Sheerness Species Festival (Ray) 3rd and 4th May 2014
With anglers travelling from Lands’ end and John 0’Groats (well nearly) it looks as though we have representatives from most corners of the country, the weather reports from the beginning of the week had hanged for the better, the forecast 19-20mph north easterly had reduced to a mere breeze.
The original plan was to load from Queenborough (hence to choice of hotel) unfortunately the autumn storms from last year had damaged the slipway, this was due to be repaired prior to our festival but the funds could not be raised in time, a quick change of plan and Gillingham marina was chosen as a good compromise plus it’s only 25mins away from the HQ with plenty of parking, convenience stores and a golden arches restaurant en-route.
The thornbacks started to show around February this year and peaked in early April, funny how the fish never seem to read the script! Still some boats have still been producing between 20-40 rays in a session, mainly males with the odd larger female added in for good measure. The normal method on the chosen marks is a 30-40lb hook length around 2-3tf long with a 3/0 – 4/0 pennel rig on a flowing trace or a single 4/0 hook, the pennel is good to present the larger baits like half a herring fillet wrapped in squid or a single 4/0 and a chunk of herring, plain squid baits usually result in a dogfish or ten or perhaps a bonus bass.
The parking area was very close to the moorings which is always a bonus when lugging far too much tackle from the car to the boat and even better after a long day and added the weight of fish fillets, the wind had died to a breeze so a pleasant day lied ahead.
After a 50min steam the boats arrived at the Nor Swatch, Trojan was 1st to commence fishing followed by seeker and dentex, hurricane chose to wait until the tide started to flood. The rays have been appearing in little flurries over the last week or two, the bites can vary from one small nod of the rod to nearly losing it overboard so concentration is the key.
Mr Barron drew number 8, the ideal uptide spot which is apparently not his favourite method of fishing, still it gave his swollen foot a rest, and along with the 3 rays he also managed a Tub Gurnard as did Vernon Allen on Trojan, there seems to be a few of these around at present which is unusual for the estuary. Paul Hart took great pride in showing his latest tackle creations (he must have far too much spare time) still he did manage to land one sizable Ray and at least one other.
Seeker was top boat with 33 rays landed and 18 recorded over 40cm, Hurricane recorded 11 with 7 undersize, Trojan recorded 8 and Dentex 10, top rod was Neil Bryant with 4.
Well the skippers must have been naughty yesterday as the headmaster had moved not only the moorings but the parking as well, this caused a little confusion and a lot more walking! Apparently we had made too much noise on Saturday morning hence the change around, strange how the boats needed extra throttle on Sunday, must have been due to the cold night!
The river was flat calm and the sun shining, Dentex, Trojan and Seeker remained around the Nor Swatch area, Hurricane made the gamble to fish further afield and chose the red sands to target the larger specimens.
The fishing was a little slower than yesterday even though the conditions were nearly perfect, Allan on seeker obviously fell for Mr Barron’s sob storey about his foot and presented him with a garden chair to take the weight of his foot. The bits were few and far between but the banter was quick and witty, Perry is now known as PTB and Ray RTC, sorry but I cannot expand on why, you will need to ask them. I managed to hook a 55cm ray just on the edge of his wing up towards the nose, this allowed the fish to spin in very large circles and made quite an unusual fight on the x-power rod and lots of tide, Perry then hooked into an even larger specimen that turned out to be the best of the weekends fish at 65cm.
Seeker recorded 8, Trojan 10, Dentex 7 but Hurricane managed 19 sizable rays with Gary Galbraith landing 7 to add to his first days tally of 3, Gary chose to fish large all herring baits, lashing several thin strips of fillet together, looks like the gamble paid off as Hurricane took the top boat and two out of the top 3 individual placing’s.
The fishing might not have been up to everyone’s expectations but no one could fault the hospitality of the skippers, we had gourmet dining (compared to most trips) with bacon rolls, sausage sandwiches, meat loaf, sausage rolls, cakes all washed down with plenty of tea, so a big thanks to commodore Steve on Dentex, Allan (Seeker) Paul (Trojan) and Will/Gareth (Hurricane) and of course the staff at the Abbey Hotel.
Results (see separate sheets for full list of results)
1st Gary Galbraith
2nd Darren Rose
3rd Neil Bryant
Mike Smith – Gary Galbraith
Four man open
Matt Osborne, Neil Bryant, Ray Barron, Perry Dack
Report by Martin Bobbett