Sunday, July 25, 2010

How to catch dogfish

There are several species of dogfish that can be caught around the coast at different times of the year. These include the lesser spotted dogfish, the greater spotted dogfish (bull huss), the spurdog and, to a lesser extent, the smooth hound and the starry smooth hound. Dogfish are members of the shark family and their skeleton consists of cartilage rather than bone.
The lesser spotted dogfish is known by several different names, included the small spotted cat shark, the rough hound and the doggie.

The dogfish has an orange-brown back and a pale cream underside and has a vast array of small spots peppered over its back and sides. Its skin has a sandpaper-like texture (and was once used for scrubbing the decks of ships). When lifted into the boat the dogfish will twist itself around anything it can, including an unwary hand as you try to unhook it, and its sandpaper-like skin will leave nasty abrasions on your skin which will take several weeks to clear up. If you catch one, hold it by the head and bring the tail up to meet it; this is the correct way to immobilize the fish so you can unhook it, and will in no way harm it.

Once you catch a dogfish you can be sure that there will be more to follow as they are a shoal fish. The dogfish is an opportunistic feeder and will take fish, worms and all types of shellfish baits that are usually meant for other species. They are most active at night and will occasionally take a bait that is being fished well of the bottom. Dogfish have poor eyesight and rely on their keen sense of smell to hunt for food.
Dogfish are true scavengers, so when fishing for them, use stale bait; several-days-old mackerel is an excellent bait, as are frozen sand eels (for some unknown reason frozen eels are preferred to fresh ones). Dogfish are normally found over sandy or muddy bottoms but are occasionally taken over rocky ground and reefs.

The gear required for fishing dogfish can be kept light unless you are fishing over or near a reef where there is a chance of catching something like a conger, ling or bull huss that will surely test your gear.
If you are fishing on sand or mud then a 15 pound class rod or reel will more than suffice. I like to use this class of gear in case I hook a thornback ray that feeds in the  same type of areas as the dogfish.
Traces for catching dogfish need to be tied from strong mono as these fish have small teeth which will prove to be very abrasive of the trace after a few are caught; always check above the hook for signs of wear on the mono.
I like to have a three-hook trace flowing  back behind the boom. A long trace up to 15 feet is recommended when the tide is running strong, I also like to incorporate at least one good quality swivel in the trace as well as the one at bottom.
The hooks on the trace need to be of good quality; my personal preference is a 3/0 black O'Shaughnessy Duratin, which is chemically sharpened and will penetrate through the fish's tough mouth with ease.
These fish are not known for their fighting capabilities and will often break the surface curled up in a ball.

The dogfish is probably the most resilient of any fish species that the sea angler will encounter, capable of living out of the water for long periods.  Even when this fish is taken to the quayside for weighing purposes it can still be released afterwards.
Good luck.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fishing baits. Mackerel. How to prepare a mackerel as a bait

The number one all round baits, the most popular and generally the most easily accessible of all is mackerel. Mackerel is one of the easiest fish to catch and most prolific around the coast during the summer months.These fish are the perfect target species when introducing novice anglers to the sport of sea angling. Anglers fishing with feathers  will catch mackerel three, four of five at time when the fish are in feeding mode. Spinning with a small red and silver  spinner an a light rod is excellent sport, as is fly fishing with a single bright fly shaped like a small sand eel.
The mackerel is streamlined and hydro-dynamically shaped for lightning bursts of speed a it attacks its prey and avoid becoming prey itself. Its body apart from its head, is covered with minute scales and tapes to a delicate but extremely powerful forked tail; it has a big mouth with numerous small sharp teeth.
The most striking thing that you will be noticed about the mackerel is its magnificent markings; its back is covered  with dark stripes  intermingled with iridescent blue and green ones, the coloured  flanks are also iridescent and the belly is a silvery white. This colouring provides the mackerel with exceptional camouflage which help  it avoid bigger predators such as dolphins and tunas.
Mackerels are a very oily bait that few fish will refuse and can be used in different forms as bait for almost every species of fish when fishing from both boat and shore; even freshwater anglers use mackerel for pike fishing.
Mackerel can be bought in most fish shops in season or vacuum packed and frozen from tackle shops all year round.
At the start of boat angling trips time is usually spent searching for fresh mackerel. This is important, especially if conger or sharks are your targets, as stale or even day-old mackerel are no use as bait for these species.
At sea, a good indicator of a shoal of mackerel is birds diving on the surface; these birds are usually snapping up the sand eels or baitfish  that the mackerel have chased to the surface, and the mackerel themselves are often chased to the surface by dolphins and sharks.
Mackerel usually snap at any type of lure that  you put down but traces with brightly coloured feathers, fluorescent beads and silver tinsel usually work the best.
These traces should have no more than three or four hooks, any more than this and you will waste a lot of time untangling your trace. As you catch your mackerel you should store them out of sunlight immediately, preferably in a cool box, as once  they have died the mackerel’s flesh starts to break down and decay very quickly. Mackerel should be stored on ice if they are to be taken home for the table or for freezing for another day’s fishing.
Day old mackerel, mackerel left out in the sun or even frozen mackerel work better than fresh mackerel when fishing for thornback ray and dogfish.

