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Catch Reports 2006

Weekending 30th December 2006

As forecast the weather has turned against us for a while now, maybe 8 days, with F6-F8 being a trend set over the New Year period. What a pity as there are some good fish waiting to be caught. On Wednesday we managed to get to a mark 3M South where Eels obliged right through the Flooding tide. Nearly all these Congers were sizable with the best around the 45lb mark. The next best fish was a double figure Thornback Ray. Closer inshore although there were a lot less Eels a few more Cod were caught in the 8lb bracket. Just a bit further South from us the best Cod that I heard of on the day was boated at 20lb.

The Solent is still a reasonable fall back with Bass in the 6-7lb bracket falling to squid baits intended for Cod. There are still a few Cod coming along inside with the odd Eel plus Dogs and Pout. There are some holding areas for Whiting too but they are specific and not for me to spill the beans, but you can find them. The Flounder fishing is at it's prime now and for the next  6 weeks in the Solent and Southampton Water where fish to 3lb will be targeted from the boats edging around all those spots that the beach boys can't get too. Bass up to 6lb will be caught at the same time and falling to the same tactics and worm baits.

Due South is coming out in March but I have some some Saturday dates available at the end of January, early Feb and April. Well that is it for now, so happy New Year.

Weekending 24th December 2006

After all that stormy weather, a big high pressure and a period of more stable air has allowed us to get round the Needles light in force once again. There are specimen Congers showing everywhere between 1 and 2 miles from the light. Last Saturday on Due South we had three weighed at around 40lb. We had another 3 weighed at around 30lb. Plus another six or so between 5lb and 20lb. That made up for some hectic competition fishing as every eel needed to be weighed and released!

We also had some Cod with two at double figures and a smaller one. There were a few Whiting, the odd Spotted Ray, LSD and Pouting. As dark came in we went back down the Solent for the last couple of hours until 7pm and managed a Bass, couple of dogs and a Pout. So if you can get round the Needles then that is the place to be. It is worth bearing in mind that the Ebb was full of life, while it went quiet once flooding. It was the same on Sunday. This last weekend has seen some of the best inshore fishing throughout this year. As well as the Congers most boats are getting a Cod or two now, plus Whiting with some good Pollock and the odd Bass thrown in so definitely worth getting that squid and cuttle sorted out. You just don’t know what will come up next.

Just yesterday we had thick Fog and there is an ‘F’ in Fog when it gets that bad and it isn’t the obvious one.  I got the crew onboard and we made the right decision in my opinion and saved the fuel and bait for another day, still the RADAR came in handy for working round the haven to the pontoon and back. As it happened we were right and the fog stayed all day. Tomorrow is the last charter before Christmas so I will be taking the camera.

As for the final 2007 Ashlett boat competition Dink Lemoignan on ‘Maestro’ caught and released his best catch of the year with 162lb of fish, mainly Congers, to wrap up the Championship, one more time. Second was Geoff Wheeler with 102lb and 5 species on ‘Due South’ and third was Kev Witt with 100lb, also on ‘Due South’. I had to lick my wounds and accept runner up after leading all year but I managed 5 species including two Cod, two Whiting and a Bass which made up for the minimal angling effort that I put in on the day.

This skippering makes it harder to compete but I still like to fish as much as I can. With the odd crew that turn up short on numbers I occasionally ask if I can fish and subsequently pay my portion. Please don’t count on this though as other days I have a lot of ‘stuff’ to catch up on between the tangles, cooking, making tea and netting and don’t have time to fish.

Weighing the bigger eels

The tactics used on Due South and inherited from Ted and Mike is to net the eels if possible or gaff them under the chin and with a clean sweep lift them up and over the rails. When someone else nets a big fish you can always tell how experienced they are in the way they bring the fish over. The trick is not to lever the fish over as the net handle may snap. You simply grab the net ring and lift over in a vertical line, beware, I caught one nipper trying to break my net this weekend. Anyway, then the fun starts with first getting the hooks and traces out of the 7’ thrashing, spitting, chomping buggers and then, this is that hard bit, sliding them into a huge post bag. The scales will bounce more with a bigger fish on them and when the sea is choppy there could be as much as +/- 4lb swing. So you have to take the mid reading before your arms fall off! With the eel weighed I just slip them over the side, and out of the bag, it is too late for pictures once they are in the bag!

I don’t like the gaffing part, as tough and hardy as these eels are. So the best option is the net, if you have one large enough. Ideally it is best if the eel is left in the water and guestimated by the skipper. In future I intend to practice with measuring the eels with a calibrated 1”x1/2”x8’ hardwood baton, while they are laying on the surface, then weighing them and making some comparison charts. They are much easier to get off with a T-Bar while they are lying on the surface of the water, if lip hooked. Or by cutting the trace if hooked deeper and hence avoiding all the damaging gaffing, lifting and weighing. Having said that they are rock hard fish, you even find them with hooks welded into the side of their face, and those beggars always seem to fight the hardest, respect.

Merry Christmas

Weekending 10th December 2006

I now have a working RADAR on ‘Due South’ having replaced the old one, that had basically rotted out due to water ingress through a crack found in the radome. The new one has a much crisper display and shows up reflective objects really well. It is good to have an independent reference to back up what the plotter is telling me, when coming in at night or in poor visibility.

If you have not got one on your boat then maybe you should consider this; an 18 month old, second hand Furuno 1623, was sourced at £495 from Greenham Regis Marine in Lymington. You should bear in mind that RADARs use up a fair bit of battery power when transmitting, so they are best not left on Transmit when at Anchor.

However, when set, a ‘Watchman’ facility can transmit the RADAR for one minute to check if anything has entered the ‘guard zone’ from the previous transmission. If no change found the system goes back into STBY. This feature is essential in deeper water and in poor visibility, when at Anchor. By the way the first rule when you have decided to stay out in fog, without a RADAR or RADAR reflector is to ‘go shallow’, so there is less chance of being wiped out without a trace.

The reason I mention this is that there are many boats that go out in poor visibility and it is always worth considering ‘going shallow’, until the fog lifts. Knowing where you are on a plotter is good and checking your position by steering from buoy is comforting too. But remember so are lots of other boats out there, so the risk of collision is now increased! Also if you have somewhere to put a RADAR reflector you MUST fit one, according to the Collision Regulations (IRPCS). Likewise if you have a working RADAR you must use it, when conditions dictate. Poor Visibility is defined as 1000m – 2 nm, Fog is less than 1000m.

Anyway after fitting the new RADAR, I managed a quick test and a 2 hour session at the end of the flood at Sowley in 60’. Well there are fish down the Solent still, with Dogs, Pout and a 12lb Conger showing some interest in our baits. Other boats fishing the Western Solent found fish too with ‘Major Tom’ boating a 6lb Cod plus other species. There were reports of a couple of Hounds to 8lb too. If you were willing to fish it properly, down and up, the ebb and the flood tide until midnight there were Bass to be had to 4lb with Andy Stevens on ‘Make My Day’ finding them out.

Also on Saturday John Skeggs on ‘Tom Cat 2’ was outside in a comfortable sea, with the wind having veered round to North West. He had plenty of Congers and a 28.5lb Cod plus bits and pieces. Other boats reported lots of Congers too, the odd Cod and odd Pollock plus Whiting, Bass, Pout and Dogs. Well worth the effort, and I understand well worth convincing some of the crews that the weather was not as bad inshore as the Shipping Forecast was giving.

