The cool-box was still stuffed with bait. In anticipation of a couple of full days fishing, I’d bought two wraps of ragworm, a pack of blueys and a pack of squid. I’d barely touched the bait so far, as we had caught a surfeit of fresh fish: Mackerel, Herring and Greater Sandeels yesterday.

The engine had burnt a lot of diesel yesterday in covering forty-plus nautical miles, so today was going to be a shorter-range trip; the target was the thornback ray. We anchored up at our reliable ray mark in the Haven. I used an uptide rod out on one side of the boat, and my bass surf rod out the other. This rod is a bit long and unwieldy for boat use, but the idea was to get the baits away from the influence of the boat (although, I’m not sure if this really makes a difference, as there wasn’t a problem catching rays last outing with the baits straight down the side).

A combo bait of fish and squid, bound tightly with bait-cotton, delivered for me last time, so I stuck with the winning formula: One rod with a herring and squid cocktail bait; one with bluey and squid. The received wisdom when fishing for rays is to use a long flowing trace on a running ledger. After several failures with this method, I suspect the large tidal flows of the Haven cause the bait to ‘kite’ up into the water column, away from the bottom-feeding fish. I’ve adopted fixed rigs, with a short 75cm snood length. They’ve worked for me recently, so I will continue with them.

It didn’t take long before the rays appeared (and a dogfish of course. This is Milford Haven.) I photographed my catch, and returned it to the water.

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Thornback Ray, Raja clavata

During a lull in the fish activity, I did a tidy up of the baiting table. I threw a few scraps of fish over the side, and emptied a bucket of water in which I’d washed my hands and baiting knife. Now, I don’t know if it was coincidence but both rods registered bites simultaneously shortly afterwards. Both rods had rays on, so each fisherman had to manage both rod and net. On my light bass surf rod, the ray fought much better than with a heavy boat rod.

I got the ray back in the water before weighing it, but I’d say it was something like 6lb.

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A second larger Thornback Ray.

We also tried a nearby spot, hoping for a Huss or Conger, but no luck today. A final drift over a random bit of the haven saw a couple of Grey Gurnards boated. These were much larger than the normal specimens we see in the area.

The day ended by sheltering out of the increased wind in a couple of coves on the Dale peninsula: Castlebeach Bay and Watwick Bay. Both were fishless, but are pleasant places to relax and catch the sun.

Total Catch:

  • 1 Lesser Spotted Dogfish
  • 2 Thornback Ray
  • 1 Grey Gurnard