Totally Awesome Fishing Hotspots
The East Sussex port of Newhaven is a working port, lying at the mouth of the Sussex Ouse where it empties into the English Channel, a recognised departure point for ferries over to France. The road to the port follows the river where it has cut through the South Downs, and the sandbar that marks the entrance splits the towns of Newhaven and Seaford. Its history dates back to about 480a.d. when Saxons occupied the area, and up at Castle Hill are the remains of what was once a Bronze Age Castle. Back around 1790 a breakwater was created to try to stop the continual movement of the gravel bar that made navigation troublesome. In 1890, the current breakwater that you see today was built. Now a major port, Newhaven runs ferries over to Dieppe and Le Havre. The port was an important departure point for warships in both World Wars, with the Canadian troops using it as their boarding station. Such historical seafaring significance meant there had to be a Lifeboat and in 1803 one was commissioned, twenty odd years before the RNLI.It was the wreck of the “Brazen” in January 1800 that was the reason for the Lifeboat as out of a crew of 105 men, only one man could be rescued.
Seaplanes carried out anti-submarine flights from here during the Second World War, and it is the sinking of various ships, subs and crashed planes that make this particular stretch of the English Channel the wrecking hotspot we know today. The whole seabed is littered with hundreds of wrecks from the two World Wars. It was while doing a podcast interview for “fishingfilmsandfacts” that I got loads of information from the area’s top wreck skipper, Frank Shaw. I learnt that the immediate seabed in front of Newhaven does not offer a wealth of rough ground marks. Either side, Hastings to the East, and Littlehampton to the West has this feature, so Newhaven has always been designated the distance wreck fishing capital of Europe. Three species made the port famous. Record breaking Conger, big Cod and giant Pollack. Of course there are loads of other species but these three would be on most visiting anglers “hit list”.
Frank runs the wreck boat “Carricklee”, a 35-foot long, 10 foot wide Procharter P3 built to his own specs and launched in February 2011.Licensed for 12 people plus crew, it’s powered by a single Iveco 6 cylinder engine and has a 60-mile C.O.P. range and top speed of 22 knots. With toilet, fish and bait holds, plus livebait tank the boat looks destined to open up even more great sport for his long list of satisfied customers. The boat is more economical to run than his previous Cat, having just a single engine, and this has allowed him to reduce his prices even in the face of increased fuel charges. The boat has side spray and wind covers which are handy at anchor, and keeps the anglers dry and comfortable. Asking a professional charter skipper if he would mind giving the world and his wife some good fishing marks would seem a bit of a cheek. Like the sign that used to hang in my wholesale furniture suppliers in Aldgate.”Please don’t ask for credit as a smack in the teeth often offends!” But luckily Frank is happy to give out info. Obviously you are not going to get his red-hot long distance marks, but he is more than willing to give visiting anglers as much help as he can in order that they have an understanding just how good the port’s fishing can be.
THE FISHING-Frank started commercial fishing years ago with a small netting boat, but moved to charter fishing as the commercialling got harder. He started sea fishing when he was seven, and now holds a full commercial license which he used for specialised bassing. He knows the ground around the wrecks had been heavily hit by trawlers in the past, but the last couple of years have seen something of a revival in terms of rod and line sportfishing. He puts this down to the trawlers clearing the seabed, which in fact makes all wrecks even more of a haven for any fish. Unfortunately if the commercial nets are allowed back on the wrecks for the Cod, then in a week the wreck could be decimated. Frank even rates the French commercials as being far superior in their techniques of box or cross-net wreck netting than the Brits,and believes if they get the “set” right, they can wipe out a wreck in just three sets of tides. Just like the Grand Banks off Canada where they left it so late to close the fishery, that stocks crashed and now a secondary species is actually filling the gap of the decimated species. Just a few years ago the Cod fishing was virtually extinct off the South Coast, and 8 years ago they were lucky to get 5 or 6 Cod a day, in season. Now it could be three times that, with many into large double figures. Scary stuff, when you realise the Cod are finally trying to create a glimmer of stock regeneration.
He enjoys conger fishing and reckons they are on all wrecks right across to the coast of France. There are more eels around now than ever before as there is no real value in congers as a food fish, making only about £1 a kilo at current rates. They cannot be netted, but Frank also reckons they are getting slightly stunted, with a few really giant eels left inside the wrecks. Up to 25lbs he classes as small for the area, but he still hauls 80lb plussers over the side every year. Returning nearly all of them, he only keeps the occasional eel for steaks for his clients. The best chances on rough ground would be a run down west towards the Isle of Wight.
