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African Queen
8 Chestnut Grove
South Devon

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2012 Monthly Report/News

For anyone who is interested, you can find the previous years diary's here.
2011 2012 2013      

January 2012. Nothing much to report yet unfortunately, the weather is just diabolical, winds are consistently strong and are stopping us from taking advantage of the few bookings we actually get at this time of year. We have had a trip out to the Skerries which was just plastered with Whiting, nothing of any great size but there must have been millions of them. One wrecking trip out on a good forecast to a wreck 2 hrs away. Left Dartmouth in flat calm conditions but by the time we were over the wreck it was blowing 3 parts of a gale. We managed half a dozen smallish Pollack but had to head back inshore in ever worsening conditions. We should have stayed in bed.

Late February/March. Found a few days settled weather to get out and have a go at the early Plaice. First day we had 30, with some decent sized fish to 2lb 12oz (We started last year with a run of good size fish, see 2011 diary.) Bit of a glitch the next day with the wind swinging to a cold Northerly breeze, we could only manage 18, but 3rd time lucky next trip out with a cracking haul of 62 Plaice (with only 7 anglers) and a nice 1 1/2lb Dab as a bonus. Best fish just on 3lb with half a dozen between 2 and 2 3/4 lb. Lots of smallish fish about as always, (24 returned) but the numbers make for good reading this early in the season. Out Friday and Saturday this week weather permitting, but spring tides may not help the fishing, we shall see.
Click on pic's to enlarge.



The last 2 pictures here is the reason you never ever use pennel tackle for Plaice fishing, not on my boat any how. That's a 1/0 Aberdeen buried in my pinkie finger, went in about 10.20 AM and I didn't get to the Hospital till 6.30 PM to get it taken out. I saw the angler in question using the rig and lectured him on the dangers of using this type of tackle on the Boat, he said he had seen an article in the Sea Angler magazine on the benefits of using them for Plaice fishing. Ten minutes later during a little flurry with lots of Plaice coming in at the same time I found myself wearing the spare hook for the rest of the day. Resisting the urge to keelhaul him I struggled through the day and just changed his name on my mobile directory to Spud the impaler so every time he phones I have an instant reminder to give him a hard time. (he's an old mate) Don't have nightmares.

Friday/Saturday 9/10th March. Good fishing continues in spite of the Spring tides. Friday we had 56 Plaice and Saturday saw 41 boated, best fish were around the 3lb mark again. Mackerel are few and far between but are there for anglers who want to catch them

Friday 16th/ Sat 17th/ Sun 18th/ Mon 19th. Fantastic fishing continues on the Plaice. We were out for just half a day with a Father and Son on holiday from the USA on Friday, never caught a Plaice before but found 11 between them on a very short trip and neap tides. Saturday saw us out with one of our regular crews who ended their day with 92 Plaice. Saturday was the Pot black fishing club's first booking with us this year, they held our Boat record set last year at 126 Plaice boated, with the best individual bag at 24. Both records were broken with 138 Plaice seeing the net, best individual bag 29 to Keith. I think this new tally will take some beating. There were a lot of small fish boated, which were returned but a fair number of decent sized ones to keep for the pot. Monday we were out again with just 7 anglers who endured weather that went from flat calm and hot, to windy and arctic with hail and rain thrown in through the day. Wind over tide did not help the drift, but they still managed 70 fish, with the average size well up on the day before because of their tactics to deter the smaller fish with large baits. The best fish on all days was around the 3lb mark with many 2lb plus fish. We know the Plaice come in early season, thin from their over winter spawning efforts, they will soon fatten up on the good feed the Skerries has to offer them.

End of March. The good fishing continues when we can get out. Catches of 59, 56, 52, 77 and 60 Plaice are the recent tally's we have recorded, despite the persist ant Easterly winds. We have had some of our best fishing so far this season in the last week (size wise) 3lb 7oz, another at 3lb 2oz and several pushing the 3lb mark with plenty over 2lb. Still a lot of smallish fish around keeping the number's caught high, but we put them back to grow a bit more. Most days see enough quality fish to take for the pot. That's Skerries Plaice fishing,  you can only catch what's there, and what want's to open its mouth. Still it's nice to see a few bigger fish coming to the net but hey, it's still early season. The Mackerel are just starting to show on the odd days, the odd Gurnard coming out to play and a few little Whiting's too, so it won't be long before we can say another Summer's here.

