Photos from 2009

Happy New Year to all you kayak fishing folk out there. Many thanks to those who have followed my blog this year. I’ve a busy year planned for next year, with trips planned around Scotland, England and Wales..  I can’t wait !

Essex – East Coast Cod Hunt

Well the festivities of Christmas are behind us now with a New Year only a couple of days away. Despite the busy holidays, the weather has not provided any real opportunities to wet a line in my part of the country.

However, that all changed yesterday as a brief weather window made an appearance over the southern part of the UK. The fishing locally in the Solent is so poor I don't think twice these days of driving 2-3 hours to find some productive ground. The weather appeared to be better on the east coast and after a couple of phone calls a trip to fish the Essex cod grounds was quickly put together.

The alarm went off at 4am and by 4:30am I was scraping the ice off the car, don’t you love a bit of winter fishing!. A fresh flask of coffee was thrown into the car and I was on the road by 5am with a three hour journey ahead of me.

Fresh bait was collected on arrival from Deans Tackle, the local tackle shop. The lug looked great and with a couple of packets of frozen squid the transaction was completed.

There was five of us in total and we were soon rigging up in preparation for launching. It’s always interesting to look at other peoples setups with a view to potentially improving your own… or just because, like me, you’re plain nosey.


Conditions were absolutely perfect with the water close to glass calm. I was late heading out due to a couple of reasons, firstly I’d not bothered to fully rig my rods the previous evening, plus I’d left the other half of my rod leashes on my other pair of rods. Deep joy, there was no way I was heading without with my rods leashed to the yak so I quick ‘bodge’ job was required. With all that sorted I finally paddled out into the ebbing tide.


The paddle to the mark was about 1.5 miles, though with a hint of warmth from the winter sun and barely a breath of wind, it was very enjoyable. Once anchored at my chosen mark it was a case of baits down and waiting for some action. Baits were 6/0 pennel rigs baited with double squid and tipped off with fresh lugworm. The tide was ebbing quite hard at this point, despite being in only ten metres of water a 6oz weight was needed to hold bottom.


You can clearly see the wind farm in the distance, I was last here a year ago and despite clear signs of construction activities there wasn’t a wind turbine to be seen… look at it now!. Personally I have no problems with viewing wind farms in everyday scenery, it’s clean energy and a must in this day and age.

The first twenty to thirty minutes lacked a single bite, though there was eventually a tapping on a rod tip which produced the first codling of the day. Ok, it wasn’t a keeper but it was a start.


As the tide continued to ebb at around 2 knots the cod bites kept coming, they were generally small fish at around 1.5lbs which were returned, though there was the odd better fish towards 4lb. The latter size being a nice table size.


As well as having three dorsal fins, two anal fins and a thick white lateral line, the cod is probably best recognised by its ‘chin barbel’ which is clearly visible in the photo below.


Despite the large number of small codling, I soon had four keepers which were kept by the yak in my fish bag. I became a little wary of this as the tide slackened due to the fact a seal appeared about twenty metres ahead of me. Needless to say the fish bag was tossed into the tankwell !


As low water approached and the tide slackened the smaller species came onto the feed. These comprised mainly of whiting though there was the odd pouting for good measure. It was proving just about impossible to get through the whiting to locate some cod which was a tad frustrating.




There were a couple of times during the session when a flotilla of ocean going jet skis made a close run past as they headed up the coastline, at times their lack of consideration was a little too obvious. There’s a whole ocean out there, do they have to pass within twenty metres ?


The fishing wasn’t nearly as prolific as previous trips to this venue, this was no doubt down to the abundance of sprats, a small oily baitfish on which the cod gorge themselves. The presence of sprats tends to kill the fishing, though they’re only inshore for a few weeks so the fishing should soon bounce back. This little fellow below was regurgitated by a whiting, clearly his life was all too short !


The session was relatively short, maybe around four hours. I would have had to wait 3-4 hours for the tide to start moving once more and on a cold winters day that just wasn’t an option. The freezer is re-stocked, the wife is happy for a month at least and the overall result was an enjoyable trip catching up with some good friends. Roll on the next session.

