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

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.

A night on the rocks

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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.

RIGS FOR TOOTHY CRITTERS – Article by Kevin Legge

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!

Offshore sport with spurs and huss

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Cameron Atkinson, Thomas Atkinson, James Mayhew and David Atkinson Cracking enjoyed a splendid days boat fishing from a Private boat the boat  catching around 50 spurdog with the biggest weighing 15lb to Thomas.Camerons biggest went 14lb 12oz. They also had a few decent huss with the biggest weighing 13lb 8oz caught by  David Atkinson along with a few eels to around 20lb and a small eyed weighing 5lb 7oz, they also lost a few other decent fish either spitting the bait half way up or on the surface near the boat. The fish were tempted on a range of fish baits including, mackerel, squid and pouting.

Shore Fishing Opportunities for the festive angler

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The festive holiday will give many anglers the opportunity to visit the shoreline where there is a variety of species worth targeting. Bull huss,. spurdog and tope will be top of the wish list for many with codling also worth targeting epiecially up channel around Minehead and beyond. Harbours are well worth a try using light tackle tactics for grey mullet a species that are now present all year around.

(Above) Shuan Quartly landed this bull huss of 11lb 6oz on recent trip to a North Devon Rock Mark.

(Above) Mark Jones visited a beach in the Minehead area to land five codling to 4lb in a short session over low water.

(Above) John Shapland targetted grey mullet with success landing this sliver flanked specimen from a North Devon harbour.

(Above) James Grigg with an 11lb 1oz spurdog caught from a local rock mark on a whole whiting bait.

Bull Huss are about

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Combe Martin SAC member Ian laird enjoyed a hectic session on a local rock mark catching a brace of Huss numerous dogfish and a few small conger. The rough weather should encourage a few larger fish close inshore with the next set of bigger tides likely to bring in a few spurdog.

Paul enjoys dream fishing session.

Paul Lorrimore described his latest session as dream fishing! A huge swell made fishing difficult but undoubtedly brought the fish on the feed. Paul landed twenty conger to 12lb, seven bull huss the best two weighing 9lb 14oz and 12lb 10oz along with a blonde ray of 12lb 10oz. All were caught on frozen Ammo baits bought at High Street Tackle.

Shore sport update

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There are some good fish coming in along the North Devon coast at the moment with conger, bull huss, blonde ray and spurdog, It is important that those reading this get a true perspective as these fish generally require effort to catch. I obviously get to see lots of good fish to report on and I too sometimes get over optimistic when I set out onto the shoreline. Last night was a typical session when I joined fellow CMSAC member Rob Scoines at a local rock mark. We were both optimistic on arrival at our chosen mark but after close to five hours we had managed seven or eight small conger (commonly known as straps or bootlaces) and a solitary pollock. My own catch rate was undoubtedly impacted upon by my choice of 8/0 hooks and wire trace with several traces coming back as twisted tangles following the small eels attempts to eat the large baits.

There are often plenty of trips to the shoreline that bring little reward but its all part of the long term game. Put in the hours; sit back watch those rod tips for before long they will nod, the reel will scream and the rod will bend. Below are a few catches from this week.

(Above)Paul Lorrimore landed several eels to 18lb 8oz
Chay Boggis with a good huss

Dan Welch – blonde ray of around 9lb.