Hooked on winning at the seaside

How to catch your fish and cook it. Competitor Stewart Calligan previews the annual European beach championship

In Yorkshire we have some of the best beach fishing in the country. We say every cloud has a silver lining and in our case the cloud is the coastal erosion and the silver is the constantly coloured and nutrient-rich coastal waters.

It means the feeding inshore fish cannot see the hooks and line and that give anglers an advantage. Shrimps, crabs, sand eels and lugg worms abound on our shores and in turn attract the fish that feed on them. Throughout the average season we have cod, whiting and the occasional bass in winter. In summer we have more bass, smooth hounds and mackerel. All can be caught from the beach with the correct tackle and bait.

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And in a couple of weeks over 1,000 anglers from many countries will arrive to test their skills, spreading themselves across 40 miles of beach from Bridlington to the Humber for the 2012 European Open Beach Championships.

Over the last few years these competitors have had to contend with storms and spring tides, a lack of fish, wet and windy weather and very slippery, muddy and dangerous cliffs. The angler who had to be pulled out of his waders can vouch for this. His waders are still buried somewhere in the glacial mud of Humberside cliffs.

This winter there’s been a shortage of cod but an absolute glut of whiting. From Spurn to Bridlington they are being caught with an average size of 1lb. Now and again a 1.5lb and even a 2lb fish is landed. The only handicap

has been the extremely cold weather. I recently caught what amounted to a whiting bonanza (17 fish) at Dimlington beach but it was absolutely perishing. Feet and fingers were ready to drop off. My bottle of water had frozen and even the worms and squid were freezing. The whiting have a preference for lugg worm with a little piece of squid as the final part of the bait. I thread the worm on the hook or hooks if using the pennal double hook method. I then add about 3cms of a sliver of squid, which is known as “tipping off” with squid. The scent trail after casting in must be irresistible as bites come thick and fast. In some cases the bite is too fast with the fish snatching at the bait without actually swallowing it.

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Pound for pound the whiting can give a better fight than a cod. For the brave who like to fish with light tackle of perhaps a 5lb breakage strain hook length, the fish has to be gently treated and “played” to the shore.

Whiting is a versatile food. For fish cakes I fry with a lid on, which in effect steams the fish. When cool, take off the flakes of white fish and mix about 50 - 50 with mashed potatoes (gently folding in with a spoon). Add blanched sage and lots of chopped parsley. Make a rough fish cake shape, dip in beaten egg and then into seasoned bread crumbs. Fry in butter or oil until crisp and browned on both sides. These also freeze well for days when the whiting have moved on.

Up for the cup on the coast

Entry forms for the 2012 European Open Beach Championship, March 3 to 4, are on the East Riding of Yorkshire Events website and at local fishing tackle shops.

Or send a SAE with a cheque or postal order made out to East Riding of Yorkshire Council, with your name and address on the reverse, to East Yorkshire Events, County Hall, Beverley, HU17 9BA.

Senior fees: £20 per day or £30 for both days.

Junior fees: £10 per day or £20 for both days.

The “Bridlington flattie bash” competition for the juniors (the best flat fish) is held on March 2.