The turbot is a shallowwater fish, rarely taken in depths of over 40 fathoms. Records compiled over the past 20 years show that all catches were made on or close to sandbanks, in water of between 4 and 12 fathoms. The favourite environment of the turbot is around sandbanks situated in deep water, where sandeels, sprats and other immature fish abound.
Muddy or gravelly bottoms in the estuaries of large rivers, where young fish are usually present, also hold an attraction for these large flatfish. Big specimens are taken off the many wrecks off Devon and Cornwall and littering the sandy bays around the south west and west coasts of Ireland. Many small turbot up to 4 lb are taken by the surf caster baiting with mackerel strips.
The species is almost entirely fisheating, obvious from its large mouth and sharp teeth. Considering its bulk, the turbot is a surprisingly strong and rapid swimmer. Sandeels and sprats are the chief food, and in addition small flatfish, whiting and pouting—in fact, any small fry—are readily taken. Worms or crustaceans are rarely found in the stomach contents.
The record turbot (boat) is 33 lb 12oz, taken in Lannacombe Bay, near Salcombe in South Devon, by Roger Simcox in 1980. The current shore fishing record is a magnificent fish of 28 lb 8oz, caught by J D Dorling at Dunwich Beach, Suffolk.
Baits for turbot
Bait is important. Without doubt, sandeels are the favourite diet of the turbot and brill. These species are not alone in their weakness for sandeels, for mackerel also chase them until whole areas of the sea boil in the efforts of the prey to escape. To represent the sandeel, filleted flanks from a freshly caught mackerel make excellent turbot and brill baits. Strips an inch wide are cut the full length and the hook turned twice through one end only so that the free section moves realistically in the tide.
A main line of 35 lb b.s. Is advised, while traces and hook snood should be 50 lb b.s., for turbot laying back against the tide can quickly bite through lighter line with their sharp teeth.
Three distinct types of terminal tackle are recommended, all based on the conviction that turbot and brill respond to a moving bait.
The first is a twohook, long flowing trace, the main line passing through a running boom with lead attached. The fish can pick up and swim away with the bait without feeling the resistance of the weight. The trace, roughly 6ft long, can be clipped to a link swivel which has been attached to the end of the main line.
In a strong tide, a sinkanddraw technique can be used with a single hook on a 6ft length ofnylon on a link swivel. The weight is attached to the main line. The same rig, with a float above the lead, can be fished in a light tide.
When hooked in a strong tide the turbot will put up a doughty struggle on a balanced rig.