Find your lucky spot

It may seem too early, but plaice are al­ready mov­ing into the es­tu­ar­ies of North Wales

Sea Angler (UK) - - Contents - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by Mike Thrus­sell

Catch plaice from North Wales now.

Most plaice fish­ing hotspots found in the south of the Eng­land or Cum­bria are open beaches where you fish at medium to long range. It’s a dif­fer­ent story in the north and north-west of Wales, with the bulk of these or­ange-spot­ted fish be­ing caught from a true es­tu­ary en­vi­ron­ment.

Of­ten an­glers are not aware that these fish are even res­i­dent and they tend to go un­de­tected. Gen­eral fish­ing tech­niques for bass and floun­ders, the com­mon catch in­side these es­tu­ar­ies, do not nec­es­sar­ily suit catch­ing plaice, so any caught are of­ten lucky, one-off fish.

To specif­i­cally tar­get these fish you must adopt a dif­fer­ent type of tac­tic and take a lit­tle time to learn some ba­sic wa­ter­craft to iden­tify the hotspots.


Plaice are caught from the es­tu­ar­ies of the Dovey be­tween Borth and Aber­dovey, the Mawd­dach at Bar­mouth, and the Traeth Bach es­tu­ary at Porth­madog in Gwynedd. hey are also caught from the Conwy es­tu­ary, and from the Dee at Point of Ayr, Talacre, and as far in­land as Green­field and even Bag­illt, although the lat­ter is weather-pat­tern de­pen­dent.

Although rather unique in its en­vi­ron­ment, the Me­nai Strait can still pro­duce plaice. Again, few an­glers try for them, but the sand chan­nels and banks ei­ther side of Caernar­fon on the main­land, and south of Bryn­sien­cyn on An­gle­sey, still hold these fish if you specif­i­cally fish for them. Sandy patches in deeper water to­wards the two bridges can also see oc­ca­sional plaice caught.


The sea­son can be sur­pris­ingly early for this far north. I’ve of­ten had them in the third week of Fe­bru­ary, though I’d ex­pect mid-March on­wards to be the real start of the sea­son. Granted, these are thin, spawned-out fish this early on, but there’s not much else around at this time, and catch­ing the first plaice of the year is a wel­come sign spring is on the way.

By April the fish are start­ing to fat­ten up, and come May, most will be pack­ing weight on quickly. The best time for num­bers is May and June, but you will catch them right through to mid Septem­ber, with the big­ger fish of­ten show­ing in Au­gust and into Septem­ber. After mid-Septem­ber the fish quickly move out into deeper water as they pre­pare for spawn­ing.

Early and late in the sea­son you can catch plaice at the mouths of the es­tu­ar­ies on the ad­ja­cent sand­banks, but more of­ten in the main chan­nels when they are mov­ing in and out of the es­tu­ary, which is a semi-grad­ual process, de­pend­ing on the amount of rain­fall present.

In mid-sea­son you have to be much more se­lec­tive in where you fish. They tend to be in cen­tre chan­nel where it’s deeper, and if you can find small ar­eas of seed mus­sel beds or patches of boul­ders, then fish tight to these fea­tures.

They also con­gre­gate around chan­nel buoys where the se­cur­ing chain be­comes a home for seed mus­sels, and, espe­cially in bright sun­light, they will move in un­der the shadow of boats. Drop­ping a cast close to these ar­eas will also give you an edge on the day. An­other good tip is to tar­get the deeper chan­nels with sand­banks along­side, which boats use to ac­cess har­bours.

Plaice also like to sit close to pier and jetty sup­ports, feed­ing around the base of these, and also in any scoured-out gut­ters that form un­der the struc­ture. Re­mem­ber to fish the up­tide side of these struc­tures so that your bait is washed back into the gut­ter, not the down­tide side where the bait is out­side the feed­ing area.

The per­fect place for late spring and sum­mer plaice is where a bot­tle­neck of tide in­creases tidal speed and scours out a deep hole. Of­ten these holes have a very steep in­cline on the seaward side, but a more grad­ual rise on the in­ner es­tu­ary end. The plaice al­ways sit at the base of the steep

in­cline, or in the first third of the grad­ual rise com­ing out of the deeper water. This is sim­ply where the food falls as it is washed down the bank by the cur­rent, and the fish sit here to in­ter­cept it.

These scoured-out holes are a com­mon fea­ture in many of the smaller Welsh es­tu­ar­ies, and some­times in the in­ner chan­nels of the big­ger es­tu­ar­ies, such as the Dee.


Weather pat­terns are im­por­tant when seek­ing es­tu­ary plaice. They like fairly set­tled high­pres­sure sys­tems with min­i­mal rain. This in­vari­ably sees rel­a­tively clear water in­side the es­tu­ar­ies, with no acidic flood­wa­ter com­ing off the moun­tains.

Plaice will tol­er­ate coloured water if it is sus­pended sed­i­ment washed out by a strong tide run. How­ever, they will not tol­er­ate coloured flood­wa­ter. Whether they just go off the feed and hun­ker down wait­ing for bet­ter con­di­tions, or move out to more set­tled water seems un­clear. My guess is that they stay put and as deep as they can get, but go off the feed.

