sea bed snags etc as well. Most anglers use a short mono leader to help cushion the abruptness of the braid with around 4 metres plenty. As for lures – there are so many new plastics available we are spoilt for choice although the sandeel shape does seem to rule with the lead head with a paddle tail design best for casting and lifelike action. Look out for the Black minnow and the Savage gear sandeels.

The latest from the European Union is a bass limit imposed on sea anglers of three fish a day – The Angling Trust are urging anglers to make this an election issue and to contact their local candidates for support for a balanced set of measures that include the commercial sector as well as anglers. These to include monthly vessel limits, a higher minimum legal size and seasonal closures. Personally, I have rarely landed three sizeable fish in a day and so am in total favour of the limit, although if I know the EU they will not restrict the commercial sector at all!

Before I go here is a picture of the biggest ling ever caught from the shore. It came from Bodo in Norway and was landed by Phil Hambrook of Ash in Kent. He has specialised in deep water fishing in Norway after losing a giant ling several years ago and his latest fish is a massive 59lb 8oz that took a mackerel head. It’s a potential World record for the species. Phil and his four pals have included halibut to over 50lb, cod to 25lb and haddock to over 11lb all from the shore.

Phil Hambrook 59lb 8oz new record ling, Norway

Tight lines, Alan Yates

Fishing for Plaice – Bling it up!


The first few weeks of spring usually brings a calm sea, clearing waters, sunshine and plaice – It’s time to break out the bling, decorate those hook snoods with beads, sequins and the like and go in search of plaice.

There is something about catching plaice that stirs the imagination, the rod tip nods and

on the strike and retrieve resistance builds, the tackle seems to hang deep and then the lead surfaces ahead of a big flattie using every ounce of its width and strength to stay on the sea bed. They say plaice don’t fight, but catch one on light sea fishing equipment from the pier, beach or boat and they will prove that opinion wrong!

Giant dustbin lid plaice are a catch of the past and the species has been a real victim of over commercial fishing. As a popular plate fish its numbers have been thoughtlessly plundered, whilst the average size has fallen to under 1lb nationally. But, the good news is that during the last few years, especially through the English Channel and to the west, a quota limit seems to have allowed plaice numbers to increase slightly and the fish have returned in numbers.

I would say where to fish for plaice is more important to the shore angler than how – Just a few regions consistently produce the species in numbers. The best plaice fishing venues are mostly through the English Channel and up the Irish Sea with a few specimens taken from the shore line through north of Cumbria. The species is also not so prolific in the North Sea although several piers and harbours in the North East do produce regular pockets.

The best plaice fishing venues

Beaches around the Channel Island
South Hams beach
Slapton and Beesands in Devon
Chesil beach in Dorset with Cogden and Abbotsbury consistent
Poole harbour produces the odd specimen, especially the dinghies

Eastney, Southsea and Lee on Solent in the Solent in Hampshire are the southern plaice hot spots and although the species thins out toward Sussex and Kent the odd specimen is always possible from venues at Pevensey Bay, Dover Breakwater and the Prince of Wales pier at Dover.

On the Irish Sea side of the UK plaice are few in the Bristol Channel, but the North Wales estuaries like the Dee at Mostyn and Greenfields and the Mersey at Birkenhead and further

to the North west venues around Fleetwood and Morecambe Bay in Lancs produce good catches, whilst north west plaice marks include the beaches between Workington and Maryport at Blackbank, Redbank and Grasslot, The Whitehaven piers and further north the western Scottish Lochs.

You will find plaice on a variety of sea beds from plain sand and mud to sand and shell grit banks to patches of sand between rocks, weed and pea mussel beds. The best terminal rig for catching them is dependent on the venue with the Wishbone rig an often quoted favourite. Its two hooked design includes bait clips to streamline bait and rig making it suitable for distance casting. This fits the requirements of most plaice venues where the fish are often found at range, but not always. Where long range is not required a one up, one down flapper rig with longish snoods is the alternative.

Plaice have a fairly large mouth, which when extended can engulf a large bait with a size 2 and size 1 long shank Aberdeen the perfect hook size and pattern. These smaller sizes

being easier to remove than the larger sizes should you want to return the fish.
A range of baits will tempt plaice with the marine worms favourite, although location does influence bait choice and although lugworm are considered best by many, in some estuaries where ragworm are more prolific they produce more fish. Other baits that catch plaice regularly include peeler crab, harbour ragworm (maddies) snake white ragworm and a strip of squid which works well from most boat locations.

