SEA ANGLERS ENJOY SPRING SPORT

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Spring is often a difficult time for sea angling but as the warm sun breaks through optimism rises and in these changing times its worthwhile getting out and seeing whats about. Toby Bassett fished Ilfracombe Pier and was rewarded with a plump codling. There are also a few whiting showing and some dabs from those sandy marks.

Grey mullet are also starting to show at their old haunts taunting angler’s as they boost their reputation as elusive wily grey ghosts of the coast. If you want to learn more about mullet I suggest you seek out the excellent book “Fishing For Ghosts” – Successful Mullet Angling by Mike Ladle and David Rigden.

Combe Martin SAC member Ali Laird headed up-Channel and was rewarded with a  brace of ray including a spotted ray of 3lb 3oz and stunning specimen small eyed ray of 11lb 2oz.

Line recycling

Line is probably the most harmful material anglers use and experienced anglers change their line on a regular basis as it is the vital link between them and the fish they hope to persuade to the waters edge. Discarded line has long been an issue that causes concern even when put out with the rubbish it can get onto landfill where it can entangle birdlife. I have in the past cut my line into short lengths or burnt it on the fire. Now there is a scheme to recycle old mono and braid and the good news is that North Devons tackle shops are participating in the scheme so please bag up your old line and take it to your local tackle shop and place in the designated receptacle. For more information on the scheme please click on the below link.

https://www.anglers-nlrs.co.uk

Wild Frontier gives stable deck in search of spurdog off North Devons dramatic coast

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I joined seven fellow members of Combe Martin Sea Angling Club aboard Ilfracombe Charter Boat Wild Frontier Two skippered by Mark Hutchings. With a brisk South West Wind forecast and a substantial swell surging onto the coast I was a little apprehensive regarding the day ahead as we climbed aboard. Any fears soon evaporated however as we steamed out of the harbour appreciating the stability of the broad decks of the catamaran that gave plenty of room for all anglers on board.

Heading up channel we all gazed at the towering cliffs East of Combe Martin that are I believe amongst the highest sea cliffs in the UK. It was apparent that the recent weather has impacted on these wild and rugged cliffs with plenty of scars indicating recent rockfalls.

Our first stop in the lee of these cliffs brought only limited action with just a few dogfish grabbing our baits. A strong wind made fishing difficult at times causing the boat to swing on its anchor as it swirled with gusts riffling the sea as they sped towards us. The sound of the mighty swell pounding the foot of the cliffs provided a dramatic soundtrack as we savoured a hot drink whilst watching nature acting out its daily drama.

The easing tide signalled time to head out deep to target the spurdog packs. We lowered our baits into deep-waters and soon started to get savage indications as hungry spurdog seized our offerings. The sun broke through, rods bent and life felt pretty good out there on the water.

Hectic sport continued until once again the increasing tide pull forced a move to more tranquil waters. Closer inshore sheltered once again by the towering cliffs we targeted ray on sandy banks. Club secretary Nick Phillips was first into action boating a pleasing small eyed ray that was followed a short while later with a tackle testing blonde ray of 14lb 2oz.

A few conger and the inevitable dogfish followed before we once again headed out to deeper water for a second time rounding off the day with more action landing spurdog to 14lb 8oz.

The next couple of months should see spurdog sport continue with every chance of some bigger specimens close to twenty pounds. Ilfracombe Charter Boats Wild Frontier 2 ( www.bristolchannelcharters.co.uk) and Bluefin will soon be joined  by Reel Deal moving down after the winter season out of Watchet.

Litter an ongoing issue

Last year I reported on a local angling clubs efforts to clean up their local sea angling venue following threats to close it off following unacceptable litter left by careless and uncaring anglers.

Litter a sad reflection!

Anglers embark on Beach Clean to show they care

Sadly a year later I still get reports of issues relating to angling litter and whilst anglers are not exclusive in leaving litter they should be appreciative of the environment that is surely an integral part of what angling is about? I recently received this sad image of a popular North Devon Rock Mark the angler who sent this is to be commended for picking up the rubbish and removing it from the venue. We must all make every effort reduce litter and leave nothing at the waters edge accept memories.

