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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
According to the calendar, summer is coming to an end but if you are out fishing you might think it is still in full swing. We have had plenty of gloriously sunny days, and the sea temperatures are at their annual peak, helping to keep the air warm too.
The Eastern Solent is blessed with a great variety of fish species and this is increased by seasonal migrations both north and south. At this time of year we usually see trigger fish and red mullet visiting from the south, and at the same time the first codling arrive from the north. In fact September and October are the months with the widest variety of species because the seasonal visitors overlap whereas in early spring there can be a gap between winter and summer species.
Many clubs run species competitions these days, and the Southsea Marina Angling Club has a hotly contended trophy. Peter Churchill’s recent additions to his list were a red mullet and a new one to me, a striped red mullet. Bill Arnold is chasing the same trophy and he looks pleased with his striped red mullet.
On the subject of species competitions Kelly Rowan is chasing the Ladies Species Cup with a nice blonde ray amongst others. There was a time when you could have written something like “two lovely blondes” but you can’t risk doing that anymore. Even sea angling goes PC eventually. And continuing the topic of ladies and species, Team Merritt features in this report as well as the by-line for the first time. Aedy Merritt ran up a tally of species in one day that almost equalled the current SMAC standings, inspiring her to enter the competition. Unfortunately on her next (eligible) trip she only managed two species but at least the undulate ray was sizeable. We were drifting for plaice and only moments after telling Aedy “you only catch plaice on plaice rigs” I hooked a 12lb thornback ray which gave me the run-around on light plaice tackle!
Plaice are still featuring in catches with the summer/autumn plaice marks producing well. Chris Vanstone, Rog Cummins, Damian Fairchild and Dave Belcher show not only the quality of fish but also the high-bling tackle needed. Green and black beads are popular, but not always. If bites are hard to raise, try a switch to orange and black.
There are plenty of bass around, in fact the harbours are teeming with them and school bass can even become nuisance fish inshore! Mark Oldfield of ECA caught his personal best of 10lb 8oz, Arron Shons with an 8lb bass and Martin Morgan with one of 7lb 8oz demonstrate the size and quality of the bass offshore. As a reminder, the bass limit of one fish per day changes to catch and release only after 31st October – which is a regulation enforced by the UK in case you were hoping for another outcome after that significant date!
Squid fishing has become very popular from shore marks but boat marks are just as productive, and produce bigger specimens. There are some resident squid – I have caught them when trawling for sandeels and on mackerel feathers – but the most productive time to fish for them is when they arrive in numbers and are worth targeting. Heber Crawford shows one still alive, the colours are remarkable. Even more remarkable is that the colours are also “live” because the moment the squid dies, the colours switch off like a lightbulb. You can catch squid with a range of squid jigs from cheap and cheerful to very sophisticated Japanese designs with a price tag that makes you think carefully about actually using it. Best marks are around structure and rocks where they ambush their prey – small fish.
Next month I hope we can report a few early codling!
You may know Blue Gee from their GRP and Carbon boatbuilding and repair products. They recently launched a new two-part adhesive called Gee Pro Bond and I obtained a review sample to evaluate.
Initially this looks a lot like an epoxy, but it isn’t. It comes in a 25ml pack which is a double-barrelled syringe and two mixer nozzles. The bond and hardener are mixed with a 1:1 ratio so you can mix from the tube, but the mixer nozzle makes it a whole lot easier if you are bonding a larger area. You only get two nozzles, and they look well made so I expect supplying more would make the pack more expensive.
The best feature (apart from the bonding) is the cure time. It has a five-minute work time so you have to move fast, but it cures in 10 minutes. This makes it very useful when you need to get something fixed and can’t afford to hang around for the longer cure times of epoxy adhesives.
Most metals can be bonded without any pre-treatment. You can bond plastics, ABS, acrylics, vinyl, PVC, polycarbonates, composites, epoxy laminates, GRP polyester / vinyl ester and gelcoats. It is not suitable for polyolefins, thermoplastic polyesters, fluorocarbon plastics and other low surface energy plastics as they are generally not bondable with anything. It is also not good for wood unless the wood has already had an epoxy coating.