He starts in the late winter, February onwards on the Cod and Pollack runs to the distant wrecks, travelling over 20 miles to get to the marks on the other side of the shipping lanes. An average would be two to three double figure Cod per angler, but he did have a day where the top five fish were all in excess of 20lbs.He likes everyone to catch a few good Cod as a prime eating fish, without decimating the wreck with huge hauls. That way he can always go back and know there should still be a few good fish for the next group of anglers to catch. With the bigger Pollack, the westerly wrecks seem to produce the better fish, with the prolific Cod catches being further East. Frank is a great believer in a Sidewinder lure fished on an uptide rod, or 20lb class rod, catching them one at a time. In June the Cod come closer to shore and can be caught on the 10-mile wrecks, but then they start to change over to bassing in mid-April as well, running right through to October. The Conger fishing is a summertime thing, but of course they can be present on the wrecks year round. He does summer night trips, being busy at the weekends, running 4pm to 10.30pm, but while you think it would be better at night, Frank says there is not much difference. He does not supply bait as there is a good Tackle Shop close by, The Newhaven Angler, in fact although you can catch bait you cannot legally sell it, and need a full commercial fishing license. For the Cod and Pollack wreck drifting they use very little bait, the lures being mostly Sidewinders and Evolution Redgills, but for Congering they catch their own bait. He does not like squid as Conger bait as the Pout shred it, and the Mackerel Flapper is his favourite. The best bait is a big Cuttlefish, as not only Conger, but Cod and big Pollack will eat it readily.
On a small tide you might get away using only 8 ounces with braid, but with a big tide you cannot hold the bottom with 3lbs on nylon. Some of the wrecks are in 200 feet of water so the tidal pull is considerable. For the small boat anglers he advises there are plenty of inshore wrecks within a couple of miles from shore that offer good fishable conditions, and it is far easier to get a bait closer to a shallow water wreck, than a deeper one. Due to the tidal influence on the entire South-East coast, any wind can create a short sea which Frank said is very tricky as it gives you less time to react, particularly when small boating.
The bass fishing is another favourite species of his, with specimens to an enormous 19lbs, and these can turn up anywhere. The “Devon Coast” wreck is one of the best inshore bass wrecks, in deep water, about three quarters of a mile off the Cuckmere River, and is good anchoring. Some of the commercial bassers also drop by this one. Bass are always a prize by anglers, and Frank feels they are not threatened species. Favoured bait for bassing is livebait. Bass eat other small fish, and he considers them totally predatory, going around the ocean like a mugger, taking whatever they can get inside their mouth. Scad is another good bass bait, and then a small Pout. If he gives one of his good anglers, say thirty livebaits, he reckons to catch at least 28 fish, such is the success of giving a Bass what they find naturally. Fishing a livebait is simplicity itself. A length of fluorocarbon leader, treble, and 5 ounce spark plug to tow it down to the seabed. He rates the Mackerel colour Sidewinder by Dave Kiddy as the best Bass lure, with Sakuma hooks. Having said that he was fuelling up at the fuel pontoon after a trip out and saw a young girl catch a double figure bass while fishing for Mullet using a piece of cheese !
Frank runs down to the Kingmere Rocks off Littlehampton for light tackle black bream fishing, and about July to September those same fish head back East, and the really big bream reside on the same wrecks you can be congering over. He’s had a 6lbs 7ozs on one occasion, so don’t always think of big baits only on the wrecks.4’s and 5’s are always on the cards in the Bream department. Smoothhound are there in fair numbers inshore, plus some Rays. It is not a spot for the big Plaice grounds, the best of which are further East and West
Mark 1)-The “BRISBANE”.50 degrees 44.571N by 000 degrees00.704E.Torpedoed in the Second World War, it holds Conger, a cracking Bass wreck, and can be anchored mid tide, but drift it in big tides. Can catch a lot of Bass here. Generally regarded as an ebb tide wreck, but early morings, (4am in the summer) will give you the best of the fishing. Feathers in the morning for general Bass, with Scad or live Mackerel later in the day on the drift. Live Prawn is also good bait. Think light tackle, 12/20lb outfits, small multipliers and either 30lb braid or 20lb mono to get the best sport from the Bass. Throw in a few of the smaller Sidewinders if you do end up struggling for livebait, and want to have good chance fishing on the drift. Two and a half miles South-West of Newhaven, it should be easy to find. More details on this wreck’s history can be found in Dive Sussex.
