Sea Fishing Articles: Tips and Advice

photo
Shark ready for tagging and releasing
- Combe Martin Sea Angling

The following articles, written specifically for Get Hooked, will help you get the most out of your fishing in our area.
There is advice on tackle, bait and where to fish. Some are specific to particular areas, others more general. Even seasoned local anglers are sure to find some useful information among them.

RNLI Safety advice for Boat Anglers at sea

Submitted by admin on December 10, 2008 - 3:18pm

Tony Clare is RNLI Sea Safety Manager, North Division

As one of the fastest growing family sports in the UK, Boat Angling presents a fun way for the family to get afloat while enjoying fishing from the boat off our Coastal Waters. Although the boat itself is the vehicle to get to the fishing grounds where the hobby takes place, the sea has a history of being un-predictable and dangerous so it is essential that basic safety considerations are adhered to in order that the trip is enjoyable rather than possibly fatal.

The RNLI run a Free Advice scheme for leisure boat users called SEA Check and is designed to give expert advice on the sort of safety equipment that small boats should carry as matter of course. This scheme has been incorporated into the Safety Policy of many Boat Angling Clubs in the North West of England and is now the benchmark for Club Members to aspire to.

However, in addition to the safety equipment all leisure boats should carry and know how to use. These 5 Safety Tips are;-

• Wear a lifejacket.
• Check your engine and fuel.
• Tell others where you are going.
• Carry some means of calling for help.
• Keep an eye on the weather and tides.

There are also certain specific safety factors that can apply to Boat Angling.
The benefits of joining a Club are immense from the wealth of experience available to help with launch and recovery and the buddy system when members new to the sport can launch and fish alongside more experienced anglers. This is great for safety reasons but also increases the enjoyment factor. Flotation suits are very popular now with boat anglers and have benefits of limited buoyancy and warmth. They will help support a person in the water but please remember, boats can sink or you may be thrown overboard unexpectedly, possibly un-conscious, and these suits are no substitute for a 150 Newton, self inflating, correctly fitting Lifejacket which has correctly adjusted crotch straps. While the suit will provide some buoyancy there is no guarantee of it keeping a person face up in the water which could subsequently lead to drowning. The lifejacket, when worn correctly, will do this and can be easily fitted with reflective tape, a whistle, knife and spray hood.

Many of the small boats used by anglers have no specific fairlead, roller or cleat on the bow to allow safe anchoring and, when accepting a tow from a mate or Lifeboat, this may involve having to rig a bridle round the hull which is not only time consuming but can be dangerous even in calm weather. The eye bolt under the bow, which is used for winching the boat onto the trailer, should never be used for anchoring and towing due to its inaccessibility. Also, due to the limited deck space on smaller boats, this is often seen as a substitute for a correctly fitted roller, fairlead and cleat which will keep the anchor or tow line centrally over the bow. Any other position can lead to danger of capsize and inability to release the rope in an emergency so, if you don't already have this equipment fitted to your boat, please consider doing so. In the event of being towed by Lifeboat a Crew Member may be put on board your boat to help secure the tow. Please let them get on with it as they are skilled boat handlers and know what they are doing.

While motoring out to sea or in an emergency situation, secure stowage of rods, boxes etc is vital. These items can cause injury if left lying loose on deck and can severely hamper rescue services. Rods present a particular hazard in an emergency situation, particularly when still rigged with hooks and weights, and should not be left in rod racks either astern or on the cabin but should be secured flat on the deck, out of the way and, if possible, dismantled. The least clutter there is, the lass hazard to all involved. All other kit should be secured away in lockers. Help us to help you!

These are a few of the safety tips specific to Boat Angling which can be further explained by having a Free RNLI SEA Check on your about at a time and place convenient to you. This service can be contacted by ringing the Free Phone number 0800 328 0600 or through our Website www.rnli.org.uk/seasafety

Tony Clare.
RNLI Sea Safety Manager, North Division.

Future Sea Fishing

Submitted by admin on December 10, 2008 - 3:18pm

It’s official - Recreational Sea Angling is a part of the marine fisheries sector!

In Get Hooked 2005, I covered some of the recommendations to Government from the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit outlined in a report called 'Net Benefits'. The Government have now responded to the recommendations with their publication of Securing the Benefits [visit: www.defra.gov.uk/fish/sea/pdf/securingbenefits.pdf ] and here is an extract:

The following aims and objectives have been adopted by the Fisheries Administrations in the UK:

Aim
A fishing sector that is sustainable and profitable and supports strong local communities, managed effectively as an integral part of coherent policies for the marine environment.
(The 'fishing sector' in this instance means all aspects of catching, processing, retail and associated industries that rely on wild-fish catch, including shellfish. This includes the recreational sector.)

And within the list of objectives are:

Objectives
To secure the management of fish stocks as an important renewable resource, harvested to optimise long term economic returns
To help achieve these objectives we will:
Regulate fisheries effectively with the full involvement of stakeholders
Develop policy based on the best available biological, economic and socio-economic evidence

It is too early yet to gauge how the inclusion of Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) will translate into actual management measures to specifically meet the requirements of sport fishing but if future policies are to adequately reflect RSA needs, RSA will have to take responsibility for engaging with DEFRA in a far more meaningful way than it has done historically. It is critically important for all players in the RSA sector (anglers, tackle shops, tackle manufacturers, bait suppliers, boat builders, chandlery suppliers, marina operators, guides, charter boat operators, angling media etc.) to collectively resource such representation to represent anglers from across all regions of the country.

