Sea Fishing - Brixham Breakwater
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Brixham Breakwater stretches a quarter of a mile out into Torbay and is one of the most popular angling venues in the Bay. Numerous species of sea fish can be taken both during the summer and winter months. Fish including Mackerel, Pollack, Bass, Garfish, Ballen Wrasse, Scad, Flatfish and Conger Eel are taken from the breakwater.
You can fish anywhere along the breakwater, you will catch fish either side, although the outside will probably bring better results. You're probably best to avoid fishing close to the beach in the summer months as holidaymakers do not appreciate being bombarded by 4 ounce lead weights.
You do have to be aware that for most of the length of the breakwater, there is a rocky outcrop which stretches for at least 70 yards out from the breakwater. There is no lighting on the breakwater so you will need to take your own source of light with you. Fishing in heavy seas should be approached with great caution as the breakwater can be swamped during heavy seas.
The two most common methods of fishing from the breakwater float and bottom fishing. If you are going to fish on the bottom then be aware that there is a fairly large rocky outcrop which extends for about 50 or 60 yards until you reach sand. Bottom fishing will catch a wide variety of fish from the breakwater. You can certainly expect to catch wrasse and pollock, especially when using worm or crab baits. If you're lucky then flatfish, such as plaice, flounder, dab, sole and even ray could be caught from the breakwater. Dogfish are prolific and taught mainly at night. During the winter months , pouting and whiting frequent the whole of Torbay, however, don't expect to catch specimen size fish, fish around 8 ounces should be looked upon as about the maximum you will catch from shore in Torbay.
A simple running ledger will suffice if you're not particularly bothered about getting into all the detailed rigs. Fishing more than one bait on your line will obviously increase your chances of catching something. Why not try the three hook flapper rig? This is certainly not as complicated as it sounds, and when baited with three different types of bait will certainly increase your chances of catching the different fish that frequent this area.
If you are bottom fishing in this location, be prepared to lose plenty of tackle. Having said that, if you persevere, you can be rewarded with some specimen fish, especially when it comes to conger. Fish in excess of 50lb have been taken from the breakwater in the past. In fact, the British conger record of over 56lb was once held here. Even though the large conger have been rather scarce in recent years, fish of 25lb to 30lb are not uncommon.
Brixham breakwater is also an excellent venue for catching mackerel. You don't need to be an expert, mackerel are probably one of the easiest fish to catch in the sea. Get yourself a set of mackerel feathers and you will have many hours of fun. You can buy sets of feathers for about £1, they normally come in sets of three or six on a string until the mackerel probably resemble small fish. All you do is cast them out and retrieve them. Mackerel are voracious predators and a set of feathers could potentially catch you hundreds of mackerel in no time at all.
Alternatively you could use a float to catch mackerel. Mackerel are pelagic fish which means they feed in the upper water. So when using a float setup you should try various depths between 1 foot and 10 feet at high water. In many cases you will catch mackerel at depths between these levels but on occasions they will be feeding at a certain depth so if you don't catch anything in the first hour, adjust your depth until you find where they are. The breakwater is very snaggy so when using sliding float tackle you would be advised to use a slightly lighter trace then your main line. If your main line is 15LB BS then use a slightly lighter trace around 10LB BS. The reason why your trace should be lighter than your main line is if you get snagged, your trace will snap before your mainline and all you will lose is your hook, not your float. Even though it's nice to catch mackerel on light fishing tackle you have got to remember you will have to haul the mackerel up onto the breakwater so I would recommend a fairly sturdy rod. A 2 1/2 pound test curve carp rod is perfect.
The three baits I would recommend for mackerel are mackerel strip (yes, they are cannibals) sand eel and squid. Cut the mackerel and squid into strips and use a fairly sizeable hook, anywhere between size 2 and 1/0. Mackerel primarily feed on sand eel so these make excellent bait. Frozen sand eel are best mounted whole. I normally like to pass the hook either once or twice through the tail so most of the body is free to move around in the current. A mackerel bite is normally very positive, most of the time the float will just disappear, in many cases when you just happen to look away and then wonder where your float has gone. Other times you may see your float twitching. Wait until it has completely disappeared and then strike. Mackerel are like mini tuna and for their size put up a fantastic fight. They can often save the day when there is nothing else around, and best of all, they taste absolutely fantastic. Take the fillets off and fry them for a couple of minutes and you won't get a better meal.
