Boat Angling

The web site for eastern Solent boat fishing

Sunny Saturday 8th July

With a great forecast for a change I decided to head down east to try drifting for plaice. I went via Pullar to pick up a few mackerel so I would have some for bait, as I had heard of a few turbot being landed there. Unfortunately I only found two mackerel despite plenty appearing on the fish-finder. On to Swashway where I drifted with a plaice rig on one side and mackerel feathers on the other. This time the mackerel were more obliging and I soon had a bucketful. Although I did pick up one plaice, the ground was claiming too much tackle and anyway I was feeling like a lazy afternoon at anchor. I headed back through Looe Gate this time, to anchor in the Medmery channel. This was once a mark I had to myself but word must have got out, there were 12 boats already there! Nevertheless I found a spot away from the crowd and anchored up.

Action was steady for the next few hours – small conger, dogfish, bream and scad. There was almost no tide and a bit of a breeze which made the boat swing annoyingly. As the mackerel seemed to have arrived in numbers I decided to head towards a bank off the main shipping channel which has been producing fish. This time it was full house almost every drop and I soon had 60 mackerel in the cooler, plenty to freeze for winter bait. I then drifted a bit more for bass using a Fiish minnow on the bottom, but only caught two guarnard. Back to the marina for fuel up, clean down and a date with the food supplies officer who arrived down with some goodies. We headed back out into the harbour for a supper at sundown, watching the terns and the bass hammer shoals of small fish between them. The water was alive with bass which is good for future stocks.


Mixed Bag from New Grounds

From Ian and Gordon on Orca :

We set out from Sparkes Marina last Friday after a long, frustrating spell in June of not matching free time with good sea conditions. It was a beautiful day with a reasonable tide so we were keen to get going.

First stop was Dean Tail for Mackerel, but three drifts produced a measly three fish. So, we headed for New Grounds to pick up whatever was about. Ian fished whole squid  and I fished a smaller bait – squid head and strip. We didn’t have long to wait long for some action, starting with a good Undulate Ray of 13lb 2oz followed by a Bass of 3.5lb for Ian (which went back with one day to go before the one fish limit comes in !!). There followed three hours of good fishing (on the flood tide) which yielded eight species of fish – Undulate, Thornback, Spotted Ray, Bass, Smooth Hound, Black Bream, Mackerel and, inevitably, Dogfish. Nothing huge but great fun fishing. It was an equal score between the big bait and small bait. We ended up trying to guess the species from the bite and fight – we were right 80% of the time. After the tide slackened, the bites dropped off, so it was back to Dean Tail to try again for the Mackerel (still the best eating fish for both of us). This time we hit some good shoals and bagged up in no time – nice to get a few “full houses”.

New Grounds is a bit featureless but it produces good catches on a regular basis. Maybe it’s a bit of fish transit highway.

By the way, we were using barbless circle hooks all day. We hooked all but one dogfish neatly in the lip, didn’t lose a fish and with easy unhooking it made fish handling a doddle. So, with the introduction of MCZ’s and catch & release this type of hook and using unhooking mats should help us all to play our part in fish conservation.

We headed back with enough Mackerel and Bream for a good supper and fish pate. The boat needed a good wash down when we arrived at the Marina  – amazing how bits of squid get everywhere – so we deserved our pint at The Ship on the way home.

IMG_0439 IMG_0441

Tope off Selsey

Josh contacted me asking for help finding tope near Selsey. I was able to advise, and fortunately that advice proved good because this was the result: tope to 31lb; smoothhound, bass and conger. A great day by all accounts. Here is the photo-roll:






Great White in the eastern Solent?

Great White off Hayling?

Graeme Pullen thinks so! Read here

Utopia MCZ – the story so far

On 6th June the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority ran a drop-in event for anglers at the ECA where they explained their proposals for the Utopia Marine Conservation Zone and asked for our opinions. I met Barry Goodhew, one of the Sussex IFCA officers who also happens to be the angling liason officer and a keen sea angler himself. Barry was very helpful in explaining the proposals and the more general activities of the Sussex IFCA as they apply to sea anglers.