Mark2) – STROUD’S HOLE. 50 degrees 41.744N by 000degrees 01.749E. Six miles from Newhaven, it’s a deep hole, not charted, but fishes on a year-round basis. You must anchor there, but you can expect a good run of mackerel on the first drift or so. Around 100 feet deep, expect Thornback Rays, Black Bream, plenty of Bass, Tope and Frank reckons there is not a species swimming off Newhaven that cannot be caught out of Stroud’s Hole. Double figure Bull Huss on fish baits, Smoothhounds on hardback shore crabs, even Red Mullet have shown up on small hooks. It is the sort of mark where you can afford to experiment with different bait combos, sizes and rigs as almost anything can turn up there. Don’t expect to be alone, as Stroud’s is a popular small boater’s mark as the fishing is always fairly regular.
Mark 3)-The “DEVON COAST”. 50 degrees 44.456N by 000 degrees 08.727E.Another top Bass mark. Maybe good conger at night, it is roughly three miles across the Bay, an old cement barge that was being towed, and now lies about a mile offshore in the Cuckmere River valley. Again, it’s fairly easy to find. It can hold an enormous amount of Bass, and even attracts commercial bassers. Frank finds artificial are a waste of time, largely because when there is an algae or May bloom in the water the Bass cannot see the lures. He advises fishing a mid-size tide taking a good anchor, chain, plus a spare anchor just in case you get hung up. Not as large as the Brisbane, and in shallow water of about 50 feet at the top of the tide, it is rated as a cracker by Frank. Always in with a shout, particularly if you are after a double figure fish on livebaits. He has known them come off to at least 15lbs. Fish over 8/9lbs would not be out of the ordinary. Use a long flowing trace of fluorocarbon leader, either a big single, or a treble hook, lip hooking a live joey mackerel or scad, and use enough lead to hit bottom then lift off. Don’t be afraid to try a range of depths, working the livebait from seabed to surface. July would be the prime month.
Mark 4)-THE COD MARK-50 degrees44.891N by 000 degrees 06.672E. Basically a three mile square piece of ground off Seaford Head, where the Cod seem to run. You can get up to fifty boats there on a calm winter day. You can get doubles figures, up to a dozen on a red letter day, and up to twenty pounds. Of course you can also blank, but it is rated as a regular producer of big Cod. No more than twenty metres of water. A big bunch of squid or cuttlefish on a Pennell rig, and just sit it out. You can actually buy the Pennell rigs, ready made up from the local tackle shop, rigged with abrasion resistant leader material. There are no real snags there, and use enough lead to nail it hard on the bottom. Use up to six squid on the Pennell. Take a 5lb box of Calamari, and you will have as good a chance as any professional charter boat. One local skipper does not even turn his sounder on; he gets so successful at locating the gullies. Big Whiting also come there. As an inshore spring backup, the Plaice can be found at the end of the sewer pipe, where the top flattie taker is plastic Sweetcorn, as Corn doesn’t get digested on its route to the sea. You can contact www.carricklee.co.uk or phone Frank Shaw on 07977-935192
GETTING THERE-Easily located being a few miles off the main A27 that runs East/West along the south coast. Newhaven lies roughly between Brighton and Eastbourne, taking an exit off the main roundabout on the A27 signposted “Newhaven”. Follow the A26 into the town, and then follow signs to the marina, which is situated on the west side of the river.
ACCOMODATION-Listed on the net were 97 Bed and Breakfasts, some offering up to 50% discount for online bookings. Type in laterooms.co/Newhaven-B&Bs .There are also hotels should you want an upgrade, type in booking.com/Newhaven. Hotels.
TACKLE SHOP-The Newhaven Angler, Unit 2, and Villandry.W.Quay.BN9 9GB.Newhaven. Tel-01273-512186.If you want live worms its best to phone in advance.
LAUNCH SITE-The slip is right by the pontoon that houses the charter boats. Its a good concrete slipway run by Peter Leonard Marine, the family run boatyard has full engineering facilities, and is HW +/- 2.5 tide states into the river. There is also an angling club with a small boat launch further up the river, but you may need to become a member to use their facilities.
SAFETY– Newhaven Lifeboat provides 24 hour service right in Newhaven.Tel number for boathouse-01273-514143 or try newhavenomli.org.uk .Harbour master. The Yacht Harbour at Newhaven Marina.Tel-01273-612868.They have a warning on their site worth noting-“In strong onshore winds there is often a difficult sea at the entrance to the harbour, with breaking seas on the Eastern side of the dredged channel. Yachts are advised to pass close to the breakwater in these conditions”.
WEATHER- Online at http:/www.metoffice.gov.uk although most small boaters will check the inshore forecast and coastal weather stations for actual time conditions.
COPYRIGHT -Graeme Pullen. All Rights Reserved.