Boat Sport on Wild Frontier off Ilfracombe

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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.

(Above)Kevin Goodman with a fine spurdog

Conger and codling for Christmas Anglers

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Nathan Clements enjoyed success on a North Devon rock enjoying the fresh air instead of the crowds of Factory Friday. This conger scaled 23lb 13oz and is one of the biggest shore caught eel reported so far this autumn. The biggest eels of the winter often show after Christmas so lets hope there are a few more to come. So far this autumn there have been large numbers of small eels that are nuisance but are perhaps a good sign for the future?

(Below) Young Charlie Stanway will be hoping for some chips to go with this cod he caught at Ilfracombe whilst fishing with his Dad.

Prospects for the Festive period are excellant with South West Winds and mild conditions. Matt Jeffery tempted a tope of 25lb 4oz and I expect one or two more of these toothy critters to show over the christmas holiday period along with spurdog and huss.

(Below) Ian laird landed this spurdog on a recent trip and is hoping to hook a bigger one before the winter is over.

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.

Lower Slade Pike

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Richard Ball braved the weather at Lower Slade to do a bit of pike fishing and caught a stunning 12lb pike caught on frozen roach.

Anglers fishing for pike are reminded that they must use a wire trace and carry suitable long nosed forceps for un-hooking, an un-hooking mat and a 42″ landing net.

The Fascination of Ilfracombe Aquarium

As an angler I guess it is inevitable that I have always been fascinated by aquariums and can remember clearly the excitement of viewing fish at close quarters within seaside aquariums whilst on holiday in Cornwall. The aquariums at Looe and Fowey were always fixtures on our annual family holiday to Cornwall especially if the weather was a little inclement.

During the Combe Martin SAC Fun Fish in September the Ilfracombe Aquarium team got involved and an invite to visit the aquarium that is tucked away in a corner of the pier car park followed. Hard to believe that the aquarium has been running for over fifteen years and is expanding its range of exhibits each year.

Pauline and I were greeted by Senior Aquarist Steve Corcoran who immediately made us welcome and infected us with his enthusiasm for the venue. The aquarium displays an amazing array of over 75 species to be found in the waters of North Devon from rivers high on the moors to the sea off Ilfracombe.

The exhibits are carefully chosen with only fish that are suitable for a captive environment selected. The welfare of the fish is undoubtedly paramount with all the fish in good condition and the tanks exceptionally clean.The aquarium are working to assist CEFAS based in Lowestoft with species acquisition. Several dragonets have been donated this year for breeding trials. They, however do not regulate our zoo license as such.  A zoo license is issued through North Devon Council with  practices needing to comply with Secretary of State ‘Standards of Modern Zoo Practice’ 2012. DEFRA are the public body that regulates these standards. . Any fish that outgrow their tanks have to be transferred to other aquariums such as Plymouth. For this reason large fish such as conger are not kept as they can grow very quickly and become aggressive if not fed frequently.

The whole place had a sort of Tardis like feel with far more on display than the exterior appearance of the building suggests. The display boards on the walk around are filled with fascinating facts about the environment, history and the array of captive creatures. Partnership with environmental groups such as the Marine Conservation Society and Exmoor National park is clearly evident.

The large seawater tank held a splendid selection of good sized fish from local waters including thornback ray, small eyed ray, spotted ray, pollock, bass, tub gurnard, grey mullet and plaice.

Surprisingly though it was not the big fish that we found to be most captivating but the smaller fish such as the dragonets with their  stunning sapphire eyes and bristling demeanor. Pipefish, gobies, topknots, sole and sand smelt were amongst other fascinating fish on display.

Other fascinating creatures were the tiny cuttlefish that had an almost alien appearance as they hovered within the water coming alive when Steve added some particles of food to the tank. Watching the way fish feed is an interesting aspect of the aquarium that will I feel fire the imagination of any visiting angler. Ammo Frozen baits are amongst the suppliers of food to the aquarium who are keen only to use fish that are caught using sustainable methods.

I was delighted to discover that some of the pouting swimming in the tanks were provided by anglers taking part in one of our previous fun fishing events.

The complex has a pleasing top deck where a coffee and a snack can be enjoyed alfresco with a lower eating area if the weather is not kind.

The gift shop has an array of quirky and fishy goods to tempt members of the family. I would highly recommend a visit before the venue closes for the winter at the end of November.

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.

Spectacular Shark Fishing off North Devon

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Dan Hawkin’s has been taking anglers to fishing grounds far off the North Devon coast on his boat Reel Deal where they have made some spectacular catches of shark not seen off North Devon since the 1970’s. The party of anglers set a boat record of 28 blue shark up to 97lb on the first day. On the second day of their charter  Jason Heenan boated a superb blue shark of 133lb.

The anglers boated 38 shark over the two days with Ammo Baits Chum attracting the fish and Penn Rods and reels from High Street tackle taming the fish.

The fishing is strictly catch and release with circle hooks ensuring that the majority of shark are hooked in the jaws where hooks can be easily removed. Fortunately the days of slaughtering these beautiful fish has been consigned to the history books where such practices belong.

Dan has enjoyed considerable success over past couple of years with anglers boating huge porbeagle shark, a thresher shark and blue shark with catches unheard of in recent years. The success has come on the back of significant investment and effort with the will to travel long distances with no guarantee of success. The future is exciting and expect Dan’s diary to be filling already with booking for next year.


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Shane Tandy boated a fine blue shark of 114lb whilst fishing on board Reel Deal. This was one of thirteen shark caught during a trip to the offshore marks out of Ilfracombe.

Dan Hawkins wrote earlier “with the season coming to a close down Ilfracombe we have some last chance availability for the sharks then it’s back up channel for the cod book now to avoid disappointment I’ll be running local trips and trips right up to the English and welsh grounds”