In summary, the MCZ was designated in January 2016 but no rules have been put in place yet. The area is considered worthy of protection because of the delicate nature of life on that part of the seabed, and the belief that this area is used by tope and other elasmobranchs (i.e. shark, dogfish and ray families) as a breeding ground. The proposals are to protect the sebed from damage from commercial fishing, and protect elasmobranchs particularly while breeding. Here are the proposals:

  • Ban towed gear (trawling) all year
  • Ban netting all year
  • Potters must return any elasmobranchs caught in pots
  • Anglers to catch and release all elasmobranchs
  • Ban on tope fishing (and possibly other elasmobranchs) during the breeding season

You can review and comment on the proposals through the web site consultations page

There is also an interesting chart showing the make-up of the seabed in the area, which is useful to know for any angling activity. You can download it here.  You may wonder what some of the terms mean. To save you searching, circalittoral rock (read it carefully, it’s not what you first think) is the rock below the depth of low water level and above the level at which seaweed stops growing – or where only 1% of light reaches the seabed. High energy circalittoral is that rock with loads of things living on it, and medium energy circalittoral rock doesn’t seem as busy. Roughly. I can see why they use long words, it saves explaining.

Utopia MCZ

Keep an eye on the SIFCA web site or here, for further developments.

For reference:

Shark Trust Fact Sheets:

Sussex ICFA web site is

Southern ICFA web site is

The Eastern Solent area we cover on this web site is patrolled by Sussex IFCA east of Chichester harbour entrance and the Southern IFCA west of it.

Float to live: Fight your instincts, not the water – RNLI Campaign

You fall into the water unexpectedly. What do you do?

  1. Swim
  2. Panic
  3. Float

Many people would fight the effects of cold water by swimming hard or panicking – two potentially life-threatening instincts that can quickly lead to drowning. Floating until the cold water shock passes could save your life.

As part of the RNLI Respect the Water drowning prevention campaign, they are urging you to fight your instincts, not the water, and remember one simple skill – floating. See how to float in their short film and interactive guide, then please share with others to improve their chances of survival too.

Know how to float



Solent angler, massive turbot!

Slightly “out of area”, but only just. Keith is a regular contributor to Catch Reports and his turbot deserves recognition. I just wish beasts like this could be caught nearer home! Here is Keith’s report:

Richard and myself, both members of the Southsea Marina Fishing Club and Crookham SAC, had a day fishing on Supanova 2, skippered by Lyle Stantford out of Weymouth along with 4 other members of Crookham SAC.

We left Weymouth promptly at 7.30, having paid a visit to the tackle shop to top up on frozen mackerel for bait.  We steamed out past Portland Bill to a number of wrecks SW of the Bill.  Weather was fair, with a southwesterly breeze that picked up during the day, putting up a bit of a chop at times, and we had one brief shower during the morning.

After steaming for around an hour and half, we reached the first wreck, and down went the lines, most baited with mackerel, although some had squid, all expecting Ling.  Early in that first drift, I hooked into a fish that didn’t feel like a Ling, but was strong enough to take line. Once I had colour, Lyle grabbed the landing net and a superbly marked Turbot hit the deck.  It was officially weighed-in at Weymouth Angling Centre on return to Weymouth at 9.760Kg (21 lbs 8 oz), by far my best Turbot, and a fish of a lifetime. (Pictures and Copy of Weigh-in Certificate attached)   We continued to drift this wreck for an hour or so, but with the exception of a few Pout, nothing of note was landed, although some members were broken off by larger fish, or drop fish whilst reeling in, so Lyle headed to another wreck.  Drifting this produced more Pout, plus the first Ling.  As the tide turned, Lyle anchored uptide of the wreck, and this produced more Pout, the odd Conger, a few Ling, Lesser Spotted Dogfish, Whiting and a specimen Spurdog for Peter, estimated by Lyle to weigh 17lbs.  Finally, Lyle headed to another wreck to drift with lures for Pollack, and a few were landed.  Whilst drifting this wreck, we spotted at least one whale close by.


