How fresh bait can turn around a day, with a very rare cap­ture of two mid-dou­ble tur­bot prov­ing the point

Sea Angler (UK) - - SEA ANGLER | CONTENTS -

A rare cap­ture of two mid-dou­ble tur­bot.

Ilove the spring, es­pe­cially when we are blessed with a mini heat­wave and flat calm seas. It’s a pre­quel to sum­mer, and quite of­ten it switches the fish into feed­ing mode. An­other rea­son why I love spring is be­cause it her­alds the ar­rival of flat­fish. The plaice start to show up, al­beit thin from spawn­ing, as well as the tur­bot and brill, which are more of­ten than not rav­en­ous and ea­ger to take a bait.

I popped down to Wey­mouth in Dorset for my an­nual ‘big tur­bot’ hunt on board Duchess II, skip­pered by a good friend of Sea An­gler, Jeff Clarke. It’s a trip I make ev­ery spring with the aim of bag­ging my­self a per­sonal-best tur­bot. How­ever, to­day wasn’t go­ing to be my day, but it cer­tainly was for two of the an­glers on board.


Dur­ing April and May, the big tur­bot move on to the Sham­bles Bank off Wey­mouth in or­der to feed on live sandeels and launce that fre­quent the seabed fea­ture.

Tra­di­tion­ally, it is fresh mack­erel strip that has al­ways been the favoured bait, but when you’re fish­ing this early in the sea­son, the mack­erel haven’t even ar­rived yet, so you have to make do with strips of frozen. How­ever, if the weather and tide al­lows, it is pos­si­ble to feather up some live launce at cer­tain spots along the bank and, luck­ily for us, to­day was one such day.

As far as rods and reels go for this type of fish­ing, you need to choose 12lb or 20lb­class gear. Ei­ther a fixed-spool reel or small mul­ti­plier loaded with 30lb braid is ideal.

For the most part, you’ll be us­ing watch leads around the 4oz to 12oz range, de­pend­ing on the size of the tide and strength of the wind that’s af­fect­ing the speed of the drift.

There’s no need for any fancy busi­ness here, all I use is a sim­ple run­ning leger rig tied us­ing 3ft of 30lb fluoro­car­bon with a size 4/0 hook on the end.


Most of the time you’ll be drift­ing quite quickly over rip­pled sand­banks, and after a few fish­less hours you’ll start to imag­ine that ev­ery bump on your rod tip is a bite.

The key to this style of fish­ing is to use the cor­rect amount of lead weight. The last thing you want is to have your bait 200 yards away from the boat, which is what hap­pens if your sinker is too light – you have to keep let­ting out line to en­sure that you’re still on the bot­tom.

Once you’ve low­ered you bait to the bot­tom, let off a lit­tle line to get it away from the boat, and then use your thumb as a brake on the line – don’t put the reel back into gear.

The rea­son for do­ing this is so you can let out some line the in­stant you feel a bite.

Do­ing this for a count of five gives the tur­bot the con­fi­dence to swal­low the whole bait and your hook.

Most big tur­bot will nail a big bait and swal­low it whole in a mat­ter of sec­onds, but the smaller fish will of­ten just grab half the bait, which is why it’s im­por­tant to give as lit­tle re­sis­tance as pos­si­ble and let the fish take the bait prop­erly.

As soon as you count to five, sim­ply put the reel back into gear and be­gin wind­ing – there’s no need to strike, the speed of the boat drift­ing will set the hook for you.

There’s no mis­tak­ing a tur­bot bite. Un­like plaice, which are also usu­ally caught on the drift, a tur­bot will grab your bait and en­gulf it in one swoop. You’ll ei­ther feel a few rat­tles on your rod tip, fol­lowed by you rod tip dip­ping as you feel the weight of the fish, or you’ll have the rod al­most wrenched from your hands.


