BOAT FISH­ING WITH BARHAM

Ex­pert ad­vice on night fish­ing for soles.

Sea Angler (UK) - - CON­TENTS - WITH BARHAM

Not many an­glers fish for soles afloat, quite pos­si­bly be­cause it en­tails fish­ing at night. How­ever, if you find the right mark and fish it prop­erly, you can reap the re­wards. The key is to find an area of rel­a­tively shal­low wa­ter with sand or mud banks, prefer­ably ex­posed at low wa­ter. Soles will al­most cer­tainly move up on to these banks as the tide pushes in and cov­ers them. Of course, you need to be fish­ing an area where they are present, and it’s a good idea to keep your eye on lo­cal shore fish­ing re­ports to help gain this knowl­edge – if an­glers are catch­ing soles from the shore, you should be able to catch them from the same area afloat.

WHERE AND WHEN

Com­mon through­out the coastal wa­ters of the UK, the Dover sole in­hab­its sandy and muddy ar­eas down to 150 me­tres depth, although they are most com­monly found in shal­low wa­ter.

This species mi­grates off­shore in win­ter, but re­turns to shal­lower wa­ter in spring, when the ma­ture adults will move to spawn­ing grounds in in­shore wa­ters or on the off­shore banks where they first spawned.

A fish of 2lb is a very good catch and will give you a good fight on light gear be­cause they are very strong for their size. The largest Dover sole recorded by an an­gler is a shore-caught fish from Alder­ney, in the Chan­nel Is­lands in 1991, weigh­ing a mas­sive 6lb 8oz, but there have been big­ger fish caught com­mer­cially.

The Dover sole fish­ing sea­son usu­ally kicks off in the sum­mer, around mid-July, and con­tin­ues through to late Oc­to­ber, and even No­vem­ber if the tem­per­a­ture re­mains mild. An in­com­ing tide that co­in­cides with the start of the flood in dark­ness is your best bet, be­cause you want it to be dark an hour or two into the tide (de­pend­ing on where you are fish­ing) so the soles have the con­fi­dence to move up on to the bank and feed.

TACKLE AND BAIT

When it comes to bites, the Dover sole is not shy. Bites can be sav­age, so us­ing a rod with a fine tip isn’t a ne­ces­sity for bite de­tec­tion. You want to en­joy the scrap, so my ad­vice is to fish as light as the tide and con­di­tions will al­low.

I of­ten go for a 10-40g lure rod, which will carry a 3oz or 4oz lead weight and a cou­ple of baits with no prob­lem. Multi-tip boat rods with the quiver-tip-style in­serts are also great fun. Match your rod to a suit­able fixed-spool reel loaded with 12-20lb braided main­line and you’re set.

I re­ally can’t give you an an­swer as to why wire booms are so ef­fec­tive for Dover soles, but I can tell you that a rig tied with twisted wire booms will out-fish a stan­dard flap­per or a rig with plas­tic booms by a ra­tio of about three to one. This ob­ser­va­tion is based on more than a decade of test­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence by many an­glers.

The wire booms ob­vi­ously help pin your baits to the seabed, but I get the im­pres­sion that these wire booms re­act with the salt­wa­ter and give off elec­tri­cal sig­nals, which may well ap­peal to the sen­si­tive snout of the Dover sole. The key to us­ing wire booms is ul­tra-short snoods – no longer than 6in. I pre­fer to go for 4in snoods, and even shorter if I can man­age to tie them.

Most marine worms will catch soles, with a wrig­gling rag­worm be­ing the pre­ferred choice in many ar­eas. Fresh or frozen black lug is also a good bet, es­pe­cially later in the sea­son as the nights be­gin to draw in and get colder.

I know a few lads who do re­ally well for big

soles off the shore with a large king rag­worm on a Pen­nell rig, so that’s also worth con­sid­er­ing if you’re plan­ning a night’s sole fish­ing.

BE PA­TIENT

A wise old beach an­gler once told me to sit on my hands at the first sign of a sole bite, and the same rule ap­plies to fish­ing afloat. This is be­cause Dover soles have tiny mouths, and you must use small hooks, like a size 1, 2 or 4.

As soon as you see a bite you should let it de­velop, wait, wait and then wait some more. Pour your­self a cup of cof­fee or eat a sand­wich, any­thing to di­vert your at­ten­tion from your wob­bling rod tip. Of course, if your rod tip is hoop­ing over and rat­tling away, you can wind in sooner. As a gen­eral rule, though, let the sole take your bait and find your hook.

Use small hooks for Dover soles

A rag­worm is a top sole bait

A 2lb sole is a good fish

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