All at sea
There are a huge number of fish varieties that can be caught off our beaches, but bass is one of the most popular in the summer months as they head into shallower waters to feed on sprats and sandeels. Henry Randell, 22, has been fishing the North Norfolk waters since he was four years old and now not only fishes in competitions, but also catches crabs and lobsters for local restaurants and markets from his boat. He lives and breathes sea fishing and highlights what makes this type of sport so appealing: “I love being out in the fresh air and you never know what you’re going to catch in the sea. I never got in to coarse fishing but I love being outside and on the beach – where else is better to be?”
The type of fish that can be found in the waters around Norfolk varies, but whether you’re fishing for your supper or practising catch and release, there’s always something of interest. “It depends on the time of year,” says Henry. “In the spring you’ll catch more dabs and whiting and cod if you’re lucky, but in summer there is more mackerel and sea bass. Fishing in spring brings only small sea bass – and at this time of year when the fish are spawning the species is protected by law and must be returned – but in the summer, after the fish have spawned, the larger ones will come in to the coast and fishermen can keep one for the table – although the rest must still be returned.”
Henry learned to fish with his grandfather and joined his local sea fishing club, working his way up to competitions until he was picked for the England team in the Home International competitions. Not everyone has the competitive bent, but for Henry, the adrenaline of fishing in competition is a real draw. “I started off fishing in the England team as a youth, at matches all over the country. I carried on from there really, and now I’m in the seniors. We’ve won three golds on the bounce; one in Ireland, one here in England and one in Scotland. Hopefully it’ll be gold in Wales this year.”
For those not inclined to competitions, sea fishing provides an excellent mix of relaxing leisure time with the skill of negotiating the coastal conditions and the reward of catching a variety of fish. “The tides and conditions really make sea fishing different from any other type of fishing,” says Henry. “The tides affect where the bass is going to be and certain conditions are better for bass – for instance if it’s rough you’ll catch more bass than when it’s calm as all the food is dislodged.” Although the equipment required can look complicated, in actual fact, Henry explains, lure fishing provides an easy way in: “All you need is a rod and a reel and some bait and you’re away,” he says.
Lure fishing is Henry’s preference and he provides some tips to help you choose the right lure for the best result. “Different lures will do different things: surface poppers will skim along the top so the sea bass will snatch them on top of the water; you’ve got some that deep dive and work to the bottom and fall to different depths – you can change your lure to different conditions. You’d normally have around 20 different lures or plugs to choose from.”
Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of sea fishing is the understanding and adaptation required to make the most of the marine environment. Tides have a huge impact on fish movement and feeding patterns, as well as the angler’s positioning on the beach. The weather can be entirely different on the coast compared to inland, and this can impact on your chances of catching a fish, plus gullies, groynes, dips, rocks and seaweed can all help – or hinder – your progress. Honing your knowledge of the coast, the sea and the tides is a bit of an art, but you can get a good insight by joining your local sea angling club to help you get started.
Bass fishing is more popular than ever and with measures in place to protect stock, the bass population is strengthening. The roar of the waves, the challenge of catching fish along the widely varied UK coastline and the sheer variety of fishing on offer, makes sea fishing an increasingly popular sport.
Whether you’re an experienced fly fisherman looking to try something new, or a virgin fisherman, a good place to start is in the coastal tackle shop. Packed with all the equipment you might need, and run by people passionate about their coastal regions and the sea fishing to be found, you are sure to find out everything you need to know.
The equipment does differ from that required for river and lake fishing – after all, it has to cope with rocks, tides and waves. For rods, a good all rounder is a beachcaster, a general purpose sea fishing rod that is usually around 14ft in length and rated to cast around 4-8oz. Other equipment rated for beginners includes a fixed spool reel which is easy to use, good value and simple to maintain, and a tripod which is essential when fishing from beaches as it keeps the line clear of waves and holds the heavy rod. Hooks, weights, floats and other tackle varies widely, depending on your experience, the fish you are catching, the time of year and preference. Once again your local tackle and bait shop is a good place to begin.
There is a variety of methods used to catch fish from the shore, including bait fishing, lure fishing or spinning and fly fishing. Most common is bait fishing but there has been an increase in recent years in saltwater fly fishing, which can be tricky, but is certainly rewarding.
Making a basic rig
This is a Pulley Pennel Rig, designed to be used over ground that requires the lead to be kept off the bottom when retrieving a fish. It is ideal for targeting larger fish with bigger baits
Step 1: Rig consists of 3ft 50lb main body Line, 15lb snood line, two hooks, two swivels, an imp bait clip and a 5oz grip lead.
Step 2: To start your rig body attach the imp bait clip to the line using a standard fishing knot. The imp bait clip stops you losing bait when you cast. The hook will release once the weight hits the bottom.
Step 3: Tie the swivels onto the body. One loose swivel runs up and down the line and another attaches at the end.
Step 4: Hooklength (snood): This is the length of line that attaches the hook to the rig body. It must be strong enough to cope with the abrasive nature of the seabed. Henry is using 15lb, with two hooks and one sliding.
Step 5: Rig with 5oz grip lead with the hook attached to the imp clip, ready to cast.