Boat Angling

The web site for eastern Solent boat fishing

Author: Neville Merritt (page 1 of 20)

Langstone Catch Report July 2020

After all those weeks of lockdown with calm sunny days, the inevitable happened. We were allowed back onto our boats and the wind got up and the rain started to fall. Actually it wasn’t that bad, we have had plenty of fishable days and for those on a more “flexible” working arrangement there have been enough fishable days to give us a great gallery of catch photos this month. The socially distanced queue for bait at our local tackle shop was a sign that things are kind of getting back to normal.

May to June are excellent months in the Eastern Solent calendar. The bream are still here, smoothhounds have arrived, large tope are here to breed and there are plenty of mackerel for bait and the BBQ. All these in addition to our residents of rays, bass and lesser species keep the rod tips active.

Calmer days allow boats to push well offshore to the channel wrecks. Kev Johnson shows the quality of pollack available if you find the right wreck. If you scale the tackle down you can catch some exceptional bream on the wrecks, best on that trip was 3lb 13oz. As Arron Shons demonstrates, you can also find some lunker wrasse with pollack lures. There are some cod on the wrecks too. One of the dangers of prolonged inactivity is that boat engines can suffer, and it pays to check them over carefully and run them up before heading out. There has been a record number of callouts to Sea Start, our local “AA” for boats. Kev Johnson towed a boat back from his wrecking trip – broken down, no VHF and no lifejackets. They were lucky he was passing.

We are fortunate to have eminent marine biologist Bill Arnold as a member of SMAC, and he is a goldmine of information about fish species. I learned something new from Bill – he sent me pictures of two cuckoo wrasse he caught – male and female. Apparently they are all female at birth and change if they feel the need later in their lives (so that’s not a new thing). As you can see the male is much brighter and his job is to lure predators away from the nest where the female protects the young. Sounds like a dangerous existence. Thanks Bill for the biology lesson!

On to larger species, the tope fishing has been excellent and we have some great catches shown by Dave Jordisan, Dean Lodge, Josh Carter, Pete Brown and a personal best for Tony Myatt. There were also some good rays boated – Bill Arnold again with a blonde ray of 17.5lb; Kris Scott topped it with a 21lb blonde and a good undulate ray. Scott Gardner fishing off Selsey shows a good thornback ray and an excellent smoothhound of 19lb. Tim Andrews has one of our less common catches, a turbot.

Meanwhile the SMAC Ladies competitions standings were overturned with a nice bream from Hayley Ellis and she now also leads the Ladies Species Table.

We are hoping for more great fishing in the coming month before the tope and bream move off. August can be quiet but that is still plenty of fishing weeks away. See you next month.

Neville Merritt

Southsea Marina Angling Club

Sea Angling News

Cracking Bass

Here’s a nice photo to share, a cracking bass caught by Oliver Aubrey-Thomas from a mark south of Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex. It was tempted by a bait of fresh squid, fished on the bottom.

Installing a transducer inside the hull – new method

OK I admit it, I probably have too many fishfinders but I wanted a screen in the cockpit for when I was drifting and couldn’t see the screens by the wheel. It was a LOT more expensive to buy a slave MFD screen for the NMEA2000 network so I opted for a standalone, low-cost fishfinder which meant I had yet another transducer to mount. I already have one transom mount and one through-hull, so I thought why not complete the set and have an in-hull mount. I have had one before with the purpose-designed Airmar P-79 tranducer mounting and that worked fine, except I wasn’t going to buy a different transducer this time. The one in the fishfinder box was a simple transom mount and these units work perfectly well mounted inside the hull unless you have something fancy like Structure Scan or Side Scan.

In my book “Angling Boats”, and on the Boat DIY page, I describe how you can stick the transom mount transducer to the hull. This method works for fairly flat hull sections but it is rather permanent and has no room for adjustment. Inspired by the new foam mounts available for kayaks, I used the same design principles but beefed up for the rigours of boat bilges.