I am currently studying ‘weather’ in my Yachtmaster Shore Based Course and it is well understood that the Shipping Forecasts and the Inshore Shipping Forecast tend to be pessimistic. As a reminder, our Shipping Forecast area is ‘Wight’ and stretches over to the French Coast, so we are also listening to how it could be over in France too. Our inshore sea area is ‘Lyme Regis to Selsey Bill’ and up to 12 nm offshore. A recent study found that 1 in 3 Gale warnings were accurately forecast. So that means that 66% are not reaching those wind speeds forecast.

Mind you a F6+ from the SE round to the West is best avoided anyway in the Western Approaches, if you have a choice. We do have a choice as the Solent is a fantastic haven and a great place to cure your angling withdrawal symptoms. This may mean fishing in darkness as the Solent tends to fish better at night due to the shallower water, but it certainly makes me feel better if the weather gets stuck in a rut like we have right now.

Incidentally this poor weather is caused by the ‘Polar High’ having expanded in the winter pushing the ‘Polar Front’ down to 50 degrees of latitude, to our line of latitude. The warmer air pushing up from the South is always fighting against it, with its own Front. Unfortunately we sit right on this boundary at this time of year. If the Polar air pushes down further and over us the weather should stabilise and become colder, not necessarily calm, but more stable. If it stays ‘mild’ like it is now, the weather will continue with these depressions tracking their way through our sea area. It is the mixing of these Cold and Warm fronts that cause the Depressions and tight Low Pressure areas that then create unstable air and more unpredictable weather. At the end of the day it is exactly when the poor weather comes through, and how it will affect our fishing trips that really count. For that decision you have to trust the skipper to interpret all the weather sources available as he will only go in ‘Favourable Weather’.  That is favourable to himself, his boat and his crews. Note also that as the water gets colder, the Code of Practice states that the crews have to be dressed appropriately for the conditions before the skipper can sail.

I still use the Shipping Forecasts that are issued on Ch23 at 05:40, 09:40, 13:40 etc UTC, when at sea. The Coastguard on Ch16 will always inform when it is due and on which channel. I always leave my DSC VHF radio on Ch16.

When on land, there are loads of weather information sources. I prefer the internet and use BBCi Inshore Shipping and BBCi Coastal forecasts plus Metcheck. Unfortunately the TV forecasts have been ‘dumbed down’ but the rain predication and timing on the BBC is incredibly accurate.

By the way it is still looking good for Tomorrow… so we will wait and see

Weekending 2 December 2006

We managed a trip yesterday after a run of consistently poor weather. The boat wanted a run and the crew just as keen so we decided to fish the Solent. Well there were plenty of fish. Dink Lemoignan won the comp with the biggest and best specimen a 7lb Thornback Ray, four Whiting to 1.5lb, 12 Dogfish and 3 Pout. The rest of us caught regular but were always 5 dogs and that skate behind him. Not wanting to give too much detail of a useful inshore mark, the boys will be back in their dinghies next week.

As far a general update goes not many boats are getting outside, but I know the Solent is still producing a 'cod a trip' to the dinghies down the Solent. I am not sure how many of these cod would better be described as codling but they are being caught along with one or two bass, the odd skate and plenty of big Pout loads of Dogs and some tasty Whiting.

Where the water temperatures are still high for the time of year, 12.2 degs C, the Grapevine is singing the same message, most skippers are expecting this current winter season to be bent out towards the middle of February, so keep your eye on the weather and look for some useful trips inshore through to the middle of February. After that we will have to go further offshore and then of course the weather becomes an even greater factor.

For those skippers not in the Professional Boatman's Association and hence probably not aware, there are  acouple of new wrecks that are now being marked and designated with a keep clear area around them, where absolutely no disturbance of the wrecks are allowed. If you fish UB81 you better find out what that means. Basically thats' no diving or fishing of any kind. I need to study this further and will give more detail in an article, if the weather keeps me indoors and work goes quieter.  Likewise the channels Islands are a concern as Guernsey cause problems for the mainland charter fleet that are accused of selling fish on the black market. The PBA again are behind an effort to put the facts right.

Weekending 12th November 2006

This Saturday was hampered by a strong wind forecast which never was as bad as forecast but enough for us to knock it on the head and postpone for another day.

However, the Cod season has now started with the more successful trips seeing 3 or 4 smaller Cod with the odd bigger 20lb fish being boated, occasionally, here and there. I even managed a Cod myself on Due South last weekend at 6lb 4oz..

The Whiting were averaging 1lb, we managed ten by the end of the day. Dogfish were apparent in huge numbers, certainly if you put a bit of green stuff on and a strip of mackerel, although they wolfed down plenty of squid too.

The best fish last weekend on the November Ashlett comp was a nice Undulate Ray at 15lb 8oz by yours truly, on ‘Due South’. Dink Lemoignan on ‘Maestro’ won the event after catching 64lb for 160 points, with his haul consisting of a double figure Blonde Ray and a Conger and his full quota of Pout and Dogs, plus a Bass and a Sole on the way back in. I managed second with 149 points and Andy Niven 3rd with 113 points, then Geoff Wheeler, Mike Callus, Kev Witt respectively. Brian and Mitchell Jones on ‘Mystique’ would not concede to the dogs and Pout and opted to stay on, but gave up at 9pm after a 13 hour day. They had a hell of a lot of dogs and Pout over Ryde Middle. All fish bar a few were returned.

On Thursday John from the Geoff Wheeler crew, fishing on ‘Due South’ latched into a Blonde Ray that just made double figures and then proceeded to loose the biggest fish of the day without doubt when his leader knot parted, 5 minutes into the scrap. I would like to think that it was a BIG Cod but who knows? We also managed a couple of Bass and a big old squid that bit the gut out of a hooked 1lb Pout. It let go on the surface and then when I put the bait back down, about 20’, the squid returned and bit the back out of the Pout! I never got it close enough top the boat though. Dogs and some big Pout made up for the rest of the catch.

Other boats have managed the odd Cod up to 20lb, with Dave Stephenson getting four on one trip. Let’s hope that the season is just getting started, proper.

The trawlers have been working the Western Solent which has cleared a good head of fish out. It is bloody annoying, particularly when we spend all year putting fish back, only for these boats to come along and scoop them all up again. Surely omething has to change! However, before the trawlers got going we had some spectacular action with Soles, the best of which was this one by Steve Davies, at 3lb 7.75ozs.

As a family, the Jones’s have just had a fantastic two weeks in the North Ionian Sea, Greece. This was the longest time that I have spent on a boat and was great fun. We caught a few fish, including some small Tuna and a Dorrado to trolled lures. Fantastic explosive fun when they hit the lures and leap about, it certainly jazzed up some of our longer passages.  Plus we caught Bream, Mullet and an Octopus. We saw Turtles and ate well in a different restaurant every night. The sailing was fun too. The other crews were all good company which makes these flotillas lots of fun.