Line is one of the major angling related litter issues and a new scheme is being launched to encourage responsible disposal. I will be speaking with local tackle shops and perhaps clubs to see if we can get access to the scheme here in North Devon.

Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme see link below :-

https://www.anglers-nlrs.co.uk/?fbclid=IwAR1lhCN-VIzOq5YTBezeiWD5i_V7CCzMeJAoOrrddA6fx-cpFXfE46nsw20

Bideford Angling Club – Latest results

Bideford and District Angling Club 24 hour sea results

1st Kyle Blackmore spur 11lb 110%

2nd Rick eavis rockling 1lb 8 100%

3rd Rob Harris bull Huss 8lb 14 1/2 89.062%

I was privileged to attend Bideford Angling Clubs recent presentation night where it was good to catch up with members of Bideford Club. The club has a long history and continues to thrive in todays ever changing world and has even managed to attract some valuable young anglers. The youth of today are an essential ingredient for the future of angling clubs and angling as a pastime that can enrich a lifetime bringing valuable engagement with the environment.

Seven miles off Ilfracombe -spurdog

Its always far easier to get out of bed on a fishing morning than a work day morning especially on a February day with light Southerly winds forecast and a few sunny spells. Once again I was heading out of Ilfracombe aboard John Barbeary’s Bluefin this time  on a trip organised by Keith Armishaw of River Reads bookshop.  We had a mixed group of anglers on board most of whom I had met on previous occasions.

A large ground swell was running despite the light winds which was to bring on a touch of sea sickness for one or two anglers on board throughout the day. The steam out to the spurdog grounds around seven mile offshore was an enjoyable journey full of optimism for the day ahead and a chance to chat and catch up.

With the North Devon Coast line fading into the distance the engine note changed as we reached our destination.

This was deep water and with the tide still flooding close to 2lb of lead was required  to take the baits to the sea bed.

It wasn’t long before the rod tops started to rattle as spurdog attacked our baits giving a good account as they were persuaded to the boat.

The tally grew steadily as the day passed and as the tide eased the catch rate increased with several spurdog on the deck at times keeping John and his assistant busy with the T-bar.

Whilst spurdog dominated there was the occasional bull huss with their vivid leopard spotted flanks.

By the time John suggested a move inshore out of a raging tide for the last hour we had boated in excess of fifty spurdog to 13lb, a few bull huss and a couple of small conger.

http://www.bluefincharters.co.uk

Great off-shore sport on Bluefin

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Many thanks to Pete Gregory and Toby Bassett for allowing me to use their pictures and words following a successful trip on Bluefin out of Ilfracombe.

Fishing Ilfracombe aboard John Barbearys boat ” Bluefin ” and what a fish packed day it was . Lots of Dogfish as you would expect but in the morning when your hooking and landing more Bull Huss than dogs , you know its going to be a good day . Its always good to fish with Troy and Toby and as well as loads off fish between us , great laughs and banter all day long . We moved out to deep water to get amongst the Spurdogs and conger and ended up with forty to fifty spurs and a couple of half decent conger . Unfortunately with a spring tide and a little swell we had to head back in , but thanks john and the lads for a good day!

Big Rockling as Storm surges in

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Opportunities are often short lived and at times a short session is all thats required. I joined Rob Scoines for short after work session hoping to get a couple of hours fishing over high water before the forecast rain and wind moved in. Arriving an hour before the top of the tide there was a slow surging ground swell that is often the precursor to an approaching storm. We cast out our baits and proceeded to catch the inevitable dogfish. Rob dropped a squid and black lug bait close in and a rattle on the rod tip was rewarded with a fine rockling that pulled the scales to 1lb 10.5oz.

As the tide began to ebb the wind started to increase and the unnerving swell surged ever stronger. As the rain started to fall it was a unanimous decision to call it a night. On retrieving I felt a weight on the end of the line and was pleased to swing in a dogfish attached to a rig I had lost earlier in the evening. Heavy rain beat against the car window as we drove home pleased to have grabbed a couple of hours on the shoreline.