Concept:

The idea is to use a protective box stuck to the inside of the hull, and mount the transducer inside the box. No need to find a near-horizontal mounting point because this is the new and clever bit – mount the transducer in foam! A breeze to install and easily adjustable.

Transducer box bilge mounted

Materials:

  • Outdoor domestic electrical junction box
  • Waterproof cable gland if the box didn’t come with one
  • Piece of upholstery or packing foam the size of the inside of the box
  • Sealant/adhesive such as Sikaflex 291i or Evo-stik Sticks Like Sh*t
  • Antifreeze (optional)

Method:

  1. Buy your junction box at an electrical suppliers. The inside dimension needs to hold the tranducer but not any mounts, so a standard size is probably fine. Get a waterproof cable gland to fit, an exterior plastic one is fine here, no need for a fancy marine gland.
  2. Decide where you want to mount the transducer. On the outside of the hull there must be clean water flow with no bubbles or turbulance, and inside the hull it needs to be somewhere accessible but not in the way. You can check the best location with the test method described here. Do this under way, because any areas in turbulence won’t show up until you are moving.
  3. Now cut a big hole in the base of the box. The best way us to cut out the entire bottom face leaving a flange around the edge of about 5-10mm. This flange is important, it is used to make a good bond with the hull face.
  4. Drill a hole in the box where you want to install the gland, and screw it in.
  5. Degrease the area of the hull where you want to install the box.
  6. Glue the box to the hull with a generous quantity of  adhesive sealant applied to the flange, and press to the hull making sure plenty squidges out. Tidy it up leaving a fillet of sealant all round. Leave it to set.
  7. Cut your foam to shape so it fits snugly in the box.
  8. Cut a slit in the foam or cut a shape in the foam slightly smaller than the transducer.
  9. Feed the transducer cable through the gland from the inside.
  10. Put the foam in the box.
  11. Fit the transducer in the foam and adjust it so it sits horizontal to the water level. The foam will grip it in place.
  12. Tighten up the cable gland.
  13. Important – you need the transducer face to be in liquid to transmit signals to the hull, through it and through the water outside. This is why you needed the good seal from the box to the hull because you now need to full the box with liquid. There is so much foam in the box you won’t need much liquid. Some people use cooking oil, some use plain water, some use water with car antifreeze added. In UK waters your bilge will never freeze when afloat but when ashore it might freeze in winter, so antifreeze is worth adding.
  14. Screw on the lid, and job done!
  15. Watch for leaks, and test when under way. If you have followed these instructions it should be problem-free.

That’s all there is to it. Easy to maintain, easy to swap transducers, easy to check and adjust and the transducer is well protected from stuff that gets chucked into the bilge area!

Langstone Catch Report June 2020

After weeks of lockdown watching day after day of perfect fishing weather pass us by, we could hardly believe our luck when restrictions on fishing and private boating were eventually eased and we were blessed by a few days of calm and sunshine.

Most people with boats on moorings and in marinas hadn’t even been able to visit them to make sure all was well, although it was nice that the marina staff at Southsea Marina kept an eye on the boats and even sent us a phot if we wished. It wasn’t the same though, and when we got the green light there was a rush to get boats in the water, checked over and out to sea.

Social distancing still applies so it was “families only” for boat-owners, and single occupancy for charter vessels. I think most people were just happy to get a line in the water and the sun on their faces, and it certainly made a welcome change from Zoom meetings, queueing down the street to buy a carton of milk or wearing a groove in the same old park walk.

Even though we have only had a week or so of actual fishing to report on this month, the results have been surprisingly good. You may recall from the Local Guide we published in the previous issue of SAN, in May we can expect seasonal visitors of some big tope, bream over the rocky marks, smoothhound, plaice, the first mackerel and of course all the residence species.

Team Crawford (Heber, Heber Junior and Archie) found quality tope south of the Island and an epic trip included a personal best for Heber with a tope of 60lb plus.

