Sunday, 5 September 2010

Swanning around on the Pier

At the Southern end of Swanage Bay in Dorset, lie two Piers, including the old original Pier now just a sparse collection of vertical piles.

The original Swanage Pier was constructed in 1860 and built primarily for shipping the local Purbeck stone to London. Horses were used to pull carts along the narrow gauge tramway which ran along the Pier and seafront linking Swanage to the local quarries.

In 1874 local entrepreneur, George Burt started a steamer service between Swanage, Poole and Bournemouth. With the Pier now being used for day-trippers as well as stone cargo, it soon became clear that the Pier was unable to cope with the ever increasing traffic and that a new and longer Pier was needed. This was opened to traffic in 1897. 

The new pier suffered decades of neglect in the second half of the 20th century and was nearly completely destroyed by the wood eating gribble worm. With the help of lottery grant funding and an innovative sponsor a plank scheme over one million pounds was raised for the restoration. This restoration has been completed to the original victorian specification and if you ever visit this magnificent  pier take time out to read the plaques on the planks. 

Tidal forces digs out the sand adjacent to the pier supports creating a deep gutter or trench, seaweed's become attached to the exposed bases of the supports and mussels, crabs, shoals of sandeels, small pout, shrimps and sand worms like rag and lug mass together and create a full larder from which passing and resident fish sustain themselves. 

Fish like structure so why do most anglers use the pier as a platform to cast out into the open sea?

I arrived early Saturday morning and was greeted by a rather lively sea, not ideal for species hunting. I also discovered that the pier closed at 5pm which limited me somewhat!

I set up a barbel rod with a two hook flapper with size 12 sabikkis (I has read that they were deadly for species hunting) baited with one inch ragworm sections. I fished the inside the pier from the lower deck. Over the next three hours or so rarely waited more than ten seconds for a bite and gained quite an audience, as I caught loads of small ballan and corkwing wrasse, several tompot blennies, immature pouting and a solitary sandsmelt. A couple of hours fishing mackerel strip on float tackle produced a number of pollack around the pound mark.

I returned sunday morning, the sea if anything was rougher and it rained through much of the day. However it was not until the tide started flooding that the bites started. I fished two rods, one cast to the right of the pier onto broken ground and the other on the outside edge of the pier with the mini species rig using slithers of mackerel for bait. 

The result was similar to the previous day but with decreased numbers of wrasse and increased numbers of pound pollack and immature pouting. I also had a second sandsmelt and a solitary tompot blenny. 

With a couple of hours to go I noticed that the sea had appeared to have cleared and went all out for a garfish on the float set 6-8 feet deep. I failed to catch a garfish but enjoyed wonderful spot from mackerel which on the light tackle fought harder than trout of twice their size. The colours of a mackerel fresh from the sea are amazing with iridescent greens and blues set against a silver backdrop.