April, Still fishing well, had our first 4lb Plaice of this season. Won't be long before we get our next 5lb un. Will it be you? 2nd 3rd April saw another 77 and 62 tally of Plaice. As we got towards Easter weekend we saw trip after trip cancelled through big winds, after the superb run of weather we had been enjoying it came hard with full bookings and desperate anglers wanting to have their go at the plaice. 8th, 40 Plaice (big tide) 12th, 73 13th 75, 14th, 76, 16th, 84, then apart from a couple of little half day trips we managed to squeeze in, all trips were cancelled un till Friday 27th when I managed to cobble together a trip from the guys I knew we were going to have to cancel over the following weekend. We ended the day with 87 Plaice with 10 over 2lb and the biggest to Phil Pickle at 2lb 12oz. Lots of good table fish caught to keep everyone happy and a fair few returned to grow for another day.

I have included again a couple of pictures taken from our weather buoy sited off Tor Cross/Slapton Sands to show just what the evil Easterly's do to our Bay. You can access the weather buoy info from a link at the bottom of our weather links page if you are interested. The green line is the average height of the waves over 3 waves, the black line is the peaks of the larger swells. Some of them were over 5 metres

I forgot to mention that the Mackerel are officially in. We took out a corporate crew for a couple of hours (non Fishermen) and they caught over 100 in a couple of hours, good size too. More Gurnard now showing with the Whiting becoming more plentiful with some better size fish.
May. End of April and the first 2 weeks of May saw unprecedented wind and rain, over 5" of rain fell on Devon turning the River Dart and subsequently Start Bay into something resembling oxtail soup. All marine life vanished out into cleaner, saltier water. The winds have been persistent and saw trip after trip cancelled. When we did manage to struggle out to the Banks we caught almost nothing, this came as a real shock after the good fishing we had enjoyed since the beginning of the season. One fish of note we did manage to land was a 12lb 8oz Small eyed Ray (returned) see pic below.

12/13th May. Managed to find a fishable weekend at long last. Saturday saw some of the boats taking up to around 60 fish, we only had 21 with 6 inexperienced anglers aboard, I gave up telling the Guys not to strike at bites but they would not listen, the total catch they achieved proves that their methods were not the best. Our normal consistent high catch rate is as a result of years of fishing for Plaice  and developing a method that does work. As I have said in these pages before, if you want to catch fish, wherever you are fishing, listen to the skipper, he wants you to catch fish, his reputation depends on it. As if to prove a point we went out on Sunday with one of our regular crews that saw us boat 116 Plaice. Best individual bag on the boat was Charlie with 28 Plaice to his rod, best brace of fish to Norman, 2lb 8oz and 2lb 14oz in his total bag of 12, 10 anglers on board. Some lovely big Whiting about now, we lost one at the side of the boat that would have gone 3 1/2 to 4lb had we landed it. 16th May, after another couple of cancelled trips we managed to creep out between the winds and find a few more Plaice,  48 to be precise, plenty of Whiting and Mackerel to go with them, another 2 days cancelled then on Saturday 19th, we hit the jackpot again with 119, best fish 4lb. 4 Dabs thrown in for good measure. Aprox 50% of our fish are returned to grow on, so out of a crew of 10, most anglers will only take 5 or 6 good fish each for the table. The bag of edible fish is always boosted with a few Mackerel and Whiting. We will always encourage our anglers to be conservation minded, most, but not all are. Sunday 20th, out again in yet another stiff Easterly wind. Catch rate down on yesterday but the lads still managed to find 40 nice fish.

21st-24th May, Lift out for annual re-fit.  Grand weather for 4 days, sunshine all day, perfect for our anti fouling, a coat or two of paint, a few running repairs and back in the water to go fishing again. Or in our case back to the mooring because of poor weather yet again. Managed to get out to the Banks on the 29th and 30th and had good fishing again with days of 89 and 67 Plaice. 1st June, first days wrecking of the year, some nice Cod to 13lb,Pollack to about the same size. A good day and made a change for us to be somewhere other than the Skerries. 2nd to 8th, every trip cancelled apart from the 4th. when we took part in the Dartmouth Jubilee flotilla. 60 Boats of all shapes and sizes took part in a parade from the Castles, up river to Dittisham and back. A fun day for everyone. High winds and rain again, see wave buoy readout for 8th June. It's a good job we don't have a mortgage on the Boat.

