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Time to look at the overlooked angling possibilities

Happy New Year and what to do now? The festivities are over, the tree and ornaments are being trashed, boxed and otherwise put away for another 11 months but the boat has remained idle for near on a month and the weather doesn’t look too encouraging. A bit of a dilemma, to say the least.

So, with turkey and ham being off the menu for the duration, there is always the going fishing for a bit for the table. The channel offers potential in the way of turbots, better known everywhere else in the world as triggerfish, but nonetheless a source of nice, firm white fillet.

Then there is bottom bouncing: not a lot of fun but coneys and barbers still live on the reefs – a bit amazing considering how many have been dragged off and for so long – and they make for a nice fillet as well.

Those options are fine if the weather is such that it is reasonable to get the boat off the moorings and to head out into the channel, or venture a little farther out onto the reef platform or elsewhere on the inner bottom. But, how about all those days when the breeze is, at the very least, stiff and coming from the northwest through to northeast. That makes for a bumpy proposition and is hard to justify.

Look now to the often overlooked. The South Shore offers angling possibilities that are seldom explored by other than the occasional tourist who wants to wet a line but is not in a position to charter a boat. Moreover, at this time of the year, there are very few skippers taking charters and the prospects of managing to coordinate reasonable fishing conditions with the length of the visitor’s stay are slim.

What does the beach offer during the winter? You might be surprised. As so often seen on the front page of the newspaper, tourists do find the clear blue water inviting and warm enough for a swim, or at the very least a paddle or wade. Little do they realise that it is also home to large numbers of fish that would be welcomed by any serious angler.

The spinning rod is the tool for this sort of work and there is a real opportunity for some sport, and a tasty morsel or two.

Hardly ever mentioned in sporting circles these days, the bonefish is one of the ultimate light tackle challenges and while most havens for such angling boast acres of flats and grassy areas, the species is common here as well.

Just off the sandy South Shore beaches, there are loads of bonefish all year round. Many of these may not be the five and six pounders that the flats angler seeks but, there are enough fish in the one to two pound bracket to make life interesting on any form of ultra light tackle.

Blind casting is a safe bet especially if a smelly bait such as squid is used. Bonefish have an incredibly effective sense of smell and a bit of bait on the otherwise seemingly pristine pin sandy bottom is quickly seized upon as a food. Using what used to be termed a “fish finder” rig works well, although casting out a bait on a weighted line that is then slowly retrieved can also have the same effect.

The fish finder rig uses those pyramid shaper lead weights. The line is run through the eye at the top of the weight so that it may be drawn freely through the eye. The rationale is that when the rig is cast out, the lead will fall and burrow into the sand, leaving the hooked bait free to be moved by the wave action. With no apparent connection between the buried lead and the bait the fish working the bottom for food will rapidly pick up the offering and then things will all come tight. The juvenile bonefish that are most numerous off the beaches give a good account of themselves, something like a ladyfish, another sporting species that is rare here. And where there are small bonefish there are also likely to be some large ones, and should you latch onto one of those you will definitely be in for a tussle.

The other species of interest is the pompano or palometa. These are present throughout the year and there are many different schools of thought as to the best means of catching them. They are usually more than willing to please and the time-honoured use of chunks of bread and sardine oil is almost guaranteed to get results. Some believe that chumming with cat food is the best tactic, while others are quite happy to concentrate on the use of artificial lures, mostly silver spoons.

However they are caught, they provide some small but gorgeous fillets that have few peers. Small, because the average fish only weighs about a pound or so with a two pounder being a big fish. The fact that they tend to occur in schools and are voracious feeders makes it possible to catch a half dozen or so and that will provide enough for most families.

Based on this a sunny, northerly wind day can be spent out in the fresh air with the real prospect of fresh fish and Tight Lines!