Sunny days will fish well, but I pre­fer warm, but more over­cast con­di­tions. Less light pen­e­trat­ing the water col­umn seems to make them feed bet­ter. A slight chop on the water is fine. Again it re­duces the light lev­els, but windy con­di­tions seem less re­li­able, at least in my ex­pe­ri­ence in this area.


As we’re fish­ing es­tu­ar­ies, it’s the speed of the tide that gov­erns what tides we fish. This in­vari­ably means the smaller neap tides. Of­ten big­ger tides, and espe­cially spring tides, push through far too fast in the bot­tle­necks to make hold­ing down pos­si­ble.

Weed can also be more trou­ble­some on the big­ger tides. It’s al­ways worth fish­ing ei­ther side of low water, as some­times the plaice move around at this time and find your baits. How­ever, my favourite time is when the tide is just pick­ing up about a half-an-hour to an hour into a new flood and through for the next hour to an hour-and-a-half.

The mid-tide pe­riod, even on the neaps, can run too fast, and the fish go off the feed. They come on again just as the tide starts to ease down again an hour-and-a-half or so be­fore high water. I never find ebbing tides as good as the flood. It can pro­duce the oc­ca­sional fish, but more to­wards low-water slack. The shape of the scoured-out holes is also more in tune with a flood tide, than an ebbing one and the dis­tri­bu­tion of food.


Where pos­si­ble, I like to use a 2-4oz bass rod and a small 5500 mul­ti­plier loaded with 15lb line and 25lb shock-leader when us­ing lighter leads in light tide con­di­tions.

Mostly though, due to the tide run and some­times the dis­tance needed to be cast to reach the scoured-out holes, a stan­dard 4-6oz beach-caster, 6500 size reel and 15lb to 18lb line with a 60lb shock leader is the bet­ter choice.

Fixed-spool out­fits with 20lb braid can help cut down on tide drag when fish­ing deep, and this is a good al­ter­na­tive.

Rigs need a bit of thought. In the spring I favour a sim­ple three-hook flap­per with shorter hook-lengths of no more than 12 inches. I like to keep the bait fairly static as the fish tend be more lethar­gic at this time and less in­clined to chase a bait down. I fish this to a slightly slack line to make sure all the hooks are on the seabed in deeper water, then watch the bow in the line for lift bites. This is more sen­si­tive than watch­ing the rod tip. Three-boom rigs with short 10in snoods can also work well.

Come the end of spring and into sum­mer, I switch to a one-up, one-down rig with longer hooks snoods of 18-20in. In clear water I like the bait to move a lit­tle more to at­tract the in­ter­est of fish. My hook snoods are al­ways fluoro­car­bon, usu­ally 12lb to 15lb, but I will go lighter in calm clear con­di­tions if I think it is worth­while and bites are slow. I like the tough­ness of the fluoro­car­bon be­cause it’s less prone to tan­gles, and, im­por­tantly, the fish are less likely to see it.

I al­ways fish Ka­masan B940 Aberdeen hooks in size 2; they are sharp, tough, small enough for plaice to eas­ily eat, but can land me a good bass should one hap­pen along.

In slightly murky water I may be tempted to add a few beads in front of the hook. From the shore I like al­ter­nate black and yel­low, or black and green, but I ex­per­i­ment on the day. If I want a bait to move with the cur­rent, then again I may go with beads. Mostly, I fish just

bait and pre­fer this method as it keeps the bait mov­ing more nat­u­rally.


When fish­ing tight to mus­sel beds or into the mid­dle of a chan­nel, then stick mainly to a fixed grip weight and static leg­ering. If the tar­get fea­ture’s dis­tance is fairly close in, you’ll be able to cast your baits in close prox­im­ity to the fish, and they’ll come and find it by smell.

In the deeper chan­nels, try var­ied casts un­til you lo­cate the be­gin­ning of the bank that rises up to­wards where you are stand­ing. Baits just on the be­gin­ning of the rise are more likely to be taken than baits left on bar­ren flat sand.

When it comes to fish­ing the scoured-out holes, then I pre­fer a plain lead weight; one heavy enough to just let tide pres­sure on the line swing it slowly down­tide. Make the cast above the scoured-out hole on the up­tide side, then let the sinker and bait roll down the in­cline, which you’ll feel if you’re hold­ing the rod, and wait un­til your end gear set­tles. As soon as the weight stops mov­ing, ex­pect a bite.

When fish­ing man-made struc­ture, re­sist the urge to cast. The fish will be in and around the struc­ture and sup­port legs, so a sim­ple ver­ti­cal drop down of the bait, sim­i­lar to when down­tide boat fish­ing, is far more ef­fec­tive, gen­er­ally speak­ing.

As you can see, if you ig­nore the plaice po­ten­tial of North Wales, you’ll be miss­ing out on some great sport. Grab your gear and sam­ple some of the ac­tion right now!

This near 1lb 8oz plaice was caught at close range

North Wales is a prime spot to fish for plaice

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