I have often thought that we don’t use specialist adhesives enough in boatbuilding and maintenance. One common challenge is fixing fittings to a GRP skin – either an internal moulding or the hull itself. With this adhesive you can bond a countersunk bolt head to the GRP surface leaving the thread sticking up looking like a stud, and simply bolt the fitting to the thread. I tested this idea with an extending arm to hold my iPad. I didn’t want to drill through the bulkhead so I simply bonded a bolt to the GRP. A single bolt was able to support the iPad, on an arm extended about 200mm is some choppy sea conditions where the strength of the bond was severely tested. It came through rock solid.
I also made up some test pieces for destruction testing. As expected, wood on wood and wood on GRP held, but without strength. It would probably be OK for cosmetic applications but not where strength is required. Much more impressive were the metal to GRP tests and plastic/GRP to GRP – these stood up to considerable force and the plastic to GRP bond never failed – the GRP itself delaminated before the bond broke.
In conclusion, this is a useful adhesive for specific, high strength quick cure applications. Details here:
The summer in the Eastern Solent is following the usual seasonal pattern of fish movement. We are fortunate to have such a variety through the year, and there are usually some surprises too.
The larger tope have mostly now departed, although Rod Barr boated a nice 50lb tope at the end of July. There will be plenty of small pack tope around which can be a nuisance if you are fishing for other species but on light tackle can give good sport.
Probably the most noteworthy catch this month was a 47lb stingray to Alan Knight. This is a good fish in its own right, but Alan was actually fishing for bream with light gear and a 15lb hook link baited with squid strip. It came to the boat after a hard 20-minute fight which demonstrated great skill and tenacity from Alan.
The larger, breeding black bream have now moved off the rocky marks leaving behind their much smaller brethren who can also make a nuisance of themselves nibbling away at baits and creating false bites. On a slack day you can still have some sport with LRF gear but that isn’t for everyone. There are some gilthead bream around, either on the same rocky marks or more predictably, among the sandy, weedy shallows in the harbours. These are useful additions for species competitions!
For most anglers, bottom fishing is the name of the game, usually at anchor but sometimes drifting. Banks and gullies around the eastern Solent approaches produce most of the UK species of ray. Undulate rays are under pressure nationally but we have a good stock in this area. Chris Jewell, Richie Shippen and Jacko Jackson show the rather exotic markings on their undulate rays.
When the weather has been unfriendly to boat fishing, there are always summer mullet in the harbours. You can always tell how windy it has been by the number of mullet caught – not because mullet feed better in the wind but because frustrated boat anglers can’t target anything else! There have been some very good fish reported, Dennis Fuller shows one of 4lb 8oz; Bill Arnold with 5lb 2oz and top of the list Heber Crawford with his personal best of 7lb 6oz topping others up to 5lb 9oz. A lump of bread freelined under moored boats is the preferred method, and the weedier the boat the better the fishing.
On to club activities, Southsea Marina Sea Angling Club held their annual summer BBQ which was well attended. This is one of the few SMAC events where the organisers hope for wind, otherwise all the members would be out fishing instead of enjoying the hospitality and buying raffle tickets. As you can see, we had perfect weather conditions – enough wind to persuade anglers to stay ashore, but clear enough for SMAC to hold a good party.
Langstone Fishermen’s Association held their annual weekend species competition on 3rd and 4th of August, which is catch and release – only pictures and witness needed. There was an impressive range of species caught, 20 species including the more unusual pipe fish, shore rockling and twaite shad. Competition winner was Bill Arnold with 13 species; joint 2nd with 12 were Steve Jones and Luke Scott.
As August rolls into September we may see some trigger fish arriving over rocks and inshore wrecks. Most years we also see a run of September codling, so here’s hoping.