Combe Martin Sea Angling Clubs Six Hour Rover saw ten members venture out onto North Devon’s coast line as a brisk west North West breeze blew up the Bristol Channel. Fishing has not been easy over recent weeks with the water clear after a period of calm weather. Dogfish and small conger have been abundant all along the coastline with just the occasional better fish showing. A short competition like this is useful in pulling together a group of anglers fishing an area of the coast and seeing what results.
Kevin Legge secured the top two places in the competition with fish that were only moderate specimens to Kevin who sets the bar high in his constant quest for specimen fish. A dogfish of 2lb 5oz and a bull huss of 7lb 1oz were enough to take the money. Ross Stanway caught a pleasing rockling of 1lb 31/2oz for third and Mark Tossell a good whiting of 151/2oz.
Combe Martin SAC member John Shapland is a very keen mullet angler and targets the species all year round. The mullet was once considered a fish of the summer months but recent years have seen the species caught in every month of the year. Johns latest catch is exceptional for January catching five over three pounds in two days fishing. The fish weighed 3lb 8oz, 3lb 8.5oz, 3lb 9oz, 3lb 10oz and 4lb 4oz.
(Below) Louis Rook joined John Shapland to land this fine thick lipped grey mullet of 3lb 12oz
Reports of catches from the open coast seem to have eased off since the dawn of the New Year which is no surprise for several reasons. The calm weather and high pressure has resulted in water clarity increasing this tends to ensure that fish move into deeper water. During rough weather many species move close inshore to feed upon food that is dislodged by the rough sea. Shoals of bait fish are also broken up during rough weather and the prey also become harder for predatory fish to see which may encourage these fish close inshore to search for alternative food. Remember fish are basically interested in two things; sex and food! The other factor is of course a reduction in angling effort as most have gone back to work after the Christmas break and those that do fish tend to be the dedicated few who do not always share their catches on social media.
I decided to head out onto a rock mark I have not fished for a few years determined to see what was about and to ensure I keep a bait in the water. I like to get out at least twice a week throughout the year. It was exceptionally calm when we arrived at the chosen venue and I could see that other angler’s lights were shining out from other rock marks in the area. As always I wondered how they were fairing and whether our choice of mark would reward us.
It’s always good to arrive at the water’s edge and make that first cast of a session. On this occasion I baited with a decent hookfull of freshly frozen herring caught during last week’s visit to Torquay. (See earlier feature http://www.northdevonanglingnews.co.uk/2019/01/06/squid-trip-brings-glittering-bonus/). Before I had the second rod baited the ratchet clicked and the rod tip rattled. Picking up the rod I leaned into what felt a weighty fish. To my dismay I immediately became snagged. Placing the rod in the rest I baited the second rod and put that out before once again trying to extract the fish from the snag. A steady direct pull resulted in a slow release of tension as the tackle pulled free. Lifting the rod I was pleased to feel a weight on the line. Moments later a conger and a large stem of kelp arrived at the surface. I scurried down to the water and grabbed the heavy wire trace lifting the eel of around 9lb onto the rocks. This is a big benefit of using a heavy trace as most fish can be dragged out without use of a gaff or net neither of which are ideal when dealing with conger.
I had expressed that the evening seemed perfect for catching a big eel with calm, mild conditions and a dark overcast sky. The conger were certainly on the feed as the next hour and a half up to high water saw us land around half a dozen more eels, no hoped for monsters but not the dreaded straps we have been catching recently. The session progressed as most do far quicker than one would like and with frequent bites and several lost sets of gear time to sit back and savour the evening was limited. So much so that we were both perspiring as a result of dressing for what we thought would be a cold night. A benefit of Reeds Chillcheater clothing I guess.
Shortly after high water the rod tip nodded decisively as something mouthed the bait out in the dark water. I pick up the rod and lifted to feel a pleasing resistance, another moderate sized eel was what I expected but to my delight a decent bull huss appeared in the clear water illuminated by the headlights beam. To be honest it looked bigger than it actually was as I called urgently for Rob to grab the landing net. To my relief the huss was soon safely within the net. It failed to make double figures but at 8lb 10oz was a pleasing result that proved very difficult to get a photo of as it twisted and turned in my hands.
With work the following day it was not going to be a late finish and at close to 11.00pm we packed away the gear and began the steep climb back to the van. As we packed away the gear I recalled dark nights beneath the trees when I had fished there as a teenager forty odd years ago. I am lucky that I still have the energy and drive to continue chasing the fish on winter nights. I commented to Rob that I often hear owls calling from the tree’s here and as the words drifted into the night the distinctive hoot of a tawny owl sounded as if answering with a hoot that he was indeed still there!
Combe Martin SAC member Mark Jones took a trip up Channel to beach this superb thornback ray of 14lb 8oz. The ray sets a new club shore record for CMSAC beating Kevin Legges thornback Ray of 13lb 12oz caught in 2006.
Calm conditions with high pressure dominating has resulted in open coast fishing slowing down with dogfish and small conger dominating catches. Flounder fishing in the estuary is starting to tail off as the flounder start to migrate out to sea to spawn. If the wind swings to the west and Atlantic weather pushes in sport on the open coast should pick up with spurdog, bull huss and conger moving inshore to feed on dislodged food.
During calm weather boat anglers can expect some hectic offshore sport as the spurdog packs hunt the mid channel waters.
TRIPLE HOOK CLUB
John Passmore won the Sportsmans Cup with a flounder scaling 125/8oz Ian Cairns was runner up with a flounder of 121/8oz.
Dennis Toleman caught a fine bass of 5lb 6oz from Fremington Quay but being a flounder only match it did not count.
