As Spring unfolds a warming grip and daylight hours increase we can leave the cold chilly late winter months behind as a distant memory. Many UK Anglers are chomping at the bit for some fast action to inject enthusiasm and passion back into the system, especially after the testing early months of 2019.
Twenty years ago, there was a species that would’ve left Anglers completely un-prepared in an adrenaline shaking state of WOW if they set their hook into one, and completely mind boggled as to what it was if they became unconnected. Fast forward to today many of us look forward and crave for the return of this species that is accessible to everyone.
Whether you’re an experienced well-weathered Angler that's never caught one or a junior Angler starting out that couldn't even imagine being lucky enough to catch one.
It is possible, believe me – The Smoothound has a great deal to answer for in many ways.
It can drive the most committed of Sea Anglers into a world of frustration on the one hand and can deliver a world of magic and amazement to the least expected on the other hand.
Catching Smoothounds is easy locating them however, is not !
Here in the Bristol Channel the massive tidal range will push and pull fish all over the place leaving them to settle anywhere they find a source of crustacean to feed upon.
So local knowledge and experience in helping to locate or predict their movements definitely helps though they can be highly unpredictable especially mid-Summer when they simply vanish off the radar for a week for two appearing in the coloured water of the mid- / upper-channel.
Techniques to catch these sporting fish is nothing complicated. A simple pulley rig or an up and over rig is perfect. There's no need to go heavy on hook lengths and use big hooks. A hook length of 30lb and a single 3/0 hook is more than adequate.
The king of baits for Smoothounds is undoubtedly fresh or frozen peeler crabs. They will however, happily take squid, worm baits and hard back shore crabs if there's a pack of hungry fish competing for food in front of you.
The Smoothounds usually start to appear in the Bristol Channel in April when they also start appearing in the catches of the Minehead charter boat fleet.
A few weeks later, smaller 5 to 7 pound fish start to show up on the shore in and around Minehead, Porlock and Bossington.
By mid-May to early-June packs of fish under 10lb are pretty much widespread throughout large areas of the channel and over a variety of shore marks. These are joined by much bigger specimens of 14 to 16 pounders are regularly caught with fish up to 20 pounds being recorded in recent years. These bigger fish are generally caught over the low water reef marks between Watchet and Hinckley Point and in more recent years further up along Sand Point at Weston-Super-Mare.
Craig's Top 6 Awesome Tips to Smoothound success
1. It's vital to have the clutch and ratchet set on your reels. It's common to see a rod pulled straight out of a rod stand and dragged down the beach or fly into the sea like a javelin when they are not correctly set.
2. If a Smoothound wants to make a mad run for it, let it take line under a carefully set drag. Not so light that it gets the upper hand, but enough to make it work to take line.
3. Be prepared for a last minute dash when, yards from the shore, they could run left or right along the beach.
4. When fishing over broken ground, a rotten bottom rig with a hook that's strong sharp and will bend and pull out of snags is essential. There are a couple of pattern that fit the bill perfectly and they are the Cox & Rawle SCR21 Surf & Uptide and the SCR28 Specimen. The use of heavy gauge hooks over rough ground will only come back and cause more problems in the shape of line snags from lost shock-leaders and rigs. This can not only prove expensive but can be a waste of your prime fishing time !
5. It's always wise to stock your freezer with peeler crab early in the season while they are plentiful and a good size. Every year, without fail, the size and abundance of fresh peelers declines when demand for them is high and Mother Nature is not giving them up to the bait men.
6. Local tackle shops are a great source for local and up-to-date knowledge - over the counter advice is priceless and will help you into the fish on your outing, so use them wisely and spend a few quid with them and you’ll undoubtedly be helped out.