Plaice are attracted by movement and colour and are renowned for responding to bling, any bling! But don’t forget the basics first – deadly are wriggly ragworm tails and the potent scent of worms and crab juice, make sure that a few worm tails are hanging (Dip the bait in the sea before casting and they will stay intact)

It is the standard when fishing for plaice to add beads, sequins, vanes, spoons, in fact anything that glitters, reflects flutters or moves etc to the hook snood and this without doubt does increase the chance of a plaice taking the bait. More or less anything goes.

Also when shore fishing for plaice it is possible to attract fish to the baits with movement and the attractors by simply lifting the rod tip occasionally, or releasing some line in the tide causes the baits and lures to flutter.

PLAICE FACT BOX

Latin Name: Pleuronectes platessa
Nickname: spottie or red spot.
Minimum legal size: 28cm
Specimen size: Average 2lb depending upon region.
British shore record: 8lb 6z 14drams caught at Southbourne beach, Bournemouth.

ID: Nobbly head. pronounced red, orange spots on top side, chevron white or clear on undersized smooth skin, rounded tail.

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Feb 2015

The early spring sunshine brings lots of false dawns at this time of year with spring seemingly about to arrive daily, especially around the south of the Country. But extremely low temperatures, snow melt water and icy winds lay in wait to dampen enthusiasm for many shore anglers and the only true pointer to springs arrival are the extending daylight hours.

Lots of anglers may believe that temperature plays the biggest part in the arrival of spring and the start of the improvements in fishing it brings, but it’s the daylight hours that count the most. Look on the land to see why – sunshine hours are steady, regularly improving each day, tangible proof to life that spring is coming. The light does raise ground temperature, but it’s the extending length of each day that sets nature on its spring journey! On the shore the sunny side of the groyne sees the sand and mud warm in readiness for the crabs to moult, whilst shallow water calms and clears allowing the water temperature to increase.

It’s a great time of year with the change in the fishing tangible – The pin whiting so long a winter pest, start to thin out with small pouting amongst the arrivals. They are good news for the match anglers and bass food so don’t knock them! In recent years it’s a time for the rays to show along with returning dogfish and whilst the rays may be spasmodic in terms of which species and location they, especially the thornback, have become a major spring species in many southern regions.

This year with the codling fairly prolific throughout the winter, they too will show in spring and this year should be the first proper spring codling run for several years. Too small to spawn they did not leave to the deeper water at the end of the winter and will linger and fatten around many coasts to take advantage of the peeling crabs before then heading to deep water and an all fish diet.

Other spring species include the plaice and they too have enjoyed an upsurge in local populations in some regions – said to be because of a plaice quota reduction on the commercials. Whatever, it’s nice to see these very slow growing flatties making a comeback, although in the early weeks of spring fresh from spawning they really are lean and not worth eating so return if you can.

Chris Clark of Lymington with a big undulate ray – was it late winter or early spring?

 

Time to get the sea fishing rods out if you haven’t already – I’m particularly looking forward to the extended evenings, which make a late afternoon beach or pier session once again worthwhile. Night fishing is great in the winter, but daylight fishing is so much more enjoyable!

The debate about bass preservation rumbles on with EU proposals to raise the bass minimum size limit much talked about and generally supported by anglers. Whatever the limit set it will never be high enough and the commercial lobby will oppose it and angling has a fight on its hand if the commercials think they can have a legal limit lower than anglers! Catch limits are also essential and I as I have said before would also like to see a bass upper size limit. The Angling Trust is doing its best to fight the sea angler’s corner and all power to them – you can help by joining them as a member, a small price to pay for a voice!

On the tackle front the year brings, amongst a few new developments in the TF Range, a new fixed spool reel. I had to switch to fixed spool reels because of a ruined shoulder caused by years of dogfish and weed hauling and must say lightening down in general has helped make much of my shore fishing prove far more fun when the going gets tough. I have tried braid line, 10lb mono, 4oz leads, lighter rigs, tapered leaders and all in all I must say it’s been an experience. But one major factor was that I got fussier about reel performance and found some of the cheaper fixed spool models less effective than I required. And so we are introducing a new lighter model with a more sophisticated line lay for increased performance both in terms of casting and feel – I hope you enjoy it.

