Fishing at the Mouth of the Crouch – Late April
Updated: May 2, 2019
The weather report was good, a few showers floating around but it was forecast to be warm.
I had to be at the hard for 7:20 so that we could catch the last of the Ebb tide and get out to our mark at the other side of the Foulness sands. There was 5 of us today and everyone was looking forward to the fishing. We had heard reports of Smoothhound being caught and one of the guys with us had caught a 12lb Smoothound earlier in the week from a little further round the coast, the weather was feeling warmer too and this was also getting everybody’s hope up for a Bass.
We motored under the overcast sky for 2 hours until we reached a mark of three wrecks to East of Foulness sands.
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We were a little early so the tide hadn’t turned and the boat was swinging around and trying to set with the tide. We all put one rod out as when the boat was moving around like this the likelihood is that you are going to get into a big tangle! Whilst waiting for the tide to turn a bird that I had never even heard of let alone seen flew over – a Fulmer! I was reliably informed that it was a type of rigid winged permanently seagoing seagull that only came to shore to breed.
Tactics for the day was fixed rigs with flowing hooks (5/0’s) and big leads especially at the start of the tide! Again the warm weather had brought on summery thoughts of Mackerel, so I had brought a brand new selection of White feathers (White can tempt a Bass as well), finally on my small rod (now self nicknamed the sport rod!), we had set up a smaller rig for later in the tide, again a fixed rig but with a smaller hook (2/0) this was also set up with a small spoon and some brightly coloured beads near the hook for maybe.. Dare I say.. A summer Sole??
The tide settled down and we fished all rods eventually went into the water and a mixture of baits including Lugworm, Ragworm and Squid were all being tested.
The Mackerel / Bass feathers were tested too, nothing yet, but maybe later in the tide.
Moral was high as this was the mark (this time last year) that the freakiest of catches was brought on board. This time last year the weather was a little different and we were fishing over the same wrecks. The weather was far rougher and the boat was up and down on the waves just as we collectively decided to move on one of the guys at the back of the boat was complaining that the weather had caught him on the wreck, struggling with his rod he told us that it was moving and all of us turned to thoughts of large Skate. Needless to say it wasn’t a Skate but this huge Lobster. The Lobster was believed to be at least 30 years old (due to its size!) and even the most vocal of skippers (my old man) could not claim skippers rights on such an amazing catch (the lucky fisherman with his Lobster!).
Anyway, an hour or so passed and very little was in the boat, we had been getting sporadic bites well, more like hits where the rod would violently bounce two or three times and then stop. We were fishing squid and we knew that Dogfish were being caught and when the squid baits started to come back minus their heads we knew this is what was raising and dashing our hopes. The sport rod was also being fished with a single Ragworm, although a few small hits the most action this rod had got was when a 5 or 6 oz Smoothound had taken the bait, the rod being a Bass rod nearly bounced off the boat for a fish that was smaller then most fish used for bait!
Two hours passed and nothing but a couple of small dogfish had been landed and returned. We moved back to the edge of the sands to fish the mid way point of the flood by a wreck on the drop off. It was a short motor to the wreck and we were knew we were on it. Most wrecks were we fish are mostly covered by the sand, the relentless and powerful tide eventually buries everything on the sea bed. This wreck is not yet covered and big, we knew were near it by the huge amounts of bubbling sediment that it was kicking up into the water.
This mark was even more quiet and did not even provide us with Dogfish bites, just a lonely balloon that seemed to target our lines from about a mile away when we mistook it for a seal. We persisted for an hour or so until agreeing that we should move to an area that had been very successful over the previous two trips, successful for Roker (Skate or Thornback Ray)!!
We arrived at the spot – further up the drop off but still on the edge – whilst we were on the way we discussed a rumour that was persisting and had been heard from many different points. Apparently a Belgian trawler had been fishing in an area called the Deep (a little further offshore), these huge trawlers are capable of scooping up vast amounts of fish in one haul and the rumour is that this s exactly what it had done. 130+ tonnes of Thornback ray had been taken by the trawler, the Deep is where the fish from the sands return too and arrive from – a restocking point if you will for the surrounding estuaries. I won’t hang anymore on this point but let’s say that 30 or so charter boats work out of the Blackwater and River Crouch these guys make money all year from the fish taking fisherman out to catch them. These fish are taken out of the food chain by a single huge boat and the remaining charter boats struggle to catch anything – is that fair?
The tide eventually turned and we settled down for the last hour or two’s fishing. During the low tide mark we threw a hoop-net over the side in the off chance of catching some extra fresh bait and maybe a flatfish. The net fished until the tide turned in earnest, no fish but a good catch of farmer crabs, killer Smoothound bait when they are there!! Dad also persisted with the feathers although neither he nor I had had a take – still too early!!
All of the fish came in the last hour and a half and all on the Flood. Two Skate biggest 9lb, two good sized Whiting – these unlucky fish should have left a good month before! And three good sized Dogfish or when I told my Girlfriend what they were – Rock Eel (its Fish and Chip shop name!). I thought if the Dogfish were going to trouble us all day then I was going to get my own back on them and… Well, eat them!!
Check out my Dogfish in Beer Batter Recipe.
On the way back over the sands three final lessons from my Dad, preparing and skinning the dogfish and Preparing and skinning the Roker including taking the cheeks – a very fiddly business I assure you! And then a navigation lesson on South and North Cardinal buoys, coloured arrows.. And, well I can’t remember the rest.
Another fish off of the New Years resolution - The Dogfish, plenty more to go though..
Next time hey..
New Years resolution
Species scratched off:
Thornback Ray (Roker)