The web site for eastern Solent boat fishing

Author: Neville Merritt (Page 1 of 28)

Owner of and
Author of "Angling Boats"
Director of Pure Potential Development Ltd

Book Review: The Forgotten Shipwreck

Author Martin Woodward MBE is probably the most qualified person in the entire world to write this particular book. Not only was he on the crew of the Bembridge lifeboat on the fateful night of the Flag Theofano sinking, he was also the professional diver called in subsequently to investigate the wreck. He has taken a lifelong interest in the circumstances surrounding the wreck and in honouring all those who perished. He lives in Bembridge, Isle of Wight on the seafront and he can see the wreck site every day.

This short book is a fascinating account of what most probably happened that night and resolves much of the uncertainty surrounding the cause of the sinking. Of course, we will never know for certain, but Martin’s assessment is highly plausible and dispels many of the myths surrounding the sinking.

I won’t spoil the story by revealing the ending, but it is worrying that there is a hint of a cover-up immediately following the sinking. This is strange because the missing evidence would not have implicated any party at the time and could have given some closure to the families of those lost.

The book contains many photographs, incredibly detailed sonar images from as recent as 2022, and excellent sketches drawn by the author to illustrate his findings and theories.

If you are local to Portsmouth, the headstone for Ibrahim Hussain (the last of the five crew members to be found) will be unveiled at 10:00 on the 2nd September. Ibrahim’s grave is at Kingston Cemetery and he is the only crew member to be buried in the UK. The grave has been unmarked for over 30 years, but now thanks to the interest created by Martin’s campaigning there will be a headstone on the grave. The unveiling will be followed by a book launch at Southsea castle.

For the price it is well worth a read and gives a lot more meaning to those two cardinal buoys and the lump on the fishfinder.

You can buy a copy here:

SMAC Monthly Meeting August 2022

The monthly meeting was held in the usual place – the Marina Bar – on 2nd August with a great turnout from the members. Many thanks for your support! Many thanks also to Steve Andrews for sending me the notes because I wasn’t able to attend.

Fish of the Month was awarded to Dave Newnham with his bass of 9lb 12oz (pictured – it’s definitely Dave and it’s definitely a bass but I’m not 100% sure it’s the actual bass – but near enough anyway).

Current club competition standings are as below:

The Open Species Competition was postponed from 31st July to 14th August, same arrangements as before. Sign in at the Marina office, fishing from 8am to 6pm and prize-giving in the Marina Bar afterwards.

Our next club event is the annual barbeque which will be held on Sunday 28th August from 2pm. Food is free for members, please bring your own drinks. There will also be a free raffle. Neville will be Chef de Cuisine and will also be providing an amuse bouche of his famous brined and smoked mackerel, as long as there is a supply of mackerel fillets on the day! It would be very helpful for our catering order if members could indicate whether they are coming with a Yes/No/Maybe to Steve Kelly before the 28th.

Please can anyone who has any catch photos, news or gossip they would like to share with members send them to me (Neville) by email, Messenger, Text or WhatsApp. Thank you!

Eleanor Atkins gave attendees a great presentation on the planned protest about the water quality around Southsea. This is caused by Southern Water discharging raw sewage into the sea whenever their treatment plants can’t cope – which seems to be often. On 10th September there will be a Protestival: Stop The Sewage Southsea event. In their words “There will be lots of amazing organisations, artists and more to raise awareness of the need to look after our sea and to keep the spotlight on Southern Water.” More details to follow

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 6th September, 7pm in the Marina Bar advertised although we usually start proceedings at 7:30!

Neville Merritt

Catch Report July 2022

We have had some remarkably warm and mostly calm weather throughout July, which has meant many local boat anglers have been out probably more than usual. Calm, settled weather in summer tempts us to head out 15 miles and more to the banks that hold bass. Although we can only bring home two fish per angler, there is still great sport to be had (see gallery below).

Mackerel have as usual continued to tease us with shoals in the usual places one day, then a blank fish-finder screen on other days. The other summer frustration is floating weed. This tends to affect fishing within a few miles of shore which includes all of the Solent. Neap tides aren’t so bad, but some tides can be unfishable unless you drift or head offshore beyond the worst of it.

