Pout for the count

by David Proudfoot

Steve Parker reports on his Weymouth charter trip on Atlanta skippered by Dave Pitman...

I had been staring at the forecast for Saturday 26th September all week.  The forecast was for light winds and sunny skies and I was just waiting for it to turn as is normally my luck.  But as Saturday approached it just got better and better.  When it got to Friday night and the sea state was forecast as “Smooth”, yes not even slight but “Smooth”, I was convinced I was assured of a fish filled day.

I set off to Weymouth typically early as I didn’t sleep much the night before with the anticipation, and as usual this gave me ample time to convince my self I needed all those new shiny things hanging on the walls of Weymouth Angling Centre.  I even convinced myself to invest in some fresh tiger prawns from Asda as a contingency – what could go wrong!

In the car park I bumped in to Dave Pitman, skipper of Atlanta and my host for the day, and despite the early hour Dave said he’d finished preparing the boat and that I was welcome to go and grab my self a spot for my gear.

The conditions were the best I have had for years and the rest of the crew were as cheerful as I was as we left the harbour and headed to the west side of the bill to pick up some fresh Mackerel to compliment our supply of frozen squid and fresh ragworm (and of course my secret prawn weapon….).  As we rounded the bill I rattled off a few photos but all stuff I’ve published before so put the camera away for a bit and settled down to soak up some sunshine

We arrived at the west side quickly and got amongst a number of other boats already in to the mackerel.  First drop and I was in.  On retrieving the line I had hooked a cracking garfish of around 2½ feet long.  Despite having got in to a terrible tangle with an angler named Tina I was soon back in the water searching for mackerel.  Another similar sized gar was boated and then we got in to the target species.  String after string came aboard and we had quickly filled the cool box and were ready to go after larger prey.  This is the best mackerel fishing I have seen all year and it was kind of hard to stop!

Dave planned to fish a couple of marks out in Lyme Bay.  The first a reef mark fairly close in to Chesil Beach and the second a wreck we would fish as the tide eased which was further out in the bay.  On the way to the first mark I got the first inkling that my luck may not hold for the day.  I got out my camera to snap some shots of the other anglers and the scenery along the beach only to realise that in my hurry the night before I had forgotten to charge the battery and I had exhausted this at Portland Bill…..and now knowing what was to be caught I apologise for the lack of photos!

We anchored up and quickly got fishing.  I started out with a two boom paternoster rig with size 4 hooks.  The bottom hook was tipped with half a squid head and the top with a section of king prawn.  It didn’t take long for a bite, but just as I started to retrieve I became tangled with two other anglers.  With little tide and a fickle light breeze this can be a real problem as the boat swings around.  Dave’s crewperson, Dee, quickly sorted the mess though and I started to wind again, pleased that my fish was still there.  As the fish surfaced it turned out I had a nice bream of around 1½ lbs on the prawn and a decent sized scad on the squid.  The bream went on ice and the scad was kept for pot baits on another day.

So one drop and one target fish, surely this would be a day to remember? The boat started to catch a steady stream of fish.  Bream came to the boat in reasonable numbers and one chap behind me boated a nice thornback ray of around 5lb.  He had brought his daughter on her first fishing trip and she was quickly in to her stride catching bream to a good average size.

two boom rig

Dave the skipper was the first to show the way to bigger specimens with a bream in excess of 3lbs and this was followed by several more on the boat.  Now a 3lb plus bream has been my target for the last couple of years as I want the Shimano mission accomplished badge.  Sadly however, at this point in time, I settled in to a steady stream of nuisance pouting and poor cod.  Variety was added by hits from mackerel and scad on the drop.  I reckon I averaged a fish every 3 to 5 minutes for the next couple of hours, and none of them worth mentioning.  I proved beyond doubt that king prawns will attract pouting if nothing else!

After a couple of hours Dave moved us to a wreck where he was determined that I would catch my 3lb bream.  At this wreck my neighbouring angler, Tina, switched tactics and broke out her conger gear.  Deftly preparing a mackerel flapper she lowered here gear and settled in to her crossword.  Not for long though as Tina was quickly in to an eel.  At around 20lbs Tina made short work of this fish.

I however was equally quickly in to the pout and scad again.  I did have a heart hastening moment when I leant in to a larger fish which broke the trace, and then brought a reasonable bream all the way to the surface only to drop it as I tried to hand line it in to the boat (will I never learn?)!

The rest of the boat seemed to settle in to the task of making me look even more incompetent as large and interesting fish came on board from all angles. Tina was catching congers to 30lbs at regular intervals and other members of the crew were also landing the odd conger on all sorts of varieties of gear A number of good size bream, all in that 3lb bracket, were also being taken, without me contacting any.  I continued to catch pout, ho hum…

As there was a brief lull in the fishing Dave suggested we move and try another reef on the way back in.  No sooner had he started the engine to warm it up, two more 3lb bream came aboard.  “I’ve changed my mind” he said, “We’re staying”.  It proved to be the right choice.

The next shout went up from one of Dave’s regulars, Geoff.  He bemoaned his luck at hooking in to what must be another smallish conger but on his ultra light bream rod and trace.  Not expecting to land the fish Geoff started a very cautious contest with a large and lively predator.  Bit by bit he made more ground on the fish and we waited to see the long streak of grey / white colour below the surface.  Dave stood ready with the T-bar to release the fish, but as it broke surface it was not a conger but a cracking pollack!  Dave grabbed the gaff and the fish was boated.  It weighed in at 15lbs and had taken a size 4 bream hook baited with worm and squid, a fantastic angling achievement – where was that camera?!?

I continued to catch pouts….I even tried to trot a shad back in to the wreck only to catch a pout and then lose the lure! The novice lady who had come for a day in the sun with her dad seemed to need a break from landing good quality bream so boated her own pollack, a fish of around four pounds I guess, before returning to the bream action.  Another pollack, not a double but a sizeable fish came aboard from the other side a few minutes later.  I caught, yes you’ve guessed; more pout!  On every hook size from a 6 to 4/0, on prawn, squid, and mackerel, I caught pout.

Finally Dave started the engine and it was time to go.  I dropped down one more time and immediately received an unmistakable pout bite.  I struck it hard out of frustration and was glad it had dropped off. I raised the rod tip and had one more trot back before I started to wind in, and…. wham! I was into a fish.  Not a lousy, barely registered poor cod or pout bite.  Not a frenetic but weightless mackerel bite.  It was a proper fish.  I gained some line before it took a run, peeling line off the reel – I couldn’t believe it!  Now, after the day I had, I was seriously doubting my angling ability and was convinced between me, my tackle and my fish I would conspire to lose this catch.   But bit by bit I gained and after what seemed to be an age, but was probably only a minute or so, it surfaced.  Not a 3lb bream but a nice sized sporting pollack.  It was not a double figure fish but was not that far away.  I don’t think I derived pleasure from this fish so much as absolute relief.  Interestingly I had caught this fish also on bream gear with a mackerel squid cocktail.

So with that we set off back to the harbour with an ice box now filled with a good number of bream and pollack and having enjoyed a prolific days sport in fantastic conditions.  Dave had done everything he could to find me a 3lb bream.  He had put us on fantastic marks with tons of good quality fish; it was just not my day.  It is funny how fishing does this to you though.  In my last report I could do no wrong, so perhaps the fishing gods were looking to humble me a little?  Funny how they throw you a good fish at the end though, because that’s the one you will remember, and that’s the one which will make you come back!

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