After a tough winter with prolonged freezing or near freezing temperatures the norm, it’s good to see spring putting her foot in the door at long last.
The recent spell of warm weather put the idea in my head that the first plaice might be available from the shore here in North Wales this past week, though I’d seen no reports of plaice being caught from other anglers. I chose a spot on the Dee Estuary and popped in to the local tackle shop for an update before accessing the venue.
The news wasn’t good, “No plaice yet, Mike, and I think it’ll be a while yet before they appear due to the low sea temps.” I still felt confident and bought a couple of packs of fresh black lug which I thought might give me an edge. I’d also got fresh peeler crab, squid and razorfish for variety.
The venue chosen is not easy to fish being a very steep bank made up of barnacle covered boulders edging out about 30-yards to meet up with clean muddy sand in about 30-feet of water.
Even though this is an estuary type venue tough tackle is needed for several reasons. You need 20lb main line to combat the boulders and barnacles, plus a fast retrieve reel to get the tackle and fish in over the boulders without snagging. The rod also needs to be able to handle weights up to 6ozs as the tide run is fierce, especially on the flood tide. I chose to fish a pair of Penn Affinity TRQ Surf beachcasters matched to Penn 525 Mag reels to give me the necessary winching power.
Rig design is not that important here, but how you fish the rigs due to the depth at short range is the difference between catching and not. If you fish to a tight line between rod tip and lead, as most anglers do, conventional rigs see the hooks above the weight suspended up off the seabed and out of the fish feeding zone.
To combat this I fish a two up/one down rig, but fish a slack line between the rod tip and lead to get the top two hooks on the seabed and watch the line for lift bites indicated by the line bow tightening. I prefer three hook rigs as opposed to a single hook flowing trace as the multiple hooks and baits put more scent in the water.
I started the session catching a succession of small whiting, but dead on low water I watched a steady lift of the line bow, then it fell back slack. I waited for another 30 seconds and the line lifted again and pulled tight. This was the signal to lift the rod and strike.
Just by the feel of the fish I knew I’d got my first plaice of the season. It weighed 1lb 1oz and had taken the black lug ignoring the fresh peeler crab. Plaice are the harbinger of spring and this is a good sign as the plaice are bang on time and should
indicate a good season to come.
My next spring target will be my first bass!