Target flatties from the Humber estuary.
Rarely on the radar of most anglers, the Dover sole is a species that always seems to bring a smile to your face if you catch one. On the right tackle, the species can certainly pull your string, and will always put up a terrific fight. Hook into a two-pounder and you will definitely know about it. They taste great too.
Usually found feeding in shallow water with a muddy seabed, these soles prefer to move closer to the shore during warmer months. That means there’s really no need to cast huge distances to present your bait.
Regarded as more of a nocturnal creature, there are in fact a few venues where you can set your stall out to target them in daylight.
One such place is Barton-upon-Humber, located on the south bank of the mighty River Humber, within the shadow of the towering bridge. Winner of Sea Angler’s Penn Sea League final, and international match angler George Smith, from nearby Grimsby, enjoys targeting soles at Barton, especially when he’s using his ultra-fine kit and delicate baits.
“For ultimate sport, I prefer to use 8-10lb mainline coupled with a 20-30lb shockleader or a tapered version,” he explained. “I use a long, one-up, onedown rig of around 4ft, constructed with a 20lb body and 10lb snoods measuring 30in, armed with size 4 Kamasan match hooks, so I can cover more ground.”
George loves the fact that these fish can be caught really close to the bank, meaning casts of around 20 yards or
“When they find your baited hook, the bites can be exciting and dramatic”
even closer bring him bites. By using a small pyramid-style sinker on the set-up, his baited rig can move slowly with the tide.
Flatties are predators and love to chase a meal. Dover soles are no different and, when they eventually find your baited hook, the bites can be exciting and dramatic.
Another neat trick recommended by George is moving or twitching the bait: “If you haven’t had a bite within 10 minutes, simply give your rig a slight pull towards you. Often, a sole may be positioned very close to your bait, and just by moving it you can tempt it to pounce,” he said.
Best baits are king ragworms, gutted black lug, blow lug and maddies (harbour rag). You can fish these on their own, or perhaps together, but remember to match your baits to the size of your hook. By head-hooking several maddies on the point, leaving the tails hanging, it creates attractive movement as they wriggle.
Dover soles begin to appear from June onwards, and will certainly hang around until September, or even into October if the weather is favourable.
The Humber estuary always seems to have a lot of colour in it, and this is the reason daylight catches can be quite good. However, it’s probably better to choose medium to small tides because the run may be too fierce on a large spring tide to hold bottom.
This venue is relatively easy to fish, either from a grass bank where you’ll need a tripod (keep the rods low in the rest) or from the railed section on the promenade.
You’ll probably need to cast over the mud when the tide begins to flood, but it eventually creeps all the way to your rod tip. Never venture out on to the mud. “This stuff is particularly soft and sloppy and it’s easy to become stranded,” he warned.
Along with Dover soles, you can expect to connect with lots of flounders and eels too. There’s even a good chance of bagging a bass. Most of the soles average 8-10oz, with a fish of more than 1lb regarded as a good one in this area.
Winter can be just as productive at Barton too, especially in November and December, but remember to scale up on your tackle because there’s a real chance of catching a decent cod, with specimens up to 10lb possible to lug and squid baits.
George with another great sole