Wednesday, 30 June 2010


5 facts about bleak!

1.   Guanine was extracted from the silvery scales of bleak and used in the making of artificial pearls.

2.   Bleak lives in large schools, usually near the surface.

3.   Tommy Pickering used to be called the bionic bleaker in his early match fishing days.

4.   The British record bleak weighed 4 oz 9 drms and was caught by Dennis Flack, River Lark,  Cambridgeshire in 1998.

5.   This evening I caught loads of bleak from the River Lark whilst trying to locate a bitterling for the species hunt. The bleak brings my species total up to 34 for the year to date.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Rhubarb and Custard

Rhubarb and Custard, for those old enough to remember it was that classic wobbly cartoon from the late 70's featuring the adventures of rhubarb the dog and Custard the cat. This classic cartoon was drawn by Bob Godfrey, who incidently I met at a party at my brother-in-laws house. Did you know that the characters were based on Tony Hancock and Sid James.

Rhubarb and Custard incidentally also happens to be one of my favourite puddings.

What has all this got to do with fishing! I had booked a trip with Lyle Stantiford on Supernova out of Weymouth wrecking for cod. Sailing time was two hours as the wrecks that we would be fishing were 20 miles offshore. The sea was calm and we were in for a scorcher of a day.

Tackle was a 12-20lb class outfit matched to 20lb braid and a 30lb mono leader. An eight foot flowing trace of 30lb flurocarbon with a six inch sidewinder lure was attached below a six inch boom. I used a light mono loop to attach the 10oz lead as a rotten bottom but most of the lads used a twist of wire (the sort used to tie up freezer bags), top tip! Lyle suggested that we use orange lures as that is what the cod seem to prefer

The skipper positions the boat to drift over the wreck and on his command the lures are lowered to the bottom before being retrieved slowly. The key difference between wreck cod and pollack is that cod live closer to the wreck and to catch one has to live dangerously and only retrieve 15 turns before lowering the tackle back down. Like all on board I snagged the wreck several times during the course of the day. As with pollack I found a slow retrieve best.

I was on board with a great bunch of lads and we all caught cod during the day. The largest fish was a real beauty of 17lb with most fish being in the 10-14lb bracket. I was lucky enough to catch four cod with two doubles at 13lb 4oz and 10lb 8oz, a pollack and a couple of big pouting. Pouting are viewed as a pest and the lads called them flobbers, no idea why! Unfortunately I lost what would have been the biggest fish of the day, either a big cod or maybe a ling when after several minutes it fell off, just as I felt I had got the better of it. It still hurts!

Another top tip I learned today is to bleed fish by cutting through the gills as it stops blood spoiling the flesh. I must also get some cable ties as most of the lads used these through the cods gills to identify whose fish was who's in the fishbox. Know anywhere that stocks cable ties in pink or some equally outrageous colour!

It transpires that Cod also like Rhubarb and Custard, well the orange sidewinders were in the rhubarb and custard colour!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Grey Ghost of Weymouth Harbour

Whilst walking down to the stone pier along the harbour to  I couldn't help but notice that there were large numbers of grey mullet moving around under the pontoons. Some were even feeding on algae and other micto organisms in the mud only feet away seemingly oblivious to the hordes of tourists along the banks.

However mullet are notorously difficult to catch and I knew from previous experience that I needed to be out at dawn to maximise my chances.

So with the alarm set to 3.45am I was out at first light the following day armed with a barbel rod which was loaded with 8lb fluorocarbon due to the proximity of the pontoons. As we were in the middle of a heatwave the mullet were on the surface. My plan was to use a float for casting weight only and to fish breadflake on the surface and allow it to sink slowly as it became waterlogged. Feed was kept to a minimum to avoid spooking the mullet or worse attracting ducks!

I missed my first two chances but it was third time lucky, I watched the breadflake carefully as the mullet played around with it, not striking until the bait disappeared from view. It always surprises me just how fast mullet are and although I gave little line during the fight the fish was constantly changing direction. Netting was tricky as I was well above the water level but I eventually I banked a decent mullet of 3lb 10oz. I continued fishing for a couple more hours but as the town woke up the grey ghosts drifted back under the pontoons.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Mini Species on Weymouth's Stone Pier

Weymouth is a mecca for sea anglers and I had three days to hopefully add a few species to the list. Research suggested that Weymouth's Stone Pier would be a good venue for targeting mini species and that I could expect small wrasse, blennies, scorpion fish, black bream, pout and pollack if I scaled down.

Following a couple of early starts I decided on a lie in and a late breakfast at my Bed and Breakfast. Mini species apparently feed best during the middle of the day as this is when predators are least active.
I decided to use a barbel rod with 10lb main line which would enable me to both cast a couple of ounces of lead and provide good bite detection. A simple paternoster rig with a size 10 hook to 8lb fluorocarbon baited with an inch or so of rag worm was to be my approach.

Lowering the bait at the side of the pier saw rattling bites most casts from small ballan and corkwing wrasse, most weighing from only a couple of ounces to maybe a pound at best. Ballan wrasse are exquisitely coloured with turquoise, acid green and reddish brown markings over both body and fins.

Apart from a single pouting it was a wrasse a cast. Periodically shoals of grey mullet would drift through, I initially mistook them for mackerel and spent a couple of hours spinning for them without success. Talking to the locals it was clear that mackerel had been very scarce.

I returned again the following day for another short session before watching the England game against Slovenia. If anything it was even hotter, the wrasse didn't mind and once again it was a bite almost every cast. It is surprising how hard even a small wrasse fights.