As I write this piece for Get Hooked 2006, the first management proposal being considered as a result of RSA representation is hot news. The proposal to increase the size at which bass can be retained was made possible by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit report, 'Net Benefits that drew attention to the economic contribution of RSA. The Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS), supported by the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA) and the Sea Anglers Conservation Network (SACN) provided DEFRA with a package of evidence to support an increased minimum landing size for bass as one measure towards restoring the availability of older and larger bass. A decision from DEFRA will no doubt be made in the near future.

One worrying issue that the media coverage of the consultation revealed, was the apparent perception that inshore bass stocks have always consisted of small immature fish and that large adults have always been scarce. It is as though the deterioration of our fish stocks has been so long term that the current generation of anglers and fishermen have lost sight of just how good things use to be.

It is almost as though we have become 'conditioned' to perceiving the current level of inshore fish stocks is normal and acceptable. Catches of half a dozen plaice to over 2 lbs. from specific shore marks in the spring, turbot of 20 lbs+ from inshore boat marks, shore caught pollack to 12 lbs and shore catches of bass that frequently included 5, 6, 7 lb and bigger bass, all seem like 'fiction' to many of today's anglers. But I'm not that old! I was fortunate to witness far more abundant fish stocks and consequential sea angling quality in the 1970's.

There are a multitude of complex issues which require biological, economic and social expertise.
What type of issues do I mean?

How about No Take Zones? Imagine a pro

How about a Fisheries Management Plan for some of our larger estuaries such as the Taw/Torridge, Exe, Tamar or Fal & Helford. Would sea anglers want a voice?

What do anglers feel about the increased targeting of wrasse and flounder for pot bait? The number of pots being deployed continue to rise and traditional bait such as gurnards are becoming popular as food, fetching higher prices. Fishermen are looking elsewhere for pot bait and wrasse & flounder are taking the punishment.

Last year an East coast fish merchant announced plans to supply Asia with tope fins. Tope were destined to become the next candidate for serious commercial effort and many anglers will recall what happened to spurdog stocks when they became seriously targeted in the early 1980s. Fortunately, similar plans for tope have been shelved for the moment.

Access to piers and other popular angling venues continue to be threatened. Bait digging issues are never far away. How are small boat owners catered for with launching facilities and parking for trailers and tow vehicles in the South West?

These issues and many others related to the decline and restoration of fish stocks, as well as more general concerns about our coastal environment are frequently the subject of conferences and work shops between many stakeholders including: non governmental organisations, statutory agencies, fisheries managers, politicians, scientists etc... This dialogue informs society's attitudes which guides the decision making process. If recreational sea anglers want to exert their influence, we need to be present at the table, and there are a lot of tables! Sea angling will need high quality and effective representation capable of participating and here is the crunch. Full time professional representation will require money.

In many parts of the globe, sea anglers have got their act together, collectively providing sufficient resources in order to employ professional full time representation. And there are many success stories to show that it works:

• The prohibition of all entanglement netting in Florida's State waters did not just happen. It was the outcome of professional sea angling representation, educating the decision process and all those who participate in it about the socio-economic value of RSA.
• The management of Barramundi in Northern Territories, Australia as primarily an angling resource.
• Restricting commercial fishing for striped bass in Massachusetts to hook & line only and getting all commercial fishing for the species bought to an end in the States of Connecticut and New Jersey.
• Getting Red Drum managed for sport fishing in Texas.

A cultural change is needed within the entire fisheries management regime. The wellbeing of our public fishery resources must take precedence over and above the short term concerns of exploiters. “Fish first –People second” became the catch phrase of Doug Kidd, Ex Fisheries Minister of New Zealand who reversed failing fisheries management between 1992 and 1998.

It is perhaps the 'public ownership' of our oceans and fish stocks that needs the most urgent recognition. Don't we have a responsibility to future generations to leave fish stocks as healthy as we found them? We are patently failing to do so at present.

One of the main regulatory regimes that RSA has to 'inform' is the Sea Fisheries Committees. Half of the committee are appointed by DEFRA and half are County Councilors. How well informed are the Councillors about the socio-economic benefits of sea angling? How many understand the linkage between tourism and a good angling experience? South West tourism recently announced that one of the growth areas of tourism is short breaks, linked to rural activities like angling.

Let's be clear, this debate is not about ending commercial fishing. Many very valuable fish species to the commercial sector are of no direct interest to RSA. Commercial fishing is part of the Cornish heritage and just as with RSA, also provides significant socio-economic benefits. It's about modifying the current management approach so that RSA is better understood and its potential recognised, so that management measures for important angling species take full account of RSA. Decision makers, including Councillors need to appreciate how angling is an activity similar to golf, sailing or diving, in the sense that it is a hobby/pastime activity on which participants are willing to spend significant amounts of their disposable income.

