Sunsets from 2008

Many thanks to all those who have helped and supported me whilst I've started putting this blog together. As the sun finally goes down on 2008 so I thought I'd put up some of my best sunsets from this year.

Happy New Year to you all and 'tight lines' for 2009.

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Please feel free to comment.

Bristol Channel Kayak Fishing

I can hardly believe it, it's been three weeks since I was last out fishing!. It was time to make amends so a trip down to Somerset to fish the Bristol Channel was hastily organised. There had been a couple of encouraging catch reports during the last months with strap conger and a few codling being caught. The other option was to fish locally in the Solent and fill the freezer with pouting... so, Bristol Channel here I come.

The weather forecast was just about perfect, a light southerly breeze that would provide near millpond conditions. Having not fished the area before, the first session was to be a day session, fishing into the dark if required. The tide was around nine metres!, so I didn't know quite was to expect with regards to tidal flow and the ability to anchor comfortably. My local yak fishing partner joined me for the day.

I have a bundle of conger rigs ready to go at any time, though they're 50-80lb wire with heavy 6/0-8/0 forged hooks. I decided to make a somewhat lighter rig using 30lb wire with a 6/0 Kamazan uptide hook. These hooks are extremely sharp and would hook and handle small conger with ease.

The near three hour journey went smoothly and we were soon by the beach rigging up.

Rigging Up 
ready to go

The mark we were fishing was a reef very close inshore, literally within a couple of hundred metres of the shore, and the paddle to the mark was a short one. I'd taken a selection of bait, mackerel, crab and squid. A full side of mackerel is very versatile and can catch a variety of species such as conger, bass, cod, rays, etc. The wires traces were used at all times because of the chance of a conger.

We fished the first 3 hours of the flood and into the ebb. The fish seemed to come onto the feed within half and hour of being there, with the first fish being a strap conger which was dropped right at the side of the yak. However, I didn't have to wait too long for the next one, only small but a good start to the session.

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The tide was running quite hard though the water depth, initially around 6 metres, meant lighter weights of around 4oz were sufficient to hold bottom. The mackerel bait was getting constant attention and it wasn't long before I hooked into another conger, and this was definitely a better fish. After a few minutes it was alongside and in the yak for a quick photo before removing the hook and returning it.
 

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The T-bar disgorger was earning its keep, keeping my fingers well clear of those teeth!. I varied the baits on the other rod, using crab and squid, though it was getting very little interest.

A gentle tapping showed that a conger was messing with the mackerel and it wasn't long before yet another conger was stripping line from the reel. I try to fish as light as possible and it was cracking fun with my 6lb rod and small ABU reel. This fish was fighting hard and it was quite some time before it made an appearance. A few dives were made for the bottom though it finally came close enough for me to grab the leader. These fish have a lot of power and can dive hard without warning so it's wise to have a rag wrapped around your hand whilst handling the line.

conger1

conger2

conger3

The eel came aboard and a couple of photos were taken before being returned to the water, the hook being removed at the side of the yak.
 

conger5

I almost paid the penalty for switching to a lighter conger rig when one particular fish fought very hard in the tide and I probably applied a little too much leverage at times. The fish wasn't lost, though as can be seen from the photo below it was a little too close!. Also, the cost of only using one swivel whereas I normally use two - line twist!
 

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A few more smaller conger were taken with a dogfish making an appearance, thankfully just the one. There was cracking THUMP, THUMP, THUMP on the squid,crab combo, though I missed the bite and it didn't come back for a second look. Possibly a cod or a bass, i'll never know!

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My yakking partner was fishing slightly further out was suffered from a slow start to the session, though he soon found some decent sized conger with a few dogfish thrown in for good measure.

We fished into the dark as the tide ebbed and the fishing action soon tailed off. There was however some shouts of joy from the other yak so I released my anchor and paddled over. At first I thought I could see the head of a large conger, but no, it was a big cod!

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We weighed it back at the car a couple of hours later and it was bang on 16lb, a cracking fish by any standards!

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After six hours of fishing we called it a day and headed home, but what a cracking session!

Please feel free to comment.

Big Game Hatch - Upgrade

When I purchased my Big Game last year I also purchased a centre hatch from the USA, along with several other items. The kayak was delivered from within the UK and a couple of days post delivery I commenced rigging.

