Bristol Channel Thornback fishing

Yet again it’s been hugely frustrating due to the poor weather. Heavy snow and strong winds have kept me off the water for a couple of weeks. However, a forecasted break in the weather allowed me to plan a weekend trip. I was looking to fish an evening session, sleep overnight in the car, before heading off to fish a new mark further down the coast.

I drove up quite early in order to collect my bait before the shop closed for the day. The fresh bait there is truly excellent, it’s the tackle shop in Watchet for those who haven’t read my previous entries. The chaps name is Steve, very helpful fellow.

The rig up took place at a leisurely pace and I eventually launched around 7pm. What a cracking evening, barely a breath of wind, clear skies with plenty of light as a full moon is less than a week away. There was a fairly strong swell rolling down from the north, though to be honest it was quite relaxing. For this time of year is seemed exceptionally warm, certainly compared to the weather as of late. Less than a fortnight ago it touched –22 degrees on my local airfield at Yeovilton.

Bait were mounted on a 6/0 pennel rig, large squid tipped off with lug on one, a lash of mackerel on the other. Within 15 minutes I’d hooked into the first fish of the evening, nothing huge, a thornback of around 5lb. No complaints though, the blank was off and the session was barely underway.


As can be seen from the above photo I was trialling a Sea Scenter, a new weighted feeder suitable for the sea fishing environment. I wont say too much at this stage as it was my first experience at using them. I’ll post a full review within a month or so once I’ve clocked up a few trips with them. That being said, I was 30-40 metres from another yak fisherman who had no fish by the time I’d managed six rays.

No sooner had I hooked into one ray when the other rod started nodding away. I soon had the first fish back into the water and the other fish was heading heading towards the kayak.


The was a distinct lack of Conger Eels during the evening, this was no doubt due to the cold weather forcing them into deeper water. I found this disappointing as they are great sport on light tackle, they are without a doubt my main reason for fishing this particular venue.

At times the rod tip rattled aggressively, a sure sign of whiting. They were all quite small, though despite the 6/0 hooks I still hooked a few during the course of the evening. I put one down as live bait for over an hour, though it failed to produce a result. It was no doubt quite relieved when it was unhooked and swam away into the evening !


As the tide continued on the flood the bites kept coming, this resulted in more rays coming to the yak, a total of six during the session.

I took two charcoal hand warmers with me,slipped into the front pockets of my Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD. This resulted is considerable heat being passed to the ‘Hand Warmer pockets’ located immediately behind. At one point I opened one of these units, blowing on the stick as it was about to go out. A sparking plume of embers disappeared in the evening breeze, mission accomplished. Moments later I could swell burning plastic… looking down I saw a small glowing ember, the result?, a 2mm hole in the outer cover of my drysuit!. Nothing a simple repair wont cure, another one of those comedy kayak fishing moments !




I’d managed to forget my coffee flask, not great issue as the evening was mild for this time of year. However, around 11pm the breeze lifted and I found myself starting to chill off. There’s no point in fishing if you’re not enjoying yourself so I called it a day and lifted anchor.

On returning to the car I found it nicely frosted up. I threw on old tarpaulin over the car before packing the kayak gear away. I cant normally sleep with cars headlights driving past on a regular basis, though this seemed to be the perfect solution.


I woke during the evening frozen solid, perhaps my summer sleeping bag just wasn’t up to the job!. I threw my thermals back on and all was sorted. I woke up rather chilled, glancing at the clock proved all too alarming. I normally wake at daylight if over-nighting in a vehicle, however, it was 9am. I’d missed the flood tide, I’d missed the opportunity to travel to a new mark.. all in all very frustrating. I rigged the yak, though the wind picked up and I knew screwed up the master plan by sleeping in.

I decided to give it a miss and wait for a better day. Hopefully I wont be waiting too long this time !

First trip of 2010

The constant struggle against the poor weather continues, today I hopped in the car heading off on the school run with the dashboard thermometer showing –4 degrees, deep joy.

There was a lull in the wind on the 2nd of this month, ideal really as the New Year’s alcohol had been purged from my system. I’d arranged to meet up with Dave and fish the Blue Anchor area of the Bristol Channel. He’s rather fortunate in living half an hour or so down the road, for me it was a three hour journey.

Winds were forecast to be light westerly's, decreasing as the evening progressed. Ninety minutes into my journey the ice warning illuminated on the dashboard, the temperature had dropped to freezing point. On arrival it had slipped down to minus one.

After a bit of a chat as to whether we should go for it or not we started to rig the kayaks. Dave was itching to field test his new Garmin 451s GPS Combo, all colour featuring the latest G2 software. I must say that it looked quite impressive, I’m sure it’ll serve him well.

Rigging up

It transpired that this was to Dave’s first night trip, he was all organised, stern lamps, etc.. I’ve got to be honest, conditions probably weren’t ideal for a first night trip, freezing temperatures and a slightly lumpy sea. That being said, he was very familiar with the mark, plus had me for company.

We were soon anchored and fishing in about ten metres of water. The tide was a big spring of 11.7m and it was pushing past at a good rate of knots. I normally fish with 4oz of weight on the flood at this mark, I found myself using 8oz at one point just to make sure I was fishing hard on the bottom.

It was soon dark, and for me at least the fishing the extremely slow. I’ve previously found that this mark doesn’t fish well for me wish a bit of a swell running. I’m not to sure why, I think it may be down to the braid line moving the lead/bait around too much as the kayak rises and falls in the swell. I try to overcome this by fishing the bait well down tide of the kayak, though I can tell by the movement of the rod tip that the swell it was still having an effect.

Dave's yak

The photo above is of Dave on his Prowler 13. I only took one photo that evening, mainly due to the cold, plus I didn’t have too much to photograph!. The static temperature during the trip fell to minus two degrees, factoring in the westerly wind of 10-12mph, that put the wind chill factor at around minus seven degrees !

Despite wearing three pairs of heavy wool socks on, I eventually lost the battle to keep my feet warm after about three hours. I really hate cold feet, I’m going to have to try some different socks or liners to see if I can overcome this problem. The problem is similar with my hands, though I wore my waterproof ski gloves all evening which enabled me to keep fishing. Though at times they did chill off, but with the gloves, or with the use of the hand warmer pockets of my PFD, I managed to keep them sufficiently warm.

The fishing slowly picked up, it seemed to coincide with a slackening on the flood tide. I managed a couple of strap conger, a small thornback ray and an very small codling. It’s certainly better than blanking so I’m not going to complain.

Ting codling !

I heard a couple of cheers during the evening so I knew that Dave had caught something decent. This was soon backed up with a radio confirmation. He managed a couple of very sizeable Thornback Ray to double figures, at least someone was finding the bigger fish!

Dave's Thornback

After about four hours on the water the tide turned onto the ebb. After a quick chat on the radio we’d established that we were both well and truly frozen solid and were happy to call it quits. Typically the wind eased off at this point resulting in a flatter sea, in fact a very nice evening. The sky was almost free of clouds and it was a beautiful full moon making a night fish pleasant, well if it hadn’t been for the sub zero temperatures it would have been very pleasant !

Carting the kayaks back to the car when you can’t feel your feet isn’t the best feeling in the world, stripping out of your drysuit and thermals back to your underwear is refreshing… a warm fireplace and a glass of Drambuie was on my mind at this point in time.

After about an hour of driving home in my socks the feeling was fully back into my feet, ah, the joys of winter kayak fishing. Dave’s first night trip was a total success with a couple of cracking fish to show for it. If the cold weather continues, and it’s forecast too, I’m guessing that my next couple of trip will be daytime trips with little wind. Now all I need is that weather window.