Tope and mackerel bring summer sport

After several weeks of strong North Easterly winds, I was lucky to get out on board John Barbeary’s Bluefin with fellow members of South Molton & District Angling Club. The water was crystal clear when I arrived in the harbour shortly before 8:00am. Large numbers of jellyfish were pulsing in the harbour. This was the second calmer day and with reports of mackerel close to the shore prospects were good. My friend Bruce Elston had fished on Predator 2 the previous day and was delighted to have boated his first tope.

We steamed out of the harbour the spectacular North Devon Coast draped in a misty morning haze. The forecast was for warm sunshine with hardly any wind and the chance of thunderstorms later in the day.

First stop was close inshore off the Tors point where we found large numbers of mackerel. It was very encouraging to drop down the feathers and haul up strings full of writhing mackerel. It has been several years since we have seen good numbers of mackerel showing like this and it is to be hoped that this bodes well for the summer ahead.

After twenty minutes we had more than enough mackerel for the day ahead. We set off to our next mark where Feathers and lures brought a few pollock and more mackerel including a jumbo mackerel of 1lb 4oz.

It was now time to drop anchor and try for tope, the main target species for the day.

I used a 10/0 Sakuma Manta, with a wire trace and lip hooked a whole mackerel its flanks lacerated to release scent into the water.

            After a few dogfish, huss and small conger I felt a strong pull and set the hook into what was undoubtedly a good fish. After a strong battle with a well bent rod, I was pleased to bring a tope of around 25lb to the waiting net.

The fish was released after a quick picture and a fresh bait sent down. Minutes later I enjoyed a repeat performance from a second tope that scaled 32lb.

            As I rebaited I noticed Kevin Harris doing battle with what was undoubtedly another tope. This proved to be an even better specimen that gave Kev several anxious moments before being safely netted. The fish was carefully weighed in the boats weigh sling and registered an impressive 42lb.

            As the tide eased several bull huss were brought on board along with the inevitable dogfish. After a lull in sport John decided it was time for a move further out. On the way to our next anchoring mark, we had a few drifts over reefs and added to the tally of pollock.

            The next mark had been producing a few tope before the winds had curtailed fishing. We were optimistic as we lowered fresh mackerel baits to the seabed. Bull huss to around 9lb provided a few bites and the inevitable dogfish found our baits all too quickly.

Jim Ricketts with a good huss
Chairman Ed Rands with a brace of dogfish!

            We fished over the high water period and made one more move in search of the tope that appeared to be absent from the deep water marks. John speculated that they were likely to be close inshore chasing the mackerel. After several weeks of strong winds, it could take time to find where the fish are located.

Rob Kingdon with rockling caught close inshore

            As the tide began to pick up it was again time to move and with the tide ebbing we headed close inshore. The cliffs towered from the water and I noted that there had been some significant landslips. Several club members took the opportunity to fillet out a few mackerel and pollock. The gulls soon homed in on the opportunity of food and gathered eagerly behind the boat. They were joined by a young gannet that dived frequently into the clear water feasting upon discarded remains.

            It was time to head back to Ilfracombe and savour the splendour of the wild and rugged coast of North Devon.

            We climbed from Bluefin and thanked John for a great day. The fish had proved hard to find but Johns extensive experience had given us the opportunity to boat several hard fighting tope. We also had several mackerel for the freezer and a few pollock fillets for tea.

High Street Tackle has a vast range of lures on display.