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

 

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!

Black Bream from Beer

Mid September is prime time for black bream in Lyme Bay with the boats usually fully booked up at this time of year. We only had the single trip booked up this year out of Beer, so were desperately keeping fingers crossed for good weather in the lead up to the trip.

Fishing out of Beer is totally dependant on having the correct wind conditions as it needs to be right for the boats to be able to launch off the beach and be recovered back up the steep shingle bank at the end of the day. Thankfully a favourable forecast meant we were able to go, and a gentle northerly breeze on the day made for flat conditions and our hopes were high for a successful days fishing.

Fishing Beer is always enjoyable, and affords the opportunity to fish light tackle in marked contrast to our usual fishing in the Bristol Channel’s vicious tides.

We anchored up and quickly put down ground bait of chopped mackerel and squid. Both Mike and myself as well as the skipper all fished light downtide rods with generally small hooks and a selection of fish and squid baits.

The first bream wasn’t long in coming aboard and after that we had a slow but steady stream of bites and fish throughout the rest of the day. Many were a good size and all fought fantastically on light tackle. I fished the majority of the time with a 6-12lb class boat rod and braid mainline with a 4 or 6oz lead. During slacker periods of tide I even managed to get away with a light spinning rod and fixed spool reel with 2oz lead. That really made for an exciting scrap with a few decent sized bream, the biggest of which was 3lb.

We keep the biggest fish for the pot, but returned all the smaller fish. In total we had over 40 bream between the 3 of us which made for a fun day out. Honours for the biggest bream of the day went to Mike with a 3.5lb fish.

In amongst the bream there were a few dogfish, a bull huss, a couple of nice pollack, some jumbo sized mackerel, several scad, poor cod plus a big tub gurnard for the skipper. I also managed to pull up 3 spider crabs when we had a quiet spell between bites.

Quite a successful trip all round.

 

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.

 

Self Drive Boats at Beer.

A day off mid week gave me and Maria the opportunity to grab a few hours fishing whilst the kids were at school. Not often we get to go out together so we thought we’d treat ourselves to taking one of the self drive boats out from Beer.

Mike and I usually fish for the Black Bream out of Beer during September and October, when we go out with one of the professional skippers but today Maria and I decided to try out the self drives. These go out off the beach and can be taken out at whatever time of the day suits, for as long as you like, with you paying when you come back in. Boat trips from Beer aren’t tide dependant and you can go out whatever state of the tide. The only real limiting factor is the wind – a lively southerly wind prevents the boats being launched or recovered from the beach.

We arrived hoping for flat calm conditions and were slightly disappointed to find a gentle southerly breezy, not enough to super the fishing but enough to make it a little choppy, especially in the little boats. The self-drive boats are sturdy and very sea worthy wooden boats with inboard engines, easy to operate and perfectly adequate for inshore fishing. With just the two of us onboard we weren’t short on space.

On arrival, we heard from the locals that not much had been caught over recent days and that the mackerel weren’t around in any numbers. We were planning on drifting for plaice but had been unable to get any ragworm from any of the local tackle shops so had to make do with frozen black lug instead. We did try one rod baited with lug just trickling along the bottom whilst we had another rod rigged up with feathers for mackerel. There was very little in the way of tide and what there was, was going against the wind so that the boat hardly moved at all – not very satisfactory when hoping to drift for plaice..

Maria got first honours with a few chunky mackerel which gave us hope of a productive day ahead. It wasn’t to be however, and we struggled for the next 2 and a half hours to eek out a dozen mackerel between us, before Maria won the day with a baby gurnard. Given the conditions we didn’t feel like persevering and called it a day before too long.

2016-07-07 Beer Mackerel

2016-07-07 Beer Marias Gurnard

Still – whilst not being terribly productive, it was a good fun trip and something that the girls would love to do if it was calmer. One to remember for the future.!

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

First Minehead Boat trip of 2016

March the 6th – time for the first boat trip of the year and we’re greeted by a bitterly cold and pretty strong wind. A chilly start to my sea fishing calendar saw Mike and myself heading out of Minehead with Dave James aboard one of our two usual boat’s, ‘Edwin John’.

Despite the chill, we were treated to a glorious sunrise, as we set up. As usual We both fished two upside rods each and soon settled in to the steady rhythm of catching dogfish one after another which is pretty standard for this part of the Bristol Channel. Amongst the doggies were a few more interesting species.

2016-03-06 Minehead Rockling

We had a few 3 bearded rockling, several whiting, including one up to around a pound and a half, along with a decent conger, a small thornback ray and a small-eyed ray. Alongside the ray we also had a couple of small codling between us although Mike did manage to trump me as usual with a ‘keeper’ at a few pounds. Don’t know how he does it but he always manages to winkle out better quality fish!

Whilst we fished the usual sandeel, herring and squid baits it was definitely the herring that seemed to be the best bait on the day. The herring are netted by Dave and his brother, Marcus during the winter months and then frozen down for use throughout the rest of the year. The herring have by all accounts recovered number wise in the area over recent years which is nice to see, as they’re obviously an important food source for many of the other fish in the channel.

To add to the days entertainment we were perfectly situated to spectate on the RNLI lifeboat practice session with the air sea rescue helicopter, just off of Minehead. Considering the slightly choppy conditions I thought they did well to winch crewmen on and off the lifeboat. I was cold just watching, so rather them than me!

2016-03-06 Minehead Lifeboat

Last Boat Trip of 2015

Today saw the last boat trip of 2015 out of Minehead. In the days leading up to the trip the weather forecast was looking pretty dire, with strong wind and rain forecast. I was therefore somewhat surprised when the night before the call came from Mike that we were going.. On the basis I had been convinced that the trip would be cancelled, I hadn’t bothered buying any bait or preparing any tackle so it was a bit of a rush on Saturday night to get ready for the following day’s fishing, not least because the boat would be leaving harbour at 6:30am..

Our arrival at Minehead in the morning was greeted by strong wind and rain as predicted. We steamed out in the pitch dark and had half an hour fishing in darkness before sunrise.

The skipper as always provided a bucket of squid and locally caught herring, and it wasn’t long before the first dogfish were coming aboard. Mike and I both fished 2 upside rods as usual and whilst sport was steady we weren’t rushed off our feet which was probably for the best as I really wasn’t feeling that enthusiastic. We fishing just of ‘White Mark’ to start with which is generally rough, coral ground. I caught a lovely Bull Huss of 12b on a whole squid along with a couple of smallish conger. We then moved offshore slightly onto the sand banks as the tide slackened off in order to try for the ray.

Minehead - Bull Huss

I switched to using sandeel on one rod and squid on the other to give a bit of variety. Mike did likewise. Between us we had a blonde ray, 3 small-eyed ray and a thornback ray – the real surprise being that whilst a couple of the ray came on the sandal as expected, the rest were caught on whole squid.

The dogfish stayed with us for the rest of the day until the building tide later on forced a move back inshore to avoid the worst of the current at which point even the dogfish were hard to come by for the last hours fishing. After 8 hours of battling the wind, the return to harbour and dry land was not lamented.

Having seen out the last of this years trips, we have 3 months of no boat fishing over the winter. Time to clean the gear, load the reels with new line and generally service and clean everything over the winter in preparation for next years fishing. Role on March! In the meantime, winter means an opportunity to concentrate on other aspect of fishing.. Fly fishing for pike being foremost in my mind at present… So many fish to catch and so little time!