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!

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.

Shore caught bull and boat fishing opportunities off Ilfracombe

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Combe Martin SAC member Paul Lorrimore caught this bull huss of 9lb 7oz on his latest visit to the North Devon shoreline. Shore anglers are catching plenty of small conger and dogfish but those prepared to persist are eventually rewarded.

Boat anglers will be pleased to know that John Barbeary’s boat Bluefin is back in the water at Ilfracombe following a winter refit. The next two months should see some hectic sport with spurdog, conger and bull huss.

Bluefin puts anglers on the fish off Ilfracombe

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Toby Bassett enjoyed a beautiful day bobbing about on  John Barbeary’s Bluefin with plenty of fish tempted throughout the day afloat.

Several bass were tempted drifting over the reefs with the biggest around 5lb. Anchoring brought sport with several tope to 30lb along with huss and the inevitable dogfish. One angler hooked a large fish that came close to spooling him before dropping the bait. The guess was that it was shark?

Troy Laing with a fine tope

Toby Bassett with specimen bull huss
Toby Bassett with a bass
Toby and Troy with silver bass

bass and scad

As winter approaches anglers will be looking forward to targetting the spurdog, huss and conger that prowl the mid channel marks giving some exciting and frantic sport when the weather permits access.

 

Tope sport on Bluefin

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Paul Lorrimore and a party of anglers enjoyed a great days sport on Blue-Fin out of Ilfracombe.

Thanks to Paul for his account of the day.
Initially after seeing the water clarity (which was pretty good) we headed for the Horse-Shoe Rocks for a crack at some Bass action.
We chucked everything at it from Skerries Eels to Live Sand Eels – but only small 2lb to 3lb Bass were coming aboard.
A big change to the last visit from the skipper.
After a good go and more Pollack, small Bass and a chunky Pouting to Andy Smiff ,we anchored up and got the big gear down.

From the get go, the Tope came out to play.
Myself and Troy Laing boating fish of around 35-40lb.
Paul’s  tope total for the day was 5.
All on the boat landing good fish, and plenty of them -I think we counted 17.

Species today – Huss, Dogs, Pollack, Pouting, Conger, Smoothhound, Tope, Bass.

BIg tope on Bluefin

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(Above)Paul Bloomfield with 40lb tope

(Above) A fifty pound plus tope for first timer Colin.

Bluefin will be running fishing trips out of Ilfracombe throughout the winter months at present there are still a few tope being caught and bass from the reefs. With the new that anglers can now retain one bass per day trips to reefs will be popular with option to keep the occasional fish for the table.

Migrants are highlight of Spring day afloat

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Keith Armishaw from Angling Book Specialists River Reads booked a days fishing off Ilfracombe on Bluefin skippered by John Barbeary. and sent me a brief report on an interesting day.

Keith tells me that The fishing wasn’t great a is often the case in Spring when the winter spurdog shoals have migrated away and the summer species have not arrived in any numbers. As they moved from mark to mark dogfish snaffled the bait in plague proportions.

But as is often the case the day was saved when John managed to locate a should of pollock that put a bend in the rods along with a few bull huss.

Days afloat are about more than just fish and Keith relays an interesting aspect of the day in that several birds landed on the boat.
Keith guessed that these were on migration to South Wales. They had 4 warblers (one actually settled on Lee’s rod whilst he was holding it), a blackcap and another ( caught a fleeting glimpse of was a redstart I think). Keith commented that it all added to the joy of the day. Great to be outdoors.