In the UK we are fairly limited in which larger species we can catch from the shore. Tope and eels are up there in the top three realistic larger fish you can catch, but a 50lb fish of either from the shore is an extremely good fish. The largest shore fish from UK waters that you can target and have a realistic chance of getting a fish over 100lb has to be the common skate, which we’ll persist with calling the common skate dispute findings now pointing to it being two species, the flapper and blue skate.
The skate has been on my to do list for at least two years now, but with them only getting caught in Scotland it’s not the easiest of trips to organise. Getting time off work last minute to go with good weather and good tides is never an easy task.
It was a Tuesday at work when I get a message out the blue from the welsh tope legend Ryan Wingfield. He asked if I wanted to go up for a skate on Thursday straight after work and come back Monday. I asked what the tides, wind etc were looking like and he replied with perfect. Before even checking with the real boss back home I had already asked my boss if I could get the days off and luckily as I was on top of my work it was a yes! We were on!
As I knew a skate trip would always be last minute I had already purchased most of the gear I needed. Heavy braid, 250lb mono and large hooks (12/0 and 14/0).
Thursday soon come round and I set off for the long journey ahead. I met up with Ryan the other side of Bristol as he was coming from Wales and we left my car and set off in his van. The journey took a good 12 hours and we only had about 2 hours sleep in the back of his van before we got the rods set up and started fishing!
We fished hard all day getting our whole mackerel baits constantly robbed by small spurs and dogfish that we had no chance of hooking on our large hooks. Darkness was now starting to set in and so was tiredness after the long drive and lack of sleep. All of a sudden we get startled by the scream of one of Ryans ratchets and its skate on!
After hearing of battles six hours plus with some of these creatures I was totally surprised when after about a 20 min battle Ryan had it to the surface. I was shocked by the size of the fish for such a short battle as I could see it was a good one. After gently sliding it into a shallow ledge we got the tape out and took its measurements. On the conversion charts it worked out to be 180lb and what a great start to the trip! We slid her back into the water and she swam gracefully back to the depths, a sight in itself to behold.
After seeing such a great fish I was now even more keen to try and catch my own. While Ryan had his fish on i reeled both my rods in to give him the best chance of landing it. I soon got 2 fresh baits straight back out into the darkness and waited in anticipation for that monster fish.
No more than 15 minutes had passed by when line started peeling of my reel. This was it, the moment I was waiting for. As i tightened up the drag and struck into the fish it truly showed me the absolute power of these creatures with an almighty run! After seeing Ryan land his fish so quick I kind of expected it to be easier than I had first thought and built up in my head. Oh how wrong could I have been, it was everything according to my prior expectations and more!
Straight from the start Ryan said to me he thought it was a male fish. The minutes soon ticked by as the fish held tight to the bottom then the minutes soon turned into an hour. Finally after about 1hr 50 the fish was thankfully starting to tire and so was I! With my back and forearms now in bits from keeping constant pressure on I gave a sigh of relief as the fish hit the surface. Ryan slid the fish up onto the rocks and I was absolutely buzzing!
We measured the fish and worked it out as a 126lb male, so a good size fish for a male. For me the trip was made, I wouldn’t care in the slightest if I didn’t catch anything else. To get a 100lb plus skate from the shore was a dream come true. The rest of the evening was very quiet and we called it a day about 3am, no doubt only the adrenaline from our skate helping us get through to that hour.
The next day we were both unfortunate to lose a fish each. Ryan lost one that didn’t feel very big that spat the bait not far from the surface. The one i lost I had struck into, it had a couple lunges and then it was gone. At least it happened quickly and not ages in to a gruelling battle. As fishing goes you win some, you loose some, but it truly didn’t get to us as we couldn’t complain with a great fish each already.
The final day soon came round and it was time to get the rods out one last time. This time we opted for a different mark and we got the baits into the water just as the sun went down. The rods had been out not much more than 10 minutes and we couldn’t believe it when Ryan’s rod took off and it was fish on again! This time the fish didn’t make it so easy for Ryan and after a good hour passed it was nice to have a laugh at Ryan in pain as he did with me! Once again it was a good 2 hours before the giant gracefully glided in and it was another good female of 173lb. Yet another absolute barn door of a skate.
The hours soon ticked by and we hadn’t had any more runs. We agreed to have one last cast and I kind of excepted that was going to be it on the fish front. The baits had been out at least an hour again and me and Ryan looked at each other to say that’s enough. I picked up my left rod to reel it in, I tightened up the drag when all of a sudden before I even lifted the rod tip the rod nearly gets ripped out of my hands… Fish on! I couldn’t believe my luck.
I now had to do another 2 hour battle while Ryan patiently waited to land the fish. As the fish came up on the surface I could see this was definitely a pb, bettering my first effort from 2 days prior. We got the fish in and measured it, I was totally over the moon as it was a female that went 192lb! I was absolutely knackered by this time and as we packed away I was still in total disbelief at what just happened over the previous few days as well as this final capture.
I can’t thank Ryan enough for all he had done. He has now done a fair few trips for the skate and it made the trip so much easier with his expert guidance. Realistically I doubt I will be able to get out chasing these monsters at least until the end of next year but I really cant wait!