“How many dogfish before we move?” asked the skipper wearily. The boat was anchored on a shallow-ish mark in Milford Haven. Our squid baits were attracting a constant stream of lesser spotted dogfish. Unhooking unwilling rough-skinned fish and re-baiting the hook was getting tiresome.
An easterly breeze was enough to produce a slight chop on the water which meant venturing beyond St. Anne’s Head would be an uncomfortable day’s fishing. A quick, bumpy foray out to Thorn Island at the mouth of the harbour wasn’t much fun and nothing was interested in our feathers. No mackerel. No herring. Not even a pollack. Accordingly, we opted to stay within the protection of the Haven and bottom-fish for bass and rays.
“Ten. Then we try elsewhere”, was my answer to the skipper.
Sure enough, my self-imposed limit of ten dogfish was boated (seven for me). The only diversion being a grey gurnard.
The electric winch raised the anchor, and we moved a short distance to another mark where the chart plotter had indicated a different type of sea-bed. The unwashed squid baits, lashed with elastic to 3/0 hooks, went over the side once more.
Within a few minutes the skipper’s rod registered a strong take. No dogfish this time; a characteristic ray bite, and after a couple of minutes of pumping the skipper had winched a four-and-a-half pound thornback ray onto the boat. The ray was barely unhooked and returned before it was my rod’s turn.
I immediately felt that this was a going to be a good ray. The rod bent into a curve, the like of which it had never experienced before. I don’t mind admitting I was pulled off my feet a couple of times. The ray spread its wings and tried to hold bottom. I can’t remember the last fish I genuinely had to pump and wind. Despite the huge pressure, the tackle held, and my own larger thornback was brought to the surface, safely netted and weighed. I was happy to see it was just into double figures – 10lb 1oz – the largest thornback ray that I had caught for thirty years. (But still short of my personal best of 12lb caught back in the 1980s). Happy faces and high fives all round.
It has taken several years of trial and error to locate a successful ray-mark within the haven. The GPS co-ordinates duly logged on the chart-plotter, this spot will be revisited whenever the winds make venturing past St. Anne’s Head difficult.
This mark, and few other similar spots along the Haven, gave me another seven dogfish (inevitably) and a small (32cm) bass which was also returned. I caught the bass on my lure rod, using a flounder rig and ragworm.
We topped off the day with a slow troll of a Rapala all the way back to Neyland Marina. Nothing took the lures today, but overall I’m very pleased with the day’s fishing.
- 14 Lesser Spotted Dogfish
- 1 Grey Gurnard
- 1 Thornback Ray
- 1 Bass