It was immediately obvious that the centre hatch was a fraction too wide, how was this possible?. After some research I became aware of the fact there were TWO hatches designed to fit the Big Game. It appears that at some point in time the kayak mould was changed slightly and the original fitment hatch no longer fitted, this must have been an oversight from Ocean Kayak.
 
The hatch for this 'tweaked' model was known as the 'Revised Hatch' and one was duly dispatched from KFS in the USA. On arrival it was a disappointment, it was smaller than the original and the quality was poor. It was a hinged lid affair, whereas the original was removable with two toggle latches. There was no seal provided with the hatch so fitment required a good application of sealant (Marine Goop) prior to bolting down, no nuts and bolts were provided with the hatch - not good.

hatch
'Revised Hatch'

It didn't take long to realise that this hatch hadn't been designed for the job, in fact it was quite clearly an 'off the shelf' replacement, probably sourced from a marine outlet. The design was quite simply awful, it didn't shut particularly well and as a result wasn't particularly watertight. The seal was recessed and prone to clogging with dirt, as well as being difficult to keep clean. Worst of all was the limited access to the hatch whilst afloat, it could only be opened a fraction which proved to be a total pain.

hatch1 
hatch2
So after a year of enduring this setup, I opted to re-order an original centre hatch (I sold the first one) and make it fit. The original hatch was un-bolted and removed, it was clear at this point that leakage had occurred between the hatch and the yak despite a generous layer of sealant. With the hatch removed work could proceed on fitting the new item.

hatch4
Using the foam seal provided the new hatch dimensions were lifted over to the yak and the excess material was removed. Due to the larger dimensions of the original hatch the bolt holes associated with the 'Revised Hatch' were also removed.

As stated earlier the 'new' hatch didn't quite fit and this required a small amount of material, about 1/8", to removed from each short edge. This was achieved with the used of a circular saw and some wet and dry sandpaper to tidy up the sawn edges. The foam seal remained unchanged and the hatch frame was quickly bolted into place using the supplied stainless fittings.


hatch5
There is one drawback with this hatch design and that is that the hatch itself detaches completely, meaning there's always the chance that the hatch lid could be dropped over the side. That would not only be damned annoying but expensive, as a new centre hatch assembly would have to be purchased!.

A retaining chord was manufactured from and old telephone chord with a circular crimp at each end, with one end being secured to a hatch bolt and the other to the hatch lid, with the aid of a stainless ring through a 3mm hole.

hatch6
That's the hatch fitted, though I took the opportunity to introduce some internal storage space to make the hatch more usable. A washing bowl was sourced locally, though it turned out a tad large to fit through the hatch opening. No problem, the hatch was removed and the bowl slipped inside the yak. One thing I didn't want was the bowl slipping forwards or aft, nor did I want it fixed in position, hence preventing access to the inners of the yak. I decided to 'fix' the bowl using rubber strip and the type of clips that can be found on a rucksack.

One fitted, the bowl can either be locked directly below the hatch, or un-clipped, allowing the bowl to slide forwards or aft as required.

hatch7 
hatch8 
hatch12
The job took a good couple of hours to complete, though the final result is really pleasing. The original hatch with its poor design and access is now a thing of the past, the new hatch is a far better fit as well as being larger. I've since drilled a 5mm hole in each corner of the base on the bowl to remove any water that may enter the hatch area.

hatch9 
hatch10
With the addition of the chord to the hatch and the bowl for storage, it should now prove to be a real asset.

hatch11
'Original' Big Game Hatch

I'm considering fitting a hand-operated bilge pump inside the yak, attached to clips ahead of the bowl, thus allowing the bowl to be slid aft and the bilge pump to be removed and operated if required. Just a thought - watch this space.
Please feel free to comment.

Crazy Creek Chair III - Update

It's not that long ago that I reviewed this seat, my only niggle was that after a year the brass snaps that secure the seat to the kayak were corroding rather faster than I would have liked. This made them somewhat difficult to operate at times. The solution was to simply to source replacement items, though I'd hoped this could wait until the summer months.

