Friday 17 June 2011

Giant jigging shad outfishes pirk!

So with big catches of cod getting reported by my fishing friends, I decided to head back to the cod grounds and see if not only some cod could be caught, but perhaps some pollack and mackerel too.  We'd not heard any reports of mackerel around the Whitby area, but we were hopeful they might have started coming inshore. 

It was another early, early start.  My alarm was set for 2.45am, but guess what, a text from my friend asking me if I was coming woke me up at 2.30am!  Up I got, made some sandwiches and was on the road by 3am.  Just over an hour and half later we're paddling out from Runswick Bay.  There's just the slightest of breezes to begin with, which gave a little drift against what was left of the tide.  But there just didn't seem to be any fish.
 A little later and the breeze gave way to flat calm... and then it started to rain!
The sea was full of jellyfish.  Every colour and type imaginable, from some with clearly defined shapes to some that looked like gobs of phlegm floating mid water!
The water looked clear, but you can see the flash in the photo above picks out the sediment that's still there.  In addition to the jellyfish, I also saw a lumpfish swim past me, now that is one ugly brute of a fish and a bit of shock to see it come gliding along next to the kayak just a few feet away!

But still we were struggling for fish.  My mate was fishing with a standard pirk and hokkais set up (see here), while I was fishing with what I hoped was a better alternative that replaces the pirk with a  Storm Wildeye Giant Jigging Shad (15cm, 135g).  I wanted to test the theory that while some bottom feeders such as cod will go for a pirk, most fish see the pirk as another fish chasing sandeels (the hokkais).  Therefore a better representation of a chasing fish might lead to better catches on the hokkais.  Plus I thought that there might be the odd fish big enough to have a go for the giant shad.

Sure enough, I started to catch first and as the tide picked up I went through a purple patch of hitting pollack after pollack.  Each one caught on the first hokkai above the giant shad, which pretty much confirmed my theory.  In a short while I had five nice pollack ready for heading and gutting:
What was curious was that I wasn't picking up any cod on the hokkais.  Then, all of a sudden, a nice fat lump attached itself somewhere in the deep!  When it came up, I was delighted to see a good cod had nailed the giant shad in just the way I'd hoped!
Once the mackerel run starts, I'll expect the average size of the cod to go up and I'm hopeful this method will net me a double figure cod this year.  Those giant shads are really life-like and that big paddle tail sends out massive vibrations down in the depths, which is why I think my set up outfished my mate's traditional pirk-based set up by about 3 to 1 in terms of fish landed. Plus none of my fish were foul-hooked, and given that the main of them came mouth-hooked to the first hokkai above the shad, I'm sure our reasoning behind it is correct: fish see the shad as competition chasing sandeel, and they compete and win (or not, depending on whether your point of view is that of the caught fish!).  The only downside I can see to this method is the cost of the shads.  The Storm Wildeye Giant Jigging Shads are expensive (I found them for about £10 delivered) compared to a standard pirk (~£2), and if you lose the jig head (as I did on a pot line) then you are left with just a couple tails.  Also watch out for fish biting the tail off the shad - every now and then fetch it back up to check it's still there!  But compare the giant shads to the cost of butterfly jigs or a good Japanese plug, then they look relatively good value.  I would be interested in trying to cast our own jig heads as I have plenty of old lead.  However, I've yet to see the right mould as I'd prefer to user much lighter grade hooks than the one which comes with the Giant Shad as it's an absolute beast, apparently designed for hauling up 250lb halibut - a little bit over the top for our 10lb cod!
Anyhow, back to the report.  The fishing dropped off as slackwater approached.  Although it was calm, there was a surprising swell  that made getting ashore on the rocky cliffs of Kettleness difficult.  Eventually we beached near Dog Holes, a pair of caves just at the base of the cliff:
By now it was approaching lunch and the tide was about dead.  We kept trying for fish, my mate went outwards for mackerel while I kept shadding for cod.  I just used a simple ounce bullet over a normal 4" shad and this was good enough for a couple more.  It's always magic to me how much cod like shads, they seem to pick out the cod from other fish.  After a bit, even the shads stopped working so I thought I'd have a go for some bass close in.  In can be a bit risky fishing close in to Kettleness over Fillet Tail, as big waves come up out of the depths as the ground suddenly shallows up.  If you fish here, keep your wits about you.  It can be calm for five minutes and then five or six big waves will come up out of nowhere and often break a good distance from the shore.  Very easy to get turned out of your kayak when that happens.

Anyhow, I've not had much success here for bass, though in fairness I've never really given it a lot of effort.  I put on my 42g Savage Gear Sandeel that worked well for me the previous week, and to my surprise I hit a bass within 5 minutes:
This one went back but it's encouraging to find them there this early in the season, and I'm sure there are others of a better size.  I reckon this size of sandeel will be great for those big pollack that will be appearing around here in the autumn.  All in all, it was a good trip with plenty of fish.  I ended up with 14 fillets in my freezer.  It would have been nice to have a few mackerel too, but I'm sure they'll be along in the next week or two!


  1. Excellent post. I wish I will see more of the kind from you...

    Kayak fishing is a dream of mine. When and if I manage my finances so I can buy a Prowler, I hope you can help me with some tips ;-)

    Anyway I am glad I found you blog. Keep up the good job !!!

  2. Thanks - yes, if you need any tips just ask!

    The Prowler is a good kayak, but it's not the best. I'd find out more about the type of kayak fishing you'll be doing, how far off shore, what sea conditions you'll fish in and what the access is like before making a decision. The Prowler is slow and heavy, but very stable and has lots of storage. Depends what you want.

  3. If you're interested, Rob has done a nice review of the Prowler - unlike me he's a great fan!

  4. Great report!, I love to see those shads in action. Great photos too, keep it coming.

  5. Thanks for all the kind words. Our biggest problem up here is waiting for the wind to stop so we can get some more fishing done!

  6. Some great pictures, jellyfish spectacular. A great day of fishing, congratulations on the catch.

    I really like your blog, very good work, greetings from Spain.

  7. Thanks Dani - always nice to have the compliments of a fellow kayak fisherman!


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