Species competitions, whether one-day or annual club competitions have become increasingly popular. Our area is well served with probably one of the widest range of species available across the seasons. As the water warms up at the end of summer, some very exotic species can appear. Unfortunately the SMAC Open Species Competition has had to be postponed until 14th August so we hope to bring news of that in the next report.

Harbour Speed Limits

Hampshire Constabulary Marine Unit have produced a useful leaflet sumarising all the speed limits in the harbours and rivers around the Solent. This is helpful because they differ, and signage is often small or obscured. You can download a copy of the leaflet here.

COLREGS Rule 6 – Safe Speed

Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within the distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.

The following factors should be among those taken into account:

  1. The state of visibility
  2. The traffic density including concentrations of fishing vessels or any other vessels
  3. The manoeuvrability of the vessel with special reference to stopping distance and turning ability in the prevailing conditions
  4. The state of wind, sea and current, and the proximity of navigational hazards
  5. At night the presence of background light such as from shore lights or other back scatter
  6. In instances where radar is being used, the limitations associated with your radar device and general radar navigation must be considered


Catch Report June 2022

June provide plenty of fishing opportunities and the summer species have been very obliging. Highlight of the month was the national Sea Angling Classic competition based from Portsmouth. Please see our separate report here. The catches were very representative of what has been around this month: a lot of hard fighting smoothhound, big tope, plenty of bream, rays and bass. There were fewer big bass boated during the competition than you would expect at this time of year but that was because the best bass marks were beyond the limits of the competition grounds.

From personal experience, this year has shown a significant improvement in bream catches both in number and size. Hopefully this is linked to the conservation efforts over the breeding grounds of Kingmere Reef in West Sussex, and improvements will continue.

We had a flurry of early mackerel, then they became rather difficult to locate reliably. As the summer progresses they should shoal up again. There are plenty of baitfish in the water to attract them in.

Some very good pollack came from the more distant wrecks – see gallery.

Mullet are well established in the harbours and give good sport when conditions are unfavourable outside.

Future dates to be aware of:

Sunday 31st July – SMAC Open Species Competition with a great prize table

Monday 8th August – Southsea Marina Fuel Bay out of action for maintenance work

SMAC Monthly Meeting July 2022

The monthly meeting was held as usual in the Marina Bar on Tuesday 5th July at 7pm.

Fish Of The Month was awarded to Chris Satow for his 16lb Undulate Ray caught from Lady Elsa.

Competition standings are as detailed below (updated since the meeting):

The SMAC anglers who took part in the Sea Angling Classic were warmly congratulated for their efforts, partularly the teams from Stuart Newell’s Harvest Moon who topped the Charter section. See the separate report on the SAC here.

The next competition will be the Open Species Competition on 31st July, organised by Bill Arnold. We now have an impressive prize table thanks to our various local sponsors. In addition, Stuart Newell has donated seven reels, two sets of scales and other loot for the prize table. Dave Newenham has donated two bottles of whisky.

Finaly, Stuart also announced that he is one of the select few charter skippers authorised to catch Blue Fin Tuna on a catch, tag and release basis. He will be operating out of Fowey in Cornwall, and has  a special offer for SMAC members – please contact him for details. Trips will be for 10 hours duration.

Next meeting will be Tuesday 2nd August, usual time, usual place.



June Report from “Harvest Moon”

As we approach the end of June and losing a few days to the weather, we take a look back at an incredible month.  June started with amazing fishing, with plentiful packs of Tope, Smooth hounds and mackerel still fairly easy to find.

Every trip bar the last one produced Tope to 40lb + and one amazing day producing 30+ Tope in 4 hrs crazy fishing only to be cut short by the weather which arrived earlier than expected. A day out on the overfalls and French banks produced bass on most drifts with the majority being in the 3-5lb bracket.

Our first Sharking trips have taken place, sadly no hook ups yet only lots of small Tope, but we have seen one free jumping Thresher which is always a awesome sight.

Towards the end June we had the Sea Angling Classic in which we had entered the Charter Boat section. There was some stiff competition with the likes of Glen and Zac Cairns running their Valkyrie charters and the Wetwheel boats from Portsmouth and Hamble. Our 2 teams consisted of Steve Batchelor and Colin Searles both England international anglers and myself with our secret weapon in the one and only Mr Peter Churchill aka (Mr Tope).

