Port Isaac, Port Quin, Port Gaverne

It may seem strange giving the names of three ports, but they are in fact tiny, and being virtually right on top of each other, offer three different fishing access options, but covering the same section of ocean. This area of the English coastline really is steeped in fishing history and general seafaring folklore. Yet for angling it has never received much coverage. One of the main reasons has to be the rugged coastline, as being on the North Coast of Cornwall the entire area is facing the open Atlantic, and any weather systems that come in from the States tend to make their first landfall here. What constitutes a fishing area here is generally anywhere you can launch a small boat from a tiny slip, and be into deep water in a matter of minutes. No large, sheltered harbours here, as the ones that do exist tend to dry out at low water. They should really all be considered high water launch venues. Having said that, the pristine environment and largely untapped rod and line potential makes it worth a serious look at. Port Isaac is the commercial fishing hub, but either side of it are two more launch sites, so you are actually spoilt for choice.


At Port Isaac you can park on the beach once the tide drops.The slipway is here as well.

Looking at Port Isaac first, it is a true commercial fishing harbour from yesteryear, when it was the centre of attention for the Pilchard industry. In the heyday of Blue shark fishing from the south coast, it was nothing for sharking enthusiasts to drive to the north coast just to get some tubs of Pilchard for use as rubby dubby,as the oil exuded by this small fish is second to none when attracting predators. The pier at the end was built during the reign of Henry the Eighth ,and while the town dates back 700 years, it was during the 18th and 19th centuries that the town’s prosperity was assured with the handling of ocean-bound cargo like salt,coal,wood and of course all manner of seafish,crabs and lobsters. Back in 1869 the Port Isaac lifeboat was established with a lifeboat called “Sarah and Richard” that had to be dragged through the narrow streets for launching. In the 1960’s the RNLI put in the inshore lifeboat, and since 1967 it has the new”D” inshore model.Today,the picturesque narrow streets and alleys are home to cake shops, souvenirs and eateries, with general tourism boosted to celebrity status with programmes such as “Poldark”,”Saving Grace” and “Doc Martin”. Out in Port Isaac Bay there are reputed to have been over 1000 wrecks, testament to the winter, and sometimes summer storms, that rumble in off the Atlantic. Many of these would have been sailing ships at the mercy of the wind, whereas today, the age of motor power sees far less mishaps.


At Port Gaverne a launch fee is paid to the local pub

The other two slips are either side of Port Isaac. Port Quin, to the west, is a tiny settlement, which was deserted a couple of times when the Pilchard fishery failed, and again when a storm killed all the men of the settlement. It is now owned largely by the National Trust, and you can park right in front of the harbour and walk the cliffs back to Port Isaac. There is actually nothing here except a few old private houses, and of course the harbour for launching. From here you are closest to the well known Bass mark of Newland Rock, just off Pentire Point and Rump’s Point.

                            The other slip is to the East of Port Isaac, and can actually be walked to from the town, just up and over a hill. It really is a pretty natural harbour, a long inlet cut back in a sheltered loop to Port Gaverne, though with just the pub there, you could hardly call it a port. Its long and narrow inlet was actually a bustle of activity in the era of sail, when heavy sailing ships would come up the inlet and ground themselves as the tide fell. Then at low tide, the cargoes of slate, coal and limestone would be loaded aboard, and the ship refloated at high water to depart on its voyage elsewhere. This makes it ideal for launching your small boat as the sand is clean at low water, and it’s a real sun trap in the afternoon. Don’t forget to keep an eye on any swell coming in around the entrance, but once outside you are in the open Atlantic. From any of these three areas you will be out into Port Isaac Bay and the ocean beyond. You can be spoilt for choice. Head straight out and you can run for 8 or 10 miles to pick up Blue shark and the occasional Tope. Turn left and you can anchor in some of the sheltered sandy bays for Thornback Ray, and occasionally flats like small Turbot and Flounder. Or you can fish the East of the Newland Rock for Bass. Turn up the coast towards Tintagel and you are heading into broken ground favoured by the Pollack, and of course the Porbeagle shark. In the last year, a lot of small Porbeagle of 50 to 70lbs are being caught close to shore, around Cambeak Head, a not unpleasant run in a small boat, with towering cliffs and headlands all the way.

A chunky Newlands Rock Bass puts a smile on this angler's face. Live Launce was the bait.

GETTING THERE-Your basic route down the centre of Cornwall will probably be on the A30. The easiest way to reach Port Isaac would be to come off the A30 at Bodmin and take the A389 to Wadebridge.From here take the B3314 along the north of the Camel estuary until to take a left onto the B3267 into Port Isaac. If you are taking a recce without boat first, it will pay you to park in the main car park at the top of Port Isaac and walk down so you get your bearings. You can then drive (without trailer) to check out Port Gaverne and Port Quin to decide your best angle for bringing the trailer in.


GEOGRAPHY- The three tiny harbours are all situated on Cornwall’s North coastline, between Bude to the north-east, and Padstow to the south-west, though the latter is actually on the other side of the Camel estuary. Getting to Padstow means a journey back into Wadebridge, then along the coast road on the other side of the Camel estuary. Many anglers fish from Padstow, and a few from Bude, but even less realise these three small points of entry to the Atlantic are actually close to some really good fishing. The coastline all along here for thirty miles is rugged, sheer cliffs, some boulder/stone beaches, and a few clean sand beaches. There are few trees, and those that are standing generally stream back towards the north-east as they are blasted by our prevailing sou-westers.Once off the main roads, the B roads can be quite tight, so in peak summer make your boat trailing expeditions early. You can’t help getting snarled up in the evenings, but you want to make life easy with early starts. Remember spring tides give the easiest access for launching, and often give the better shark fishing.


