As expected this month has seen some tremendous catches of Thornback rays all over the Thames estuary with 40 being caught on most trips and up to a hundred hitting the deck on the better days,apart from a few for the pot most fish being returned alive to breed and fight another day.
Several hounds also showing but only small ones up to 4lbs so far the bigger fish should start to show soon.Most days seeing one or two bass now and these should increase in numbers in the next couple of weeks to lugworm or crab baits.
March has seen some good catches of Thornback rays with plenty of double figure fish to herring and squid baits,also some really nice whiting being caught on most trips,As I write this report on the 20th March to date we have seen no spring run of codling apart from an odd fish and I think it is a bit late now for them to show, 2016/2017 will just go down as the year the cod didnt show on the east coast.
With the weather warming up now the numbers of rays will increase all the time and we should start to see bass featuring in the catches along with other summer species,
First week this month saw us catching much the same as the previous two months,a few rays and whiting but the fishing was really hard work.The 12th of February will see me off on holiday to Mexico so I won’t be thinking too about the fishing in the Thames estuary,hopefully there will be an improvement in the fishing by the time I return in March.No fish photos but a stunning sunset in Brightlingsea creek a couple of weeks back.
Unusually for January this month has been fairly calm with a big high pressure system sitting over the North sea giving us light easterly breezes,frosty mornings and bright sunny days, unfortunately the fishing has not been so good.Numbers of whiting still from most marks and a few dabs all over but still in good numbers and sizes up the river Blackwater,on the better days we have had up to twenty rays to double figures but they seem concentrated in small areas and it is easy to miss them altogether.As usual at this time of year the estuary is full of herrings and sprats and with no commercial fleet fishing for them anymore there seem to be more each year,it will be interesting to see if there is a spring run of cod when they have left the area.
This month has carried on much the same as November with lots of Whiting and several rays.Still no sign of the cod even though the charter fleet and the commercial boats have looked all over both inshore and offshore.I think most of the skippers have come to the conclusion that they are not going to show this year.We have spent a few windy days up the Blackwater and on the slack tides have seen some great catches of Dabs to small fish and worm baits on two and three hook flapper rigs with some fish up to 30 cms in length.
I will take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
November 2016 We are still not catching cod in any numbers.just an odd fish now and again ,everyone has a theory on why not but at the end of the day that is fishing,The rods are still busy with hordes of whiting and still some nice rays although the odd couple of cold days we have had seems to stop the rays feeding.
After a couple of chilly days October continued to be a very warm month and the sea temperature remains well above normal for the time of year. The ray fishing continues to provide good sport with numbers of medium fish to low doubles . Whitjng on the grounds now in huge numbers with some better fish showing up to 1.5 lbs .
We have had a handful of cod on Seawatch but nothing to get excited about yet, its early November now and the weather appears to be cooling down at last so hopefully that will improve things and I will have some more cod photos for next months report.
Due to a holiday and several cancelled trips with bad weather Seawatch has not been fishing many days this month,on the odd few days I have been we have seen some reasonable catches of rays and still a few smoothhounds.We spent one windy day in the Blackwater estuary and enjoyed a good days sport with several rays to ten pound a few whiting and numerous small bass,proving once again what a wonderful asset in our area the river can be on a windy day when its too bad to venture out to sea.
As yet we have not seen any cod but with the sea temperature at about eighteen degrees I’m not really surprised,as I write this on the 5th,October the temperature is much cooler with a stiff easterly breeze and I’m sure as the sea cools down we will start to see some cod in the catches.
August started with the fishing still in the doldrums and at times has been really hard work,however the second half of the month has seen the fishing improve with some good hound fishing and numbers of small to medium rays returning to our local grounds.As I write this report the 2nd of September, the hounds are starting to leave our area and the next few weeks should see the change from summer to winter fishing with the arrival of the whiting which are starting to show inshore already and hopefully some early cod should start to show towards the end of the month.September will see the bass starting to shoal up on the offshore banks normally a good time for the bigger fish.
Early July and the weather is still changeable to say the least,however the fishing has been good with some nice hounds and bass.It seems ironic that in a year of restrictions we seem to have caught more bass than we have for several years and are seeing some big shoals of small bass (approx 10 inch fish) on the grounds which looks like a good sign for the future.
The last two weeks of the month has been a bit of a struggle with a lack of hounds on the normal grounds and a few days have seen some poor catches with only a handful of small hounds and rays to show for our efforts.Due to the lack of fish we have traveled several miles further north than normal on the slacker tides and this has resulted in some good catches of smoothhounds in the six to twelve pound bracket with the odd larger fish to fourteen pounds.Most days have continued to throw up a bass or two up to seven pounds and the last few days have seen a return of the mackerel giving a bit of variety over the slack water.August normally sees us catching some of the bigger female hounds so we live in hope!!!!