We’d spent about two hours drift­ing with frozen mack­erel strips, and we had very lit­tle to show for our ef­forts. My friend, Jim Mid­g­ley, was the only per­son to score so far, and that was a rather small tur­bot weigh­ing un­der 4lb. I hadn’t even had a bite, and nei­ther had any­one else on board.

As slack wa­ter ap­proached, skip­per Jeff in­formed us that we would be mov­ing to an­other part of the bank in or­der to catch some live launce. He knows the area ex­tremely well, and he has spe­cialised in flat­tie fish­ing for many years and knew only too well that if we could catch some fresh bait our chances would be boosted. We were hope­ful of catch­ing a few tur­bot once the tide turned.

To­day our luck was in, and within just a few min­utes we had 20 or so fresh launce in the cool box. It hap­pened so fast that I didn’t even get a chance to grab my cam­era. They were com­ing up in threes and fours, and Jeff quickly told us that we had enough and we must get back to the main part of the bank as the tide was just be­gin­ning to turn.

The tide had turned by the time we got back to our mark, and within five min­utes of drift­ing I heard a shout from David Pet­ti­grew, of Port­land, who was fish­ing on the stern. A rea­son­able fight en­sued, and as crew per­son Caro­line Had­drell heaved the land­ing net over the gun­nel, I could see that David had caught him­self a rather im­pres­sive tur­bot. As the fish flopped on the deck with a thud, it was clear that this was a good dou­ble. A quick un­hook­ing and dispatch later and skip­per Jeff had the fish on the scales at bang on 15lb 4oz.

Dur­ing all the com­mo­tion I man­aged to catch a glimpse of David’s rig, which in­trigued me. He had some form of weight sit­ting just above his hook. I quizzed him about it, be­cause I know that he reg­u­larly catches big tur­bot off the Sham­bles, and he told me that he had been us­ing this set-up for nearly a decade, and it ob­vi­ously works. The ex­tra weight just helps keep the bait nailed closer to the seabed, es­pe­cially when there is a lot of tide run­ning.

It’s def­i­nitely some­thing to think about, and as soon as I got home the old grey mat­ter was churn­ing and I thought back to my carp fish­ing days and the weights I used for pre­sent­ing pop-up boilies. A quick rum­mage through my carp gear and I found a box of Fox Kwik Change Pop-Up Weights, which are per­fect for the job. If you can’t get hold of th­ese, then a reg­u­lar split shot will work just as well.


With David’s fish sit­ting nicely on ice, I be­gan think­ing whether the fresh bait had re­ally made the dif­fer­ence, or would that big tur­bot have taken a frozen mack­erel strip? I didn’t have to pon­der for long, be­cause within ten min­utes Caro­line con­firmed that the fresh launce was in­deed prov­ing its worth for th­ese flat­fish.

A rather com­pressed rod bounc­ing up and down had me scram­bling for my cam­era, as skip­per Jeff read­ied him­self with the net to land yet an­other stonk­ing-great tur­bot. This one weighed bang on 16lb.

About half-an-hour later Caro­line hooked up again, and it looked to be yet an­other big tur­bot, but un­for­tu­nately it came off after just a cou­ple of min­utes, so we’ll never know.

I tried my hard­est to get in on the ac­tion, but to no avail, it just wasn’t to be. How­ever, see­ing two big tur­bot boated re­ally made my day. I was over the moon for both David and Caro­line, it’s so rare to wit­ness two mid-dou­bles caught on the same day, let alone within a few min­utes of each other.

Next time, one of those big tur­bot has my name on it!

If you’d like to book a trip out with Jeff and Caro­line on board Duchess II, tel: 07778 315778.

Jim Mid­g­ley was the first to hook up on a light spin­ning rod set-up

It’s so rare to cap­ture two mid dou­ble-fig­ure tur­bot on the same day. What a bril­liant ses­sion it was!

David Pet­ti­grew hooked into the sec­ond tur­bot, and it was clear that this was a much bet­ter fish

Don’t be shy when it comes to bait size. A 15lb tur­bot can eas­ily swal­low a whole launce

This one went bang on 16lb for Caro­line.

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