Friday, October 30, 2015

Boat Fishing in Jersey Channel Islands

When I was 16 years old a friend told me of a job which was up for grabs, this being a crew man on a charter boat which is skippered by Tony Heart boat named Anna 2. This sounded like my dream job as I was mad into my shore fishing, but I never seemed to catch anything decent, unless you class a mackerel as a decent fish? I got the job and when I had finished my first shift I knew that this was something I wanted to carry on doing for as long as I could. After a few months my shore and boat fishing improved so much, you can learn so much about angling when you are teaching other anglers how to do it and speaking daily with other anglers all about fishing! Of course it helps when your boss has been fishing locals waters for decades! I crewed for two years I even gave up college so I could get a full season in the following year. Some people might have said this was silly, but I thought the complete opposite. I felt that passionate about angling I just had to be out at sea helping others catch fish. What would you rather do take in that fresh air every day catching fish and loving life or revising for your next exam?! Times move on and you do have to take a step back and think about your future more seriously and financially, which I have done now but I wouldn't change anything from my past.  
Royston & Avril (Local Anglers) At anchor fishing for some Rays!
What does Jersey have to offer boat anglers? I think the question should be where do you want to start? I will start with our charter boats on the island and what times of year is best to target certain species of fish and when the specimens are likely to turn up. Jersey only has two charter boats Anna 2 & Theseus II both skippers are fantastic and both can accommodate nearly every form of fishing. The fishing is so good in Jersey these guys get booked up months in advance from visiting anglers from Europe and tourists so you have to make sure you book up well in advance.
Drift fishing for turbot is very popular, turbot is a very hard fighting flatfish which hold high commercial value. Both pleasure anglers and fisherman take part in rod fishing for them around the Islands, these fish can grow over 20lb and this is possible around the coast of Jersey. Many 10lb+ fish come up yearly so you would always be in with a chance.

 I would say the average sized turbot is 4-6lb and the best months to be in with your best chance of catching a specimen fish would be April, May & June but you can catch them all year round. I have personally had Turbot over 10lb in January in F6 winds so even if you cant make it over in the warmer months, there is always a chance during the winter months.  You can get over 5 turbot in a session when the fishing is good and whilst you are waiting for them to bite you will also be in with a chance of many other species including brill,  tub gurnard, red gurnard, whiting & the odd bass. From experience I have always liked using mackerel fillet for bait, I even favour mackerel over a live sandeel for them. 

Bottom fishing at anchor is another type of fishing which is probably my favorite form of boat fishing, its a bit more relaxing you are in no rush to get your baits in the water before you miss the drift or having to rush to get a new rig tied on. Black bream can be targeted from April right through to September the bigger specimens seems to show up April & May where fish well over 4lb can be caught, 3lbers also getting landed regularly. These are a very hard fighting fish, the best places for them seem to be in deep water around 140-180ft deep and they never give up the fight! The best bait to use is squid strips with small circle hooks. 

Larger fish like tope and conger eels can be caught over the same ground you are catching the bream which tends to be a hard rocky reef bottom. I have seen a few reef caught congers over 40/ 50lb over the years, and many tope over 30lb. Another usual suspect are bullhuss which will pick up your heavy bottom gear these are normally over 8lb in weight and they are a beautifully marked shark species. 

My personal favorite are smooth hounds! Many anglers think that smoothhounds roam around in the shallow waters but this is not always the case, I have had them in 180ft of water and I have had quite a few over the 10lb mark. I would have broke the Channel Island record twice in one week if I had chosen to kill the fish but never personally liked the idea of killing a shark species just for my name to be on paper and as Tony the skipper is part of the UK Shark tagging program I was also supporting this cause so every shark is tagged & released. Hermit crabs & hard back green crabs seem to be the best baits but we do pick up a good amount on squid baits each year.  

 Jersey has one of the largest tidal range's in the whole of the UK with high tides rising to over 40ft, this is possibly why our ray fishing is so good! Undulate rays seem to be on the increase as a commercial landing ban has been in place for a couple of years stopping all local fisherman landing them, many double figure fish turn up during the course of the year normally over rough ground. Blonde rays are my favorite ray species as they can grow so big these magnificent fish can grow to weights close to 40lb and regular 20lb + fish are caught each year! I have personally had them to 32lb, I find its normally best when the tide is running strong and you are having to use 2lb of lead just to hold bottom. 

 Small eyed rays would also be a common catch whilst fishing the sand banks and fish over 10lb can be found, thornback rays on the other hand are very uncommon in Jersey but when they do show up they so seem to be big as the only one I have ever caught weighed 16lb 8oz! 

Our wreck fishing can be very good we have a a large number of wrecks to fish around the channel islands, Guernsey gets the better pick of them as it seems we are always heading in that direction to get to most of them and it can take a couple of hours to get to them. The closest ones which holds big fish are around 10 miles off shore these hold big Pollock, Ling & Conger Eels. 

Live sandeels seem to be a pollacks favored food over the soft lures  but red gills and savage gears are very popular! Our current pollock record is over 21lb which fell to a red gill lure so you don't always need the live bait. I have experienced days with well over 50/60 pollock being landed, it is best going with a charter boat as they have licences to sell there catch to the local market. If you are a visiting angler nothing will get wasted as sometimes reeling them in from the depths affects the swim bladders which makes it difficult to release them. 
Smaller boats like Orkney's, Ribs & Kayaks offer something completely different from all this heavy rod fishing malarkey. You can get right amongst the shallow ground to the south east coast of Jersey which hold lots of Bass this place is named "the gutters"  many double figure bass are boated each year on lures and you could catch on any form of soft or hard plastic fishing lures or the "old school method" which is drifting around with a live sandeel. My favored lure is a white pearl 42 gram savage gear I like the way I can work all different depths to try and locate the fish and also keep myself in with a chance of picking up ballan wrasse which feed close to the bottom!
Here is angler & friend Callum Robertson with a cracking lure caught bass he caught last summer in the "gutters" on a very small Xlayer, this fish weighed a cracking 12lb 12oz - 79cm in length caught on a 4" Ayu Xlayer 7g Bachi Head. Ballan Wrasse over 5lb can be caught regularly which provides great sport for the lure fisherman, some days 30 wrasse in a session is standard. Kayak fishing is very popular in Jersey, being such a small island you can easily launch your kayaks around many of the beaches and harbors. 

Because I like to mix things up a little now I try and target different species of fish I really enjoy targeting fish which is normally unheard of whilst boat fishing, St Aubins Bay you can find mullet roaming the shallow waters I really enjoy targeting them! More so the thin lipped species which you can catch using mepp spinners and white cat worm for bait, I have witnessed and netted thin lips over 6lb from the kayak. 

Another of my favorite fish to target is the Trigger fish some years they come in shore and is a possible target for us anglers, the typical time of year would be August and September.  You do need a bit of luck as some years they dont show up at all but it is always worth a try. There is not many places in the British Iles these fish can be a target for boat anglers. They can turn up anywhere but there is a couple of locations where it is possible to catch up to 10 a session. Nothing is ever a guarantee that's why it is called fishing and not catching but I have managed a good few over the years the biggest weighing 3lb 7drams.

Many thanks for reading here are some links to Jersey's charter boats. (Anna 2) - Skipper - Tony Heart (Tarka Sea Trips -  Theseus II) - Skipper - David Nuth

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