The fishing mark is the most important aspect of fishing. A good mark will produce fish, but spotting and researching that mark is often overlooked. Many people head to the sea, cast a line and wait, then pack up empty handed. The wise will read a few articles, head to the beach and do the same. One thing often not mentioned about the mark is the exact location where the fish are caught.
Chesil beach catches fish, no doubt. However, there are only a few real marks that hold fish on a regular basis. Your local tackle dealer or a copy of Sea Angler will tell you which beach to target, but rarely will they tell you exactly where to cast or work your lure.
I spent spent two years fishing a mark before I started the fishing-blog (Branscombe in Devon), catching the odd fish until one day I went snorkelling around the mark to find exactly what was in the water. Suddenly everything became clear (well through the planktonic soup), I could see where the fish were holding. As a result my catch rate improved and blank sessions became unusual!
In this particular location (I am not going to tell you the exact location, that’s your job) a small underwater rock ledge ran from the beach and the tidal flow pushed from out to sea, along the ledge into the beach. Guess what… All the small prey fish, small critters and rotten fish were being pushed to within 5 yards of the beach on a low tide. It was a fast food takeaway, crabs were eating sick fish and bits of worm, predators (Mackerel and Small Pollock) were crashing in from deep water filling up on prey and lurking in the deeper water, ambushing the Mackerel and Pollock were Bass! Under this feeding frenzy were flatties and Crab munching on the left overs.
A simple rig cast between 5 – 15 yards depending on the tide produced fish, lots of them….. Learning these marks in detail and understanding the conditions that make them work then recording this data in a diary are vital tips to successful angling.
Tips On How You Can Find Fishing Gems
You need to do some research, but where do you start! You need to start by thinking about the species you are looking to target. Flounder, Mackerel and Wrasse like different kinds of habitat. This post explains where different fish live in the water column – Sea Fish Types, but as an overview:
Round fish (Pollock, Mackerel) generally live in the Pelagic zone (from the surface down) and flat fish live in the Benthic zone (the sea bed into the substrate). So if you are fishing for flat fish you will want to get your bait on the bottom and round fish can be caught on the bottom up to the surface. Great image on zonal explanation here
We need to study the species that we want to catch. The first consideration is looking at the habitat of the fish. If they like muddy bottoms then we need to consider harbours or estuaries, lots of round fish like kelp and weed beds because this is where their prey hide and the weed offers cover for the prey species and helps ambush attacks by the predators – think about lions using long grass to stalk their prey.
The habitat will also teach us what bait or lure we need to be using to induce a take, combined with the season. Muddy bottoms will attract worms and small crustaceans, rocks hold Crab, Prawns (Learn to catch Prawns here) and Mussel beds. Kelp hold larger prey items like Blennies, young Pollock, Slatters and many other creatures. Open water is home to Sand Eels and Mackerel…
So we know the species, the habitat and likely bait / lures, now we need to locate these areas. A bit of local knowledge, a good OS Map or Google maps will help us to find the basis of what we need, but then we need to look closer and find exactly the features required to hold prey and predators in large numbers.
Fish the Ecotone
Animals tend to congregate on the edge of a particular habitat this is know as an ecotone. There is generally an occurrence of greater species diversity and biological density than in any of the adjacent ecological habitats. These zones can be very small ie around a small rock on a sandy bottom or a large scale like the Great Barrier Reef with its deep water drop off’s. The bottom line is this is where we need to cast our bait or present our lure because the chances of attracting a fish here are greatly improved.
Check your map and look for some ground that might be worth fish, look for a local mark. I have helped you here by pulling up a mark local to my self that fishes well in the right places in the right conditions
Armed with the information above, knowing the season you are fishing, the species you are going to target you can start to hunt ground that is going to have the right features to hold fish in numbers. Play with the above map and look for the ecotones which will hold the diverse species we need to feed our quarry.
Currents, Water Outlets, Rips, Tides, Waves and Wind
All these have a huge effect on the mark you choose…. Do you know how?
If you have bought my Bass fishing guide (you really should if you want to catch more Bass!) then you will learn how currents bring different temperatures of water as well as water masses carrying food to different areas. It is a conveyor belt of food and riches for aquatic species.
