I’m often asked what I think is the best shore rig to target general catches from the beaches with during the difficult months of February and March. This is the period when the bulk of bigger fish are offshore spawning and inshore fish stocks are at their lowest point.
Most clean beaches will still hold fair numbers of flounders, dabs, rockling, dogfish and small whiting at this time, but can also see early plaice, school bass, codling and coalfish caught. Realistically, the ones to aim for though, are the flounders, dabs and coalies.
The majority of fish will tend to be smaller ones, but some of the biggest flounder and dab are caught in this so-called dead period too, as they are often the last to leave prior to spawning.
Typically the flounder and coalies will often be feeding within the first 20-yards of the waterline in amongst the inner surf tables. This is especially so at night. The dab likes slightly deeper water and tends to sit out where the surf tables are just beginning to build, but again this is often within an easy 50 or 60-yards cast.
The rig that suits this fishing best, is a simple three-boom rig. The booms, being stiff plastic, stand off the rig body line and reduce tangles when a small bait is being washed up and down and swirled around by the tide and wave action.
I make my rigs from a length of 60lb clear mono line tying a Shakespeare SALT lead clip at one end. I then slide on a short 4mm length of Neoprene tubing. Take the free end of line and double it back through the tube a second time, then pull the line tight. This locks the tubing in place, but it will slide up and down on the line under heavy finger pressure. Now slide on a SALT shore boom, another length of tubing and lock this in place above the boom leaving the boom with just enough room between both sections of tubing to turn freely. Repeat the above process until you have all three booms in place on the rig body line. Finish the rig by tying on a size 4 SALT rolling swivel.
The hook traces are tied to the ends of the boom. These should be clear mono line, or better still Fluorocarbon, and be 15lbs to 20lbs breaking strain. The hooks need be no bigger than a size 2 Aberdeen.
Using the sliding Neoprene tubing to lock the booms in place means you can adjust the position of the booms on the rig body. When fishing to a tight line in deeper water it pays to have one hook under the swivel, one in the middle and one about 15-inches up from the lead link. This spread positioning of the booms normally fishes well.
However, while fishing, take note specifically which boom is catching the most. If it is the lower boom, slide this down to sit just above the lead link. Now bring the other two booms lower down as close to the lowest boom as possible, but without the hook lengths tangling. This brings at least two baits in to the main feeding zone and can instantly double your catch rate. If it is the top hook that catches most of the fish, slide this up to fish directly below the connector swivel and raise the other booms higher up on the rig to again get the middle and lower booms fishing where the bulk of the fish want to feed.
When fishing very close in amongst shallow surf tables, have the rod facing the sea in the rod rest at roughly a 45-degree angle. Now release about 3-feet of line off the reel to create a slight downward bow. This puts all three booms and baits on the seabed and increases your chances of catching bottom living fish, like flounder. Watch the bow in the line for bites. The bow will lift and pull tight when a fish takes the bait and tries to swim away.
Another good tip, when fishing calm or even slightly rougher surf, is to drop the height of your rod rest as low as possible and have your rod or rods set at a shallow angle with the rod tips parallel with the surf line. This improves bite detection by fishing to a tight direct line to the lead weight. Again it also puts all three baits on the seabed, or naturally bouncing up and down on the seabed as fish expect to find food.
Do not worry about the colour of the red booms when fishing in daylight and clear water. Flounder are attracted to colour and will move in to investigate. Dabs and plaice are also inquisitive and will not normally be put off by colour positioned close to natural baits. Coalfish tend to feed at night in the surf, so colour is not an issue with these.
If you have never fished a rig incorporating booms, then you have been really missing out. It is one of the most effective rigs sea anglers can use, and not just over the next few weeks, but throughout the year too!