Almost a quarter of a million South West residents are sea anglers and they spend £110 million on their sport. Additional revenue stream of some £55 million comes from visiting anglers, so that the total spend is £165 million. Up to the present time the tourism potential has gone largely unrecognised. The social benefits are also enormous and in today's pressured society, many of us need a passion to become immersed in. For some it is rugby, cricket, sailing, gardening, bird watching, gig rowing and so on, BUT for 250,000 of us, it is sea angling!

In a study about commercial fishing in the South West, funded by Pesca and South West RDA, published in 2003, a list of the top twenty species by value to commercial fishing represented 90% of all landings put at £73 million. Of these twenty commercial species, that include scallops, cuttle, lobsters and monk etc., only eight are of interest to angling and their value as landings amounted to £15 million. This £15 million worth of fish are then transported, processed, marketed and the study suggests the value to the SW economy of fish landed into the SW is possibly three times the landing value, so total value would be £45 million.

So, we have a number of marine species, such as pollack, plaice, cod, bass, rays, etc. that are jointly targeted by commercial and recreational fishing for which the value to the SW economy is £45 million. Simultaneously, another user stakeholder activity – RSA – dependent on the same public resources, generating £165 million worth of value from them with far less negative impact upon those resources, is routinely overlooked. Is it any wonder that an increasing number of sea anglers and those whose businesses are supported by sea angling are less than happy with the situation?

Sea anglers are not suggesting these jointly targeted species are all no longer commercially targeted, all we ask is that the management objectives take full account of the specific requirements of RSA and that commercial exploitation be subject to appropriate restrictions so that the full potential of RSA can be realized in order to generate the optimal benefits to the SW economy.

Essentially, why shouldn't society use its natural renewable resources on a sustainable basis in order to provide the best socio-economic benefits?

Malcolm Gilbert

Safe Sea Fishing from the Shore

Submitted by admin on December 10, 2008 - 3:18pm

Essential advice for anglers

The diverse South West shore line has a wealth of opportunities to be enjoyed by the angler. Sadly the coastline has also been the location for several angling related tragedies over recent years. The sea can give great pleasure but can be cruel and unforgiving if not treated with due respect.

Plan

The vast majority of accidents that occur would have been avoided if those involved had been fully aware of the dangers they faced and taken avoiding action. An awareness of tidal state, weather conditions and local topography are essential if planning a trip to the coast.


If visiting an area for the first time try to obtain information from tourist information centres, local fishing tackle shops or local angling clubs. Purchase a tide-table that covers the region you intend to fish. Check the weather forecast and consider how this is likely to affect the venue you plan to visit. Open coast venues can be extremely dangerous when strong winds cause rough seas. Remember that low pressure systems far out in the Atlantic can also cause large ground swells to roll inshore. The North Cornish coast is particularly prone to these swells that have swept many an angler from a position high above the water.


Many rock marks used by anglers involve a steep descent down cliffs on tracks more suited to mountain goats. Remember that what is easily negotiated during dry weather becomes treacherous after rain when each rock feels like it has been coated with grease.


Always study a tide table and ensure that you can escape from the mark you intend to fish. Many visitors to the seashore are cut off by the rising tide each year. It is also important to be aware of the size of the tide as spring tides will come far higher up the shoreline than neap tides.


Be aware of the dangers posed by soft mud found in many estuaries that can trap the unwary or hamper retreat from a flooding tide. Remember that the Bristol Channel has one of the highest tidal rise and falls anywhere in the world which results in some awesome tidal flows.

Be Prepared

Having planned where to go taking into consideration tide, weather and geographical nature you will need to ensure you are dressed appropriately. When fishing from rocks stout footwear with a good grip is essential. When fishing adjacent to deep water a flotation suit is a wise investment which will improve your chances of survival if you do fall into the water and will also ensure you remain warm in even the coldest conditions.



  • Self inflating buoyancy aids are also a wise precaution especially when wading.
  • During hot weather drink plenty to avoid dehydration and during cold weather take a hot drink in a flask. If it is sunny apply sun cream to exposed skin and wear a hat.
  • A mobile phone is a useful tool which may enable you to summon help in an emergency. Try to avoid fishing alone. If you do, ensure that someone knows where you have gone and your expected time of return.
  • A small first aid kit packed into the rucksack can prove beneficial.
  • Ensure that you have planned how to land the fish you hook. A long handled gaff or landing net will enable fish to be successfully landed without going too near the water line. In some instances a drop net will be required.
  • A rope with a suitable floating ring that can be thrown to someone in the water is well worth carrying.

Be Aware

HBe constantly aware of the weather conditions and the state of the tide. Always keep a close eye on the sea, do not turn your back as that freak wave could surge in at any time.


The most vulnerable time for many anglers is when attempting to land a big fish. At this time it is easy to get too close to the waters edge with adrenalin surging through the veins risks are taken. Remember no fish however big is worth loss of life.

Whilst fishing be aware of the presence of others particularly when casting and ensure that you have a shock leader to avoid crack offs that can result in heavy leads travelling at speed in any direction.

Safety is a broad topic and I could broaden this article to cover other risks such as hooks, sharp knifes and dangerous fish but for now I will summarise:-



  • Be aware of the hazards and risks.
  • Plan your trip taking into account weather, tide and topography.
  • Be prepared with the right clothing and equipment.
  • Take precautions in case things go wrong.
  • Remember! At best an Accident will spoil a days fishing at worst your life!
  • Do not become one of next year's grim statistics.