We had 4 passages of at least 30 Miles long with the longest being 37 miles, which at 6 knots is quite a bit of helming. The auto helm becomes a ‘god send’ and in the last few days I was setting sails solo. By the end of the two week holiday, we had sailed, motor sailed or motored 215 Miles. Incidentally we set sail from Vounaki, South of the Lefkas Canal, then sailed up to Corfu, and crossed between the Greek mainland and the Islands of Corfu, Paxos and Lefkas before going back South for a few days. I will definitely consider doing this type of holiday again now that I have a ‘good’ crew on board, well sort of, at least they are now very competent crew, it was good family team work.

We spent the first few days in a bit of unsettled weather and this proved to be a tester for us all but we soon gained confidence in the boat and we had some good sailing experience. The last week was settled, warm and sunny so the weather was great for relaxing, rather than sailing. As a note the Geeks tend to get on with us Brits, the water is drinkable (I suffer if it is not) and the food very good. Expect to pay about 10% less than in the UK, the language however, is impossible.

Weekending 8th October 2006

Funny game this chartering as sometimes the weather seems to work against you and sometimes it works for you. Tuesday week and then this Wednesday gone and then Saturday were all days for which I had trips booked and each date aligned with small weather windows allowing us to get out and at them. Amazing considering the weather recently. Well we found Black Bream to 2lb in Christchurch Bay on both the flood and ebb this week and last week, then yesterday we were in the Solent to find plenty of 'life'.

I know we tend to rev up for the Cod now but there is plenty of other species to target still. There seems to be a good run of Thornbacks, or I have been lucky, as I have had eight on Due South, in the last three trips, which is good news, with all bar two being weighed and returned. There are plenty of lingering summer species too with Mackerel, Scad, Hounds and Black Bream common. It must be the water temperature. Yesterday on an Ashlett comp we caught TBR's to 13lb and Hounds to 5lb, Spotteds to 4lb and Bass to 5lb plus a real variety of smaller species. These were all caught in less than 28' down the Solent. Who says the Solent doesn't fish?

The first Cod tend to turn up in the Solent first too, lets hope we get a good run of them this season. See Photo Gallery for a couple of new photo's.

Rob Thompson has a new boat 'Shogun' and joins the gang of Big Cats. His new web will be up and running soon and I will put a link across from the 'More Charters' page, when it is up there.

Weekending 22 September 2006

Having lost one crew on the Thursday evening, two hours later, another crew turned my Saturday back into a fishing trip. A group of Lymington locals decided to change their weekend plans and do something completely different for a change. It certainly paid off for them. They had never fished at anchor before so we negotiated on a new start and finish time and fished a very comfortable and successful middle part of the day. The first stop found us a large shoal of Mackerel and Scad with the odd herring thrown in. Then using this lot as bait we caught Dogs, Conger, Skate, Bass and more Scad. This was all done within a couple of miles of the light. The best fish was a 5lb Bass. Here is ‘Dangerous Dave’ with the best fish, which actually paid for his trip, care of the rest of his crew mates.


Then on the Sunday as the weather was very kind to us all weekend, with the skippers able to fish where they wanted, I decided to take an experienced crew, in an Ashlett SAC competition, down to Brook / Atherfield Rough. Kev Witt did well, with Bass, Pout and a Hound and a Conger making up his catch. Kev had the best specimen, a Bass of 8lb 4oz weighed ashore, and already eaten! As it turned out we did not fare much better than the new boys on Saturday, that’s fishing for you. In hindsight, the problem was, one lucky angler kept catching a good fish at the moment we were about to move, well that’s my excuse anyway. Anyway we ended up with Congers, Spotted Rays, Bass, Dogs, Pout and a single Hound. The biggest fish was a 15lb Conger. Gary Withers won the comp on ‘Sea Hunter’ with a good catch of Bass. His best Bass went 8lb.

On Friday Due South passed her Five Year MCA Survey, allowing me to continue chartering with a brand new 5 year License. There was no real concern but the surveyors have to keep on top of the changing code and trends and you never know what they might find that you had not noticed.

I am booked up with other commitments this weekend but have a couple of mid week trips next week after this next ‘springer’, so I will be looking for a few early whiting and maybe the odd codling. I will expect Bass though as they seem to be very wide spread at the moment.

Dover Soles will be another key species to target form the dinghies and at night. I am now aware of two 3lb 13oz fish boated by Tom Ennion on ‘Two Boys’ and Denis Airs on ‘Sundowner’ in the last two weeks. Either of these two angling stalwarts would deserve the British record, which is shown at 4lb 2oz but we think should be 4lb 6oz following Dinks fish caught last year. The ‘authorities’ seem to have really dragged their heels pushing this through the Records Fish Committee and getting the record ratified, we are mystified as to why. Hopefully it is just one of those things and that is the way it is but like Dink says it is still in the freezer!

Another local dinghy angling stalwart, earlier this year purchased a brand new Raider 18, which after fitting out, had to go back to the manufacturer! That is a lot of work and wasted time but it had to go back because of a fundamental fault. The replacement boat, imported from Poland again, is a much better boat but of course again required to be fitted out with engine, electronics and safety gear. The good news is he has already thumped a 28lb Blonde and a Sole over 3lb onto the deck.

Southampton Boatshow

For dinghy anglers a second hand Shetland is still hard to beat. For those with some money Raider 18 still seems very hard to beat, value for money wise. If you have lots of money you may consider a power cat, as seen at powercat.co.uk, and noticed by me yesterday at the boat show. It was only £24,000 for an 18’ cat, with twin 40hp outboards! Lordy, lordy, it will be interesting to see how many will sell. I will be honest I am starting to warm to the larger ‘Cheetahs’ between 7.9m and 9.9m made at Ventnor on the Island, but fuel costs are becoming more critical and will need to do some maths and consider VAT registration. It becomes more viable if VAT is put on Diesel fuel, like the government has been rumoured to be doing. The appeal of outboards is that I can get them serviced easily, give myself a dual engine safety option, and the four strokes are really, really quiet. The boat also shoots along at up to 40Knots too, depending on engine size, great for inshore Bassing.

Anyway, this is what boat shows are all about, dreaming and pondering. I am not seriously looking to replace Due South for a few years, that’s for sure. It was only last year when I was there and looking to spend more money on a boat that in hind sight was not half as good as Due South. To that end I also spent time Saturday with the Perkins engine sales people, who one minute said my engine had done ‘some’ hours and next said they met an Irish guy who had his engine running fine for 42 years. They are sales after all. I heard the ‘Jenny’ boats in Cowes have done over 16000 hours on their Perkins Sabre commercial engines, so a Perkins Sabre 215c is hopefully only halfway through it’s life really.

Today I have decided that it is definitely worth replacing the Perkins Sabre stickers on the wheelhouse! However it is always worth putting some numbers into the budget for Ron, later on!

Weekending 10 September 2006

Andy Niven, of Ashlett SAC, is getting among some good fish from the dinghies, with a 12lb Thornback, 2lb 4oz Sole and 1lb 10oz Red Mullet all caught in last couple of weeks. Gary Withers is leading the Sole race again though for Ashlett SAC after catching one at 2lb 8oz. His catch also included an Ashlett SAC club record Red Mullet at around 2lb 4oz, which he released. Red Mullet are a nice looking fish and taste even better than they look but Gary likes to catch them again. We have even seen him put Cod back and a 3lb 8oz Sole at the end of a comp last year. Incidentally Steve Davies showed me how to do it last night with a good Sole of 2lb 7oz, although I did manage a ‘slip’.


