Within a minute of the scales opening at the Brixham weigh-in station of the Torbay Angling Festival, a turbot of 17-lb 12-oz, taken at the Skerries Bank by Steve Birchenall – who was fishing with his daughter, Chloe, from the family boat – set the event going.
The pair also accounted for a number of sizeable blonde ray, Chloe having the best at just under 19-lb.
Black bream were prominent, the best being a fish of 3-lb 13-oz 2-drm for 13-year-old Marsden Criddle, while his brother, Maitland, who has just passed into senior ranks, had bream over 3-lb and his first-ever turbot, a small fish but a welcome capture.
The trip was to a wreck about 32 miles off Brixham chosen by their dad, Mark Criddle, who is coxswain of the Brixham Lifeboat. The mark has a reputation for conger and fish in the 40-lb class were caught by both Criddle and Doug Mosedale, but being considered too small, were released.
Luke Netherton and Bethany Shears went afloat to a wreck and found ling, their best two going to 20- lb 11-oz and 17-lb 7-oz.
A forecast of bad weather proved correct and prevented all boat fishing on the second day of the competition.
The Festival concludes its nine-day run today, and it is replaced at the weekend by the 39th Small Boat Angling Festival at Salcombe staged by the Wyvern part of the Angling Trust Marine.
History relates that in that first event, 19 species came to the scales operated by Peter Phillips. In number terms, it is a record that still stands, and Torbay’s Harry Simm was the first winner.
The championship is based on the highest aggregate of two different species plus day prizes for nominated species of flatfish, ray, pollack, wrasse, and the best of any other species. In total, the prize list is worth in excess of £2,000 with electronics much to the fore.
Salcombe is said to be, on day average, the balmiest place in Britain, which may have a close connection with the area’s affinity with the gilt- head bream.
Since 1983 there have been ten successful UK record claims for boat and shore captures. Peeler and soft crab or a combo bait, including worm, razor fish and thin strips of launce or sandeel, will do well.
The main area for a gilt head is ‘The Bag’, the name given to the narrow neck connecting the Salcombe River with the Kingsbridge estuary at Saltstone, which is marked by a pylon, and the nearby Halwell, where deep pits are also favoured by gilt heads.
If the weather allows boats to go outside the infamous Salcombe bar the place to head for is Bolt Head, ballan wrasse territory supreme, with 7-lb specimens a possibility.
The bottom is a nightmare of deep rock gullies with immense beds of waving kelp. When you add these features to the power of a big ballan wrasse, niceties of approach must be put aside.
A stiff action rod, matched with a multiplier without a level line feature and 40-lb test mono, is the tackle requirement. The 2-ft long mono trace of 40-lb – it can be more – carries a 4/0 hook laden with peeler, soft or hard crab.
If you react to offers in a split second with a full sweep of the rod you will be hooked on. Delay and you may just as well cut away and start again as the big ballan you might have had will be totally ‘rocked up’ under a ledge and won’t come out. A soft action rod is totally useless as it gives a running wrasse a foot of advantage and this may be all it needs to gain shelter.
Salcombe’s outer estuary holds blonde ray, a species very much in season. Bottom gear carrying most of the popular baits will achieve activity with fish that can weigh above 20-lb. Inside the bar, the area abeam South Sands and what’s left of King Charles Castle also offers big wrasse.
The sign-on point for the championship is at the Festival HQ in the boat park at the extreme end of Salcombe’s main car park from 7.30 am. Entry fee is £12 per day and £20 for both days. A team of two costs £5. The daily weigh-in will begin at 5.00 pm at the same venue. Wyvern has agreed a concessionary fee with the Harbour Authority for trailer park- ing and boat launching that is £7.50 per day. This will be collected at the sign-in when a boat number, launch- ing pass and a trailer parking ticket will be issued.