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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.

It’s time to check your lifejacket

If you have lots of money you can send all your lifejackets away to be checked and serviced. Or, if like me you don’t have lots of money you can do a check yourself. It is surprising how quickly time passes, and lifejackets should be checked annually. I make a point of doing the checks between Christmas and New Year when I have a bit more time on my hands and I’m usually at home instead of fishing. That way I remember to do the checks every 12 months!

This year the checks were a reminder why they are important, because they showed up a couple of potentially serious problems. It may be a cliche but lifejackets are there to save your life and if they don’t work when they are needed, then you can drown – simple as that. So it’s worth a few minutes doing these simple checks.

Step 1. Visually check the externals of tyhe lifejacket for wear, tears, fraying, harness attachments etc. If there is damage then repair is probably out of our capability so it is best to send them away for servicing. If all good, then carry on.

Step 2. Unwrap the lifejacket, usually there is a velcro or zip fastener. Use the top-up pipe to inflate the lifejacket to a firm consistency. Leave the lifejacket blown up for 24 hours. Meanwhile, do Steps 3 to 5.

Step 3. Check the condition of the cylinder, if you can see it. If it is corroded, replace it – like mine below.

Corroded cylinder

Step 4. Check any expiry dates or indicators on the automatic firing mechanism if fitted. On the Spinlock 5D above there is a Replace-By date on the firing mechanism, and coloured indicators on the body. My Crewfit lifejacket below has a Hammar mechanism. All good in this case.

Firing mechanism

Step 5. Check any other features such as spray hood and light. This was another fault on my lifejacket – the light wasn’t working. It is a sealed unit so it has to be replaced.

Step 6. After 24 hours, check that the lifejacket is still inflated and as firm as it was when first inflated. If so, all is good. If not, you have a leak. Check the seating and O ring of the firing mechanism, it could be that. If it is, replace the O ring or tighten up the mounting and leave for another 24 hours to check. If that is not the cause, the lifejacket needs to go away for professional servicing.

When you have completed all the checks and replaced anything that needs replacing, your lifejacket can be repacked and put back in use for another 12 months, ready to save a life.

Langstone Report December 2019

The Solent winter season usually means having to nip out on the occasional days when the winds drop enough to make fishing comfortable. It also means the annual Southsea Marina Angling Club Open Cod Competition sets a date with good intentions which then roll forward until a Saturday is fishable. Not this year! For the first time, the SMAC Cod competition was fished on the actual day advertised – 17th November.

This competition has become increasingly popular with members and other anglers, partly for the chance to compete against other clubs and partly because of the impressive prize table – 19 prizes, first prize £500 cash. The non-cash prizes were generously donated by local businesses.  A total of 128 anglers fished from 51 boats which is a record turnout.

The competition is simple – the aim is to catch the largest cod. Unfortunately in recent years the cod stocks have declined almost certainly due to commercial fishing pressure, and we can’t rely on catching enough cod to match the prize table. Whiting are the substitute fish, if we don’t catch enough cod to win all the prizes, the heaviest whiting are eligible.

At the end of the day, the competing anglers gathered in the Marina Bar to see who had caught what. Steve Kelly, the Marina Berthing Manager organised the event and Peter Churchill, skipper of “Moonshine” was asked to present the prizes.

Top prize was won by Ian Mitchell with a cod of 13lb 3oz; second was Eric Binding with a cod of 10lb 4oz and third was Tom Baker with a cod of 9lb 7oz. A total of five cod won prizes, the remaining prizes were awarded for whiting. Ladies Prize was won by Hayley Ellis and Junior Prize was won by Deano Ryan, both with heaviest whiting in their category.

Something very unusual happened during the competition. Organiser Steve Kelly was trying to catch a cod or a large whiting when suddenly he hooked into a very large sole. These fish are normally summer visitors, normally feed at night and are normally caught only on tiny hooks. Nobody told this fish! It weighed a whopping 2lb 9oz, a new SMAC record.

We would like to thank Steve Kelly for organising such a successful day, the local businesses that supported the event and of course all the anglers, local and visiting who took part.

Although cod are not plentiful there are still some to be caught. Solent marks have been more productive and Jason Gillespie shows a very healthy looking 12lb cod. Whiting are here in big numbers, and among them are some 2lb plus fish which are more welcome for the table. Large pout are around and they are also worth filleting because if you are relying on cod for supper you may go hungry.

