Catching sandeels

During boat fishing trips in deep water sandeels are occasionally caught by accident on feathers in-tended for mackerel. To fish for them selectively, however, you need to be over sandy banks where there is a fast run of tide. Such a place is the Skerries Bank off the Devon coast, renowned for its turbot, plaice and dab fishing. Between the Skerries Buoy at the eastern end and Start Point at the west, the banks are covered by varying depths of water. Sandeels swarm in millions here, and if you drop a set of feathers half a dozen times, you will collect enough for a day’s sport.

Many sandeels to 1ft in length are foul-hooked, but are considered too big for live use. Instead, thin even strips cut from just behind the head to the tail are used. When livebaiting, most expert sea anglers prefer eels with a light brown back, as these are livelier than those sporting a dark green hue.

To bait up with a sandeel, hold it firmly but lightly between the fingers and thumb, throat outwards. Put the point of the hook through the bottom lip and nick it into the soft skin of the belly just behind the head—this is the normal way of offering it in a fair run of tide. When fishing in slack water, however, it is often better to simply hook the eel through the top of its body, in front of the dorsal.

Hooks for sandeels

Hooks must be long in the shank, needle-sharp, and fine in the wire—a description that fits the Aberdeen perfectly. Live eels must be offered on a very long trace, which allows them to swim around in a natural manner. The movement is enhanced if nylon monofilament with a b.s. Of no more than 12lb is used.

Trolling with live or dead sandeels over rocky ground can be a rewarding business, and big catches of pollack and bass are made. Of the many species partial to sandeel these two predators head the list, and even medium-weight fish of these species completely engulf a fair-sized eel in a single attack.

For shore fishing from rocky stations the live eel is best used with float gear, but the float should be sufficiently large to withstand the eel’s thrashing without going under.

The eels can also be offered as a spinning bait if you are fishing deep water from rocky ledges. This is common on the north coast of Cornwall for bass, pollack and mackerel.