IFD: We are delighted to have our good friend Roger Bayzand back to give us his advice about fishing for turbot. One of the most sought after species for boat anglers. Roger helped many anglers to there first turbot aboard his boat Sundance and was rightly respected as one of the best charter skippers ever in the business.
Tracking down Turbot By Roger Bayzand
Through my early years as a charter skipper turbot were just an occasional by-catch but in general they were good sized fish and often taken on large mackerel baits.
When the uptide fishing boom took off in the 80’s we started to see a few more, mainly because we were concentrating our fishing effort in the right places, sand and gravel banks. Our target species with the uptide fishing were rays and we found that by anchoring uptide of a bank and casting away from the boat so that the baits landed just uptide or near the crest that our catch rate soared compared to conventional downtide fishing. Still the numbers of turbot were relatively few compared to the amount of rays and the sizes we quite small as if we were fishing in a nursery area.
It was not until we started cross channel trips to Alderney in the Channel Islands that we found that we could catch turbot and brill in numbers to make it worth while targeting them.
This did not happen overnight, we had seen other boats that had small live sand eels on board catching turbot but we were struggling using the live launce (greater sand eel) that we were using for bass. Fishing there is done on the drift and the very strong currents never really stop running, just slow down and change direction at the turn of the tide. Gradually we found that this was the peak time for turbot fishing also by marking down the position of each capture a picture gradually built up that there were certain features on the banks that held the most fish. Mostly this was where another bank joined the main bank and formed a V. By concentrating our efforts on these spots and at the right state of the tide our catches improved.
The next trick we learnt was that the long traces that we were using for bass fishing were not the best for flatfish also a strip of mackerel worked better than sand eel.
The next discovery was a bit strange, one of my anglers picked up a piece of mackerel fillet that had been laying on the bait board in the sun for some time and had become soft and dried out. I made some comment about trying a nice fresh bit as we had plenty but he persisted and sure enough caught a turbot straight away, not only that but had another on the same piece of bait. This did not go unrecognised and the next day anglers were using mackerel from the day before that was getting a bit ripe, sure enough it worked!
Along the journey we had worked out that a smaller strip of bait gets taken more easily than a long one. My guess is that turbot lie on the seabed well camouflaged and ready to pounce on any likely meal, they may well chase a bait for a short distance but in practice they are ambush predators.
The weight dragging across the bottom will send up vibrations and that will attract the turbot’s attention this plus the smell from the mackerel will have it ready to pounce when it comes within range.
If you think you are getting a bite give it line, I always fish with the reel in free spool holding it with my thumb on the spool, as soon as I think I have a bite I let the reel run under the lightest pressure to avoid a birds nest. This stops the bait moving and gives the fish a chance to eat it, a count of ten should be plenty then engage the gear and wait for the rod to load up, you will soon feel if there is anything there.
As you can tell it was a long learning curve that took many years of sometimes not very productive fishing. We were able to translate these methods to the banks off Southern England with some success but unless you try and put in the hard yards you will never know.
*Fish on the drift.
*Search for sand or gravel banks with bait on them.
*Try fishing the turn of the tide, often the bigger tides produce the best fishing.
*Use a short 2 to 3 foot trace, with a finger length strip of mackerel.
Good luck and let us know how you do.