Skippered by the legendary John Barbeary

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Many thanks to Troy for allowing me to use his words and pictures.
Troy Laing and his Ilfracombe fishing buddies enjoyed a great day fishing on the Bluefin Charters . “Skippered by the legendary John Barbeary . He done well from start to finish as always. Putting us bang on the pollack over at lundy island..All of us fishing getting 1 each every drift on the silver dreams. Even pulling out 2 and 3 at a time.Then as we ran out of tide for the drifts. Steamed over to the tope grounds. With Paul Lorrimore pulling us out fresh joey mackrel on the sabiki lures..With the encouragement from the skipper john barbeary to put a live Joel on the hook. Advice was spot on. As i managed to pull out a 36lb tope. Only my second ever tope and a new personal best..snapped some quick photos. Then swiftly retured until the next time. Then Bill Cassar managed the next one of 20lb.
Also 2 beautiful cuckoo wrasse of amazing color. Pretty fish with rainbow colors..what a day. What more can i say. And thanks guys for the banter…until next time. Thanks guys..tight”

TEAM TUNA – In search of Tunny

            The North Devon Coast faded into the distance as the sun climbed above the familiar rugged coastline. A spectacular and dramatic seascape illuminated by golden light. The unfamiliar tackle strewn across the deck told of an exciting foray into a new world of big game angling out of Ilfracombe.

            I was fortunate to have secured a trip armed with my camera to join a party of anglers searching for tunny off the North Devon coast. If they succeeded this would be the first intentionally caught blue fin tuna off North Devon ( Unless you know different?)

            The party of anglers consisted of Stuart Cox, Nick Cox, Liam Waters and Jacques Roux. Skipper Dan Hawkins has worked hard to get this chance to target the tunny enrolling on the CHART22 program that aims to gather scientific data increasing knowledge of tunny migrations and populations across the world oceans. Dan was assisted by deck hand Jerry Day. We were also privileged to have CHART observer Ruth Hicks on board to verify correct procedures were adhered to at all times.

            More Information on CHART  ( CatcH And Release Tag) can be found via my previous articles. The CHART program is commissioned by ICCAT ( International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tuna )

            Reel Deal bounced across the waters of the Bristol Channel and we watched as the land’s contours disappeared into the morning haze. The occasional gannet could be seen soaring majestically above the calm sea. We passed the  granite outcrop of Lundy Island in the mouth of the Bristol Channel and watched as this too faded out of sight. After a couple of hours, we were around sixty miles West of Ilfracombe on the edge of the Celtic deeps. Far out here we were close to the Gulf Stream and the water temperature was recorded at 19.5 degrees.

            Pods of dolphins sidled up to the boat  appearing to play at the bow of the boat as we slowed in ready-ness. An excited cry of “Tuna !” erupted from Dan who was scanning the ocean from the cabin. Large splashes erupted a few hundred yards from the boat. Our target species were there.

            Dan and Jerry worked to set up the Tuna trolling rigs. Four rods were employed, two fished on outriggers, two fished directly behind the boat. Nine to fifteen teasers were attached to spreader bars, behind this was a stinger that hid a 10/0 Bristo Big Game Hook.

The set up mimicked a shoal of fish these were trolled behind the boat at various distances at a speed of 4 to 6 knots.

            The tuna would investigate and hopefully seize the stinger, the large Penn International loaded with 150lb b.s mono would then scream its warning and a lucky angler would be locked into battle. Battle harnesses were at the ready, lots drawn.

            The conditions were perfect and what breeze there was eased to nothing. The boat chugged slowly across a vast ocean the lures streaming out behind.  Expectation hung in the air as we chatted between ourselves. Ruth talked of the CHART program and the great sense of team working between the participants.

            The morning clouds parted and warm sunshine shone upon the boat as we searched. Dolphins cruised at the bow of the boat, twisting and turning as if frolicking with joy. There is something enchanting and mesmerising about dolphins. Graceful swimmers that seem to have a deep intelligence.

            The hours passed and a sense of anticipation hung in the air as we all wished for a screaming reel. I chatted with Jacques who had fished waters off his homeland in South Africa where he had enjoyed success with large game fish.

            We all chatted about life and fishing. Jerry kept us supplied with regular cups of tea and coffee. Once again I realized the bond that is so quickly formed between a group of anglers on a boat chasing fish. In this instance the team consisted of four anglers, a charter skipper, Deck hand, angling journalist and a Scientist that formed Team Tuna.

            We scanned the ocean around us as gannets, gulls and shearwaters glided above the waves. The tuna remained elusive as the hours ticked into afternoon. Dan’s enthusiasm never waned throughout the day there were just two obstacles to Dan’s mission. Time and money.

            Late in the afternoon we noted an increase in bird life and once again something broke the surface in a savage manner that could have been tuna. Expectation again lifted and we gazed at the lures bouncing through the waves in the wake of the boat. We all wished for that screaming reel.

            As the sun slowly began to lower in the sky it would soon be time to leave and head back to Ilfracombe. Dan reluctantly called time but insisted that two rods should be kept rigged and ready just in case we sighted tuna on the long return journey.


            The boat bounced across the calm waters and we watched more dolphins playing in the wake of the boat. Eventually Lundy came into view and close to the island we watched gannets diving into the water. Dan paused our journey and we watched for signs of tuna.

