Primitive hunter-gather societies are known to create images of their quarry to bring good luck in the hunt. Some time ago, I’d been given a sculpture of a Bull Huss by Dale-based artist Sean Kehoe. The fish was fashioned from a piece of plywood found washed up on a beach. Until my recent house move, the piece lay unloved on top of a shelf. In my new office/study, the carving has pride of place. Maybe the magic would now work?
The trip began like so many at this time of year. Feathers dropped onto the reefs around the mouth of Milford Haven catching small pollack of under 2lb in weight. One rod using white feathers; one rod using red. The red had the slight edge today.
This quickly became repetitive, so we set out towards Skokholm and Skomer islands. Dolphins and seals appeared beside us in the flat calm seas. We made our way to a sandbank to drift for dabs. Ragworm-baited small hooks, with heavy leads to counter the strong tidal flow, were let down to the seabed.
“This feels like a bite, but I think it’s just the lead dragging over ripples in the sand”
“Mine too. I think it’s just the movement of the weight”
“It does feel like a bite. A bit.”
“Yes, but I’m not fooled”
At the end of the drift, we both wind in. We both sheepishly announce we have a dab on the end of our lines. The lead weighed more than the fish, so I think we have an excuse. Slightly.
A little early for mackerel probably – especially given this year’s cold spring – but we re-tie on the feathers and try our luck. Herring are also a possibility at this time of the year. We headed through the notorious Jack Sound – which separates Skomer Island from the mainland – and into St. Martin’s Haven. It’s usually a good mark, but nothing was biting here today. Not even a pollack. I tied on the ever-reliable Rapala Down Deep Husky Jerk onto my spinning rod and headed back through the sound.
I hoped for an early bass, but pollack after pollack hit the trolled lure, and sent the reel singing. The largest weighed in around 4lb. The pollack are enthusiastic takers of the Rapala, but have no fight in them. They allow themselves to be dragged meekly back to the boat. A coalfish provided a bit of variety and a slightly harder fight. With no bass showing, we headed to our mooring in Dale.
An on-board barbecue in the early evening sunshine seemed the perfect way to end the day. The boat has a device which holds the hot barbecue safely over the water. The coals were lit and dabs and coalfish filleted. Whilst waiting for the charcoal to turn white, I killed time by threading a mini-squid onto a 3/0 hook and dropping it over the side. I wasn’t hopeful; I could just about make out the white flesh of the bait lying in the very shallow water. I’ve caught a few dogfish from this spot, but not had a repeat of the 12lb thornback ray, many, many years ago.
After twenty minutes, the coals were at cooking temperature. We slapped on a couple of steaks. Barbecue smoke and the great smell of grilling meat wafted around the boat and across the nearby moorings. Beers were taken from the cool box, and we settled in for a relaxing evening.
My rod bent over. A couple of turns of the handle and the fish was on the surface. All hell broke loose.
“Woah! That’s massive”
“It’s a huss”
“It’s like a shark”
“It is a shark”
“It’s too big to bring on the boat”
“Get the net”
“Careful of the barbecue”
“Take a photo of it in the water”
“I can’t because of the smoke”
“Watch out for the teeth!”
“Mind the steaks don’t burn”
“No, you unhook it”
“Turn the steaks!”
Once on board, the thrashing fish thankfully managed to unhook itself. The skipper held up my catch for a few photos, and the huss was quickly released without weighing or causing further distress…to us, or the fish. It would have been comfortably into double figures.
Still buzzing from the excitement, we ate our food and reflected on a great day out. There’s no better place to be than afloat in Pembrokeshire on a sunny day.
I’m so happy with my first huss, a species I’ve wanted to catch for a long time. Maybe there’s something in the carving magic after all?
- 11 Pollack
- 1 Dab
- 1 Coalfish
- 1 Bull Huss
- 1 Lesser Spotted Dogfish