Mackerel normally appear around our shores in early spring and can be here up until autumn. However, you may catch mackerel as early as February or March, it really depends on how warm it is. I've even known somebody to catch a mackerel from Paignton harbour in December, however this is probably a complete fluke and I certainly wouldn't expect that to happen on a regular basis. Unfortunately mackerel stocks have been decimated over the years by large trawlers that literally scoop up a huge shoal in one go. Sadly is becoming a common occurrence were mackerel are very sparse and some years hardly any mackerel are caught in the Torbay area. If you're having trouble catching them on the breakwater then head for deeper waters around Berry Head where you may pick up a few.
A lot also depends on the food that mackerel prey on. For instance if small baitfish, sardines, sprats and sand eel are plentiful one-year then you will often find that the mackerel shoals follow them. A few years ago we had an amazing phenomenon where we had literally millions and millions of mackerel invading our shores for a few weeks in the summertime. When the tide came in the mackerel followed and you could literally scoop them out with a bucket in Brixham Harbour , it was unbelievable, I have never seen so many mackerel in my whole life.
Bass can also be taken from the breakwater. You normally catch bass between the months of May and October. Try using live baits such as prawn or sand eel fished on sliding tackle with a large hook, Bass have got a huge mouths so don't be shy to go big with your hook, 1/0 or 2/0 is perfectly okay and certainly not too big. Anywhere along the breakwater either side will yield Bass. Way back in 1983 I caught a load of bass fishing under the oil jetty. It was easier to gain entry way back then so I'm not suggesting you risk spiking yourself trying to climb over the gate now, but a good cast will mean you can fish right next to the pillers where you will pick up bass and loads of wrasse as well'. Using artificial baits such as plastic sand eels, metal spinners and plugs will also take bass if they are in the vicinity.
You could also try using surface fishing lures called "poppers". These are floating lures have a concave front which when fished properly make a popping sound on the surface which is very attractive to predatory fish like bass, they are basically seeing an injured fish on the surface and will attack the lure with a lot of aggression.
Be Careful When Handling Mackerel and Bass
Now let me give you a little bit of advice about handling mackerel and bass. Both of these fish have spikes on their body that can cause intense pain if you don't handle them properly. The mackerel isn't so bad, it has one spike located near its anus which can sometimes spike you but you shouldn't have too much of a problem with them. However, the bass is a different ballgame altogether, these guys are armed with spikes that could cause serious injuries if you're not careful. The smaller bass have got a really nasty spike located on the edge of the gill plate and believe me if this spikes you it will almost certainly ruin your fishing session. They have also got an extremely spiky dorsal fin which they raise when they are angry. Avoid getting these spikes stuck in your hand because they can contain bacteria, so not only will you end up with a handful of holes, but you could also end up with a nasty infection as well. If you are lucky enough to catch a bass, don't just grab it willy-nilly, larger fish should really be netted and then you can carefully remove the hook. Alternatively you can land fish way grabbing their lower jaw and lifting them out, but I don't think newcomers will find this very easy so my advice if you are fishing for bass would be to take a landing with you.
Garfish are always present during the summer. Sliding float tackle baited with mackerel strip is probably the most common way of catching these strange looking creatures. The telltale sign of a garfish bite is when your float suddenly looks like it hasn't got enough weight on it, or lies on its side. If this happens, strike straightaway to avoid the fish swallowing your hook.
If you like catching wrasse then you have come to the right place. Reasonably large fish can be taken from the breakwater. Fish are typically around 8oz-2lb, but larger ones have been taken. Both sliding float and leger tackle will take wrasse. You must strike quickly with wrasse as they will swallow the bait. Also, if you don't put pressure on them and get them moving up to the surface, they will head for the nearest rock and it can be a real bitch to get them out. If you are float fishing then don't think you have to fish hard on the bottom, fish about 10 feet up, the wrasse will come out and swim up for the bait, you then have a better chance of stopping the fish heading for snags. Typical baits are ragworm, any shell fish (mussels are excellent) prawns, and probably the best bait of all, crab. Wrasse have very strong teeth and will have no problem dealing with a hardback crab. You can use peeler crab but what's the point of wasting your money on these expensive baits when a hardback crab will be top of the wrasses menu any day. I'll even tell you a great place to collect your hardback crabs. Salton Cove in Paignton is fantastic for collecting crab baits at low tide. Look under the rocks but always put them back when you've finished, remember that if somebody's home.
