North East angler Steve Walker takes us to some of his favourite marks, here he features the beaches to the north of Hartlepool.
Head for the A19 and follow this from the north or the south until you reach the junction with the B1281 and follow this to the coast at Blackhall Colliery. You can park at the top of Dead Mans Bank but space is restricted. It is better to park on the main coast road where a 15 minute walk will take you to the northern end of the beach.
Blackhall is the southernmost of the Durham colliery beaches and the area northwards from here is now a protected nature area. The beach itself is between Dead Mans Bank to the south, and the “Old Flight” area to the north where the colliery waste used to be tipped. The Old Flight area is now only recognisable by a flat rocky outcrop which gives the north end of the beach a bit of protection during a northerly sea.
The main species to fish for will always be codling, but large numbers of whiting can also be taken as well as flatfish and the odd bass. The beach is mainly clean ground and snags are rare so you can use a light beachcaster and small multiplier or fixed spool. Low water is the best time for codling when you can get onto, or cast over the sand bar that usually runs along the beach. A nice moderate swell on a falling sea is the best time to fish for them. The water behind here is quite deep and on the right day it can produce double figure bags of codling. The flood tide and high water usually see large numbers of whiting move onto the beach and they are usually impossible to avoid, nevertheless, when they are of a decent size, around the 1lb mark you can have a good bit of sport fishing for them.
Using a bass rod or even a carp rod can provide excellent sport when conditions allow. Even when the whiting are out in force there is always the chance of the odd bigger cod showing so make sure to use a strong hook pattern. Multi hook rigs will take whiting three at a time and tipping worm baits off with squid or mackerel will often pick up the bigger specimens. If you are very lucky, a two hook rig can produce codling two at a time when fishing behind the sand bar.
Distance casting can be an advantage from here especially when you need to get over any sandbars, and often the odd codling will be behind the whiting, which will move to within a few metres of the waters edge. Crab will often be the best bait for codling between September and November, and during the summer months, but at other times worm baits will take plenty of fish.
The Boiler Hole – Blackhall
The Boiler Hole is at the southern end of Blackhall beach, to the right of Dead Mans Bank and is a good all year round mark that produces bags of codling during the winter months and is one of the few marks on the Durham beaches that can produce codling during the summer as well. So named because of the ships boiler that can be seen over low water this mark can fish at all states of the tide when there is a moderate swell running or at least some colour in the water, and will produce fish during daylight and night time. Codling are always going to be the main species with crab the best bait during Autumn and Spring, though it will take fish all through the winter, and big worm cocktails is favoured between December and March. The bottom can be quite heavy and a single hook rig is the best method to use. A 3/0 Viking pennel rig with a big crab or worm bait will almost guarantee codling during the right conditions. A suitable heavy beachcaster will be needed with an ABU 7000 sized reel. A 50lb shock leader and 20lb main line will suffice but you can use 30lb line straight through with a rotten bottom rig as distance casting is rarely necessary. Viewing the mark from the cliff top around low water will enable you to see where the gullies are and then fish into these for the best results. The water can be surprisingly deep in these holes so take care when wading out if you need to. You can fish a good session from here by fishing high tide back, starting from a mark on the cliffs known as “The Chair”, move down onto the beach on the ebb, and then stay for a few hours of the flood.
You can park in the nearby picnic site car park, but it is advisable to park on the main coast road during a night session and accept the 10 minute walk down to the cliff edge. Access is usually quite easy but take care if climbing down the shallow cliffs, there are several paths down the cliff face to various other marks, but to be safe it is best to go down Dead Mans bank and then turn right once on the beach.
You can park in the Seagull pub car park at the entrance to the caravan park just off the main coast road between Blackhall and Hartlepool or you can drive down behind the pub, under the railway bridge, and park at the security gate entrance to the caravan park itself. The steps are 50 metres straight in front of the gate.
A productive winter mark for some big bags of codling which fishes best between September and April over low water on a night tide. While this mark does not produce as many fish as the sandy beach to the south it produces bigger fish due to the broken rocky ground which is close in, either side of the steps, and below the low water mark. There is usually a clean ground hole surrounded by rocks on all sides. Due to shifting sand the hole isn’t always there, and not often very deep, but it will still hold fish on most tides. The bottom isn’t too bad with the occasional rocky outcrop but you should use a heavy beachcaster when a swell is running and a 6oz grip lead to hold the bottom. You might get away with a two hook rig, but a single hook one will be better as you should expect to loose a few end rigs if fishing onto the rocks. The holes here change all the time as the sand shifts between the rocks and sometimes you may have to cast well out to find any water deep enough to hold the bottom. Codling will average a good 3lb, with plenty of specimens around the 5lb to 6lb mark to be expected. The odd bigger cod into lower double figures have been taken from here in the past. It is best fished on a big high tide all the way back to low water. The holes will be evident by the white water running behind them and if the water is deep enough a short cast is all that is needed. Fresh or frozen crab will take fish all through the winter months but is best used between September and November, after which worm and clam cocktails will take over as being the most productive.
The summer months will produce a few codling to fresh crab baits as well as the odd coalfish and bass but few anglers bother during this time.
Crimdon Beach – Clay Hole
The long sandy beach at the southern end of Crimdon is a top low water winter mark for big bags of codling and whiting, but only fishes under certain conditions. The beach looks quite flat when looking from the cliff tops but at low water some very deep holes can form after a northerly sea, sometimes these can be several hundred metres long and very wide, impossible to cross. The outer sand bars break the heavy water and the holes can often be dead calm but will be full of fish that have become almost trapped in them. Fish high water back between September and April and watch for white water forming over a distant sand bar and there will be enough water in front of this to hold fish. As the tide ebbs, move up and down the beach to find the holes. The Clay Hole often forms in the middle of the beach when the sand is washed out exposing the clay bed. You can easily fish with a standard sport or match type beachcaster in all but the roughest seas. Distance casting is not necessary as any fish can often be found less than 20 metres out so don’t be afraid to try a few short casts. Most codling will be around the 2lb mark with the odd bigger ones to 7lb, it is very rare that anything bigger than this will be taken. A two hook rig with a grip lead when it is rough, and plain lead when it is calm, baited with lugworm, ragworm, or razor clam can often produce double headers of codling. During calm conditions masses of whiting can be expected, and tipping a worm bait with mackerel or squid will produce big bags of them. Flounders, plaice, dabs, and the odd bigger bass amongst lots of smaller ones also show during the summer months between April and September. The odd small thornback ray, L.S.D. or spurdog is also possible. Try a bass or carp rod for a bit of sport coupled with a fixed spool reel with 10lb line and a 1oz lead on a two hook rig baited with ragworm or small slivers of mackerel. Let the rig move around in the surf to locate the roving fish. The resulting bites from a greedy flounder or bass can be spectacular. This is almost a worm only mark as crab very rarely produces the amount of fish that worm baits do.
Access is relatively easy but involves a bit of walking. You can park on the main car park at the top end of the beach which can be found by turning off the main coast road at the bottom of Crimdon Dene and going under the railway viaduct. The area has recently been landscaped and improved and street lighting has been installed, parking in daylight is about as safe as it can be but, even with street lighting, still take care on a night time. Alternatively you can park on the road outside the Hartlepool Golf Club, (King Oswy Drive), and walk down the footpath around the golf course to the beach which is about 25 minutes away.