Trips to the Skerries when we can get out between these gales are producing 30 odd Plaice on a bad day, 60's on the good, fish to 4lb if you get lucky, but most in the 1-2lb bracket. This is normal for this time of the year when our fantastic catches of the early season are diluted by the profusion of other species that abound the Banks. We often record 10-12 different species in a days fishing during these warmer months, sometimes more. Good numbers of Whiting to 3lb for those that want to catch them, 3 species of Gurnard caught most days and always a suprise waiting to happen. Phil Pickle had a cracking Sole on his Plaice gear the other day, our first ever on the boat, broad daylight (it was actually sunny at the time) fairly shallow water and hooked fairly in the mouth. When I think of the hours we've wasted over the years, grubbing about at night in the vain attempt to catch one of these elusive fish it makes me wonder what we are doing wrong. I know there are plenty of them about our patch, the trawlers and the netter's get good catches. We have 2 night trips arranged this Month in yet more attempts to try and catch a few. They are a fish that has always fascinated me, but have always eluded me.

Click the link below to see a report one of our Anglers put on the forum.

25/26/27th June. 3 days fishing with a group of anglers staying on board a very damp African Queen, it hasn't stopped raining for days. For some reason the forecast for the 3 days of their visit is perfect, light winds and a bit of sun. 1st day we spent on the Skerries after the Plaice, Phil Pickle our resident angler ended the day with 20 Plaice to his rod plus all the other bits and bobs you encounter when fishing the banks. (we had 10 or 11 different species) The other lads started slow, not really getting to grips with our methods of Plaice fishing until late in the day so only averaged half a dozen each. Day 2 we went off to the mid channel wrecks, the sea was almost flat calm and the sun was shining, Over the 1st wreck we had a few Cod and Pollack, but the fishing was a bit hit and miss so we moved to another wreck a few miles off. 1st drift most of the lads were into fish, loads of Cod and Pollack in the 6 to 8lb mark with the best topping 11lb, a few nice Whiting as a bonus to the lures, all the Lads caught fish and every one came home happy but tired. Wednesday 27th. was day 3 and we were joined by Bristol boy James and his cousin, I decided we would drop the anchor on one of our Ray marks to see if the Blondie's had come to visit Dartmouth, The tide was only just starting to run after we dropped the pick in, so the fishing started slowly with only Whiting and dogs coming aboard. As the tide picked up one of the guys on the back of the boat landed our first Ray, a nice Blond of 18lb, As the tide got quicker so did the bites and soon everyone was into fish with James beating our boat record by taking the best fish at 26lb 8oz. We had 4 fish around the 23/24lb mark with the smallest fish of 10lb 8oz. (apart from a 6lb Spotted) Everyone caught good fish, we ended with a total of 25 Rays. As I record all the fish we catch, I was able to calculate the total weight of Ray we caught to 389lb 8oz an average weight of over 16lb a fish. All the Guys had a great day that they will remember for a long time to come. All the Rays were netted, weighed and returned, and with no prompting from me. It was their choice to a Man that they wanted all the fish put back in the Sea, Lads, I applaud you.

4 big fish were lost through inadequate tackle. They pull like mad at the best of times, so in the biggish tide we were fishing they take some landing. You can be 'sporting' if you wish, and use light tackle, rest assured the big Blond Rays will not be, and will fight dirty. Make sure your tackle is strong enough for the job in hand, Phil Pickle may have hooked and lost a new British record on the day, well, maybe not a record but we will never know, it was certainly much bigger than anything we managed to land. When his braid finally parted (after about 15 minutes) the big Ray was backing further down the tide and away from the boat, a very powerful fish. He will be using the heavier gear the next time we drop the pick on that mark. Bristol Boy's Ray at 26lb.8oz, is the biggest (by 2lb) we have had on the boat in nearly 25 years fishing out of Dartmouth, well done James.

