Summer 2023 Blog

Well, this blog will be a different from previous years as I haven’t done that much coarse fishing!


The reason is simple, it’s been too hot! I went out on the first night of the season, as I usually do, highly expecting to catch a few zander as normally the first night is pretty good to be honest. However, I launched my boat, got everything ready and tidied up, then went out into the main river and turned the sounder on, the temperature showed 23 degrees! Now I know it had been hot for a few weeks previously, but it was nowhere near as bad as the previous year, yet the water temperature was sky high! I thought that the sounder or transducer was incorrect at first and turned it on and off, but it still read the same. I have never seen the river that temperature before, let alone in June!

On top of this there was very little flow in the river, which always makes it even harder, so I motored to narrower deeper section where there should be more water movement and had a few tentative casts, nothing. I could see some “blobs” on the bottom, but they weren’t moving at all, and to cut a long story short I Blanked. I gave up at 2am and settled in for the night. I think this was the first blank I can remember on the first day of the season, ever!


The next morning, I got up at first light, managed to pick up two little zeds on the way back to the slipway and I was off and away by 7am, and haven’t been back since! I have been waiting for some significant rainfall to up the levels a bit and cool it off, but we haven’t had enough to do that yet and we are officially in a “prolonged dry weather” period – Again!

I think it’s likely to be September before I’m back after them, so I needed something to do in the meantime. Lucky, last year I decided to bite the bullet and join a marina on the Bristol Channel to give me options should the same hot weather wipe out the summer river fishing again, and unfortunately or fortunately (depending on how you look at it), it looks like it was the correct thing to do.


I like a bit of sea fishing, and I have done quite a lot in the past, mostly from the shore, but having a boat makes it a lot easier, if you can get out. The problem is my boat is quite small (for sea fishing), its ok during fine weather but if it kicks up a bit it you have be careful! What this means in practice is that that there are some conditions that I simply would be an idiot to go out in, and some wind directions that are a no go due to the amount of fetch it kicks up.

The Bristol Channel has been on fire for both rays and smooth hounds this year, and I’ve had good days seemingly every time I have been out! What has been noticeable is that the areas you get the most rays, aren’t necessarily the same areas you would get the hounds! And they are prevalent at different states of tide. This isn’t a bad thing really as it means I can anchor up for a couple of hours and fish for rays, while waiting for the tide to pull a bit harder and move to a hound area.


By far the best bait for the hounds is Peeler Crab, but this is expensive and often hard to get hold of. As an alternative I think the Prawn and Squid combo is nearly as good if there are lots of hounds around. Having very little left in the freezer I requested some from Baitbox with my last order, and they sent me some weird red coloured jumbo prawns, which were originally for salmon fishing. In the murky waters of the Bristol Channel, I don’t think that colour is that important anyway, so on my next trip out, I lashed some up and wanged them out. The fish loved them! Well, the rays liked them on their own, the hounds preferred them with a wrap of squid.


Fresh prawns used to be the go-to bait on the River Tamar when I used to fish for thornbacks down there, but in the Bristol Channel if I was fishing solely for them my bait of choice would be Launce, especially for the bigger Blond rays. The fact that I was picking rays up on bright red prawns did take me by surprise! There were even several double hook ups on them when tide was suitable for them to move around a bit.


The Smooth Hound run on the Bristol Channel has been terrific this year, they first started showing up in early June, and by mid-July it seems that they were more or less everywhere from Cardiff down. While out on the boat I saw quite a lot being caught from various beach marks which is a good sign, in fact there was one occasion where I think I was fishing too far out for them after watching a beach angler catch three in quick succession fishing maybe at maybe 80 yards!


The average size was also quite good at around 8 – 9lbs, and if they are in the area the fishing can be hectic. There were occasions where I was only fishing one rod, as having two on at once is a nightmare in a big tide. I like fishing for Smooth Hounds as they do scrap, especially if you get a double figure one on usual up-tide gear. In-fact I went through two rod tips on hounds this season, one wrapped me up in the net and put too much pressure on the tip and the other went ballistic at the side of the boat and I had the drag up too much in hindsight and the rod went with a catastrophic bang! I still landed it though!


I’ve also been and had a go for the Bass, which are usually caught on big smelly baits in the coloured waters of the Bristol Channel. This year, there have been a few times when the water hasn’t been churned up as much as usual and has been relatively clear for the Bristol Channel that is, and when it’s been like this, I’ve picked a few up on lures. Westin Sandy Andy in Robo-Cod colour has been the best catcher so far, I’ve got them in the 42g 15cm and 62g 17cm with the smaller one being the more constant catcher. Bass are strange in-that they seem a bit like perch when you see them on the sounder in the way they behave. All of a sudden, they are there, then the shoal moves quickly, and they are hard to find again. They also go up and down in the water column a lot as well, one shoal will come through right on the bottom, then the next will be 5 feet down.


Most of my Bass have been caught while spot locked over rough ground with a good tide flow at high tide, I like to cast out the side of the boat, let the lure sink and then tighten up and let the tide work the lure around on a tight line. Usually, you get a hit as it lifts off the bottom, or if you let a bit of line out so it sinks, it’s a bit like zander fishing in a strong current and quite a fun way to waste a couple of hours while you wait for the tide to turn.

I’ve also caught a few Jigging, again over rough ground using Sandy Andy. Due to the speed of the tide in the Bristol Channel I nearly always slow the drift down. I do this by putting the electric on heading lock against the flow and set it to counter the drift down to at last 1mph. This means that the lure will flow out the back of the boat as you work it, but it seems to work quite well. I haven’t caught any really large Bass on this method, but it means you can cover a lot of ground.

Baby Shark

I have also picked up a few little Tope again, and I have heard of several being caught by shore anglers as well. However, the area I am fishing doesn’t really have a history of Tope being caught. Maybe next year I will put some bigger baits out and see if there are any bigger ones around, it could be interesting.

Hopefully by the time this goes up I will be back on the predators, but I am also looking forward to a bit of Cod fishing this winter if I can get out!