Tom Collins from Aylesbury got this double hit of Bass and Pollack near Boscastle aboard our own boat Hi Sea Drifter

MARK No 1– Newland rock. The fishing for bass is on the eastern side patch of reef, where boats take it in turns to drift and pick off the bass with either live sandeel/launce on a long flowing trace, or more recently, they are getting huge success with small jigs, speed -wound towards the surface. Its snaggy on the reef, so don’t bump the bottom too much, or you end up out of terminal gear. The bass are not large, with an average of about 3lbs, but occasionally it throws up fish from 8 to 10lbs. Jumbo Mackerel to 2lbs, and the occasional 5lb Pollack can also put in an appearance. The best of the fishing appears to come on the ebb tide, when the Camel Estuary, presumably full of Sandeels, is emptying out past the reef. It is best to find the Newland Rock on your Admiralty chart, (Chart number SC1156 Trevose Head to Hartland Point)) as you cannot miss it, and then mark the eastern reef with your sounder. A rough number would be-N50 degrees.35.573 W.4 degrees.56.669.That should keep you well away from the rock, allowing you to move in visually, watching your sounder for the eastern reef.


MARK No2-   “THE BEENY DRIFT “. N.50 degrees.43.356 W.4 degrees  42.259This is a central number, which marks general reef ground, and which takes you over good Pollack, Bass and Porbeagle shark areas if you use the number as a central point and drift either side of it. If the wind comes from the west, you may have to start further out to allow for getting blown in. You will drift from Cambeak Head to Tintagel on the ebb tide, and vice-versa on the flood. Two rocks worth are a mention are the Beeny Sisters, but they are very close to shore, some way up from Tintagel.I did hear of bass being caught on plugs from them though. This is not a drift of huge pinnacle reef, just good snaggy ground. Bottom bumping with your lead will be a one-way ticket, so feather or use redgills or plastic worms on a long flowing trace and 4 ounce lead, fishing near the seabed, but not on it. For the Porbeagle shark, either a 1lb mackerel or Pollack suspended by a balloon, setting the bait about half, to three quarters’ of the depth. Put two balloons out spaced apart, and drop a third, freelined shark bait straight over the side, about 30 feet down. As a guide, I reckon to get at least half my Porbeagle runs on this freelined bait, which will be right over the chum trail. Fishing about 3/500 yards west of the Meachard Rock should put you in with mackerel, but watch out for crab pots on your drift.


MARK 3– “THE OUTER DRIFT”. N 50 degrees 42.484 W4 degrees 56.607. This is a good area for either drifting or anchoring for Tope. Best times of year, July to the end of October. Some of the best Tope fishing I have had has been in the month of October, and occasionally the days are flatter than those in the summer. This is all in an area with plenty of wrecks, so you can either go off in search of them, or work the general area a half mile either side of the numbers where you stand a good chance of a Porbeagle shark. It will generally be too close in for blues, but you never know. A strip bait bumped along the bottom can pick up plenty of smaller species, Gurnards, Whiting, Pollack etc, and while the general area would not be classed as great for Conger, anything in the proximity of a wreck will put you in with a shout. The Tope, if running, can go from 15lbs to 40lbs, and are great fun on lighter rods. Flapper mackerel is the best best, and don’t be too surprised if you suddenly get stripped out on the Tope gear, as the Porbeagle feed deep as well.


Accommodation. I keep a caravan on site all season till October at Boscastle, which allows me to work the entire coastline (subject to weather!).Port Isaac has plenty of Bed and Breakfast establishments, plus Hotels, and you can always move further away for a booking in peak season. Try to find a B&B where you can trailer the boat, and should you get blown off, there are plenty of rock marks to try spinning for mackerel, or floatfishing for wrasse. Contact the Tourist Office on Tintagel Visitor Centre-01840/779084 .They will send you a brochure of quality, approved hotels, B&B and camp sites, plus list of all events going on. If you want to go out on a charter boat they can also arrange this (in season), or try “ORCADES 2” on 01208-880716.


1)-PORT ISAAC- Good slip right in the town. High water launch as it dries out, and remember in peak season the beach doubles as an overspill car park. Personally the better high water launch would be at Port Gaverne. 

2)-PORT GAVERNE-The ramp goes onto shingle, then sand. Few places to park. High water best. Steep access on roads either side. The lower area is also sand. Good pub here, charges listed as pay at pub £5 per launch, or £15 per year.

3)-PORT QUIN-Concrete slipway into harbour. A key to slipway can be obtained from the food trailer if open in season. Upper area is harbour flanked by rocks, lower area is rock. High water launch. About a quarter of the ramp is tidal. Charges listed as £10 per day (Kayaks £2) £25 per week (Kayaks £10).Two numbers to contact first-01208/880586 or 07821/674451.

TRAVEL- Local transport-Nearest large towns are Wadebridge and Camelford.There is a bus run every day including summer holidays between Bude and Newquay, running through Port Isaac.

TIDES-High water launch on all three slips, but if going on a charter from Port Isaac, boats are wet moored so wider departure time available. Try www.bbc.co.ukweather/coast/tides

SAFETY- Three RNLI sites in the area. Bude, Port Isaac and Padstow. Also Helicopters for ASR on RAF Culdrose.

WEATHER- Avoid incoming low pressure systems for small boats as this can push up a swell, noticeable at entrance to Port Gaverne and Port Quin in south-westerly. Could be OK with charter boat though


The porbeagle shark run all along this coast. Here Mike Pullen shows a good shark before returning with a tag..Whole Pollack was the bait. Boat was the website's HI SEA DRIFTER

COPYRIGHT: Graeme Pullen. All rights reserved.