Fish measures

Last year I found myself having to use a Hawg Trough fish measure when fishing the Hobie World Championships in Texas. It’s a plastic measuring device available in yellow or white. The special design cradles the fish and holds it steady for accurate measurement.


I store it at the rear of the Outback, though on more than one occasion I’ve forgotten to pack it!. I’m starting to enter more competitions and am part of a team for this years Kayak Wars. All fish under 55cm must be measured, so forgetting the measure can result in being able to submit a catch.

I looked around the various UK tackle shops online in the hope of finding an adhesive paddle measure. I know that they are available in the US so I looked on Ebay and quickly found a Rapala measure that fitted the bill. Even with delivery it was cheap enough at around £6. It measures both metric and imperial, max length is 36”/91cm. Fitting was simple, degrease the paddle shaft and put it on. I used a cloth to ensure that it went down evenly and without air bubbles.

It seemed well adhered to the paddle shaft, though to ensure a long life (hopefully!), I sealed all edges with 3M Edge Sealant, masking it off as required to ensure a neat job. I used a scalpel to provide clean cuts around the shaft centre joining point and the holes for altering the blade angles. Again, all edges were carefully sealed.





The paddle on the Hobie see very little use due to it being equipped with the Mirage Drive. How the Rapala measure will endure is yet to be seen. I dare say that it may well wear quicker on a paddle that’s in constant use, how it will fair on my underused Hobie paddle remains to be seen. However, should I forget my Hawg Trough in future I’ll always have a decent fish measure ready to hand.

FOLLOW UP – please read!!!

Ok, as much as the Rapala measure was carefully fitted and edge sealed, within 10 minutes of being afloat it began to peel off!!!!!!!!. I ripped it off in disgust. Hence I deem it unsuitable for fitment to a paddle, no matter how careful you are!

First Smoothound of 2013

It was after 5pm when my phone rang and Jim was on the other ending letting me know he was heading out now. I wondered why he felt the need to tell me this, though it became immediately clear when he reminded me that we’d arranged to fish that evening!.

I’m not one to panic, though I was a few miles from home, dropping my daughter off at her dance class. That game me an hour to get home, feed and shower my son, sort my gear, load the car and be on the road. Timeframes were tight, but doable.

An hour later I started the car and hit the road, talk about recovering the situation!. I’d grabbed a bag of unwashed squid from the freezer, and along with the fresh hardback crabs that Jim had collected, there’d be sufficient bait for the session.

Target fish were Smoothound, though Thornbacks rays, Dogfish and the odd school Bass were also likely to be caught. I’d expected Jim to be afloat when I arrived, though he was there rigging up and we ended up launching together shortly after 7pm. High water was just after 10pm, the plan being to fish until midnight at the latest.

As you can see in the above photo Jim has recently treated him self to a Hobie Outback, he’s spent a couple of weeks getting it rigged ready to fish, hopefully this session would get some slime over his kayak!.

It was only a half mile or so to the mark, about 5m of water which would push to over six at high tide. The tide was fairly weak, typical for this mark as slack water occurs well before high water itself. Rigs were simple running ledgers, one baited with half a squid, split down the middle, the other with a hardback crab. I’m not accustomed to using hardback crabs, all my previous experience has been with peelers or soft backs. I stripped the legs off and hooked them through the leg sockets.

The breeze was quite strong, and with little tide, we were initially anchored side on to the choppy water. It was a tad uncomfortable, though once the tide flow picked up we were swung into the tide making for a better fishing experience. I did learn something interesting about the Mirage Drive, with the pedals centralised (fins down) it really grabs the tide and pulls you inline with the tide in a matter of seconds. A cross wind will swing the kayak across the tide, previously I’ve used a drogue to overcome this with good effect, though the Mirage Drive actually proved more effective at counteracting this. I most impressed at this, fins up against the hull, kayak swings across the tide… fins down, kayak immediately swing back into the tide. Yup, I was also bored due to the lack of fish activity, things were slow!

Apart from a couple of small knocks, it was two hours before I had the first proper bite and found myself hooked up. I have to admit it felt a little feisty, with a bit of head shaking thrown in for good measure. I was thinking school bass, so I was rather surprised when a dogfish broke the surface. I’d forgotten how much fun my Shimano Beastmaster 6-8lb rods were. It needed measuring to qualify for the Kayak Wars competition, measuring Dogfish isn’t the easiest task, however, it was accomplished and the fish returned.

The next half hour was again rather slow, though the squid eventually tempted another fish. This one was not so lively and I was in little doubt as to what it actually was. Sure enough another Dogfish appeared on the surface and after a couple of photographs it was soon back in the water.