Saw our first Basking Shark for a few years Monday 25th. a big un too, 20 plus feet. Years past we used to see them regularly in the Bay, sometimes 4 at a time. Don't know if there are less around these days, or if it's just the Plankton they feed on is not about Dartmouth because the warm water currents are further south? Still it's a privilege to see one. Basking Shark Video.

28th June to 3rd. July. 6 straight days cancelled through bad weather. Massive rainfall, floods, high winds, what a Summer.


Managed to get out in arduous conditions on the 4th.We anchored our favourite Ray mark for a few hours and had 8 nice Blond Ray to 16lb 8oz plus the good Whiting to 3lb that grab the Ray baits, we also ventured out for a short evening session to the same mark on the 6th. which saw only 4 Blonds to just under 20lb. Again  we had another 5 big Ray lost to light tackle. The angler's always say that they fish with with their chosen tackle wherever they go, "I catch Ray in the Bristol Channel with this gear" they pipe up, well you ain't hooked a 20lb plus Ray in a big tide and tested it fully have you? When they do get connected to a plus 20 and their so called 30lb braid snaps like a piece of cotton they know why I keep on. Out on a wreck with a group of competent anglers Sunday 8th. Had some nice Pollack to 12lb and Cod to 15lb. What happened to keep me whinging? another 5 big, big fish lost, probably 20lb plus Cod, a fish of a lifetime perhaps to the angler's involved, the disappointment on their faces is heart breaking to witness as they scrutinize the broken end of their '30lb' braid. Angler's forget that this 'test' strength of their chosen line is much reduced when you tie a knot in it. If you tie a nylon leader on to braid, the test strength of the nylon is perhaps reduced to half because of the cutting action of the ultra thin braid, and it is thin these days, 30lb braid is like a fine hair, no abrasion resistance at all and will cut like cheese wire. If it gets close to a Barnacle it falls apart and as for this modern ultra thin, pre stretched high tensile pro biotic bloody nylon, Geezze! don't get me started. Get it together Guys, I work hard to put you over the big fish you all want to catch, you are competent anglers who take pride in your ability and spend your Children's inheritance on the tackle you own, beef it up!

50lb braid is thinner these days than the 20 of old. Modern nylon line is also too thin, no abrasion resistance, it;s far too hard, no stretch and also suffers panic attacks when it see's a Barnacle. My advice, buy yourself a spool of 50lb braid and put it on a decent rod and reel, tie it to a 40lb leader (the old fashioned stuff, soft and thick and cheap as chips) and use a 30lb hook length. Then you may be smiling at your monster fish laid in the net rather than weeping as you look at that frayed end of your expensive ultra micro so called 30lb braid that just snapped at 15lb. Your 30lb class rod can exert 30lb pressure on a big diving Cod, but believe me, you won't exert 30lb's of pressure if you are using 30lb braid, it will break well below that, no doubt about it. Most angler's have never been lucky enough to hook a 20lb plus Cod so will under estimate their sheer power. You have just stuck a 6/0 hook in his mouth, he panic's, 6 feet away is his rusty Barnacle covered home, 20lb's of solid muscle makes a dash for it, can you stop him and get him clear of the wreck? not with light gear you wont. We have never landed a 20 on our boat, been close at 19lb, but let me tell you, we have hooked loads of 20 plus's and lost them all. If you want to do a job, get the right tools. You would not try to mend an engine using plastic spanners, so don't try to use tackle that is better suited to Whiting when I take you out hunting big fish. Nuff said.

9th/10 July, 24 hour trip. Took a group of lads out on one of our 24 hour trips, we are always hoping to get among the elusive Sole at night but have so far been unlucky. The afternoon session (we leave at midday and return midday the following day) saw some good Plaice landed, 13 Ray to 20lbs, and the night time session spoiled with 140 Doggies a few Ray and the odd Bull Huss thrown in for added excitement. Following morning back on the Plaice and home in time for lunch.

July, Plaice fishing continues to be productive with 40-50 Plaice a day coming to the net when the weather conditions are favourable. Plenty of Mackerel,Gurnard and Whiting.

