Lucky strike beneath cliff tops

Stewart Calligan with a 5lb cod, one of several species caught in deeper water off the East Coast.
Stewart Calligan with a 5lb cod, one of several species caught in deeper water off the East Coast.
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ALL THE planets aligned and all the jigsaw pieces fell into place for the perfect day’s boat fishing and my first of the year.

I had repaired the trailer rollers, fitted an electric winch and left the old manual winch alongside. A new fuel filter graced the 70 horsepower outboard engine and the batteries were fully charged.

Tide and weather were very good and a reliable first mate, my son James’s friend, Rob, was available. The sharp end of the tackle, the hook rigs were tied and we had an abundance of worms, squid and mussels.

We would rendezvous at Beverley Racecourse and then take one car to Bridlington. I was in position early as it was a glorious East Yorkshire day.

Rob arrived and we got to the Bridlington South Shore boat yard for 11am. The tide was out, exposing sand bars on the beach and another about 50m out to sea with small waves breaking over it. It was quite busy with wind surfers, dog walkers and parasols shielding the book readers.

The old team of Shaun and David were on duty at the East Riding council boat yard. David had a quick look at the new electric winch on my boat trailer, hitched up the boat to his tractor and we headed off down the beach. Low water at south shore means miles of sand.

David suggested reverse gear for 50 metres to avoid the sand bar and then forward gear and out to sea.

Half way across Bridlington Bay we stopped and fished for mackerel. Some had been caught the previous week but although I felt a few sharp nips, the shrimp like feathers were fishless.

We continued round Flamborough Head. The depth gauge showed 6ft of water and falling. I forgot it was low water and that the rocks of the Head stretch miles out to sea. We needed a sudden change of direction from North West to due east away from the cliffs. When we got 20ft of water we headed back on our north west bearing. This was giving the freshly serviced outboard engine a good test. It was happy at 20 knots so we went past Bempton Cliffs towards Filey.

We came to rest about half a mile off the cliffs surrounded by gulls, guillemots, kittiwakes and puffins. I could see the newly-refurbished RSPB visitor centre on the cliff top. Many bird watchers were admiring the view of the towering white cliffs covered in nesting birds.

But we were here to fish and as we drifted gently from North to South on the incoming tide, we cast in. I had some pink shrimp look-a-like lures and Rob had some black and silver lures. After a few fishless drifts we decided to put some bait on the lure hooks. Squid was the best and soon produced some codling about 1lb each.

Seeking larger fish I moved out from the cliffs into 50ft of water and that was when the day became busy. My first bite was a big one and I tried to treat it with the greatest respect. I called for the landing net and saw big silver and green flashes as it turned and lunged near the surface. A 5lb cod was safely netted and brought on board.

Rob had something similar but it got off near the boat. He thought it looked like a sea trout with spots and an adipose fin.

Several species were caught in this deeper water - pouting, coalfish, pollock and cod - but it was the cod that ranged from 3-5lbs that made this a memorable day. We kept a few for the table and the rest were returned to fight another day.

It was strange that only a square kilometre produced good fish as we drifted over. There must have been a shoal of large cod in that area and something was keeping them interested.

Some were quite reddish in colour which I presume is a type of camouflage for those fish living in or near kelp or other sea weed beds. A 3lb cod would make a nice meal for a seal or porpoise. In our own environment, we’re so fortunate to be at the top of the food chain.