How to prepare a mackerel as a bait
To prepare a mackerel for a day’s fishing is easy enough. There are really only two ways of preparing it: filleting it or turning it into a flapper. The latter is the preferred method choice for tope, conger and shark fishing.
  1. Filleting mackerel needs to be done with a sharp knife; a blunt knife will only tear at the soft flesh
  2. Place a fish on a flat, even surface
  3. Cut into it just behind the small fin at the back of the gills
  4. Run the blade along the backbone until you reach the tail, keeping the blade flan along the backbone as you fillet. This procedure allows you to remove the fillet in one piece.
  5. Now turn the fish over and do exactly the same on the other side
  6. You should now have two nice fillets for bait
  7. Once you get used to filleting there will be very little flesh left on the carcass. The fillets can then be cut into whatever size pieces you want to use depending on the fish to be targeted, or the fillet can be used whole for bigger species.
Making a flapper out of a mackerel is slightly more difficult but with a bit of practice can be done quite quickly. Again on a flat even surface start to fillet at the tail and work the knife along the backbone up to the gills before turning the fish over and doing the same on the other side. But once you reach  the gill this time cut through the backbone and remove it. You now have one flapper prepared for conger, tope or shark fishing.

Four to six mackerel should be more than enough for a general day’s sea angling unless they are small joey mackerel, also a lot more bait is required for tope, conger and shark fishing.

Herring, sprat and scad are also good oily fish to use for bait, although they are not always available and are an unusual catch for the sea angler. The scad can be filleted and used in the same way as mackerel, the herring can be cut into steaks and the sprat can be used whole.

Good luck!

Friday, June 25, 2010

How to catch a plaice

Plaice is a right-handed fish with powerful oval body with bright orange to light red spots. Its eyes and coloured half are on the right side of it’s body and like most fish it’s colours vary slightly from one area to the next. The underside of the plaice is white with a chevron pattern. Apart from some bony tubercles behind the eyes, the scales are so small and so well embedded in the skin that it feels very smooth to the touch.

The best  times for fishing plaice are those hot calm days that we sometimes get in July and August; on days like those there is no need to even anchor the boat. A slow drift can be more productive on these mirror calm days; plaice are an inquisitive fish so a slow drift will give the trace enough movement to attract the fish to the hook as well as allowing your gear to cover more ground.

One thing to remember when you are fishing for plaice and most types of flatfish for that matter: never strike to quickly.
When you feel a bite make sure that you have enough line going out if the boat is drifting slightly; this way you can ensure that the bait is not being dragged away from a potential prize fish.