I also spent a couple of hours float fishing hoping for a garfish without success. I noticed that one of the locals was using what appeared to be a huge waggler taking a half ounce loading with the stem marked in stripes. This offered much better bite detection than the traditional sea fishing float I was using. I intend to make some up before my annual family summer holiday to Looe next month.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Poole Interlude

Today I was going to fish the Purbeck banks and reefs out of Poole on Silver Spray skippered by Sam Cumming. The crew consisted of a mixed group of 10 individuals and the plan was for a multi species day.

We spent most of the morning failing to catch mackerel for bait from several different inshore marks. With very limited bait stocks we moved onto the banks.

We fished a couple of spots in the hope of rays, hounds and tope during the slack water period, legering mackerel fillets on a size 6/0 hook to a four foot trace of 100lb mono. A pound of lead was needed to hold bottom even on the slack. Few fish were caught, largely I suspect due to the shortage of bait. Ernie, a likable old boy and regular on Silver Spray caught a fabulous Blonde Ray weighing 17lb and a French lad next to me had a small blonde. Another lad landed a common smoothhound and apart from a couple of doggies, one to me that was it.

With the tide picking up we moved inshore to a try for a black bream. The 12/20lb outfit was rigged with a portland rig with a size 2 aberdeen and 4 yellow beads on a three foot 20lb fluorocarbon trace. The technique is to bounce the lead (in this case 6oz) across the bottom downtide. Despite the limited fishing time I had several rattles hooking one bream which probably only weighed a pound or so. Unfortunately I dropped the bream back in before I could photograph it for the blog. I like the technique and would like to do more black bream fishing in future. Next time I would pack a spinning rod for the bream which I am sure would result in a better hook up rate.

Fishing for Thornback Rays

Today I was back on Galloper skippered by Scott Belbin out of West Mersea in Essex. The plan was to target tope offshore, the forecast was for the strong northerly wind to drop so we sailed out to the Maplin sands and fished for an hour whilst we waited for conditions to improve before venturing further offshore. After an uncomfortable hour waiting for the wind to drop we all agreed to move inshore and target thornback rays. During this time Scott managed to catch a tiny tope which had probably only pupped in the last day or two, it really was predation in miniature.

Most species in this area are best approached by uptiding. The trace being four foot of thirty pound fluorocarbon to a 4/0 vavivas big mouth hook, baited with either a strip or chunk of herring. Despite fishing hard I only had one bite which resulted in my first thornback ray which was a male estimated at 6lb. Male fish can be identified from females by the long claspers trailing from the body towards the tail. The body is covered in thorny protusions. 

It was clear from this trip that the best boat position for uptiding is nearest the cabin as you can cast uptide of the boat. This bears out what I have read.

One of the crew had brought some ragworm and most of us tried this as a change bait. Unfortunately I soon lost patience and returned to fishing herring, unfortunate as several whiting were caught which would have been a new species for me. Next time I go out on Galloper I will have a couple of suitable rigs made up for whiting and dabs. In retrospect my bait presentation could have been better as when I retrieved on several occasions the herring strip had bunched up on the hook. Over the nest few days I was to discover that a fillet should be hooked by passing the hook through the very tip on the flesh side and then back through so the bait lies straight and can move in the tide.

On the return journey the seagulls followed Galloper all the way in waiting for scraps as the three rays that came to the boat were prepared for the table. To me this seemed hard work as being a member of the shark and ray family the skin has to be peeled off with pliers which takes an age and only the wings are kept for eating.

Saturday, 5 June 2010


Much of what we think of as British wildlife has been introduced by man. This has been going on for over a thousand years, with the Romans introducing the rabbit and the Normans fallow deer, both for food.

The Victorians were responsible for the introduction of not only animals but also new and exotic plants from indo-china, including the invasive japanese knotweed and the himalayan balsam. The Duke of Bedford introduced alongside mammals such as the munjack deer and grey squirrel, two fish species from eastern europe the wels catfish and zander (known then as the pike-perch).

When you think about it a significant number of the freshwater species available to the angler have been introduced into Britain. Game angling wouldn't be the same without the ever obliging rainbow trout. The mainstay of coarse angling today is the carp, which were introduced by monks in the middle ages as a food source, however the modern carp angler wouldn't recognise the original slim fully scaled wild carp. Todays carp have been breed to grow fast and often resemble a football with fins. This all brings us back to the pumpkinseed fish which resembles a slightly deflated rather brightly coloured football with fins.

The Pumpkinseed was introduced into Britain by the Victorians and has become established in a number of stillwaters, mainly in Sussex.

I spent another day at Tanyard trying to catch a pumpkinseed fish. By lunchtime I was getting concerned as I still hadn't caught a pumpkinseed despite getting a bite every couple of minutes. Following a couple of conversations with other anglers I discovered that they were generally caught 'on the drop'.

After lunch I rigged up a no10 drennan puddlechucker float with a number 8 shot at mid-depth, the remaining shot being placed directly under the float. Each cast was only fished for a minute, although most casts saw a take on the drop as roach and rudd to just over a pound obliged. I did unfortunately lose a big perch (certainly over two pound) when it fell off at the net. By 4pm I had finally caught my pumpkinseed fish after wading through perhaps three or four hundred small fish of various species.

I decided to pack up there and then and check out Coarse Pool 3 to see whether I could locate some grass carp. Despite carp cruising in the surface layers the heavily coloured water made it virtually impossible to single out a grass carp so I decided to stretch my legs and walk around the complex. After a conversation with the baliff I found male pumpkinseeds guarding their nests and fending off all intruders in the margins of specimen lake 2 which incidentally is where the British record was caught.