However, this wasn't the case!. Whilst fishing in Essex the other week I was relaxing, leaning back into the seat, keeping an eye on the rod tips. With a bang I was thrown to the left, not enough to lose my balance and capsize, but enough to wake me up good and proper!. The seat had gone limp and looking into the footwells revealed a broken brass seat snap (see photo).

I cant say I was too pleased!, luckily there was nobody in the vicinity to hear just how displeased I actually was!. Fortunately I had a length of rigging chord with me which was used to secure the seat for the remainder of the trip.


Whilst looking through the garage a day or two later, I stumbled upon the original Big Game seat from Ocean Kayak. The snaps are also brass (left in above photo), though the build is far more substantial, the quality better, with the tolerance on the locking mechanism not as tight. All four where duly swapped over and the seat is now fully serviceable, what's more it's better than new, it's just a pity it didn't leave the factory that way.

Great seat, rubbish hardware!... upgrading the hardware will be required at some point in time.


Please feel free to comment.

Review - Kokatat Super Nova Drysuit

I've mentioned this dry suit earlier in my blog, though as I've used it for over a year, now is probably a good time to give it a fair review.

It wasn't purchased on a whim, quite the opposite. I've read so many forum articles about various dry suits that people have purchased, and the problems they've encountered and endured as a result. This made me in no rush to part with my hard earned cash.

Like it or not the Americans are way ahead of us in this sport so trawling their many forums was where I found some inspiration and good advice. Bottom line seemed to be:
  • Get one with a front entry zip
  • A relief zip is a must
  • Neoprene neck seals are more comfortable
  • Get built in dry socks
There were a couple of potential contenders, though the Kokatat range stood out above the rest. I did have a limited budget which made the choice somewhat easier and I eventually settled on the 'Super Nova Paddle Suit'.

Kokatat Super Nova Paddle Suit

I had it imported from KFS in the United States which resulted in me being stung for some VAT and import duties, though it still worked out at a reasonable £250. Having spoken to the helpful folk at KFS I ordered the next size up in order to accommodate various layers of clothing as required, and to ensure it didn't end up a little too tight in general use.

The suit duly arrived and it was given a test run. I'd purchased some thermal gear including a pair of snowboarding pants. Once fully layered up the suit was donned and it proved very easy slip into. The front zipper making it especially simple, and pushing through the neoprene neck seal was straightforward. There's a Velcro tab so the neck seal can be tightened to suit once on.

suit1  suit2
 
The wrist seals are latex and have proved comfortable, requiring no trimming prior to fit, a year down the line they've not loosened at all. Again, there's Velcro on the wrists so all can be tightened up once the suit is on. A drawing is fitted around the waist allowing the suit to be pulled in once you've expelled the air making is far less baggy than one without.

suit5

suit7

A relief zip is fitted which in my eyes is an absolute must, fitting one as an aftermarket conversion will cost a drysuit owner upwards of £60, not cheap!!

suit3
Here in England the summers are short and the winters seem never ending. I've spoken to people who've purchased dry suit with latex ankle seals (no socks) and they all tend to agree that they do not suit a cold climate!. The Kokatat has sewn in dry socks and they are extremely effective!!, I've worn anything up to 3 pairs of thick socks on at any one time under the suit, with wetsuit boots being over the dry socks. Quite simply it's brilliant and my feet rarely begin to cool off even when the temperature drops below freezing, they're certainly never cold and for me that's a big thing!.
 suit6

How does it perform in the water?, well as my kayak is a Prowler Big Game its stability means I've yet to capsize whilst actually fishing or paddling, though it has been tested for a few hours whilst doing capsize/recovery drills in my local swimming pool. No leaks whatsoever and it's comfortable, even submerging in the suit (only achievable without my PFD) resulted in a tablespoon or two of water penetrating the neck seal. When wearing a PFD my shoulders are well above the water so water penetration into the neck seal is rather unlikely.

The material is proving to be very hard wearing and it has additional layering around the elbows, seat and knees where the most abuse is to be expected. After a year consisting of 70+ trips it still looks like new.

The manufacturers state that the Tropos fabric is also breathable so your perspiration will go out through the membrane even though liquid water won't come in. I don't sweat inside the suit, though I generally have a couple of layers on at any time which will tend to wick any sweat away from the body. It doesn't soak with condensation internally so it seems to live up to the hype.