New TF Gear Sea Fishing Reel

Finally, have you noticed that suddenly mono line quality has improved dramatically with the arrival of more lines containing co polymers? A tougher outer shell, higher knock resistance and overall improved strength are now something you can take for granted and I urge anglers who think they are using the best line to look again, because some of the new kids on the block are awesome and they are in the TF Gear catalogue!

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

 

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Late December 2014

The lengthy spell of mild weather continues into the New Year and lots of shore anglers are going to be shocked when the weather finally breaks and the heavy frosts and snow arrives. Then most of the quality fish move away to deep water. In recent years the autumn season seems to have extended, but when winter comes it does so with a vengeance and we are just about to experience that happening. Currently it’s remarkable that from many parts of the country the rays are still around. I fished a Christmas match at Dover recently and the Admiralty pier which has been closed for months was reopened especially for competitors in the Dover Sea Angling Christmas match – A great gesture by Dover Harbour Board and it suggests the pier will reopen to the public soon. However, that match produced a cracking thornback ray of 4.222kg for local angler, Mick Tapsell, it was amongst three which is rare for the pier, let alone in December. Then my old mate Chris Clark lands a giant undulate in Dorset whilst fishing for a Sea Angler magazine feature, whilst around the rest of the country the rays are still turning up. The question is, are they changing to an all round year fish rather than just a summer species? Of course the answer is that they have always been around all year, but numbers were so small we never noticed. Now the rays, like the dogfish, have expanded their population and are inshore in late winter and early spring with populations overlapping – they are indeed an all year around sea species. Look out for the Hants and Dorset small eyed rays turning up in March with the Kent thornbacks kicking off in February, that is if they don’t show all winter.

Currently the codling are inshore in good numbers and they should stay until spring because they cannot spawn yet. If they could they would be off into deep water in most regions around February to spawn. This first two months of the New Year are annually a time for tiddlers, because all the larger specimens depart our shores to spawn. This year the codling will stay and that will make shore fishing on lots of venues worthwhile in the New Year and right up to spring. That will make a great change from dabs and the dreaded rockling, which for some anglers are the only February species around. The question about the cod that remains is, will enough survive to return next winter when they will be five and six pounds? The last time we had such a flush of codling it was in the glory years of the sixties and the 2lb fish of 1963 fuelled the cod bonanza that the older generation remembers. Could this happen again? Well if the commercials allow it. With Brussels having just upped the cod quota for the North sea I fear for the worst – It would be a tragedy if come next October no cod turned up, but with the French trawlers combing the upper English Channel and the cheating commercial fishermen who get around the small mesh size by filling their trawls with string what chance have the fish got?

Neville Broad of Sheerness with a 5lb cod from Dungeness, that’s the size the current crop of codling should return at next winter.

And then there is the question of bass – has no one noticed how few really big bass have been caught this year? Those large spawning fish have almost been completely rounded up and although we have plenty of schoolies around at present – I dread that may end soon. A lot of Angling Trust and Government hot air about bass stocks currently, but nothing is actually being done to protect stocks.

Tactics for the coming weeks include a supply of stickie lugworms, despite the codling around and they like freshout lugworms best, I just love catching and eating dabs which are at their plumpest at this time of year. Slightly off worms are a bait the dabs are always on the lookout for, because the worms are continuously buried dead and unearthed decaying by the storms and the lesser waves. Dabs can have tunnel vision for stickie worms on some winter days.

Before I go some positive news and that is that I fished my new Force Eight Continental beach casters in the rocks recently – Pulley Pennells and all and I landed three codling and a bass using 30lb all through. Not big fish, but what a pleasure to be able to fish light and you can read all about it in a future issue of sea angler magazine.

Tight lines and a Happy New Year,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary December 2014

That disgruntled look on the tackle dealer’s face when you ask him if he has any bait tells a story – Those first heavy frosts, the torrential rain and the failing daylight all conspire to make lugworm more valuable than gold at this time of year, well the way prices are rocketing they soon will be. (£5 for ten blacks) What makes things worse is that anglers in generally are just not appreciative enough of how difficult it is to dig or pumps worms and I always suggest those that whinge and moan should try digging their own worms before they complain. Especially when it comes to the size of the worm – the diggers just cannot get giant worms all the time.

