Small-Eyed Ray bonanza in the Bristol Channel

When boat fishing at Minehead I’d usually expect to catch a few rays; Blonde, Small-eyed, Spotted or Thornback. Some days we can catch quite a few during the course of the day but our last trip out of Minehead was spectacular for the quantity and quality of the Small-Eyed Ray.

Mike and I fished our usual two uptide rods each; I started with sandeel on one and herring on the other. We were fishing in close over the sand and targeting ray so it was no surprise when the first couple of Small-Eyes came up on the rods fishing the sandeel baits. The next half dozen ray came to the herring however, at which point I switched to fishing herring on both rods. Mike followed suit, and we had managed close to 20 fish in the first 2 hours – not bad fishing by anyone’s standards! To top things off, Mike pulled up not 1 but 2 small turbot. Adding to this, the complete lack of dogfish, who at this time of the year seem to go on holiday really marked this out as a red letter day!

By the time the bites tailed off, the falling tide had left us with almost no water under the keel so a move out to deeper water was in order. There we fished a variety of baits, and proceeded to land our first couple of doggies of the trip and a few conger eels. I had a few Starry Smoothhounds on crab whilst Mike boated a beautifully marked Spotted Ray. The day’s only disappointment for my point of view was losing a good fish that put a serious bend in the rod as soon as I wound into it, before giving a couple of shakes of it’s head and proceeding to bite straight through my 80lb hook length.. Needless to say, but I didn’t hear the end of that mishap for the rest of the trip.

Once the tide had turned and begun to pick back up, we moved in closer again hoping to pick up where we’d left off earlier. It wasn’t to be, and although we did have a couple more Small-Eyed Ray, they weren’t as prolific as earlier in the day. Arguably, my highlight of the day was to pull up a small turbot on a herring strip – My first ever turbot I believe!!. Small but perfectly formed!. To crown our trip off on the last cast, Mike caught a welcome bass as well, just to add to the species count. All in all I don’t think the trip could have gone much better.

 

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Smoothhounds & Dogfish at Minehead

This months trip out of Minehead didn’t look like it was going to go ahead when I checked the weather forecast in the days leading up to the weekend; fresh north westerly winds not being ideal for the section of Bristol Channel we usually fish. However, the message we got the night before from the skipper was that we were good to go.

I met Mike at the harbour on Sunday and admired the cloudless blue skies and blazing sunshine but have to admit my smile faded somewhat when I walked out onto the harbour and felt the strong NW wind howling. I consoled myself that at least the wind would take some of the edge off the heat.

We were fishing a short 6 hour session over the top of the tide so had the opportunity to head straight out to deeper water rather than shelter in close from the tide as may have been the case otherwise.  Mike and myself fished two uptide rods each as usual and both started with fresh crab baits aimed for the smoothhounds. I baited one of my rods with herring or squid throughout the day. A steady procession of dogfish inevitably came in on the fish and squid baits, including numerous double hook ups when fishing big squid baits; each hook in the pennell set-up accounting for a dogfish which just shows how many of them must of been down there.

2017-07-02 Minehead Dogfish

The crab baits on the other hand didn’t attract much attention from the dogfish. I think this is mainly due to the fact that we fish crab with the shells on. Fishing crab with the shells on, doesn’t deter smoothhounds of rays at all but does help minimise hassle from dogfish.. I had half a dozen good sized smoothhounds before we had to call it a day, and Mike also had a few; the majority being starry hounds although a couple were the ‘common’ variety. Unusually for Minehead we didn’t catch any rays at all – in fact nothing but hounds or dogfish. Having said that, we finished the day feeling we’d had a successful fishing trip which is the aim of the game….

2017-07-02 Minehead smoothound

 

Quality Smoothhound and Plenty of Ray

This months boat trip out of Minehead supplied plenty of Ray as well as some quality Smoothhound for Mike and myself. The 5:30am start did nothing to dampen our optimism, and we were into fish as soon as the first baits hit the bottom… dogfish of course; and boy did we catch a few of them this trip! The doggies were present in near biblical plague proportions, with any fish bait gobbled up within moments of settling on the sea bed.

Spotted Devil / Dogfish

In amongst the spotted devils there were good fish to be caught, with both Mike and myself having some good smoothhounds, in fact everyone was nudging double figures if not just over the mark. We had around a dozen hounds, both starry and commons; We also had more than a dozen ray between us, mostly Thornback Ray but also a few Small-Eyed Ray. The skipper, Marcus who also fished this trip for a change had a couple of Small-Eyed as well before calling it quits once he’d had enough of pulling up the dogfish.