So, after a year how do I rate it?.. Well is extremely comfortable being easy to slip into or remove. The front zip makes life a pleasure, I’ve tried rear entry zips and they are difficult at the best of times. The neoprene neck seal is preferable to a latex item, especially when spending several hours afloat. It’s sufficiently watertight to keep water intake to a bare minimum when capsizing. The high risk area for water ingress are the wrist seals, though being latex these are very effective. It'll eventually be replaced with another or something very similar when I do eventually manage to wear it out, and that wont be for a long time.

Please feel free to comment.

Various Articles & Reviews

Reviews
  1. Chota Mukluk Quicklace boots
  2. Crazy Creek Chair III
  3. C-Tug kayak trolley
  4. Daiwa Exceler-X 3000 FS reel
  5. Garmin 60CSx handheld GPS
  6. Guardian Expedition Light
  7. Hero GoPro Wide video camera
  8. Hi Marine ‘Mini Angler’ Kayak – Initial review
  9. Hobie 2015 Adventure Island – An overview
  10. Hobie Mirage Outback – Initial review
  11. Hobie Pro Angler 12 – tried and tested
  12. Humminbird 565 fishfinder
  13. ICOM IC-M33 VHF radio  
  14. Jotron strobe light
  15. Kokatat Super Nova drysuit
  16. Malone SeaWing Kayak Carrier
  17. Olympus 795SW camera
  18. Palm Kaikoura PFD
  19. Princeton Apex headlamp
  20. Prowler Big Game Kayak
  21. Scotty Slips Discs & Offset Gears
  22. Sealskinz Hat
  23. Shimano AX boat rod
  24. Stohlquist Fisherman PFD
  25. SunFlap
  26. Suunto Orca compass
  27. Typhoon PS220 Xtreme – Initial review
  28. Wind-on leader & Skate trace
  29. YakAttack PanFish & DogBone camera mounts
  30. YakAttack GearTrac
  31. YakAttack VISICarbo Pro light
  32. Yakmate 3
Rigging
  1. Adventure Island – Rigged for Structure Scan
  2. Camera mounts
  3. Deep water anchor reel
  4. Deep water anchor reel for anchoring
  5. GearTrac – track system from YakAttack
  6. Hobie Outback anchor trolley installation
  7. 2015 Hobie Outback Lowrance HDS 7 installation
  8. 2015 Hobie Outback Rectangular Hatch upgrade & liner 
  9. Hobie Outback rigged for fishing (part1)
  10. Hobie Outback rigged for fishing (part2)
  11. Hobie Outback rigged for photography
  12. Hobie Outback  - Rigged for sailing
  13. 2015 Hobie Outback  - Rigged for Structure Scan
  14. Hobie Outback rudder upgrade 
  15. Hobie Sidekick AMA Outriggers Installation
  16. Kayak battery & anchor light improvements
  17. Mirage Drive – Turbo fin upgrade
  18. Prowler Big Game centre hatch
  19. Prowler Big Game rigging
  20. Prowler Big Game – Rudder installation 
Projects & DIY
  1. Bilge Pump Installation
  2. Dry Box Modifications
  3. Dry storage box for the rear tank well
  4. DIY kayak trolley
  5. Extendable camera mount
  6. Garage rod rack
  7. GoPro Hero2 – modifying for night filming
  8. Hobie 8” hatch bag
  9. Hobie Livewell modifications
  10. Homemade priest
  11. Kayak trailer (1st attempt)
  12. Kayak trailer (2nd attempt)
  13. Kayak trailer (3rd attempt)
  14. Livewell & dry box (part 1)
  15. Livewell & dry box (part 2)
  16. Lowrance Elite 7 HDI installation
  17. Lowrance TotalScan transducer upgrade
  18. Kayak loading bar
  19. Rear loading bar – suction mounted
  20. Removable cutting board
  21. Roller roof bars
  22. Swingaway Transducer Arm
  23. Savage Gear Landing net - modified
Articles
  1. Fishfinders – are they worth it ?
  2. Fitting ABU smoothie washers
  3. Practicing re-entry drills
  4. Rigs for downtiding
  5. Shimano Charter Special 1000LD overhaul
  6. Throwing a Cast Net
  7. Waypoint transfer from a Garmin 60Csx to an Elite 7 HDI
  8. What do I take afloat ?
  9. Winter clothing
  10. Winter clothing upgrade
  11. Chirp Sonar – how’s it work ?
  12. Insight Genesis – now improved
Bait
  1. Frozen squid
  2. Keeping ragworm fresh
  3. Preparing mussels
Other stuff
  1. Fishing videos
  2. Milkcrate interview
  3. Photo album
articles

