Living in Dorset it’s sometimes hard to decide where to fish, or what to target. We are lucky to have a number of species we can go after through autumn and winter, and I often find myself second guessing whether I have picked the right option or not, especially when a session doesn’t go to plan.
However there are certain tides and weather conditions, that when they match up I know exactly where I’ll be fishing. Tried and tested for years, this place fishes more often than not in known conditions, so with rain in the air, Steve Perry and myself found ourselves heading to a mark on the isle of Purbeck in time for last light. We reached the mark just as the light was fading, and the sea looked spot on!
Feeling confident, the landing gear was prepared and baits were sent into a very lively sea. It’s imperative to fish heavy on marks such as this, with fish often needing to be bullied to the net, so rigs were pulleys or up and overs constructed of 100lb + mono, with a wire trace and a pair of strong 6/0-8/0 hooks on the business end. Baits are simple, squid, cuttle and mackerel. Locally caught squid is always preferable at this time of year and can be absolutely deadly if you can get some.
Within minutes we were registering signs of life on the rod tips, and I had soon managed to miss a decent bite. Thankfully I managed to connect with the next enquiry, and after a few good lunges the eyes of a ray were evident below us in the white water. The fish gave Steve a bit of a runaround on landing duty but by patiently waiting for the right opportunity the fish was soon in the net, and it was evidently a fairly decent fish.
At 14lb 11 it’s by no means my biggest undulate, but my biggest from the rocks so a very welcome fish! No sooner had this fish been released my rod went again, an angry male fish of 13lb 5 this time!
We were getting a number of bites and knocks, but the luck was clearly on my side as it was my rod to go again next, with a smaller fish just under double figures which was a nightmare to land in the swells, but Steve was proving what a good gillie he is, really getting a sweat on landing my fish!
Things went quiet for a short spell but Steve soon added a small huss, and I had a few chunky pout all around the 1 and a half pound mark, the biggest just over this.
We were having a good time but it was becoming a bit one side and it was definitely Steve’s turn, when his rod tore off as something picked up his squid bait and headed out to sea!
He was straight into a nice fish, kiting uptide. We both hoped that maybe he had connected with one of the monster bass which frequent the area, and it wasn’t until we saw the sleek shape of a hound in the wash that our hopes were dashed. At 10lb 6 it’s certainly not a fish to be sniffed at, but we were both a bit disappointed it wasn’t a big silver bar!
We still haven’t worked out why the hounds show along the Purbeck marks in winter, but we have had occasional hounds off the rocks in December for years, with no idea what they are doing there! The fish had definitely moved Steve’s way by now as he landed an undulate just into double figures and a succession of small straps and another huss. Unfortunately things went quiet after this with just occasional signs of nuisance fish and shellfish attacking the baits, and we were discussing how long to give it.
It was just before midnight when Steve had a nice slow powerful bite. As the fish backed away and Steve set the hooks, it was clear he was into a much better fish which showed all the signs of being one of the big resident conger eels the isle of Purbeck is renowned for in the winter months. Unfortunately it picked up another line on the way in just to make the job of landing it that bit more fun! This is where the use of a net most people would consider ridiculous in its size comes into its own, as we guided the eel through the swells to safety.
I honestly thought this was going to be a fish over 30lb as it had a big head and shoulders on it, but it just lacked the length to give it the extra weight, and it went a shade under 25lb. With this eel renewing our enthusiasm we fished on for a couple more hours with nothing much to show for it, so decided to call it a day. As we walked back to the car we were both pretty happy with our session, and just reaffirmed the decision, that when the stars align again, I know where we will be heading!