Being born in the steel city of Sheffield, I’m no stranger to the Yorkshire coast. As a young fella, the family used to head to Whitby for day trips, and I remember fishing the quays in the town for small billet, codling and the occasional flattie.
So it was good to find myself back in Whitby taking part in the Shakespeare Ugly Stik Tour. The tour’s objective is to travel the country fishing aboard Shakespeare-sponsored boats, aiming to catch as many species as possible from a wide range of venues using varied techniques but the same rods throughout.
We were booked aboard Sea Otter 2,skippered by Paul Kilpatrick and ably aided by crewman Dave Jones. Sea Otter 2 is a Lochin 33 powered by a 420hp Caterpillar engine.
Our group consisted of Shakespeare category manager James Robbins,marketing manager Dave McCartney and my lad Mike Jr, editor of World Sea Fishing. Also in our crew were Whitby regulars Debbie Oswald and Dirk Rigby from Selby, plus Newcastle anglers MacMcDonald and Tom Thorn.
A BIT OF ROUGH
The day dawned misty, but the forecast was for the sun breaking through. Heading out between the famous breakwaters the wind was breezy from the southwest, but apart from a light swell it was a lovely day to be at sea. Paul elected to head a little way north of Whitby to some rough ground comprised of relatively even rock with some higher uplifts. Everybody elected to fish shads on Hopper rigs to target the codling. The drift was only just under way when the rods bent to the first codling – fat-bellied fi sh up to 3lb or so, though Mike Jr was quick in landing a better fish about 4lb. The fish seemed to be either in singles picked up one at a time, or clustered around the uplifts of rock when three or more rods would all suddenly bend in to fish simultaneously. Shakespeare’s Dave McCartney picked up a couple of nice fi sh one after the other, and on the opposite side of the boat Mac pulled in nice codling of over 4lb. The stern of the boat was busy too, with small ling and coding caught. Skipper Paul was himself fishing when he could and was picking up a steady string of cod, mostly on sandeel imitations, with a white colour seeming to do best.
After fi shing the inshore rough for three hours or so, we headed out in to deeper water. Although the ground is very similar out here, fairly even rough with some uplifts, the depth increased from less than 50ft to over 100ft or more. The hope was for a bigger cod or two as this ground has produced really well in the past for Paul. We made several drifts over this ground, taking small ling, codling and whiting, but as the tide slackened the bites eased away and the decision was quickly taken to head back and fish the turning tide on the more productive inshore ground plenty OF FISH
Once again inshore, we were over ground further north of where we fi shed in the morning. I was interested to see a fleet of pot buoys. Freshly baited pots and their scent will always bring cod into the area, and it proved no different this time as Paul picked drifts inside the pots to maximum effect. Geordie Tom Thorn had a smile on his face with two quick fish, one near 5lb, with his mate Mac following up with a similar fish. Debbie on the stern went over to fishing squid and mackerel baits and accounted for more small ling and some good codling. James and I had shared the camera work so far, but we now both picked up our rods and set about putting our stamp on the day, both getting fi sh around the 4lb mark, while Mike Jr and Mac both hit 5lb fish. It was during this spell I felt a double hit and a fish pulled the rod tip down in short jags. All very wrasse-like, so it was no surprise when a ballan was netted. They get some biggies to 6lb here on the rough ground and it makes you wonder what you’d pick up if the area were fi shed more regularly with fresh crab baits. During the last drift over the rough, Mac hit what Paul deemed the biggest fish of the day, a cod at around 6lb, and it won him a brand new Ugly Stik GX2 12–20lb class boat rod, which put a broad smile on his face and was well deserved. Ever the angler, Paul suggested just a couple of final drifts over a nearby wreck as we headed in. On the first drop I lost a good-sized fish on a shad, and on the last drift I accounted for a fat 5lb-er. This wreck can produce double figure cod or better when the biggies are in.
We used 12–20lb class Ugly Stiks, and this line class of tackle is ideal for all shad work. Small but powerfully geared reels are best; there’s no need for large capacity reels nowadays. We fi shed with 30lb braid and a short 30lb fluorocarbon leader, whereas the local lads tend to favour the same class rods, but with 50lb braid for extra insurance.
The tide we fished was pretty big, but at no time did we need more than 10oz, and I was fishing most of the time with 8oz or less. It’s best to use the lightest lead you can, providing you keep the line vertical in the water to fully work the shad. You’ll lose less end tackle this way.
LURES AND BAITS
Shads in the four-inch size range prove by far the best, even for the bigger fi sh over the rough ground. I found the Devil’s Own shads in clear/blue and clear/red were highly effective, as were the Berkley Ripple Shads in clearer colours. Any sandeel imitator will be taken, with Sidewinders, Savage Gear sandeels and Berkley Powerbait sandeels all taking a lot of fish on the day. If you want the ling, then they will take the lures occasionally, but bait is much better. A couple of boxes of squid and mackerel are ample for a days fishing if you mix it with the shad fishing.
Skipper Paul says that the late summer inshore cod fishing tends to be smaller fish up to 7lb or so, but with some double figure fish thrown in. The best of the fishing (and the biggest fish) show once autumn sets in, but especially either side of Christmas and into the New Year. Uptiding is also popular locally and will catch some big ’uns.
The longer-range deep-water wrecks can give some excellent cod to over 20lb through the summer with the latter end favoured as best, with shads and sometimes pirks being the favoured methods. There’s always the chance of a halibut too. Paul boated a cracking 53lb-er taken on a Sidewinder lure back in May 2014 for Barry Kemper, who caught the big flattie using a Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 20–30lb rod, paired with a Penn 320GT reel loaded with 50lb Whiplash braid. There is good general ground fishing in season too, for haddock, conger, rays, whiting, dab and plaice. The haddock, whiting, dab and plaice can be targeted with fresh baits such as lugworm, mackerel and squid using two-hook rigs. For the rays and conger, fish either a sliding ledger or pulley rig, cast uptide. The fish we caught were typical for summer to early autumn, but in good numbers and as fat as pigs. It was really enjoyable for me to head back and fish somewhere I remember as a child. So often memories can deceive, but Whitby retains that special feel about it, a proper fishing port steeped in angling history, and is all the better for it.
Local Tackle Shop
■ Whitby Angling Supplies
■ 67 Church Street
■ North Yorkshire
■ YO22 4AS
■ 01947 603855