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Mark Radcliffe

Species Hunters Diary – January and February

In this new series Mark Radcliffe chronicles his species hunting on his kayak over an entire year, looking at what he's caught and how he caught them. Mark begins by retracing his January and February fishing.

Unexpected Jacks and More in Costa Rica

Although it was a family holiday, Mark Radcliffe couldn't resist packing a travel rod and a few HTO and Tronixpro essentials in case an angling opportunity arose in Costa Rica.

Light Lure Fishing for Chub

Although it's winter, we can't help dreaming of the summer already. Here Mark Radcliffe looks back at a summer learning what makes chub tick when it comes to lure fishing on the river.

Muddy Water Mullet

Often cited as one of the most frustrating fish to catch, Mark Radcliffe looks at some top tactics for catching wary mullet on light tackle from his kayak.

Kayaking Kids Lead the Way

Mark Radcliffe reports from last weekend's Oxwich Bay Kayak Fishing Tournament, an event which attracted a large number of junior kayak anglers.

Scale Down for Success

Kayak Angler Mark Radcliffe looks at how scaling down your tackle will not only catch you more fish but a greater variety too.

Kayak Fishing the River Thames

A lot of my kayak fishing is coastal and a lot of it is competitive, where I will be launching with every possible rod, rig lure and bait. However this summer I have spent an increasing amount of time fishing the River Thames for pleasure, and increasingly using less and less tackle just enjoying drifting along the river whilst drop shotting for perch.
The tackle I use for this couldn’t be simpler and can practically fit in your pocket.
The rod and reel I prefer are the Hart Absolut Spin  with a No 3 reel   loaded with the HTO braid. Then the tackle is just a spool of fluorocarbon, a pack of HTO drop shot weights, a variety of HTO Mini and Mega Sticks along with size 4 wormer hooks for the smaller plastics and a size 1 hook  for the larger.

 
Tie a simple drop shot rig, lower it over the side and that’s all there is to it.
Kayak fishing offers advantages and also causes some issues. The joy is that you can fish along all the tree lines, close to boats and access areas that just wouldn’t be possible from the bank or a larger boat.
However you have to remember that you will always be moving, you always drift with the current or wind so drop shot fishing in its traditional sense isn’t possible. The weight and rig will always be moving with you putting constant movement on the lure, it is more akin to vertical jigging than drop shotting. You have to use a slightly heavier weight than you might do from the bank because you want to maintain a vertical line to your lure not allowing it to drag at a 45 degree angle.
As with bank fishing putting extra movement on the lure either through vibration or lifting adds interest to the fish and often lifting and dropping the lure just a few inches results in an instant hit. The Mini sticks seem irresistible to perch and there is always a constant stream of fish to 1 ½ lb coming aboard, whilst the Mega sticks obviously sort out the larger stamp of fish.

Whilst perch are obviously the main target on these trips, pike make a regular appearance, loving the sticks as well. In fact it seems that practically every fish in the river has a penchant for the sticks with chub and bream also making a welcome appearance.

It really couldn’t be simpler and is a truly joyful way to fish.
Get out there and give it a go.
 
 

Ladram Bay Species Hunting

I had a whole week booked in Ladram Bay in Devon and had high expectations of increasing my species tally for the year. However one of the joys of Kayak Fishing is that you are weather dependant, and if the weather isn’t playing ball you aren’t fishing. A week of strong Easterlies definitely fell into the not playing ball category, so I only launched on one day.
But what a day it was. A glorious morning to be afloat.

The plan was to spend the morning looking for species over the reef. Once anchored, I set up the HTO Rockfish ML Rod with a simple scratching rig. I like to keep these rigs simple as I am obviously going to lose gear. They consist of a basic 2 or 3 hook flapper using size 4 and 6 Tronixpro Aberdeen hooks. The bottom hook usually hangs lower than the weight leaving it lying on the sea bed. Bait was small bits of rag worm.
The Rockfish matches perfectly with the HTO Lure Game reel loaded with 15lb braid. There is no point in casting as you just get snagged in the reef so it is just a case of lowering down, holding the rod and feeling for the bites. This is one of my favourite ways of fishing; you can feel every nibble and enquiry vibrating through the line and into your body.
It wasn’t long before a steady stream of fish was coming up. Ballan Wrasse, Corkwing Wrasse, Goldsinney Wrasse, Pollack, Pouting, Dragonettes, Dogfish, Mackerel, and Tompot Blennies were all finding the ragworm irresistible. The Rockfish is my go to rod for this type of fishing, great fun with the smaller species yet it still has the power to cope when a 3lb Ballan takes your bait.

I was getting through my bait quickly here but wanted to try one more thing for a few hours in the afternoon. I had been given a variety of the Tronixpro Boat Pro rigs to try.
Now I am not usually a fan of shop bought rigs but had to give one a go. The one I chose was the 3 down scratching rig with size 2 hooks. On opening it I checked all of the swivels and hooks for quality, everything looked good. To be honest given the amount of bling on the rig I doubted I could have tied it myself for the £ 2.49 retail price. The question was would it catch fish?
It looked perfect for plaice so each hook was baited with a rag worm tipped with a strip of squid, I paddled out to the sandbanks, lowered the rig to the seabed and began a drift. Within ten minutes there was a sharp tug on the rod, I let out some line and then struck and felt the solid resistance of a fish. In the clear water I soon saw a chunky plaice coming to the surface.

The next hour saw plaice, dogfish and gurnards coming on board. Whilst I will probably still tie most of my own rigs in the future there is no doubt I will be carrying a variety of the BoatPro ready-made ones as well. They certainly worked.
Unfortunately that one day was the only day I managed to launch the kayak, but what a great day afloat. Eleven species caught and great fun trying new things. I can’t wait to return.

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