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Happy Season everyone hope your all having a nice day. Sorry we have been quite of late but we have had lots going on with sorting out bits and pieces with boats and where we are going moving forward.Also battling this constant crap weather we are having. We haven’t been getting out a lot at all so far we haven’t been able to get to the sharks this season 🥲🥲 but we have done a couple of channel trips on the spurs and Huss. Now with the season changing and the summer species coming in it should start to hot up just need the weather to sort its self out so we can get out. Couple of new things this season we have been working on are as follows : 6 hour bass lure trips based around the perfect state of tide to get on the marks that produced some great sport last season available online asap. Also a slight change to our summer Sharking it’s now going to be summer big game fishing, if it’s booked as a shark trip that’s what we will be doing but if we happen to get surrounded by the BFT’S like last season we can switch up and go and have some fun on them and we’re also able to use new methods this season to exciting stuff and can’t wait to try these out then once the weather puts pay to our season down west we are going to go back to our roots and fish up channel this will be on the nice Time tides for the all day trips and when we have the neaps a lot more 4 hour trips I’ll get on the times and dates for booking as soon as I can. I have decided to take a step away from the summer tourist season and do all day trips through out august again I need to put these online but keep your eyes peeled as July and September are 99% booked out apart from a couple of dates so once I put them on I am sure there going to go quick. That’s enough from me with the update and I look for to seeing you all soon and getting stuck In to some serious rod bending pain locker fishing cheers Dan

Big Shark off the coast

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Daniel Welch and Jonathon Stanway enjoyed session to remember on a Private Boat bringing two big porbeagle boat side along with several good sized pollock.

Anglers have been enjoying superb shark action on Reel Deal with porbeagle and thresher shark. Shane Pavio Hookway brought a huge thresher estimated at 300lb to the side of the boat setting a club record for the species.

REEL DEAL – Bass and Tuna news

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Reel Deal Charters have been finding anglers some good bass from Reefs off North Devon and Cornwall.

Dan welcomes the great news that the CHART program will be running again this year.

that the funding for the English CHART (Catch and Release Tagging) programme in 2023 has been signed off and the programme has been given the green light.
Given the severe funding constraints we – the Angling Trust and the UKBFTA – have highlighted previously, the process for approval took longer than we would have liked. Throughout the spring we continued to push hard for CHART to continue into 2023, including writing to the Minister and raising the matter with politicians directly. We are pleased the Minister recognised the importance of ensuring CHART will continue this year in England.
Those funding constraints have required some streamlining of costs and one way in which that is being done is via removing the workshop and training element of the programme this year. This means that for 2023 only those skippers who have previously completed the training element and operated in CHART beforehand will be eligible to apply. It is anticipated that up to 25 vessels will again be authorised from the pool of “CHART graduates”.
Fish welfare is of the utmost importance to many skippers and anglers, who fought hard for the workshop and training element to be included in order to pass on this crucial knowledge to new entrants, so the lack of funding for this prior element of CHART is disappointing.
We understand that there will be some disappointment from those who wished to join the programme this year for the first time. DEFRA has indicated that the only way in which CHART could go ahead within the funds available was to adopt this approach. More information will be provided by CEFAS in the coming days to the “CHART graduate” pool and more widely via social media platforms. Specific questions regarding the operational protocols etc should be directed to CEFAS once they go live.
England joins Wales and Northern Ireland now in approving programmes for 2023 which will result in up to 40 charter vessels being authorised to legally fish for Atlantic Bluefin across the UK’s western waters.
We are very grateful to those skippers, crew members and anglers who have supported our efforts to ensure some form of legal fishing continued in England this year. We continue to work with Defra on the introduction of a world-class recreational catch and release fishery in 2024. We are hoping a public consultation on this will take place before the autumn.
Good luck to the anglers and skippers participating in CHART 2023. Thank you for your continued support and tight lines.

A day out fishing for Spurdog on ‘REEL DEAL’ from Ilfracombe.

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A day out fishing for Spurdog on ‘REEL DEAL’ from Ilfracombe.



We met at 7am for bacon rolls and a coffee and headed down to Ilfracombe harbour where we met Dan Hawkins, Owner of Reel Deal Charters and Archie, who would be our crew for the day. There were 8 anglers aboard today but there is plenty of room on Reel deal which is very stable being a catamaran hulled boat. It also has 2 x 325hp motors which means you spend more time fishing and less time getting to the mark.

