We drop anchor on the edge of the shipping channel of Milford Haven, on a grey July day. I’d heard a whisper or two about gilthead bream being caught near the outfall of Pembroke Power Station. I cast my flapper rig – baited with ragworm – toward the shore and wait. Half an hour passes without a bite. Through binoculars I can see two smaller boats drifting much closer to the outfall; almost stepping-ashore close it seems from here. Maybe that’s where we should be. The skipper doesn’t want to risk it with the the outgoing tide. I reel in to find a dogfish that had taken the bait with stealth, and sat hooked on the bottom without protest. The winch brings in the anchor and we move to the mouth of the Haven.
I set up both the boat’s 30-lb rods with strings of mackerel feathers, and dangle them over the gear-thieving, kelp-covered rocky reefs. As expected a few pollack take up the offering. Worryingly these are small, as has been the case all year. A 2-lb’er used to be the standard size of a pollack; now they all seem to be a quarter of that. All seemingly identically sized.
Amongst the pollack, I foul-hook a greater sandeel. I use this for bait, hoping for a cod or bass. The line comes up empty, the bait is snatched without a hook-up or otherwise lost on the reef. I switch back to feathers.
The line gives a small rattle. Another sandeel I’m guessing… I reel in my first mackerel of the year. Going by the local fishing reports, it is among the first taken by anyone this year. Their absence has been keenly felt by all this summer. Another couple are hooked the same way; one throwing the hook before I can shake it into the bucket.
We decide to break for a late lunch by anchoring up in Watwick. This sandy bay is a popular spot for both boats, and beachgoers, but I’ve caught very little here over the years. I’ve always thought the conditions here would be perfect for flatfish, so despite experience suggesting otherwise, I set up a flapper rig with the ragworm hoping for such bottom-dwellers.
So far today, I’ve boated four species. The waters of the Haven could throw up any of some two-dozen species on a summers day, but for some reason, I’ve never boated more that five in a day. I decide if I can just catch a fifth on the ragworm, I’ll target a bass on the way home.
We eat and watch a large grey seal in the surf near the rocks. The rod tip doesn’t twitch all the while we are anchored. Time to try somewhere else. I reel in. A little more drag than would be normal with a 3-oz lead. A tiny dab has taken the bait. We up-anchor and set for home.
I rig up my spinning rod with my favourite trolling lure – the Rapala Down Deep Husky Jerk – and let out 100 yards of line. I troll past the rocky outcrops separating the isolated bays of our passage home. I reel in nothing but weed, an unavoidable consequence of trolling in the Haven. The sixth species proves elusive. We head for our berth at Neyland.
However, this fishy tale has a twist….
As the boat comes alongside the pontoon in the marina, a small-ish fish jumps out of the water. Straight up in the air; a couple of feet. I’ve never seen a mullet do that. There is a sign at the gate to the access ramp that forbids fishing in the marina. For a second I wonder if this includes fishing from a boat tied up to a pontoon. Figuring I’ll allow myself this one potential technical breach of the rules, I pick up the nearest rod, still loaded with the white mackerel feathers. I drop the weight down the few feet to the bottom. A couple of shakes and a fish takes a hook! I wind in a small bass. The sixth species is on the boat. It’s a small one, and it is released without a photo.
I am very happy to beat my local species-target, on an otherwise unremarkable day.
- 1 Dogfish
- 4 Pollack
- 1 Greater Sandeel
- 2 Mackerel
- 1 Dab
- 1 Bass