Some anglers are blaming sea temperatures for this, and catches such as Tim Andrews’ December garfish (usually a summer visitor) supports this idea. However, looking back at the archive charts available from the weather stations on Brambles Bank and Chimet (Bracklesham Bay) the recorded sea temperatures in previous years don’t look much different – some warmer, some colder by a degree or two.

Conger are out from the reefs and wrecks prowling open ground in large numbers, ranging from straps to 40lb plus fish. If you like a tussle, good. If you don’t like conger you will probably feel frustrated at the rate your expensive cod bait is being devoured, because when conger are roaming they are there in large numbers.

I suppose having some residual summer fish around is some compensation for the lack of cod. Steve Kelly’s sole, plaice, garfish and Luke Scott’s big gurnard all contribute to some very mixed bags being caught at the moment.

Bass Fishing Limits 2020

The EU Fisheries Ministers have announced an agreement for recreational angling bass limits for 2020. Briefly, rules are different for North Atlantic (that’s us) and South Atlantic.

In our waters, we can retain up to two bass per angler per day between 1st March and 30th November. The MLS of 42cm still applies. Outside these dates it is Catch and Release only.

This is an improvement on the 2019 restriction of one fish per day between 1st April and 31st October.

Langstone Report November 2019

This last month seems to have gone by remarkably quickly, the more so because we have had so many windy, rainy or windy and rainy days. There are a lucky few who can take a boat out mid-week when a weather window appears but most of us with work schedules just look at the weather charts and feel frustrated. I am sure the trouble on internet fishing forums peaks to coincide with bad weather. I expect a PhD student will do a study on that one day.

Another correlation is that the number of sunrise and sunset photos that are posted on social media has a direct link to the number of unremarkable fish caught – and comments like “Great to be out anyway”… I suspect that this month had a peak of fishing forum conflict and sunrise photos because most of us have neither got out fishing or if we have, we haven’t found the cod that are supposed to be here.

So on to the news and pictures that we can share from the Langstone Harbour area. Highlight of the month was the interclub competition between Southsea Marina Angling Club and our neighbours Eastney Cruising Association. Much to the chagrin of SMAC members who had held the trophy for the last two years they were beaten by ECA with a bass of 9lb 1oz caught by Mark Argyle. On the plus side, the ECA will have to host the competition next year and their beer is cheaper.

The previously mentioned cod have been very scarce, although a few have been reported. Whiting have put in an appearance and are a useful substitute species for the cod competitions that are traditionally run at this time of year. Heber Crawford shows off a nicely marked a haddock – not a common catch for anglers this far south. Conger are now out on open ground having spent the summer among wrecks and reefs. If you like catching conger, there are plenty around to over 40lb but the smaller strap conger can be a real nuisance.

Some spurdog have been caught, nowhere near their former numbers but it is good to see they are still around. Some good-sized bull huss and the usual ray species have made up the catches on most boat trips. The bass ban is now in force with all bass fishing restricted to catch and release. In autumn we often find some very large bass prowling close inshore particularly after a storm, and they are braver outside of daylight hours. Heber Crawford managed just three casts on his way to work and landed this impressive fish, estimated between 9lbs and 11lbs which of course was returned.

Some more settled days have allowed the offshore boats to get out to the wrecks. Kev Johnson and his crew scored well with bass and pollack. The squid have arrived in good numbers and are being caught by those targeting them, and also by those not. Kev Johnson was noticing squid bites on conventional tackle while wreck fishing so he switched to squid lures, landing this impressive specimen. If squid fishing is your thing, perhaps you could try wreck marks if you are after the big ones.

The SMAC Open Cod Competition is planned for 17th November – if it is not postponed due to weather I will be reporting on the cod (or lack of) in our next report.

Lanstone Boat Angling Report November 2019 Sea Angling News

SMAC Open Boat Cod Competion 2019

(pictured – previous winner Tim Andrews )

The 3rd Open Boat Cod Competition will be held on 17th November from Southsea Marina (reserve dates will be 24th November, 1st, 8th, 15th 22nd December)

Entry Fee £10. Sign in at the Marina Office.

Fishing from 08:00 to 16:00. Weigh-In by 17:30. Presentation in the Marina Bar at 18:00

First Prize £500 – heaviest cod

Second prize and prize table to be announced.

Other prizes:

Ladies Prize £50

Junior (under 16) prize £50

Heaviest whiting if there are not enough cod to cover the prize list.

For further details please contact Steve Kelly on 07790 584698 or

For information about arriving at Southsea Marina from the sea – follow this link

Here is Dick Prosser – winner of the first Open Boat Cod Competion held in January 2018

Dick Prosser

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