Think Torquay, and the older generation immediately conjure up a vision of the TV series Fawlty Towers hotel run by a stressed out Basil Fawlty. And there are certainly a lot of hotels here. But it wasn’t always like that. It was not until the early 19th century that a harbour was built there. In those days the Bay area started to attract visitors with poor health, and due to its mild climate and sea air the population expanded tenfold due to it becoming a favoured winter resort. It was later tapped into by the upper classes who took little time in building another harbour which drew in the yachters. On the commercial shipping side of things it proved a popular route from Australia which used the harbour to deliver wool, and coal. Even during the First World War the alleged medicinal qualities of Torquay saw the building of convalescent homes and hospitals, and thereafter the popularity of the Great Western Railway saw it become a major tourist resort. In 1821 there were less than 2000 people living in the town. Today you have trouble finding a parking place in summer, and the accommodation of hotels and guest houses have mushroomed. Surrounding towns also drew benefit from the expansion. It is now known to be an area popular with foreign language students, but for me, the only language I wanted to hear was about the fishing. And what fishing they can get. From the surrounding shore you have a wealth of marks to choose from. Open beaches for Bass, Estuaries and creeks for specimen Flounder, and rock marks for conger, wrasse, and bull huss.Then offshore you have the many wrecks from the two World Wars to choose from.
These provide the bulk of big fish in the shape of huge Pollack, Cod, Ling, Coalfish and Conger. While the inshore boater has the many sandbanks rammed with big Blondes, Small Eyed Ray, Turbot and Plaice. It sounds very much like Torquay is the unsung hero of West Country fishing, and more important it is home to that famous name in the tackle trade, Dave Kiddy, founder of the legendary Sidewinder Sandeel. And just up the road at Exeter, is Swift Tackle with Alex McDonald, home to the Redgill Sandeel lure. With these two suppliers so close to the best of the fishing, you can expect some outstanding catches. The top charter skipper for Torquay is Kevin Tate, who has a list of specimen fish taken from his boat “Anne Clare” that is breathtaking. But for the two inshore marks I needed to pop into the local shop Tidal Tackle, and get the top local info from small boat expert Simon Kingshott.He runs an 18 foot Icelandic boat, which is similar to a Bass boat, and straps a 60hp Mercury 2-stroke Big Foot on the back. This gives him a top speed of around 28knots, and puts many of the local fishing marks within easy reach. He has taken some superb fish, including Pollack to 18-12 on Sidewinders, Conger to 88lbs, and Bass to double figures. His best is 11-9 on a 4 ½” minnow, 15gm in blue, which he describes as “fantastic on a fast retrieve”. Another favoured lure is the 6” white Bloodhead Sidewinder in 25gm weight. He has had 31 Bass in a day ranging from 7 to 9lbs, and his best day Pollack fishing over the wrecks was three over 18lbs.Skipper Kevin Tate was kind enough to give me the GPS numbers, so between him and Simon there should be enough information to point you in the right direction.
