Misty zander and slipway mishaps


While the weather has been nice, I have been doing a few overnight sessions on the river. Mainly because the river has been low and clear which means that your best chance for any sizeable zander has been in the evening and at first light. What is weird is that earlier on in the season it was certainly more productive right in the middle of the night, from midnight until maybe one o’clock in the morning. Lately the feeding patterns seem to have changes with first light being the trigger time which is fairly annoying, it’s difficult to fish till the early hours then get up again and fish at 4am! What I should do is stop fishing earlier, but I find that difficult as I always think I’m going to get a big one, and suffer from that “just 5 more minutes”. Also, I am certainly more of a night owl than an early bird! But if that’s the time they are feeding then that’s the time you have to be there.

I find zander can be quite predictable when they feed, and you can almost “tell” if you are going to catch on a specific day, usually by the activity of other fish. If the river is “alive” with fish rolling into dark then it is likely to be a good night. If it’s quiet, or worse, if a mist comes down, then it’s blank time until it lifts. Why this should be I don’t know, but a mist on the water at night does seem to kill the fishing. It also does it with elver fishing – which is also interesting, as both species are adapted to move around in very low light conditions.

Moon phases may also effect the feeding patterns of zander. But I have not bought in to this, really it only influences me because it affects the tides, and I need to know what size tide it is, and when it is going to be, for anchoring safely at night on the tidal.
Though, saying that, regarding bait fishing, I have caught more big zander during a dark moon phase, but that could just be coincidence.
This night was a full moon, and I was being bothered by eels, nipping and dragging my baits around. You do seem to get more eel action on a full moon, usually silver eels moving back down the river. Eel action is another good indicator that there are few zander around. Usually, what happens is that when some big zander move in the eels all bugger off, or hide, as it usually goes quiet for about half hour then you will start catching zander.


That’s exactly what happened on my last trip out and I had two reasonable fish in quick succession, before the dreaded mist came down and killed the fishing, time to get some sleep.

Waking up early covered in moisture from the damp, I set about tidying the boat up, and trying to lay everything out to dry a little, as I manoeuvred slowly up river looking for a few fish, heading back to the slipway.

I find in the morning the fish are more localised, or maybe it is more like they have returned or are in the process of returning to their “normal” day time haunts. So, I nearly always lure fish for them, and I have found casting over a zander “haunt” a lot more successful then fishing a drop shot or vertical fishing directly over it at this time of day. I am assuming this is because the zander are still more active at this time and more inclined to chase / come up higher in the water.

I’ve done really well on dark lures as well, with my favourites being either the Westin BullTeez in Motor Oil Pike colour, which is a weird kind of brown but has a good thick profile when viewed from underneath. I use these for fishing high up in the water column, with Herring Headlight as a good change colour should I miss a hit. My other go to lure is the KickTeez in Whisky Cola, this is possibly be best zander lure out there, fished with the appropriate jig head and across the current, they are absolutely brilliant and have accounted for some good fish for me this year.


On arriving bleary-eyed back to the slipway, (fishing till 2am and then getting up at 6am doesn’t help) I went through the usual procedure of getting the boat packed away. The best bit of advice I can give you for getting the boat aligned correctly on the trailer is to winch the boat on, don’t be tempted to pull the boat on by hand or with the painter as this can make the boat go on wonky. I have guide posts on the trailer so it’s not so much of an issue for me.

My trailer is bunked – there are advantages / disadvantages to this. The main advantage is that it supports the boat evenly and doesn’t put any pressure points on it, additionally they are “meant” to be better for aluminium boats. The disadvantage is that it can be difficult getting the boat on and off initially, as sometimes they can “stick”. The simple way to help alleviate this is to wet the bunks, either by dunking the trailer, or on shallow slipways throwing a bucket of water over the bunks.
So the first bucket of water went straight onto the first bunk, the second, for some reason, splashed back all over me! Well at least it woke me up! Next I undid the winch and pulled the strap to the back of the trailer, and clipped it to the boat, keeping the strap tight. As the slipway I was using was quite shallow the boat wasn’t on the trailer at all, so I had to winch it from the water. This isn’t usually a problem as the bow goes on to the trailer roller after a couple of turns, then there is less pressure on it. Winching on to wet bunks also reduces the pressure, and I have done this loads of times without any issues.


This time however, with the boat “mainly” on the trailer, there was a bang and the front of the boat shot up! What had happened was the winch strap had snapped! Now you would think that it takes an extraordinary amount of pressure to snap now, but if they are going to go, they nearly always go in the first 6 – 8 inches. This is because this is the bit that is always exposed to the sun and the elements, and is under pressure. Obviously when the boat is put away in storage you should take the winch off / or reduce the pressure on it, but who does that? You should also check the strap and replace regularly maybe every couple of years. This one had been on the trailer for maybe 10 years! So it really owed me nothing.

So I was there at the slipway sopping wet, tired, and with a boat half on the trailer, not the best situation to be in. Luckily I count myself as being fairly strong, especially so when annoyed, so I just pulled the boat up to the winch post and secured it with the painter, and the secondary strap.


It is so important to have a secondary strap or chain to hold your boat on. Twice I have seen boats held on by winches alone come off the trailer on steep slipways, and the injury possible to anyone behind it isn’t worth thinking about.