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  • Writer's pictureThe Wild Foodie

Spring Fishing from the River Crouch

Updated: May 2, 2019

Finally news that some fish were being caught. Apparently there was rumour of Roker (Thornback Ray) offshore. I had organised the fishing trip midweek, Dad and myself had organised to meet at Rice and Cole’s jetty for 8am on Saturday. I got there 10 minutes late even though, out of anticipation for the fishing I had woken up 2 hours early!

Thornback ray River Crouch
Thornback Ray

I had been many times over the winter and not caught anything, this day was a fantastic bright Spring morning (see what wild foods are in season in spring) and it was feeling mild with a light westerly wind. Catching the last of the ebb we motored down the crouch heading for the mouth of the river heading for our mark on the Thames side of the Whittaker. Anchoring up, Dad had the radio on to listen to the cross talk from the 10’s of charter fishing boats that had also heard the reports of fish. We anchored up on the shelf of the sands and baited up 6 rods. Having the luxury of a whole boat we could use all 6 rods, with the New Year’s resolution in mind I baited one of the rods up with a three hook paternoster rig with size 2 Dab hooks, and the other 5 rods set up with simple fixed single hook rigs and 4/0 hooks. The bait was simple, Squid (Dirty not shop bought), a few Herring and Mackerel.

We were set for the beginning of the Flood tide, and got the kettle on for the wait. I was looking forward to this, especially my little Bass rod that barely had enough lead on it to hold bottom, if anything big got on it I was stuffed!

…….. 2 hours later.

3 cups of tea down and not a nibble, sitting in the spring sun was great but we were here to fish!!

The first rod to go was the little Bass rod, with Squid, Herring and Mackerel on each of the little hooks, the cocktail obviously became too much for one inquisitive fish! The rod started bouncing and that was it. I hit into it and it was solid, first fish aboard was a Whiting a good sized one too, good sport on light tackle!

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The next rod to go was one of the Thronback’s rods, again a good sized Whiting – it had been so long since I had caught or even seen a fish that the Whiting were more than welcome!! One species down on the list and then a surprise came in on my Dad’s rod, a 3/4 lb Pouting! Good sized fish and even though fishermen say it is no good for anything but their cats it was in the bag and heading for the table!!

All of the fish came together - within 5 minutes, we had fished this mark before and the last time we were here it took 2 hours for the onslaught to happen!

Then the Thronback’s baits started to work, we were fishing Herring tails, Mackerel Cutlets and whole baby squid, it was the baby squid that turned out to be the most successful!

The first Thronback’s bite came from the inside of the boat. The Tide had the boat laying along the edge of the drop off and all of the bites were coming from the inside or shallow side first. Dad hit the first one and he knew it when he struck into it. That typical Thronback’s’y feeling, tip down, wind in all of the slack, start to feel weight and then strike…… Absolutely solid! Thronback’s keep their heads down, stay in the tide and don’t like to be pulled toward the light! The heavens now opened as the fight begun.

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It was a self satisfying arm ache of a fight and by the time we came to net it we could see why. It was a big female, 10lb+, the thorniest fish you had ever seen! Amazingly, and neither of us had ever seen this before – the fish had been caught on another separate set of tackle… Not 30 minutes before, and due to a very old reel! Dad had cast a beautiful squid bait in the same direction only for it to snap mid cast, the line was old and even as it hit the water he was frustrated not with the line, but because the bait looked so nicely presented on the hook, turns out it was perfectly presented and the fish had taken the bait and dragged the rig down with the tide right into the path of the second cast where it had become snagged on his next anchored bait. No time to wait though his second rod was bouncing around and with the first fish in the boat he turned to the second of his three rods. I had also spotted a bite on my rods, the small one again but with one fish in the boat I took the opportunity to reel my fish in. I landed my Whiting (another one for the pot) and Dad was still struggling with his fish.. That look of “what is this” on his face.. It surfaced and whilst he had been landing his lady Roker, a 5 – 6lb Cod had taken his other bait. I eventually landed the Cod (after a small issue with catching the lead weight first) and finally we had a breather.

Three of our 6 rods were out of the water but in a five minute period we had a 10lb+ Thronback’s, a 6lb Cod and a sizeable Whiting! Not bad!

Throughout the next hour the rods did not stop, I had three more Roker including a 10lb+ female, as well as a healthy bag of Whiting. An hour or so passed and we were into the last hour or two of the Ebb tide. Not 5 minutes after Dad reminded me that this was when we had a few male Thronback’s last time.. The rods started bouncing around again. It appears that as the fish come off the sands the big females are the first to head to the deep water and an hour or so after the females have left and before the tide changes, the Males eventually trundle off..

The last hour was again frantic, the bites were timid but as the more aggressive males started to take the bait they got better.

Although we were fishing with three types of bait it was the Squid that was catching everything!

Then near the end of the Ebb, my little Bass rod took a little knock, it had looked like another Whiting had turned on it in the tide, hit it and missed it. 10 minutes later I decided to reel it in… As I started to struggle with the light rod and reel my Dad started to laugh, what I had not wanted to happen had and it felt like I was reeling in a carrier bag or a Roker had got onto the line!! 5 minutes later, after gently pumping the fish in on this light tackle a 5lb Male Roker came in tail first, the gear had held up and the fish was now in the boat.

We had been listening to the Charter boats radio chatter all day and it sounded that most of the boats had given up and where heading back – except one boat that was off of Clacton pier where one of the fisherman on board had landed an enormous Cod of 17 1/2lb! The difference between us and most if the fishing fleet is that we had fished our mark and sat through the quiet period. Charter boats most of the time are unable to do this, after all they have a paying crowd on board and they need to be fishing or looking for fish the whole time. This time our patience paid off, and we were on the fish most of the day.

The day ended with another codling and a Roker on the last cast, although it felt like the fishing was coming back on we had a two hour motor back into shore and it was going to be dark by the time we got back, so we set off.

The day ended with a tally of 9 Roker with two fish breaking double figures, a cod and codling (6lb and 4 lb), 9 Whiting and a fat Pouting!

Finally our new year's fishing resolution had begun and four species removed from the list and a freezer each full of fish it had been a great day!

New Years Fishing Resolution tally – Thornback Ray, Cod or Codling, Whiting and Pouting.

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