Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Small Eyed Ray!

The muddy waters of the Bristol Channel are famed, both for their strong tides and the quality of fishing. August is a good time to fish for the small eyed rays so I booked a couple of days with Kevin Axtell on Seren y Mor out of Swansea Marina. As well as the rays there was also a chance of a trigger fish showing on the inshore wrecks and rough ground to the west of the port.

I arrived in Swansea the evening before the trip and spent a little time familiarising myself with the location, finding the tackle shop and Kevin's pickup point ready for the morning. Rogers tackle in Pilot House Wharf opens early enabling anglers to purchase bait prior to boarding your charter boat.

I phoned Kevin after 7pm to check whether the trip was on and although the forecast wasn't great we would be able to get out. Unfortunately Thursdays planned trip was cancelled as stormy weather was forecast to arrive wednesday evening.

After collecting some bait from Rogers Tackle I joined a mixed party of individuals on Seren y Mor. Kevin explained that we would be heading east due to the weather conditions and would be unable to get out to the offshore banks. Kevin's crew for the day was his father David.

Swansea Marina is joined to the sea via a lock and we joined a small flotilla of boats in the lock eagerly anticipating a day at sea.

We headed east out of Swansea down into the Bristol Channel. The shoreline became more industrial as we passed Port Talbot. Our first mark was on broken ground and we could expect smoothounds, eels, huss and the ever present lesser spotted dogfish that abound in welsh waters. Off Holyhead they are called Welsh Tiger Shark and here they are called Swansea Salmon!

As the muddy waters of the Bristol Channel are shallow I set up an uptider and lobbed my bait away from the boat, to get out of the scare zone.

Fish baits produced a string of LSDs with the odd small bullhuss. As smoothounds were being landed to crab, I baited up with crab and had three in three casts. The biggest hound just into double figures fell to Ray. It appears that the smoothound fishing is prolific with the larger hounds, fish to fourteen pounds being caught in May and June.

Our second mark offered a chance of a small eyed ray so I set out my stall with a large sandeel tipped with a strip of squid. It was tempting to go for the hounds as other anglers landed fish to just into double figures whilst my beautifully presented sandeels attracted a string of LSDs.

Ray joked that he had small eyes and therefore was a "small eyed Ray".

As the wind was not as bad as expected we pushed offshore to a sandbank for our third and final mark of the day. Kevin advised that this was a prolific ray mark.  We timed our arrival to coincide with the tide reaching it's peak, which is when the rays feed best on a Neap tide. On Spring tides the first and last hours of the tide provide the optimum conditions on this mark.

We anchored on the slope and fished down the bank, within minutes I had a series of slow taps as a ray maneuvered its body over the bait. I had expected the rod to pull over but the taps continued. I wound down and my first small eyed ray of around three pounds was boated. The next five casts produced a further five small eyed rays to nine pounds. I was surprised how well these fish fight compared to other rays that I have caught.

Thanks to Kevin and David for a super days sport out of Swansea. I will be back for a crack after a trigger fish.