A couple of boats got out to the Skerries last weekend during a very brief window in the weather and came home with several plaice. So without doubt, this horrendous weather does have a silver lining in that it is keeping the sea temperature up and the fish are in early….. who knows, the Bass might be along in a few weeks!

These early season Plaice are thin from the rigours of their migration and breeding cycle but given the rich feed available on places like the Skerries and the Weymouth banks it will only take a few weeks voracious feeding before they are up to pristine condition again. Given this endless series of gale force fronts moving in off the Atlantic, it is pretty safe to assume that the fish are going to have those few weeks to feed up.

Which begs the question, if by the middle to end of February the weather moderates and the tides come good….. will you be ready?? Boat places booked, tackle all oiled, polished and ready to rock and roll ??

If not, or you have never been plaice fishing before, here is a checklist which will get you on the starting blocks.

Tackle.
If you are fishing on the Skerries, out of Dartmouth, a 12lb class outfit is perfect. It is also a good outfit out of Weymouth but the current is definitely heavier on the Weymouth banks. Many regular anglers prefer the use of a 20lb class rod and reel to handle the heavier sinkers that have to be used to cope with the strength of tide. The super thin braid lines have revolutionised fishing these fast waters found over the banks where plaice take up residence - a harder actioned 12 lb class rod (or a soft 20lb) loaded with 12 to 15 pounds breaking strain superbraid will cope superbly well in both areas. Because so many of the lighter actioned boat rods available to us in the UK are so poor, to find the right rod to fish these light lines is something of a lucky dip but persevere because it is worth the effort.

There are a whole variety of Superbraid lines available to us now. Some experts have done tests, waved a micrometer over them and made quasi scientific pronouncements as to which they think are the best. My judgement is purely subjective, based on having tried most of them at one time or another. I recommend Fireline and Power Pro as the best all round superbraids, but as I say, this is my judgement and it must be accepted as such.

Reels for plaice need not be the heavyweight so called "sea reels" which will hold hundreds of yards of line. Many anglers use their beachcasting multiplier such as an Abu 6500/7000 with a spool loaded with braid, or if you want the ultimate plaice/bass/reef pollack reel then save your pennies and buy a Shimano Calcutta 400 with the level wind. There have been countless arguments over the years about the worth of level wind mechanisms on boat fishing reels. Suffice to say that when using braid lines there is no argument, a level wind is better because it helps prevent the ultra thin coils of line "burying" under pressure. Which, "hands up" has happened to me. I lost a couple of really good fish…. I bought my Calcutta next day!

Fish the Shambles or Skerries Bank for the plaice and you will learn how to cope with heavy tides and fast currents, because if you don't learn you won't catch any fish. The main reason why many anglers fail to catch is because their baits are not on the bottom, they are not using sinkers which are heavy enough to nail the bait down into the fish catching zone. If you ever go to an Aquarium, watch the plaice as they shuffle down into the sand until just the bump of their head and their eyes are visible. Simple logic says that if your bait is ten, twenty or even thirty feet off the bottom the Plaice are not going to find it.

This 'feel' for when your sinker is dragging up the side of an underwater sand dune, then the floating sensation as the sinker lifts off the top is the key to catching plaice. Because the fish will be waiting in ambush behind the top of the sand dune watching for baitfish or whatever to be washed into their field of view. The moment you feel the sinker start to float, take your thumb off the spool to allow a yard or two of line out so that the sinker taps the bottom again. It is this constant feeling for the bottom which will catch the fish. Let the bait stream away in the tide for the full length of the trace before allowing the sinker to go. Then regulate the sinker's speed of descent, so that the trace does not come back on itself to tangle around the main line.

Once you feel the sinker settle on the bottom, keep your thumb on the spool and fish by feel, focussing on keeping that sinker on the bottom. When the time comes where the tide starts to flood a little harder and you are having trouble holding bottom, put a heavier sinker on, maybe an ounce or two heavier.

Is there a secret to plaice fishing? I don’t think there is really, it is just common sense to keep your bait on the bottom. The wrong bait in the right place will catch a lot more than the right bait in the wrong place…….