IFD: When it comes to fishing Jon Patten has been there and done that. With no fewer than four world records including the all tackle record for dogtooth tuna, and only a few weeks ago he nearly broke the world haddock record!
So now we talk to Jon about a target much closer to home, one of the coolest flatties that swim….. plaice.
Times of year:
I started my plaice fishing when I was a lad on my uncle’s boat off the Kent coast. We would primarily fish around mussell beds for them and the prime months were usually June, July and August. Then after August they would leave the banks we were fishing for them, and they must have moved inshore or offshore but they would just disappear. If I was looking for a big plaice nowadays I would concenrate on these months.
Habitats and depths:
When I first moved to Devon and started my plaice fishing campaign, we would have been fishing in depths of twenty to forty feet over the Skerries bank. On the whole the plaice were generally quite small. When I was a kid with my uncle we used to get them up to four and five pounds though there would be occasional bigger fish.
Then I started fishing the Shambles off Weymouth. The fishing there was completely different. You would be fishing big strong tides and they would generally put out a drogue to slow the drift. On the whole you would only pick up one or two fish but they would be exceptionally big. On the Shambles you would generally be fishing twenty to thirty feet depths over sand and pea shingle.
Then we started fishing in depths of 100 feet for plaice, it was totally alien to me. We were fishing really heavy duty mussell beds with mussell encrusted rocks. You would be drifting along, bumping along the rocks and waiting to find the soft gullies in between. You would have to pay really close attention to the bottom without getting snagged. You would be feeling the donk donk donk of the lead then suddenly it would drop into a sandy gully about eight feet deep. You only got a brief chance and needed quick reactions but that was where you find the big plaice. It’s tackle hungry ground but that’s what afforded them the protection.
Drift or anchor:
One of the reasons that area was found was because they used to fish at anchor for bream there, and as the boat would swing on the anchor over slacks, they started finding they were getting the plaice. So with that in mind they thought well lets do a couple of drifts to explore and lo and behold the plaice were immense. So we found that drift fishing you could cover more ground and in a more controlled manner.
If we were fishing somewhere like the Skerries, we would fish with 7 to 10ft traces with 2 or 3oz leads. On the deeper mark I was telling you about I would try and get away with 6oz but I may had to use up to 10oz on 12lb setups. At that mark a running ledger no longer than 2ft and sometimes not even that. I always used to fish a flyer which would be attached to sit just behind the lead. I had numerous double shots and they never seemed to be particularly put off by the lead. If they wanted it they were having it!
On the Skerries I would fish with 1/0 hooks, but on the rough ground marks I would use anything from a 2/0 to a 4/0. Those plaice have big mouths and can fit a whole peeler crab no problem so it more depended on what kind of bait I was using to determine the hook.
Generally for the big ones I would use five or six rag that I would hook them half way down to let the tails wriggle around freely and I might tip it off with some razor or squid. When you’re using baits like these you don’t usually need any of the usual bling but maybe one or two beads if you want. They are very inquisitive, they have smelt the bait and heard the commotion of the leads bumping so they are just gonna nail it.
In shallower water and relatively clean ground, bling works much better with beads and attractor blades. Also for this reason, the best conditions are when it is sunny you will catch more than when it is overcast.
For my shore fishing I will normally fish using bomber rigs with 30lb snoods, SRT springs for tension and I’ll add to that a couple of beads on the snoods. By fishing this was you have two good baits on the bottom side by side. I try not to use gripper leads to let the rig roll around until it finds a gully that they will be sitting in.