Sunday, 20 June 2010

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.