Is it really October already? Jansen Teakle gives us his final Bristol Channel fishing forecast instalment for 2021 and with the arrival of autumn, there’s more than just cod on the cards.
By the time you read this, the water temperature in the Bristol Channel will have reached its peak which in turn will ensure all manner of food stuffs are readily available for the feeding fish mooching about in the warm shallows. Shrimps in particular thrive in the shallow muddy waters and providing the heavens don’t open for days or weeks on end, concentrations of these crustaceans will be found well up in to the upper reaches. A combination of this plentiful food source and high salinity levels will see thornback rays moving in to even the shallowest of venues and these fish, likely females, could well exceed double figures in weight. The popular match venues of Aust and Littleton will undoubtedly see a smattering of these fish, together with a few small codling, flounders, eels and sole.
Larger sole will show from marks around Portishead and Clevedon with big ragworm baits the preferred approach of many seasoned locals. Wild ragworm should be sourced in preference to the farmed variety which is finding its way in to many tackle shops. Two or three large ragworm fished on 1/0 or even 2/0 pennel rigs will sort out the better fish and a specimen over three pound in weight is very possible.
Moving further down channel there will be a few smoothhounds worth fishing for around Sandpoint and Brean Down, but numbers will be thinning out all the while.
Bass will still be very much on the cards at most venues and when conditions are right, could show from just about anywhere. Fish with two rods and keep one bait at very close range, especially during or just after a good blow from the west which will see the fish pushed inshore to feed. Larger bass will continue to a be a possibility well in to the autumn and should be targeted with fresh peeler crab or ragworm over those marks that consist of broken ground. The sandy beach venues of Weston, Brean, Berrow and Burnham can all produce bass, but swap the crab and ragworm for locally sourced lugworm if possible. The average size of these fish found over the cleaner ground will likely be down and the chance of a big bass will drop somewhat, but numbers of fish at these cleaner venues are very possible.
The reef marks between Hinkley and Blue Anchor will produce good numbers of rays and some better size congers that will move in to feed on pin whiting and pout. If you’re targeting a bigger eel it can really pay to set up a second rod rigged up with smaller hooks to purposely target these bait fish. A whole small whiting can be lashed on to a pair of 6/0 hooks, but be sure to use a heavy mono or wire trace.
October is a fantastic month here in the Channel, but November can potentially be even better again. The kiss of death at this time of year will be the arrival of high pressure systems that can bring easterly winds and a savage drop in air temperature. Shallow marks early in the morning should be avoided at all costs under such conditions and there’s nothing like an overnight frost to chill the mud over low water and kill sport. But, if the weather remains mild, ideally with a wind from the south, the majority of marks will have the potential to fish extremely well.
This is the month to try for a big eel and although the whiting shoals that were once prevalent in the channel appear to have left our shores for the time being, there is a sufficient number of pin whiting and pout to attract the attention of a large conger. High water marks around Minehead would be my first choice and I’d be aiming to fish a spring tide on a relatively still night. Start fishing around three hours before high tide where it is safe to do so and focus on catching some bait, but don’t feel despondent if the fishing appears to be slow. Many of these marks fish best over the top of the tide and in to the ebb, so stick at it and ensure you have the means to land a big eel.
Gone are the days of gaffs- they are unnecessary at these venues which are typically pebbles and small stones giving way to mixed ground. A large net will do the job just as well and ensure that the eel is unharmed. A T-bar is also an essential piece of kit for removing hooks, as is a sling and a good set of scales if you want to record the capture.
The same marks around the lower half of the Channel will also produce codling, pout, dogfish and whiting but it is not unheard of for the odd surprise fish to show here, especially during an onshore blow. Sole are another fish that could show here and the sandier areas have a track record for producing big fish. Traditionally, the largest of these fish have fallen for baits intended for cod, so that gives you some idea as to the best approach. The sea wall at Blue Anchor has a track record for producing all of the above and has the added bonus of being able to fish from your car if you so wish. There are limited access points to the water here and the mark does get popular, so it is advisable to arrive well before high water to secure a spot. It goes without saying that anglers should not obstruct the sea wall with fishing paraphernalia. The pavement is frequented by the public, so please do show them respect and show us anglers to be decent folk!
If a big cod is on your wish-list this year, this is the month to spend some time by the water. But don’t expect it to land in your lap just because you’re there. Sadly, big cod are nowhere near as prevalent as they once were, but that said, there are still enough fish present to make an attempt on them worthwhile. Study the tide table for neaps (the smallest tides) and aim to fish the deeper low water marks such as those found at Brean Down, Sandpoint and Battery Point. These three venues between them have probably produced more big cod than anywhere else in the channel and it’s essential to fish somewhere with a track record. Lugworm baits will score for codling but if it is that bigger fish you seek, load up with a decent size fish based bait. Bluey, herring and mackerel are great cod baits and if the fish have been preoccupied with sprats, which is often the case at this time of year, chances are they will have the taste for an big oily bait such as this when they move back inshore. Squid is also a brilliant bait for better fish and these frozen offerings can be loaded in to the freezer so that you always have bait to fish with. It’s true that fish baits will produce fewer bites, for sure. But those fish that you do land will more often than not be of a far better stamp.
If cod fishing is not your thing, now is the time that the north Devon coast will come alive, especially under the cover of darkness. Bull huss and conger eels will make up the bulk of catches here, but tope and spur dogs add to the potential target species and could show up from just about anywhere. Tope are extremely hard fighting and will test your tackle to the extreme, so ensure you’re geared up with robust kit and flawless rigs. Runs are hard to come by and it’s sickening to lose a fish when one finally shows up. Step up every part of your approach but be sure to use a wire trace. Freshly caught prey fish such as rockling, pout and pollack all make excellent baits. Strips of mackerel can be fished on small hooks at close range to acquire these and just a fews casts can usually harvest enough bait for a session.
The rock marks along this coast can be deadly and particular attention should be paid to the sea state. Apps such as ‘Magic Seaweed’ provide invaluable swell forecasts and if these is ever any doubt, it’s always better to play safe and postpone your trip. When it is safe to fish, always ensure you are well acquainted with your chosen location, preferably by arriving in daylight. The winter weather can really whip up the sea on the hugely exposed coast so always consider your safety before anything else. Safety should always come first, but if you’ve got that covered, enjoy your time here on the Channel!