A couple of small congers graced us with their presence as well, although the smallest of which could have easy passed for a large green eel, size wise… Other than that – the dogfish ruled the day! The only way to not catch them was to fish with hardback crab for the smoothhounds!

The early start paid dividends as we up-anchored and headed for the harbour, watching some of the other boats just heading out – just as the heavens opened and the rain lashed down.

2017-06-04 Minehead SMoothhound

 

 

 

Boat Fishing at Minehead – Could it Get Any Better?

Wow – what a day’s fishing! Sunday’s trip out of Minehead on the “Edwin John” with skipper, Dave James couldn’t have been much better. The weather was faultless and the fishing pretty damn good too!

Mike and I fished our usual 2 uptide rods apiece and had numerous good fish in amongst the hordes of dogfish that snaffled our baits. It’s amazing how easy the fishing is when you don’t have to struggle to stay upright whilst fishing – the flat calm conditions really were a very welcome change from some of our recent trips.

We had an early start and an 8 hour trip, so plenty of time to get into the swing of things. We started off on the sand banks not far offshore, fishing pretty shallow water in search of rays. I fished sandeel, the ever favourite ray bait, on one rod and switched between whole herring fillet or whole squid on the other rod. All fish baits were eagerly greeted by the dogfish, but in amongst them came some good rays. My first two were both double figure small-eyed rays – one on herring and the other squid, by which time the tide had dropped sufficiently to allow us to move further along to another area of sandbank not fishable in the full tide flow.

At this new location we would again primarily be targeting rays but the sandbanks here could also through up the potential of smoothhounds as we were reliably informed by the skipper. So it was that the first decent fish I connected with here was a lively starry smoothhound which showed no hesitation in devouring the hardback crab used as bait. We both added further hounds to our tallies; me using hardback crab and Mike using fresh peeler crab; before the rays came back on the feed again.

Mike had a couple of nice Thornback rays on sandeel, whilst I had a couple of thornbacks too, and 3 more small-eyed ray, including another double figure fish. Again, my rays all with the exception of one which took a sandeel, were taken on herring or squid. After the tide had turned and picked up enough to make winding in even a small dogfish a strenuous activity, Dave called for a move. We headed back closer to the shoreline, to fish a patch of rougher ground where the skipper again announced we might expect rays, conger or hounds…. exciting!

2017-05-07 Minehead IMG_6981

Mike persevered with crab in the hope of further hounds, or he would no doubt have had more rays, whilst I only dabbled with the crab bait on one rod every now and again. It seemed to pay off when, I had another cracking bite on the rod fishing crab bait, only for the unmistakable feel of a conger to be felt as I wound up and tightened into the fish. Still, shouldn’t be ungrateful as it was another different species to brighten the day yet further.. Following this, I was fortunate enough to round off the day by adding to my tally of different ray species by landing a blonde ray.

Can’t complain about a day’s fishing like that – perfect weather, a smattering of smoothhounds, conger, dogfish, and 3 different species of ray. If only every trip could be half as productive and with weather to match…

Bull Huss – the daddy of all Dogfish.

October out on the Bristol Channel and it’s all beginning to feel considerably more autumnal now. Sunshine or not, the stiff north easterly breezy today was pretty chilly.

Mike and myself fished our usual brace of uptide rods each, and with a smallish tide we were able to head out to deeper water from the off without having to hang around inshore waiting for the tide to ease.

Mike picked up a good smoothhound on the first cast, whilst true to form I pulled in a dogfish. We had steady action throughout the day, with conger eels being around in significant numbers.

I had 8+ congers, some of them a decent size too, along with another 3 or 4 that I lost (usually as the result of being bitten off – despite the 80lb mono traces). I also landed a small tope although only about dogfish size, along with a few proper doggies and a couple of Bull Huss – the biggest being a pleasing 12lb.

Mike had congers and dogfish before finished off the trip with his 2nd smoothhound of the day weighing in at just shy of 14lb. Quite a fun day all in all. Most of my fish came to whole calamari, whereas Mike’s hounds were all needless to say on crab.

Only one more trip left now for this year then it’s our winter break from the boat fishing before recommencing in the spring. Maybe November’s trip will see a cod or two, you never know!

