So what does that tell you? Simply that they have moved inshore to the feed-rich sandbanks to feed up and build their strength up for their Summer-long sojourn in the sunshine. If there is a 'duffers fortnight' in sea fishing, this is it. Sometimes catches of a hundred fish a boat are not unusual on the Skerries if you are lucky enough to catch the weather and the tides happily coinciding.

Let's be truthful, we are not talking big fish here. I have fished for plaice for forty years and only ever caught one over six pounds. So if you are heading south for the Shambles or the Skerries or anywhere else that has the sandbanks and fast water that the plaice prefer, leave your wrecking gear at home and beg or borrow a 12 or 20lb class outfit if you want to enjoy the fun that plaice fishing can be.

SoÖ You and your clubmates have booked a boat for a couple of days. What do you need and how do you fish?

First, the sun may be shining, the water may have that lovely light green tranluscence, the fish may be coming up through the water with their orange spots glowing like day-glo markers, but it is still only February or March and it can still get very cold at sea. Make sure you have got your romper suit on, sea boots, thick socks, a scarf and maybe a pair of neoprene gloves. Keep yourself warm and take plenty to eat and drink.

Trying to fish whilst your teeth are chattering like a pair of demented castanets, secure in the knowledge that there is still six or seven hours to go, is not an experience you will want to repeat. Besides which if you are comfortable, relaxed and happy you will catch more fish, your concentration is more focused, your reactions are quicker and the total enjoyment of the day is considerably enhanced. Believe me, this is one of the main keys to successful angling. The romper suit/floatation suit is the best invention for boat anglers in the last half century.

Rods and Reels.
It is a simple truth that plaice are bottom feeders, if your bait is ten feet off the bottom you are not going to catch plaice. So it is essential that you use a heavy enough sinker to nail the bait to the bottom. It is at this point that the users of monofilament and superbraid lines begin to separate.

Often plaice fishing is conducted in water less than fifty feet deep, but it is fast water sometimes, very fast, for most of the tide. If the thickness of the line kites your sinker away from the bottom, you will not catch many fish and thatís a fact. So monofilament users will often have to use twice as heavy a sinker as another angler using the same breaking strain superbraid.

Assuming that 15 pound breaking strain line is used, an angler using monofilament might have to use a six or eight ounce sinker and use a 20lb class rod to carry that sinker weight. Whereas if 15lb superbraid is used, a 12 lb class outfit will easily cope with the three or four ounce sinker needed and be more pleasant to fish with.

The Diawa Powerlift PLZB12 rod combined with an SL175H reel is an excellent, economically priced 12lb class outfit which doubles up for bass and pollack fishing as well.

End Tackle.
It is easy sometimes for angling writers to pontificate about endless varieties of end tackle. It's an easy, non controversial subject on which to fill in a few hundred words, because who is to say what is going to work best on the day? In this case there have been endless erudite discussions about the advantages or otherwise of the long flowing trace for plaice fishing. To be truthful, my experience over a goodly number of years suggests to me that a leader length between five and six feet is not only much easier to handle, but will catch just as many fish. It is how you fish it that matters!

This is a rig that works for me.

Take a Knotless Heavy KF Line Slida and hang a Watch lead off the clip.
Pass your main line through the Slida and knot off to a size 10 swivel.
To the other side of the swivel knot a four foot length of 20lb clear monofilament ending in another size 10 swivel (or a Verivas 3 way swivel if you want a dropper at this point) add another two feet of 15 lb fluorocarbon to the other side of the swivel. Thread on six or eight 4mm plastic beads of various colours, black and chartreuse are my favorites. If the tide is really ripping, a small pierced bullet or swan shot amongst the beads is a good idea, then knot off to a 1/0 hook. I have been experimenting with small circle hooks for the last couple of seasons and truly believe that they are better at hooking plaice than conventional hooks.

If you want a dropper from the 3-way swivel, make the dropper length about six inches shorter than the hook length so that you end up with two baits about six inches apart. This will give off a good scent trail and you will end up with fish squabbling over the baits - thatís not a bad thing!

Fishing from a charter boat using this rig, I think the coloured beads are attraction enough. But I have always got a couple of spoons in my plaice box because some days the fish just seem to want them in your rig. If you havenít got one or two you canít use them.

Freshen your baits after every drop to keep the scent trail going and at the same time check your hook point because it has been banging around close to the bottom.

Fishing the rig.

Early season there are no sandeels around so the baits consist of either peeler crab, lug or King rag tipped off with a quarter inch wide sliver of squid up to five or six inches long.

Flip the leader over the side and allow it to straighten out completely in the tide before lowering away, the water is not that deep, so keep your thumb on the spool, carefully regulating the speed of drop so that the leader does not tangle back around the main line. Once the sinker has settled on the bottom, avoid engaging the reel in gear, rather, fish with your thumb on the spool, for several reasons.

1. If you are fishing on the drift, which is often the case, there will be the sensation of the sinker dragging up the side of a sand dune and then a floating sensation as the sinker clears the crest. Immediately lift your thumb to drop the sinker back to the bottom.

2. If you get a bite, the movement of the boat will tend to take the bait away from the fish. So lift your thumb from the spool and "drop back" some line to the fish until the bite develops into the familiar rat-tat-tat bite of the plaice. Then put the reel into gear and wind to set the hook against the bend of the rod.

3. If you cannot feel the sensation of the sinker dragging along the bottom, it is probably because your sinker is not on the bottom! Does this make sense?! If you lift your thumb and feel the sinker tap the bottom, then half a minute later you lift your thumb and feel the sinker tap the bottom again, it is very likely that your sinker is floating away from the bottom and you need to try another sinker an ounce or two heavier.

If during the slack water the skipper decides to go to anchor (which is a sensible decision because the tangles can be horrendous as the boat drifts this way and that) it will pay to put on a really heavy sinker, a big fresh bait, prop your rod against the gunnel and eat your lunch.

This lazy style of fishing sometimes produces the biggest fish of the day. I have seen it happen too many times for it to be a coincidence and it always happens just as you have poured a cupful of soup, so be prepared to be laughed at, then if it really is the biggest fish of the day you will have the last laugh anyway.

Enjoy !!

Any questions to