Bream are plentiful if you get the tide and location right. My daughter Aedy and I fished a popular bream mark and only managed to land one. When we returned to the marina we found that another boat which had been on the same mark at 5am caught 60 (only keeping a few for the table). On another day, Arron Shons located some very good specimens and also boated the spectacular cuckoo wrasse which in those colours and weather conditions looks like it belongs in the tropics.

One of the problems of “social distance fishing” is that there is nobody to take your photo so unless you have a family member present or are proficient with the self-timer, you don’t get the fish and the angler in the same frame. Nevertheless Tim Andrews reported this nice blonde ray and a brill.

The combination of warmer winters and bass conservation measures has meant that bass are now much more plentiful, and the sizes are increasing steadily too. We can now keep two bass per angler per day over the MLS of 42cm. Drifting over the banks south of the Nab Tower and southeast of Selsey produce good catches, and boats reported plenty over 4lbs in size.

It seems to be a human trait to respond to adverse situations like the current crisis with humour. Thanks to Bill Arnold for his bream complying with precautionary measures, and the social comment from the fish point of view!

Let’s hope that all the efforts we are making to control this virus remain effective so we can progressively return to normal, including more charter trips and catch reports.

Neville Merritt

Southsea Marina Angling Club

Sea Angling News

Starting your boat after lockdown

Many of us were planning to use our boats this Spring, then suddenly we were prevented from getting to them even to shut them down properly. You may be worried that the prolonged idleness has harmed the engine, or you could cause harm by starting it without any further checks.

This week I attended an excellent webinar from Premier Marinas where Jonathan Parker of Parker Marine Services described what to do to minimise any engine damage when starting for the first time after lockdown.  Here’s what he shared.

I won’t go into detail on the usual daily pre-start checks, obviously you would do these anyway:

  • Check engine oil level
  • Check gear oil level and colour (milky means water has got in)
  • Check engine coolant level
  • Check power steering reservoir if fitted.
  • Check belt tensions
  • Turn battery switches on
  • Open seacocks
  • Check bilge for unusual levels of water or signs of engine fluid leaking
  • Check raw water strainer for debris

Pay particular attention to the raw water filter if fitted, because if your boat is in the water unused for a long period, marine creatures can climb into the filter and start living there.

The following are additional checks advised by Jonathan.

  • Check for debris in the water or around your propeller
  • Check your fuel filler cap and seal – was it on tight and could water have entered? If so check for water in the tank and fuel filter.
  • Check the fuel filter bowl for water.
  • If an outboard or outdrive leg has been left in the water, raise the leg and scrub weeds off the water inlet area.
  • If you have a raw water strainer above the waterline, take the cap off and fill it with water so the feed to the impeller is primed. Refiot the cap securely
  • Prime your fuel pump by pumping the lift pump about 20 times on a diesel engine, or squeeze the fuel line primer bulb on an outboard.
  • Turn the engine over without starting it.

On a diesel engine you can do this by holding the Stop button or the decompression lever down while you crank the engine. This operates the oil pump and puts some oil in the bearings before loading them with a running engine.

Now you are ready to start the engine. Again, there are some standard checks you would always do after the engine starts:

  • Oil pressure and charging warning lights and buzzer stop after a few seconds
  • Ammeter/voltmeter show the alternator is charging – 13.5 to 14.5 volts

Raise the speed to 1200rpm in neutral. This helps the impeller draw water in. Now for some extra checks.

  • Is cooling water circulating?

On an outboard you can see a water tell-tale jet. With a raw water strainer fitted you can see the water flow. On an enclosed system like an outdrive, feel the impeller housing – it should feel distinctly colder than the surrounding engine as water flows through. The same with the exhaust elbow. If it is difficult to reach you can use an infrared thermometer.

  • Turn the steering lock to lock both directions to ensure it is free.

Ensure the boat is tied up securely with extra spring lines to secure bollards.