Various Articles & Reviews

Reviews
  1. Chota Mukluk Quicklace boots
  2. Crazy Creek Chair III
  3. C-Tug kayak trolley
  4. Daiwa Exceler-X 3000 FS reel
  5. Garmin 60CSx handheld GPS
  6. Guardian Expedition Light
  7. Hero GoPro Wide video camera
  8. Hi Marine ‘Mini Angler’ Kayak – Initial review
  9. Hobie 2015 Adventure Island – An overview
  10. Hobie Mirage Outback – Initial review
  11. Hobie Pro Angler 12 – tried and tested
  12. Humminbird 565 fishfinder
  13. ICOM IC-M33 VHF radio  
  14. Jotron strobe light
  15. Kokatat Super Nova drysuit
  16. Malone SeaWing Kayak Carrier
  17. Olympus 795SW camera
  18. Palm Kaikoura PFD
  19. Princeton Apex headlamp
  20. Prowler Big Game Kayak
  21. Scotty Slips Discs & Offset Gears
  22. Sealskinz Hat
  23. Shimano AX boat rod
  24. Stohlquist Fisherman PFD
  25. SunFlap
  26. Suunto Orca compass
  27. Typhoon PS220 Xtreme – Initial review
  28. Wind-on leader & Skate trace
  29. YakAttack PanFish & DogBone camera mounts
  30. YakAttack GearTrac
  31. YakAttack VISICarbo Pro light
  32. Yakmate 3
Rigging
  1. Adventure Island – Rigged for Structure Scan
  2. Camera mounts
  3. Deep water anchor reel
  4. Deep water anchor reel for anchoring
  5. GearTrac – track system from YakAttack
  6. Hobie Outback anchor trolley installation
  7. 2015 Hobie Outback Lowrance HDS 7 installation
  8. 2015 Hobie Outback Rectangular Hatch upgrade & liner 
  9. Hobie Outback rigged for fishing (part1)
  10. Hobie Outback rigged for fishing (part2)
  11. Hobie Outback rigged for photography
  12. Hobie Outback  - Rigged for sailing
  13. 2015 Hobie Outback  - Rigged for Structure Scan
  14. Hobie Outback rudder upgrade 
  15. Hobie Sidekick AMA Outriggers Installation
  16. Kayak battery & anchor light improvements
  17. Mirage Drive – Turbo fin upgrade
  18. Prowler Big Game centre hatch
  19. Prowler Big Game rigging
  20. Prowler Big Game – Rudder installation 
Projects & DIY
  1. Bilge Pump Installation
  2. Dry Box Modifications
  3. Dry storage box for the rear tank well
  4. DIY kayak trolley
  5. Extendable camera mount
  6. Garage rod rack
  7. GoPro Hero2 – modifying for night filming
  8. Hobie 8” hatch bag
  9. Hobie Livewell modifications
  10. Homemade priest
  11. Kayak trailer (1st attempt)
  12. Kayak trailer (2nd attempt)
  13. Kayak trailer (3rd attempt)
  14. Livewell & dry box (part 1)
  15. Livewell & dry box (part 2)
  16. Lowrance Elite 7 HDI installation
  17. Lowrance TotalScan Transducer Upgrade
  18. Kayak loading bar
  19. Rear loading bar – suction mounted
  20. Removable cutting board
  21. Roller roof bars
  22. Swingaway Transducer Arm
  23. Savage Gear Pro Landing Net - Modified
Articles
  1. Fishfinders – are they worth it ?
  2. Fitting ABU smoothie washers
  3. Practicing re-entry drills
  4. Rigs for downtiding
  5. Shimano Charter Special 1000LD overhaul
  6. Throwing a Cast Net
  7. Waypoint transfer from a Garmin 60Csx to an Elite 7 HDI
  8. What do I take afloat ?
  9. Winter clothing
  10. Winter clothing upgrade
  11. Chirp Sonar – how’s it work ?
  12. Insight Genesis – now improved
Bait
  1. Frozen squid
  2. Keeping ragworm fresh
  3. Preparing mussels
Other stuff
  1. Fishing videos
  2. Milkcrate interview
  3. Photo album
articles

Essex cod fishing

After the success of the previous cod fishing trip to the East Coast, the opportunity came along for a repeat visit and it wasn't going to pass me by.

