July 2013 - Seafood platter

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From the water’s edge

The heatwave was ready for us. It saw us all heading for the coast and switched itself off; at least it turned itself down. Storm clouds were brewing and rain was threatened, but it was never that cold. Even so Sharkey felt the need for something weatherproof or maybe he just had a feeling that he might need to be visible to a helicopter who knows?

It was a motley crew that’s for sure. Tim kelly, Wadey, Steve bates, Sharkey and I, skippered aboard his 40 ft lochin, Spirit of Arun by Neil French who had us worried before we even set foot on board by suggesting we use bait. Not just any bait, but some disgusting lengths of black snot known colloquially as black lug.

Bass had been in short supply recently, but the reef was alive with Plaice and the way to catch those apparently is to drag 3 - 5 oz of lead across the bottom on the drift, trailing a short tail baited with the worm. We are happy enough to try anything and I know that we were all thinking ‘if they hit that, they will hit a plastic one just the same’.


Just as a tempter the skipper of another boat gave us a packet of Japanese strawberry flavoured rubber ragworms to try. Made by the same people as those small shads that pete and I have been using on the canal, I had some hopes for them, but I am sure that there were people aboard particularly one close to the skippers chair that weren’t so convinced.

The artificials weren’t as effective, true, but they did work. Tim is not quite so shy of bait as some of us and he caught the most and the biggest, but we did knock out a few fish on artificials. Clever of Tim to wear a colour-co-ordinated outfit for plaice fishing I must say.

Sharkey and I had a few of Pete Kennett’s jig flies which we had high hopes for, but with the bass not feeding, they hardly had a fair trial.

One of the big surprises for me was how many starfish we caught, even on artificials. The bait was being dragged across the bottom at 3 knots on the drift. The rod would pull down hard and a dead weight weight would herald the arrival of yet another hooked fair and square underneath the arms or in the centre. I am sure they were grabbing it as it went past and not just being foul-hooked.

It was a mixed bag of fish at the end of the trip. One bass, a couple of pollack, ballan wrasse, cuckoo wrasse, red gurnard and plenty of plaice. Not a wasted trip and plenty of those fish took the lures, even if most of the plaice preferred the black snot cocktail.

As always Neil worked his tail off finding us fish and humoured our desire to make life difficult for ourselves at the expense of his reputation.

Personally I can’t wait for our next trip out in September and I have my fingers crossed for a few more aggressive species. It’s really hard to get to grips with methods and lures when you live so far from the coast. Most sea fish will eat other fish or crabs, so they should all be catchable on lures. We have caught a fair few different species on plastic now, but there never seems to be enough opportunities to test for subtleties of colour or technique. I think that not knowing with any certainty exactly where your lure is in relation to any fish that are down there is a big problem. A canal is 5 ft deep and after hundreds, thousands of visits we know which swims they are likely to be in and how to put the lure on their noses. It is not so easy in the sea. When the fishing is dead at sea, it is really dead. Somehow results seem to be instant or few and far between and it is very hard to equate a lack of takes with the huge numbers of fish showing on the sounder. Lots more visits required I think. It’s a good job the company is so good when the going gets tough.

artificial lite




journal 2013.



journal 2013.