Below is a short video of yesterdays session.

Kayak fishing in Essex

Bristol Channel – Monster Cod !

How the weather has changed this past week. Temperatures are starting to plummet with heavy snow falls forecast over the next 48 hours. I’d noticed at the weekend that there was a possible weather window mid-week, so the yakfishing gear accompanied me back to work. Sure enough, I woke up Tuesday morning, my day off, and the wind were light south easterlies and forecast to hold for the day.

On my previous trip to the Bristol Channel a chat to a local fisherman had provided me with a few potential marks. I’d also been looking over the Garmin Bluecharts in order to find some fishy looking marks.

A lazy drive of an hour or so saw me arrive at the local tackle shop. Disappointingly he was clean out of fresh lugworm so I had to make do with 1/2lb of fresh rag and a box of frozen squid.

Despite the tide having turned onto the flow , I struggled to get across the mud flats to the water. After a bit of ‘cross country’ travel over some heavily weeded rocks I finally launched into a flat calm sea.

A beautiful winters day.. 

Looks perfect..

The light easterly breeze was biting, though with three layers of thermals, my drysuit and some waterproof ski gloves.. I was toasty warm. I paddled over a mile to my first mark of the day, a hard shingle bottom as opposed to the mud I’d fished on my previous trips.

Baits were full half a mackerel on a 6/0 pennel and a double squid tipped off with fresh ragworm, again, on a 6/0 pennel rig.

6/0 pennel baited with squid & ragworm

The flood tide was running nicely and a 6oz weight kept the baits tight to the bottom. Initially the fishing was slow though there was soon a flurry of aggressive rattles on the mackerel rod.

The culprits tuned out to be Whiting of a respectable size. I only picked up four due to the 6/0 hooks, however, if I’d down-sized to a 1/0 flapper rig I’m sure I could have quite happily bagged up on Whiting.


The fishing was steady with a few Thornback Ray making a show. Initially these were small, though as the session progressed the size steadily increased towards double figures.

Thornback ray

Thornback ray

There was an obvious lack of a Conger Eel presence on the flood tide, rather unusual for this area of the Bristol Channel. However, as the tide slackened and turned onto the ebb a few conger started to make an appearance. They weren’t particularly large, though they provided good sport in the tide, especially on the 6lb outfit.

Conger eel

The Thornback Ray kept feeding well into the ebb tide, by this time the sun has long since set. The Easterly breeze firmed up and the swell increased to a point where is occasionally broke over the side of the yak, filling the footwells in the process. It was getting quite cold at this point, I was extremely thankful for the pockets on my Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD !.

Thornback ray

Thornback ray

Just before the top of the tide there were a couple of gentle knocks on my 6lb outfit baited with the squid. I held the rod and felt the bite develop over the period of a few seconds. I raised the rod,feeling the weight of a good fish. The light rod bent over as the fish took some line. Nothing new here, and I suspected a decent Conger Eel. Several times the fish came to mid-water before plunging for the bottom.

I was surprised and ecstatic when a large Cod appeared on the surface. As it came towards the kayak I could see that it was well hooked, though I took no chances and gaffed the fish, bringing it aboard.

Safe on board

It was positively huge!, dwarfing my best previous cod of around 7lb. I attempted to weigh it on the kayak. though the swell saw the weight drift between 18.5lb and 22lb, either way it was a positively storming fish!.



I fished on into the dark and the action continued with some more nice Thornback Ray. At one point I was convinced that I’d hooked into another large Cod, though it turned out to be a large Thornback. After about five hours on the water I was starting to feel the cold, in fact I was struggling to feel my feet. The swell had risen throughout the session, as had the Easterly wind. At one point it even snowed for a few seconds with a steady spattering of sleet as the night progressed.

Due to the increasing cold I decided to call it a night somewhat earlier than planned. The paddle back was assisted with the wind and tide so I found myself making a steady 4-5mph and was approaching my launch site in quick time. Once alongside I re-weighed the Cod and it came in a 21lb 2oz !, a great result.

