The three men in a boat with lines and rhymes

Stewart Calligan
Stewart Calligan
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On a beautiful day for fishing Stewart Calligan was inspired by Lewis Carroll as well as the beautiful scenery and wildlife to be found off Yorkshire’s east coast.

As well as having success at my beloved beach fishing this last few months with the smooth hounds and bass I now have a Ocqueteau 5.75 metre fishing boat. It has a 75hp 4 stroke outboard engine. There are no obstacles at the back where all the fishing action takes place and there are places to rest the rods while moving position.

The boat is dry berthed at East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s boat yard at South Shore, Bridlington. It sits on its own twin-wheeled trailer and is ready for action. We equipped it with boat rods, a large net, a gaff, life jackets, flares, waders and warm clothing.

Together with my two fishing colleagues, Kevin and Jon (who both have more boat experience than me despite passing my Royal Yachting Day Skippers examination), we planned our first outing.

We set off at 0700 hours from Goole, Brough and Hornsea. A fantastic day beckoned, although it was a nippy start with a heavy dew. The wind farm blades were still as I passed Beeford. After the nasty junction where I wrote off my Smart car some years earlier, I passed the Fraisethorpe Farm where I get the Christmas turkey – not long to go now.

We rendezvoused at the boat yard at 0800 hours armed with flasks, sandwiches, mussels, squid and a few luggworms. We put 20 litres of petrol in the boat tank, connected the battery and switched on the master switches. One switch controls the engine and one the other bits and pieces. The bits are fitted each outing, a fish finder and depth gauge, a global positioning system (GPS) designed for marine use and a ship’s radio. These are checked before launching and the pieces are also checked, the wiper, lights and horn.

David was driving the launching tractor and he tows us from the yard to the edge of the beach washing bays to test the engine. Muffs are fitted round the engine water intakes and a hose pipe attached. The water and engine are turned on and we see the jet of water squirting from the tell-tale cooling pipe. This shows the engine cooling system is working and gives us a good chance of starting the engine as we are set adrift in the North Sea.

David fits the tractor towing ball to our trailer on his first attempt (after several times now, I have never seen him miss it) which is quite a skill when looking down from the tractor seat. The engine is trimmed up so as to raise the propeller as high as possible to prevent damage and we set off across the beach. He backs us into the sea and uncouples the winch rope. He then skilfully floats us off the trailer stern first.

The engine is trimmed down until the prop is just submerged, and then started to gently reverse us out to sea. The depth gauge shows 5ft of water and about 50 metres out forward gear is selected and the Morse control is gently pushed forward.

We decided to fish over a shipwreck whilst the tide and sea conditions were calm. The co-ordinates are put into the GPS and a north-easterly course using the compass and the GPS is followed. We travel “on the plane” – only the rear of the boat and the prop in the water for 15 minutes at 20 knots. A white water “v” wake follows us and I’m feeling exhilarated and free. “Slow down Captain” comes from the mutinous crew. When we were about five miles out a buzzer sounded signifying our arrival over the wreck.

The sea was like glass and low tide was an hour away so we had about two hours to drift over the wreck to see what monsters lurked in the depths. The depth gauge was showing 200 feet of water and the fish finder screen was dotted with what could be shoals of fish or weed or plastic debris or whatever our signal bounced off back to the screen. This digital age certainly makes fishing easier than 50 years ago.

We baited up with squid, worm and mussel and began the drifts. We all had bites and several whiting were landed. The whole wreck must have been teeming with whiting. After a few more drifts Kevin was the first to get his bait past the whiting and hook something bigger. It was a pouting of about 1.5lbs and then we were back to the whiting.

After reciting the Lewis Carroll lines to them –

“Will you walk a little faster?” said a whiting to a snail,

“There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my tail,” – we headed North West to Bempton Cliffs

As we neared the cliffs, what a coincidence, as two porpoise type creatures broke the surface about 100 metres away. We also saw a seal in the kelp nearer the cliffs. These sightings coupled with the deafening bird calls made it a memorable day as the bright sun reflected back off the white cliffs. There were puffins, gannets, cormorant and gulls of all descriptions. What a scene and what a marvellous area right on our Yorkshire doorstep.

Back to the fishing and the tide was gently pushing north to south. Using the same bait I was the first to hook something big. I played the fish as my hook lengths were not very strong and soon saw a flash as it neared the surface. I called for the net and as soon as it saw the net it plunged back down. I had to let line off and gradually brought a 2.5ft fish to the net. My biologist colleagues pronounced it as a ling – a first for me.

Now ling is not readily available in the shops as it hasn’t a commercial value in the UK. I had seen them in the French supermarkets, but then there’s not much from the marine world that isn’t in a French supermarket. I will report later how I cooked it and what it tasted like.

Kevin was the next to get a good rod-bender and landed a 3lb cod quickly followed by Jon with a 2lb wrasse. A few more drifts along the cliffs produced some more cod and a few mackerel when we used baited feathers (smaller hooks dressed up to look like shrimps). Bridlington bay was the place for mackerel and the commercial boats that take parties of anglers out were to be seen in the bay catching lots of mackerel.

We were about three hours after low water and the tide and wind had picked up. After a look at small white horses (the tops of the small waves just breaking) off Flamborough Head we decided to head for home before it got too rough.

As the tides and currents meet in the shallow water just off the head all sorts of rubbish can wash up from the bottom. Old ropes from crab pots and bits of net etc. can ensnare a prop and disable the engine. We gave the head a wide berth copying our two other South Shore boats, skippered by Fred and Turnbull, who knew a lot more than us about the area.

Land looks very different from the sea and on our way out we had memorised some landmarks. We made for the three art deco houses just south of the boat yard.

David or Shaun, the boat yard manager, had spotted us from their observation office. He beats all the professional weather buffs and is never wrong with his advice on tides, wind and getting round “the head”.

David, who can place the towing ball of the tractor on a sixpence, met us on the beach as we donned our waders (Jon his rather nice shorts), turned off the engine, trimmed it up and jumped into the water.

Then it was back to the washing bays, where we hosed the boat and washed out the engine with fresh water before parking it in the secure yard.

The sun was still shining as I drove home with fish in the boot and the wind farm blades were dancing in the brisk off-shore breeze.