The plan was to use Peters 30+ years of knowledge about the tides, marks and fish behaviour. After an exciting start with over 60 boats racing from the start line, we managed to secure our first mark without to much hassle, although I didn’t get the anchoring spot on as got pointed out! We all fished our socks off and by the end of day 1 Peter and I finished in 1st position.

Day 2 was going to be more tricky as we knew we had a target painted on our backs. But we managed to get on our marks, again my anchoring wasn’t quite up to the standard of Mr Churchill although close enough for us to catch our intended species. By lunchtime the fishing had slowed up, more to do with the amount of boats flying around than the tides I think, but this is where Steve and Colin really showed us why they fish for England. Constantly changing baits and rigs for the different target species and to be pulling out fish while I was lifting the anchor made the difference.

At the presentation event held in Portsmouth historic dockyard, the excitement of everyone involved was electric. Harvest Moon won 1st in the charter boat section with Steve and Colin getting 1st place and Peter and I coming in 2nd spot. Plans for next year’s event are already in place.

The only thing that made the result of the Sea Angling Classic better was receiving a email from CEFAS to inform me that I had been picked from the application process to be one of only 25 boats legally allowed to target Bluefin Tuna in the UK. This is something I have been working towards for the past few years and can’t wait to give people the chance to catch these amazing fish.  More details to follow if you fancy booking a trip of a lifetime!

Stuart Newell, “Harvest Moon”

(Contact Stuart on 07919 001400 or British Big Game Charter on Facebook)

SMAC Boat tops Sea Angling Classic Charter Boat Category

Well what an amazing fishing event the 2022 Sea Angling Classic turned out to be. After a trial run last year, Spirit of Angling run by Ross Honey launched the UK’s biggest and most glamorous sea angling competition we have ever seen – from Portsmouth! Ross has been very supportive of SMAC and has donated a number of the £250 SAC entry tickets as prizes for our own competitions.

The event was run along similar lines to the big USA fishing tournaments with lots of promotion, sponsorship, road trips, media coverage and entertainment – in fact it was almost a festival around the competition itself. Activities ran from Wednesday 15th June to Sunday 19th June with the two-day competition running on Friday and Saturday.

The event was run in two team categories: Charter Boat and Recreational Boat to give everyone a fair chance. Top prize in the Recreational category was a £150,000 fishing boat package so this competition attracted anglers from all over the UK. The Charter Boat category was a pairs event; the Recreational category was run as a boat team with two to four anglers participating.

The theme of the programme was to support recreational angling with a strong conservation message. All competitors had to take part in a Beach Clean. There were side-line activities to encourage young people to try angling. The main competition was strictly catch-and-release, with a slightly complicated scoring system made simpler by the use of a dedicated phone app. Simply explained, five species groups counted: rays, bass, bream, tope and smoothhound. All catches had to be measured and photographed, and the aggregate length of the longest three fish in each species on each day became the team score.

SMAC members competing in the Recreational Category were :

  • Ray Plomer and Bill Arnold (Ruthless)
  • Clive Newnham and Dave Newnham (Pedro)
  • Dan Lumsden, Steve Tambling and Ben Lumsdem (Sea Jay)
  • Tony Dickson and Steve Andrews (Big G)
  • Nick Wallis fished on a non-club boat Bad Boyz

Charter Boat Category:

  • Stuart Newell and Pete Churchill (Harvest Moon)

The overall results from the two days was spectacular. A total of 1.067 fish were caught, with locations and sizes recorded and the data shared with marine biologists monitoring fish stocks in the area. This included 128 Tope, 505 Smooth Hound; 300 Bream; 120 Skates and rays; 14 Bass. This was a combined length of 763.29 metres! The low number of bass caught was because the better bass marks were outside the limits of the competition fishing area.

Both teams from Stuart Newell’s boat Harvest Moon were placed at the top of the Charter Boat category; Steve Batchelor and Colin Searles coming first with 1,601cm and Stuart Newell and Pete Churchill coming second with 1,406cm, putting Harvest Moon firmly at the top of the league! Stuart Newell also won Biggest Fish with his tope of 161cm.