            We arrived at Ilfracombe as the light faded from the day. Dan will resume his tuna mission off Plymouth in October. Where tuna are being caught in encouraging numbers already.



Extreme Heat warning for large areas of the UK !  Not a problem 50 odd miles West of Ilfracombe  where I enjoyed a great day drifting for shark on Reel Deal skippered by Dan Hawkins. Armed with a couple of cameras I attempted to capture the day enjoyed by three Welsh anglers and an Italian. I intend to write a full feature on the trip but thought I would share a few images of the day that speak for themselves.

Many thanks to Dan Burt, Nick Davis,Tom Lardner and Stefano for making me welcome and to Dan Hawkins Skipper of Reel Deal for sharing his thoughts and expertise.



Steaming Way out West – Leaving the Dramatic North Devon Coast behind.
Fifty-Three miles out in the deeps and the wait begins – ‘Expectation’
Blue Skies – Waiting rods
Shark on ! The joy and excitement is clear to see as Stefano battles with a denizen from the deep.

All shark are now realeased boat side.

Dan grabs the rod and sets the hook as  a shark grabs a bait fished boat side.

Fulmars often give warning that sharks are about taking off suddenly.

A blue shark appears in the clear water after the fulmars take off in alarm


Dan Hawkins works hard setting up rigs and unhooking constantly offers advice. Along with regular tea and coffee
Dan Burt feels the hurt as a shark dives deep.
Dan Burt with a fine blue estimated at 90lb +


With barbless circle hooks all the shark were released at the side of the boat

Nick Davis plays a hard fighting blue as Dan looks on offering encouragement


Tom Lardner in action


Floats bob optimistically upon the vast ocean – Any second—what is beneath?
Neatly hooked in the scissors


Quality Penn tackle supplied by High Street Tackle

On the way back we are treated to the wonderful sights of dolphins



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Daniel Hawkins is delighted to announce that Reel Deal Charters have been invited to take part in the CHART 22 Tuna fishing program. This exciting development could see anglers catching these huge game fish out of Ilfracombe bringing an exciting boost to angling. For more information on the CHART program follow the following link.

Fishing via the CHART program is strictly catch and release with fish tagged for scientific data collection that is vital in learning more about these iconic fish to ensure conservation of the species. It is hoped that long term game fishery can be sustained in UK waters.

Reel Deal Charters – Summer Schedule

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Reel Deal Charters have the big game, Lundy, tope and bass,The 1k tope competition on predator and the Cornish reefs as well as over the Easter holidays we will be running 2 hour local reef (Mini deep sea) and half day (4hr) deep sea trips on predator every day from the 11th April until the 22nd if you looking for things to do with the kids perfect time to get out for a taster session hope to see you all soon all trips available online at or call 07850984933 message me and for half term trips go to to book.

Hectic Spurdog Sport off Ilfracombe

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John Barbeary’s Bluefin has been taking anglers to deep water marks off Ilfracombe where packs of spurdog are giving great sport along with huss and conger. Catches exceeding one hundred spurdog per day between eight anglers is not unusual with plenty of fish into double figures. Pete Robinson boated one of the biggest so far this season at 17lb. Craig McCloughlin also joined a party of anglers taking numerous fish to 15lb.

Craig McCloughlin spurdog 15lb
Pete Robinson – spurdog 17lb

Bluefin puts anglers on the fish off Ilfracombe

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Toby Bassett enjoyed a beautiful day bobbing about on  John Barbeary’s Bluefin with plenty of fish tempted throughout the day afloat.

Several bass were tempted drifting over the reefs with the biggest around 5lb. Anchoring brought sport with several tope to 30lb along with huss and the inevitable dogfish. One angler hooked a large fish that came close to spooling him before dropping the bait. The guess was that it was shark?


Troy Laing with a fine tope

Toby Bassett with specimen bull huss
Toby Bassett with a bass
Toby and Troy with silver bass

bass and scad

As winter approaches anglers will be looking forward to targetting the spurdog, huss and conger that prowl the mid channel marks giving some exciting and frantic sport when the weather permits access.




Shark Catch off Ilfracombe

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“What a absolutely brilliant day!!” Said Toby Basset after an amazing days fishing aboard Dan Hawkins Reel Deal..”off we set at 6am and by 8.30am we were fishing in the Celtic deeps sharks rod went in and i was first up within an hour first fish was hooked! A cracking beagle of 80lb+ sadly shook the hook. The party hooked a fish a fish every 20 minutes with the anglers landing two shark each a mix of beagles and blues! Biggest blue went to 71lb the skipper even landed a tidy little beagle as we brought the lines in to go home! Ten shark landed 3 dropped what a day!! Even caught a new species of a little grey gurnard!”

Bream Show Off Ilfracombe

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Kevin Goodman sent me these images of fish caught on Jay Jay off Ilfracombe the appearance of black bream is a great sign and bodes well for the rest of this scorching summer. As water temperatures start to rise we could well see an influx of species migrating into our waters. Trigger fish and black bream are both species that have been caught in good numbers from the Bristol Channel. Pollock fishing can aslo be excellent on lures in the crystal waters that we are enjoying.