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’! ’ book launch and mako shark talk event:
With the eagerly awaited book launching next week, you are invited to come along to the signing event by the author, Ian Harbage, which will be followed by a presentation and a Q&A on mako sharks by marine biologist, Dr Simon Thomas.
The event will be held at ( ), , at on
It’ll be an open house and anyone is welcome to join. The Heritage Centre cafe will be open for anyone that would like teas, coffees, or perhaps even something a little stronger! While there are not many copies of the book left, a few will made available for the event for anyone still wishing to purchase a copy

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.

A Glimpse of what we have lost

I spotted this on the Lyn Valley History groups Facebook Page a common skate caught off Lynmouth in 1922. I wrote of the capture of skate off Lynmouth in my book “I Caught A Glimpse” published in 2019. There are a limited number left with the publishers if you would like to purchase a copy.

Looking back at the potential of fishing off North Devon 100 years ago can be depressing for in this relatively short chapter in natures book we have lost a huge amount due to mankind’s irresponsible disregard for the natural world and its complex ecosystems This was the general theme of a talk I attended with our son James last weekend. The complex issues facing the world today were highlighted in a fascinating and at times humorous talk by my good friend Dr Mark Everard.  His book “Rebuilding the Earth” is well worth reading.

The River East Lyn one hundred years ago would have been full of salmon and sea trout in numbers that seem unbelievable today. In the past 50 years the salmon runs have crashed to an all time low. This exceptionally long dry summer has resulted in salmon waiting in the bay for a summer spate where they have been prey to seals. Some have succumbed to disease and have been feasted upon by seagulls.

There are perhaps glimmers of hope as nature struggles on and at times species recover or move into waters where a change in the food chain opens a window of opportunity. After a commercial ban porbeagle shark seem to be recovering and there are even good numbers of tuna visiting the waters off the South West. Pioneering local skipper Dan Hawkins has been searching for these huge fish from Ilfracombe travelling to the fringes of the Atlantic with considerable success with shark. If fishery’s are sustainably managed fish stocks and eco-systems can recover.

A porbeagle boatside in September 2022

Searching for tuna off North Devon


Skate off Lynmouth photo credit to Ashley Clarke

         I purchased a book on the history of Lynton and Lynmouth by John Travis shortly before commencing this book. Contained within its pages is a chapter on “Holiday Pleasures” and within this section a reference to “Monsters from the Deep”. An old photograph shows a multiple catch of huge common skate. Reading through this fascinating narrative it becomes apparent that these huge fish were once a common feature of boat angling trips off Lynmouth in and around 1900. Cecil Bevan a local hotelier took angling parties out in his boat Kingfisher. On December 1st 1908 he set a record catch of 675lb that included 35 conger, two skate, four cod fish and a pollock. The book contains a fascinating account of a day on the boat written by a local journalist.

Within this account he tells of a skate caught that weighed 196lb.

         A friend found further evidence of the skate and porbeagle fishing in the book, “Saltwater Game Fishes of the World and Illustrated history”. Within the pages of this tome are a couple of pictures from the  “Fishing Gazette” July 4th 1896 that show a huge skate and a catch of large cod and conger.

         Local angler Bob Harrop fished over the sandbanks off Lynmouth in the 1970’s and tells me that he hooked a couple of large skate that he estimated to weigh around 50lb. During this time and in the years running up to this he tells me that the banks were much bigger. Heavy dredging for building sand is believed to be a major factor in the reduction of the banks. It is told that at one time the banks became exposed at low water to such an extent that a cricket match was once played upon the sands!

         The banks can at times provide exciting bass fishing during late autumn. Ray can also be caught from the banks with blonde, spotted and small eyed regularly hooked. Large skate are probably a feature of the past but who knows perhaps they will return.

         The Lynton and Lynmouth book also contains a picture of a porbeagle shark. These hard fighting predators have been caught off North Devon’s coastline on a regular basis for many years. The top area for these sharks is probably the area off Hartland Point at the mouth of the Bristol Channel.

