Boat Angling

The web site for eastern Solent boat fishing

Langstone Report November 2020

Autumn is upon us, marked by the weather, shorter days and seasonal fish movements. The end of summer is the time some anglers target sole at night – Alistair Gicquel and Peter Churchill show examples of what can be caught. Catching sole isn’t easy (what is, these days?) because success is a result of finding the right location, the right calm conditions, nailing a bait to the seabed and sitting it out. Or you could fluke one out in entirely adverse conditions, just to confound the experts!

Another seasonal change is the departure of the mackerel. This year we noticed the fish were very much smaller and often missed when using conventional feathers. Sabikis seemed to find them. We saw a lot of scad shoals along with the mackerel and they are just as good (some would say better) than mackerel both for bait and for eating.

The elusive cod is scheduled to make an appearance at this time and in common with recent years, we are teased with occasional catch reports but we don’t experience the autumn codling “run” that we used to see. Nevertheless a few are being caught from the Solent and approaches – Neil Glazier and Tim Andrews show typical autumn codling which cheered us up. Organisation for the annual SMAC Open Cod Competition on 8th November is in full swing, and the reputation from previous years and a big prize table will attract boat anglers from across the area. First prize is £500 cash for the largest cod with numerous runner-up prizes. If we run out of cod to weigh in, we switch to largest whiting. Although cod can’t be guaranteed, we can guarantee whiting so everyone is in with a chance of a prize. Contact Steve Kelly at Southsea Marina for further details.

The main competition held this month was the annual inter-club specimen contest between SMAC, Eastney Cruising Association (ECA), Langstone Harbour Fishermen’s Association and the Southsea Sea Angling Club. Winner-takes-all prize is for the best specimen caught on the day, and 36 anglers representing all four clubs fished. Mark Argyle won with a bass of 8lb 7oz, securing the prize for the ECA. He is pictured receiving the trophy from Pete Kilshaw.

Rays are plentiful locally and the area is famous for big blonde rays. John Wearn caught an impressive blonde of 22lb which rather overshadowed Terry Watson’s fish of 16.5lb on the same boat, which would have been a good fish in itself. On a different trip Guy Chandler boated a blonde of 21lb, another very good fish.

We have a healthy local stock of bass and the shoals of school bass from previous years are maturing nicely. Preston Firth shows a good fish of 7lb 14oz.

Regular readers of this report will know we like to celebrate the successes of our junior anglers. Ollie Shons on his first boat trip was delighted to catch this conger – those sharp teeth will be something to talk about at school! Jake Kelly also scored well with a good Junior Specimen undulate ray of 12lb. It is good to see fish being handled sensitively with a weighing sling doubling as an unhooking mat. As you can see from the lack of red tinge to the wings, the fish is relatively unstressed and will make a good recovery when returned. Jake also added to his Species List with a spotted ray, putting him in the lead of the SMAC Junior Species competition.

Next month I hope I can report more cod catches. Until next time!

Neville Merritt


SAN November 2020

The mystery of the “Dean Tail Wreck”

This wreck is a popular angling mark where in summer many boats stop to feather for mackerel. It is easily located by the north and south cardinal buoys marking the wreck and shows as a distinctive hump on the fishfinder screen.

You may also know the wreck as the Flag Theofano MV, a freighter built in 1970. She was 324 feet long, weighing 2,818 tons She had several names in her 20 years of service before sinking in January 1990. But why did she sink? Why was her loss not discovered sooner? What happened to most of the crew? The circumstances of the wreck remain a mystery.

On the 29th January, Flag Theofano was carrying 4,000 tons of bulk cement from Le Havre to Southampton, with a crew of 19. That night a severe storm drove many ships to find shelter making it very difficult for the marine traffic controllers to find safe berths for them all. They were unable to provide a berth for Flag Theofano so she was called on the radio and instructed to anchor off Bembridge in the area called St Helens Roads, where many commercial vessels can be seen anchoring today. This was acknowledged by Captain John Pittas and the marine traffic controller then continued to look after other vessels in the area.

