Smoothhounds – Peeler Crab and Hardback Comparison

After the last trip’s success catching smoothhounds out of Minehead, I promised myself that this time I’d run a test to compare shop bought peeler crab against hardback crabs that I’d caught myself. I usually fish two uptide rods at Minehead in any case so it would be a simple matter of using peeler on one rod and hardback crab on the other and seeing if there was any discernible difference between the two baits.

I only bought a dozen peeler crab for this trip but stocked up in one of the local estuaries with a bucket full of hardback crabs. I made sure I had more than enough for Mike and myself. Now we just needed the smoothhounds to be hungry!

A small tide and fantastic weather allowed us to get out offshore straight away without needing to fish inshore whilst waiting for the tide to slacken. Perfect conditions all round!

Both Mike and myself both fished crab exclusively all day and were into smoothhounds straight away. I had a savage bite on the hardback rod on the first cast that I somehow missed. Followed by a fish on the peeler that put a good bend in the rod before I lost the fish.

Mike didn’t make the same mistakes and quickly took a commanding lead in the proceedings by landing a few hounds. From then on we both had bites and caught fish steadily throughout the day. I even had a small thornback ray on peeler crab. In the end I had 6 hounds on the peeler crab and 4 on hardback, whilst Mike had a dozen or more hounds, with a fairly even split between peeler and hardback. The end result being that on this admittedly small scale and fairly un-scientific comparison there didn’t appear to be any discernible difference between the performance of peeler crab or hardback crab for the smoothhounds.

The only other fish caught all day were a couple of doggies and the Thornback Ray I had. These all came to peeler crab – none on the hardback. This may have been because some of the hardbacks were pretty massive beasts and being hard would present quite a challenge to the ever pervasive doggies. The size of some of the hardbacks may have been another factor in the number of missed bites that I experienced today (we missed as many bites as fish landed).

The end result was that if fishing for smoothhounds and wanting to minimise nuisance from dogfish I’d fish hardback crabs without hesitation. Whilst from our limited test they didn’t seem to be better than peeler crab they also didn’t seem to be worse. They were free however, as opposed to £10 for a dozen… and for that reason alone, I’ll definitely be taking a bucket of hardbacks on the next trip.  Looking forward to the next trip already!


Fly Fishing Teignmouth Estuary

Bank holiday weekend with glorious weather? whats going on with our English seasons? This must be practically unheard of… Anyway, Sunday I’m booked in for a boat trip out of Minehead hopefully after a few smoothhounds so needing a bucket of crabs as bait I headed down to Teignmouth for a short crabbing session. Nothing better than catching fish on free bait.

A few sandeels in a small mesh bag dunked over the edge of the quay near Polly Steps soon resulted in me managing to fill the bucket with hardback shore crabs. Perfect for bait for the smoothhound fishing tomorrow where I’ll be fishing these hardbacks alongside shop bought peeler crab in a comparison test. (For the results of that trip, see here).

After my great success at crab fishing I headed along the Estuary to Flow Point to fish the low water for… well anything that might be around. I took along my #8 fly rod, waders and minimal tackle. Glorious weather and hot sunshine made standing around in a pair of neoprene waders a rather sweaty affair…

2016-05-28 Teignmouth 4457

2016-05-28 Teignmouth 4460

I’ve never fished this far up the Teign Estuary before so this was a bit of an exploratory session more than anything else –  a fish would be a bonus. Chatting to one of the locals on the way down it seemed that small school bass would be the most likely quarry.

I arrived at Flow Point at low water and the current was still flowing outwards. Whilst the pictures make it look pretty tranquil, they are really deceiving, and the water flowing past the marker post was doing so at quite a rate. It was around an hour before the build up of incoming seawater was enough to reverse the flow of water. Rather than wander aimlessly along the shoreline I decided to stand on a point (Flow Point I would guess) that would allow me to cast out into a channel of deeper water and hopefully pick up the fish as they passed through.

I did see a few small school bass but sadly didn’t connect with any. I did struggle with casting the #8 rod given that a tendon in my elbow was seriously hurting – and the casting wasn’t improving matters (Is there a fly fishing equivalent of tennis elbow?). Having said that, I managed ok and did half expect to pull up the odd juvenile bass, but it was not to be. Luckily the weather was kind to me and with hardly any wind I could get a reasonable distance with my casts. I’ll need to seriously up my game if I’m to be able to fish this kind of venue with any amount of wind present. Still, a lovely day to be out and it’s all good experience.

Roll on tomorrow’s boat trip! Bring on the hounds…


Chasing fish on the fly at Roadford Lake

Isobel and myself headed over to Roadford Lake for an afternoon session this weekend. On arrival we were greeted by blustery conditions and should of really turned around and headed home, but I didn’t fancy broaching the subject to my eager 8 year old: and so it was just us out on the windswept lake as every sane angler decided to stay at home. We did manage to find a little shelter under the lee of the far bank but every once in a while the wind would swirl around and disrupt my fun.

We did have a great time motoring around from place to place, and even getting the occasional cast after fish, but unsurprisingly we returned to the jetty without troubling any fish at all. Even the fun of driving the boat around eventually lost it’s novelty to Izzy and then I knew that it was time to head back.


What was very illuminated to me at least was watching back some the video that Isobel had taken during our trip. Lets just say that the reality of watching myself casting didn’t quite match up to how I imagined it might look to anyone looking my way…. Think I need to seriously brush up on my skills, get a lot more practice and on top of that it might just be time to consider taking another fly casting lesson soon – either that or put it all down to the wind….


Smoothhounds at Minehead

Bank holiday Sunday and I was out on the boat with Mike. We both took along a dozen and a half fresh peeler crab to supplement our usual bait of sandal, herring and squid in the hope that the first of the smoothhound would be around.

The skipper reported that they had been catching a few hounds in Pollock bay during the week, so we felt confident, and the southerly wind, even if it was a little brisk allowed us to get offshore from the start. All in all, things were looking promising. The wind and resulting waves made fishing quite a challenge but as is the case with a southerly wind on this section of coast, it was still bearable.

We both fished the usual two uptide rods each and were into the inevitable hordes of dogfish immediately, which didn’t let up all day. Any fish or squid bait was invariably found by the pervasive dogfish within minutes of being cast out. It was the fresh peeler crab that as expected found out the quality fish with all the smooth hounds falling to crab. When fishing crab here we always fish them with the shells still on as it really doesn’t put the crab crunching hounds off but can at least dissuade the dogfish to some extent.  Whilst I’d usually use a pennell rig for fishing other baits, when using crab we tend a use a single 6/0 hook as it seems to help present a whole crab better and ensure the hook point is clear.

We both had a selection of smoothhounds with several in double figures. My biggest of the day was 14lb, although Mike lost one that appeared to be considerably larger! Shame he didn’t get it on the boat as it would of made for an impressive picture.

Looking forward to next trip at the end of the month when weather permitting we should have the chance to try for some more hounds. Next time I’ll enlist the kids in catching a bucket full of hardback crabs the day before, for bait. The skipper had been out the previous week with some chaps that had had great success fishing hard backs for the smoothhound.. Not surprising really as crabs hard or peeler are what hounds eat. Catching hardbacks is much easier and cheaper than getting peelers, so maybe next trip I’ll do a test and fish peeler on one rod and hardback on the other and see if there’s any appreciable difference.

Smoothhound Minehead