The weather forecast was showing light north easterlies which were to increase slightly as the day passed by. It was another early'ish start, leaving around 6pm I had a three hour trip ahead of me. I' d arranged to meet up with a few of the locals, bacon sandwiches were available on my arrival, brilliant or what!!

meetup

The loaded yaks were pulled a short distance to the seafront and away we went.. I cheated somewhat and had launched a few minutes earlier..

mettup2

Fishing was about 1.5 miles offshore with the bait being a squid/lug combination as per the previous trip. The fishing was sporadic compared to the previous trip and the fish were somewhat smaller, for me anyway.

The wind picked up and was it cold!!, in fact it was possibly the coldest conditions I've experienced, probably purely down to the wind. I've fished sub-zero temperatures before without problems, though the wind child and sheer exposure of the North Sea made is very cold indeed. Though you have to bear in mind we were out there for six hours, the cold only really took hold halfway through.

cod

Fish were being caught steadily throughout the day, with a few over 6lb.

meetup3

shaun1

So another cracking trip, I caught around twenty fish with the majority being returned to fight another day. Though 6 hours of driving with 6 hours of fishing on top took its toll..... next time I'm going to stay overnight in a B&B !

Please feel free to comment.

Kayak Fishing - Cod at last !!!

Over the past 4 weeks my efforts to catch a Solent cod have failed miserably. There isn't a great run of cod through the Solent, though a few do get caught every year.

Desperate measures were required, so the decision was made to travel 3 hours up to the Essex coastline where catch reports have been promising.

Preparations were made and I set off with my local yakking mate at 4am, arriving at the chosen destination shortly after 7am. The conditions were just about perfect, flat calm with barely a breeze, though there was still quite some mist about half a mile offshore. We'd taken the opportunity to meet up with a couple of Essex kayak fisherman contacted via a forum. They were kind enough to ensure fresh lugworm was waiting for us when we arrived. Preps were made ready for the launch.

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The chosen mark was almost 1.5 miles offshore, though the tide was at low water slack making progress relatively quick. By the time we'd made it to the mark and dropped anchor the tide was already moving at a good pace. Both rods were rigged with running ledgers and 6/0 pennels rigs loaded with a squid/lugworm combination.

clacton12

The squid had been 'glugged' for a couple of days prior to the trip, soaking in a combination of oils. It's not a must, though local knowledge suggested it was a worthwhile enhancement. The mist was proving persistent and the first hour was relatively quiet with only the odd smaller fish coming to the surface.

clacton8

The mist finally cleared by late morning, though the wind picked up and the drizzle remained persistent throughout. Nothing too unpleasant, certainly not compared to the weather of late!. As the morning progressed the fishing picked up with a multitude of codling coming to the yak. The most prolific time seemed to be just before mid-tide, lasting for about an hour. There were quite a few pouting and smaller whiting, though thankfully not in the numbers I've been experiencing locally as of late.

cod1

clacton 15

clacton2

As the tide eased off the fishing slowed down dramatically which resulted in me calling it a day around high water. I kept a few nice cod for the table, along with a handful of smaller codling and whiting that had been deeply hooked. The best fish was a shade under 7lb with another two around the 6lb mark.

Paddling back in I noticed a large charter boat about 1/2 mile closer inshore. Never one to miss an opportunity I pulled my stringer of fish from the water plonking them squarely on my lap in preparation for the paddle past, from the various comments it appears they weren't sharing in my good fortune!.. I know, probably not the best of sporting etiquette but it did make me smile.

clacton5 
Filleting the fish gave an opportunity to check what the cod had been eating, virtually all the fish were packed solid with hardback crabs with the odd small herring and pouting.

So all in all a cracking trip that was well worth the 6 hour return journey, hopefully to be repeated once more this year before the cod move on.

claton6
Please feel free to comment.