The next morning, Flag Theofano was called on the radio with new berthing instructions but there was no reply. Other vessels nearby were called but they could not see the vessel. She had disappeared. The full horror of the situation was revealed when two empty lifeboats, a life-raft and two bodies were found nearby. Flag Theofano had sunk, nobody had heard a distress signal and nobody had seen it happen. At the time they didn’t even know where the wreck was located.

Boats searching the area came across an oily patch in the water, bubbles escaping and ropes attached to something below the surface. As soon as the weather eased, divers were sent down and found the wreck upside down on the seabed 20 metres below the surface right by the main shipping lane leading to the Solent.

Salvage operations started in August 1990 but by now the cargo of cement had come into contact with the water and fully hardened, creating a huge block of concrete that was impossible to move, either to locate any bodies or to salvage the wreck. The bodies of the 17 remaining crew were never found. They may still be under the wreck, or they may have been swept away in the storm.

Nor do we know why the ship sank. It must have been sudden or distress signals would have been sent. Possibly the cargo shifted in the storm leading to a capsize, but was this before she anchored, or did she drift from the anchorage to Dean Tail later in the night? We will never know. It seems bizarre in this age of total electronic surveillance that even in 1990 a ship a few miles from land can simply disappear and not be missed for hours.

The only human connection we have to this wreck is the unmarked grave of one of the sailors in Portsmouth’s Kingston Cemetery: Ibrahim Hussain who was only 19 years old. If you pass the wreck at Dean Tail, spare a thought for him and his 18 colleagues (all from Chios Island in Greece) who have been forgotten by history and are just a distant memory to their families.

If you would like to know what the wreck looks like close up, this video on YouTube gives a rather murky view. The wreck is lying on a seabed of mainly mud covered in a layer of shells.


New Sea Fishing Forum from Mike Thussell Jr!

I made a lot of friends and connections on World Sea Fishing when it was run by Mike Thrussell. After it was taken over (and in my opinion declined), Mike lay low for a bit but now he is back with a new Sea Fishing Forum. Pop over, sign up and join in!

Talk Sea Fishing

Langstone Catch Report October 2020

You know September has arrived when someone somewhere says they had heard that a codling had been caught in the Solent. Then someone else jokes “That’s the one caught for the year then” and you secretly wonder if they are right. Well, a couple of small codling have been caught, the Southsea Marina Angling Club have opened their Cod Pool and also confirmed the annual Cod Open Competition, which will be held on Sunday 8th November. Prevailing Covid-19 rules will be observed and the prize table is still to be announced but going by previous years, it will be generous and will attract a lot of local boat anglers. Keep an eye on the local Facebook pages for further details.

Looking back at the last month we have a couple of very interesting fishy stories to share. The first one isn’t a catch as such – a 396lb (180Kg) Atlantic bluefin tuna was washed up dead in Chichester Harbour and was recovered by the team at Thorney Island Sailing Club. Simon Horsfield kindly provide the photos of this huge fish which was in very good condition and showed no sign of damage. It was taken away for analysis by Sussex IFCA but no cause of death could be established. Although these fish are rare and it is illegal for anglers even to target them, it is rather exciting to know that they and possibly similar species are active in the local area.

The second big story is the report of the catch of a record-beating thresher shark by Dr. Stephen Hutchinson from his own boat over St Catherines Deep, south of the Isle of Wight. The fish took his mackerel flapper bait only 17 minutes after starting the drift, but it took nearly five hours to finally get it alongside the boat. It was measured at 112 inches nose to fork which matches a weight of around 630lbs. This easily surpasses the existing record of 323lbs but isn’t as big at the largest thresher recorded which was caught commercially in 2007 weighing 1,250lb. Dr. Hutchinson’s shark was released so cannot qualify for a record claim, and will join the list of other record-beaters caught locally which were released by conservation-minded anglers.

Meanwhile, the rest of us were catching much smaller fish but having plenty of fun nevertheless. The summer plaice marks are still producing a few fish and the calm sunny days make drifting for them a very pleasant experience. Another tasty fish, the red mullet isn’t specifically targeted here but they are welcomed when they do turn up, either to add to a species tally or if they are big enough, to add to the pot.

