Turbot time in Alderney

by Mark Harding

The Alderney turbot season has taken off with a big bang. Local angler Mark Harding has been right in the thick of the action and brings you a hot-off-the-press feature report.

Being stuck at work when the sun is out and the sea like a mirror is regular torture if you are a passionate boat angler like me. You cannot help but feel you are missing out on some great fishing and the word ‘frustrated’ in the moody menopausal male sense of the word about sums it up.

All is not sweetness and light in such ‘ideal’ conditions however, as I was again reminded the other week when I sneaked off work and onto the boat only to discover the fishing was pants. In typical angler fashion, events of that day were soon dismissed and those familiar bright, glassy-calm fishing pangs visited me again a week later, and I could not help but feed my seaborne addiction once more. This time however, things turned out rather differently…

skipper Colin Dukes with an Alderney turbot

The following day’s weather forecast promised sun and light winds. A quick half down the pub with mad-as-a-brush skipper Colin Dukes hatched a plan to raid the flatfish banks early next morning. Clearance from my better half was duly sought and given, and happy as a ginger pig in muck, I grabbed my gear and some quick rigs in readiness to hit the ground running first thing in the morning.

Early to sea

By 6.30am ‘Smuggler of Braye‘ was cutting through the tide like butter and we were off to dabble in some early season turbot and brill fishing. We’d seen a stunning sunrise and were granted a beautifully flat sea all the way out to the banks.

Our core tackle was 12/20 Abu Suveran rods and 7000 reels loaded with 20lb braid. I cut long strips of frozen garfish (a vastly underrated fish-bait) and mackerel, while Colin positioned the boat for the first drift. Simple 5-foot running ledger rigs with 5/0 Sakuma Manta hooks were lowered away.

The tell-tale tapings of a flattie sucking up the bait are not always evidenced quickly, but unlike my last day at sea, we had unmistakeable rod tip knockings almost instantly. Early season rustiness, or perhaps incompetence, saw me miss the first couple of bites, but the signs were good, and, as is my red-haired privilege, I was ‘gingerly’ confident.

skipper Colin Dukes with an Alderney turbot Mark Harding with an Alderney turbot

Colin boated the first fish of close to 10lb, and then proceeded to catch a further three turbot without reply, before I eventually got in on the act. The flatfish action remained steady until late morning when the tide dropped away and the dogfish arrived to pester us. Slack tide around Alderney doesn’t last long, and Smuggler of Braye was soon being pushed along again, this time on a different drift.

Turn of the tide

We had done well in the morning, and looking at the bigger picture, given that this is the start of the 2009 turbot run, indications for the weeks ahead are excellent. The main thrust of the turbot bank fishing will run for around a six-week period from now, before plateauing. After this time the bigger fish come to the fore, or it may simply be that they are easier to catch as the numbers of smaller fish have been thinned out.

The turn of the tide enabled us to drift another part of the bank that Colin was confident would deliver at this stage of the tide. His hunches are in fact based on long experience and the first drift returned five more plump turbot. It was more of the same on the next drift, with cocky Colin landing a decent brill, while I notched a hat trick of turbot.

Mark Harding with a turbot and brill in hand

The fishing was fantastic, and certainly the best in terms of turbot that I have had the pleasure of experiencing since coming here five years ago. If we had a blank drift it was because we were talking and laughing too much and missing bites. Nevertheless, by the end of the day we managed 26 turbot between just two rods! That near 10-pounder caught by Colin Dukes right at the start turned out to be the biggest fish of the session, but I can tell you that turbot to over 25lb have been caught in recent days.

So the Alderney turbot are in now, and the message is do not dally if you want to experience the best of the fishing. Many of the south coast boats will be making the cross-channel trip over to the Alderney grounds, but quick flights to the island from the UK mainland are regular and inexpensive for groups and individuals.

Useful websites and pages

Visit Alderney: www.visitalderney.com

Angler accommodation: http://harbourlightsalderney.com

charter boat Smuggler of Bray at sea

Tackle, bait and charter details: www.alderneyangling.com

Airlines: www.aurigny.com & www.blueislands.com

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