Off the Westcountry Coast - getting started in sea fishing

Submitted by admin on December 10, 2008 - 3:18pm

I suppose the most attractive thing about starting sea fishing is that large parts of our stunning coastline are hugely accessible and of course free to dangle a line from. At certain times of the year we have large numbers of fish that are (fairly) easy to catch, coming as they do right in to the shoreline, and for those starting out, just how important is it to see a few fish? I bet all of us remember that first fish we ever caught.

If you want to get started in sea fishing or want to take a beginner with you, then it seems sensible to take early summer as a good starting time. As you gain experience then you may want to fish all year round for some great fish, but the warmer and calmer months are the time for those first steps, and happily this season coincides with quality fishing.

The humble but plentiful mackerel is a great fish to start off with, for they can be easy to catch, they often shoal around easily accessible places, and one does not need to spend lots of money on a bit of tackle and bait. I am not one who favours hurling out strings of feathers to catch masses of these fish, as to me it seems desperately unsubtle, wasteful and unsporting. Massive a mackerel may not be, but on balanced floatfishing or spinning gear they put up spectacular fights and look impossibly beautiful when fresh out of the sea. Just take a few to eat or to keep for bait and thus avoid removing piles of unwanted fish from the sea.

A simple carp, spinning or pier-type rod and fixed spool reel will the do the job perfectly, teemed up with a big sea float, ball-lead and 1/0 hook. The mackerel is not a fussy feeder and will feed on strips of sandeel, garfish, mackerel (yes!), squid and so on. The same tackle can be used to cast out 2-4oz spinners as well, and often you will pick up the bigger fish at greater depth.

The tail-walking garfish can also be caught using floatfishing methods, but for these weird looking fish, set the hook to lie no deeper than 10' below the surface. Try a little deeper for mackerel, although they can be anywhere. Just look around in the summer at your local piers, headlands and breakwaters and no doubt you will see plenty of people fishing, but of course do not go too close to the water. The major holiday resorts all seem to have places for easy summer fishing, so simply get down there and join the throng. First and last light though are often the best times.

Moving on from mackerel and garfish, I reckon the next step up is to start fishing for the bottom dwelling ballan wrasse that are usually fairly plentiful around much of our coastline. Again these fish can often be caught from the above kind of places, but bear in mind that the wrasse is a bottom feeder and tends to live where there are rocks and broken ground. Happily lots of headlands, piers and breakwaters are still worth fishing from, although the biggest wrasse tend to be caught from more out of the way places…..that though is for another time.

The same kind of tackle can be used for wrasse fishing, although a slightly more powerful rod and reel is helpful for the bigger ones. If you use a mainline of about 20lb breaking strain you should be fine, together with a hook of about 2/0 or 3/0. Wrasse are not that fussy and will accept both the lugworm and ragworm that are readily available from so many fishing tackle shops. Thread one of these on the hook and use a lead weight of perhaps 3-5oz to get your offering hard on the sea bed. Bites can often be very savage, and fight these fish hard to get them away from their rocky sanctuary. Deep-set floats also work in some places and it can be a great way of fishing for them; indeed, who doesn't like watching a bite on a float?

If you hook a wrasse of over 3lbs, you will be totally amazed at how a comparatively modest sized fish can fight so hard! Lay your hands on some peeler crab for bait and you are on the road to some great fishing, although at times this bait can be hard to come by; worms tend to sort out plenty of fish, and you never quite know just what you will catch. Please do handle all wrasse very gently and remove the hook as quickly as possible; they make terrible eating and thus every wrasse should be returned to the water to fight another day. Take a quick picture and admire this very pretty fish, but I implore you to put them back alive.

Henry Gilbey : www.henry-gilbey.co.uk

The Core Issues

Submitted by admin on December 10, 2008 - 3:18pm

by Malcolm Gilbert of Ammo Baits

Fisheries Liaison Representative for The National Federation of Sea Anglers & European Liaison Officer of The Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society.

In the last issue of "Get Hooked", I outlined the problems facing the recreational sport fishing industry because of the traditional mindset that fish stock resources are exclusively for commercial exploitation, and as such the entire management process both nationally and at European level has sought to manage from a commercial exploitation perspective only. The appalling degradation of the commonly owned fish stocks (described by the United Nations as one of 'humanities natural heritage') shows clearly and unequivocally how this approach has failed.

The resources themselves have been sacrificed for the short term benefit of the commercial fishing industry who are now suffering the consequences. Unfortunately, the recreational sector who also support thousands of livelihoods are also suffering the consequences. The resources should have been and must become the priority. This is the only way that the long term harvesting of resources will be achieved. I pointed out that in other parts of the globe the sport angling industry was perceived as being socially and economically important enough for some fish stock species to be managed either primarily or in some cases exclusively as 'sport fish'. During the spring of 1999, MAFF civil servants clearly stated that they had no responsibility for sport angling. Now, in late September 2000, MAFF is singing an entirely different tune and claims to have responsibility for recreational sea angling matters! Why the change of heart?

