Dan Spearman visited the South Wales Coastline ( Before the local lockdown) to target the fantastic ray fishing on offer. His journey was rewarded with this fine specimen blonde ray that pulled the scales to 17lb 5oz. The welsh coastline seems to be far more productive than the North Devon coast in recent seasons with ray, tope and smoothound fishing all making the headlines. Is this in part due to more anglers fishing or is it a better fishing area to due a healthier fishery environment?
Jamie Stewards efforts were rewarded when he landed this specimen shore caught tope of 47lb 13oz. Tope are one of the shore anglers greatest challenges and often require many hours of dedication to hook and land. The landing of such fish is often a team effort as in this case with Jamies good friend Chay Boggis lending a hand at the critical moment.
Last year Combe Martin SAC held an Open match on Woolacombe beach that was attended by over twenty anglers despite rough conditions prior to the competition. This year the event was a club only event due to the ongoing COVID -19 outbreak that has impacted upon many events this season. Special thanks go the Mortehoe Parish council, who kindly allowed the club to use Marine Drive for the event. It is hoped that next year will see a return to an Open format.
A cool North wind prevailed through much of the preceding week and was still blowing on the night pf the competition. An inspection of the beach earlier in the day had revealed that there was not much weed and that it would be fishable on the night when all the swimmers and surfers had headed for home.
Half a dozen club members assembled at Marine Drive before heading down to the shoreline to cast their baits into the surf. The sun was setting behind Lundy on the horizon and I relished the spectacle appreciating the places that fishing takes me too.
As darkness descended anticipation was high that a bass or good ray would succumb. The moon rose above the hillside painting the beach with moonlight after the sun had set.
At low water I noticed a change in the pattern of nodding rod tip and reeled in a tiny small eyed ray. The next cast brought a another slightly bigger ray.
The tide flood quickly in and it was soon time to pack up. My last cast brought another tiny ray that had attempted to take my large mackerel bait intended for bass.
The trudge back to the post comp meet up was hard going with waders and soft sand a taxing combination that made us all blow a little. The results were disappointing with six small ray, a single bass and one small smoothound.
1st – Dan Welch – bass 2lb 3oz
2nd Barry Scobling – small eyed ray 2lb 4oz
Note this was a catch and release match as all CMSAC matchs are.
Since visiting Looe as a child back in the early 1970’s I have had a fascination with shark angling and try to make at least one trip to Cornwall each season in search of blue shark. The top grounds for blue shark are undoubtedly off the West of Cornwall where a few skippers take anglers to fish the clear waters of the Atlantic off Lands End.
This year James and I met up with Bruce Elston, Jason Barrow and Pete Gregory for a trip on Lokie Adventures based in Penzance. Kieren Faisey the young skipper has a vast amount of knowledge having being ably tutored by Robin Chapman the skipper of the renowned Bite Adventures on which I and many other anglers have enjoyed many successful forays. So successful are these two skippers that it is often essential to book up over twelve months ahead to secure a booking.
As is so often the case the trip was hanging in the balance due to the weather forecast that was giving winds from the North West at varying strengths ranging from 10mph to 20mph. Past experience was that anything close to 20mph would result in a cancelled trip winds between 10mph and 15 mph would mean it was potentially doable.
There was then of course the ongoing threat of COVID-19 restrictions being imposed at any time.
Eventually two days before the trip the weather forecast indicated that we might just squeeze the trip in with a gale due to sweep in from the Atlantic the day after our trip.
James and I climbed aboard Lo Kie adventures at 07:30 with a brisk cool North West breeze sweeping across the harbour. After weeks of warm sunny weather an autumnal chill was certainly in the air as we greeted skipper Kieren and our fishing buddies.
First stop is generally to gather a bit of fresh bait within the bay. Down went our strings of feathers. Soon the pleasing rattle tattle could be felt as mackerel seized the lures and were reeled on board to be stored for bait later in the day. After twenty minutes we had a good bucket full of bait and began the long steam out to the sharking grounds. As expected the calm waters of the bay were no reflection on the sea state several miles offshore.
The boat cut through the choppy waters at a pace with the occasional larger swell sending spray high above the boat to plummet on the deck. Gannets and gulls glided above the sea with the gannets occasionally plummeting into the ocean to snuff out the life of some unsuspecting fish beneath the waves.
We chatted enthusiastically about life, fishing and the world with good humoured banter that would continue throughout the day.
It was as always a welcome moment when eventually the engines were cut the Cornish coast now barely visible in the far distance. Kieren was immediately at work, rubby dubby sacks over the side, a basket of mashed fish suspended in the water. Shark traces un-ravelled, floats secured, baits prepared and impaled upon barbless circle hooks. The baits were paid out and set at various depths the furthest from the boat being set deepest.
Then lots were drawn with me getting number one. And so, the drift began the boat rocking and rolling in the moderate swell created by the North West breeze. Baited feathers were sent to the ocean bed many fathoms below where whiting immediately filled each string to be winched aboard to be used as shark baits.
I always consider the anticipation to be a key element in shark fishing the tension growing as the minutes tick past. Time to take in the vast panorama of the ocean and sky. The early rain had blown over to be replaced by blue skies and white clouds.