The simple fact is that the diggers and pumpers cannot get enough worms to make their efforts worthwhile, especially during the neap tides. That’s why the late summer and autumn army of part time, beer money diggers and pumpers vanish in December – they just cannot collect enough bait per tide. So it’s left to a hardy bunch of pros that dig in any weather to supply an increasing demands. This season is going to be exceptionally difficult because there is a glut of small codling that’s fuelling a bigger demand for lugworm.

So what is the solution? Well for the majority its, talk nicely to the tackle dealer time and hope he can help you out. Or more reliance of the stock of frozen worms and squid you have in the freezer. You don’t have any frozen bait? Well sorry but you should have seen the shortage coming and prepared. It’s a pain having the best tackle on the planet and no bait to fish with, but there IS always a way to raise something to put on your hook and a visit to the largest supermarket in your region that has a fish counter is called for. Desperate to fish, there are fresh farmed mussels which make a great bait tied on the hook with elastic cotton. The fresh frozen tropical prawns also catch, again tied on the hook with cotton. As for squid it’s usually available and if you can’t get Calamari try the larger English type squid or cuttlefish fresh or frozen. In some fishmongers and in some regions direct from the boats, etc you may find fresh herrings, sprats and even a mackerel so all is not lost.

If you can get lugworm, any kind of lugworm – then appreciate it. Although many don’t and be-moan the smaller common or blow lugworm. Indeed it seems everyone has become brain washed into thinking that only blacks or yellow tails catch cod and that the smaller, softer common lugworm is useless as bait – Well let me say that in the past small common lugworm have caught lots of cod and a hook full of small worms can out fish one giant worm because one it gets washed out all scent has gone. Six worms on a hook and the juices last longer. Any lugworm is better than no lugworm!


As for frozen black lugworm, it’s soft and sloppy and goes in the hook like mash potatoes, but add some light bait elastic and you can make it compact and attractive – so much so that lots of anglers fish all winter with little else.

The last bait source I can recommend is the low tide beach on some regions after a storm – Enough shell fish like cockle, razor fish, clams, queenies etc can be washed up in a single tide to keep you in bait all winter. You do have to watch the wind and tide for the perfect storm and be prepared to travel at an instant, but when it occurs you will have enough bait for the freezer for the rest of the winter. I prefer to freeze shellfish as it comes, again tying it on the hook with elastic cotton, but some recommended blanching shellfish which allows it to stay tougher when frozen.

My final piece of advice if its cod you are after which requires very little bait is to adopt a tactic that is becoming increasingly popular for cod around the UK and that’s live baiting. In lots of regions, especially in the South and East, there are so many small whiting present that any bait is devoured in minutes. So anglers have solved the problem of the pest whiting by fishing a double hook rig or a Pennell rig with a small worm or fish hook baited for the whiting so that when it gets hooked it stays on the rig until a bigger predator comes along and that gets hooked by the bigger hook. There are still bass around and with the bigger cod moving inshore this month it’s the method to use!

Whitby sea angler, Andrew Cass landed this beauty of 11 lb 12½ oz on a big cocktaill bait during a four hour night club match.

You can of course fish with bait if you have plenty, but make sure it’s a giant mouthful the whiting cannot devour with a cocktail of worm, crab, shellfish and squid in various large combinations!

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary October/November 2014


Alan Yates with a bag of dabs and a goer bass which won him a match from Seabrook’s Princes Parade with 8lb 4oz.

Midway through October and still the weather is mild and relatively settled. Yes we are enjoying an Indian summer and for the shore anglers it’s been a long spell of mixed fishing with the crossover of summer and winter species somewhat prolonged this autumn. Could be that this is now becoming the norm with the mixed fishing lasting later into the winter every year due to global warming. Whatever, it’s welcome for sure. Only this week I landed a mixed catch of dabs, bass, whiting, codling, smoothhound and dogfish from my local pier and beaches. Fishing the Prince of Wales pier inside Dover harbour the anglers next door landed two smoothhounds, mine was just a goer, but the specimens landed by Kyros Andrea from Tottenham both topped the 6lb mark, both took a large squid bait. Kyros is a retired trucker who regularly travels to Dover to fish and these were his best ever smoothhounds.