June has started with some better hounds beginning to show up in all areas and along with some good bass some very good fishing to be had at the moment,there have also been a few early mackerel which everyone enjoys catching,brilliant bait and great on the barbeque.
The end of the month and the fishing has continued to be good with some very good catches of bass and hounds, although the big female hounds have not shown in any numbers yet with the biggest on Seawatch so far at 16 pounds,next month should see them on the grounds in greater numbers. The early showing of mackerel seem to have disappeared again and I wonder if the huge amount of freshwater in the estuary from the unusually heavy rain we have had is affecting them.Rays not spread on the grounds as they were but if you drop on a nest as we did last Sunday still in numbers,Peters party catching approx 80 rays in a crazy three hour period before we moved to chase a shoal of bass which the seagulls had alerted us to,all small schoolies but great fun and all returned,then finished the day with a few hounds and more rays, everyone having had a great day.
May has started with some some changes in the fishing within the Thames estuary with some early Hounds and bass showing up in the ever present ray catches.May has continued to give us some good catches of medium hounds,rays and some excellent bass,tha prospects for June look good and we should see the rays thinning out a bit and hopefully the arrival of the bigger female hounds.
The 5th of April and back to reality after a fantastic holiday and back on Seawatch fishing, The cod still not playing the game with only an odd fish being taken by anglers although some reports of good cod catches by the commercial netters in the area,a bit disappointing and looking like we are not going to see a spring run of cod this year. Never mind because the rays have turned up in huge numbers again this year providing us with some excellent sport with up to 70 plus fish per day easily acheivable the best days seeing in excess of 100 rays boated to squid and herring baits.
The 27th April saw a Norfolk police qualifying match fished at Brightlingsea on a scruffy kind of day with fresh norhtwesterly winds.The match was fished on a catch and release points system and saw some good catches of rays,dogfish,whiting one lonely cod and the first Smoothhound of the year on Seawatch, results as follows:
1st ……Ian Hinchcliffe on Seawatch
2nd…..Mark Beresford on Seawatch
3rd…… Mike Askew on Sophie Lea
The start of March continued to disappoint with the cod still failing to show off the Essex coast however the warmer days saw some good numbers of Thornbacks being caught although every time we had a sharp frost it seemed to put them off the feed.The middle of the month saw me cheer up as it was time for a late winter holiday in Cuba where the lack of cod would be the last thing on my mind.
February has seen the bad weather continue to keep us in port and on the days we have been to sea the fishing has been poor.The cod have been preoccupied with the spats and herring with only an odd fish being caught, however some days have continued to see good ray catches although they have been patchy,up to 40 on a good day and only a handful on the poor days.Things can only improve and I am confident next month will see an improvement in the weather and the fishing.
The new year has started with some good ray fishing with the best so far at 19lbs 2ozs for regular Tony Holt .Cod fishing still a bit slow but a few nice fish on most days.The second half of January has been a non event with constantly high winds stopping all but an odd trip,the couple of trips we did produced a few more rays but hardly any cod as the grounds are now awash with large shoals of sprats keeping the cod high off the bottom away from our baits. Hopefully next month will see the sprats move on and cod catches improve again.
December has been a month of storms, all I seem to have done is cancel trip after trip due to the strong winds.On the handful of days we have managed to get out the fishing has also been disappointing with only a handful of cod showing, the rods have still been busy with lots of whiting and dogfish ( not what we are looking for but they do break the boredom) there have also been some nice rays with the best day seeing nine caught up to double figures.There have been some large shoals of herring in our area which have probably kept the cod away from our baits but they seem to have thinned out a bit now so hopefully the cod fishing will improve for us if the wind stops blowing long enough for us to get to sea.
The first two days in November were flat calm with dense fog and saw approx 20 nice cod and 8 or 9 rays caught on each day.Then the weather returned to being very unsettled and courtesy of the jet stream and our caribbean friends Abigail and Kate has blown ever since.I did manage a couple of trips last week in between depressions and caught some good cod,so the fish are there we just need the weather to settle down so we can get at them.
As expected October started with some nice codling being caught and although the weather has been very unsettled we have had some warm and sunny autumn days and managed to put in a lot of trips inbetween the windy days.There have been some huge shoals of whiting and numerous dogfish on the grounds which at times have become tedious,snatching the baits intended for the cod.As usual we have also caught several thornback rays to double figures along with one or two bass.
