This book being a contribution to the Badminton Library, it is perhaps hardly needful to explain that it deals mainly with the sportsman's side of sea fishing. People who are only acquainted with the comparatively rough methods of professional fishermen may be disposed to declare that there is no sport to be obtained in the sea. But those who do me the honour of perusing the following pages can hardly fail to be convinced that salt water is as sport-yielding as fresh, and that there are many kinds of sea fish so wary and such powerful swimmers that in their capture the knowledge and skill of the sportsman are all important. In the sea, as in rivers, there are certain conditions - particularly thick water or darkness—under which fish can be caught with the roughest possible tackle and the most primitive methods. But in the long run the angler who uses moderately fine tackle, an average intelligence, and strikes and plays the fish he hooks with the skill he has acquired on lake or river, will most certainly score the greatest successes—in proof of which I will give illustration later on.
I cannot, of course, claim to be the originator of rod and line fishing in the sea. That has been carried on wherever coasts are steep and rocky, as in the West of England and other places, for many years—perhaps from time immemorial. But it was not until a little book of mine, called ' Angling in Salt Water,' was published in the year 1887, that the attention of any considerable number of freshwater anglers was attracted to the possibilities of sport afforded by the sea, and to the advantages of using therein freshwater tackle with certain modifications. As an instance of what skilful anglers now do when they visit the seaside, I may be allowed to quote a short extract from an anglers' paper.1 It is merely one of the weekly reports sent in by a regular correspondent, who in this case is the second coxswain of the lifeboat at Deal and owner of an unpretentious hostelry where London fishermen of the middle class much resort. It should be understood that the takes mentioned are not ordinary ones, and that fishing for whiting and cod at the place in question is only really good during the period of spring tides in autumn. All the gentlemen referred to in the report would be fishing with rods, and, probably, gut paternoster tackle, with leads varying from a quarter of a pound to perhaps a pound or more ; and it is pleasing to find it for once admitted that the amateur angler has succeeded better—thanks to his superior skill and improved gear—than the professional fisherman.
Like Caesar, they came, they saw, and they conquered. The members of the British Sea Anglers' Society may fairly lay claim to this motto, for they have come and taken the wind out of our local fishermen. The following particulars will be read with interest. On the 9th instant.... 282 lb. weight of fish were brought in, and there were no cases of sea-sickness. Mr. Norman took a whiting, 2 lb. 3 oz. ; Mr. Vail, one of 2 lb. 10 oz. Saturday, the 10th, was a most lovely day, and the takes were even better than the preceding one. Messrs. Gould, 47 lb., and a nice cod of 7 lb. 10 oz., besides codling; Jaques, 45 lb. ; Alec Wright, 40 lb. ; Vail, 38 lb. ; Wm. Marshall, 34 1/2 lb. ; F. W. Norman, 31 1/2 lb. ; J. C. Bartlett, 27 lb. ; W. F. Dyer, 31 lb. ; Parker, 26 lb. ; J. P. West, 18 1/2 lb. ; Raison, 18 1/2 lb. ; in all 357 lb. of whiting, besides rod. Mr. Chatto, of the Haymarket, took 200 whiting and 6 codling, Tom Norris being in charge. Nov. 11, Messrs. A. Dangerfield, T. Chatto, and Geo. Brook went out with Tom Norris in a galley punt and caught 200 whiting and dabs and 14 large codling, Mr. Brook being credited also with a fine-looking cod of 9 lb. Mr. Capel Cure, with Dick Riley, had a nice catch of whiting and a cod of 14 lb. 9 oZ. after being cleaned. Messrs. Alfred Rolls, A. W. Taylor, and George Green were out with H. Norris and myself, and we secured 420 whiting, 21 fine codling, and a few dabs. Mr. Ball and his son went out at 8 a.m. intending to fish near the Break Buoy, but after a short stay there, were obliged to put back owing to increase of wind and tide ; they, however, anchored near the Second Battery and took 119 whiting and 3 cod of 8 lb., 5 lb., and 3 1/2 lb. ; Messrs. Capel Cure and Collins also had excellent sport with whiting and cod. Pier fishing has been extraordinary, for the weather has been glorious, and large takes of fish have been the rule. The above records may read like a fairy tale, but, fortunately, they can be substantiated, and with such weather Deal has become a perfect anglers' paradise. Everyone knows the uncertainty of our climate, however ; and readers will have already been made acquainted with the rough weather we have recently experienced, but I anticipate some grand sport as soon as the sea thins down.—Edward Hanger.
1 The Fishing Gazette of Nov. 17, 1894.
The following week another remarkable catch was reported from Great Yarmouth, made by Captain Clowes in the Roads close to Wellington Pier. It consisted of twenty fish weighing 150 lbs., the largest 30 lbs. The species is not mentioned, but without much doubt the fish were cod.
The fishing described in the report from the Downs, good as it is, can hardly be called the highest form of sea angling regarded from a sportsman's point of view, but it gives evidence of the fact that within an easy ride of London, in water which is fairly slumbrous, and at no great expense, a hamper of edible fish may be caught with much the same tackle as we should use for perch fishing. I could mention many other takes, made by amateur sea fishermen, which go to prove that our modern methods of sea fishing are attended with great success, and that the rod is a valuable addition to one's gear if judiciously used, though sea fishermen of the old school are inclined to smile at it. The following captures are within the experience of one clever and enthusiastic sea angler of my acquaintance :— To begin with, thirteen and a half dozen dabs and plaice, from | lb. to 2 1/2 lbs., in half a day's fishing. Twelve dozen whiting pouts, none under 1 lb. and some over 2 lbs., in half a day. Twenty-seven and a half dozen dabs in Torbay in two hours, taken by two rods, with a little assistance from a third, breaking the local record. A mixed bag of six dozen heavy fish—conger, skate, bream and pollack—taken in a rough sea in five hours. About three dozen pollack and coalfish, varying from 1/2 lb. to 6 lbs. ; three coalfish being caught at once (on a light single gut cast), weighing together 10 lbs. The baits were soleskin flies. Twenty pollack, 4 lbs. to 9 lbs. each, taken on flies, in a little over one and a half hour. Eighty-seven coalfish, 1/2 lb. to 4 lbs., caught by fair casting with a white fly, in about three hours one evening.