I get to travel the length and breadth of the UK and into Europe quite a bit with my job, which involves building and installing synthetic golf greens and tees… and believe it or not I have never played the game! I prefer to while away the evenings either chasing silver fish on canals or on the coast, weather and time allowing.
This week I was heading to Guernsey via Jersey on the Condor Clipper, which involved 12 hours of choppy seas. The only upside was that the accommodation and two golf courses were within 10 minutes of each other, and even less time to get to the sea!
My companions were Sean Jubin, a seasoned angler from Bridgend who enjoys match fishing, chasing rays and the challenge of mini species, and Rob Williamson, who has only recently got into sea fishing. However, he is as keen as mustard with a sharp sense of humour, and is well and truly hooked.
The work schedule meant we would be on the island for seven to 10 days, with Sunday being a rest day due to French/UK laws – it’s a hard life sometimes.
Having arrived late evening we weren’t able to quench our desire to wet a line, so had to wait until the following day. An early afternoon high water meant fishing a few hours of the ebb, and with a big spring tide forecast over the weekend and some pretty lumpy seas being pushed ashore by a freshening N/NE wind for the next week, we needed to get a game plan together sharpish.
Having done some homework via the power of the web we sourced two good shops that could offer excellent frozen baits, such as Ammo and Andy’s Baits, plus some ragworm – although that seems to only arrive on Thursdays, which can be a problem for the travelling angler, but that’s just something that poses a small challenge.
We got our first day’s work out of the way and decided to hit the local harbour, known as Castle Cornet, which is in St Peter Port. It is regarded as a deep-water venue that can throw up some serious specimen fish, from heavyweight congers and undulates to big bass and occasional cod.
To be fair, I didn’t believe we would be that successful, not having any fresh worms with us (due to a last-minute let-down back home), so fish baits were going to be the order of the day. We brought a good selection with us in large cool bags packed with ice, which luckily arrived in A1 condition.
Sean and Rob opted for the end of the breakwater, fishing towards Herm and the deep channel within the harbour. Being a bit of a chancer, I thought I would pump one out at range for a possible undulate ray, conger or huss/dogfish. Darkness had descended quickly and the tide was ebbing at a good pace, pulling our gear from left to right. Grip leads and rotten bottom were ideal for dealing with the reefs outside the protection of the harbour, while finer tackle could be used, dropping hook sizes down to size 4 if needed to take the bream, gars, pollack and so on.
My baits on the distance rods were smashed within five minutes, taking a small bootlace conger and a doggie, so I was feeling quite content. Not to be outdone Sean followed up with a bream, and then a second, from the inside of the harbour. Not big fish, but at around 8 to 10oz on light tackle and running sea they are great fun. We then carried on steadily taking pout, poor cod and pollack.
The second day’s work again went like a flash as we were more preoccupied with where our baits would settle and who was going to take the heaviest fish. Sean, being very competitive and a wind-up merchant, was convinced his float gear would take something better than gars and pollack. The battle plan was drawn, and with conditions nigh-on perfect we had to fit between several local anglers, who had been taking pollack and dogs through most of the tide.
It was an hour past high water, which meant conditions were good with a little run in the water so we had more of a chance of getting tight on the bottom. Gareth set up a light two–hook flapper rig with Tronix floating red and green beads to see if the bream would play. Coupled to a pair of Tsunami Pro red snelled size 6 hooks they are pre-tied to light fluoro snoods, which work a treat – tipped with thin slices of squid or mackerel the bream love them.
A double shot came out quickly, closely followed by another; again, nothing huge but great fun. Pout, poor cod, dogs, pollack and more small congers were coming in thick and fast. Sean persevered with his float setup, bouncing his gear just off the bottom. He had a nice sliding bite, and thinking it may be another pollack or gar (the locals call them ‘long nose’) he was pleasantly surprised to see a new species hit the bait, a rare fish that none of us had seen before. The handsome little topknot is a flat fish that has a very small tail but a large, telescopic mouth, more like a megrim, and the lithe body of a sole. An odd little creature, but very welcome indeed and one to tick off the species list. The night was another success, with all of us catching numerous species that are more familiar in summer than winter back home in South Wales.
