The blonde ray invasion has started on the South Wales coastline in numbers like we’ve never experienced before and has kicked off renewed hope that it continues year on year, as they are one of the best species of ray to target due to the initial bite and fight they can give you in my opinion. Let alone the size they can achieve comparative to other local species.
The plan was for myself, Kelly Smith, Mark Jones and Dean Brinn to fish a local low water venue in 1 of the very few windows of weather we’ve had the last few weeks. Kelly had fished it a few days before and had success so we knew there was a slim chance they may still be there and all we could do was go and try and tempt one of these excellent patterned Ray’s from the shallows.
Myself and Dean got there two and a half hours before low but Kelly and Mark were already down there with a few more anglers set up a few hundred yards either side of them. The wind was side on and quite strong but we only had 3 hours fishing there so we knew we just had to put up with it and try our best to get the baits out as far as we could.
There was also a big swell running which was going to make landing and returning any fish if we were lucky enough to catch very difficult but try we were going to. We all opted for pulley rigs but myself and Mark were using shorter lengths with Kelly and Dean using traditionally longer rigs.
The bait choice was sandeel, squid and bluey and with our coastline there is pretty much no other bait you need for these rays. It was still light when we all cast out and the rods bounced in the stand with the wind making it difficult to detect any little bites, but with the blonde Rays they usually pull the rod tip over and keep going or drop you slack which is a great indicator in trying conditions. The rods didn’t show any signs of life out there while it was still light but as soon as the light faded I heard a loud shout from Mark to say he was in and had a decent fish on, a few moments later the first blonde ray of the night was skipping across the surface of the water and was expertly guided onto the rock ledges and then grabbed by Kelly.
What a start, a ray of low double figures was landed and before we could say anything Kelly was running over to his rod to take up the slack line which was now nearly on the floor in front of his rod. This was the start of the most hectic 3 hours fishing we’ve ever had, landing fish, taking pictures, putting fish back and baiting up as quick as you could to get a bait out there. It was a massive struggle for us all. As quick as you could put a bait out there you would either be landing a fish, taking a picture or winding in your own rod with a ray attached to the end of the line.
This wasn’t a relaxed session, it was like a 100m sprint but for 2 hours constantly doing something to try and get on top and catch up with everything. This was not like the tope fishing I’m used to which is sit it out and wait for that bite, this showed me how much out of touch I am with fishing hard and regular bait changes and if I’m honest I was struggling to keep up. It was like a battle field with rays everywhere, either being held for pictures, under the stand ready to take the hooks out or being picked up to be released back in the sea. This continued till 1 hour into the flood and then things started to slow down and bites were every 5-20 minutes which I think we were all thankful for to give us a break!
In 3 hours fishing we managed 35 rays with 33 blondes and 2 spotted ray, 1 to Kelly and 1 to Mark, most of the blondes were double figures with the average about 10- 11lb but we did have a few better fish. Dean’s biggest was 14lb 14oz, Marks was 15lb 5oz, mine was 16lb 12oz and Kelly had the biggest of the night and a new personal best for him at 17lb 11oz which is a fantastic ray well done buddy. The rays were all full of tiny sandeel which says they were out there gouging on the abundant food source out there and we were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
n just a few days, myself, Dean and his mate Hugh decided to give it another attempt to see if they were still there or if they had moved off, the conditions were pretty much identical but with heavy rain and a smaller swell but it didn’t put the fish off. Dean was into 3 blondes in his first 3 casts but for myself and Hugh it was very quiet but that soon changed, it wasn’t long before we also got in on the action with Hugh landing his very first blonde ray and a new personal best for him.
That’s how it went for the next 2 hours but it wasn’t as busy as the last time we were out and it was easier to keep up but we still managed 21 Ray between the 3 of us with blondes and smalleyes to just over double figures. I can only hope this is how the ray fishing is going to be over the next few years, or is this year just a freak year with the amount of blondes turning up on the channel, what ever it is long may it continue because the cod fishing has died a death and with this type of fishing we have now I can’t say I’m really unhappy with it.