The first few days in September saw similar catches to the end of August on Seawatch and then I had a break and spent a week on the Norfolk Broads with the wife.We were lucky with the weather and had a great time float fishing for Perch and Roach,a really enjoyable holiday that I would recommend to anyone (fisherman or not).
September 15th saw me back on Seawatch chasing the more normal quarry and between the windy days we had some reasonable catches of rays,hounds and codling. The only downside being the vast numbers of spotted dogfish on some of the offshore grounds which in some places were i mpossible to handle as they took the baits before anything else had a chance.This led me to fish inshore where there were not so many dogfish this turned out to be a good move as there were more codling inshore and we enjoyed some good catches of codling to seven pounds with quite a few rays up to double figures.
Codling should move on to the grounds in large numbers in the next month and all the signs look like we are in for a bumper season
The last few days of July and first week of August were a bit disappointing,the Mackerel had disappeared and the fishing in general was fairly quiet with just a few small hounds and rays making up the catches.The middle of the month saw things improve with some really big Smoothounds showing again the best on Seawatch at 2o lbs 8 ozs although I heard of several bigger than that being caught.We have also seen some good bass starting to show again as these fish start to shoal up before leaving us in the autumn,Mike McHale had a cracker at 9lbs 8ozs.There have also been some better thornbacks and the odd Stingray showing,with most trips throwing up one or two cod to 7lb as well.All in all some good mixed fishing to be had at the moment and with autumn almost upon us I think the cod numbers will improve quickly next month and improve the mixed fishing for a while before we get into winter mode of cod and rays.
July has seen an increase in the weed which has made some of the grounds almost unfishable so we have had to fish different areas.The fishing has still been steady although the average hound size has been smaller with more single figure fish in the catches,Some days have seen the rays increasing in numbers again with the best day so far at 18 fish from 6 to 12 pounds , an odd few bass still showing most trips,Last week the water cleared up a bit and we started to catch several mackerel,great for bait and the barbeque.As I write this 26/7/15 we have just lost a couple of days to a big low pressure system so cant wait to get back out after them .
Although the weather has still been fairly changeable through June the fishing has been great.Most days have produced some great catches of double figure smoothounds with fish of 14 to 15 pounds fairly common.As usual there have been a few rays but not in the numbers we saw them last month.Stephen Ward caught the first Stingray of the season on Seawatch,just a baby at 16 pound but it gave Stephen a good scrap before coming to the net.We have also had our share of bass with one or two on most days to worm or crab baits. Despite trying several times we have not found more than a handful of mackerel,the water has not cleared up yet and I think this is affecting the catches,hopefully it will improve next month.
May unusually has been a very unsettled period of weather and I have had to cancel a couple of trips which is very unusual for us this time of year.However the fishing has been brilliant with large numbers of thornback rays on the inshore grounds ( so many I have lost count some days with the better days producing in excess of seventy fish) There have still been a few codling to 6lb with the last couple of trips only producing an odd couple of fish I think they are finally moving on. On the odd calm days we have had we have had some great trips offshore with the first of the smoothhounds putting in an appearance and some good bass catches of upto thirty bass,the average being 2 to 3lb but with the odd bigger fish.The best so far this season on Seawatch being a 9lb 8oz fish to Mark Baxter
April has seen some fantastic sport,the codling have stayed much longer than expected and we have regularly had catches of 80 plus codling to five pounds on the boat along with numbers of rays to 15 pounds.As I write this (28/4/15) we are still catching some codling but not in the numbers we were getting and it looks like they are finally moving off.The fishing is still fast and furious with lots of Thornbacks now on the grounds and a few early bass also showing up.The bass should increase over the next few weeks along with the first of this years smoothounds.
March started as usual with some very strong winds and I had to cancel a couple of trips, as I write this it is the middle of the month and the weather has settled down, the last few trips have seen some excellent catches of codling to four pounds and with the slightly warmer weather the Thornback numbers are slowly increasing several fish to fifteen pounds showing up on most trips. The end of the month will probably see the cod start to leave as they are replaced by rays and other species as winter finally gives way to spring. March the 11th saw the first bass on Seawatch (very small) but they are coming!
February started with the codling still gorging on the large shoals of sprats which had appeared off the Essex coast at the end of January, consequently they ignored our baits and we had a few quiet trips however by the middle of the month the sprat shoals started to disperse and catches improved with an average of fifty codling up to four pounds coming to the boat on most days with the better trips seeing up to one hundred codling being caught.As usual there were also a few thornback rays to double figures but with the colder weather not as many as we saw this time last year. All in all things are shaping up for some very good spring fishing in the next few weeks.