A surprise bass amongst the dabs at Seabrook whilst using braid line on the new Continental beach caster caused me some excitement and those codling seem to be showing all around the UK, even in the sunshine and so it’s going to be a shock for many anglers when the weather does eventually change to winter. Looking at the continuous south westerly storms that are buffeting us, that all too familiar winter weather blocking pattern will soon introduce more easterly and northerly winds and lower temperatures. Anglers in the North Sea will be rubbing their hands together at the prospect of onshore winds and more cod and here in the south when its calm nothing beats a calm sea and a frosty beach to spice up the night time whiting fishing..

However, now is a time to get serious with your beach fishing and going out prepared for the weather is an important factor. The waterproof thermal suit, a beach shelter or brolly, chest waders, warms socks, a hat and a flask are all essential to survival when the weather gets mean. Also important are the means to continue fishing when the wind blows and the sea swells. I pack a few heavier grip leads in the tackle box, those 7oz Breakaway green tops in fixed wire take some beating, although if it gets extreme then it’s a Gemini yellow head 7oz and nothing sticks like they do. Lots of anglers forget that the importance of a heavy lead apart from it anchoring to the sea bed is that it punches through the wind and tows baits far more efficiently than lighter leads. Which go off course in the wind. Bait clips also help you gain extra yards by tucking the bait snugly behind the lead for a more streamlined rig and bait. Now is the time to get your sea fishing tackle right. Make up a few rigs for extreme weather – the Pulley Pennell is a great choice for wind and sea both on rough and smooth ground and it’s the easiest clipped rig to make yourself. Lots of anglers also boost up their rig hook snood line to 25lb to combat conditions and that chance of a bigger cod.

One of the biggest winter mistakes made by many sea anglers, especially beginners is using too big a bait. OK big bait, big fish – that’s true, but a large bait is of no use if you cannot cast it far enough to reach the cod. So compromise between bait size, bait clips and lead size to maximise distance with your biggest bait and don’t fall into the giant bait fished in the gutter trap!!!!

The other common mistake of the novice is to recast a washed out bait. Replace your hook bait fresh every cast, fresh worms etc means a fresh scent so the bait scent trail the previous cast set up is continued. Casting timing is also important, keep an eye on how long your bait lasts against crab and small fish attacks and set you timing between casts around that.

The major problem once the cold weather arrives is obtaining bait. Lugworm prices go up every year as the worms become hard to come by. The problem is that the army of part time summer diggers cannot dig or pump enough worms to make it worth their while and generally it’s only the real professionals that dig all winter. Thus fewer worms and a bigger demand make bait scarce and easy for diggers and dealers to hike the price. One solution is to collect your own, although many will quickly find out that’s easier said than done. Winter lugworm digging in stair rod rain, frost and decreasing daylight is not easy. (Try it and you may not complain about the price or how small the worms are again!)
There are a few solutions and one is to freeze your lugworms. Black lugworms freeze best and when using them, tying them on with bait cotton makes keeps them more intact and on the hook because they do go soft. Frozen baits can be used to extend a limited supply of fresh although lots of anglers swear by frozen on their own. One tip – Treat frozen bait like you would your food, would you eat sausages that have been in the freezer for four years!

Sort your frozen bait in terms of how long it’s been frozen. Frozen lugworm from the spring tides can be used a week or month later when the tides are neap. That’s the way to manage frozen bait and not keep it for years!

Frozen squid is easy enough to buy earlier in the year in bulk, it’s cheaper. Break down into smaller amounts and store in the freezer and on some venues it’s all the bait you need, although for the current crop of codling fresh yellowtails or blacks take some beating.
You can obtain a supply by looking after your dealer – How many anglers buy their gear on the internet and then only visit the dealer when they are desperate for worms, small wonder he has none he will be looking after his regulars. So keep it in your mind to keep in with the local fishing tackle shop and with luck you will get a supply.

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary – End of September 2014

Here at home it’s nice to be getting back in the swing of fishing after my bout of Rheumatoid Arthritis that laid me low for several; months. I can’t say I am totally mobile yet, but having walked two miles to a rock venue whilst making the new TF Gear/Sea Angler DVD I think I am over the worst.