  • Put the engine in gear at idle speed. This adds load, and gets the gearbox and propeller moving in their bearings and seals.
  • Put the engine in gear in reverse at idle speed.
  • Check for unusual noises or vibration

Run the engine in gear for 30 minutes or at idle for 45 minutes to bring it up to working temperature.

  • Check that there is no overheating
  • Check for leaks
  • Check battery condition – no bulging, heat or sulphurous smell

If no problems are evident and you are allowed out, you can proceed. If you discover any problems, at least you are still at your berth and not drifting down the Langstone Run towards the pier (my personal nightmare).

If you are not allowed out, you need to shut the boat down as if you may be leaving it for some time.

  • Fill tanks if possible
  • Seacocks shut
  • Battery switches off
  • Fuel filler cap tight
  • Doors, windows and hatches shut
  • Vents open, if fitted
  • Covers secure
  • Fenders secure
  • Mooring warps secure and not chafed
  • Lock doors
  • Remove perishable food and rubbish so you don’t attract rats
  • Remember to take your phone home!

Let’s hope we are allowed out soon and can get back to enjoying our boating. The guidelines above are useful for starting your engine or running up your engine for any prolonged period without use, whatever the reason. Anglers are used to having a boat tied up for weeks on end due to bad weather – this now gives us a good excuse to spend time on your boats even if you can’t go fishing!

Langstone Catch Report March 2020

The highlight of this month’s report was Southsea Marina Angling Club’s Awards Night which we combined with Southsea Marina Disabled Angling Club. More by good luck than anything, we held it just days before the progressive shut-down of social activities which will also stop our monthly club meetings and SMDAC boat trips for a while.

Rupert Bremer, manager of Southsea Marina was our first VIP guest and presented the prizes to SMDAC winners. Club champion was John Wearn who also won Best Cod, Hambrook cup, SMAC Bream Cup and was SMAC Champion Runner-up. Runner-up to SMDAC Champion was George Dominy who should really be called George InDominitable because despite being well into his eighties George is a regular fisher. He won the Pier and Beach cup and was placed highly in the Lakes competitions. Jon Leythorne collected four prizes including Best Specimen with a spurdog of 21lb.

We then welcomed our second VIP guest, Nick Wallis who as manager of Allan’s Marine has been supporting our clubs for many years. Sadly the shop is now closed but we made sure Nick will still be associated with us by forcing him to accept a lifetime membership of SMAC (and a nice goblet) as a token of our sincere appreciation. Nick and Rupert presented a further 19 awards and as space here is limited I can only include a few. Ray Plomer is Club Champion and also won the Plaice Cop. Tim Andrews our Club Commodore won the Bass Cup plus the Pairs Cup with Mark Banks. Kris Scott won the Cod Cup and John Jones the Pollack Cup.

Ladies were represented too: Natalie Arnold won the Ladies Cup and Kelly Rowen the Ladies Species Cup. Jake Kelly won the Junior Cup and Junior Species Cup and he must have been taught well because his dad Steve Kelly won Best Specimen Cup with a sole of 2lb 9oz.

One of the novel attractions of the evening was a large display board made up by Bill Arnold, illustrating all the successes by club members that were featured in Sea Angling News.

“In other news”….there is almost no other news. For the fist time I can remember, the weather has been so consistently bad for an entire month that not a single fish was entered for the SMAC Fish of the Month medal. Fortunately one or two boats have managed to nip out between blows and found that fish are still there to be caught.

Dean Gibbs shows a bass of 8lb caught on a live whiting – returned because the catch limits didn’t come in until 1st March. You might think that bass looks smaller than it is but in fact it’s Dean that is dwarfing the fish, he’s 6’8”! His father Robin Gibbs shows one of many congers caught, this one was 40lb. As the sea temperatures start to rise the conger will return to their lairs and won’t be roaming the open marks in such numbers.

There were a few spurdog still around but they will probably have gone by April. Those boats that managed to get as far as the offshore wrecks had some excellent sport with some very good pollack such as this beauty from Heber Crawford.