Clearly, political pressure from MPs, MEPs, the Recreational Angling Conference at Aston, are all beginning to focus the need for some serious and innovative alterations to traditional mindsets. However, being a sceptic I believe there is one single factor that is concentrating the minds of senior MAFF civil servants more than any other, and that is the assertion that the management of some fish stocks should be contributed to, by other government departments such as Tourism and Sport. The notion that specific fish stocks can generate significant socio-economic benefits as sport fish is overwhelmingly supported by some of MAFF's own research, and many examples around the globe. By far the biggest beneficiary to a healthy, robust sport angling industry is tourism, which is a seriously large industry with immense political clout. The suggestion that both the Minister for Tourism and the Minister for Sport should become more involved in the decision making process about what happens to fish stocks is, I believe, bringing about abject panic amongst senior MAFF civil servants, and in an attempt to protect their territory, their response to the growing suggestion that they will no longer have exclusive control over fish stocks, they have now accepted responsibility for sea angling matters.

The National Assembly for Wales commissioned Nautilus Consultants Limited to produce a study into inland and sea fisheries in Wales. Nautilus Consultants Limited are well respected and regularly used by the European Union for similar work. Their findings are wholly supportive of the arguments that the proponents of sport angling have been proffering for many years. Nautilus concluded, amongst other things, that the gross economic impact of salt water sport angling was

Harbour Fishing

Submitted by admin on December 10, 2008 - 3:18pm

Supplied by Mr. N Athay of Atlantic Tackle

The south-west of England has many fishing harbours and it is here that many anglers are to be found. All the harbours will contain fish at certain times. Some will be small fish; ideal for children or the beginner, whilst there may be better quality fish for the more serious angler.

Whatever sort of fisher-person you may be, the harbourside is always worth a try. Nearly all the harbours and their adjoining stone piers, offer free fishing, and most have easy access. Oars may even be driven onto some harbours, making them the ideal location for the disabled angler.

The method of fishing will vary from place to place, but for anyone starting out, it can be about the most inexpensive way to take up the sport. A basic kit: rod, reel, tackle and bait, can be purchased for less than i~20, and some local tackle shops even hire it out. Float fishing with light tackle is very popular. Cigar shaped polystyrene floats are easily seen above the waves and come in all sizes, so a small float can be used on a very light rod, whilst floats holding as much as three ounces of weight can be used for distance casting with heavier gear. Distance casting, however, is not always necessary to catch harbour fish. In fact the harbour wall itself is a big attractor to fish and many species like wrasse and pollack live amongst the weed and rocks at the bottom of the wall. A look at the harbour at low water is a good way to spot where the fish may lie at high tide. Look for weed covered rocks and deep gullies. And look for sand bars; it is often particularly good fishing on the edge of sand banks, where the sand meets the rocks.

Having selected your spot to fish, allow the float to drift over the area. In bright daylight, make sure your bait is near the bottom as few fish will venture into mid-water where they can be clearly seen. It is important to have a light hook trace on the bottom of your tackle to enable you to fish deep. That way, the only tackle lost to snags will be a hook; all the rest should come up in tact. If in doubt as to how to set up rigs, your local tackle dealer will advise.

The choice of baits will depend upon the fish that are around. Float fishing with a live worm over the harbour wall will attract small fish. Casting a sand-eel to the middle of the harbour may tempt mackerel and garfish.

The commonest fish seen in West Country harbours is the mullet. As the tide ebbs on a warm summer day, shoals of small mullet can be seen breaking the surface in only a few inches of water. Where small mullet lie, there are usually larger ones nearby. Spotting them is more difficult; catching them even more so. The smaller fish can give children hours of excitement as they chase them from one side of the harbour to the other. Contrarily, dedicated mullet anglers will concentrate on bringing the fish to them. A" rubby dubby" mixture of bread or bran with chopped mackerel and a sprinkling of pilchard oil is thrown into the area to be fished and the challenge is on to tempt one of the most frustrating and difficult of all fishes to catch. Favourite hook baits are bread, maggots, small rag worms and mackerel flesh. Whatever bait is used, most anglers would agree that light tackle is a must. A small float, 41b. line and a No. 8 hook is about right in most cases, and a landing net should be at the ready.

As the light fades and the daytime anglers return home, it is now time for the bigger fish to move in. Different methods will have to be adopted, using heavier line and tackle, along with larger rods and reels. Ledger fishing now comes into play and there are many different ways of setting up rigs to include two or three hooks to a trace. Such made up rigs may be purchased from any good fishing shop, and, of course, the equipment to do them yourself. Bigger baits are used to lure bigger fish, sometimes even whole mackerel, if the angler is feeling really optimistic!

The night time angler will be looking for (depending upon the time of year) bass, cod, conger and the larger pollack and coalfish. Many other fish will turn up as well; flatfish will frequent muddy harbours; silver eels are common in the Bristol Channel area and many harbours will hold certain fish that are not so common at other venues.

Harbour fishing can be one of the most enjoyable ways to spend leisure time, and it can be as rewarding for the specialist angler as it is for the novice in search of his or her first fish, but harbours and piers can be treacherous in bad weather. Many people, including anglers, have been swept to their death as waves crash over walls hurling them into the sea. Just remember that harbours are a peaceful haven for fish. Shoals of mackerel and huge conger eels are not there to be battered about by force ten storms, so if you are foolish enough to fish in such conditions, you are unlikely to catch anything, anyway. Wait for the storm to abate and enjoy your harbour fishing in safety.

