It was time for a trip with Huw. He had contacted me about catching various species in Cornwall and i helped where i could, but only so much information can be conveyed in a message.... it was time to show him how its done! We arranged a trip on the Rays and the weather was looking good for it. It was an hour and half trip down for Huw, hopefully it would be worth it... i was quietly confident.
We met early morning and chatted about various tactics, rigs, baits and i heavily emphasised the importance of bait presentation before we headed off to the mark. Light winds with a drop of swell and low foggy cloud made for an eery paddle out but all was fine and the heavy bank of fog stayed away from the coastline with the offshore wind. We dropped anchor and Huw tethered off my bow. Big mackerel baits down and the wait began..... All was very quiet.
After a while we had some interest in the baits but not from the ray we were after, dogfish and quite a few of them too. A charter boat in the distance started to catch ray as the tide started to flood so i called for a move and we paddled a few hundreds into deeper water. It was a good shout as it wasn't long before i was talking Huw through how to deal with the ray that was burying into his bait..... he was into his first ray!
Expletives flew through the air as the ray resisted his attempts to lever it from the seabed. His reasonably light rod was doubled over. He was smiling and so was i watching him battle with his first decent kayak fish. In the meantime i was into a ray of my own and this gave me chance to show Huw how to best land and handle a ray. He succeeded in landing it first time..... a fine Blonde ray around the 10lb mark... result!
I suggested we try catching some fresh mackerel for bait so on with the Hookais... we must have been sat on a shoal of joey mackerel because after 5 minutes we had about 20 each for bait.... perfect. Fresh joey flapper on one rod and a fillet on the other. We waited a little while..... I somehow managed a hand sized Dab on a fillet of mackerel and Huw had another dogfish or two, i had an enquiry on the fillet so i watched the rod tip patiently.... and then it happened....
The kayak jolted to one side as the other rod ripped over with line pouring off the reel.... something had hit the joey flapper and was running hard! It took 60-70 yards of line before i could bring it to a halt... and it sat there buried/suctioned onto the seabed.... this was a bigger one!! It realised it had to move as i applied more and more pressure and surged off uptide, taking us off the anchor, before swinging up into midwater....
I gained some line then it took it back with a few powerful wing flaps, this went of for some time until i finally caught a glimpse of the beast about 10 m below the kayak and it was looking big! I prepared for her to surge off again as it approached the surface but i think she had fought her fight deep down and managed to glide her to the side of the kayak first time. I struggled to pull it over the gunwale with one hand but a huge surge of effort and she was on my lap. I was knackered, she had given me a right pasting! Huw did the honours with the camera as i knelt to hold her up and weigh her.... 23lb! A new PB and a fish I've put a lot of effort in to catch... result! A stunning female with a wingspan of 74cm (wider than the Abaco!) who was in the process of laying an egg case so she was returned quickly after a few photos.
Huw looked on in awe and quietly baited up with a joey flapper in the hope of finding a bigger one too. He found himself another 3 ray and was loving every minute of it. I had another 4 smaller ones before we decided to try for some different species closer to a reef.
Anchor down and the dogfish were back out in force so i decided to stick some baited hookais down in the hope of finding something else..... what should take hookais bounced on the bottom.... another bloody dogfish! Unbeliveable. The anchor slipped at one point and took us slightly closer to rough ground... I'm glad it did because i started catching a few codling on the Hookais
I slung out the bottom rods again with joey bodies on (head and tail cut off) to see it something bigger was lurking near the reef. Huw had been fishing a bait on the bottom and had a stonking bite which we assumed was a ray as he bent into something weighty. It was taking line and fighting well.... well it wasn't a dogfish! A lovely golden pollack appeared at the surface.... Huw was over the moon! That was tea for him and his other half sorted. It weighed 5lb 8oz.... a new PB.
Whilst he was unhooking his fish one of my rod tips nailed down hard and i pulled into what felt like a snag.... another big ray?..... after a few minutes of applying pressure the fish shot off the bottom and started taking line... i gave it some stick thinking that it was a decent pollack. From the depths appeared a stunning Ballan Wrasse and a decent one at that!
Another kayak PB weighing 4lb 11oz on my digitals. I tried for ages to get it to swim back but it had come from deep water and wasn't looking great. I hate killing Wrasse but unfortunately this one wasn't going to make it back. Luckily i know someone who is quite fond of eating wrasse so rather than the seagulls pecking it to death i thought i would keep it for them to eat. They done me proud and i was sent a photo of the fleshless skeleton in proof it was not wasted - it had been made into thai fishcakes. I weighed it on my clubs scales and it went 4lb 11oz 2dr so its good to know my digitals are weighing accurately even on a kayak!
Whilst i was trying to return the Wrasse Huw informed me that a fish was devouring my other bait... i hadn't bothered to hook it whilst trying to sort the Warsse out. Time i got round to it the fish was on and another weighty fish made its way to the surface, it was a dogfish and one that i don't mind catching... A Greater Spotted Dogfish more commonly known as a Bull Huss, around the 7-8lb mark.... excellent!
Misty rain began to fill the air so we called it a good time to paddle back after a cracking day on the water. Huw had managed his first Blonde Ray and a PB Pollack. I had finally cracked through the 20lb Blonde Ray barrier with a beauty of 23lb as well as the bonus PB Ballan Wrasse of 4lb 11oz. I had 7 species in all - Blonde Ray, Bull Huss, Ballan Wrasse, Dab, Mackerel, Dogfish and Cod. What a great day! Hopefully Huw picked up some useful tips that he can apply to his marks closer to home.
The fish will get a break for a few weeks as I'm back off to Uni this weekend to start a Mres in Marine Biology based jointly at Plymouth University and the Marine Biological Association. I will manage the odd weekend trip out if the weather plays ball so hopefully i will be out again soon. Until the next session, whenever that may be, i shall bask in the pleasant memories of an epic summer of kayak fishing with some great people and new friends.... Happy Days!
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