More recently, plaice have begun to appear and the early ones will be very skinny after spawning. John Evans started the new SMAC competition year off with a plaice of 2lb 2oz.

These are very challenging times for many of us. Some charter skippers are no longer taking groups, others are carrying on as long as possible taking great care with hygiene. Those with their own boats can create a social distance of several miles which is probably as low-risk as you can get at the moment!

(edited – going out in your boat is banned due to the current Coronavirus lockdown)

To read the full magazine online click here

American Lobsters – Retain and Report

Cefas have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the threat to our lobsters from the non-native species of lobster, the American lobster. This Defra-funded initiative encourages fishers and others to “retain and report” any American lobsters that they capture, to measure and reduce impacts they are having in our marine environment.

(see identification chart below)

American lobsters have been imported to the UK since the late 1950s for consumption in restaurants and homes.  American lobsters tend to grow to larger sizes than European lobster, have a larger dietary range, are more tolerant of different habitats, are more aggressive and produce more eggs than European lobsters. This means they are at a competitive advantage over the native species. American lobsters might also carry the bacterial disease, Gaffkaemia, or Epizootic Shell Disease. Transferring these diseases to native stocks could result in major economic losses to fishers. There is also a risk of American lobsters bringing other non-native species to our waters, such as barnacles and other small invertebrates which have attached themselves to the lobster.

The campaign aims to engage with lobster fishers explaining the legal position, how to identify an American lobster, the risks posed by the animals and the importance of retaining and reporting them to their local fisheries officers at the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) or Marine Management Organisation (MMO). Knowingly releasing a non-native species to the wild is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, including returning one to the sea at point of capture.

The project lead at Cefas, Debbie Murphy, said “This a great opportunity for us to work with industry to gain information about whether these animals are affecting their fishery or not. By collecting this data Defra will be in a stronger position to make informed decisions regarding policy, and able to work to protect both the trade in American lobsters and wild stocks of European lobsters”.

Reports of American lobsters caught in our waters have historically been in low numbers and generally single animals, contributed to by escapes from holding tanks or releases by well-meaning members of the public or religious groups. The biggest contributor to American lobsters in English waters was a mass-release in June 2015 of 361 specimens off Brighton by Buddhist monks as part of their religious practice known as ‘fang sheng.’ In the months following this release, 136 American lobsters were removed from the sea in the surrounding area making up a large proportion of the 149 American lobsters reported from 2012 to 2018.

Almost 5 years on from the mass release and with less than half of the American lobsters having been reported as recaptured, Defra are keen to know what impact the animals may have had.

Posters and leaflets designed to help fishers understand the key features commonly associated with American lobster compared to European lobster, along with contact details to report suspected American lobsters have been produced by Cefas and are available on the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat website. Similar campaigns are planned in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in 2020.

American lobster identification

Langstone Catch Report February 2020

Thanks to Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis putting paid to two weekends since the last report, we have only had half the opportunities to go out. Fewer than that actually, because the weather around the storms hasn’t been great either. I expect the inshore mussel beds will have been rearranged so the plaice marks will have to be re-discovered. On the plus side, if you wanted to stock up on slipper limpet for bait there were plenty strewn all over the shingle beaches.

Pride of place in this report is an impressive cod caught by Dean Gibbs from his own boat, fishing in deep water south of the Nab Tower. A squid bait lured this 22lb 10oz fish, big by any standard along this coast and particularly impressive given how few cod of any size have been caught this winter.

This month we are between the winter season and the spring run of fish, although smoothhound and garfish associated with summer have confused everybody by turning up in January! Debbie Harvey shows off her smoothhound with the white cliffs of the Isle of Wight in the background, a popular mark throughout the seasons. Ray tend not to be migratory and can be caught at any time. On the same trip Debbie also landed this nice thornback ray. Jason Gillespie was also fishing south of the Nab with squid bait and instead of the hoped-for cod he instead boated this impressive blonde ray of 28lb.