MARK 1–SCABBACOMBE REEF- 50.21.28N x 003.30.58 this fishes best on small tides, and can be good either day or night, especially at anchor, though be advised it is a kelp covered reef so you can lose a bit of tackle. Use a weak link on either your redgill boom to the lead, or on a running leger if bottom fishing. Depths fluctuate, but a good average would be 40/50 feet. The mark runs from Sharkham Point towards say the Dartmouth area, and is the same sort of ground for those wanting a nice long drift working Sandeel lures. Most of the better fishing is within a mile from shore. There are areas of rocks exposed at different states of tide, so carefully check charts, and move around with care. Some are buoyed, others not. It can be very good at anchor for conger up to 30lbs, and Bull Huss to 15lbs.In summer there is some awesome wrasse fishing using hardback crab, with fish to 5lbs, and even yearly reports of 7 and 8 pounders. Simon likes the ebb tide for Conger fishing, slack is not so productive. His favourite section is known as the ORE STONE (shown on charts) a large rock that sticks out of the water, and can throw up some large Cod into double figures. A 21 pounder came out last year, as the back of the Ore Stone drops away from about 45 feet to 120 feet. Just on the edge of this deep water is year-round Whiting fishing, and he reckons they are jumbo fish, up to, and over 4lbs in weight. A standard running leger rig with with 8 ounces to bump along the bottom should get you in contact with them. Also west of the Ore Stone is the THATCHER ROCK (Charted) You can get good Bass here on trolled Sidewinder lures, running them back 80/100 yards, or get them deeper with a yellow paravane to pull it down as there is not enough weight in a Sidewinder to go really deep. It can run about 1/2 knots around here, and the Bass love the extra current. (TOP TIP –from Kevin-There are patches of coarse sand along the reef, which according to divers are home to some huge plaice. He also suggests keeping a watchful eye out for the many pot buoys which in strong tides are less visible, and get pulled under the surface)
MARK 2- THE RAY BANK – 50.14.42 x 003.36.19
– This is basically to the west of the famous Skerries Sandbanks, where it drops away deeper and is all clean sand. There may be the odd bit of old lost pot lines to lose gear on, but as a general rule it is good ground. There are specimen Blonde Ray to 30lbs here, many running into double figures, and the predominant species would be the Small Eyed Rays. It’s usual to hook the Small Eyed first, and then the Blondes seem to move in. There is also the icing on the cake in the shape of a bonus Turbot, and they can be enormous. Up to 27lbs,with a high average weight being around 10/15lbs.And if you use lighter running leger, with plenty of beads and a spinner blade as attractor you can get big Plaice, occasionally larger than on the Skerries Bank itself. You could be looking at a 5 pounder flapping on the deck of your boat!!As an average guide to depth the bank starts about 30 feet, drops away to 80 feet, and Simon finds it fishes well in both directrions, either ebb or flood. You can still fish it on a spring, but you need to pile more lead on. He reckons it actually fishes better on a neap tide using uptiders to spread the baits, which can be mackerel strip, squid or the local favourites, a whole Launce or whole prawn. He advises a balanced outfit, with his favourite as follows-Abu 7000 loaded with Berkley Whiplash of 50lb strain. A Fladden Maximus solid carbon rod for downtiding, but uptiding he uses an Abu Suveran.Hooks are the 545 MANTA EXTRA, in 4/0’s.(TOP TIP-Kevin Tate advises leads of up to at least 2lbs,as the best of the Blonde ray fishing comes when the tide runs at its hardest. He feels standard 20/30lb tackle, braid as a definite, running leger rig and 6/0 hook)
MARK 3-The ROTA WRECK- 50.24.59 x 003.18.54
– A 1917 general cargo sunk in 65 metres of water. It’s a huge liner steamship, and was believed torpedoed by sub U-17 out from Start Point. This is a large wreck, and has a good base of big Pollack, running anything from 8 to 18lbs in weight. Favoured lures by the locals are Sidewinder Rhubarb and Custard in the six inch size, plus the Flo Orange in super holographic. The 4 ½ “Blue Joey mackerel Bloodhead also works very well for the 4 to 6lb range of Pollack. Now here’s the take on techniques. The commercials use massively long traces of up to twenty feet, but Simon only uses about 8 feet of 30lb Amnesia to a plastic tube boom, stopped by a bead and swivel to the main line. This short trace seems to work well on neap tides, but the longer traces will outfish them on a bigger spring tide. Nobody knows why!! The Bass come out on live Joey mackerel, starting about May, and running right up into December. Also Cod to double figures, Pout, Whiting, but not many Ling. This wreck is about 9 ½ miles straight out from Torbay, and sits in 140 feet of water, rising up around 30 feet from the sea bed. In the centre it is very snaggy, so keep an eye on the sounder. There are sharks about, a Mako was supposed to have been lost when it was hooked up, and jumped clear of the water. There are loads of baitfish over this wreck in summering the shape of Scad and Mackerel shoals, often so thick they are within ten feet of the surface.
