Hampshire and Dorset have an intriguing mix of shore and boat fishing: something of almost everything but in general its calibre is a little short of the West Country’s high standard.
The shore fishing lacks the mixed ground further west, with notable exceptions at Lyme Regis and Portland but a number of inshore hotspots provide outstanding prospects for small boat fishing.
Chesil Beach, stretching from Portland to Burton Bradstock, is steeply-ridged shingle offering deep water close inshore. There is no substantial cod run but small numbers of fish extending upwards to 20 lb. Are taken through the winter.
The beach produces ray, conger and bass as well as mackerel and garfish. Night fishing is best for big fish.
Portland is an excellent prospect for those anglers with a head for heights. The sheer cliff-line produces exceptionally large conger in the autumn, with bass of quality and wrasse in large numbers.
The seabed is boulder-strewn, spelling lost terminal tackle for those who do not make the sensible precaution of a weak line link to the lead so that when the tackle fouls pressure snaps the link. The angler loses his lead but is usually able to retrieve his hookand anyfish he may have hooked.
Mullet and smaller bass are numerous within Portland Harbour, the sewer outfall at Weymouth providing a prolific if obnoxious feeding ground.
Good, mixed shore fishing continues from Sandbanks past Bournemouth to Milford but the Solent and Southampton Water, though popular with contest anglers, is in the main limited to flounder and dab fishing, with occasionally sole of high quality.
Hayling Island and the Portsmouth section produce the occasional cod but have a better reputation for plaice and other flatfish.
Poole Harbour, fished from small boats, yields some of the best plaice caught around the English shoreline. In 1976 a fish of 6lb. 4oz. Was taken there, together with numbers of smaller fish. At one time this king-size yacht basin produced plaice over 7lb. Although its ability to do this slipped recently there are signs of an improving stock situation.
The best bass terrain is in the proximity of the narrow entrance between Shell Bay and Sandbanks where a full-blooded tide-rip creates the conditions bass thrive in, backed by shoaling sand eels; the main food of the bass.
Many of the offshore wrecks that produced the first waves of giant conger eels in the early and middle 1960’s came from hulks off Lyme
Bay. But the boats were mainly Brixham-based and it is only recently that Weymouth, Poole and Bournemouth have had the well-equipped charter fishing boats capable of locating wrecks far out of sight of land.
The ground each side of Portland Bill to the Isle of Wight once produced big common skate with regularity, the only area to do so consistently off the English shore. Results have sagged recently but there remains the chance that these big fish could rebuild their numbers.
The western arm of The Solent in the Hurst Castle area produces some really large tope. The fish are not numerous but anglers seeking above average sized fish could be happy here in the late summer.
Bass can be expected almost everywhere but the best of the hotspots, again benefiting from a fierce tide-rip, is Portland Race. Weymouth-based boats have taken huge numbers of quality bass, many over 8lb., from this area on imitation sand eel lures. Only big boats can fish the Race. Its wild, turbulent water is unapproachable in smaller craft.
The inshore waters around the Isle of Wight were at one time Britain’s most prolific area for porbeagle shark. This is no longer true but porbeagles are nomadic fish and may decide to return when the whim comes upon them.
This is an area frequented by thresher shark and, although the big ones have proved elusive in recent seasons, the catch of tiny threshers is sufficient to confirm the view that the big fish are still in residence in their summer season.
The Isle of Wight offers varied shore fishing. Contest weights compare favourably with the mainland and bass, ray and conger make a substantial contribution.
Offshore from the island, the reef fishing for conger is of high standard, with bream and ray fishing also worthwhile. Trolled sand eel give fine sport with bass, some of which top 12 lb. Annually.
Portsmouth and Southsea:
Shore fishing isonly possiblewhen the beaches are uncrowded-nearby Hayling Island is often a safer bet. Species caught from the shore include bass, cod, conger, dab, flounder, garfish, ling, mackerel, mullet, plaice, pollack, sole and whiting. Good flounder and mullet fishing in Portsmouth and Langstone Harbour.
Anglerfish, bass, black bream, coalfish, cod, conger, dogfish, ling, mackerel, monkfish, pollack, pouting, red bream, shark, skate, sole, tope, turbot and whiting by boat. Worm bait available locally.
