Top boat angler and charter skipper Glen Milligan talks about how to become a great boat angler. This month he joins a fellow skipper on board ‘Trio 3’ to see how he does things...
It’s worth skippers experiencing how other charter boats work, as we’re all in it together and sharing skills and experiences can only enhance our skills. Learning how others go about things by taking on board good ideas and top tactics, but also ignoring any bad habits observed (we all have them), will only help to improve enjoyment for our customers.
The trials and tribulations of being a charter skipper… It may seem to most that being a skipper is all about moaning about the ever increasing price of diesel, or talking proudly about yesterday’s catch (do I do that?). But, in truth, it’s just like any other job that has its ups and downs – for instance, recently ‘Wight Huntress’ suffered the unexpected and tragic loss of her propeller, mid-charter too! This was a very expensive and particularly inconvenient mishap, which meant that she was laid up for a week for repairs. Also, this was made all the more frustrating because it meant missing out on some seriously lovely fi shing weather, which was almost as painful as facing the bill for the repairs!
On hearing of my temporary incapacitation, a fellow Langstone charter skipper, Steve Wall Palmer, called me up insisting that I join him and his boys on a trip for bass and plaice. I’ve known Steve (or Bumble as he prefers to be called) for a few years, and his boat, ‘Trio 3’, is his latest pride and joy – a magnificent 11m Blythe catamaran. “Come and see how the big boys do it!” were his exact words – an offer I couldn’t refuse. It had been a couple of years since I’d been out on another charter boat, so this was indeed a good chance for me to watch another skipper in action on my familiar marks and to compare notes.
As you would expect, as Bumble’s boat is one of the new generation of ‘supercharter’ boats, it’s superbly fitted out! It has all the mod cons on board, including a plasma TV, shower, galley and customers’ outside toilet – I love the bright red hull too, for me a very attractive boat! Inside the skipper’s helm seat is surrounded by modern digital Raymarine consoles. I too have Raymarine electronics on board ‘Wight Huntress’, just not quite so many.
“Permission to Board Sir?”
On the day of the trip I met Bumble and his party of 12 regulars on the pontoon. With his usual cheeky grin he told me that we were off bassing first, but not to look at the GPS chartplotter too closely! A joke between skippers or was he really being serious? As we motored the 20 or so miles to the mark, we talked about our different approaches to the fishing. One thing that we both agreed on was that by far the number-one bass lure is the Red Gill Evolution in blue and white! As if to prove his commitment to the lure, Bumble pointed to his bulk box of 100 or so packets of them – all available for the anglers to use. He commented: “I provide my anglers with Evos and ragworms, because both work brilliantly and I find that normally one of them will produce the goods.”
There are many factors that contribute towards a successful day on the ‘bass’ this is something that Bumble and I both know only too well! Most marks fish differently at different times, so the knowledge of where and when to fish is massive. Some factors we are able to predict, such as tide strength and direction – but there are many other variables that can decide on whether the bass are at home and in a predatory mood or not. Commercial rod-and-line bass fishermen will understand this very well and, indeed, will often be prepared to wait at a specific location in the belief that the bass will ‘turn on’ at some point.
We arrived at the first mark, which was exactly the same location that I had fished a month previously. The tide was ideal as it was just about to start running to the east – we had every reason to hope for another good day. The first drift, with hardly any tide run, produced two bass to 3lb, both on rag, with no fish to the lures. The second drift produced just a single fish of a similar size, and from then on just the odd fish. Then, as the tide picked up, the fish disappeared rather than increased. All on board were disappointed that the fishing didn’t produce as expected; who can say why? As we both know, though, this is part of bass fishing. But we couldn’t hang around and it was time to move on and try different marks until we found some fish in the mood to play!
As we moved away from the first mark, Bumble pointed out an all-too-sad image – a French 25m trawler ploughing through another nearby bass mark! It’s a sight that really does upset me; what chance do we have? This boat is well known around here and, unbelievably, it’s perfectly legally allowed to work up to six miles from the UK mainland! We moved on, trying mark after mark with just the odd bass being caught – so it was time for plan ‘B’. Skipper Bumble put it to the lads that he thought we should move on to some mussel beds, where we could drift fish for plaice. Before we started, though, he showed the lads his favoured method – a short 18in trace, with black and green beads, a spoon and a thin-wire Aberdeen hook. Bumble explained that the reason for this rig is that if the trace is too long it easily becomes snagged up, and fine-wire hooks will also bend out and keep the trace moving. He went on to give one of his regulars, Ron, one of his plaice rigs as if to prove his point.
Cutting Our Losses
This turned out to be a good decision from the skipper because the guys soon started to get among the flatties, with a stream of plaice and the odd gurnard. Sadly there was nothing too big that day, which is unusual because we often catch plaice over 5lb on these marks.
All in all it was a hard day for the frustrated skipper, a feeling that I understand well. There are no guarantees in this game – if the fish aren’t playing ball then it’s the skipper’s job to try something different to provide some sport for the anglers. Moving on to the plaice was a great move and did indeed save the day – well done skipper!