Rays can be relied on to put a good bend in a rod and the blond rays run to a good size – Clive Smith and Guy Chandler both caught blonde rays of 21lb and Ray Jenner one of 24lb. We have a good stock of undulate rays and thornback rays on the shingle banks and a good thornback ray can put up a worthy struggle as Chis Satow can confirm.

Further offshore over the wrecks and banks anglers are still targeting bass. Kev Johnson boated a superb bass of 11lb 10oz on a scad livebait. The wrecks are where you will find bass and pollack but you will also catch other fish. Dennis Fuller caught not one but two of the much rarer John Dory, largest 2lb 8oz.

After a dearth of mackerel during the summer a few more are now showing up which is just as well because we need to stock freezers for winter bait. The whiting and hopefully even a cod or two will be here soon so I expect we’ll be including them in the next SMAC catch reports.

Until then, Tight Lines and we’ll hopefully see you at the SMAC Cod Open on 8th November.

SAN Reoport October 2020

Huge thresher shark caught off the Isle of Wight

Dr Stephen Hutchinson set off from Christchurch is his 25 foot Orkney heading to St. Catherines Deeps, south of the Isle of Wight. At 10am he started a drift, after setting up a chum trail consisting of minced mackerel, rainbow trout, bran and sardine oil. Two rods were set up, fishing mackerel flappers on de-barbed Owner 10/0 Super Mutu circle hooks attached to 480 lb 49 strand stainless steel cable and 400 lb wind-on mono rubbing leader with a hollow braid loop. This was attached loop to loop cat’s paw to double line tied with Australian plait.  A 3 oz lead held it under a Redi Rig Mako Buster Release Float. The float was set to fish at a depth of 80 feet.

The boat end of the tackle consisted of a Penn International Stand-up Rod VS5010AWA 60 with Aftco wind-on rollers and a Winthrop Tackle Adjusta-Butt. Reel was a Penn International 50 VSW reel loaded with 530 m of 60 lb Momoi Diamond Mono, attached to Dr Huchinson with a Braid Blue-Fin Harness and Power Play Rod Belt.

Thresher shark fishing Isle of Wight

After only 17 minutes there was a run on one of the baits. The fish took 500 yards of line. Although it moved quite slowly the sheer size of the fish made it unstoppable. There were no fast runs or leaping.  The fish was just dogged and 30 lbs of drag was insufficient to move it. Only after clamping down on the spool with his thumb so that he could back the drag off and turn the pre-set up to maximum to get 45 lbs of drag was he able to make any progress. The boat drifted about five miles during the battle.

At around 2pm Dr Huchinson finally caught his first glimpse of the fish. However it was another hour before it was finally alongside the boat.

Thresher shark fishing Isle of Wight

At 3:10pm the fish was measured at 112 inches nose to fork (estimated total length 199 inches) and released. According to published weight tables this gives a weight of around 630lbs. This is significantly bigger than the current British record of 323lbs caught in this area in 1982, but not as large as the biggest commercially caught thresher shark which was a massive 1,250lb landed in Cornwall in 2007.  Dr Hutchinson’s catch is an incredible fish – and although older and wiser, it is still out there! More information on thresher sharks here.

Thresher shark fishing Isle of Wight


For another shark story read here.




Bluefin Tuna in Chichester Harbour

This huge Atlantic bluefin tuna was washed up in Chichester Harbour where it was recovered by the team at Thorney Island Sailing Club. After Simon Horsfield took these photographs, they called in the IFCA who took it in their patrol boat “Watchful” to their Shoreham base for analysis. It was weighed at 180kg. The IFCA officers Dr. Jen Lewis and Nick Rogers took tissue samples from the carcass and took measurements. It was found to be in very good condition and had only recently died. The body appeared to be undamaged so there was no indication it had been caught by line or net. Because the cause of death was uncertain, the body was then disposed of.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Chief fisheries and conservation officer Tim Dapling was interviewed by the Shoreham Herald and said “Historically bluefin tuna regularly frequented UK waters, feeding upon plentiful prey fish species such as herring and mackerel, however global fishing pressure due to high demand and prices caused bluefin numbers to drastically decline over the past century, to the point that they were classified as an endangered species by the IUCN.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

“This is a very unusual and positive event in terms of fisheries the marine environment and the presence of a key species. Although it is a pity the fish was not alive, it is first time we have an encountered at close quarters a Bluefin tuna specimen in Sussex coastal waters. There are various reports of Bluefin tuna in the wider channel area and we know they are regularly sighted further to the west off Devon and Cornwall. It was a quite remarkable and impressive fish, why it was in Chichester Harbour or came ashore may never be clear, but we do know species such as mackerel and bass are present in numbers within the harbour and perhaps it entered the harbour to feed and became disorientated.

