Turbot off the Top

I spent a great weekend recently in Guernsey in the Channel Islands where I attended an open weekend at Mick’s Fishing Supplies working alongside the counter staff, chatting to customers and helping with general sales.

Based in St Sampson’s Mick’s, stocking ABU, Penn and Shakespeare products, is the main hub for Guernsey locals, also visiting sea anglers from the UK, and enjoys a steady stream of customers throughout the day looking to buy essentials such as bait, rods, reels and accessories, but also dropping in to pick up up-to-date information on the local catches from the sales staff at Mick’s who are all keen anglers.

One of the staff/customer conversations indicated that turbot were being caught on the offshore banks and it just so happened that the Sunday had been put aside for a day’s fishing with top local skipper Richard Seager aboard his 30ft catamaran “Out The Blue 2”. The lads from Mick’s, several local rods and myself piled board the boat at 8am and headed out to the Shoal Banks situated between Guernsey and Alderney, home to good turbot and brill.

The banks are shallow and composed from ridges rising up to within 10-metres of the surface dropping away in to 50-metres. The idea is to set the boat up so that you drift up and down the inclines of the banks, but also over the tops of the banks.

We tackled up with light 12/20lb class rods and ABU 7500 C3 reels loaded with 20lb mono line. The rig was a simple zip slider slid on the line, three 8mm beads, a swivel to which was tied about 6-feet of 35lb mono ending in a size 3/0 hook.

Bait on the day was to be a mix of frozen garfish and fresh launce sandeel. You cut the garfish and sandeel fillets in to thin strips about an inch wide at the thick end, some 9-inches long, and taper the strip off to nothing to maximise movement in the water and simulate a small swimming fish. The hook is passed once only through the thick end, but you put two strips on the hook to maximise movement.

On the first drift three rods found instant turbot, the best around 5lbs, but this was just as the tide was about to turn and as the tide dropped away so did the fish resulting in the next few drifts being quiet.

As the tide picked up again I’d allowed my bait to trot well away from the boat, only occasionally releasing a few feet of line to allow any chasing fish the time to catch the bait up as it drifted by. I suddenly felt the “tap, tap” as a fish tried to engulf the bait. I let the reel spill a little line off so the fish could take the hook in and lifted the rod to feel the weight of the fish as the line came tight. The fish came easily at first, just a heavy weight, but then as the line became vertical below me the fish started to fight and took small amounts of line as it tried to get back to the seabed. It proved to be a superbly yellow and brown camouflaged turbot of 4lbs.

Just two drifts later I got another good bite and this was another turbot slightly bigger weighing between 4 and 5lbs.

One of the local rods, Peter Grange, had also caught a turbot, but then set the hook in to a much better fish which proved to be a beautiful brill that weighed in on the boat at 7lbs. A cracking fish and of Guernsey specimen size!

The day yielded a mix of turbot, the brill, tub gurnards, and smaller species. These banks, especially on the bigger tides, also carry rays, bass, tope and much more.

Guernsey may be a small island, but it has a hugely diverse range of fishing from both the boat and the shore with species not normally found in great numbers even along the channel coast of England, such as gilthead bream, golden grey mullet, couch’s bream and undulate ray, also mini species such as baillon’s wrasse and giant gobies, but also offers incredible bass and general species fishing that lasts from April right through to January. It’s a species hunter’s paradise!

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