SHINING NEW STAR
As one of the UK’s most productive charter ports, Swansea has a new boat in its popular fleet
Check out a new charter boat.
Like most ports around the country today, in recent years there have not been as many charter boats working out of Swansea as there once were, but its fleet has been boosted with the addition of a new vessel. She’s called Lyn Marie, a Vigilante 33 built by Breaksea Boats.
At 10 metres long with a substantial 3.8m beam, providing her with as much deck area as some catamarans, she is powered by a pair of 260hp Volvo inboard engines.
She has a slick top speed of 40 knots and cruises at 24 knots, resulting in less time travelling and more time fishing.
Recently, I joined one of her first charters, on a day when the boat had been booked by the Nicholas family, from Swansea. Located midway along the South Wales coastline, the city of Swansea has long been a popular destination for anglers looking to catch a wide variety of sea fish. It offers numerous fishing options throughout the Bristol Channel, including sandbanks, reefs, wrecks and other prolific fish-holding marks.
At the helm was owner-skipper Tony Grey, and also aboard was second skipper, Wayne Morgan, who has fished the waters around Swansea from the age of five and first gained his Boat Master’s Licence 40 years ago.
After exiting the Tawe Lock and clearing the harbour breakwater, it was a short steam across a becalmed Swansea Bay to the SWIG Buoy, and then near Mumbles Head to catch some fresh mackerel.
Mumbles Head and its iconic lighthouse mark is the start of the Gower Peninsula, and a short run to the west from here takes you to Langland Bay. It marks the start of Langland Reef, which is a noted mark for many species. During the summer, when my trip took place, it can be productive for black bream and smoothhounds.
Within minutes of starting to fish, rod tips were indicating the first bites of the session, but just as we had anticipated, these were almost entirely dogfish, another species synonymous with fishing off the South Wales coast. They were grabbing the long, thin strips of white
squid meat meant for bream, and chunks of juicy peeler crab for hounds.
Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before Peter Nicholas hooked something more substantial, eventually bringing a lively hound within reach of Wayne’s landing net. Soon Peter’s sons Joel and Jamie caught their first smoothhounds.
These mini-sharks have become increasingly numerous and widespread throughout the Bristol Channel, often in plague proportions, but it wasn’t that long ago that such a capture off the Gower was an event of some note. They often grab almost any bait intended for other species.
Invariably, bream fishing is a waiting game. These fish have to respond to the combined scent of each angler’s bait and then locate and home in on the fishing zone slightly astern of the boat. Clearly, any bream that were feeding that day had to be quick to get to the bait before a hound ate it, but perseverance paid off with a few small fish. Who would have thought that thin slivers of squid would prove to be so effective for smoothhounds?
After a couple of hours, and with the strong run of ebb tide starting to ease, Tony suggested a run further west to a deep-water mark south of Oxwich Point, which is a noted mark for tope. His suggestion was greeted with unanimous enthusiasm.
CLEVER BAIT TRICK
Tope can be caught on a many different fishbased baits, both fresh or frozen, but few are more effective for pack tope than fresh mackerel. These can be fished whole, as flappers or fillets, but when there is a profusion of dogfish and other species, whole mackerel are less likely to be taken by the unwanted species.
Many anglers experience problems when baiting with a whole mackerel. Missed tope runs might be attributed to the size and bulk of the bait masking the hook point, thus preventing an effective hook-up in the fish’s mouth. Anglers use all sorts of methods to thread a whole mackerel on a hook, but the method used aboard Lyn Marie is, clever, easy and effective.
Tony and Wayne start with a short length (6in to 8in) of wire with a circle hook about a size 6/0 to 8/0 hook at one end and a small crimped loop at the other. Having cut off the mackerel’s tail, a baiting needle is pushed through the centre of the bait, exiting just behind the pectoral fin. The
loop end of the wire is attached to the needle, pulled through the bait, and attached to a heavy running leader of around 100lb mono, ensuring the hook sits on the flank of the bait, clear and exposed and unlikely to be obscured by the bait.
Another simple method when baiting up with whole fish is to use a small cable tie threaded through the baitfish’s eyes to secure the hook.
Of course, the golden rule when using circle hooks is to never strike or forcibly attempt to set the hook. Give the fish time to eat the bait and then allow the line to steadily tighten as the fish swims off, allowing the circle hook to locate and take hold in the sweet spot within the scissors in the corner of the fish’s jaw.
The Nicholas family is well versed in the use of circle hooks and, soon enough, eldest son Jamie was into a hard-fighting tope.
Younger brother Joel was next, and then Jamie with another, all pack tope weighing 20-30lb.
Variety was provided with the capture of several large bull huss, which are greedy and more than capable of inhaling a whole mackerel.
Aside from fishing inshore marks in and around Swansea Bay and off the beautiful Gower Coast, Tony and Wayne intend to focus on fishing the many wrecks scattered throughout the Bristol Channel, along with specialist trips across to Lundy Island and, of course, shark fishing.
Lyn Marie is certainly the ideal boat for such ventures, and I am looking forward to my next trip aboard this fine charter boat.
Skipper Tony Grey, Joel Nicholas and a fine tope
Lyn Marie is a Vigilante 33 built by Breaksea Boats
Bait robbers will even take large offerings
A hound for Peter Nicholas
After pulling the trace through the fish with a bait needle, the hook rests on its flank.
Thread a small cable tie through the eye sockets of a dead mackerel.
Secure the cable tie and insert hook through the loop.
Use bait elastic to secure the hook against the side of the dead mackerel.
Netting another smoothhound
The mark south of Oxwich Point produced this tope for Jamie Nicholas
Tony Grey at the helm