Jack Sharrock won Appledore Shipbuilders January Rover with a cod of 7lb 43/8oz. The fish was tempted from the expanse of Chesil beach in Dorset and was not a North Devon fish. Cod are very scarce off the North Devon coast in recent seasons which is a mystery as twenty years ago they were prolific.
In second and third was Terry Dymiond with flounder scaling1lb 121/4oz and 1lb 115/8oz.
Seventeen anglers fished.
BIDEFORD ANGLING CLUB
1st Terry dymond flounder 1lb 12 1/2oz
2nd Terry dymond flounder 1lb 11 5/8oz
3rd Graham Snow flounder 1lb 8 1/4oz
4th Graham snow flounder 1lb 5 5/8oz
5th Paul Downing thornback 5lb 10oz
Next competition 19/20th Jan 24hour
Combe Martrin SAC member Ross Stanway sent me this report and pictures from his day aboard “Wild Frontier” off Ilfracombe. The anglers on board from all over Devon enjoyed success with conger, bull huss, spurdog, dogfish, whiting and smoothound. The boat new to Ilfracombe has plenty of deck space ensuring marks can be reached on all but the roughest of days. The best conger scaled 25lb, spurdog to 15lb and huss into double figures. Breakfast of bacon rolls helped sustain the anglers through the day afloat.
Its often good to cast a line from a different shore and this seemed extra relevant as 2019 gets underway bringing a renewed focus on club fishing events. There has been considerable interest among many sea anglers on fishing for squid using jigging tactics and myself and several members of Combe Martin SAC were keen to have a go. After a few discussions over a beer at the end of a 2018 club meeting a plan was put in place.
As is often the case when the day came several club members could not make it but five of us could and so on January 5th we set off on the journey to Torquay and Princess Pier. The location had been chosen after reading reports of squid being caught on a regular basis. The alternative venue was Weymouth which was a bit further but potentially more reliable. On this occasion being a our first squid foray we decided upon this closer to home venue as a training ground to gain experience.
We had also heard reports of a few mackerel being caught and this would be a welcome opportunity to stock up the bait freezer with both squid and mackerel. A visit to Ilfracombe’s High Street Tackle ensured that we had a few lures and Sabika feathers.
The trip down to Torquay proved uneventful and by 1.30pm the intrepid five were lined up on the front of Torquays Princess pier. The seaside town seemed quite vibrant and busy with plenty of tourists strolling along the prom on this cold calm winters day. Behind us in the inner harbour luxury boats rested on their moorings; a testament to the vast sums of money some people acquire. The seascape of the bay was a glassy calm across to Berry Head with the occasional fishing boat, pleasure boat and Jet ski disrupting the mirror like surface.
We had been advised that squid could be caught during daylight hours and as a result had arrived well before dark. This ensured we secured a good spot and gave more time to experiment. A clue to good spots to try for the squid were small stains of black where squid had been pulled ashore. we also chose a spot close to the lights that are known to attract baitfish and squid after darkness descends.
After a few casts with our squid jigs small fish could seen following and this prompted the switch to sets of small Sabika type feathers. Dan Welch was I think first to catch swinging a small mackerel ashore.
This was followed a short time later by a herring to Matt Jeffery a pleasing sight and Matt’s first of the species from the shore.
As the afternoon progressed we all started to enjoy success with herring with these shimmering silver fishes brought twisting and gyrating to hand to be stowed away as bait for predatory fish on the North Devon coast or to sit beneath a crimson topped float at some pike water inland.
(Above) Josh Jeffery enjoyed success with the herring shoals.
As the light fades the herring continue to smash into the strings of feathers and our bait bags are all well stacked with gleaming fishes. Its now time to focus fully on the main agenda squid!
The jigs are flicked and retrieved at various rates and varying between steady pulls and erratic twitches. As none of us have any prior experience we have to learn from scratch and it is this that is part of the fun. There is great excitement when we glimpse a squid chase young Josh’s lure until he runs out of water.
Encouraged we all focus on the squid mission with renewed belief and enthusiasm. It is Dan Welch who eventually brings success for team squid lifting a moderate sized squid to hand with its amazingly vibrant glowing colouration.
With mission squid partly accomplished parking tickets and fast food start to dominate the conversation and we decide to retire to KFC before heading back to North Devon with plenty of bait and some happy memories. An occasional trip to a seaside pier offers refreshingly easy fishing where friendly banter and fun takes priority. Catching mackerel in January seems a little unseasonal as the Christmas lights twinkle into memory. Mission squid was not exactly a great success but we did catch a squid. The pleasing bonus was string upon string of glittering herring.
The 2018/19 Flounder season is proving to be the best for many years with good numbers of good sized flounder caught. There is the chance of flounder for a couple more weeks and it could be wortbn trying the lower estuary as the fish drop back towards the sea. It is tp be hoped that next season will be an even better one with survivors of this year class returning even bigger next autumn. Flounder fishing on the estuary tends to be cyclical with peak seasons followed by poor seasons with smaller fish.
Richard Chapple and James Griggy enjoyed New Years Day morning down on Taw estuary catching six flounder the biggest flounder caught by Richard Chapple weighing in at 2lb 1 1/2oz (second 2 pound flounder of season for Richard Chapple)
Happy New Year to all readers of North Devon Angling News many thanks to all who have provided me with new reports and images throughout the year. I was going to do a full review of 2018 but then news came in and I thought its all there on the site to see anyway. Looking back it was a good year if you were a flexible angler targeting the vast range of species available. I reported on big shark off Ilfracombe, big nets of silver fish, fifty pound plus carp and humble flounder. I intend to carry on doing the same next year. The weather will of course play its part each season so lets hope we get a fair mix in 2019. No beasts and no droughts but if we do then just make the best of whats on offer. A special thanks to my sponsors below:-