WHY WATER COLOUR MATTERS
Sediment in the water is an important factor if you are looking forward to summer success on the Holderness coast
Where you need it to avoid a blank session.
Have you been among the influx of visiting anglers to the Holderness Coast seeking some great smoothhound sport, but left disappointed? It was probably because you were casting too far. Warmer, settled weather will see the return of the hounds to this part of the East Yorkshire coast, where the females come to drop their pups in the shallow water. Some really big girls turn up, with fish weighing more than 20lb caught each season, with double-figure fish fairly common.
It’s the prolific numbers of these sporting fish that attracts the visiting anglers. Along with my dad and two sons, I have been known to pack up fishing and head off elsewhere when the hounds are here in numbers, because they can be hard work when we’re targeting other species.
My dad, Bill had more than 30 from 4lb to 11lb last year in one tide. It’s exhausting work, especially if they are at long range. He went back to the same spot on the beach the next day and never had a bite. They had clearly cleaned out all the feed from the area and moved away.
Fresh and frozen peeler crabs, shrimps and squid are the baits for the smoothhounds, but if they are around in vast numbers I have caught them on everything from worms to Bluey to hardback shore crabs. To combat bait-robbing crabs, we always carry plenty of squid at this time of year to wrap baits. Otherwise, if the crabs are out in force, they can strip your bait in a matter of minutes.
Along with my sons (Leon 15, Henry nine) and my dad, I am now looking forward to the longer days and periods of milder, settled weather so we can get out in search of the newly-arriving species that haven’t been around during the winter and early spring.
My youngest son, Henry is just looking forward to the warmer weather as he’s a fairweather angler but, as he gets older, I’m sure we’ll toughen him up enough to be able to
face the harshest of winter conditions. In the meantime, we’ll start him off on sunny days.
In spring, we carry a variety of baits as we are unsure which of the expected species will show up. We regularly end up with a good mixed bag from the Holderness Coast during the spring and early summer. Our target species will be the spring run of codling, rays and smoothhounds.
Once the crabs move back inshore and have their first moult, nothing but a peeler crab seems to tempt the spring cod, and they will, at times, swim very close to the shore hunting them out. Even a short cast will sometimes find a spring cod.
KNOW WHERE TO FISH
When choosing where to fish, features and deep gullies are not as important as they are in the winter. You will find a lot of fish running the flats or sand bars, hunting out shrimps or crabs.
The most important thing we look for is the colour of the water. Driving up the coast and looking from some of the higher cliff tops can help find the marks to fish when seeking good colour in the water.
If you find heavily-coloured water, a nice chocolate colour, you can usually find fish. The colour comes from the sediment of the clay and cliff erosion washing around, and is lifted off the bottom by the tidal and wave movement.
The colour can drop out of the water on small tides when there is very little tidal movement, or it can be caused by wind direction. The sediment settles to the bottom and the water loses its colour. The fishing just seems to die when this happens. If you take a bucket of the sea water and sit it on the beach you will see exactly what I mean in minutes; the water will be clear and the sediment will be at the bottom of the bucket. Don’t be tempted to over-cast if the colour line is in close to shore, but stay in the brown water if you want to stand a chance of catching fish.
In the last few years we have seen a rise in visiting anglers on the Holderness Coast. They travel from the north, driving down to East Yorkshire coast to have a crack at the hounds. We’ve seen good anglers bringing some cracking crab baits and they blast the cast out to the horizon, out of the coloured water, then wonder why it’s not fishing well when they’ve heard good reports of fish having previously been caught.
I wonder how many people will hold their hands up and admit to being guilty of this? They’ve cast out too far.
Settled weather and calm seas see the return of the thornbacks and the very occasional spotted ray. There are a few baits that can be used to tempt the rays, such as crabs, Bluey, mackerel, squid, sandeels and live shrimps.
The shrimps can be collected at low water by pushing a net through the shallow gullies that appear when the tide is out. My kids love doing this, but be very careful of poisonous weever fish. I stuck my finger on one when I was a teenager and it was a pain I will never forget.
Live shrimps are one of the best baits to use on the Holderness Coast because they will catch just about every fish that swims and can be deadly for smoothhounds and rays. I find that shrimps are an under-used bait in this area, but it can be well worth the effort of collecting them live.
Other species to target include dabs, soles, turbot, bass, dogfish, whiting, pouting and silver eels.
I favour pulley rigs with size 2/0 to 4/0 hooks if fishing at long range, with three-hook flapper rigs with size 1 and 2 hooks for close-in work. We use loop and dropper rigs with long flowing hook links for catching rays.
I like to position myself at the bottom of the beach’s slope on the incoming tide and cast as close in behind the back of the first wave. Henry and Leon like fishing this way because they never know what’s going to pick up their bait next. The best we have had is nine different species of fish, which includes a few good bass, and we even had a baby tope.
You really would not believe how close in the kids catch fish. I have seen them fishing with the shock-leader knots out of the water, getting bites and landing fish.
Fish can be caught at any stage of the tide, but three hours either side of high water seems to give us the most fish. Set up your rod stand well and slacken your drag immediately after casting out because we have seen a few rods get dragged over by fish, especially when the hounds are biting hard.
We find the southern end and middle beaches of the Holderness Coast fish better in spring and summer, but over the last few years we’ve been hearing more and more reports of good rays and hounds coming from the northern end, as far up as Bridlington Bay. The flat, shallow beaches at the northern end seem to be good for bass, particularly when there’s a good surf running. Fresh yellowtails and black lug are the best baits for them. ■
Fifteen-year-old Leon Hope, with a thornback ray
Matt bagged this lovely cod
My youngest son Henry was delighted with this hound
You can usually find fish in heavily-coloured water
A decent bass for Leon
Bill Hope gets in on the action with a thornback ray