Sea Fishing in the Westcountry

Submitted by admin on December 10, 2008 - 3:18pm

Russell Symons, MITD

The Southwest Peninsula's rugged coastline is washed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream for much of the year. This combined with the milder climate of this wonderful part of the country, provides a rich and varied habitat for the prolific number of species prized by the sporting Sea Angler.

Anglers visiting the region for their annual holidays or indeed on specific trips to fish for the regions specimen fish will find a superbly equipped Charter boat fleet with qualified and experienced Skippers ready to take them offshore to visit the deep water wrecks and reefs of the Western Approaches. The most popular and well known Charter boats are usually booked months in advance on prime days such as weekends, Bank holidays and the years best tides. Having said that, most boats have days midweek reserved for day trippers. Even then a phone call to book places prior to your visit is well advised. Some skippers also have information packs telling what sort of tackle to bring, the telephone numbers of tackle shops where bait and tackle can be bought or reserved, etc.

Shore anglers will often find local guesthouses, hotels and Information centres carrying up to the minute information about what is being caught and most important, where to go. Local Tackle shops are a mine of information as well as sources of bait and tackle. When booking your holiday get the telephone number of the local tackle shop, they can help with the booking of boat trips, reservation of bait (can be in short supply during the holiday season) as well as up to the minute information of the what, where and how of the local shore fishing scene.

Fishing offshore in one of the regions fast charter boats is often an experience which will draw the committed angler back time and again. The explosive power dive of a slab sided Pollack or Coalfish is an experience to test both angler and tackle. The sheer physical effort and split second reactions needed to bring a huge Conger Eel or Shark to the side of the boat is a truly momentous occasion which will live in memory for your lifetime. Fishing over the rocks and canyons of such legendary places as the Eddystone Reef, Hand Deeps and the Manacles can be a rewarding experience in itself with a rich variety of species providing excellent sport on lighter tackle.

Shore anglers can choose between fishing estuaries, sandy beaches and the rugged rocks of the Westcountry shoreline. Bass roam the surf during the early morning and late into the night, they are a species which prefer the quiet times of the day when the disturbance from boats and people are at their least. The colourful Wrasse is a species which many holidaymakers find relatively easy to catch. Worm baits are favourites for this species, but if you want to try for the specimen Wrasse, try the deep water off a headland and try small crab fished near the bottom on a ledger rig or float. Floatfished worm baits will also catch the inshore Pollack especially if cast well off the shore and gently retrieved over the kelp. Mackerel and the long nosed Garfish are well known for their ability to give a hard fight and the mackerel provides a tasty breakfast if you are self catering.

Spinning with a lure such as a Toby will catch Pollack, Mackerel, Garfish and if you are very lucky, a Bass. Beach fishing with the modern generation of powerful beachcasting rods which can cast a 5 ounce lead well over a hundred yards will put you in with a chance of contacting such species as the Small Eyed ray, but you will often have to cultivate one of the many local anglers to find the best places to fish.

Other species such as the Mullet and Plaice can also be caught from the shore, but again local knowledge can be essential. Regular visitors will soon learn the when, where and how to fish for such species, knowledge which will stand them in good stead for future visits to the region.

With one of the countries longest coastlines the counties of Devon and Cornwall abound with small coastal villages and towns. Take the time to explore the cliff walks between them, little frequented beaches and coves will often reveal themselves to those energetic enough to walk. Finding the fishing spots frequented by the local anglers makes the effort well worth while.

Fishing the Bristol Channel Coast

Submitted by admin on December 10, 2008 - 3:18pm

The Bristol Channel is a big river that has a reputation for superb shore cod fishing in its fast flowing, murky waters. But there are challenges, and even dangers, as well as big rewards for those who fish it.

Cod weighing more than 20lb are caught each season by dedicated anglers who are prepared to tackle some of the rough ground, riptides and tough terrain that lies between Minehead and the Severn Bridge. I suppose the most attractive thing about fishing the channel is the fact that you can catch just as many fish in daylight as you do at night, because of the chocolate coloured water. And because the tide moves so fast the fish have no option but to feed all the time to keep their energy levels up.

The cod season tends to start at the end of August and runs right through to the middle of May, with the best time being October to Christmas, then again in March and April, which is generally known as the spring run of fish that feed up before they move off into the Irish sea for the summer. The Bristol Channel is well known for its fierce tide flow so you need to use big baits and lots of it, with the most popular bait being blow lug and squid closely followed by ragworm and peeler crab which are better baits in the spring. The big specimen cod fall for whole squid and big chunks of mackerel throughout the season.

The best way to present these big baits are on strong pulley rigs made from 80lb line straight through with a pair of 4/0 or 5/0 hooks baited pennel style, this seems to be the most popular rig with channel cod hunters. The best tides for the cod are generally around 9mtr to 11mtr tides Weston-super-mare scale, which enables you to fish comfortably with a 5oz or 6oz breakout lead. A simple slosh 20 or Penn 525 size reel with a 20lb mainline and a leader will be ample to face the murky waters, attached to a 4oz to 8oz rod at roughly 12ft to 13ft long being ideal.

