I was browsing through my fishing diary the other night and was looking back at past boat plaice trips. It’s interesting to see how my tactics have developed over the years.
When I first started targeting plaice my rigs tended to be made incorporating long metal or plastic booms with a long flowing trace from 6-feet to as much as 12-feet. Invariably I’d have a small spoon on the end with a short 9-inch hook trace with bright coloured beads added. I caught a fair few fish too!
But analysing the days as a collective a few years ago made me realise that long traces were somewhat hit and miss and produced fish best when working very shallow, clear water. I’d already made notes in my diary to the effect that I figured the long trace was more prone to lifting the bait too far up off the seabed at times, therefore limiting bites.
Over the past 10 years I started to use a simple 2-hook rig with a lead link at one end, used neoprene tubing stops to trap the hook trace swivels on the rig body, with a connector swivel at the top to tie direct to the leader. It’s so simple! I use this rig for general drift fishing when I want to target as many smaller species as possible. Rarely are my hook lengths longer than 15-inches on this rig. Suddenly I noticed a sharp increase in the numbers of plaice I caught in amongst other fish.
It was obvious that with the shorter hook lengths, the baits were fishing much tighter to the seabed and were in the fish zone much longer resulting in more plaice being caught. Having the hook length swivels trapped between neoprene stops meant I could reposition the hook lengths at will. This adjustment would often make a big difference to the number of bites on the day. Often having the bottom hook fishing tight behind the lead weight and the second hook mid way up the rig would get double shots of plaice when they were feeding well. This applied especially to days when the drift was fast.
On slow drifts when the boat passes over the ground very slowly, it pays to have the top hook positioned higher up on the rig body to give the bait more movement. I often also add a small float bead above this hook just to give the bait more lift in these specific and sometimes difficult conditions.
The angle of your line when on the drift is also important. So many anglers don’t let enough line out when drift fishing and fish with their line at too steep an angle. This sees the lead more prone to “bouncing” over the ground and lifting the baits up off the seabed and away from the feeding fish. A simple formula to work too is to release six times the amount of line as the depth you’re fishing. This would be a minimum though! So if you are fishing water 30-feet deep, release a minimum of 60-yards of line to shallow the lines angle and keep the baits on the seabed. Release more if the drift is fast. Gauging this comes with experience, but look at the angle of your line as it leaves the rod tip. It ideally needs to be at an angle of about 100 to 120 degrees from the vertical. A shallower angle is ok, but a steeper angle can and will reduce catches.
The above rule has to be readjusted though, according to your fishing position on the deck of the boat. If you’re lucky enough to be on the side facing away from the drift where you can trot your baits well away from the boat you can release as much line as you like. But if you’re on the other side of the boat and having to fish under the hull with a high chance of tangling the other anglers, then you need to fish differently. And this is where many anglers end up fishing totally ineffectively.
In this situation, be prepared to switch to a single hook rig with the hook length positioned immediately above the lead weight, and keep the hook length down to no more than 15-inches. The important thing is to deliberately choose an overly heavy weight that allows you to fish a near vertical line under the rod tip, but also keep in constant contact with the seabed. Too light a lead means you will need to release line to stay in touch with the seabed. But of course you’re limited as to how much line you can release otherwise you’ll tangle with the guy’s downtide. It’s not the most sporting way to target plaice, but it catches fish when otherwise you would struggle.
I never use mono for my hook traces when plaice fishing now, either! Fluorocarbon is heavier than mono, so helps keep the baits tighter to the seabed. It also has more abrasion resistance when dragging over shingle and sand, plus is slightly stiffer so is less prone to tangling. It also has way less memory, so presents the baits better.
My hooks are never more than a size 2 Aberdeen. Also keep baits sensibly sized to match the hook. Combination baits work well with a triple mix of black or blow lug, ragworm, razorfish and peeler crab all effective, but always add a thin sliver of squid on the end to add movement.
When you feel the initial rattle bite from a plaice on the rod tip, release about 20-feet of line. This gives the plaice time to take the bait in to its mouth. After this brief pause, simply flip the reel back in to gear and let the line come tight to set the hook. There is no need to strike.
The plaice are showing well now off Weymouth, Dartmouth and other ports on the south coast, and through April will be starting to fatten out quickly, plus will be available in big numbers, so it’s one of the best times to target them!