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  • Robin Howard (a.k.a. Fishyrob)

Brighton Inshore Catch report - 3rd December 2017

Fish of the day to Alex

I have done many different jobs in my 49 years. It was always going to be about fishing in the end I guess. I started in a tackle shop aged 12 as a Saturday boy, although I was supplying peeler crabs to the local taxi drivers who liked to fish long before that. Managed my own tackle shop for a couple of years. Well, not my own, the Penge Angling chain, long since eaten by Angling Direct. Then I got seduced by the ridiculous salaries that IT technicians could get in the city of London. Having been a keen enthusiast of copying lines of basic from magazines onto a ZX spectrum so I could play a really cack game was enough to get in the door. I kid you not. I feel very sorry for the youth of today. Degree's essential to even get an interview. I digress... 18 long years, but with benefits. And then, 2005 I left, to begin as a fishing guide. As well as a host of other stuff I got into to keep my head above the water. Anyone remember the "Fishermans Friend Cafe" on the West arm of Brighton Marina? Why am I telling you all of this? Is it to bluff over a poor day at sea... Well, actually the reverse. I am setting the scene. Today was so good, it deserves the fullest of attention. What I am actually trying to say is I have lived a very diverse life, and worked with everyone from loser alcoholics to billionaires. So it seemed to me, that running a charter boat, would be pretty stress free really, by comparison. Very straight forward, right...?

Well, I have to say that nothing can be further from the truth. As well as the frustrations of the weather, there are the frustrations of the variations in stock levels of all species at all times. A classic example is the fabled cod. Indeed, these last three years, cod have been virtually extinct on our local grounds. This hits the whole charter fleet hard, as Brighton rightly does have a reputation for good cod fishing. As recently as 2013, catches were great, and boats were busy. Then, the last two years, and again this year, much much worse. Some boats are holding their ground, and fishing the big baits on the known coddy areas, and they ARE getting some results. Just enough to keep people wanting to have a go for them. But other boats are facing the reality, switching to other species, to ensure all anglers on board get their strings pulled by something other than whiting. Its a good idea. Winter wrecking can be excellent, with the pollack in great condition and Conger eels in no way a summer only fish. The reason I am explaining all of this, is that you get an idea of what lays on a skippers shoulders. He NEEDS to keep people coming back, and each time he slips the key, his whole focus is on giving his anglers the best chances. Think about that for a second. A lot of the guys on the boat may have saved months for this trip. All been out and bought tackle especially for it. Perhaps gone out for a few beers to chat about how they are going to approach it. The expectations are often enormous. And its down to the skipper to carry this on his shoulders, and deliver enough that all the pre-trip excitement has been worthwhile.

Marks Coddie

We do side step this to a certain extent at BIF. We basically target keen shore lure anglers, and show them what they can do with their kit afloat. And we also target keen boat anglers, that are looking to do things a little bit different. We only ever promise smiles, not monsters, because the tactics we employ make the most of whatever is swimming below with a predatory instinct. When specimens show themselves, they are appreciated perhaps all the more, as we make no secret that we are not slaves to the specimen fish grindstone. We ARE set up for them, and have no problems in catching them when they are there, but we are not stubborn. We also face the reality of the situation, and strive to put the bends on peoples rods. So, we head to the deeper water rocks and change tactics slightly. A lot less casting, a lot more jigging...

We have other stresses though that the skippers of the bigger boats do not have so much. The forecasts we have to micro manage. Today was a classic. Right up until 01:00 the forecast was probably for a no sail. And then, the change I was fully expecting, and the reason I was still awake, happened. Not only did the wind forecast drop, it also swung more Northerly. Such subtle differences (NNW from NW) make the difference between us calling it on, or not sailing. A further stress...

Alex's Coddie

Happily, the sailing was on. And I was very happy to have co-owner of BIF on board. Bruce originally was going to be skippering one day a week. The best laid plans of mice and men... But the reasons he has not been able to get aboard much, are very good reasons, and as I dont really have much else going on in my world at the moment, skippering BIF1 at every opportunity completely suits me. Its a win win. I was just happy to have him aboard, as he HAS been so busy with work and family, that a little smile on faces time would be a great tonic.

Joining him was Alex, Mark and Robin,,, yep... It only got confusing a few times... Mark and Robin were very keen freshwater lure anglers, who up until now had also enjoyed bait fishing from, Brighton charter boats. And they hail from a group of inland freshwater lure anglers... Further stress on the shoulders. Get this one right, and it could be a real boost to future business. Get it wrong, and perhaps there would be mumbling amongst the group about cost, and lack of results, and how the skipper wouldnt shut the f*** up... We motored out...

Happily, as I had sailed the previous day, I had something to work from. We headed west, And it was a bit of a repeat of the previous day in many respects. Same North to South drift as the tide died. All the bass came in the first two drifts. But all was not many. Just 3. There was definitely compensation though. First fish of the day was to Bruce. A tub gurnard. We think... Note the unusual marking on the large display pectoral fin... Not sure if I have seen that before...

Then the bass. Only small. Pouting to a good size which most definitely were putting smiles on faces with their efforts to get back down to the rock. Such an underrated fish, both for the table, and for their sporting talents, as usually they are hauled on heavy gear in a big tide, where they are unable to show off their prowess, any more than Bruce Lee might have in a straight jacket and then covered in shrink wrap and then blasted with a hot air blower. Doesnt mean he wasnt pretty good at showing his talents when allowed. No different the humble pouting. They also survive really well on release in sub 50' water, so we have no concience in enjoying them to the max.

Suddenly, Alex's rod was doubled over. clearly not a pouting. Also unlikely to be a bass, as although it really pushed the rod over, it didnt have staying power. The fabled cod??? Incredibly for this mark, it was a pollack in the 5lb class, and now the new BIF1 record. We simply dont expect quality pollack on the marks we fish. But we are always very happy for them.

Mark then stepped up to the plate, to vie for hero of the day. Amazingly, in this year of zero cod, he caught THE FABLED COD!! Well, the fabled codling. Legal, but fighting fit, and happily returned. I hope Mark doesnt go home thinking every trip gets a cod. Although, as events unwound, that is quite possible...

Alex was having none of it you see. A proud man, and he had already nailed the fish of the day. And yet, Bruce and I appeared to be getting more excited about Marks triumph. Time to go into top gear. What would trump Marks fish? A bigger cod clearly. So that is what Alex did...

The fishing then went into a nice routine. We buzzed around various marks, with mixed fortunes. Most were barren, but some showed promise and we continued to pick away at species. A plaice on a shad. Some very pretty wrasse. Plenty of pouting. A very small whiting. And then... Bruce decided today was the day we would equal the boat record for coddies,,, he only went and caught another one... That brings this seasons total to .. TEN!!! although I think the combined weight is likely less than one of Ray Burns recent captures on board Grey Viking.

We carried on probably way longer than we should have. It didnt matter. We were all smiling, and gelling, and catching. We perhaps saw 70 fish, mostly pouting, over the gunnels today. It was a very good day. Reflected on by Robin to Bruce, as Bruce escorted them out of the marina whilst I washed down BIF1. "That was the best days boat fishing we have ever had in the UK" he confided. When Bruce relayed that to me, I could have cried. I live to hear such things. It DOES happen often, with my shore guiding. But on the boat, perhaps that is the first time. If you want to fast track into the Frequent Flyers club, just make comments like that as you leave. BIF is honest, and transparent. But me on a personal level, I am not above such corruption.

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