Water Outlets / Streams / RIvers
Water outlets often attract small prey species feeding on the detritus produced from all types of water out lets. Power stations create warm water outlets which thrives with zoo plankton creating a sustainable food chain. Mullet can be caught in good numbers around features like this.
Lots of fresh water can put some fish off so think about the weather conditions. If we have had heavy rain there will be a lot of fresh water in the local area to the outlet, this might help or hinder your fishing, so consider this carefully.
Some outlets carry undesirables out to sea, so maybe you do not want to eat what you catch. Use your head or get some local advice!
Rip tides are caused by tonnes of water dumping on a beach in the form of waves, the water runs along the beach until it can find somewhere to run back out to sea. This might be a gully between rocks, a man made obstacle or a trench in the sand. Again these currents not only denote deeper water, but also carry highly oxygenated water, packed full of food stuffs. (Fish with caution as the current will take you out to sea if you fall in. Don’t try and swim against it, allow it to take you out swimming parallel to the beach until you are clear of it, then head back in!)
The coming and going of water happens normally twice per day. Spring tides are large, neaps are small. You get one of each per month with differing tides in between. Tidal flows carry fish and food aorund our coast line as well as water of differing temperatures.
Tidal flows are increased where rocks and other object restrict the flow of the tide so consider how this will effect your mark. Fishing in the lee of the tide (behind a rock for example) often proves productive as fish and food hold in these slack water areas.
Waves are circular in motion, as the wave nears the beach this draws up “stuff” from the seabed, pulls the items forward then down and backwards, although ending up nearer the beach than when it started. The pattern would look like a pulled out coil if seen from the side. See my awful sketch below:
This action scours the sea bed pulling lots of lovely food in to the water column. It creates rich and easy picking for many species. After a large storm or swell the food particles will be held in the water column for hours and even days.
Waves and the coloured water due to all the sand and mud the stir up also provide the fish with cover, they can hide in the coloured water and feed much more confidently. This is an huge advantage to day time sea fishing. but on the flip side lures moved quickly through the water might be harder to target with the lack of sight and noise and vibration caused by the moving water so consider this.
Another thing waves tell us when learning about the mark is the depth of the water, the location of underwater features including reefs, rocks and deep water gullies. I love this bit! A moving water wave will start to break when the wave reaches a depth about 1/2 of it height. So a 2 meter wave will break in 1 meter of water as a rule of thumb.
If you get waves known as spilling breakers where they slowly break starting from one point which seems to move along the wave, this is a sign of a gently sloping beach and a small hump in the sea bed with deeper gullies to the side the water breaks into last. A plunging break happens where there is a sudden change in depth, like a reef or steep shelving beach. Many other factors like wind and current will effect the wave, but you should have the basics now.
The photo below (a very popular one I took in 2008) show this perfectly The white triangle of foam shows the edges of the deeper water, so we know there is a feature here to focus upon.
Features In The Sea, find, Record and Remember
We need to hunt down features that hold fish, to recap:
- Gullies – areas of deeper water in sand or between rocks
- Rocks – Create havens for sea life, large or small
- Man Made – Piers, jetties, platforms etc.
- Sand Banks – They often move
- Drop off – Generally around reefs and rock areas
- Currents – They come and go but are valuable sources of food
- Habitat – Seaweed, mud, shale, pebbles, sand etc
- Waves – Change lots but often improve fishing, look at what is effecting them
- Pools and Eddys – Caused by objects, often create
- Tidal flows – changing daily, some marks fish on low tides, some high, experiment.
- Ecotone – the area between different habitats (valuable hunting areas)
Carry out some initial research with maps and google or bing. Then get to the water and look for the clues I have explained here and record with your camera phone where the features and fish holding areas are. Re-visit the mark in different conditions, low tides, storms, summer, from the cliff tops, in summer and winter and learn the mark inside out.
Make sketches, use your video camera or just remember the key points. Once you get the hang of it you will find it easier and easier and it will become second nature when you learn about new marks. This post on reading the beach will also prove a valuable read. Keeping a diary of what you catch, where, when and how is very valuable for years to come, so invest in a diary, or blog about it!
Great anglers rely on knowing which mark to fish under the conditions and seasons they are presented with. Please share this post if you find it useful. Any feed back would be great, please comment below, I look forward to hearing from you all.