As those autumn nights start to extend its time to get out on the shore with a big bait for bass, huss, conger and maybe a tope. Daniel Welch and Ross Stanway enjoyed a session fishing lively water to land an 8lb huss and a bass of 4lb plus.
Combe Martin SAC member Kevin Legge enjoyed a weeks fishing from the shore in Norway where he and his companions from Veal’s Mail Order landed some notable specimens including cod to 38lb, halibut to 32lb and a fierce looking wolf-fish of 14lb 2oz to Kevin. To combat Norways hostile climate the team chose to wear clothing from North Devon based Reeds -Chillcheater.
(Above) Damien Close with a 32lb halibut
Twenty fours hours after arriving home from Norway Kevin was out on the local shoreline where he banked a stunning brace of bull huss scaling 13lb 9oz and 11lb 1oz.
Combe Martin SAC Member Mark Jones landed a stunning brace of specimen fish during his latest shore fishing session. Mark landed a personal best small eyed ray of 13lb 2oz and followed it with a huge bull huss scaling 13lb 6oz.
In addition to the big ray Mark also landed five smaller ray. He was joined by Craig McCloughlin of Braunton baits who landed a brace of small eyed ray to around 9lb and a spotted ray.
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.
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.
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.
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!