Wrecks producing good fishing, Cod to 15lb, Pollack to 12lb. Another night trip in late July saw us anchored up on a sheltered inshore reef because of the blustery conditions overnight. We caught plenty of good Bull Huss to 17lb 8oz, Pollock and other bits.

August, Bristol Boys new boat record for Blond Ray did not last long. We caught one at 28lb 14oz then a 29lb another at 29lb 8oz. The Ray fishing has been the best we have had in 10 years, in spite of the greed of a lot of the boats now fishing the marks and continuing to kill the fish they catch. Shame on you. We have caught a lot of Ray this season, and all but 1 have been returned, a male fish of about 15lb an angler took to eat (we will not let anglers take a female) the comment's he received from the other angler's on board after he killed it was music to my ears, he did not kill another.

Nice bonus Turbot caught by Chris from North Devon and a good Plaice by Phil Pickle, both caught by 'accident' when anchored for Ray. (3rd and 4th pic below)

September, so there it is then, our first 30lb Blond Ray, caught by Alan, one of our Brighton Boys group that visit every year. (bottom left picture) the scales actually 'locked' at 29.98 lbs but as it was a rolly day the scales were going between 29 1/2 to 31 1/2lb and as always the fish was returned alive so a dead accurate weight could not be confirmed. My scales 'lock' when they have established a consistent weight but this is not easy when weighing a big fish at sea, so 29lb15oz or 30lb who cares, it is still the biggest Ray on the boat ever and will take some beating. Who knows what the next Ray trip will bring, will you be on it? The wrecks are producing some reasonable Pollack when we venture out to them, nothing huge, but well worth catching. The bigger fish should start to show as winter draws closer.

I have heard of some snide comment's from people that don't know me, that I have had different angler's holding up the same fish to make it look like we are catching more fish than we actually are. Well, let me tell you, I have heard of this happening on other boat's web sites, but it don't happen on mine, we don't need to. if you think this is the case, get out your magnifying glass and look closely at the markings on the Rays back. They are all as individual as a fingerprint. And to the idiot's that have made these comment's, I feel sorry for you, you are very sad, get a life.

October. Fishing on the Banks continues to be hit and miss regarding the Plaice. The weather is so up and down that when we can find a calmish day to get out, things have been so stirred up with the big swells that the Plaice are difficult to tempt. Some days we struggle to find 20 or 30 smallish fish, next day we will be on the same marks and into the big uns that we expect at this time of year. One day that stands out recently was a day that saw 45 good Plaice boated with one close to 5 1/2lbs caught by Phil Pickle (returned as it was full of roe) and a small bonus Turbot for Bob. Several good fish in the 2-3lb bracket made for a very enjoyable day. The only fishing that is fairly consistent at the moment is the Whiting, there are plenty of them about, and of good size too for anyone who wants to catch them. The Mackerel are on their way out, but there are still enough about for our needs, Plenty of Gurnard to keep the rod tips rattling.


Oct.30th Managed to get a trip out between the winds, the tides were a little bit big for comfort, but the day was Spring like, gentle breeze and plenty of Sunshine. The Plaice were still around on our favorite marks but with the Whiting coming up so thick and fast we had to move away from them to find ground where we could concentrate on the flatties. Mackerel were non existant. We ended the day with 34 Plaice to about 2 1/2lb and a nice Turbot at just under 6lb for Matthew who had been desperate to catch one for years, not the biggest in the world, but not a bad fish for a first catch. He was well chuffed anyway.

November 11th. Out again on a cracking day, Sun, Sun, Sun, and a gentle breeze all day, and this in November, lovely. Caught fish all day, 43 Plaice to 3lb 4oz, 19 returned, 94 Whiting, 37 kept, 57 returned, 5 Red Gurnard, all returned, 2 Tub Gurnard, both kept, 3 Dabs, all kept, 1 Female Dragonet, returned, 1 Mackerel, kept. I normally only keep a record of the Plaice we catch as they are our target species but this Month we are taking part in a fishing survey for  the MMO (Marine Management Organization) and Defra who are conducting yet another survey on the Social/financial impact that recreational angling has on local communities. So, you have the whole nine yards, warts and all of our latest fishing trip. Anyways, we had 8 happy anglers on board, all caught fish, all had some Winter Sun, and all went home happy.