By this time the sun had set and the wind was beginning to freshen. It seemed highly unlikely that any fish of note was going to be caught this particular evening. With the wind blowing fairly hard and a few white caps appearing across swell, I raised the hood of my Typhoon PS220 drysuit and sat tight, ever hopeful!


The crab-baited rod was hit quite hard, a couple of aggressive tugs being registered at the rod tip. I picked the rod straight up and waited. I pulled into another hit and briefly felt the weight of a fish, then nothing. Had I been too eager?, the rod was replaced and I waited. A minute later the fish was back, and after waiting a few moments, I tightened up and felt the weight of a good fish. A second later the fish ran hard, stripping 15-20 yards of line from the reel. It ran straight across my other line on its next run and I found myself swapping the rods over whilst it continued to strip line from the reel.

With the drag tightened up a little the fish came under control and I started to bring it back to the kayak. It stayed deep and proved extremely lively, making several shorter runs over the next couple of minutes. The rod was bent over hard, the fish hugging the bottom below the kayak. The first time it surfaced its tail slapped the water hard as it surged for the bottom once more. I saw that it was no monster, though it was going like stink and I was grinning from ear to ear!

With Jim shouting words of encouragement (such as ‘stop messing about with it!’), I finally bought it to the surface and tailed it aboard the Outback. It was a good sized Starry Smoothound,  a nice double I reckon.

After I’d managed to snap a couple of ‘safe photos’ I decided to lie it over the kayak to achieve a better picture. I manoeuvred it in a cracking position and grabbed the camera, focus, click…… apparently a split second too late!!

With the Smoothound swimming away I baited both rods up with hardback crab, hopeful of another fish before the end of the night. However, it wasn’t to be, in fact I failed to register another bite. The crab was clearly proving attractive to other sea creatures though, namely the whelks!. It’s not unusual to retrieve a bait to find one or two whelks attached to it. They can be pulled straight off or often drop straight off, making off at a good speed. Though this was quite different, I’ve never seen so many whelks on one bait, the bait was completely obscured from view. The crab was clearly the favoured meal of these over-sized snails, though they didn’t exactly turn their noses up at the squid neither.

I think we hit the beach before 11pm so it was another relatively short session. Jim didn’t find any fish, but in all fairness, the fishing is particularly hard compared to previous years. I looked back to some photos from this venue in early May 2008. The water temperature back then were almost 16 Celsius, last night it was just over 12 Celsius, that’s quite a difference.

I feel the need for a change of scenery so the next trip will be a road trip/overnighter at a location that’s yet to be decided.

Windy and slow – but it’s all fishing!

I’d hoped to fish a local competition this weekend, though study commitments ruled that one out. The only opportunity to wet a line was Friday afternoon and the weather forecast was most favourable. Light north easterly winds between 8-10mph was going to mean an offshore breeze for the chosen location.

I collected some fresh ragworm from the local tackle shop, this complimented the squid and mackerel that came from my freezer. I was on scene and rigging up by about 1330, ready to launch thirty minutes later. Sunglasses were needed, perhaps we may have a summer after all!. I’d met up with my fishing buddy and I was soon peddling out to locate him on the water. Once a little offshore it was soon apparent that the wind was stronger than forecast, blowing a steady 15-20mph most of the time. It was still offshore so the resulting chop on the water was fairly minimal.

There was a yacht race taking place further offshore, we were well clear of the traffic, though it did provide something to look at for a time.

The rods had been rigged ashore, both with 4’ running ledgers sporting a single 3/0 Kamasan Uptide hook. I mixed the baits up throughout the session, using ragworm tipped with squid/mackerel, squid wrapped with mackerel and squid tipped with mackerel.

It’s fair the say that the fishing was particularly slow, I don’t think that either of us registered a bite for the first hour or so. Slack water occurs at this mark at around two hours before high water and I wasn’t expecting any action until the tide started to pick up. I’d also taken a small spinning rod rigged up with Sabiki’s. A week or two earlier at this location I’d seen a lot of shoaling fish moving through so I was hopeful that I may pick up an early mackerel or some herring.

I’d collected my repaired Shimano 6-8lb Beastmaster rods from my local tackle shop earlier in the day, I really do enjoy using these rods for light fishing. I’d had a total of 5 cracked rings replaced, a result of dropping both rods in a four week period, ouch!.

I finally tempted something to the bait and found myself playing my first fish of the session. It was clearly a ray and put up a good fight, though this may be also had something to do with the line being wrapped around its tail. It’s always pleasing when the first fish comes aboard, time to relax and not worry about going home with a blank score sheet.