This Tub Gurnard (suspected) was caught during a comp for the Old Mill, there were two boats fishing Eric Deacon, on ‘Vergo Voyager’ and John Veyzey on Skylark. All fish were caught off Calshot, just 200 yds from the beach. There were plenty of Bream and small Smoothies. Eric had a 4lb Bass and Johns best fish was this Gurnard that went 3lb 1oz on 2 sets of scales.

This is a very reasonable Gurnard, specimen is 2lb for a Tub. It looks like a Tub, one difference is a blue line around the edges of the two large (Pectoral) fins. As they are closed I can’t see. The Tubs go darker when they die but start off very red. There is a rarer one a Grey Gurnard.

The grapevine is shouting Codling already. Apparently Gilkicker and Pagham have seen some caught from the shore.

Due South is close to being finished, I should be driving her back soon in time for a busy weekend, weather permitting.  The repair went well and my request for checks resulted in necessary maintenance, which proved to be good timing according to the experts.

The ABP Tide Tables are available from them now, mine are on their way already.

Footnote – the website is going great guns. I initially intended this site to be non-commercial but after purchasing Due South, it would have been impossible to run another web in parallel, so sea-fishing.net became one and the same, as due-south.net.

The part time business is going well with lots of experience being gained in owning, running and accounting for a Charter Angling Boat business. I enjoyed my dinghy angling last night but still can’t wait to get out in Due South again. I am more sympathetic to Charter Skippers now than I have ever been. I always respected Charter Skippers but never sympathised for them ‘til now. It is hard work, requires many hours and is expensive to keep going but when the weather is fine and the fish are feeding, we have a great time.

Weekending 19 August 2006

The WWSA ‘light lines’ competition was fished Thursday on six Boats out from Yarmouth, in what looked like a dodgy, wet start, only to be fished in fine weather with a nice cooling Southerly F4. The competing boats; Private Venture, Challenger and Southern Star from Lymington, Dulcie T from Keyhaven and Becky M and Wight Sapphire from Yarmouth all found fish in an area that was in essence the Eastern half of Christchurch Bay up to Hurst being the nominated fishing area. The Solent, Ledge and round the light was out of bounds, this year. All the Boat winners were close, which made for a good competition but Becky M and Dave Stevenson stayed on the Hounds to enable his Boat winner, 138 points and the £500 top prize. Becky M had 19 hounds in all. Remember all these fish are landed on 10lb line allocated at the start of play. Most anglers use multi tip rods with a 3M or 4M Grauvell being a favoured rod for some matched to a fixed spool reel 

A smaller Bass won the £100 for the best Bass, but Mike Callus of Ashlett SAC on Private Venture nearly did the business, when Arthur put them over a deep hole. His flapper bait was snapped up by a good ‘suspected’ Bass only for the 10lb nylon (light line) to part on the way up. Still that’s what it is all about. I was on Southern Star and bullied a probable (powerful) hound which parted my main line too! As did Andy Hopkins, of the Lymington Club, on another Hound, who I thought had won our boat. As well as counting two hounds, he lost one Hound near the boat and one on the way up! Anyway his possible max points were still overhauled by fellow club member, Paul Holyoake with 102 points. Paul had 2 valuable Scad on the penultimate drop. Bream was the predominate species on all the boats with fish to 1.5lb, being returned, at the back of the shingles, on a regular basis.

John Richards of the CCSFC won on Private Venture. The rest I am afraid was lost on me as we all had a good time in the Yarmouth working men’s club. I even managed to win £50, no, not with a fish but in the ‘Mike Cottingham’ raffle and care of the guy who drew the first ticket. For some reason he picked up a £15 bottle of Bells and left £50 cash on the table! Still, it had been a long day full of hard work for the anglers.

Well done to the WWSA and Dave Stevenson for organising a good event and fitting the ‘Due South Crew’, organised by Tony Lavington, onto Southern Star, PV and Dulcie T.

In the next couple of weeks, I suspect that the weed will begin to die back; this is a good time of year to fish in the Solent, after dark, if you can avoid the WAFI’s. Bass and Soles will be top of the wish list.

‘Due South’ is now under repair after the underwriters have given me the nod to give South Boats the ‘go ahead’. I hope to be up and working again in a week or two. We will wait and see. I will also be getting the 5 year survey sorted out to save taking her out again a week later.

Weekending 16th August 2006

Just a quick update, now that I got my ADSL Broadband link back up and working. On the last Ashlett comp, 6th August, I hit an unlit buoy on Due South, in Christchurch Bay, while returning from a spot of Conger fishing to a Sole mark of Barton. This has set me back and unfortunately has made me cancel a few trips. Still fingers crossed all will be fixed by South Boats over the next couple of weeks. The fishing was OK on the comp. Steve Davies had a good conger just under 40lb and then also had the best Sole at 1lb 10oz. We had a load of Bream to 2lb at first light. Dink on 'Maestro' had the heaviest weight, just over 80lb while Andy Niven connected to 9 different species.

The accident happened after I had crossed the Ledge and managed to hit the unlit summer time, yachting buoy, 'square on' after it came up on my bow seconds after I sat back in my helm seat after a crew came in for a brief chat. The lookout warned me and I was looking for a net buoy. What a shock, it was my fault, I should have checked the chart, as this buoy is not on my plotter, or showed on RADAR. I forgot it was there! I thought the fender had done its job until I had a look, I think they call it delamination.

Tomorrow I am fishing the WWCSA Lightlines competition out from Yarmouth on Southern Star. I have been able to concentrate on the comp as an angler which is a nice change for this year. I will report back this weekend. Tightlines to all, but I hope my 10lb line is tighter more often than all the others tomorrow.

There are a few trigger fish around and a good Black Bream just under 3ozs of the British Record was caught out from Weymouth by an angler loosely associated with Ashlett SAC, 3 miles off of Bridport, over an inshore wreck.

Weekending 29 July 2006

More wind and on the days I have trips too! Still we got out there and caught a few bits and pieces while restricted to Christchurch Bay. The CCFSC caught Bream, Bass, Bull Huss, Gurnard, Pollock and Wrasse. Mackerel are everywhere. John Richards had the best Bass and fish of the day at around 4lb, while Tony Lavington won by a distance, the species 'practice comp'.

Last weekend, round the back of the Island, Andy Niven on 'Pot Luck' had a nice Plaice of 5lb 15.5oz and Gary Withers released a good Conger alongside 'Sea Hunter' , weighed in the net at well over 60lb. This was in less than 30' of water!

There is a lot of weed inside the Solent causing havoc but this did not stop Andy Niven latching into an 8lb Bass last night. However, the best Bass I have been made aware of recently was caught by Pauline Saunders during a lunch break, after a session drifting the bridge. They motored off for a bit of RandR and decided to work a floated mackerel bait. It was picked up and the line tore away off the spool. Skipper and 'other half', Ian, organised the boat allowing Pauline to get the fish beaten and landed all on her own. It weighed more than 14lb! If, the picture can be downloaded off of the camera, I hope they can share it with us. It is a cracker.