Weather was set to be sunny but in fact it turned out to be overcast with an OAT. of around 3-4 degrees. I had plenty of layers on but regretted not taking my Penn immersion suit as the wind was bitter at times.  Nick was more sensible and donned his Penn boat fishing coat.

We headed out and within 25 minutes or so Dan had put us on the fish. Tackle was braided mainline with a 2-3ft 180lb – 200lb leader using 6/0 circle hooks. small mackerel or squid baits were used but the key to catching seemed to be lime green muppets above the bait. The tide was running strong and at times we needed to use 11/2lb leads.

Nick was in almost immediately  landing a Spurdog. I noticed his muppet and immediately reeled in to put one on my trace. Very soon after I was also in with a fish.

A few fish were cut off on the braid which we believe to be the abrasion from the fish themselves. Dan suggested a rubbing leader to stop this. Between the 8 anglers we had around 150 – 200 fish which made for a busy and very enjoyable day out.

The majority of fish were Spurdogs with a Huss and a small conger. Invariably we also had the usual amount of doggies.

Dan and Archie done a sterling job of looking after us with hot drinks, unhooking our catches and untangling some 1st rate tackle wrap ups!

Overall a great day out at sea with plenty of fish and good company.

Reel Deal Charters can be contacted on 07850 984933 and run boats out of Ilfracombe, Watchet and Plymouth depending on season and target species.


Reel Deal – Ends shark season with big thresher and Starts tuna season in Plymouth

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Chris Dawson and Sebastion Shillaker fished off Reel Deal to hook and bring to the side of the boat a thresher shark estimated at 480lb. The shark was measured at 96” to the fork of the tail with an overall length of five metres. The mighty fish judged to be close to twenty years old was released at the side of the boat.

Dan Hawkins has now taken Reel Deal to Plymouth for the tuna season and has got off to a flying start,

Sometimes we have to make hard decisions as skippers none are taken lightly. With the weather we are due to have this week combined with big tides we have this week that will stir up the bottom we made the hard decision to end our Ilfracombe shark season on reel deal early. So with that said I took the chance on the weather yesterday to get her round to Plymouth for our chart tuna season and we have arrived at mayflower marina that said it would have been rude not to have a little dabble with Jerry Day  and Archie Porter  while waiting for our lift home thanks to Sam Narbett, Jerry Rogers, Tom Walker, Chris Gill and Dan Margett’s for the tips and info we managed to get our first tuna to the boat to say we were excited was an understatement now we’re buzzing for the autumn spaces available tuna fishing call or message if you keen.

Porbeagle the Reel Deal

            James asked me the night before our trip; why do you lot have to get up so early? The view the following morning as we bounced across the water on another fishing adventure aboard Reel Deal was I thought answer enough.

            We were targeting porbeagle shark today from the renowned grounds off the North Cornish coast an area that once provided superb sport for members of the Appledore Shark Angling Club back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. During those days shark angling practices were less enlightened than today and all shark were slaughtered with many shark sold at market to pay for the angler’s sport. Fortunately, a ban on commercial fishing for the species and catch and release practiced by all anglers the shark have made a strong recovery. All shark caught are now released at the side of the boat with circle hooks used by all responsible anglers.

            Dan Hawkin’s skipper of Reel Deal Charters is a pioneering skipper keen to explore the grounds reachable from Ilfracombe and has explored the potential that is available. I had booked this trip with Dan over twelve months ago and had fitted in with two keen shark fishers who had come fully equipped with their own gear. I had brought with me my son James Thomas, and good friends Peter Robinson and Bruce Elston.

            Anticipation was high as we passed Hartland Point and cruised into the Atlantic Waters at the mouth of the Bristol Channel. Dan cut the engines a few miles off the Cornish coast and busied himself setting up our sharking tackles. The two anglers we  had joined fished their rods carefully amongst our four rods. James, Bruce, Peter and I drew numbers to determine who would go first. Bruce drew 1, James 2, Peter 3 and myself 4.

            Six baits were set up at various distances from the boat the furthest set deep and the closer baits proportionately shallower. As Dan started to prepare the frozen block of rubby dubby his keen eye caught sight of a dorsal fin cutting through the waves. Shortly after the rod tip pulled over and the float disappeared from sight and Bruce picked up the rod to set the circle hook.

