SHIN­ING NEW STAR

As one of the UK’s most pro­duc­tive char­ter ports, Swansea has a new boat in its pop­u­lar fleet

Sea Angler (UK) - - SEAANGLER CONTENTS - Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by DAVE LEWIS

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.

NOTED MARK

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.

GOLDEN RULE

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

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