I am now 'Blackerried up', no, not suffering from piles, but in technical parlance, this means I can receive e-mails and browse the web on my Blackberry mobile phone, at anytime. The new business mobile number is 07894 912529 and the new business email address is 'duesouth @ 02email.co.uk'.

Weekending 17 July 2006

It was annoying that the forecast NE/E F5 – F6 kept up through Friday and Saturday but then that’s fishing for you. Having said that the cooling breeze was very useful as we had clear blue skies both days. On these spring tides there are plenty of fish to be targeted although the Solent is becoming very busy with grockles, WAFI’s and weed, so making your way out round to Christchurch Bay or Freshwater certainly makes for a more relaxing day’s fishing.

Bass are being targeted using a number of methods and it is really a matter of using the right method at the right time. Drifting with a floated live bait seems to be popular, as is working shads along the bottom, towing Rapalas or Shads, as is anchoring the hot spots and using fresh mackerel strips or a whole squid, or long cuttle strip.

Bream are found in most places and are well spread but the bigger one’s are harder to locate inshore.

This weather is certainly making the fishing harder during day light hours. You have to really present the baits very well. The vanish type nylon makes for invisible traces or snoods and matching dark baits with dark black hooks and light baits with silver hooks will help too.

On Saturday I took a crew to some fairly shallow, fish holding areas in Christchurch Bay. They still managed enough Mackerel, 12 Black Bream, 5 Small Eyed Rays, a few Dogs and Pout plus 7 Tope in the 5-8lb range. In the circumstances; high pressure, cloudless skies, an Easterly, plus a ‘Drogue’ or ‘Sea Anchor’ out from the stern, this made for a reasonable catch, on a fairly difficult day. On the Thursday we were hoping to go Bassing but the 24hr weather forecast put the mockers on that option, by the way, the revised forecast was spot on, so I can’t really complain.

There are reports for a few Gilthead Bream showing up down the Western Solent. Make sure you notice what species they are before you go lobbing them back.

On Friday we had some relative success at ‘Bassing on the inshore Banks’. We managed 10 Bass between 2lb and 5lb 8oz on live baits and shads. The conditions were far from perfect, a F5+ against a big Springer. This week I aim to do a bit of float fishing with live baits, with the kids. Not the kids themselves but live Mackerel! We will do this while ‘Mackereling’, Garfish fishing, and avoid knowingly waiting for a big Bass. The potential is around the 12lb mark and this proves to be ideal for a mix of old experienced hands and young crews on a calm evening.

Weekending 9th July 2006

What a difference a week makes this time of year. Mackerel are now being caught all the way up through Hurst race and Bassing is becoming a favourite for many.

The inshore Hounds have moved down to the East towards the middle of the Solent and up Beaulieu river. Last year there were a lot of small spider crabs so maybe they are 'hoovering' them up now. I found them harder to find in the Sowley area this last week. The conditions were not the best as it turned out with a F4 SW wind against a small tide.

Offshore this week we are getting some good Tope weighing between 20lb and 35lb, with these we also had some offshore Hounds to 9lb falling to Mackerel strip. I tagged and weighed five Tope over 20lb. Along with the Tope yesterday, on a competition, we had a good variety of fish coming to the boat with Bass, Thornback and Spotted Rays, Congers to 36lb, Bull Huss, Pout, Dogs, Bream, Scad and a fresh supply of Mackerel on demand.

I had a 'lift and scrub' this week at the Haven Quay, Lymington. Good job too, as I now know why it felt like I was struggling a little the week before, not that the crew were aware, as we still pushed along at 14.5 knts, with a full crew of 6 anglers. Yesterday we came through Hurst at 19.4 Knts with four anglers, gear and few table fish in the fish box! It was just a tester as I don't cruise at this speed.

Weekending 2nd July 2006

Mackerel are spread about and can be found in numbers although a few are on favoured marks they still seem to want to stay a couple of miles off the needles light. So if you are drifting for Bass with live joeys you will do well to find a good supply inside the light. I know some of the Island boys prefer small Pout, but you have to catch them first too! The weather is giving ample opportunity to fish preferred ground and the fishing is still varied with most things working.

There is a good variety of species to be targeted too. The big Black Bream have moved around and off their vulnerable marks and some how get miraculously replaced with the smaller bait robbers which are still sizable for competition but not ideal for a good scrap. These smaller Bream seem to be everywhere inshore.

The Hounds have done the opposite in our neck of the woods whereby the average size has increased to around 11-12lb from about 5-6lb, with specimen size fish expected. This makes for excellent sport in the shallower water. Andy Niven of Ashlett SAC weighed a good Hound of 18lb catching it on his boat and then after weighing it ashore he released it to fight another day. The tactic is to take along the club scales with you! To avoid the Bream you need hardback crabs. This in turn tends to catch the bigger hounds but not much else. To have a chance to latch into Stingers and Bass, you really need to take some peelers or King Rag too. There is some good bait to be found at the moment so that certainly helps those that can source their own.

I was asked where the best spot to catch Bass at anchor is, at the moment. I would say that in the previous couple of years and now they seem to be everywhere but for ‘Bass at Anchor’ I would go out at 9pm on a bigger tide and fish the shallows with fish baits, cuttle strip, whole squid or worm until 1am in the morning on the North or South of the Western Solent. Flood tide is favoured for Bass and a midnight to 1am tide is always bigger and better for Bass. It is not really a matter of where but when. Also I find that after 2am the fishing can go quiet but then it is time to target the sole. Ground baiting with strips of cuttle or worms can help too. Not too many though.

If you can get further a field, at night, the shingles is a favoured Bass mark but you have to be wary if the tide is ebbing, particularly in the dark. Go the wrong way and you could knock your prop off!

If you can get even further a field, then these early, first light flooding tides on the Ledge or Freshwater Reef or the Bridge has to give you the best chance of a really big specimen Bass.

Then for drifting you have Hurst, the Bridge, the Banks and the Wrecks but you also need time and effort and a full tank (or tanks) of fuel. I am giving Due South a treat with a lift and scrub today so that I am ready for a couple of Bassing trips that are coming up soon.

Well done to Brian Lee of Kiddlington SAC who this weekend had his first charter trip for a year. Brian, a tad over 60+ (J ), has just recovered from 3 major operations and is struggling still with sciatica but that did not stop him fishing their last outing on Due South. He fished the whole day, caught his share of the bait fish and ended up catching mainly dogs but that did not deter him from hauling his 10oz lead on a regular basis to rebait! He was well chuffed on the way back and stated that he felt up for the next trip now with more confidence, a ‘5 dayer’ to Alderney!!

Weekending 18 June 2006

The mackerel can now be found in good numbers and getting closer to the Needles Light. They are everywhere over 2 miles offshore. Not so many around the Bridge and Hurst yet though but it wont be long. It is a great time to be fishing with most things working, from the Inshore Hound marks in the Solent and Bream marks in Christchurch bay, to the traditional Bass marks, to the rocky marks for Thornbacks, Huss and Conger, to the sand banks for Blondes and small eyed rays and on to mid channel wrecks for Pollock and Cod. By the way I am not doing the mid-channel stuff yet but I know that 'Private Venture' and 'Tomkat', among others, have done well for their crews. Better even than some Weymouth boats.

