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Sea Fishing – Alan Yates’ Monthly Diary


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Mick Sharp with the bass that won 41st City of London Thames Fishery Experiment Match Mick Sharp with the bass that won 41st City of London Thames Fishery Experiment Match

It's the time of year when the going gets tough, and the tough get going and Alan is gearing up for winter with some sound advice on rigs, tactics...and cod!








The storms, as I write, are a wakeup call for cod anglers with high winds and big seas sure to kick start the proper winter season and bring the bigger cod inshore. But the biggest bonus of the arrival of December and deep winter is that the beaches and piers will be less crowded, with the mackerel brigade long gone.

Indeed, it’s a time when the going gets tough and the tough get going. A time for efficient thermals and waterproofs, a good headlight, a shelter and a time to fish into the small hours amongst the stair rod rain and freezing temperatures. Don’t you just love it!

I know I am not alone looking forward to proper winter, around my region of the south east are a dedicated band of hardy boat and shore anglers who will catch cod this winter and I fully expect to hear of a 40lb fish from the boat in the coming months. On the shore it will be tougher and anyone who connects with a double figure cod will be doing well.

Shore and boat tactics in the south at this time of year are pretty straightforward: either you use a large cuttlefish bait on an 8/0 plus Pennell Rig, or you fish a livebait rig, keeping the whiting off baits aimed at cod being the key.

Further north and amongst the rough ground where there are few whiting then the large lugworm/crab/squid/shellfish cocktail on a 4/0 plus Pennell works well. But where the whiting are its a job to keep them off and many anglers cannot face the boredom of big cod fishing with a huge bait and instead opt to wade through  the whiting and  dabs in the hope that a big cod will eventually muscle in and get hooked.

Of course a few lunkers do take a hooked whiting at this time of year and so it’s wise if you are fishing for dabs and whiting to do so with strong hooks. My choice is a Kamasan B940 size 1 and I have seen anglers land 20lb plus fish on one! Obviously fishing light does involve playing the fish carefully and in a big sea, swell and tide that’s not easy without the reel drag being loosened off! 

The advice is to take your time and use the waves to bring the fish in and don’t try to fight the undertow – do this and you will land your cod. From the pier a net is essential and there is a tip here – use a square or rectangular net and make the frame heavy so it stays put – unlike a round net which can roll along the wall.


Winter Terminal Rig Tips

Basic tackle rules for December onwards are to forget about light line hook snoods and in a ‘pea soup’ sea, 30lb is perfect. Also add a longer shock leader if you are fishing from a pier, whilst from the beach a tapered shock leader can help to combat weed on the line.

Construct all of your rigs with a clip or swivel combination at the top for an instant change connection to the main line; that way you can have a pre-baited rig ready to swap over on the retrieve, saving vital time.

Circular foam rig winders are the perfect way to store rigs and these are easy to rewind rigs onto for future use.

There are lots of different terminal rig designs aimed at species, casting, range, baits and rough and clear ground, etc. It’s a good idea to have a selection and the most popular rigs include: the Pulley for large baits, big fish and rough ground; the Three Hook Flapper for all round, medium range fishing for all species; the Three Hooks Clipped for long range and the Loop Rig for extreme range.

Rig construction is always a compromise between casting range and efficient bait presentation and no rig is suitable for all situations. Obviously the more hook baits, the more resistance there is to casting distance so opt for a balance between casting range and scent trail – It’s not good having a large bait where there are no fish or three baits lacking any scent.

Hook size is important, match the hook size to the bait so that the bait is presented efficiently and will hook the fish. A size 1 is perfect for worm baits, a 4/0 for squid or large cocktails.

Short rigs and snoods will tangle less and cast further, but remember that they don’t allow the baits to act as naturally as long rigs and snoods do.

There are many different types of terminal rig accessories, and new ideas come on the scene weekly, so beware of staying in the past. Modern equipment is neater and stronger and far less prone to catch weed, snag or tangle the rig.


Deep Winter Dramas

Breakages and accidents always happen when you least expect them and the harsh winter conditions will always find your tackle out!  Carry spares of everything, especially rods, reels and terminal rigs, as this will allow you to fish on because accidents to tackle always happen when the fish are climbing the rod tip!

Add a few heavier leads with fixed wires to your lead collection at this time of year, they can get you out of jail in the worst weather.

Tying your lugworm and other baits on the hook with light baiting elastic is a tip many match anglers adopted from the Continent, it prevents the small fish tugging it off the hook. BUT it also works particularly well for all baits when fishing for cod, whiting, codling, pouting, dabs etc and extends a limited worm supply.


2013 City of London Thames Fishery Experiment

It was a pleasure to fish the 41st City of London Thames Fishery Experiment Competition at Gravesend recently.

This annual event is organised to help establish the environmental condition of the river and is fished from the Gravesend foreshore on the Kent side, with anglers zoned adjacent to the Port Health Lower Thames office.  Eight County teams of eight and three school teams compete for an array of different trophies, fishing over three hours.

The event started in 1966 and was first arranged by the Thames Preservation Society who, together with the City of London Corporation, shared the organisation from 1971 to the present day. Event sponsors include the Fishmongers Company and the Port of London Authority with the Environment Agency also represented. The points scoriong system, devised by the Natural History Museum, reflects the species rarity in the river.

This year the match times were arranged around the banquet (rack of lamb with mint sauce) after the fishing missed the best of the high tide, although several anglers caught fish on their last cast.

The best catch of the day, however, came on the very first cast to Essex captain, Mick Sharp who beached a 44cm bass - by far the best fish of the day – and, along with whiting, flounders and eel he easily racked up the best individual score of 75 points. Largely thanks to Mick’s individual score  Essex County won the team event with 145 points to win the Lady Howard Trophy.

Runners up were the Charles Stanley Angling Team on 85 points and third the Thameside Angling Team on 80 points. The School winners were the London School for Girls with 25 points.

In total just 99 fish were landed including bass, sole, eel, flounder and whiting but this was well down on previous years.  The poor catches (last year the event produced nearly 600 fish) were blamed on a number of factors including local dredging for the new port nearby and the late spring/summer season, although the short tide was mostly likely to blame.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead I have a couple of shore fishing trips abroad after Christmas including Norway in February and Gambia in March – a  big swing in temperatures over a week from 12 below to 90 in the shade! 

The Norway event is organised by Dintur’s Ian Peacock with cod, haddock, coalfish and halibut the target species. Details from:  www.dintur.co.uk email: peacock@dintur.co.uk or Tel: 01914 472363.

For the Gambian Championships contact Bernard Westgarth on: 01325 720113 or email: Bernard@fishingthegambia.com

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Sea Fishing, Alan Yates, Cod Fishing, winter fishing