Sea fishing: Mackerel my only reward for sickness

As British voters opted to leave the European Union the weather took a change for the better. Finally there was a window of opportunity to launch my boat into Bridlington Bay.

Stewart Calligan with his mackerel

The forecast was iffy but, as Geoff Boycott would say, a batsman being frustrated by good bowling takes a few risks and that was me this particular morning.

We only had one small job to do before launching. A problem spark plug had been identified and needed replacing before going out. This seemed a simple enough job as I’d brought a plug socket and a box spanner to remove said plug.

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Both the socket and the box spanner were too short to reach the plug however and panic set in. Instead I forced some copper pipe over the end of my box spanner and used mole grips on the pipe. It worked a treat.

This was my first trip out so a warm up of the engine was a must. On with the ear muffs and the engine started first time. The tell tale jet of water at the top of the 70hp outboard was like the River Wharfe in full flood. This jet shows cooling water is being pushed around the cylinders by the rubber impellor.

With my good friends, Rob and Roy as crew we launched. The swell looked a bit higher than forecast and as we slid off the trailer a two-metre high wave hit the stern and drenched Roy from tip to toe.

With the propeller just dipping into the waves I coaxed it out stern first until Roy shouted it was okay to lower the prop fully down. It was then into forward gear and off we went. The engine was working well across the Bay but as we neared Flamborough Head the swell forced my speed down from 24 knots to 10.

It was like sailing down into a valley and up the other side. We crashed down a few times as the sea disappeared beneath us.

Round the Head wasn’t that much better. We joined two commercial fishing boats anchored off Bempton Cliffs. They were being tossed around like corks. As we only had three rods out I could risk drifting along with the incoming tide which reduces the effect of the swell somewhat. The commercials usually anchor as they have a lot more rods out and drifting would cause many tangled lines.

On our first drift down in the sunshine and breeze, Rob caught a 3lb cod, Roy had a nice pollock and I landed a piece of seaweed. We sailed back north about half a mile and tried again.

The motion of the boat in the swell was making me feel a little queasy but we drifted down again and Roy had a coalfish and two cod and Rob had two more cod. All the cod were around 3-4lb and were caught in 50ft of water. Not knowing I had anything on my hook I reeled in and found our first mackerel of the season glistening in the midday sun. Its white belly, iridescent back and sides of blue, green and many other shades are evolution’s camouflage.

Rob’s next cod needed the landing net. I put my rod in the boat rod holder, leaving the baited hooks on the bottom of the sea. As I netted the large cod Rob shouted, “Your rods gone!” I saw that the hooks must have snagged on the bottom and the rod had broken just above the handle. The top three-quarters of the rod was sinking down the line into the depths as the line was holding good and was still through the rod rings. I reeled the line in, dislodging the hooks from the bottom and eventually retrieved everything.

By the time I’d set up my spare rod I was more than a little queasy. I was suddenly being sick over the side and my colleagues were thoughtfully doubled over with grief, tears rolling down their cheeks.

Left with a strained diaphragm and sore throat, the boat bucking like a broncho, I gave my apologies to Rob and Roy, called it a day and headed for South Shore. A misjudged day but plenty of fish and c’est la vie, you can’t have it all.