The Bristol Channel in September

Quick update on Septembers trip out of Minehead.

Overcast but warm with nice calm conditions which made for easy and pleasant fishing.  Mike and myself both up tiding as usual with two rods each. I caught a couple of smoothhound and 2 small-eyed ray. Only had a solitary dogfish as did Mike which was pretty mind boggling considering their usual prolific numbers here in the Bristol Channel. It made for a change to be able to chill out and wait for bites from other fish without being bothered every few minutes by dogfish.

Whilst my day might of been a little quieter than usual, Mike did have half a dozen smoothhounds and a small-eyed ray to go with his dogfish, so all in all we had a respectable number of decent fish on the boat between us.

 

The 10 Second Bass at Minehead.

For this months boat fishing trip out of Minehead, and we were treated to fantastic weather – flat calm, hot and overcast. A small tide meant we’d be able to get out and fish the deeper water as well.

When we boarded the boat the skipper, Marcus suggested that maybe we should try a drift or two over the sandbanks for bass. He’d been meaning to give it a go for a while and with the tide and weather being right, we thought it was worth a shot. Mike and myself lowered our baited hooks over the side for the first drift, and we watched the sandeels flutter down out of sight. moments later and the bait hits bottom – a few seconds after that and I’ve hooked the first fish. We were all stunned to see a lovely 3.5lb bass come to the net. What a start to the trip! Not sure if Marcus genuinely expected us to catch a bass or whether it was the most outrageous fluke. Either way, it was an auspicious start to the trip.

2016-08-14 Minehead Bass 5104

We finished the drift and encouraged by the early success had another drift but to no avail. Mike had a couple of bites but we didn’t connect with anymore fish, so headed out to try for the smoothhounds in deeper water.

Mike was straight onto fishing crab on both rods whilst I opted for crab on one and herring on the other. We both started to catch the occasional smoothhound along with the odd dogfish, whilst I landed a really fat Bull Huss on a fillet of herring.

The rest of the day was a leisurely and relaxing affair, with a steady procession of smoothhounds and the occasional dogfish. We finished the day with just short of 20 hounds between us. It turned out to be a good day’s fishing – nice and easy fishing in the calm conditions – it’s amazing how much more enjoyable everything is when you’re not being thrown around in the boat by waves.

 

Uptiding at Minehead

Sunday saw Mike and myself heading out of Minehead for this month’s boat trip. As usual we both fished two uptide rods each, and were hoping for some decent numbers of smoothhound given the time of year.

The smoothhound just weren’t around in any numbers and we only had a few between us. I did catch a nice pair of small-eyed ray, whilst Mike caught a mid double figure blonde ray. The ray all came to either sandeel or herring. The usual hordes of dogfish were present as to be expected and I gave up counting after I’d had approaching 30 by myself.

Minehead – where have all the Smoothhounds gone?

Wow! how can two trips just a couple of weeks apart be so different? May / June / July are usually top times for the smooth hounds in the Bristol Channel, when we can happily expect to see them in good numbers. Last month when I started my peeler crab verses hardback crab test was no exception, and we had plenty. This trip, and not only was the weather decidedly un-summerlike but the smoothhounds seemed to have largely moved on – presumably to pastures new.

I had been hoping to continue the peeler / hardback test and had bought peeler crabs and caught a bucket of hardback crabs as well. Sadly it wasn’t to be and I struggled to catch anything except the ever ravenous dogfish. No smoothhounds bothered my crab baits on this occasion and the vast majority of the crabs experienced only a short period of captivity before being released at the end of the day to swim free…

Mike did prove that there were some hounds around by catching 3 and then proceeded (as usual) to show just how good (or lucky) a fisherman he is by pulling in, a nice thornback ray, a spotted ray, a 3-bearded rockling and a couple of doggies for good measure… I only just managed to save myself from a “dogfish only day” by landing a nice spotted-ray. phew…! The surprising thing with both the spotted rays we caught was that they came whilst out deeper – my one took a fillet of herring. Surprising really as usually if fishing for spotted ray we’d be close inshore on some of the near-shore sandbanks and fishing with sandeel.

2016-06-26 Minehead - Spotted Ray

That’s fishing I suppose. Can’t catch loads of fish all the time… even if it would be nice to.

The continuation of my crab comparison will have wait until next trip, when hopefully the hounds will be around in greater numbers. Wouldn’t mind a few more ray next time too…

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!