“A fish of this size and species is used to open sea areas where it can swim unconstrained to hunt prey. “The adult Bluefin tuna are at the top of the marine food chain and the increasing presence of top predators typically indicates the improving health of ecosystems. Of course, this was just one fish, however I’d be surprised if it was the only one in Sussex waters.”

Local anglers have reported seeing tuna in the area. Because it is illegal to target, boat or land a bluefin tuna in UK waters, any closer encounters are probably not reported!

Thanks to Simon Horsfield of Thorney Island Sailing Club for permission to reproduce these photographs.

Langstone Catch Report September

This last month has followed the usual pattern for August: mixed weather, and mixed bags of fish. Some days have been calm and glorious, others torrential rain and strong winds. It is a month separating the main run of summer species from the early arrival of winter species so it can be unpredictable. One of the distractions, for those with a lot of patience, is shark fishing but more on that later.

The larger tope usually move off again by August but there were still some good specimens caught: Peter Churchill 50lb; Dan Churchill 50lb; Clive Smith 40lb and Dean Lodge 40lb.

Calmer sunny days means drifting for bass is a very pleasant way of fishing. We have good stocks in the area. Graham Jones caught his personal best of 11lb and Grant Childs shows one of 6lb 15oz. Most common species of rays are resident on many marks and although the undulate ray stocks are under pressure we seen to catch a good number of them. Mackerel shoals are again scarce although some huge individuals have been caught, James Atkins shows an example. Scad are plentiful however, and make good fresh baits.

Our main event of the month was a Species Competition, organised by Chris Ellis. This was a SMAC competition and we plan to hold this as an Open competition next year, and we will be working with sponsors to put up an attractive prize table. The competition was won by Bill Arnold with 10 species (tompot blenny, corkwing wrasse, ballan wrasse, tub gurnard, plaice, pouting, conger eel, dog fish, scad, black bream); Steve Andrews in second place with 9 and Kris Scott in third with 8 so it was a close fight to the end.

The Juniors also did well – Jake Kelly shows off his silver eel and Max Churchill a smoothhound.

Sharks are always a possibility south of the Island, although they are not in sufficient numbers to rival the fishing further south. It takes a lot of research, planning and patience to catch one but the experience is amazing. These days the fish are released at the side of the boat to minimise further stress, so weights are estimates. We have two catches to report.

Ian Hewett captured an estimated 450 – 500lb Porbeagle equalling his previous best. The shark came up in the chum slick and showed on the surface close to the floats before taking a live Horse Mackerel fished 30 feet below. The fish was officially ‘caught’ after a 2hr struggle when the skipper Peter Churchill touched the leader but it took off again and fought for a further hour before she was ready to finally come alongside to be photographed and released – see pictures.

Heber Crawford fished solo in his own boat and caught his first thresher shark. Coincidentally Peter Churchill was nearby and seeing the action was able to approach and take photos. It was estimated to weigh 220lb and the story of the catch in Heber’s own words makes great reading. See the article “Solo Shark Fishing”.

You can read the full Sea Angling News online here

Pannini Onboard

Do you ever fancy a toasted sandwich, pannini or stuffie on board but you only have a one-burner stove and a kettle? Here is a way of bringing joy to a cold fishing day. Firstly, make your pannini, sandwich or stuffie (stuffed bap or roll) using heatable ingredients and preferably with cheese to bind it all together. Ham, bacon, cooked mushrooms, cheese, tomato, onion, cooked chicken, pesto, cooked meatballs/leftover burgers, sundried tomatoes are all ingredients you can experiment with. Now individually wrap the pannini/sandwich/stuffie tightly in strong aluminium foil. Go fishing. When hunger strikes, fire up your gas ring and take out a dry fring pan. Place your foil parcels in the pan and put on the heat. Turn them every two minutes for six to eight minutes. Heat gently or  you could end up setting them on fire.  If your turning and heat application are right, when you open the parcel you will find a hot pannini oozing with melted filling. If not, wrap it up again and take another couple of turns. The secret is to heat low and slow enough that it melts through to the centre, and hot enough that the top and bottom are crispy.

