KNOW YOUR RAYS
How to catch and identify the various species
W ith water temperatures reaching their warmest and algal blooms now almost over, summer angling can be difficult, to say the least. However, rays will come to the rescue for boat anglers.
The water, especially to the Western Approaches of the Bristol Channel, clears to the opacity of gin, creating a crystalclear overhead theatre, which is alien to our residents that are used to more murky waters in which to hunt.
Rays do not seem to be affected to any great extent. These fish are present on our local grounds throughout the year, providing a great alternative when other target species are playing hard to get.
The four species that are most common to the Channel angler are the thornback, blonde, small-eyed and spotted rays, all of which can show up at any time. All four can be taken in good numbers, and to specimen sizes, so targeting them from time to time can be great fun.
What seems to be an ever-increasing problem here, though, is the identification of the species.
When targeting the small-eyed ray, I tend to favour shallow inshore sandbank areas where sandeels will almost certainly be present. These sporty little rays can be taken in large numbers if you hit on the right mark.
A light uptide rod with a multiplier reel loaded with good braid is ideal for these fish. Though sandeels are great, the smalleyed will also take a fresh fillet of mackerel tipped with a strip of fresh squid.
With any ray fishing, it always pays to respond to the bite early. If you give the fish too long to attend to its meal, it will often swim off with the bait, wrapping
Words and photography by Dave Roberts