Inshore the weed in the Solent has held off but starting to find it’s way into the tide. This has meant some quality Hound fishing with fish reported to 17lb for Bimbo Airs on 'Sundowner' and to 16lb for Steve Davies on 'Deputy Dog', their own boats. I took a crew of beginners on a 'Parent and Child' trip on 'Due South' who managed plenty of hounds to 10lb in a short 4 hour evening session plus many Black Bream to a shade over 2lb all in daylight and few hundred yards form the shore. They all loved it.


Top Left Clockwise - Matt King, Sam Pitman and Andrew King showing some of their catch before returning to the sea.

On that weekend I took a competition crew back and we had 21 sizable hounds in a few hours before moving off to target other species.

Greg Woodford on 'Southern Star' has found quality Black Bream to over 4lb where they were able to return 3.5lb fish to fight another day. Andy Stevens on 'Make My Day' caught Pollock, Conger and a 14lb Undulate Ray, solo in his Orkney 19. The Kevin's boat moored on my stern 'called Voyager' had a 70lb Conger on an inshore wreck plus Pollock at anchor, they also had a 12.5lb Undulate Ray.

On 'Due South', Saturday, a crew from Kiddlington caught a wide variety of fish. Black Bream the most prevalent still with more than 50 to 2lb caught during the first stop. Added to these species, Bull Huss to 8lb, Pollock, Poor Cod, Red Gurnard, Pouting, Wrasse, Thornback Ray and Spotted Ray with the biggest fish, a ‘weighed and released’ Conger that went 35lb on the last drop with the engine running. One Ballan Wrasse on the day came up from 104’.

Eric of Kiddlington SAC had the best Huss, a tad under 8lb, while Pom looks comfortable with that cup :-).

We did weigh this Conger for Chris of Kiddlington SAC, it went 35lb. Note the huge waves!

The Saturday was nigh on perfect with mirror calm seas all day. We passed a Sun fish which flopped its way down towards St Catherine’s and Mackerel shoals boiled around the boat nearly all day. On one occasion you could see the Bass coming up and through them. I say nigh on perfect as I now have to go down on a genuine day off to clear some rubbish I picked up round the prop. I managed to make it back as it seemed to clear a bit, which is good, but it slowed us down from 12knts to 9knts against the tide.

Good luck to the crew going over to Alderney tomorrow on Private Venture I am sure they will have a good time on the Turbot, Bass and Brill. Let’s hope the weather holds, I will miss it for sure. I have a couple of trips this week so wouldn’t it be ironic if we got a Turbot or Brill!

As it turned out the prop was cleared when I had a look. I think the reversing must have chopped and thrown it off. Anyway I was not happy to try all that while I was still going forward and making 10 knots, just in case it went tight and stalled me. Good test getting on and off the boat on a rope ladder. The prop is easily reached while my head is above water too, every day brings something new with this boating lark!

Weekending 21st May 2006

Say no more - this weekend is a wash-out. I cancelled both trips on Friday evening and it is a great shame but sensible, no one likes this sort of weather! I have a free day next weekend during the Bank Holiday period so the Parent and Child trip has been re-scheduled for one of those days, depending on weather and which one suits us all best.

Last weekend we stayed flexible and smart by electing to fish the Friday evening. It was a cracker, with loads of  Bream up to 2.5lb on the Ledge and then after being plagued by Pout when it got dark, a move to the Sowley Boom area found 10 or so Hounds in just and hour and a bit. They were on the small side with 5lb being the best ones but plenty of action all the same.

Two weeks ago we were also blessed with fantastic weather with flat calm conditions and the English Channel beckoning. We had to go and find some fish, so we did, by visiting a wreck and a 10 mile bank. Trouble is the conditions did not suit the fish as they kept their heads down with just pout on the 10 mile wreck and dogs on the bank. Admittedly later we had a few fish inshore on Due South with Black Bream, Pout, Poor Cod, Dogs, Whiting and Mackerel showing but it was slow and the fish were unspectacular. The four to six mile marks seemed to produce well though with a good Blonde Ray of 26lb on Mike Cottingham’s boat ‘Challenger’ and plenty of Black Bream being caught on every boat. On four miles we found Whiting too.

Ashlett SAC May Boat Competition: 8 members and 2 guests fished on 4 boats, 3 from the Brickyard and 1 from Lymington. We were well spread around our sea area as the weather was nigh on perfect, excepting the visibility was officially Poor (1000m – 2 Miles). ‘Maestro’ went to the Ledge first, ‘Make My Day’ went 5 miles past the Fairway Buoy, ‘Sea Hunter’ went 10 mile SSE of the Light and ‘Due South’ went 10 miles South of the Light. Generally the Mackerel were well spread out too and available but hard to get in numbers early on when we really wanted them. Dogs were persistent everywhere and Black Bream were consistent within 6 miles of the shore line.  Dink Lemoignan secured 25 bonus points early on with the best specimen a Wrasse of 4lb 4oz. The next best fish was a Black Bream by Gary Withers at 3lb 8ozs. Dink Lemoignan on ‘Maestro’ came first by finishing the day in the Solent and catching a few sizable hounds for 165 points with equal top weight of 40lb 8oz, 4 species and the best specimen. Andy Stevens on ‘Make My Day’ also finished the day well by finding a bank with Small Eyed Rays prevalent, he also finished with exactly 40lb 8oz and 2 species for 120 points. Gary Withers on ‘Sea Hunter’ was third with 30lb 4oz and 4 species for 115 points. All the rest were close and caught between 15lb and 20lb with 3 or 4 species each, for 60 – 88 pts. Please note all fish were weighed on the boats and returned.

Ashlett SAC April Shore Championship Maggie Lane (Ted Yeates): The weather was ‘not bad’ with a bit of rain. There were nine Seniors and 1 Junior member signed in, and being early in the month of April the fishing was still on the slow side with just 15 Pout, a Flounder and a Dragonet weighed-in. Steve Pitman was 1st with 3 Pout and a Dragonet for 1lb 3.5ozs, 2nd was Ernie with 2 Pout and a Flounder, 3rd was Ralph Pitman for 13.5 ozs and 4th was Marcus Cleal.

Ashlett Evening League – Maggie Lane (Ted Yeates): We had 9 Senior members and 1 Junior Lady enter that had a good weigh-in and was fished in good conditions. 49 fish were weighed-in of which most were Pout except for the one Dogfish. Geoff Wheeler won with 10 Pout and the Dogfish for 4lb 3ozs. His Dogfish was the heaviest fish of 2lb 0.5ozs. Second was Ernie with 2lb 10oz, third Steve Pitman with 1lb 15ozs, fourth was Ted with 1lb 2oz and Alan Rowland fifth with 1lb 0.75ozs.

Weekending 5th May 2006

Recent reports of Plaice from the Portsmouth area are still prevalent and founded as true. Although, yesterday one sortie reported less action on the very neap tide. Selsey to Littlehampton has the best Plaice marks with high numbers reported between 40 and a 100 on some boats, quite ridiculous numbers. The fish are quality Plaice too, in the 3.5 to 4.5lb bracket. Let’s hope lot's went back.  Amongst the fish at Portsmouth are many sizable Bass between 2 and 4lb. This good ‘year group’ is partly the reason why the NFSA are backing B.A.S.S to campaign for MAFF to increase the legal size limit on Bass. Let’s hope they are successful because the more we put back the more we can catch again. These fish incidentally, have just reached breeding size.