Cod - PB of 21lb 2oz

Here’s a short video from the day..

Capture of my PB Cod @ 21lb 2oz

I’m praying that the weather will allow a couple of trips out over the Christmas period. Hopefully a trip over to the east coast in the hunt for more cod.

Bristol Channel chasing Conger

Well it’s been over a month since my last report and that’s down to one factor alone, the atrocious weather!. I’ve never known such prolonged periods of high winds. That being said, once you’re into kayak fishing in a big way you become an avid watcher of the weather forecast, more so the wind predictions, far more than I ever did as a shore fisherman. Once the wind passes much over 10mph a fishing trip soon becomes questionable.

So after a month of depression, a short weather window presented an opportunity to wet a line. The Bristol Channel was again the chosen venue. after the great success of the previous two trips it was difficult to consider another venue. I’m still chasing a large conger, and after dropping a fish next to the yak that was around 35/40lb, my appetite has been well and truly wet.

Despite the tides not being ideal (they were neaps) the weather for this time of year was quite simply stunning. Temperatures of 12 degrees and wind of 5-6 mph made for a cracking day.

Peace & quiet

I chose not to paddle too far and fished a mark relatively close inshore, a mark that has produced before. It’s not necessarily about paddling miles to reach a productive mark, many good marks are close inshore so why paddle excessive distances?. I was soon anchored up in around 10m of water fishing the last couple of hours of the flood tide.

Full of anticipation..

As mentioned in previous reports, the flood seems to run considerably lighter than the ebb allowing me to initially get away with using a 4oz weight. Baits were fillets of mackerel and double squid on 6/0 pennel rigs. Target species were conger and ray with the outside chance of a decent cod.

It was a quiet 30 minutes before the first bite appeared.

Conger eel

A reasonable conger for the first fish of the day. The squid was seeing very little action compared to the previous trips and the Thornback rays were very thin on the ground. That being said the sport was steady throughout the day with Conger Eel making up the majority of the catch with a handful of Dogfish thrown in for good measure.The eels were generally around the 4-8lb mark with the odd bigger fish thrown in for good measure.



The Conger Eels provided good sport on both rod setups (6/8lb and 20lb). Though as the tide ebbed the current increased considerably and the lighter rod struggled with larger fish in the strong current. Neither was it such a pleasure to use with weights of 6-8oz. I’m looking to purchase two new rods this month. Again they will be Shimano Beastmasters, though I'm totally undecided as whether to go for the 10-15lb or the 16-20lb models…..

Conger eel

Conger eel

Sadly there were no large eels caught, nor large Rays or Cod for that matter. Though it didn’t really matter, after such a long spell off the water all that mattered was actually getting out, good fishing is just a great bonus.

The best fish of the day is below. I didn’t get the opportunity to lift it out of the water as it managed a lightning escape.

Conger eel

After watching the sunset I fished on for another thirty minutes before calling it a night.


I played around with my Helmet Hero head mounted camera again throughout the day, this time with a bit more success. The only real downside is the lack on a confirmation sound when selecting the unit ON/OFF. This sadly leads to the occasional missed video clip, which no doubt will prove infuriating at some point in time !

Some video footage of the day

Hopefully I’ll be out again within the week, watch this space.

Bristol Channel – Thornback Ray & Conger Eel

Well this trip was meant to happen yesterday when the wind was nil and the sea as flat as a pancake… however, it didn’t due to work commitments. Somehow I managed to wangle to today off today and I was on the road by 9am, heading in the direction of the Bristol Channel. The last two trips here have been truly awesome and I was hoping for some similar action.

I took a slight detour and had a full English breakfast, and it was just the ticket. The weather on the other hand wasn’t so good. A blustery wind blowing from the south east, though the headlands offered some protection, I didn’t hold too much hope once I was a few hundred metres out.

I was rigged and ready to launch just before midday. The sea looked perfect, how deceiving an offshore blow can be!