After perhaps twenty minutes a reel screamed its warning as the first shark of the day hit a bait. It was great to get the scoreboard ticking with a blue of perhaps fifty pounds. And so the day proceeded with sharks coming steadily with several double hook ups causing mayhem as Kieren managed to miraculously weave his magic to avoid tangle lines.
It is a joy to do battle with the shark on the quality tackle provided on both Bite Adventures and Lo Kie charters. The ridiculously heavy 50lb class outfits issued by some shark skippers has been replaced by far lighter tackle that ensures the shark give a great account with plenty of screaming reels, bending rods and aching arms.
There is always the hope that someone will hook that extra large specimen that will be forever etched upon the mind. Several 200lb plus blues have been brought to the boats this year fish that would have been considered unlikely catches just a few years ago.
The day drifted by all too quickly with the wind steadily increasing and ominous stormy clouds building on the far horizon. Most sharks were between 50lb and 70lbs all fighting hard giving thrilling encounters. A sight that we will all remember was the arrival of a blue beside the boat nudging the dubby bag and taking chunks of whiting tossed to it. James even managed to get some amazing underwater footage on his Go Pro.
A squall passed by early afternoon with strong winds and rain lashing us as we battled with the shark. This was a taste of things to come later in the afternoon.
Three of the larger shark were brought onto the boat the biggest tamed by Jason at a calculated 109lb. Great care is taken to wet the deck before bringing the shark into the boat with the sharks carefully handled with Kieren giving strict instructions on how to hold the shark for that quick photo before its is slipped back into the depths.
Kieren was delighted to announce that we passed a milestone of 1200 sharks for the season with another month still remaining. Testament to Kieren’s dedication and hard work in putting anglers on the shark day after day.
It is interesting to look back to the so called golden era of shark angling back in the sixties and fifties when the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain sailed out of Looe. In 1955 the Looe fleet of shark boats recorded 1200 shark. These numbers grew each year as the appetite for shark fishing increased until in 1960 the total exceeded 6330. These numbers were for the entire fleet not individual boats. Sadly that generation of anglers failed to value the life of the shark with most fish despatched to be brought back to port where their carcasses were displayed as they were hauled onto the scales in-front of the ice cream licking tourists. Fortunately, all shark fishing is now catch and release with anglers now valuing the beauty of these fine fish briefly before release back into the aqua blue ocean.
It would seem that the revival of the blue shark off Cornwall is a good news story, that and the return of the tunny brings hope that our seas can prosper with good management. The fear is that overfishing will once again deplete the pilchards and mackerel that are at the base of the food chain.
Late afternoon saw storm clouds build and the wind increase. Jason battled gamely with a good shark and grimaced as his cap was torn from his head by the fierce wind. This was extreme fishing! Nobody objected when Kieren suggested we stop at five sharks each to head back to the sheltered waters of the Bay.
The ride back was exhilarating as the boat rode the swell. We glimpsed dolphins in the boats wake, watched gannets dive and as we approached calmer waters a huge tunny leapt from the water.
We paused to catch a few mackerel for the pike fishing later in the coming winter. Dark clouds formed a perfect backdrop as the sun illuminated the towering St Michaels Mount.
Bideford 24 hour results
1st Andrew Clements small-eyed Ray 9lb 6 3/4oz 104.687%
2nd Julien Stainer Dogfish 3lb 1 1/2oz 103.125%
3rd Andrew Clements smalleyed Ray 8lb 11 1/4oz 96.701%
Combe Martin SAC Early Autumn Rover
Kevin Legge won Combe Martin SAC early autumn river with a bull Huss scaling 7lb 9oz
September is one of my favourite months for fishing and grey mullet are high on the agenda though they can often live up to their difficult to tempt reputation. This has certainly been the case over the past week with three sessions bringing little success. The first session saw me spend three hours in a favoured spot at the right state of tide. Not a bite but the fish and chips were good as was the sunset.
The next trip saw me visit a local harbour that gave shelter from the strong North East Wind. It was one of the biggest tides of the year and I arrived a couple of hours before the top of the tide and started getting rattles on the rod tip straight away. I assumed the fish were mostly small mullet. As darkness fell I missed the bite of the night prompting a couple more last casts.
Two days later I was back at first light and enjoyed two hours of the flood tide with barely a rattle on the rod tip. The morning sun lit up the bay and boats bobbed upon moorings illuminated by the light. A North East wind is seldom good and was my excuse as passing walkers enquired if I had caught.
As the tide began to ebb the fish switched on and the tip began to rattle frantically as soon as the bait touched down. A tiny mullet was swung to hand could this be classed a saving a blank? Next cast the tip thumped round with a proper bite. A decent mullet of perhaps three pounds gave a spirited tussle before throwing the hook! “”******************
Small mullet swarmed in the shallow water but no more decent fish could be seen. I packed away twenty minutes later reflecting on the frustrations of wily mullet.
Bass are top of the agenda for many anglers at this time of year. Kody Chugg employed big mackerel to tempt several bass between 4lb and 6lb during recent sessions. Calm seas and easterly winds are not ideal for seeking bass but the clearly water may well make lure fishing very worthwhile. Get ready with the baits when the winds turns SW and embrace those darker evenings.