Don't overlook fishing the inside of the breakwater, you only have to go around 10 feet out from the rocks and you are in well over 10 feet of water at high tide, possibly up to 15 feet at a rough guess. Sliding float tackle using baits such as ragworm, peeler crab, or prawn baits will almost certainly catch wrasse, pollack and even bass. Don't be afraid to fish fairly deep at high water, like I said the water does drop-down quite far, however there is a small shelf of rocks stretching a few feet out so when retrieving your tackle make sure that you are aware of this and reel in fairly quickly to avoid snagging.
Ballen Wrasse is as edible as any other fish in the sea, however like spider crab which is a delicacy in France, it's never been a fish that has been sold commercially as food. Even though I've never eaten one myself, I have seen them cooked on barbecues. So if you must keep one of these fish for photographic reasons why not chuck it in the frying pan. There is nothing more I hate than seeing fish taken home for photographic reasons only to be discarded dead once fish has no further use Here is some information on how to fillet the Ballen Wrasse
Scad, also known as Horse Mackerel can be taken at night. Use mackerel strip fished very near the bottom on sliding float tackle
The breakwater is also a very good spot for mullet. When you fish for mullet, approach them as if they are actually a freshwater fish, such as a carp. These fish are extremely hard fighting and even a small one will give you quite a tussle. A typical Brixham mullet will range from 1-4lb. Bigger ones are taken quite often. It's not unusual to hear of a 7lb fish being taken here.
Mullet can be caught using various techniques. Probably the most common is using very light float tackle. You need to use sliding float tackle because unless you are fishing in extremely shallow water, a fixed float will be difficult to use. If you are using a float then I would recommend you fish near, or directly on the bottom. Ground baiting is an absolute must if you want to increase your chances of catching a Mullet. Mash up a loaf of bread in a bucket and add fish juices, mashed oily fish such as mackerel and herring is an excellent attractant. Make sure your mix lots of nice flaky pieces, you can even put in a tin of tuna contained in the oil if you want, this will add to the flavor. Once you've got this lovely fishy mix you can start introducing it to where you are going to fish. Your hook bait could either be bread or mackerel flesh, Mullet absolutely adore these. Just make sure you keep the ground baits going in, once a Shoal of Mullet move into your area you should keep them happy with lots of food, sometimes there can be hundreds of them.
If you don't want to use a float then a simple Paternoster rig can often be very successful. Simply attach a three way swivel to your mainline, attach a short length of line with a small weight on the bottom swivel, on the right angled swivel, used a length of 10 pound nylon with a size 8 or 6 hook. Drop the weight into the area you have laid your ground bait and simply wait for that bait that should come with quite a lot of force. However, this method is probably best used around the marina where you simply fish beneath your feet, it probably wouldn't work along the actual breakwater. However if you were moored alongside next to the oil jetty, this is a very very good place to catch mullet.
Another method that I have heard works is using a spinner baited with ragworm. A small spinner baited with a single size eight or six baited with a small/moderate sized ragworm could be a good way of catching Mullet, never done it myself so I cannot vouch for this method.
Fishing in the boat marina can often be very rewarding. If you want to catch a bass, this is the place to fish. Either free line or float fish live sand eel or prawn and you will stand a very good job of a bass. Large Mullet also frequent the marina and can be caught using bread or mackerel.
Sand eels make fantastic bait, they are the staple food of many sea fish including mackerel, bass pollack and even wrasse. Mounting a sand eel on the hook is very easy and will stay on for many casts if you do it properly. This is how I mount a sand eel on the hook. I normally use a 1/0 Aberdeen which is the perfect size for mackerel bass and pollack. I pass the hook through the eyes of a sand eel, pull it all the way through so the line is going through the eyes. Then I push the hook through the middle of a sand eel, not quite in the centre, more through the spine. I don't pull the hook through completely, I then pull the line tight so that the hook is lying parallel to the sand eel. Then I take some shearing thread which is basically elasticated cotton used in haberdashery. Wrap the shearing thread tightly around the eel where the hook is placed and then snap off the shearing thread. You don't need to tie any knots, if you pull it fairly tight it will stay in place. You will then find that your sand eel will hang perfectly on the hook and will withstand heavy casting without dislodging on the hook. Mounting the sand eel like this is particularly effective if you want to fish the sand eel like you would a rubber eel. If you just hook a sand eel and don't use shearing thread, the eel's presentation will deteriorate after only a few casts.
