It’s a sure sign that summer is well on the way when these sought-after flatfish make an appearance
Experience some superb beach fishing.
Turbot are always eagerly awaited along the South Coast because they are a great indicator that larger predatory fish, such as rays and bass, will soon be following – always good news after a long, harsh winter. These turbot normally become active after a slight rise in the water temperature, which often coincides with shoals of bait fish, such as sandeels, moving close to the shoreline. Other species will be fairly quick to follow.
In April I was hearing that the first few turbot had put in an appearance, especially in the Selsey area of West Sussex. After a long miserable spell of cold and wet weather this was just the encouragement I needed to get out and wet my lines. Shore-caught turbot may not be known for their fighting prowess, but they are still a great fish to catch – their colours at times can be amazing.
A few days later, with my buddy Steve Lawrence from Poole, I was heading east along the M27 during mid-afternoon in an attempt to beat the dreaded rush-hour traffic.
We were heading to Allan’s Marine Tackle shop in Portsmouth, which had just taken delivery of a fresh batch of sandeels straight from the West Country – in previous weeks obtaining any had been like finding gold dust. We were also meeting Brendon Moon, a top local angler.
Apart from the sandeels, we took along a few ragworms (to see if there were any plaice) along with squid, Bluey and mackerel. These are all baits that will readily take turbot, which have exceptionally big mouths for their size, along with an early ray if we were really lucky.
With the bait sorted, we were soon on the road again and heading for the Danefield Road section towards the very southerly tip of Selsey.
Thirty minutes later we pulled up at the shingle beach at Danefield Road virtually at the water’s edge, fishing almost from the back of our car and not a parking meter in sight – now that is a rarity.
One word of warning, don’t stray off the hard track because the shingle gets very soft close to the seawall, and cars often get well and truly bogged down.
A couple of local anglers had also just arrived and were eagerly setting up their gear just 50 yards to our left. I always like to have a chat
with local anglers because they can have a wealth of information. It quickly became apparent from Ian Hillier, a local chef who had been out the previous evening, that our session could be a struggle.
Undeterred, we were soon ready for the off. Steve was the first to get his lines in the water – on one rod he was using a size 3/0 Pennell pulley rig baited with sandeel and squid, and on the other a three-hook flapper rig armed with size 2/0 hooks baited with a ragworm tipped off with squid.
Brendon was using size 3/0 pulley rigs on both rods, baited with a combination of sandeel, Bluey and squid. On one rod I settled for a size 3/0 pulley baited with a trio of small sandeels that were as fresh as a daisy, and a three-hook flapper on my second carried rag tipped off with mackerel.
Casting is not an issue along this stretch. We had started fishing on the early flood, with a 50-yard lob more than adequate. A 5oz grip weight is required on an intermediate tide, but you will have to step up to 5-6oz grippers on bigger tides.
While turbot are mainly daylight feeders, we were not initially expecting much to happen in the bright sunlight, but within 10 minutes I landed a small bass that had managed to snare itself on a size 3/0 hook. It was quickly released and shot off like a rocket.
A few minutes later, Ian Hillier had his first bite and reeled in a small smoothhound. Things were looking encouraging. As the minutes ticked by, Steve noticed a rumble on his rod trip, which developed into a proper bite, and a few minutes later the first turbot slid up the beach. It had taken the 3/0 pulley baited with sandeel and squid. After a few quick pictures, it was released unharmed.
My treble sandeel presented on a 3/0 pulley was the next bait to get an enquiry, initially just a few rumbles before turning into a more positive bite. Soon the evening’s second turbot was at my feet, again a really nicelooking fish that again went back.
After my earlier doubts, the evening was turning out to be far better than expected, with Brendon the next in action when he landed a small smoothhound. Unfortunately, though, the bigger hounds were still far out in deeper water. A short while later Steve was landing his second turbot, which had taken a large ragworm bait tipped off with squid presented on a size 2/0 hook. These turbot really do like a decent-sized fish bait. They have a huge mouth that will easily swallow a 3/0 hook with a bait to match.
With the light starting to fade, Ian landed his first turbot of the evening. It had taken a very large squid/Bluey wrap, showing these early flatties were certainly hungry. With an early shift the following morning he had to throw in the towel, but not before his fishing partner also landed a turbot on a large fish bait shortly afterwards. That brought the turbot tally to
five, which for the time of year was more than respectable – a reasonable evening’s fishing.
We stayed on for an hour or so once darkness had descended, but the rod tips remained motionless.
The turbot mission had been very enjoyable, a great success, but those elusive rays would have to wait until the water temperature rose and they became far more active.
For those heading to this area, the summer months could provide a real treat, with plenty of smoothhounds, including doublefigure fish, along with hefty rays and bass. During the late summer, some really nice nocturnal soles can be expected, but heavy weed can prove troublesome, especially so after a blow. ■
Brendon Moon was using size 3/0 pulley rigs on both rods
Steve Lawrence took the first turbot of the day
The shingle beach at Danefield Road, Selsey
A turbot for local chef Ian Hillier
A Pennell rig baited with sandeel