MARK 4- THE MEAT BOAT– 50.21.64 x 003.11.87 -This wreck has plenty of Ling and is further out, about 16 miles from Torquay harbour. Simon rates this as a very consistent fish producer, with the Pollack coming out on either Evolution Redgills or the Sidewinders. Readers need to keep an eye out for the new Redgill MEGAVIBE lures which are due out in March, as these can be impregnated with scent, and may be just about the right size for the better Cod and Pollack as it represents the bigger prey items. Most anglers drift the Meat Boat as it can be snaggy. You get all the usual species as on the other wrecks, but if you do anchor uptide of it watch out for big Congers, which are known to run to 100lbs.There are also incredible Turbot living in the tidal scours around the edge of the wreck, with specimens to 32lbs being landed. If you want to run to the distant wrecks then look up the services of Kevin Tate on the “Anne Clare”. Kevin told me about other well known wrecks that provide superb winter Pollack fishing. The “Lloyds” wreck, the “Magellan” and the “Columbus”. Another top wreck is the “Murray”, in the 30 mile range, but very snaggy as it has three cranes standing on top of the deck. It has monstrous Pollack to over 20lbs, so be prepared to lose a few lures if you want a potential record breaker.(TOP TIP– Kevin says don’t be afraid to steam uptide of this wreck, as the bass and cod seem to prefer this area, even as far as 100 metres uptide. He has also given us a backup wreck to the MEATBOAT.It is the FORMIDABLE, even bigger than the MEATBOAT and has some huge conger and ling. He has had three Eels over 100lbs from here, with plenty of 70/80 pounders. Flood tide with a light S.W. breeze is best for anchoring.Plus, try baited feathers over any slack tide period for some enormous Black Bream).
THE CHARTER BOAT– Skipper Kevin Tate with his 33 foot Blyth Cat “Anne Clare” can be chartered to run out to the wrecks for the record breaking winter Pollack, or even inshore to the sandbanks where he has just discovered a new piece of ground giving loads of Blonde Rays to over 30lbs. Phone Kevin on 01803-315125 or 07989-527180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
GETTING THERE- Access to Torquay is easy, roads are good, but in holiday traffic it can be choked. Head south on the M5,taking the A38 which turns off to the A330 which runs straight into Torquay.The A379 is the road into the town centre, and runs right down to the promenade and harbour. Fine in winter, but extremely busy in summer.
Accommodation- No need to worry about where to stay. Torquay has a huge number of Hotels and Guest houses, so shop around as there may well be a B&B deal going cheap. Occasionally the B&B will do evening meals if booked in advance, and this work out cheaper in the long run. Type “Hotels and Guest Houses Torquay” into your search engine and take your pick.
Launch site.-In the outer harbour there is a really good wide, long ramp and a designated parking area (posted) up on the pier itself. Of course it’s busy in peak summer, but if you bare pollacking in the winter you will surely have the place to yourself. Enquiries and costs from the local Harbour Master office.Tel-01803-292429.Slip is all of the tidal range.
Tackle Shop– TIDAL TACKLE, right in front of the famous pavilion and overlooking the inner harbour, this is a big shop, with loads of stock, and of course Simon can put you on the right marks whether from shore or boat. Well worth talking to him. Tel-01803-292080.Bait can be organised as well.
Safety-The RNLI Lifeboat is at Brixham.Torbay has had a lifeboat since 1866 with Brixham as the base. They can expect 100 launches a year. Lifeboat Ops manager-01803-853136
Weather-online at http:/www.metoffice.gov.uk, plus any localised, automated weather stations.
Location & Travel ****
Tackle shop *****
Fishing quality *****
COPYRIGHT: Graeme Pullen.All Rights Reserved