Catch and Release Infographic


How to Catch and Release Fish

How to Catch Herring

Many of us have caught the occasional herring while mackerel fishing, but I have always been convinced there are a lot more around. I received an email from Askari, the European on-line tackle store with their promotion “Get ready for the herring season”. If others can target herring why can’t we? I searched on-line for information about herring migration and established that although the main stocks are in the North Sea, there is a substantial presence in the English Channel. Perhaps when we see shoals of fish on the fish-finder mid-water but can’t catch them, they are herring not mackerel?

As a result of research and experimentation, I can tell you how to catch them but I am still working out when they will appear regularly in the Eastern Solent. All I can say so far is that in early April they were around in good numbers. If anyone has more information please let me know.

Catching herring is like feathering for mackerel but with some significant differences. Those differences become obvious when you consider the diet of herring compared to mackerel. Mackerel feed on small fast-moving fish so are caught on strings of flashy feathers up to 3cm long, jigged up and down to represent an escaping school of small fish. Herring on the other had feed on the larvae of crustaceans which float about on the sea currents. Herring are gentle harvesters of food with delicate mouths. Mackerel are fast, all muscle and have tough, fish-grabbing jaws. Big difference in appearance and behaviour.

Herring mouths are very soft so a rod with a soft tip will cushion any jerky movements that could tear the hook out. Use the lightest, softest rod you can get away with.

The best herring feathers are small, sabiki lures that look like larvae rather than fish. Size 6 hooks, small transparent fish skin “wings” and short sparkly tails will work well. This is what you are trying to emulate:

crab larvae

As well as different lures, you will also need different fishing techniques. Like mackerel fishing, you will need to try different depths until you find fish but unlike mackerel fishing, keep the lures still!  The herring’s food just floats along in the water, so your lures need to float along too. Even too much rocking of the boat will make the lures too active. Keep them as still as you can.

When you feel a bite, which will be a gentle jiggle rather than the mad dives of a mackerel, wind smoothly and gently until the fish reaches the surface then swing it up and into the boat where it will probably fall off. Any jerky movement in that process will tear the hook-hold and you will loose the fish. That is all there is to it! The key is using very small lures, keeping the lures still, using a soft rod and bringing them in firmly but smoothly.

I have seen some interesting weights sold in Europe and Scandinavia for herring fishing, which are painted red and white. I presume these add to the attraction. I haven’t tried them but I have used a flashy pirk as a weight and that should have a similar effect.

Good luck!

Southsea Marina Fishing Show Report

We could not have wished for better weather for Southsea Marina’s third annual Fishing Show – bright sunshine and enough wind to keep anglers from being tempted out to sea. There was plenty to interest everyone, from the jumble stalls to talks, trade stands, demonstrations and some impressive boats.


The talks and demonstrations were very popular, with standing room only at all the sessions. Wayne Comben gave an informative talk on local fishing and inspired us with tales of giant sharks just off the Island.


I was particularly impressed by the demonstration of fish preparation by Johnsons Enterprises. I was even more impressed by the size of the plaice they used to demonstrate – caught by a local day-boat. There is hope yet!


The boat jumble was very popular. I was delighted to hear that Southsea Marina Angling Club raised £305 for the RNLI from the sale of donated items on their stall.


There were some interesting new boats too. You may be aware the Wilson Flyer moulds have been bought by Garry Bull, who is manufacturing them to order with some updated features. At the show, he was demonstrating the extended mould for the 24 foot hull which is now wider and much roomier. I am looking forward to seeing photos of the first build out of that mould, it will be huge!


The berth-holders are very lucky to have such a great team at Premier Marinas who made such a great effort to ensure the show was successful. I know how much work goes into running an event like this, and it is good to see all that hard work was worthwhile. Here is Rupert Bremer, the marina manager who can never resist dressing up. However, we usually use squid as bait so he is lucky he didn’t end up in the marina dangling from the crane after we had heard Wayne’s shark stories.


Finally, we must congratulate Lizzie Mitchell (PR and promotions for the Fishing Show) who got married before this show and will be having a baby before the next one! We wish you well Lizzie. Thanks for not giving up after the rain-soaked 2015 Fishing Show, and carrying on to make the 2016 and 2017 shows so successful. We look forward to the next marina event!



Neville Merritt
Rebel Runner
May 2017

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