There are a number of different traces that can be used for fishing plaice; my personal favourite, and one which can easily be used by the beginner, is the double spreader. This trace  consists of a length of stainless steel wire with a small loop at either end for attaching the snoods and in the centre of the wire is a swivelled clip, which is looped at the top for attaching it to the mainline and a clip at the bottom for attaching a weight. Double spreads come in various length, from six inches to two feet.
Snoods can be of any length usually somewhere between 6 inches and 2 feet and on each snood I like to attach several brightly coloured beads and a small silver spoon, and finish off with a good quality long shanked Kamazan B940 hook from a size 2 up to 2/0.
The only reason I would use a 2/0 hook is if there is a possibility of catching something larger like a lesser-spotted dogfish or a thornback ray, as these fish would straighten or break a size 2 hook.
Top baits for a plaice vary slightly from one are to the next, but as general rule mussels are the top bait followed by razor fish, ragworm, lugworm and shrimp. Other types of shellfish such as scallops, clams, cockles and limpets will also catch plaice to a lesser extent. When mussels are being used they must be tied securely  on the hook with bait elastic so stop the plaice from removing them before getting hooked. I like to prepare the mussels that I am going to use in advance of a day’s fishing. I’ll explain the method of preparing the mussels in my next article.

A different bait on each hook will show you what the fish are interested in when you start your day’s fishing, but do not change all your baits to one type until you are  sure that this is what they are feeding on. A cocktail of the baits mentioned will occasionally out-fish an individual bait, while a bait tipped off with small piece of squid or a small sand eel can also work well.

Remember, when fishing for plaice fish with as light a tackle as you possibly can; these fish are not tremendous fighters but you will get some sport in fishing them with light gear as well as having something nice to look forward to for dinner :-)

I personally use:
Fishing rod: St. Croix Premier Saltwater Spinning Rods Model: SWS70MF
Fishing reel: SHIMANO SPHEROS Salt Water SPINNING Reel SP3000FB.

Good luck!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How to catch a ling

Ling is one  of the largest and hardest fighting members of the cod family. 

Although similar in size and shape, the ling is easily distinguishable from the conger. It is brighter in color and has two dorsal fins; the first is short, while the second runs down its back to the wrist of its tail. 

The conger has only one continuous dorsal fin, which run the whole length of its body. The ling has a long barbule under its chin, which is absent in the conger. This barbule is distinctive of the Cod family. 

Ling, like congers, will grow to vast sizes. Like congers, ling are great lovers of wrecks and deep water reefs, bun unlike congers they will hunt and kill their prey well above the bottom  and have been caught as far up  as mid-water. I have seen and caught ling on the top of shallow reefs while drifting using a flowing trace and a fresh sand eel.

For the sea angler, catching ling should be a fairly straightforward affair if he sticks to a few basic rules.  These fish have a huge, fearsome mouth with an impressive set of dentures which it uses to catch and shred its prey, and for this reason the angler must use a large hook and equally large bait. Whole mackerel or large mackerel fillet seem to be the top bait for catching ling, but I have also had good results with herring, pouting, small pollack, coalies, sprats and large sand eels.

Traces for catching ling are very basic; no need for flashy gear here. Simple pirk in one of the most effective pieces of tackle that I use.

A short flowing trace of heavy mono fishing line or light wire about 4 feet in length with a spoon attached is also very effective. I use the spoon about 6 inches up the line from a hook no smaller than 6/0 offset hook that is sharp and good quality. Hokkais also seem to catch more than their fair share of ling on a regular basis, but if you are planning to use them for a day’s fishing and ling are on the menu then I would advise you to tie them with a heavier mono than the standard type they are usually tied with.

Drifting over rough ground is the best method for catching ling; you are more likely to come across some ling if you are covering a large area. Anchoring will also catch you ling but to a lesser extent than drifting, unless you find a wreck or reef that hasn’t been fished for a while. While anchored you should use a conger trace instead of a ling trace, because you a sure to catch at least one conger and they are more adept at biting through mono due to their strong jaws and their extremely sharp, close set teeth. Although ling will take a bait  as far up as mid-water, keep your bait as close to the bottom as you possibly can; this will greatly your chances of catching a fish. The bait needs to be changed every twenty minutes; a bait with no scent is no good unless you’re lucky enough to land it on top of a very hungry fish:-)

Ling are completely the opposite to congers in the way they take a bait; large and small congers are cautious by nature and will only bite and mouth a bait very gently, sometimes taking several minutes before lifting and moving off with your trace. A good ling, on the other hand, could pull a rod over the side of the boat if it was left unattended. Their bite consists of a series of heavy pulls and most ling hook themselves by doing this. It is still advisable to strike with a sharp lift of the rod, just to make sure.

