Floun­der frenzy

Don’t leave it too late to tar­get the pro­lific flat­fish pop­u­la­tion of Dorset’s Poole Har­bour

Sea Angler (UK) - - Contents - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by Chris Clark

You can still tar­get flat­fish in Poole Har­bour.

Only a few hours after Big Ben had struck mid­night on New Year’s Eve, with the rev­ellers still strug­gling home­ward bound, I was up and about scrap­ing the ice from my car’s wind­screen. Yes, it was one of those rare frosty morn­ings, although just a few hours later an­other low was pre­dicted to smash into the South Coast. We had a very short win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for a bag­ging ses­sion.

Along with David Gra­ham and Mal­colm Stote, I was head­ing to the shores of Poole Har­bour to meet lo­cal floun­der guru Steve Lawrence for a short ses­sion along the north­ern shore­line. With the pre­dicted Force 5/6 south-east­erly, which would be in­creas­ing as the day wore on, blow­ing di­rectly along the beach, it would cer­tainly shift the cob­webs from the night be­fore.

Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, by early Jan­uary the har­bour’s floun­der pop­u­la­tion would have moved from the up­per reaches down to the lower reaches, be­fore head­ing off to their spawn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. This year, how­ever, the mild winter ac­com­pa­nied by a se­ries of ma­jor frontal sys­tems left the water tem­per­a­ture well above average, re­sult­ing in the floun­der pop­u­la­tion re­main­ing in the higher reaches of the har­bour for far longer than usual. Usu­ally, by mid-Jan­uary their mi­gra­tion should be well un­der­way.

Like many large nat­u­ral har­bours, Poole of­fers a va­ri­ety of marks, with floun­ders the prin­ci­pal winter species, although ac­cess to some ar­eas is fraught with dif­fi­cul­ties, of­ten re­sult­ing in a 30-40 minute walk.


Marks along the har­bour’s eastern and south­ern flanks are well doc­u­mented, with many hav­ing easy ac­cess; these will be the most pro­duc­tive in Fe­bru­ary as the floun­ders con­cen­trate in the lower reaches be­fore head­ing out to their spawn­ing grounds. The de­tails of some of the bet­ter marks to visit dur­ing the next cou­ple of weeks are de­tailed later in this ar­ti­cle.

How­ever, there are vast swathes of the har­bour’s western and north­ern shore­line that rarely see an an­gler, mainly due to lo­gis­ti­cal fac­tors. The western side is very shal­low, with ex­tremely soft mud, not the sort of stuff you want to walk on. In large ar­eas, vast reed beds back­ing on to pri­vate farm­land with very lim­ited ac­cess fringe the soft mud, so only use des­ig­nated paths.

The one ex­cep­tion is the Arne Penin­su­lar, which of­fers some great winter floun­der fish­ing, while bass, mul­let and eels fig­ure dur­ing the sum­mer, but ex­pect a good 30-minute hike to reach the shore­line.

An elec­tri­fied rail­way line runs along the north­ern shore­line, with ac­cess re­stricted to just a cou­ple of lo­ca­tions, but the walk can be long and ex­tremely swampy in places. Ac­cess to some ar­eas is also re­stricted due to longterm ground pol­lu­tion. Wher­ever you are head­ing, be safe and stick to the ded­i­cated paths and ac­cess points.

As we spilled on to the beach, and the ap­proach­ing storm clouds and strength­en­ing wind were rapidly swal­low­ing a few rays of early morn­ing sun, we were sud­denly stopped in our tracks. Two young ladies had stripped down to their birth­day suits and gone for a muddy dip; it must have been one heck of a party the night be­fore. Now, with a spring in our step, we were quick to spread our­selves along the spit.


While we had not dis­cussed tackle be­fore the trip, all four of us were us­ing fairly light out­fits with multi-tip rods, such as the Tronix­pro Me­dusa or the Grau­vell Tek­lon Com­pe­ti­tion Surf II. Dave had opted for the new Tronix­pro Viper, which, at around £100, of­fers ex­cep­tional value for money, while Steve had set­tled for a Ver­celli Enygma Zero. Fixed­spool reels, along with light line, were used through­out. Ini­tially, we all used light lead weights, 2-3oz ball leads, but these had to be in­creased with the strength­en­ing wind as we got deeper into the ses­sion.

Steve was us­ing size 8 Aberdeen hooks, while the oth­ers were mainly us­ing size 6 or 4 Aberdeens. I went up to a size 2 be­cause I was us­ing a floun­der spoon.

Bait choice was rag­worms, but, with the water be­ing ex­tremely coloured, older, smelly worms would be far more ef­fec­tive as the fish would be feed­ing by scent rather than sight.

Thirty un­event­ful min­utes ticked by be­fore Mal­colm had the first bite, re­sult­ing in a brace of beau­ties. Within min­utes, while I was still busy tak­ing pictures of Mal­colm’s fish, Steve was land­ing a tre­ble shot of qual­ity floun­ders, quickly fol­lowed by a dou­ble shot. Oh yes, the flat­ties were now in a feed­ing frenzy.

For the next cou­ple of hours it was fairly hec­tic stuff; to be hon­est, I was strug­gling to keep up with fish­ing and tak­ing pictures in hos­tile con­di­tions.


The fish were def­i­nitely re­act­ing to move­ment, which is of­ten the case when floun­der fish­ing in murky con­di­tions; the more we tweaked the line the bet­ter our chances of land­ing a dou­ble or even a tre­ble of floun­ders.

I was pleased to get a cou­ple of de­cent fish on a tra­di­tional floun­der spoon. It’s a great way of fish­ing; more of­ten than not, the fish will ag­gres­sively take a baited spoon as it is

slowly trun­dled over the seabed stir­ring up even more mud. I would stress that the hook and line sup­plied with these spoons are over the top and need chang­ing, so I opt for six inches of 3kg Am­ne­sia armed with a size 2 fine-wire Aberdeen.

It had been one of those ac­tion-packed ses­sions, with ev­ery­one sam­pling good sport, but by mid-morn­ing with the wind strength­en­ing and the first spits of rain be­ing blown hor­i­zon­tally, we headed back to the near­est pub to dwell over the morn­ing’s ac­tiv­i­ties as we supped a well earned pint.

It had been a fran­tic few hours, with more than 20 qual­ity floun­ders recorded, but it was also nice to see smaller flat­ties around the 20cm mark. The fu­ture for Poole Har­bour’s floun­der pop­u­la­tion looks bright.

From left: Steve Lawrence, David Gra­ham and Mal­colm Stote

Mal­colm brings a floun­der to

the shore

Steve with one of the nu­mer­ous flat­ties he caught

Dave was us­ing his Tronix­pro

Viper rod

All four of us used fairly light multi-tip rods

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