Big cod angling

Record cod, at 43lbs

Wreck fishing for record cod

We have invited a few friends to join us swapping guns for rods on a sea water fishing trip. We are heading out from Eastbourne Sovereign Harbour with Deep Blue Charters. We have chosen this particular vessel with Steve the skipper, because this is the boat responsible for landing a record breaking cod.

The largest ever specimen caught by a rod in the English Channel. Novice Chris Procter battled for half an hour to reel in the 43lb 9oz fishzilla. We are of course expecting great things, but just in case, Steve suggests we bring along some experience as well as beauty. Father and son team, Adrian and Tim Colliver are on call to ensure a decent haul and to tell us all about their rotten bottoms.
“What I am doing here is I’m just setting up the rig for what we call gilling, so we drift over the wreck, we lie the tackle down and this is a shed and then we retrieve it by winding in and hopefully the fish will come up and grab it.” explains Adrian

The lure has got a lot of weight on it, so it goes deep. The trace is 4 or 5 feet and connected to a boom and a weight. The weight is attached to the boom and has a rotten bottom in case it catches in the wreck. This means the line breaks, should it catch and the tackle can be retrieved.

Gilling is lowering the lure to the seabed over the wreck and retrieving it so hopefully the fish, bass, cod, pollock will take the lure and put a bend in the rod.

The lure is all important, jelly worms and rhubarb custard are apparently irresistible to cod and pollock. Jelly worms are a favourite for the pollock. Movement is important as well, the rhubarb and custard has a good action and is known to catch a lot of fish.

“They work extremely well, catch a lot of fish these ones” says Adrian.

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The weather is fantastic which is a good job as we have got more than an hour to get to the ship wrecks of plenty. There has been plenty of talk about sea sickness too. Sporting Shooter editor Dom Holtam vowed never to go sea fishing again after a stag do up north where he was told that beer and water don’t mix boy. Sporting Rifle’s Tim Pilbeam recommends plenty of eating throughout the day. As for my old friend Keith Curtis, it is a bit of a busman’s holiday as he runs Brickfarm Lakes, a trout farm fishery in East Sussex. Incredibly, however, Keith has never ever caught a fish.

With nausea at bay, we are out at sea when we reach our first wreck of the day. There is a white Loch Ness monster style arc on the fishfinder GPS. We are told to drop our line until we hit the bottom and then reel in 20 turns. We hope our side winder lures will prove a tempting snack for cod and pollock. Tim is the first to get a nibble, rhubarb and custard proving to be too tempting for this little pollock. Next in is Dom with another pollock. As much as we appreciate Adrian and Tim’s efforts no one else is getting a chance with rhubarb and custard which keeps delivering the fish for Colliver junior. Just the size cod that dad, Adrian, likes to eat and kiss. Now here’s a moment to share, fish farmer Keith catches his first ever fish in his mid forties, a lovely looking cod. He is dedicating it to his wife.

“Sophie this is for you” Keith pronounces.

There is no stopping the man, he’s struck again, but it is a pouting, described by the more experienced anglers on board, as the turkey twizzler of the ocean, so he puts it back to save our taste buds. Trout fishery owner Keith has caught his first fish. With all the time he spends looking after his fishery, he hasn’t had time to do the fishing. “It’s a busy time, it’s a busy place to run. I have to give all my attention to the fishery.” says Keith.


Keith, fishery owner, yet to catch his first fish
Keith, fishery owner, yet to catch his first fish

The weather might be bright, but the wind and the tide are coming from different directions, providing a wobbly horizon. The skipper is ex-British team clayshot, Steve Bradshaw. Known to most as a shooter yet here he is in the middle of the sea. He has always been involved in fishing as well as shooting and has naturally progressed from small boats and fishing on weekends to where he is now. Steve is out on his boat everyday of the year, quite a commitment, especially in the mornings.
Steve’s charter boat, at 40 foot would set you back around the £150’000 mark. A large initial investment, but Steve is aiming to be one of the top boats in the country. A being one of the top boats, Steve has to stray further a field (well sea) to keep the customers in fish. We are currently close to France than we are home.

“ A lot of the top boats will certainly put the mileage in to get customers fish.” says Steve

It has paid off though as Steve’s yield includes a whopping 43lbs fish which has made it into the papers. The start to the season had many fish in the double figures, a lot were around the 30lbs mark, the second largest was 36lbs.

“A lot of good fish” Steve concludes

This figures help to promote fishing, which is important thing. In shooting, how much you bag is generally dependent on your skill as a shooter. Not in fishing, anything can happen, for anybody.

Steve Bradshaw. Shooter, turned fisherman
Steve Bradshaw. Shooter, turned fisherman

While Steve has been describing the life at sea, Dom has been catching. He’s got a cod so he’s stopped thinking about being sick. “On a day like this, when it’s sunny and warm and not too rough, but I’ve had some bad experiences, I won’t lie to you David, it can be pretty unpleasant and I’m pretty fearful I may vomit before the end of the day.” Dom confesses to camera man David

The other members of the party are fairing better even though not all are having the same success as Dom.

Tim hasn’t had a catch yet but is hoping for that lure to come up. For him, seeing the fish come out and the whole concept of dangling the lure and the fish grabbing it, is fascinating. Tim just hopes he can catch a fish before the day is out.

Tim Colliver is having more success than Tim Pilbeam. He hauls out three fish in quick succession and this really puts the pressure on father Adrian to deliver.

Tim is now on fire, three fish in quick succession and Dad is starting to feel the pressure.

“Caught by my boy, again, again. Adrian is Jonah.” comments Adrian

Tim teases his father “6 or 7 – nill now Dad isn’t it.”

Laughter all round

We move to another couple of wrecks and get some attention from the gulls and low flying gannet as Adrian guts his, or should I say Tim’s catch. We are making our way back to base and have one last spot to try. Adrian is drinking at the last chance saloon, but manages to save face with a codling.

After many hours of blanking, Adrian has his tea for tonight.

How to prepare fish
How to prepare fish

Once we are back inside outer harbour a match debrief with our experts. Tim C had half a dozen, a few pollock and the rest were cod. Tim made sure he mixed it up with his lures. Starting with the Rhubarb and Custard, that did it for the first three of Tim’s fish.

“Probably lost it” jibes Adrian about Tim’s lure, perhaps a little bitterness surfacing from Adrian?

“First wreck produced the majority of the fish quite early on. I don’t know if they got spooked a little bit after we had been on there for a while” says Tim.

Tried a couple of other wrecks and you pulled one out of the bag very last” Tim asks his father.

“Yes, last knockings, at least I didn’t blank completely” retorts Adrian

“Like that, there’s a contour on the head here, just keep the knife in” As we will all be having a fish supper tonight, Steve gives us a quick demo of fish filleting, so we don’t make a hash of it later.

It really has been a great day, fish were caught and no one was ill. Dom is probably more relieved than most that we are back at the jetty.

“I did enjoy myself, I did feel queezy for a lot of the trip, but it is great fun and I do love fishing” For a group of mates to pay £40/£50 a head and have a day out together catching fish, you can’t ask for much more. Then being able to take home the catch at the end of the day for a barbecue is a good way to go, and it’s a little different.. There are fishing opportunities all around the UK, different species, different areas, it’s a good thing to do.
And don’t forget, support your local fishermen.

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