Early April is often a time when the big blonde Rays come inshore to breed along the Bristol Channel but isn’t a part of the season that’s renowned for the other species of Rays particularly. This last weekend’s trip however did see a good variety of Rays all the same.
The weather forecast was for a southerly wind, which being offshore for Minehead would of made for calm conditions – the reality on the day was more like an easterly which resulted in a more bitingly cold wind and a slightly choppy sea. Mike and myself settled into our familiar routine – two upside rods apiece cast out with a variety of herring, squid and Sandeels baits. Mike gave fresh peeler crab a thorough testing as well, in the hope of some early smoothound.
As expected the dogfish were out in numbers and we were pretty much constantly busy unhooking doggies all day long. At a guess I probably had 50 doggies alone. The joys of boat fishing off of Minehead… Unfortunately there’s little you can do to avoid the dogfish here no matter what bait or size of bait you use – they’ll happily devour a whole fillet of herring or a large calamari without any problem. In fact fishing with a pennell rig (where there’s two hooks in the same bait) often results in pulling up two dogfish at a time. The only thing to do is to fish on through them in the hope something else will find its way to the bait before they do..
In amongst the steady stream of doggies I did pull up two thornback Rays and a small-eyed Ray along with a good blonde Ray of 12 lb. the thornbacks both gave cracking rod thumping bites that threatened to pull the rod over the side, whereas the larger blonde Ray gave a contrastingly delicate nibble. A three-bearded rocking , small whiting and tiny conger also added to the species count. Mike never did see his smoothound, although not for want of perseverance.
Next months boat trip will definitely be one where I’ll look to take along a couple of dozen fresh crab for the hounds though.