Solo Shark Fishing

By Heber Crawford

I have never fished for big sharks before, but I have been researching the local sharks for over a year. I knew the waters around the Isle of Wight have a reputation of big sharks in years gone by so that’s where I began to look.

I set of from home at 8:00 am on 6th August with around 15 kg of home-made chum: a mix of bran, oats and oily fish mixed with fish oils that had been sitting for two days stewing. The trip didn’t start well because it was a real struggle to find bait, but after around four hours I had some nice fresh bait in the box. I set course for the famous St Catherine’s area I had read so much about. My drift started at around 2pm with one rod set to fish deep and one shallow.  I spent the day looking at my two floats with much anticipation. Before I knew it, darkness was setting in, I was a long way from home and on my own. I cooked myself some fresh mackerel and had a cup of tea just as the last of the light was fading. I started to slowly nod off to sleep in my chair.

Shark fishing

I woke around 20 minutes later and got up to top up the chum bags. I was shocked to see one was missing from the side of my boat! I was a little unsure what had happened, but 15 minutes later in the pitch black with the only light given to me by the moon my real screamed off. Absolute panic kicked in – I didn’t have time to put my deck light on, I grabbed my rod and held on for dear life as my 50lb class Abu Suveran was bent double. Line was flying from my real at an alarming rate. My heart was beating out of my chest and my legs had turned to jelly. I was alarmed at the amount of line coming from my reel but after what seemed like an age it stopped dead. My rod regained its normal shape and the reel was not singing any more. The fish had slipped the hook.

I have never felt power like that before I was in shock. I continued to fish on for a short while and when the chum ran out and my bait had gone, I headed home in the early hours of the morning. The ride home seemed to take forever. I arrived home in a state of disbelief at what had just happened. I laid in bed trying to sleep but sleep did not come to me. I was buzzing.

After trying for three hours to get some much-needed sleep I dragged myself back out of bed.  I raided my bait freezer for everything in there. I took a bucket-full of bran and the last of my fish oil to make some more chum. I was under-prepared but my mind was racing from the excitement from the night before. I grabbed some bottles of water from the fridge, the dinner my wife had made me the night before and made my way back to my boat in a complete daze.

My struggle for bait was even worse than the day before and it took hours to finally put two mackerel in my bucket. I made my way back to where I lost the fish the night before. With the boat on autopilot I set about smashing up everything I had brought from the freezer for my chum bag.

I got to my mark but I was feeling a little disheartened with my chum mix. The tide was starting to ease and my mind was all over the place. I had so much doubt in myself. I was extremely tired. My drift was slowing, I had probably drifted over a mile and had been fishing for a little over a hour. Sitting in my chair with my thoughts fixed on what had happened the night before, I heard “click, click, click” then nothing. “It’s the tide,” I said to myself. Then it happened again but faster this time. I stood up and 30 yards from my boat an absolute monster came flying out of the water almost completing a backflip. My first thought was that it was a huge dolphin and then my real screamed into life.

Shark fishing

I grabbed my rod, line flying from my reel. 70 yards away it jumped again, magnificently clearing the water. It continued to strip line and after another 100 yards it cleared the water for a third time. Absolute panic set in. I ran into my cabin with rod in hand – nearly snapping my rod on the way. I started my engine and flipped the engine into gear. All the time I’m hanging my rod out of the cabin door trying to hold onto an animal set on trying to make its way to France.

Then it happened again. My reel stopped singing, my rod straightened. It had gone. I stood in utter disbelief.

“No,” I said to myself. I reeled like crazy. Nothing. I reeled again as fast as I could. There was nothing there. 50 yards from the boat it jumped again, thrashing its head wildly. My line tightened, my rod bent double. It was on again! I locked my drag and line started to fly out. I continued to chase down the shark to get it within 30 or 40 yards from the boat then it would fly off again. All the time I’m in and out of my cabin steering the boat, in and out of gear. After about an hour of madness I started to compose myself. I looked at the rear of my boat and to my amazement I still had two rods in the water and my chum basket! I had to get the other rods wound in whilst trying to keep hold of the rod with the shark on from being ripped from my hands.

