Many sea-scarred fingers of rock extend into the North Sea off Beadnell, on the Northumberland coast. Surprisingly, no one is fishing on the tip of the largest one, by far Jim’s favourite of the lot.
He has been coming to this mark for more years than he cares to remember — at least twenty five – so he knows the full potential of this venue. In fact, the point offers several different fish-holding features within easy casting range: dense kelp forests to the left and right, shelves of rock straight off the point and small gullies leading into the bay.
Pollack, mackerel and wrasse move in and out of the area, depending on the time of the year, but the north-east coast has always been a prime cod venue during the winter, drawing the big deep-water fish as well as supporting a resident population of ied cod, which live there year round except for a brief spell in late winter to breed in deep water.
Aquatic ‘rain’ forest
The tangle of kelp at low water gives little indication of the rich aquatic life it supports, and the pockets of kelp that dot the sea farther out leave anglers with even more of a mystery to ponder.
The North Sea here is gin-clear, which makes it a very popular venue for divers. They are amazed at the alien beauty of the underwater scenery off Beadnell and report abundant crustacean and fish populations.
Kelp forests only really thrive where there is a large basin of solid rock. The plants anchor themselves to the rock with strong root-like holdfasts which spread out and provide a stable grip, even in the largest of tides and roughest of seas. These anchors must be strong to cope with the powerful waves and tidal movements.
The finger of rock Jim’s fishing from at high water extends about 100m (110yd) into the sea. This is where the kelp ends and where a clean, sandy bottom begins. Jim believes that the depth is only about 9-10m (30-35ft). Kelp forests nearly surround the finger, stretching from the side facing the open sea and extending into the small bay.
The long, leathery kelp can live only where the sun can penetrate the water enough for the plants to produce fuel from the process of photosynthesis. Because of the clarity of the water around Beadnell, kelp forests can survive in water up to 25m (80ft) deep.
From a fishing point of view, the forests are very important: they provide shade and cover for prey and predators. I think, says Jim, that cod, coalies and pollack seek out the kelp during the day mainly because they don’t like the light. The kelp provides shade, and the fish are here almost all the time during bright days and may move into the bay closer to shore to search for food come evening, night or murky water.
But in really big tides, the fish definitely move out from the weeds. The thick stems whipping back and forth can easily damage the resident red codling or small coalies. It
He recommends using simple end tackle: a single hook paternoster with rotten bottom is your best all-round choice. There’s simply no need for complicated rigs – they’d just get caught in the kelp, and it would be tough to pull them out. doesn’t pay then to fish the kelp in big tides or rough weather. It’s a waste of time.
Shelves of rock
On the south side of the point the rock slopes gradually into the sea. Thick clusters
Jim maintains that the best times to fish the kelp are from three hours before low water to two hours after because this is when the fish feed best. And May is the best month to fish for the resident red codling. of bladderwrack cling to the porous rock. At high water it’s difficult to see the kelp, but a healthy population exists farther out. Lobbing your bait into the kelp is the best way of catching off this side.
For spring, summer and autumn the best bait is peeler crab. Jim stresses that if you don’t have peeler here during these times, you won’t do well – unless of course, you’re spinning for mackerel or pollack. Black lug tipped with mussel is the best winter bait for deep-water cod and the red residents. You may even pick up a few small coalies.
When gusty south-easterly and northwesterly winds blow, the very tip of the point is virtually unfishable. Breakers easily come over the top of the rock and can sweep away you and your gear.
On the north side facing the bay the contrast couldn’t be greater: near the base of the point the side is steep and high. Cracks in the walls and shelves of rock extend down to the submerged end of the point, hiding shoals of small fish usually under 10cm (4in) long. These are prime areas for cruising pollack and mackerel in the summer months.
Jim reckons that the best way of fishing along the north side is to cast an artificial sandeel parallel with the point and retrieve it slowly so it fishes near the bottom. Some big pollack have been taken this way including an 11 lb (5kg) fish from the shore just south of Beadnell. Small spinners anc feathers work best for mackerel.
Wrasse live in deep water near the shelves and rough ground directly in front of the tip, says Jim. You won’t pick up bags of wrasse, but you’ll get the occasional fish on crab. The wrasse forage for hermit and hardback crabs which live in the crevices and between the slabs of rock.
Off the north side of the point (facing the bay), a series of sinuous mini trenches oi gullies stretches out towards deep watei and the open sea. There are large boulders. pockets of bladderwrack and small solid rock islands jutting up from the floor of the sea. The whole area is infested with crabs. It’s a fact that getting the bait in a gully increases your chances of connecting with a cod. Fish coming inshore to feed move in along the gully bottoms. Crabs, shrimps and dislodged worms are their targets.
At low water the gullies in the bay are clearly visible. Make a mental note of their position, so you know where to place your bait. Jim recommends that you fish the bay in the evening and night when high tide begins to drop. The reduced light levels bring the fish close in.
Alternatively, after large storms the water becomes coloured, and the fish may well be there during the day. when the water is coloured, the cod move in because they know there’s food coming inshore — shellfish and worms are pushed in. I’ve seen thousands of black lug washed out after big storms, and ever white rag.