We depart Neyland Marina on another gorgeous sunny day. The wind has picked up a little from yesterday, but the conditions should still allow us to fish around the offshore islands of Skokholm and Skomer.
On the reefs at the mouth of Milford Haven, I pick up a few pollack and sandeels with the booms-and-Isome combo that I found worked on yesterday’s trip . I try a squid jig, hoping to catch extra bait. This would be a rare catch, and today is no different.
We steam onto one of my best know bass marks, where a trolled Rapala often does the business. At the end of our first pass, I feel a tug on the line. A seabird is in the water near where I work out where the lure should be. Maybe the bird struck the line, but it definitely felt like a fish (using barbless hooks on the lure would be a godsend if it accidentally snagged a bird). A seal’s head pops up at the very same spot. I think I’ve been mugged by a seal.
The steal stalks the boat. Every time I put the Rapala in the water, I can see the shape of the seal following the boat like a torpedo. I wind as fast as I can to keep my expensive plastic away from the creature’s jaws. The beast won’t leave us alone. It comes to the boat and rolls on its belly in a “aren’t I gorgeous?” kind of way. I don’t know if it is begging for a fish, or just curious. Either way, we can’t troll for bass with him around. We abandon this plan and head for South Haven, Skomer to anchor up for lunch.
En route, we see some bird activity on the surface. This often hints at a shoal of sandeels being trapped between bass below and the birds below. The white mackerel feathers go over the side and we are straight into the fish. The catch is a mixed shoal of herring and mackerel. In all my yeas of fishing, I’ve never encountered such a mixed shoal; neither fish having a preference for the top or bottom lures. I take a handful of each species and switch to bass tackle; the skipper keeps on at the herring and mackerel pulling them in six at a time. This is the biggest herring haul I’ve ever witnessed.
With the abundance of natural prey, my bass lures, and freelined bait have failed all weekend. Shame I couldn’t catch a bass.
After lunch at Skomer – the air full of seabirds foraging to feed their chicks – we have a drift over a nearby sandbank ‘the Knoll’. The shark boat ‘White Water’ is anchored up trying their luck at this mark too. Ragworm would be a better bet for dab and plaice, but we only have fish baits. Neither sandeel, herring or mackerel can tempt a fish. The annoying seal has departed, and we have a couple more goes at trolling, but nothing doing today.
On the approach home, the skipper drops anchor at our favourite ray mark. I cast out a couple of rods baited with mackerel. Dogfish after dogfish snaffle the baits, so we locate to another nearby spot for the last half-hour’s fishing of the day. I’m watching the rod-tips, but neither move. Time’s up, I wind in. The drag through the water indicates that there’s more than 3oz of lead on the end of this rod. A dogfish is the cause. The second rod has a similar feel, but with even more drag. Could it be? Yes! A small, but welcome, thornback ray has taken the bait.
In total, 66 fish were boated. That’s over a hundred fish for the weekend. It’s been a great Jubilee!
- 3 Pollack
- 3 Greater Sandeel
- 6 Herring
- 3 Mackerel
- 5 Lesser Spotted Dogfish
- 1 Thornback Ray