Deep Sea Angling – Bluefin off Ilfracombe

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Its early February and minus five as I drive to Ilfracombe ready to sail out in the cold light of dawn in search of spurdog in the depths of the Bristol Channel. I am joining fellow members of South Molton Angling Club who enjoy several boat trips each year from various North Devon ports.

As I parked the car the famous Verity was standing tall against the sunrise. I greeted fellow club members as they arrived; some strangers to me other familiar faces. The normal friendly banter started to flow from the start and continued as we climbed aboard John Barbeary’s Bluefin.

I always appreciate this part of the day as the boat steams out and we embark upon a new adventure full of promise. Today we are heading up channel and I relish viewing the familiar landmarks that I have grown up with. A landscape full of good memories mostly involving fishing. The ebbing tide and its swirling waters are illuminated as the sun rises above Combe Martin and the towering hangman hills cast their shadows across the water.

We are to fish close inshore to start the day intending to head out to deeper waters as the tide eases. The anchor bites in and we lower our baits into the greyish water allowing the weight and bait to hit the bottom with a pleasing bump. The wind has swung towards the South but the air is still chilled from an arctic blast that brought heavy snow to the hills that still decorates their crowns.

Holding the rods, the wind chills the fingers despite wearing gloves, it’s a relief when John passes round steaming hot teas and coffees. The grandeur of the cliffs and swirling sea gulls gliding on the thermals are a pleasing backdrop as we await life to surge through our lines from the mysterious world beneath.

After half an hour or so of limited sport its time to head out. I sit and chat with Kevin who has recently moved to Devon after working in Dubai for over thirty years. We chat about fishing, fish and life in different lands. We also chat about fishing books and different authors inspiring each other to go out and buy new books to add to our collections. This is one of the many joys of boat trips. Over the years I have enjoyed many  conversation’s absorbing glimpses and learning of far off lands through another’s eyes.

The time passes quickly as the shoreline becomes ever distant. We must be five miles or so out in the channel before the note of the throbbing engine changes and the anchor is sent down.

Hooks full of herring squid and mackerel are sent over the side and lowered to the sea bed far below. Once again, the leads bump bottom and we again anticipate that tug through the line. It’s not long before a savage tug signals interest in the bait. I wait until I feel that the fish has the bait within its jaws and then steadily wind the reel handle until I feel the weight of the fish. Slowly I persuade the fish to the boat and the waiting net. It’s a spurdog, the first of over thirty to succumb throughout the day. As the tide pull eases, we are able to reduce the weight and the battle between angler and fish is less hindered. The spurdog average around ten pounds and are undoubtedly present in good numbers far below hunting for prey fish.

A brisk west wind creates a lively sea; large ships pass by and I wonder where they are heading. We chat from time to time and go about the business of fishing each with our own thoughts or perhaps just savouring the moment. From time to time a hot drink is welcome to wash down the sandwiches and snacks.

As the tide turns the bite rate eases and the numbers of fish decline with a few conger and dogfish starting to find the baits. All too soon it takes 2lb of lead to hold bottom and John suggests we head back closer to land.

Bluefin rides the waves comfortably as we head towards ground to the West of Ilfracombe where we drop anchor off the rugged cliffs close to Lee bay. I am not so confident here but it’s not long before the fish start to come aboard. Kevin is thrilled to battle a conger of around 15lb to the boat. I hook a plump bull huss of 12lb that refuses to pose for the camera using every sinew of muscle to twist and turn frustrating my efforts to get a decent picture before returning the fish. More spurdog show, my best of the day a respectable 12lb 8oz. Eddie Rand’s locks into battle with something substantial and eventually persuades a 25lb eel to the boat.

Moments later I hook into a fish that strains the tackle the rod absorbing savage lunges as the fish is reluctantly allowed to gain a few yards of line. A few minutes pass and the fish I assume to be a conger is almost to the boat when the hook pulls free and I am left wondering? A fresh bait is sent down and soon there is a repeat performance. This time the battle goes my way and a big dark eel appears beside the boat. With a strong catfish hook, 175lb wire trace to the hook and 150lb mono to the top swivel I suggest John pull the eel through the door. We slip the hook out and drop the eel into a sack to get a weight. At 30lb it’s the fish of the day and a pleasing end to an excellent trip with good sport and great company. Roll on the next trip.