Gareth gets a rockling.
Our third session was to prove a bit more interesting; having managed to get to the breakwater at around high water the weather had gone a bit wobbly, with a strong onshore wind pushing waves over it. The beaches were all out too so we opted for the safe option of a few short hours at the foot of the castle, bagging small congers and rockling, nothing over a few pounds but nonetheless we caught. We had managed to obtain a pound of rag from Mick’s Fishing Supplies earlier in the day (plus a load of great deals on terminal tackle and other bits), all we needed now was settled weather and a chance to hit one of the reefs that give way to sand, for a chance of plaice, sole, bass and many other species that abound in the island waters.
Sean Jubin with a common topknot – the first anyone had seen or caught.
The weather went from bad to worse over the next two days, though, with heavy snow flurries and biting easterly winds. This spelled disaster all round although the work still had to be completed – no mean feat given the atrocious weather – after which it was rig making and a rethink.
Early Sunday morning the wind was rattling the windows of my apartment and making that eerie low moaning noise associated with high-rise apartments. Although I couldn’t wake the troops, being a sucker for punishment I loaded up under full cover of darkness and made the dash to Fermain beach, which is nestled at the bottom of a very steep, dark valley well hidden away and off the beaten track. It’s absolutely gorgeous and very clean and well kept.
With high water peaking on my arrival I put out two rods; one with a pulley Pennel and fish baits, with sandeel and squid being the preferred choices, and the other rigged up with three-hook flappers on worms with booby beads and fine snoods to try and bag a possible flattie of sorts. After an hour admiring the rising sun and easing weather conditions I decided to brave the big walk up and over the cliff, with hundreds of winding steps, to the left of the bay where there is a small diving platform complete with steps. This is deep water giving way to massive pinnacles of rock, submerged over high water, running diagonally into the mouth of the bay. After an hour and a few rigs lighter I decided to head home, and as it was a Sunday I was tasked to cook a Sunday roast. Funny how a good filling meal of prime roast beef complete with Yorkshire pudding makes you feel all warm inside and at ease with the world.
Float fishing into the dark was surprisingly productive.
After a few more sorties on to the South Quay and just managing a few dogfish, given that we had managed to bag 95 per cent of our catches on Castle Cornet pier it was quite obvious that was the best bet when the odds were stacked against you, particularly the lighthouse at the end when bitter easterlies blow in the cold months of the new year.
I am back out here in March building a full-size synthetic green, which means two weeks of chasing bass, bream and big congers. I will be talking to the guys in Mick’s Fishing Supplies as they seem to know where and when things will happen.
The specimen fish that are available on all sides of Guernsey are breathtaking and it’s well worth planning a few trips both boat or shore. Remember, readily available information is at your fingertips on the internet. Enjoy.
Tackle shops well worth a visit:
Mick’s Fishing Supplies
Les Canus Road, Capelles, Guernsey
Boatworks + Guernsey
Castle Emplacement, St Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 1AU
Did You Know
There are many smaller islands, islets, rocks and reefs in Guernsey waters, where a tidal range of 10 metres and fast currents of up to 12 knots make sailing in local waters dangerous.
Guernsey is situated off the coast of Normandy. Around 6000 BC, rising seas created the English Channel and separated the Norman promontories that became the bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey from continental Europe. Neolithic farmers then settled on its coast and built the dolmens and menhirs found in the islands today.
Ports and harbours exist at St Peter Port and St Sampson; the Island has its own Guernsey Airport, which is very small but modern. With its sandy beaches, cliff walks, seascapes and offshore islands Guernsey has been a tourist destination since at least the Victorian days.
The military history of the island has left a number of fortifications, including Castle Cornet, Fort Grey, loophole towers and a large collection of German fortifications with a number of museums.
The use of the roadstead in front of St Peter Port by over 100 cruise ships a year brings over 100,000 day trip passengers to the island each year.