The winter run of spurdog have thinned out now but some are still being caught. Heber Crawford shows a nice specimen with the distinctive first and second dorsal spines.

February is traditionally a good month for the larger pollack from the mid-channel wrecks, if there is a weather window allowing small boats to reach them safely. Arron Shons was delighted with his 20lb pollack, and a number of other big doubles on the same trip. Kev Johnson shows another good pollack, caught during much calmer weather before the storms arrived.

We have an active community of young anglers locally and it is great to see their success – even if sometimes they out-fish us. James Smith aged 10 caught this 30lb conger on mackerel and squid by himself, although as you can see he needed help to lift it off the deck because it’s as long as he is.

Our near neighbour the Eastney Cruising Association Fishing Club held their awards night recently. Young Levin Bellinger won the ECA Junior Cup and an Angling Trust medal for his 2lb 14oz bream. Jake Kelly won the Junior Species Cup, the Wrasse Hat and an Angling Trust medal for a small-eyed ray weighing 8lb.

Many of the charter boats take February off for a re-fit before the spring run of fish. They are mostly back in the water raring to go so if we can find some quieter weather before the next issue of SAN we should be reporting on the first plaice caught. I think many of us are relieved the disappointing cod season is over and we are all looking forward to the arrival of more smoothhound, bream and tope in the next few months.

By the way, Arron Shons is the Redgill prizewinner in this month’s SAN! Congratulations.

Hampshire sea angling

Cod do exist!

A big thank you to Dean Gibbs for giving us hope. Dean caught this 22lb 10oz cod recently on a squid bait fishing from his boat south of the Nab Tower. Congratulations Dean, a rare feat.

Langstone Report January 2020

Many of us have a few extra days off work around the “Holiday Season”, as Christmas now appears to be called, so you would expect December to provide more fishing opportunities. However, the competition for our time from family and social commitments conspires to make those opportunities fewer not more. Nevertheless, many of us did find a few windows where weather, tides and families allowed us to go out.

Alas, the much sought-after cod were not so obliging. In fact, they have now been re-named unicorns because they are so rare in the eastern Solent. We have had some poor cod seasons in the past but this year is among the worst on record, partly due to the low stocks but also probably also because of the higher sea temperatures which would discourage them from moving inshore during winter.

Southsea Marina Angling Club held its annual Mandela Cup on the 28th December – it is “winner takes all” for the largest cod. Wisely, the rules allow for the largest whiting if no cod are caught. In the event, no cod were caught and some respectable whiting were weighed in. Competition winner was Peter Churchill with a whiting of 1lb 10oz. Aedy Merritt weighed in a whiting just an ounce less but unfortunately, in this competition there are no second prizes!

Peter must know the good spots because a few days later 10 year-old James Smith caught a 2lb whiting from Peter’s boat. One or two cod have come along, although on the small side compared to previous seasons. John Wearn of the Southsea Marina Disabled Angling Club shows a Solent codling of 2lb 2oz which is large enough to be placed third in the SMAC Cod Cup which runs all season. This really indicates what a struggle the cod fishing has become in this area.

On the other hand, bass fishing has been prolific.  Dave Ford and Heber Crawford show off some double figure fish while Luke Scott shows what can be caught on inshore marks. We are seeing large shoals of sprats on our fishfinders, providing plenty of food for the bass which we are seeing in healthy numbers now. Hunting packs of bass can be indicated by flocks of gulls overhead but unlike in summer, the action is much deeper in the water. Slow jigging at depth will find the fish, although it is strictly catch and release for bass at the moment. We are pleased the bass rules for 2020 allow two fish per day to be retained between 1st March and 30th November which is more than in previous seasons.

Further out, boats have been targeting the winter run of spurdog and also picking up some nice rays. Conger continue to roam open ground and range in size from small strap conger to 40lb and above. If you like catching conger, they provide some rod-bending action but I can’t pretend they are welcome in my boat.

We have just experienced a very violent storm so that will have stirred things up – perhaps there is still a chance of a cod before next report? We shall see.

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