Ready to launch..

I paddled to my mark and watched the wind pick up as I left the shelter of the headlands. It was a little worse than I’d hoped for, blowing a steady 15 knots, gusting towards 20 knots. Being wind over tide during the flood period caused the yak to swing almost ninety degrees to the tide flow, not ideal. I was wishing I’d bought my drogue along, next time!.

The baits were big, pennel rigs using 6/0 Sakuma 545 hooks. A cracking hook which I highly recommend, strong whilst being extremely sharp.

Mackerel pennel rig

I only took squid and mackerel as it’d proved so successful on my pervious trips. I was assured that it was still a bit early for the cod to be about in any numbers so I held back on purchasing any lugworm.

Squid pennel rig

The first 15-20 minutes were quiet, though the conger soon started to show themselves. They remained quite small throughout the day varying between about 6-15lb, the average being around 10lb. Though I'm hardly knocking that, on my 6lb rod these are still cracking sport.

Thornback Ray

I also took along my 20lb Ugly Stik rod in the hope that’d attach myself to a cracking eel as I’d managed the previous week. Despite being a 20lb class rod it still retains quite some flexibility whilst giving very clear bite indications.

Waiting to strike…

Fish on!

  20lb boat road in action!

The reel in the above photo is a Shimano Charter Special, a small lever drag which I’m hoping will be used in anger next year against some tope, to date it’s proved to be an excellent piece of kit.

The 6lb Shimano rod was getting good workout throughout the day, coping with the smaller conger with ease, as well as the bigger rays that were proving to be plentiful.

Nothing like a good bend in your rod….

6lb boat rod in action!

The fishing never really let up for the 3 hours of the flood, slack water and into the ebb tide. The ebbs tides runs strongly here and I’m assured that the ebb tide is the better part of the tide to fish.

The tide was quite small today, though it still produced a good 2 knots+ on the ebb. On the flood I was getting away with 4oz of lead to hold bottom. On the ebb I quickly moved to 6oz, though I was eventually forced to use 8oz despite being in only 8-10m of water. This is where the 6lb rod struggles, anything more than 6oz of lead (2-4oz is ideal) and the pleasure disappears, there’s no feel to the rod and the tip is pulled over. Still, it’s a good excuse to purchase a couple of 12lb rods in the near future!.

The rays were a good size today, rarely dropping below double figures. There were a couple of crackers amongst them, I didn’t bother weighing them though they were clearly heavier than the 11lb ray I caught on the previous trip.

Thornback Ray

Thornback Ray      Thornback Ray

In a running tide on the 6lb rods these are fantastic fun. Taking line, hanging in the tide, getting them back to the yak can take quite some effort at times. Below is my best ray of the day.

Best Thornback of the day !

Now when it came to capturing some images of the conger I had a cunning plan. A while ago I purchased a Hero Go Pro video/still camera. It’s a cracking piece of kit, waterproof with a near 180 degree view. I reckon it’s ideal for the yak. However, I experienced ‘technical difficulties’ today, all due to user error!. Basically is comes down to being more familiar with the unit. With it head mounted, you’ve no indication as to whether you’ve correctly switched it on, or selected record.

Helmet Hero Wide

On a couple of occasions I failed to depress the record button sufficiently, meaning some great scenes weren’t recorded. However, I did manage a great what I thought would be a great bit of congering footage, alas, I neglected to remove the lens cap!!!!.

I did eventually manage a couple of pieces of film which I’ll endeavour to edit and post over the next couple of days, again, it’ll be a learning process.

Here’s what little I did manage to salvage…

To conclude, the day produced another cracking session. I ended up with 15 conger eels and 6 thornback rays averaging around 10lb a piece, that’s a whole lot of fish. Chatting to the locals I was told not to expect too much as the tides were small, the best fishing would be over the weekend as the tides headed towards the springs. If that’s the case there’s hopefully better to come. I know that there are some big eels down there, and what with the cod due to show in numbers over the next few weeks the area promises some cracking sport.