I have been out on the local beaches at Folkestone swinging the Continental beach caster around. It’s the best rod I have ever used and I am not saying that because it was my idea. I’m saying that because it has come along at a time when fishing lighter is more successful and fun from the shore and the boat. In terms of Continental rods the TF Gear Force 8 Continental rods will surprise a lot of anglers who have not given it a second thought. Indeed I was fishing the Thames at the weekend and a couple of nearby anglers actually approached besotted with the rod and its action. I am fishing the rods with 15/20lb braid line on fixed spool reels and the combination has brought me more bites in recent weeks and its certainly kept me busy – never had so many bites and I am seeing everything. Two things I have discovered when using braid. DONT be too keen to strike because if a fish breathes on the bait the tip moves and you can strike prematurely if you hang on every tip movement. The other thing is that just like in coarse fishing, the abruptness of braid can snap off light lines snoods, so not only DONT strike but don’t go too light. The strike is just a lift of the rod tip.

The next reality of sea anglers is the arrival of real winter – This autumn has been glorious so far with high air and water temperatures keeping the summer species around and allowing T shirt fishing. Things will change suddenly and you will need those thermals and a shelter very soon. It’s a great time of year on the beach with the holiday makers long gone with their yapping dogs and screaming kids. Just the howl of the wind and the hum of the creeping surf remain, bring on those frosty nights when the whiting are climbing the rod tip with all the bait needed a strip of frozen mackerel or squid.

Of course its cod that most sea anglers think about most of the time and a few lunkers will be landed around the UK. You could get lucky because it is a bit of a lottery to catch a giant. One thing some of the really big fish are loners inshore to die or simply lost, many are diseased specimens which have sores or internal problems with a giant head and a skinny body. All they same a giant cod, is a giant cod and we will all be jealous of the angler who catches it, but that does bring me to the important part. be careful what you eat, examine you cod and any other fish for that matter, carefully before you fry it up! Of course there will be some beautiful conditions monsters caught, especially from the boats – Beet gut, dustbin sized mouth and in pristine condition!!

One of the problems anglers face as the winter weather arrives is a shortage of worm baits. The annual hike in the price of lugworm is undoubtedly due to the professional bait digger’s greed, BUT if you want the worms you will have to pay up or dig/pump your own and that is not an easy proposition when the wind is force six and the horizontal stair rods of rain are blitzing your eyes. Frozen fingers, a runny nose and frost bitten toes could be the consequences of digging your own!

Some winter tips regarding bait – Buy your squid in seven pound boxes from the supermarket, slightly thaw it so you can split them up and then refreeze in threes or fours, that will save you a fortune because it’s what the tackle dealers do?

Black lugworm over from a trip, or when they are plentiful, are well worth freezing, wrap then in plastic and then paper and use bait cotton to secure them when you fish, they are especially effective for winter dabs and whiting. Some anglers even load their hooks with worms and then freeze. Take the baited hooks to the beach in a food flask.

Keep your fresh bait out of the wind, rain and snow – Sea or freshwater can ruin lugworms and ragworm in minutes, whilst frozen worms can end up as a useless mush to keep them in a cool bag inside your shelter.

I had a debate recently over the worth of re-sharpening hooks and it’s my opinion that it’s best to tie on a new one. Carp anglers are into the sharpening process big time, but I say that sharpening does more damage than good unless you really know what you are doing and with the right tools because it reduces the angle of the hook point and you cannot put back the steel you take off – so tie on a new one!

Finally, I have said it before but will say it again. Take extra care of yourself in the weeks to come, warm clothing a shelter, a flask, a warm lamp and plenty of sleep before you venture out all night or in a blizzard. All add to the comfort of winter angling, especially after dark and a comfortable angler is more alert and will be more successful than a shivering wreck – those early hours before dawn can be extremely cold when the body is tired.