Bruce holds the rod in expectation after a dropped run.

            Frustratingly the hook failed to take a hold and we learnt how wily these large porbeagle shark can be. A few minutes later Bruce was given another chance and hooked into a shark that came off after a short tussle. We decided that we would if possible allow each of us to bring a shark to the boat but if the shark was hooked we would allow two hook ups before passing onto the next angler.

            A few minutes after Bruce was in action again and this time he endured a long battle with a large porbeagle. These fish battle far harder than blue shark testing both angler and tackle to the limit. Eventually the wire trace was brought within reach and a specimen porbeagle was at the side of the boat. The fish was neatly hooked in the scissors and was released after grabbing a quick picture of the fish with Bruce leaning through the gate.

            This was certainly a very encouraging start to the day. After a short lull it was James’s turn and after an aborted take another run soon developed. This time James made contact and was connected to a very powerful fish that gave him a long and tiring workout for twenty minutes or more.

Eventually the heavy wire trace appeared boat side and Dan grabbed the trace pulling the fish into view. It was a big shark and we were dismayed to see that it had a large wound around its body. A strip of white plastic was wrapped around the shark’s body. Dan was determined to remove the torturous plastic from the shark. With the shark on the port side of the boat It was now necessary to bring the shark to the starboard side.

This appeared to give the shark a second wind at is point and it battled gamely for another twenty minutes before being brought to open gate. The fish was then swiftly brought on board where Dan got to work with a pair of scissors to remove the piece of plastic strapping that had cut cruelly into the shark’s body. Whilst on board the shark was quickly measured and dowsed with sea water before a quick photo. The measurements gave a predicted weight of 179lb.  The fish was then slid carefully back into the sea to hopefully recover from its wounds free of the plastic that had been so carelessly dumped.

 The scars left by the plastic packaging thoughtlessly dumped without any thought for the terrible damage it can inflict on large predators such as sharks and dolphin.
The cruel plastic removed from the sharks body


Ready to slip the shark back into the clear water


    Many thanks to James for allowing me to add his account of the trip and for Peter, Bruce and James in providing additional images. 

A great days fishing out of Ilfracombe. Perfect conditions to be out on a boat and amazing scenery as we steamed out to the fishing mark. Searching for a fish that I’d never caught before yesterday the Porbeagle Shark 🦈. When it came to my turn to take the rod the float dipped and the fish was on. The sheer power was quite remarkable… when I got the fish to the side of the boat where they are normally released straight away to keep any stress on the fish to a minimum we noticed some plastic around it’s gills. Dan the skipper brought the fish aboard snipped off the plastic and after a very quick photo we released the fish back into the water hopefully to fully recover from the tangle of plastic. Was shocking to see the damage caused by such a small piece of rubbish and shows the importance of reducing our plastic usage and dumping into the oceans. A great day, good company, stunning scenery and a fish I’ll never forget. Thanks Daniel Hawkins and Wayne Thomas.

  With two shark by 1.00pm our hopes were high for another couple of shark and it was Peters turn to take up the rod when a run came.

            The boat drifted pushed by tide and wind a slick of oily scent calming the water in the wake of the boat. Whilst shark were top of the agenda lures, feathers and mackerel bait tempted bass in good numbers with fish to six pound plus brought to the boat. A couple of bass were retained for the table.

A pleasing bass of over 6lb
James Thomas with bass tempted on a strip of mackerel

            We chatted and relaxed watching the occasional gannet gliding above the vast ocean. At any moment we expected a float to plunge beneath the water or a rod to keel over as a porbeagle hit the baits. Dan kept us topped up with hot tea and coffee as we waited in tense expectation.

Peter Robinson with one of several bass brought to the boat.

            As the afternoon ebbed away our time ran out and Dan called time expressing disappointment at the quietness of the afternoon. The run back to Ilfracombe went surprisingly quickly as we passed familiar landmarks of the North Devon coast. Hartland Point at the mouth of the Bristol Channel, the dunes and estuary mouth of Bideford Bay. The headlands of Baggy Point,  Morte Point and Bull Point and the spectacular cliffs between Lee Bay and Ilfracombe.

            It had been a great day with couple of special fish along with silver bass, good company and spectacular scenery. I look forward recommencing the search again next year weather and life permitting.

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.