Sea fishing: Mackerel it is as conditions break nicely to take to autumnal seas

Stewart Calligan hooked mackerel after mackerel on his latest fishing trip off the East Coast.
Stewart Calligan hooked mackerel after mackerel on his latest fishing trip off the East Coast.
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THE WINDOW for getting out on the boat for a spot of sea fishing have become less frequent since autumn took a grip.

Easterly winds were building up the swell which broke against East Yorkshire’s cliffs and beaches. There were a few days when the wind veered south westerly and pushed the swell seawards so plans were made with my son James and his friend Rob to make up a crew.

I oiled the reels and checked the rods and line. The bait and lures consisted of shad lures, pink shrimp-like mackerel feathers and mussels and squid.

As a former head of a Hull training school I remembered my wall hanger: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” With this in mind I went through my checklist, which includes: cloth for slimy fishy hands, a filleting knife, petrol for the engine, boat keys, bait elastic, a Swiss army knife and something to eat and drink.

It was a day of contrasting weather. Out to sea across the broad Bridlington Bay seascape shafts of sunlight pierced through dark brooding rain clouds while inland a blue sky and calm weather dominated.

A few gulls were diving off the south shore buoy which indicated some fishy activity in the depths. We stopped near the gulls and as soon as we cast mackerel feathers, the fish did their bit. Our rod tips were alive with the bang, bang, bang of high speed mackerel hitting the feathers and hooking themselves. We had five hooks on each line and each cast we had four or five wriggling, shiny silver, green, black and blue striped fish.

It must have been a large shoal as we soon had enough for barbecues, frying pans and pate. It’s hard to estimate the numbers of mackerel that shoal in the bay area, but when they are there they take almost any bait you offer.

From the tranquil bay, James took the boat around the head to the north while I gutted, decapitated and washed our grand catch.

Rain was waiting for us north of Flamborough. James switched on the one windscreen wiper. I don’t think the wiper was up to MOT test standards as it struggled to clear the heavy rain. We kept going, being extra careful not to run into a crab pot buoy and snag the propeller on the rope.

Like pouring oil on troubled waters, the rain calmed the sea surface. As bass had been caught near the head I took advantage of the calm to cast a surface lure, called a plug, which ducks and dives to attract any carnivorous hunters. After six or seven casts something big grabbed the lure about 50 yards out. It shook my rod like a Jack Russell shaking a rat and got off just as quick.

The poor angler is left wondering ‘what on Earth was that?’ It could have been a bass or a pollock or even the ubiquitous mackerel. Depending on how vivid an imagination you have, it could have been a sea trout or even the king of fish, a salmon.

Game fish use this part of the coast to search for the mouth of the River Esk and Humber and are caught in the offshore nets of the strictly licensed commercial fisher persons.

Spurred on by this ‘take’ I cast in several times more to no avail. Then Sammy the seal popped its head up just where I was casting. It was probably attracted by the mackerel, but as the seals sometimes attack hooked fish, we decided to move as we didn’t want to leave Sammy with a sore mouth.

We continued to fish for cod and other bottom feeding fish but without success. It was a case of mackerel, mackerel or more mackerel.

The boat was safely pulled out by David and his tractor. Some walkers were passing the boat yard as I swilled our catch with fresh water. They were very grateful as we gave them a bag of the freshly caught mackerel to share amongst the South Shore chalet holiday makers. Money can’t buy such luxury – a wood barbecue nicely rendered down to glowing charcoal, the mackerel brushed with honey and mustard, chunks off a country loaf of bread and perhaps a glass of white wine just for medicinal purposes.