My ideal cod venues would be those at Sandpoint near Weston-super-Mare, fishing at low water. You must be very careful when fishing these low water marks because of sinking mud and slippery rocks covered in weed, so a mobile phone is a must if you get in any difficulties, and to let other people know where you're going and when you intend on returning home.

As well as cod in the winter months there are also big whiting, thornback rays, dover sole, dabs, flounder and a few conger eels to be taken, so it's nice to keep your options open if the cod are not biting. You cannot beat local knowledge, if you're stood on a beach and someone is pulling in more fish than you, have a chat with them, most anglers are pretty genuine and happy to help. It might even help you to land the cod of a lifetime!

I cannot stress how important it is to take all litter home with you and return as many fish as possible. The Bristol Channel minimum size to take a cod home is 15 inches. The future lays in every anglers' hands, if you look after the sea, the sea will look after you.

Cornish Cream - Surf fishing for Bass - Updated 2012

Submitted by admin on November 17, 2008 - 6:22pm

Bass! The very mention of the word in sea angling circles is enough to make many anglers sit up and take notice. Many regard the bass as the salmon of the sea and, as one our most attractive sea fish, it has an almost fanatical following among those who appreciate the sporting and culinary qualities of this fish. Invariably, shore fishing for bass in Cornwall takes place against a backdrop of spectacular coastal and cliff scenery on clean surf beaches warmed by the Gulf Stream. This provides a challenging and exciting backdrop from which to lure a wild and hard fighting fish. In the 1960's and 70's, bass were regarded as common and widespread on the Cornish surf beaches with fish caught from open beach venues averaging 4 lb. However, with the advent and unrestricted use of monofilament gill nets and a market value of up to £6 per lb, the species was steadily and remorsefully exploited wherever it existed. In particular, estuaries supporting large stocks of juvenile and adolescent fish, were targeted by commercial netsmen resulting in the eventual decline of the future breeding stock.

Recreational Sea Angling

Submitted by admin on November 17, 2008 - 4:27pm

As Recreational Sea Angling increases its footprint within the process of formulating marine fisheries policy, what are the risks?

In last year’s ‘Get Hooked’ guide, I reported how the Government now formally includes Recreational Sea Angling (RSA) as part of the marine fisheries sector. Such recognition, whilst essential if the many legitimate concerns of RSA are to stand any chance of being addressed, also carries risks. Historically ignored and overlooked by Government, the RSA voice has largely been ineffective in the arena of formulating fisheries policy and sea anglers have felt impotent, unable to do anything about the ongoing diminished quality of sea angling due to commercial over fishing. Such a long term feeling of impotence will take a while to shake off.

The plus side of remaining off the radar screen is that our activity has largely remained free of restrictions and responsibilities. There is a dilemma - sea anglers keep their heads down and confine their concerns to moaning over a beer at the bar amongst their own constituents - OR, put their heads above the parapet, organise effective lobbying of decision makers in order to try and bring an end to overfishing. The latter course of action raises the profile of RSA with the risk of attracting suggestions for restrictions.

I take the view that to maintain a low profile for fear of attracting attention whilst the quality of our activity deteriorates is simply not an option. RSA remains a very popular and rewarding activity, BUT it could be much, much better. I would like future sea anglers to experience the quality of sea angling that existed in the south west during the 1960s and early 1970s. If raising the profile of RSA, acquiring a voice in the process of formulating fisheries policies and management measures, means we are more likely to be targeted with restrictions, so be it. RSA must responsibly engage with the decision process to ensure that any suggested restrictions are not unjustly imposed on RSA. I believe the risks are worth taking. The alternative, doing nothing, risks the continuing decline in the quality of our sport.

Current ‘live’ issues for sea anglers include: bass minimum landing size, marine protected areas, sea angling licences, bass bag limits and a Government RSA Strategy.

Bass minimum landing size (mls)

Following DEFRA’s consultation, the Government announced an increase from April this year of the current national mls of 36 cm (approx 1lb-2oz) to 40 cm (approx 1 lb-8oz) for England. The Government also undertook to monitor the situation with a view to increasing the mls by 2010 to 45 cm (2lb-2oz).

Many commercial fishermen vehemently oppose the 40 cm mls, claiming there are insufficient numbers of bass over 40 cm from which to make their living. A few recreational anglers also object because they rarely catch bass over 40 cm. I take the view that if one and a half pound bass really are as scarce as some claim, then that is all the more reason for the increase! Such a small bass (if a female) will not have even matured and potentially will live for a further twenty years by which time it would weigh well into double figures.