Shark fishing

Leader was starting to appear on my reel.  I saw the shark at the side of the boat. I was in shock. I looked it right in the eye and it steamed straight to the bottom. I was dragged round and round my boat for the next half hour – rods on the floor, buckets everywhere, rods propped against the gunnels – a total mess.

I managed to find my gloves and then the shark stopped dead. “I’ve hit a snag” I thought.  I couldn’t move it. Stalemate. I hung on for dear life trying to put as much pressure on the fish as I possibly could. I was stuck squashed up against the gunnels, rod tip in the water, hand trapped under the rod against the handrail. I could feel my phone getting crushed as I was getting raised up onto my toes with the rod going even further into the water.

I backed the drag off for fear of losing the rod. The shark made another big run. Panic was setting in again. I couldn’t tame the beast! In the distance I could see a boat. I started shouting and waving my blue hand towel. I needed help, I was on my own and I had never seen anything so big. I have never felt such power.  I got the shark back to the boat and it went dead again, then it went under the boat dragging me around and around, trying it’s hardest to break me off on the underside of my boat. All the time I’m trying to wave my towel and shout to the boat I could see coming past me. I could see it was Peter Churchill from Southsea Marina I was calling him and waving like a madman. He couldn’t see me, I was too far away and he was slowly getting further and further away.

Shark fishing

I was really beginning to panic now. I was knackered, wet through, my legs shaking, cramps in my arms, my ribs hurting and my groin on fire from the rod butt digging into me. This fight was now approaching two hours. I didn’t have a fancy rod belt holder or harness – I had been fighting this fish rod butt slung under arm or wedged into my groin. The pain was real. I looked back one last time to see Peter turning the boat around and heading for me!

This gave me a big boost of energy and I cheered to myself. “Yeah!” I shouted. All the time the beast deep under the boat was really putting the hurt on me. Peter made circles around the boat. I believe this helped me by stopping the shark from running any more. Before I knew it I had the leader back on my reel. I caught sight of the shark again. I could see my wire leader approaching. I chucked the rod down and dived on the wire wrapping around my gloved hands. It tried to power-dive down again. I got dragged across the deck and half pulled in but I pulled back as hard as I could and got his head up.

It’s tail was thrashing wildly. I was in awe of this creature. This was the pinnacle of my fishing career. My phone was destroyed but I knew Peter had been filming me from his boat for what seemed an eternity. I was looking the shark in the eye. His head was in line with my cabin, the fork in his tail approaching seven feet away and the tip of his tail thrashing wildly 12 feet away. With the wire wrapped around my hands he relaxed and rolled on his side. I could see my hook in the corner of his mouth, a 12/0 circle hook with the barb filed off completely.

Shark fishing

I flicked the wire once, twice and the third time the hook flew out. “Yes!” My fears subsided away. It was safely unhooked. One flick of its huge tail and down he went. Peter and his crew cheered and praised me. As they departed, I was star-struck. I couldn’t believe what had just happened to me. Stuck to the gunnels of my boat there’s a fish ruler over three feet long so I can gauge the sizes of fish with ease. I measured that shark when it eyed up in the water to the rule on the gunnel. It was  more than twice the length easily to the fork of the tail. Conservative estimates of lengths between six and seven feet on many size charts give weights between 200lbs and 300lbs. I called it an estimate of 220lbs.

Threshers are one of the rarest sharks in British waters. I had only started shark fishing the day before. People had fished for these sharks for years and never seen one. It was one of the happiest moments in my life. I will never forget that fight – spectacular. A magnificent creature, released totally unharmed into the famous St. Catherine’s Deeps to live with the other legends.

Heber Crawford

August 2020

Sea Angling News – Back Issues

Sea Angling News is published online and in print format. The monthly Langstone Report is written by Neville Merritt on behalf of the Southsea Marina Angling Club. If you would like to read previous issues you can browse online here

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