Sandeels were driving the ecosystem of the Haven today.

My favourite white mackerel feathers quickly hooked into a small-ish pollack while drifting near the mouth of the Haven. It coughed up a shower of one to two inch sandeels onto the deck. Shortly afterwards, I snagged their larger cousin. Measuring in at nearly a foot long, I believe this was a Corbin’s Sandeel. The absence of a black mark on the snout differentiating it from the more common Greater Sandeel. In fact, both species seem to be equally abundant on this mark.

I recycled the sandeel into a speculative bass bait, rigged on a 2/0 circle hook. Although bass are an uncommon catch on these reefs for some reason, I’ve taken one before on the same tackle and bait. The other rod continued to catch pollack; their bellies stuffed to bursting with sandeels. A strong tug on my line indicated a fish. I reeled in to find – not the hoped-for bass – but a small codling, similarly sandeel-engorged.

Cod, Gadus morhua

No bass appeared, and we tired of the pollack. We pointed the bow back into the Haven.

My favourite ray-mark failed us once more. A solitary dogfish fell to squid and bluey bait, for the skipper’s rod. Slightly disappointed, I packed away the tackle and rods and we headed back to the marina.


One the journey upstream we noticed a flock of feeding birds sat on the surface. They were located dangerously close to an LNG jetty. Very tempting, but sadly un-fishable. There is no clearer sign of a sandeel shoal, and you can bet there’ll be bass feeding under it. Luckily the shoal and following birds moved out into open water.

I hurriedly took the large boat road back out of its bag. Perhaps it would have been more sporting to set up the spinning rod, but there could be no better match of a small sandeel than the two-inch white feathers. In these catch-and-release days, it is certainly kinder on the fish to lip-hook them with a single hook, and have them out of the water with minimum fuss.

Within seconds of deploying the lures I thought I’d snagged the bottom. The ‘bottom’ pulled back and I was hooked into a tidy bass of 44cm. On the next pass a decent 55cm fish was taken. A great fish on which to finish the day.

55cm Bass, taken on white mackerel feathers

The bountiful sandeel harvest bodes well for the puffin breeding season this year.


Total Catch:

  • 1 Pollack
  • 1 Corbin’s Sandeel
  • 1 Cod
  • 2 Bass