Many good shore fishing marks; beaches, rocks, jetties etc. Piers at Cowes, Ryde, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnorand Yarmouth. Species caught from the shore include bass, cod, dab, flounder, garfish, mackerel, mullet, plaice, sole and wrasse.
Species to be caught from deep water around the island include bass, black bream, coalfish, cod, conger, dogfish, gurnard, mackerel, monkfish, pollack, red bream, shark, skate, tope, turbot and whiting. Worm bait available from many of the island’s beaches.
The Solent (Hayling Island – Hurst Castle): Shore fishing marksalong Lepe Beach, Park Shore and the shingle bank at Hurst Castle. Species caught from the shore include bass, black bream, cod, conger, dab, flounder, garfish, ling, mullet, plaice, pollack, sole, tope, whiting and wrasse. Good harbourfishing in the many anchorages and river mouths of the Solent.
The offshore grounds fish well for anglerfish, bass, coalfish, cod, conger, dogfish, ling, mackerel, monkfish, pollack, pouting, red and black bream, shark, sole, tope, turbot and whiting. Worm bait available locally.
Lymingtonismainlya boatfishing centre, but shore fishing is available in the harbour mouth of the Lymington River and at Hurst Point, Barton beach and Milford beach. Main species include bass, flatfish, mulletand ray.
Offshore marksyield catches of bass, cod, conger, mackerel, monkfish, shark, tope, thornback ray, turbot and whiting. Worm bait available locally.
Shore fishing at Boscombe, Hengistbury Head, Poole Bay, Sandbanks and Southbourne for bass, cod, conger, dab, flounder, garfish, mackerel, mullet, pollack, plaice, sole, turbot and whiting. Bournemouth Pierand Boscombe Pier are also favoured venues.
More bass, coalfish, cod, conger, dogfish, gurnard, ling, mackerel, pollack, pouting, red and black bream, shark, ray, sole, tope, turbot and whiting are reached by boat. Worm bait available locally.
Shore fishing at Baiter, Parkstone Bay, Evening Hill, Hamworthy Beach, Fishermans Dock and the sea wall at Sandbanks for bass, cod, dab, flounder, mullet, plaice, sole and whiting. In addition the quays at Poole Harbour fish well for mullet and plaice.
Species caught from deep water include bass, cod, conger, dogfish, mackerel, shark, sole, turbot and whiting. Worm available locally.
Swanage Pierand the surrounding beaches provide good marks for bass, conger, dab, flounder, mullet, plaice and whiting. Boatfishing produces bass, black bream, coalfish, cod, conger, dogfish, gurnard, mackerel, pollack, shark, sole, turbot and whiting. Worm bait available locally.
Superb local shorefishing-40 miles of good beaches. Best marks are at Ringstead Bay, Chesil Beach, Durdle Door, Preston Beach and Weymouth Sands. Species caught include bass, black bream, cod, conger, dab, flounder, garfish, mackerel, mullet, plaice, sole and whiting. Weymouth Town Pierand the Stone Pier are good venues.
Numerous anglerfish, bass, coalfish, cod, conger, dogfish, gurnard, ling, mackerel, monkfish, pollack, red and black bream, shark, tope, turbot, whiting and wrasse, can be reached by boat. Worm bait available locally.
Good shore fishing marks along West Bay Beach and Chesil Beach (18 miles of shingle), and also at Burton Bradstock, West Bexington, Abbotsbury, EypeandSeatown. Species from the shore include bass, cod, conger, flounder, garfish, mackerel, plaice, pollack, ray, sole, turbot and whiting. Good offshore groundsfor anglerfish, bass, black bream, conger, dogfish, gurnard, mackerel, monkfish, pollack, turbot, whiting and wrasse. Worm bait available locally.
Lyme Regis beach, Church Beach, Church Cliff and Western Beach provide good shore marks for bass, conger, flounder, mackerel, mullet and pollack. Offshore grounds produce anglerfish, bass, black bream, cod, conger, dogfish, gurnard, mackerel, monkfish, pollack, shark and wrasse. Worm bait available locally.