After an early, warm start to the spring, local commercial boats out of Hartlepool report mackerel are now only around 6 miles offshore, and one local skipper qoutes “thornback rays are everywhere”. Perhaps it is time that anglers tried a change to the normal flatfish, whiting, codling, and coalfish, and tried for something a little more exotic. Thornback rays will take large crab and oily fish baits, and other species not normally attracted to worm baits will be looking for these baits also. A big bass would be a worthwhile catch, black bream were reported off South Shields pier last year, and I personally have seen gilthead bream landed in the Tees estuary.
Back to normality for now however, and the local piers are full of the usual, mainly smaller species, some big spring flounders are starting to show, there are decent whiting showing after dark, and the odd dogfish continue to be landed. A good number of anglers are now trying LRF tactics with Roker pier proving particularly productive for the smaller species.
There are plenty of smaller flounders in the Wear, with the bigger specimens generally at the top of the estuary, some anglers are fishing as far upriver as Chester-Le-Street. The Tyne has lots of various species present now. A small spring run of cod has seen fish to 3lb taking fresh crab baits from the mid-river marks, the lower river and South Shields pier have seen early plaice continue to move inshore among lots of dabs, flounders, and whiting.
A recent Tynemouth retired members match gives a good indication of what to expect. Phil Smithson won with three whiting, three flounders and two dabs for a total weight of 3lb 15oz, Mick Styles had a similar type of bag weighing 2lb 3oz, Tony Taylor had 1lb 1oz, and there was a four way tie for the heaviest fish at 11oz. An East End match fished in the Tyne saw 10 out of the 26 anglers weigh in. Les Henzel had a single cod of 1½lb, Ian Brewis had a cod of 1lb 5oz, and Mark Bradford had two flounders weighing 1¼lb.
The Whitby Spring Boat Angling Festival has produced plenty of mainly smaller cod from the inshore ground marks with the bigger fish falling to uptiding tactics. John Vero won day one with a cod of 6lb 13oz taken aboard Sea Otter 2, Steve Lumb had one of 5lb 8oz on the Jean K. Day two saw Michael Matthews win with a cod of 9lb 8oz on the Sea Otter 2, followed by Jordan Burton with one of 6lb 5oz on Shy Torque 3. Day three was won by Darren Wainer with an early season ling of 7lb 6oz on Shy Torque 3 ahead of Perry Franklin with a cod of 6lb 5oz on the same boat.