Claims that foreign boats will simply hoover up all the bass between 36cm and 40 cm are simply unfounded. Firstly, the latest research shows that the main benefits of management aimed at protecting juvenile bass in our coastal waters accrue chiefly to fisheries operating within the UK 6 mile zone and no foreign vessels are allowed inside the 6 mile zone. In any case, catches of bass taken in off-shore fisheries consisted of negligible proportions of bass less than 40 cm. For many older sea anglers who recall being able to routinely catch 55 – 65 cm bass, 40 cm still seems very small but it is a step in the right direction.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

A hugely complex topic for which there are hundreds, if not thousands, of published papers from across the globe. Essentially, MPAs are areas where some degree of protection from fishing exist, and include measures such as protection from dredging, up to fully closed areas. RSA might gain through reduced competition for fishery resources, improved abundance of fish or improved average size of target species. On the other hand RSA could loose out through loss of access or restrictions on what fish can be retained. An example of an MPA restriction is the Cornwall Sea Fisheries Bylaw that specifies two areas (Manacles & Runnelstone) where no nets with a mesh size less than 250 mm may be deployed. This by-law effectively prevents the targeting of bass in the two areas with nets and was introduced to protect the interests of those who commercially caught bass with hook and line. Undoubtedly, these MPAs are beneficial to sea angling.

Sea Angling Licences

This is understandably one of the most emotive issues being commented on by sea anglers. The forthcoming Marine Bill will almost certainly include the creation of a legislative framework that would allow the Government to introduce a licence for sea anglers if it chose to. Most sea anglers feel aggrieved that this issue appears so high on DEFRA’s agenda so soon after recognition of RSA.

Licences for commercial fishing boats, not the fishermen, were handed out free of charge in the early 1990’s and anglers question the rationale for charging anglers whilst those who exploit the same common fishery resource for profit were given licences. Some proponents of a sea angling licence point out that freshwater anglers have to buy a licence, so why shouldn’t sea anglers? However, the situation in freshwater is very different. Firstly, the licence revenue is collected by the Environment Agency who ring fence funds for improvement of fresh water fisheries.

The Environment Agency is also required to promote and develop recreational angling. Furthermore, all commercial fishing managed by the Environment Agency such as for eels, elvers, salmon and sea trout, unlike marine commercial fishing, have to pay the Government substantial amounts for an annual licence.

Bag limits for bass anglers

Many anglers who fish for bass recreationally, return most of their catches whilst some retain enough for their personal consumption. Rod and line fishing is however a method used to take bass within both the licenced and unlicenced commercial bass fishery. The only licences ever made available were issued to motorised fishing vessels for which the owners were able to provide evidence of having sold fish captured from that vessel. So currently, bass caught from an unlicenced motor vessel can not legally be sold.

However, bass caught from a vessel that is not motorised or caught from the shore, can be legally sold even though the activities are not currently licenced (no licences having been made available for such activities). Those who operate licenced vessels have raised concerns about those who sell bass from unlicenced vessels (illegal) and the authorities are considering the imposition of bag limits for bass upon all unlicenced activities including those of genuinely recreational anglers who do not sell their fish.

The situation is more complex than it may appear at first because when licences were originally issued some 15 years ago, the authorities failed to consider all those who elected to fish commercially from either the shore or a boat without an engine. Arguably, their activities were every bit as valid as those of owners of boats with engines. The situation is even more bizarre because in respect of bass, the only catch restriction for licenced vessels is a maximum of 5 tonnes weekly which is irrelevant for 99.9% of boats who don’t catch that amount a year. RSA representatives are currently trying to establish whether the proponents of bag limits are motivated by a perceived need for ‘conservation’ or whether the bag limit proposal is simply to aid enforcement against those who catch and sell bass from unlicenced motorised boats.

Prior to the mid 1970s, bass were almost entirely an angling species and sea anglers accounted for 90+% of mortality. By the late 1980s anglers and commercial fishing shared the mortality approx 50-50. Latest research suggests that 66% of all fishing mortality derives from commercial fishing. The imposition of bag limits on anglers would likely drive up the proportion of commercial mortality even further, which ironically is totally contradictory to the recommendation of the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit’s report ‘Net Benefits’ which suggested bass may well provide a better return to the UK plc if re-designated wholly recreational.

In other parts of the globe where sea angling bag limits are just one measure amongst a full suite of measures applied to all extractive stakeholders in favour of protecting the abundance and structure of the stock, anglers are only too willing to fulfill their conservation role. For example, in Massachusetts, when fishery managers increased the striped bass bag limit from one to two fish, the main cries of opposition came from the recreational sea anglers.

Recreational Sea Angling Strategy

DEFRA are currently working on a draft Strategy for RSA. The work is being carried out by DEFRA’s Inshore Fisheries Group. This Group consists of a range of stakeholders including commercial fishing, recreational angling, non governmental environmental organizations and statutory organisations. Inevitably, the drafting process will not be easy. Inclusion of recreational sea angling into the process of formulating fishery policy and strategy is breaking new ground for all players and even where this process is further advanced in other parts of the world, the profound and often competing differences between recreational and commercial exploitation make for challenging dialogue.

Later this year, DEFRA’s Strategy for Recreational Sea Angling will be the subject of a full public consultation. DEFRA, together with the scientific institutions that historically support DEFRA, all have enormous experience of commercial fishing, but relatively little understanding of recreational sea angling. Recreational sea angling presents many new challenges and there is urgent need for a research programme to develop robust data for angling catches, viability of catch and release, angling behaviour, angling preferences etc. Ideally, such research should be carried out annually so that a time series data set becomes established to inform the decision process.

May I ask all anglers to keep up to date with developments by logging on to websites such as:
www.ukbass.com
www.sacn.org.uk/conservation-and-political-news
www.nfsa.org.uk

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