I took out my old aquarium thermometer from a bucket of fresh sea-water. The red alcohol was up to the 12º mark. According to some, this is the magic temperature at which the fishing “switches on” in the spring and summer months in the UK. Let’s put this to the test.

We were fishing from a private boat on the reefs at the mouth of Milford Haven. As an initial probe into the fish life, we dropped two lines of mackerel feathers over the side. Immediately, both rods registered bites. My feathers were taken by a small pollack. The skipper pulled in his line with two mackerel attached. The first of the year.

I was hoping for some mackerel myself, but I couldn’t interest any. I caught, and returned, another couple of pollack.

The winds had been light for most of the week, which made for a very calm sea state. Accordingly, we were able to venture out beyond St. Ann’s Head to the region of Skomer and Skokholm islands. Our plan was to explore a few wrecks seen on the chart plotter. With a bit of circling, we found the wrecks, although all seemed small. The speed of the tide gave very quick drifts over the wrecks, and I couldn’t connect with any fish.

We paused for lunch. Barely a ripple disturbed the surface. A grey seal popped up to say hello.

As always in springtime around the islands the seabird life was impressive: several species of gull, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, cormorants and everyone’s favourite – the puffin.

Moving on, we investigated another sea-bed feature. Again, using the mackerel feathers, the rods were quickly into large number of Herring and Greater Sandeels. On every drop, the feathers connected with either or both species, within seconds of reaching the sea bed. Never before have I seen such numbers of either fish. This is an encouraging sign. We took a few of each to use for bait, and moved on to try some other reefs.


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Great to see Herring, Culpea harengus becoming more common

I fished a live sandeel on a circle hook in a place where I’d caught bass and cod before. I would have bet good money on taking similar species today, but it wasn’t to be. Switching to ragworm-baited hooks, I hoped for a cuckoo wrasse on the same reefs, but was similarly denied today.

A final two drifts on the Knoll sandbank, hoping for flatfish, rounded off the day. No plaice, dabs, or turbot could be tempted with either ragworm or sandeel fillets. However, I took a common resident of the banks – the grey gurnard, and the other rod, caught a whiting.


A Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis, kept us company for much of the day.


Total Catch:

  • 4 Pollack
  • 9 Herring
  • 1 Greater Sandeel
  • 1 Grey Gurnard