It was no monster, measuring in just under 55cm which put it around 7-8lb. However, it was over the qualifying size for the Kayak Wars competition so that was a few points in the bag for my team, great stuff.

Trying to get a ray to lie flat on the measuring board requires a little patience at times!. With the photo evidence achieved the first was safely released. They are edible, though they’re a lot of work to prepare and not the best eating in the sea.

After a very brief lull in the wind, it picked up again, somewhat stronger than before. I rarely use the hood on the PS220 drysuit, though it does prove extremely useful at times. It’s not that pleasant being sat at anchor in blustery weather, though with the hood up all becomes quiet and calm, the transformation is quite amazing.

Despite the windy conditions it was still good being out there fishing. I tried with the Sabikis on several occasions with no success. There were signs of shoaling fish moving through close to the seabed at times, sometimes more mid-water, though I came to the conclusion that they were probably baitfish, well that’s my excuse anyway.

About 30 minutes after the first ray I found myself hooked up once more. It was clearly another ray and provided a brief spell of fun. It was a little smaller at 47cm, disappointingly under the qualifying size for the Kayak Wars competition.

Below is a short video from the day. It’s great so see the action of a light rod providing some serious fun.

A blustery day afloat

Just saved the blank!

I’d planned to fish on Sunday evening, though an afternoon BBQ and a little too much alcohol resulted in those plans failing miserably. Monday was a Bank Holiday, though a late evening session would no doubt impact on my enthusiasm to get out of bed for work the following morning. I pondered, packed the car before finally making at decision at the eleventh hour that I’d go fishing. The venue was Hillhead and I was hopeful of an early Smoothound.

Baits were a little limited due my last minute planning, some crab or fresh ragworm would have been nice, though I had to settle for some mackerel and unwashed squid. Rigs were simple running ledgers. I’d normally fish this venue with my 6-8lb Shimano Beastmaster rods, though after dropping both rods over a two week period I’d put them in to the local tackle shop to have some rings replaced.

Conditions were perfect, the wind was light and by the time I’d dropped anchor and deployed my baited rigs there was only thirty minutes remaining before sunset. I was pleased that I’d made the effort to get afloat, there was a Cuckoo calling in the distance, the occasional Curlew flying overhead, there are definitely worse ways to spend an evening.

Whilst preparing a whole squid I couldn’t help but notice a tail sticking out!. It was tightly fitted inside the squid and I needed to slit the squid in order to remove the fish. Interesting!, a small perch?, bass perhaps?.


Slack water arrives at Hillhead a couple of hours before high water itself, so things were slow to begin with. That said, even when the water did begin the flow there was a distinct lack of activity!. I decided to have a play with the Lowrance Elite 4 DSI fish finder that I fitted whilst rigging the Outback. It’s interesting when looking at fish returns, there’s no fish symbols or arches to look at. Fish returns appear as dots, apparently fish shapes can be discerned under the right conditions (large fish/shallower water, etc). Once you get a feel for what you’re looking at (no fish alarms neither) it actually produces a far more realistic display. Yes, structure is incredibly clear, though it’s easier to pick out fish as opposed to false alarms for weed, etc.


Above in the right photo, you can clearly see a shoal of fish with either stragglers or predators following behind. The Lowrance has a ‘track back’ feature which permits the user to scroll back and analyse ‘historic data’. It’s really handy to be able to look closely at a return at your leisure, as opposed to watching it disappear off the screen before you had a chance.

Getting back to the fishing, well, it was incredibly slow. I’d had one ‘rattling’ bite, though that was it. It was a little disappointing, though the evening was quite stunning so I sat sat back and relaxed. There were some fish moving on the surface, possibly school bass or mullet. At times they swam close to the kayak, before getting spooked and charging away, only the surface wake giving away their presence.

As darkness fell I was still fishless and frustration was beginning to take hold. I was replacing the baits every thirty minutes and with a fresh set of baits in the water I was still holding out some hope of a last minute fish.

My prayers were answered, the squid baited rod being hit quite hard and I immediately found myself hook into a rather lively fish. It made several short runs and seemed to shake its head at times. Was this going to be my first Smoothound of the year?. Even when close to the kayak it stayed quite deep, I was feeling quite hopeful!. Needless to say I was a little surprised when an average sized Thornback ray broke the surface, a little disappointed as well.

It was no monster, perhaps around 7lb, and after a couple of photographs it was quickly unhooked and released. Ideally I’d have fished 2-3 hours into the ebb tide, though I really didn’t fancy feeling like a zombie when heading into work, so I called it a day and headed back to shore.