For the rest of you that are in the NFSA there is an AGM proposal to allow for two Pennel rigs again. I agree that there should be a rule change, as us ‘specimen hunters’, feel much happier at times with two rods with large baits presented correctly on two hooks (Pennel fashion). To use the old fashioned terminology, that has remained with me, a main hook plus a ‘retainer’.

There are Hounds now moving down the Solent too, they tend to be partial to squid, early doors. There are also reports of Mackerel. Most summer species are now showing.

Personally I had a better day on Due South last Wednesday (26th April) with an ‘experienced’ crew. Geoff Wheeler was the boy (a tad over 65ish actually) catching the first Black Bream on Due South this year; a reasonable fish of 2-6. Geoff managed three in the end, and lost another two. After copying Geoff’s end tackle I managed 4 good Bream,  all around the same size. I also lost a ‘screamer’ when I put my rod down, to use the Radio! My fish were distributed amongst the crew that were unlucky not to latch into one. I wonder if they claimed them as their own by the time they got back to the wife! Out of the seven Bream, one was a pink and silver hen fish, with a few orange row eggs still round the vent. She was released. All the rest were beautifully marked with dark blue backs, fading to light metallic blue, to silver on the flanks. All extremely hard fighting male fish. I wish the camera had worked but the batteries were flat. Others on board and likewise the boats around us struggled to find them, as it seemed that only interested in the very specific rig that Geoff had designed. We also had two big Gars, regular Pouting and a couple of Wrasse all falling to fish baits. On the Dolphin Banks in the first 1.5 hrs the crew caught plenty of unwanted dogs. It is worth noting that Tom Ennion managed to catch the first inshore Tope of the year, that I have seen.

Another bit of excitement was being tracked by a Sea King for 5 minutes, when moving between marks. I wish I knew what they were up to, hovering 100’ above the deck, while doing 15 knots. I could guess but a sign would have helped! It seemed the rest on board knew exactly what was happening; I forgot that Tom was with the Lifeboats for years, in his younger days! Anyway, a tip to get them off your tail, slow down, it worked for me.

Next, while trying to get to the pontoon; a gaggle (collective?) of dinghies raced around in all directions. I nudged my way through politely, I think. Then lastly, while on my moorings, I chatted with the Southampton Police Launch the ‘Ashburton’ crew, who were waiting for a call. Meantime they were having a nose around the Yacht Haven, it is good to know they are around. They knew the boat and that Due South was previously owned by Mike Hannam, and like the rest of us, more interested in ‘what’s about’.

Tomorrow is all about competitions again as we fish the next Ashlett SAC boat comp, guests with their own boats are welcome, give me a call for details.

Weekending 23/4/06

At last a few summer fish returning, with Rays, Hounds, Bass, Pollock, Turbot and Black Bream now showing. It is a bit later than usual by maybe a week or two; where last year they were early by a week or two. Anyway, it feels like they are a month late this year. The best Thornback I saw this weekend netted by the boat, was a good one, at 15lb. It was caught, weighed and released by Andy Stevens fishing on his own Orkney Strike liner 19, 'Make My Day'. It certainly did make his day! On the same inshore banks in the last week we saw Bass, Hounds and the odd Turbot too, with Gary Withers on 'Sea Hunter' catching one of 4lb. On a night trip last weekend we found loads of life at the stern of 'Due South' although nothing special was caught, it kept everyone very busy. We have a good spring tide now and I know a few Black Bream are showing so we are off to try to get a big one tomorrow. Lets hope that mist burns off and clears, as we deserve a good day out.

One thing to bear in mind, if this is your first weekend out, the sea temperature is still down at 10 degrees. It can be very cold on the water let alone in it, so don't get carried away. It is nowhere near summer yet.

Weekending 7/4/06

Well, just in case you haven’t noticed, the weather has been against us all. Even the beach boys have had to throw away their worms. You can tank them but they are not quite the same. I shall not make up or pretend that you have missed much as you probably haven’t, let’s hope the weather improves for Easter. My first boat competition for this year for my local club, Ashlett SAC, is tomorrow, Saturday 8th April, so it looks like we can make it out. If you want to come along as a guest meet us at 8am Saturday morning at Gangwarily. You will need a boat as Due South is booked already with club members. The tide we have picked for the first comp is one of the smallest of the year, so weather permitting, we can go where we like and can’t wait. I will head for the banks off Atherfield.

There are Plaice being reported from Boats fishing the blocks off Portsmouth.

Last weekend was my last Sailing course, looking at the wind it was a lucky coincidence again. That is three weekends of winter sailing with winds of F5-F7, talk about learning things quickly. The good thing is I have not missed any potential proper days out in a proper boat!

Ever thought why Easter moves around? The Easter Limits, i.e. dates between 21 March and 18 April, mark the period of a possible Easter full moon: the earliest possible date for the Easter full moon is 21 March (the day of the vernal equinox), the latest possible date one synodic month later, the 18 April. Since Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the spring full moon the earliest possible date would be the 22 March (if the full moon took place on Saturday, 21 March), the latest possible date the 25 April (if the full moon took place on Sunday, 18 April). There you go simple. This is just part of another article that I am writing which discusses the moon and tide and weather and how it affects the fishing. There are specimen hunters that absolutely swear by certain conditions being good or bad. I have my own thoughts formed over the years now I intend to study it.

Weekending 15/3/06

Inshore fishing is not easy but there is some action to report from the Dinghy anglers with the odd Bass, Flounder and Plaice taking the baits. Shore anglers are finding some Plaice along Calshot beach. Did you see the amazing story in the Southern Evening Echo? Southborne Beach threw up a 5lb 5oz sole for one lucky angler. He caught it on a Sandeel! Apparently they are building up the beach there.

A few charter boats are still going out and if the weather is up to it, no doubt the wrecks will be targeted for Eels. I fancied having a go on the banks primarily for Blondes and a chance Spur Dog or Cod, weather permitting, as it was a good neap tide. But in the end chose to stay inshore and experiment. It was a good call as many others ventured out and wished they hadn’t as the wind increased. Anyway if you ain’t there you can’t catch ‘em! On Due South we were fishing inshore, on a non-ideal neap tide, but we found plenty of Dogs on the first tested mark, plus a net or some pots, so we moved on. Along Barton we tried for Plaice and picked up a 3lb Bass and a 6lb Thornback while at anchor. No plaice were caught while anchored or drifting but we tried. Maybe it was a little early but if you don’t try you don’t know.

John Skeggs on his Maiden Voyage with Tom Cat 2, did go 10 miles South on Saturday, and baptised the new deck with a Cod, a Skate and a couple of Congers. Didn’t hear too much else reported though.

Over the next few weeks we will expect to see Small Eyed Rays making a good showing. They will be quite weighty if female and all catches should be considered carefully before dispatching them for the table. The decision is to either release her to fight again on another day and allow her to get rid of valuable purses or give it a ‘knock on the head’. The fish will be up against it anyway, particularly with trawlers making the occasional excursion over the same banks. If they don’t have claspers they are females. Some of the real big boys look like they have three tails!