Tight Lines

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Filming the TF Gear/Sea Angler DVD

 

Alan Yates with a Pollack from the TF Gear DVD

I‘m just back from making a DVD for TF Gear and Sea Angler magazine with Chris Ogborne, Paul Fenech, Tim Hughes and on the camera Lloyd Rogers. We spent three days in the Camel estuary in Cornwall both boat and shore fishing. Sad to say that the shore fishing was not that good, although having selected the tides for the boat, it’s a case of not having your fish and eating them. Anyway the boat more than made up for the lack of shore bites with 13 species taken on a range of lures and bait from Optimus Prime, skippered by Rodney Keatley out of Rock.

We used a mix of light sea fishing tackle including virtual LRF and a decent pollack on the Blue Strike spinning outfit and 15lb braid tested the clutch finger during a drift close to Puffin Island. I persevered with live lance and joey mackerel, whilst the others used a mix of lures and bait with some surprising results – look out for the DVD on the front cover of a future issue of SA because it has loads of boat and shore tips and is free!

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

 

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary August 2014

Don’t you just love this drop in temperature, strong wind and a rough sea – Lots of anglers are rubbing their hands together at the prospect of autumn arriving and an improvement in the shore sea angling. It is though a time to bite the bullet and get out there in some uncomfortable conditions with an onshore wind and sea invariably the time to fish most venues. After the calm sunshine of summer a blustery rain swept beach can be difficult, BUT like all things it eventually becomes the norm and we all get back into winter mode. Time for the heavier fishing gear and time to break out those 7oz fixed wire grip leads, bait clips and the more powerful beachcaster rods. There is no doubt that from September onwards shore fishing is not for whimps with wands, it’s a time when casting distance and keeping a lead where it lands is very important. But it’s also a time when lots of novices catch their biggest ever bass with the species picking up a short cast big bait and so let’s start there and look at the prospects for a giant bass.

Big bass are usually solitary because the rest of their shoal have been caught or died. But there are enough still around to ensure that some lucky angler will nail a lunker in the next month or two. Luck plays a big part because bass are caught really close to the sea edge and rarely at long range. So the early winter cod angler fishing a giant bait in the edge is the one with the best odds of catching a big bass and that’s the novice. Few experienced cod anglers will deliberately fish a big bait close in for cod and so the novice with his inadequate cast is the most likely to get that lunker bass. That is unless you deliberately target a big bass by fishing close in. AND the best way to do that is with a live bait. Pick a calm, dark night and a steep deep beach venue and hook on a small pout and fish it in the first twenty for the waters edge. Keep the noise and light flashing to a minimum and you may catch a big bass. Often at this time of year the bass arrive on a venue because anglers are returning small fish or gutting mackerel etc. This especially as dusk and darkness arrives.

A favourite way to target bass is to slide a short trace down the main line of a rod cast out with a lip or tail hooked pouting on a strong 3/0 so that it floats in the edge.

Lots of anglers will now be thinking about cod and this summer many regions have seen an improvement in codling stocks. The trouble is that this has happened before with lots of codling in August, but by October they have gone. Fish over the size limit are easy prey for the gill nets and trawlers and it’s these that decimate the codling shoals. The bigger cod are very thin on the ground and usually don’t show until November and December.

Another fact of autumn, its better described as the start of winter, is that waterproofs and shelters return to the sea fishing tackle essentials. Options include the full Hurricane shelter which is ideal for those contemplating a marathon beach session over the complete tide, or a brolly which is a more portable shelter and is especially suited to the mixed weather of this time of year. I prefer the umbrella for the beaches in early autumn, the cheaper Hardware umbrella is ideal, especially where lots of moving with the tide is required, take a luggage strap and strap it to your tackle box, even better to your seat harness. The cheaper green brolly is lighter and more compact and can be erected quickly. OK it’s not the full Monty of the shelter but it’s great for a short session or the occasional shower. Once the weather deteriorates, then I switch to the TF Gear Force 8 brolly which is a bespoke sea angling umbrella like no other. OK others also have wings to widen the protection area, but the Force 8 has a removable cover, tough non metal frame and pockets for the shingle etc to hold it down.

Waterproof wise I prefer the full jacket and bib and brace suit – it goes without saying that being able to take the jacket off helps control temperature when the sun comes out and that the full sallopettes trousers not only keep you warm but clean!

Make no mistake in a few weeks your will need that protective clothing and shelter – we have been spoilt for weather this summer and the winter could well bring some shocks!