The Recreational Boat category was won by the team on Smartfish, but it was interesting to see that only 16cm separated them from second place Tequila, and only 1cm separated them from third place Paintball. At 4pm on Friday, the provisional placings put the SMAC team on Sea Jay in first position! The standings at the end of Day One put Tequila leading Smartfish and Paintball so the competition was close fought to the end.

The Recreational Boat category trophy was a spectacular model of the Spinnaker Tower, made by apprentices at BAE Systems Maritime. It was constructed from timber from HMS Victory and steel from the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.

Overall, this was a hugely successful event attracting a lot of attention and much enjoyed by competitors and spectators alike. There was plenty of entertainment for those ashore from the opening parade on Wednesday to the final reception on Sunday. On the water, we could easily spot the competitors’ boats by the large flags they were flying.

For more details on the event and the full results listing please see the posts on the home page of Sea Angling Classic.

You can enjoy a photo gallery from the event here:

P.S. Stuart Newell has donated a heap of his prizes to SMAC for our forthcoming competitions and raffles. Thank you Stuart!

Devastating fire destroys vessel off Bembridge

Bembridge All-Weather Lifeboat the RNLB Peter and Lesley-Jane Nicholson responded to a motor boat on fire off the eastern shore of the Isle of Wight on Sunday 19th June. The Tamar class lifeboat was launched at 3.40pm at the request of UK (Solent) Coastguard to assist the 38ft vessel Fast Flow on fire with two people onboard. First on scene was Gosport & Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (GAFIRS). The Independent lifeboat crew were able to take the two crew off safely and establish a tow. Once on scene, RNLB Peter and Lesley-Jane Nicholson took over the tow and anchored the burning vessel.

The two crew were then transferred to her and taken to Hayling Island (from where they had set off earlier in the day) and dropped off. The Queen’s Harbour Master Portsmouth dispatched the firefighting tug SD Independent to attempt to put out the fire. Unfortunately by the time it arrived, the vessel had burned almost to the waterline and was beyond saving. It has subsequently been reported that the vessel has sunk. RNLB Peter and Lesley-Jane Nicholson returned to Bembridge as was recovered by 7.15pm.

Report and photos from Portsmouth Echo, RNLI and GAFIRS

Catch Report May 2022

This year, unlike previous years, summer started the way it is meant to start! Bream arrived in good numbers and some excellent catches have been made both in size and quantity. It’s good to see so many fish returned and only a few kept for the pot. There have been plenty over the 2lb mark and the largest bream recorded at SMAC so far this year (4lb 8oz) is already a lot heavier than last year’s Bream Cup winner (3lb 13oz). See the SMAC Open Bream competition report and also the Harvest Moon report for more details.

A spectacular Gilthead bream was weighed in on the Isle of Wight. It was caught by Robbie Swindle on ragworm while he was fishing for stingray, and tipped the scales at 7lb 12oz. This shows what could be out there, you just never know when a specimen fish could turn up.

Mackerel have also arrived in good numbers, and of a respectable size too. Last year they were late turning up but when they did they were plentiful. This year they already here in similar numbers, although I have found they don’t always seem to be hungry. You can find them in the usual places including very obviously in the entrance to Portsmouth harbour, right where you aren’t supposed to be in a small boat! See photo.

Tope followed the mackerel in and plenty of good fish have been caught. Bill Arnold and Peter Churchill shared these photos of large tope to an estimated 50lb coming to the boat (see the Gallery below). Conservation-minded anglers like Bill and Peter prefer to release big tope at the side of the boat rather than bringing them aboard. Large tope can damage themselves with their own strength, and their greater bodyweight needs the support of water to prevent risk of internal damage.  Smaller tope can be brought aboard without much harm if handled carefully. Thanks also to Dan Lumsden (wrasse of 3lb 15oz featured in our header photo) and Stuart Newell for their catch photos in the gallery.

There had been much anticipation of the national Sea Angling Classic competition on 17th and 18th June from Portsmouth, and we wish all competitors the very best of luck. We look forward to bringing you the results in our next Catch Report.

Neville Merritt



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