Those Rays will be joined shortly by some really big Black Bream and of course the same goes for them. The decision is yours but if a big square keeled female comes up bursting with roe then the decision is normally a little easier, unless she breaks your club best. After that in early May it will be all systems go again and we will be spoilt for choice.

At this time of year the boat tends to get a few jobs done on her and the tackle is reviewed. I have just serviced some old reels as it will be all systems go, over the next four weeks. I know there’re plenty of new gadgets to buy but it is amazing what a bit of oil, Vaseline and WD40 can do for an old reel. I keep looking at my TLD 15’s and 20’s thinking this must be the end, but they keep on going if not a little noisier. It always amazes me just how simple those Shimano TLD’s are and I think that’s their secret. While we are on the tackle subject, that 50lb PowerPro braid is fantastic stuff. It just keeps on going but it is one of the most expensive braids out there. I don’t know if it is the maintenance engineer in me or the thorough-bred ‘skinner instinct’ but it is nice reviving an old reel and set it back into battle.

P.S. - I have just experienced my first commercial ‘Change of Owner’ Survey on ‘Due South’ by the Licensing Authorities, nominated Surveyor. It was quite painless really, and the surveyor was a knowledgeable but amicable sort of bloke. I have a little more money to spend on her but if it makes the boat a safer place, it’s got to be a good thing. I hate to bang on about this but I can see why the long standing skippered charter professionals have moaned so much over the years. One example is the Liferaft, as it costs nearly £500 a year, to hire an adequate one. So you think, right, I will buy my own but that will cost £2000, and will still be followed by £200 a year servicing charges!

Weekending 12/2/06

It has stayed very cold with these High Pressures that just seem to be hanging around with very little rain too. For us ‘weather watchers’ it is very apparent that the law of averages will prevail and at some point it will blow hard from the West and we will get loads of rain with it too (or snow maybe). High pressure with Easterlies generally means less fish, at any time of year.

Most of my updates will be around the charter fishing at the moment, South of the Wight, at this time of the year as many of the small boats are back at home being maintained. The Solent tends not to fish but there were days last year in February that did fish well on the Island side of the Western Solent.

The weekend before last was quiet on the 2.5 mile line, but showed pout and dogs and a specimen Spotted Ray for one 'Due South' crew member. 'Dulcie T' and Ron Bunday had his crew latch into a nice inshore Pollock and a cracking Bass between 11lb – 12lb. The week before John Skeggs on 'Tom Kat' had found some large Blondes and some good Bass too on the distant banks. So there are (were) fish to be caught, just a lot more time between bites!

This week and weekend gone the fishing was patchy to say the least. On a mid-week trip 'Due South' ventured to a wreck and a bank 10 miles off on a NW F4-5 which was supposed to veer SE and die down to a F3. Well it never did! But we found a few fish with some Congers, a Blonde Ray and a Cod, plus the faithful dogfish. Inshore it is very hard work. Saturday was blessed with fantastic weather and last minute I decided to fish the end of Freshwater reef, on top, in front and behind and then the deep bit off the end and it was extremely quiet with just a couple of dogs and Pout deciding to feed. Most of the other boats were either not out or were over the horizon, literally, as there was only one other boat to be seen in a 4 mile arc of the light. I spoke to the skipper on the quay of the other boat and he had a single Thornback Ray.

Just when I thought that’s it, lets have a quiet weekend this weekend, my brother on 'Jara' reported a couple of 3lb Bass and a couple of good Flounders in the shallows of the Western Solent, so it just goes to show. There is always something, somewhere to target.

I guess if the weather is good then the distant banks will hold the keys still, plus maybe an inshore wreck or two. Some skate may start to show inshore early as will some plaice on the right marks as we go into March. Occasionally there is another Cod (Codling) run and with luck we will see a few Spurs at some point. Talking of Spur Dog, Ted informed me that Spurs have a gestation period of 22 months!!!! I know what I will do with the next one I catch that shows any signs of having pups!

Many of the charter Skippers will be having a well earned break or a ‘busman’s holiday’ going off, overseas, to exotic places to fish! Others will be lifting their boats out for maintenance purposes. We are in the middle of the quietest time but if the weather is good, it is difficult not to go and have a look, just to see what’s there!

Here is some interesting reading I found, for all types of Solent boat owners http://www.themainsail.com/news/article/mps/UAN/290/v/4

Weekending 20/1/06

Two weeks ago it was patchy to say the least.  The New Year weekend was blessed with some great weather and there was the odd cod reported and some reasonable catches of Whiting, plus some fairly routine congers. During the Bank Holiday on Due South we had three anglers across the stern all into the same ‘big fish’ , which was lost! Just along from us we heard reports of a ‘pod of porpoise’ no doubt working the same fish we were after, that did not help. The weekend after the New Year, Ray Pit on Lady M, managed 3 cod on one day followed by another the next. That was the best report of the main target fish being apprehended on all accounts. Last weekend most of the private and charter boats struggled to find a decent fish.

The going is getting a little tougher but there will be good fish caught, it just takes more time and effort and hard work, trotting back or up-tiding and keeping the bait fresh and presented neatly. It is easy to relax and prop the rod, when the fishing is slow. When they decide to feed you have to be out there and ready otherwise it will be another case of ‘if only’. Last Saturday I tried various marks around the Solent due to the southerly F5-7 in the forecast. It was comfortable fishing with lots of tea and soup keeping the boys going but we only managed to find a few Pout and Dogs. It was very quiet but who knows how it will fish this weekend? We have a good forecast and there were times last year in January and February when the odd day would just come alight, with fish everywhere.

Last Sunday even the flounders played hard to get in the Lymington River but there are good catches reported from up Southampton water on the right marks and on the bigger tides. You can still ‘miss’ them though with a boat just 100 yards away taking 50 flounders to your 8!

My experience of setting up in the charter business is becoming more rounded now. I recently obtained my Coastal Skipper Practical Certificate of Competence. What a tester that was, I have been tested many times but the whole experience was very different. I will add my report a little later and after more reflection and after it is re-written! I am still on schedule though and have most of it in hand now. It is more expensive to set up a skippered charter business than I ever imagined and can see how the first year in any business generally run’s at a loss and why part-time it will really be a matter of covering costs. I have some midweek bookings in the Diary already and there are weekend dates available still. But I am not pushing too hard during 2006 as my proper job has become very busy again, in fact I still need to call around all the old crews to offer my services.

Another experience this week was the ‘blowing up’ of my USB memory stick that I plugged into an unknown PC USB port. It must have been wired in reverse! Luckily I had most of the data backed up but there is a still a bit of catching up to do (coastal skipper story). If you have a PC and save lots of data (pictures, stories, letters) then make a habit of weekly backups to another location or media!

I have some work to do on the boat, so the nippers can fish for flounders while I clean, repair and safety check against the last code of practice survey. I can’t see me fishing much myself for a while but I can’t say I wasn’t warned! I am thoroughly enjoying the whole experience although the Coastal Skipper Exam was something you have to do to appreciate; I can’t recommend UKSA that’s for sure! The instructors were great but it helps to be on the right course, I never have taken to Marketing/Sales people, they always say Yes! Luckily for myself and another skipper buddy we had enough experience to get us through. Story to follow.

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