Porbeagle 226lb

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Mark Jones and Craig McClouglin of Braunton Baits have been targeting shark off the North Devon Coast using Marks Private boat. Mark hooked a fine porbeagle that was brought to the side of the boat where it was carefully measured using refined tactics that allow safe measuring before releasing the sharks. The recognised formula gave a weight of 226lb.

On the way to and from the shark grounds Mark and Craig tried out lures from the Braunton Bait Box to good effect.

Once in a lifetime – Truly epic day – By Dan Welch

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Many thanks to Daniel Welch for sending this superb report on a truly epic days fishing.
Fishing is so much more than just catching a fish. It’s about the preparation, anticipation, the journey, the wildlife and the environment that surrounds you. It doesn’t matter how well prepared you are you never know what the result will be. Little did we know this trip was going to be one of those really special unforgettable ones.
Last Sunday the weather and tides were just right to go on the hunt for what some one say is one of the UKs ultimate fish, the porbeagle shark!
The alarm was set for 03:30 and we left harbour on high tide in the dark, the lights of the town and faded into the distance as we steamed out. As the first glimpses of daylight arrived the silhouette of the land began to appear and the surface of the sea shimmered, the conditions looked promising. We arrived at the chosen location a couple hours later.
3 shark rods were set at various depths all rigged with barbless circle hooks suspended beneath brightly coloured bottles. There were a lot of dolphins and a number of whales in the area surely this was a good sign. After a short wait the middle float disappeared and we hooked into the first shark of the day it was by no means big by porbeagle standards but a nice shark around a 100lb photos were taken and the fish return. We had a few more takes over the next couple hours and landed another two sharks and lost one and saw others cruising around beneath the boat in the crystal clear water.
Whilst fighting one shark there was a sudden commotion about 20m from the boat it was a shoal of skip jack or bonito sized tuna jumping clean out the water hitting bait fish, we could not believe our eyes. I frantically grabbed a lure rod and cast at them hoping one would grab the lure. Within a blink of an eye they vanished back into the depths and my focus returned to landing the shark. We were elated not only had we landed some of our target species we had also seen and come close to getting a tuna. Our expectations for the day had already been surpassed.
As low water approached fishing slowed down. We had been hearing load splashes and a commotion long way from the boat. As time past these got closure until we could actually see what was going on, it was huge feeding frenzies. The feeding frenzies got closer and closer until they were just a mile or two from us at this point we had to go and investigate. We steamed out at full speed to get out to the feeding frenzy before it moved again. When we arrived we came across an incredible site of multiple whales, dolphins, hundreds of sea birds, sharks and what we believed tuna feeding. Neither of us had seen anything like this before. We cast lures into the feeding frenzies and put whole mackerel baits in. Ross suddenly hooked something on a lure only for it to be ripped off the hook we then saw another shark beneath the boat and then the rod I was holding which had a whole mackerel bait was taken and it ran off at speed, it turned out to be a hard fighting male porbeagle. By the time I landed the shark the feeding frenzy had gone quite and we were left with a couple dolphins and whales around the boat and slick smooth water created by the fish oils released during the frenzy. We were so privileged to witness this off our own coast line and chances are it’s a once in a life time experience. We are just glad we managed to capture some photos and film to share without preconditions friends and family.
We hung around a bit longer but had no more bites so decided to worked our way back home fishing wrecks and reefs on the way back. We caught a number of bass and even a John Dory doing this.
In total we landed 4 sharks and lost one, the largest shark was estimated at 150lb. An incredible and almost unbelievable day! Ross summed it up saying “you don’t normally hear epic and fishing in the same sentence but today was truly and epic day”.

Reel Deal Sport off Ilfracombe

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Anglers have enjoyed some superb sport off Ilfracombe aboard Reel Deal with Skipper Dan Hawkins. Tope fishing as at times been hectic with a few larger predators showing including blue shark to 90lb plus and a some chunky porbeagle. One large porbeagle even enjoying a chunk of fresh bass for dinner! The anglers have also enjoyed frequent glimpse of dolphins and whale in the deeps.