Ling is strong, so I use the same tackle as for conger:
Fishing rod: extra heavy 7’ Lamiglas Big Fish Conventional Rod
Fishing reel: Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 7000i

Good luck!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How to catch a cod

Cod is the largest of the Cod family; defined by having a single barbule under the chin. There are two clearly defined types of cod in waters of Atlantic Europe - the yellow cod and the red cod. Both are true cod; the only difference is that the yellow cod migrates between Arctic waters and Europe annually, while the red cod remains there for an indeterminate period of time.

Cod is also the number one target for anglers. Every angler who has ever caught a cod, even a small one, has felt a certain satisfaction. Although  not renowned for their fighting  qualities, good cod have a tendency when hooked to use their sheer body weight and bucket-sized mouths to hold against the tide, giving  the angler  the feeling of being snagged on something other than the bottom. Cod are often called the dustbins of the sea, because some of the items removed from the stomachs of gutted cod are almost unbelievable. Large stones, squashed beer and mineral cans, plastic cups and even empty shotgun cartridges. Cod have an enormous appetite and will eat almost anything in the sea.

Top baits for cod are peeler crab, lugworm,  ragworm, razor fish, shrimps, squid, sprats, herring, pounting, sand eel and mackerel. A cocktail of any of these baits will also prove successful. Every angler that I know has a favourite bait and tactic for catching cod and no two seem to be exactly the same.

Artificial lures are also an excellent way of catching cod with red gills, jelly worms and hokkais the most effective. But the chrome-finished pirk is the most successful of all, especially over wrecks and offshore reefs. The first of these pirk-type lures were invented by scandinavian fishermen for catching cod, ling and pollack. They comprised simply of shiny lead covered with hooks, known as ripper. There are now thousands of pirks on the market, in many different shapes and sizes.

Homemade pirks are also very effective and are much cheaper than shop bought ones. Cheap pirks are needed if you are fishing over rough ground or on wrecks where tackle losses will be quite high. You pirk must be on or near the bottom in order to catch cod, as they a bottom-feeding species. The shape of their mouth, with top lip protruding over bottom lip, allows them to hoover their meals off the bottom.

 The pirk is simple enough to use; it is attached to the strong main line via a good quality swivel and then dropped over the side and allowed to sink to the bottom. Once it hits the bottom it is retrieved it two or three turns. The angler then begins the sink and draw movement by lifting the rod tip up in the air and dropping it again; thins movement is continued until a cod is caught - it’s a simple as that. A baited pirk  will usually be more successful than an unbaited one.

White and blue feathers are also pretty good for catching cod.
The flowing trace setup used to catch pollack will also prove very effective  for catching cod. although heavier mono should be used on the flowing trace as cod will wear down the mono faster than a pollack would.

Remember not to put more than two or at most three hooks per trace; cod are a shoal fish and three good cod on a trace at any time will take some sort of miracle to get them to the surface.

The above methods are among the best for catching cod, provided they are in conjunction with large baits and large hooks and fished  as close to the bottom as possible. And of course, the cod need to be there and playing ball:-)

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How to catch a conger eel

The conger eel is one of the largest  fish that the sea anglers is likely to encounter around the coastline. These extremely powerful and rugged fish have been known to grow to over 150 pounds, although most of these huge specimens have only been caught by commercial fishermen.
When I first began to fish for congers I was told by an older, more experienced angler that when an average conger was hooked and lifted clear from the bottom the fight would resemble holding the lead of a large dog which had just seen a cat:-) That statement was funny at that time but proved to be a pretty accurate description of a conger fight. It is almost impossible to overestimate the strength of a very large conger; there is no fish around the shore that is more capable of showing up a defect on your tackle than an enraged conger:-)

To fish for congers you need to use extremely strong tackle. Nothing under 50 pound class is of any use, and you haven’t got this type of gear then forget about fishing for congers.

