Alderney Island, the most northerly of the Channel Islands, is a sea angler’s dream. Bass, pollack, wrasse, mackerel, garfish, plaice and sole all visit it in the late spring, and hang around until late autumn.
Black bream arrive in late summer, and there’s a run of autumn codling every few years. Conger and mullet are present all year, but are most prolific in winter. All these fish occur in sizes and numbers not seen off the mainland for years.
Alderney is one big fishing area. There is everything the shore angler could want: sandy beaches, a breakwater and all sorts of rock marks – from the most accessible to those you can reach only by abseiling 60m (200ft) down sheer cliffs.
Raz Island, near the north-eastern end of Alderney, is a convenient and prolific rock mark. A tidal causeway connects Raz to Alderney so you can only get on and off when the tide is below about half water. A German WWII fort sits on the island, making it easy to spot from a distance. on the sea bed with one vertical side and one long, sloping side. The sloping side of one ridge runs down to the base of the next, creating a gulley between the ridges.
The ridges have been progressively worn down by the sea, so they not only slope down with the sea bed, they taper as they stretch out into the sea, ending about 20m (22yd) from where they disappear beneath the waves (at low water). The gullies get wider as the ridges get smaller, and the surrounding sea bed is rocky.
The gullies provide shelter and hold wrasse, mullet and conger, while the tide speeding past the ends of the ridges attracts bass, pollack, mackerel and garfish. The ridges are much flatter on the landward side of the island and a broken sand and rock bottom is exposed at low tide.
One great advantage of Raz is the ready availability of bait. The rocks and sand at the back of the island provide the perfect environment for crabs and ragworm.
If your target is wrasse, hardback crabs are by far the best bait. You can collect enough crabs for a day’s fishing from between the rocks in about half an hour.
Ragworm is best for the flatfish, and these you find in the sand underneath the rocks. Remember to replace the rocks afterwards or you wreck the worm’s habitat, destroying the population.
For bass, pollack, mackerel and garfish, spinning is productive but float fishing a mackerel strip or sandeel in the tide can be even better. Get sandeels from the tackle shop, and buy or catch mackerel.
A fish flapper or fillet is best for conger. For mullet your best bet is to ask the local butcher for a bit of pork or beef and shirvy (mixed minced offal, rusk and blood which attracts mullet, mackerel and garfish).
To find the fishing, park in front of the fort and walk round to the left. The ridge on that side slopes gently into the sea and continues underwater to the sea bed.
The sloping side faces straight out to sea and catches the best of the tide ran. This means mackerel and garfish are more common at this spot than elsewhere on Raz. The ground farther out is mixed, the sand and rock holding some good pollack.
There is good wrasse fishing at the end of the ridge, especially if you find one of the deeper holes between the fingers of rock which stick out from the end.
Between this ridge and the next one (to the right) there is a wide gulley, which is largely weedless. It is sometimes visited by mullet shoals, and occasionally hosts a big wrasse. However, the next ridge provides much more consistent sport for wrasse and mullet, offering access to deeper water over snaggier ground with lots of ‘wrassey’ holes.
The gulley between this next ridge and the one after that is narrower than the first, but is just as deep. It is fairly clean, as the waves funnel up it, making it difficult for weed to take hold. There is a little kelp on the vertical face of the left hand ridge but almost none at the base of the gulley.
The waves have undercut the base of the vertical rock face, and this groove is very attractive to wrasse and other species along its entire length. In several places the rock face has fractured, leaving indentations. These stretch down to the base of the rock -the biggest indentation (about lm/3ft deep) is a good fish-holding feature.
Halfway along the ridge there’s about 3.6m (12ft) of water in the gulley at low tide. Where it reaches the sea, it’s about 6m (20ft) deep. Look for darker areas of sea bed in the gulley as they generally indicate holes. Wrasse he up in these, especially over low water.
Over the very end of both ridges (about 20m/22yd out underwater), where they have been eroded right down to the rocky sea bed, there is about 10m (33ft) of water at low tide. This broken ground is pretty weedy, especially off the left hand ridge. It is hard fishing, but can pay dividends for wrasse, pollack and conger. Just past this, the broken ground gives way to sand where big plaice, sole and bass prowl.
Higher up in the water, you can catch mackerel and garfish, though this area is less prolific than the first spot. Mullet often patrol the gulley, stopping to feed on the surface scum which collects at the top and in the first and deepest indentation.
There is also a lagoon which forms at about quarter tide on the right of the causeway as you look out towards the island. This can harbour bass and mullet, though you need to be stealthy because the water is shallow, and usually calm and clear.
Raz Island is a superb mark. It’s easy to get to, there are plenty of big fish and you can collect bait from the back of the island before the session. A better combination is hard to imagine.