Having recently switched to fixed spool reels and braid main line I have to say what a revelation that has been. Bites are bolder, fish pull more and my sea fishing is more enjoyable. For years I tried braid on a multiplier, but it just does not work, but micro braid on a fixed spool reel is another ball game and I recommend those of you out there thinking about a switch to braid, go ahead but only with a fixed spool reel.

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary June 2014

The arrival of the mackerel around much of the UK coastline this month kicks off one of sea angling’s busiest times of the year. Apart from the fact that the smoothhound, ray and bass shoals are extending and exploiting their range around the coastline, summer brings an influx of new anglers. The holiday anger after mackerel that crowd the piers and beaches during daylight to fish with with lures and feathers with which the mackerel can often be caught in numbers and fairly easily. On many venues numbers are swelled by ethnic anglers who have seized on this easy style of sea angling and like it or not they have regenerated many summer venue as well as brought business to fishing tackle shops and charters skippers in the region. Feathering for mackerel is not every sea angler’s favourite method, indeed many ardent bottom anglers frown on the tactic and that is mainly because of the behaviour it can promote on a crowded pair, apart from the dangers of being impaled on a lure hook that is! Associated with feathering is the frenzy of anglers who give little thought to the fish or other anglers – They catch as many fish as they can, many are often left to flap their life away and then discarded when they become ruined by the sunshine. Litter is left and most piers have the stench of urine whilst burnt seating, damage and mayhem have lead to many venues being closed or threatened with closure. It is the case that you just cannot leave Joe Public to police himself and anarchy is the eventual result of doing so, especially with mackerel anglers.

But let’s not dwell on the down side, mackerel fishing can be great fun and is enjoyed by thousands of sea anglers and for many is a first step into proper sea angling.

For those that just want to catch a few mackerel for the bait freezer or barbeque the answer is to stay away from the crowded and popular venues and to use a more sporting method than six feathered lures. OK, if you need a quick fix of mackerel six big fizzy lures with a heavy lead (5oz min) will usually get a result. But a single silver sprat spinner fished at dusk will produce more sport.

Then there are the other methods to fish for mackerel and by far the best is with a float and a sliver of mackerel or garfish as bait. Cast and retrieve that slowly on a lighter spinning type rod for maximum fun.

Another tactic is to use a sliding float rig and this is a short float rig made up to an American snap link which is simply clipped on the main line of the rod already cast out and then slide down the line to the surface. The method allows the angler to fish a bait on the sea bed and a bait for mackerel or garfish etc on the surface.

Summer brings another problem for sea anglers and one is keeping both your bait and catch fresh. TF Gear have solved the problem with a couple of custom made cool bags and I am especially pleased to see the new cool bag. It is made to fit snuggly on top of the standard Beta angling seat box and big enough to contain a standard size seed tray or cat litter type tray to hold the bait. It can then be clipped to the top of your seat box. Perfect for the worms going fishing and the catch coming home and especially relevant at this time of year when the mackerel are around and you can catch and keep them fresh until they arrive home for the bait freezer.

The second new item is a sand eel bag complete with liquid freezer sachet and compartments made to fit the standard packets of sandeel. Keeping your sand eels frozen is vital to their success and you can remove them one at a time or baiting up without thawing the lot.

It’s nice to be able to report that I am back fishing with a few more trips to the pier under my belt since my rheumatic problem. The down side is that I do have limited use of my shoulder and have had to switch to a fixed spool reel and long Continental rod – The new Force 8 in the TF Gear range at 15ft is ultra light and ideal. But I am never going to threaten 150metres plus and have had to accept the reduction in distance – Like so many other anglers older, disabled or simply limited in power. Not all doom and gloom though because the lighter sea fishing tackle and mindset has fuelled some fun fishing with size 4 hooks and 8lb line a whole new ball game – I am learning how to fish again and so far the results are encouraging.

I am holding an LRF Championships (Light rock fishing) at Samphire Hoe, near Dover on the 10th August. It’s an experimental competition. You can fish with any form of LRF gear. Basically a short spinning style rod, single hook bait/lure. It’s all catch and release with fish photographed on the smart phone on the days fish measure. Fishing in 10am until 4pm, all are welcome and it’s a complete rover anywhere around the Hoe. Prizes for species pts, biggest and best average fish. Alan Yates 01303 250017