Rule No.1 when fishing for congers: Never give a conger line once it has been hooked, because if it gets its tail wrapped around something there is no way of shifting it.
Your trace from the hook needs to be about 18 inches of nylon-covered braided wire of 40-50 pound breaking strain fishing line to a good quality swivel, then another 18 inches of 50-60 pound breaking strain monofilament fishing line to another good quality swivel. On the main line a small tube or sliding boom is needed to attach the weight. Then the main line is tied to the top swivel on the trace. Remember to attach  the weight  to the boom  via a paperclip or a light piece of line is a case the weight snags on the bottom. Traces longer than 3 feet can be problematic, if the tide is running strong  then a longer trace  will allow  the bait to lift off the bottom and when fishing for congers  the bait needs to be tight on the bottom. One hook is more than enough when fishing for congers.


Baits for conger seem to vary slightly  from place to place, but as general rule fresh mackerel or herring seem  to be the top baits. Other baits include poor cod, pounting, coalies and grey gurnard.

To get the best result from conger eel fishing make sure that your baits are as fresh as possible; congers will sometimes take a stale bait to a much lesser extent.

When you have baited up and let your trace go to the bottom, leave your reel on the ratchet. That way if you are not paying attention you will hear the first gentle bite, even though you may not have seen it. To strike st this stage would be a big mistake; congers will mouth their bait for a short time before they take it. My method of hooking a conger eel is as follows: after the ratchet clicks the first time I lift the rod gently and put  the reel in free spool. These soft gentle bites can happen several times so I wait until the line starts to move; then I put the reel in gear and strike twice and  take three or four turns  on the reel handle to get the conger eel lifted from off the bottom. The first few seconds are critical when you hook your conger. After you get it clear of the bottom the conger fights the whole way to the surface in a peculiar fashion, by shaking its head while swimming  in the figure of eight before twisting up and down on the line as it nears the surface.

Remind you to use a good quality fishing rod and reel:-) Conger eel is very strong:-)
I use extra heavy 7’ Lamiglas Big Fish Conventional Rod
and Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 7000i

Good luck.

How to catch a pollack

Pollack is the most likely medium sized fish that any sea angler will encounter while out for a day's fishing. These fish are capable of growing to over 20 pounds in weight. This provide  superb sport on light tackle and even a small pollack will give a good fight  if it is given a chance with a light gear.
Fishing pollack with a rod , reel and line of 50 pound class will mean  that all the odds are stacked in the angler's favour and the fish will not be able to show it's true fighting potential.
But go fishing pollack on 12 pound class gear or even lighter , and now skill takes over the luck, such as when you get a bite and a fish takes several yards of your line and trace towards the bottom as in many seconds.
Pollack are active hunters and are capable of sudden bursts of terrific speed. If they are caught in shallov water  and on a light gear it will get the adrenaline rushing in even the most experienced anglers. This is what sport fishing is all about
Bait, tactics and traces  for fishing pollack  are as wide ranging  as the fish they are meant to catch, although there are some that stand out above all the others.

My favourite way of fishing for pollack - spinning with a lead head and jelly worm
The jelly worm you feed on to the hook can be any  colour or shape. A fire tail worm  is a favourite of mine, although every angler has his own preferences.
Once you have made your selection . attach the lead head directly to the mainline on your spinning rod. All lead heads have different shapes for particular motion in the water, so for this reason do not use a swivel as this would diminish movement.

Cast out your lead head and give it time to sink to the bottom. Once it's on the bottom you can start your retrieve. The speed of the retrieve is determined by trial and error  but once you feel a bite keep retrieving at the same speed :-) The pollack will usually chase the jelly worm until he catches it. and occasionally you can see them right  on the surface before they take.
Strike when you feel the weight of the fish. and let the fight begin.
There is a great sport in fishing pollack this way; using bait instead of, or in addition to, the jelly worm can add  to the lead head's effetiveness.

Good Luck:-)