You wouldn't use shearing thread if you are using a live sand eel because you obviously want the eel to move naturally. Pass the hook through the bottom lip, pull the line all the way through and then pass the hook through the skin of the sand eels belly being careful that you don't penetrate too far into the eels body or you will just kill it and lose the effectiveness. The only drawback with using live sandeel is they can fly of the hook quite easily when you are casting. Live sand eels are fabulous bait and will definitely outperform dead sand eels, especially if Bass are your quarry. Free lining live sand eel is also a deadly method, although not so easy off the breakwater. Having said this, the bass often patrol the very edge of the breakwater, especially in the early morning so get yourself a pair of polarised sunglasses so you can see into the water, flick your sand eel out and gently work it back in and wait for those bass to strike
Catching Prawns for Fishing
Prawns are by far a country mile one of the best baits you can use in the sea, nearly every fish will look upon prawns as a delicacy and I can almost guarantee you will catch something if you are using prawns for bait. If you want to catch wrasse, pollack and bass in the Torbay area then prawns should be right at the top of the list. Catching prawns is actually a very easy task, and it's very enjoyable as well, I suppose it ads to the hobby. There are various ways to catch prawns during the daytime and through hours of darkness. Using a long handled net, you can try scraping through seaweed and underneath pontoons around tires, this is where prawns will retreat to join me hours of daylight. The most enjoyable way to catch prawns is by using a trap or prawn net. Prawn traps and nets are readily available online and you can also get them from shops in Torbay, Brixham Bait and Tackle will more than likely sell them. One of the best places to catch prawns is Brixham Harbour, go down at dusk and bait your trap or net with a chunk of oily fish, mackerel is an absolute winner as prawns love it. All you need to do is lower your net/trap to the bottom alongside the wall and wait. Depending on how many prawns are around, you may find that after 15 min you have caught quite a few prawns, you may have to wait a lot longer. If you're using a trap then I would advise putting this down for an hour or so, alternatively, lay your trap overnight and you could get enough prawns for a good session. If you are fishing at the breakwater, then fish for prawns from the little quay on the left-hand side just before you go up the very steep slope, this is an ideal location for catching prawns. Even though you can lay traps and nets along the breakwater, it is rather snaggy to be laying nets.
A normal hardback crab is not a particularly good bait unless you are fishing for wrasse. However at certain times in a crabs life they are probably the best bait for fish. Lots of fish love this type of bait, you'll catch flatfish, Wrasse, Pollock, Bass and countless other fish using peeler crab. In order for crabs to grow they need to shed their shells every few weeks. When this happens you have two types of crab bait, a peeler and a soft backed crab. A crab becomes a peeler just before it sheds its hard shell in order for it to grow. A soft backed crab is a crab that has already shed its hard shell but it's new shell is yet to harden. Peeler crabs are readily available from most bait shops and can be bought singularly, or in batches, alive or frozen.
As the name suggests, a peeler crab needs to have it's hard shell removed before you can mount it on your hook. You can also remove the outer shell from the claws and legs as well as these also make excellent bait. Once you have removed the outer shell, you will be left with a very soft bait indeed. Using a fairly large hook, using either the whole crab, or half depending on the size, push the hook through the crab two or three times so that it is mounted on the entire hook and shank.
Because the crab is very soft you may need to secure it on your hook if you had fishing at a distance. Shearing thread has always been a favorite with many anglers to secure crab on the hook . Shearing thread is readily available from any haberdashery. Basically it's stretchy cotton that you wrap around the crab & just pull it tight, you don't need to actually tie any knots. You can treat soft backed crab in exactly the same way. You can use crab on the float or bottom, it will work just as well either way.
You could pay anything up to £1 for one crab, so it may be more economical to harvest your own crab. Because they are so vulnerable they always hide whilst they are shedding their shells. If you go to your local rock beach, you're sure to find peeler crab hiding amongst the weed and rocks. Peeler crab are easy to recognize. Look at the back of the shell, you will just see it starting to reseed revealing the soft shell underneath.
Brixham Breakwater is famous for large conger eel, some absolute monsters have been taken from this venue in years gone by. Sadly many of the larger eel have been wiped out and huge conger from Brixham Breakwater are a thing of the past. However, I often hear of eels in excess of 20LB being taken. When targeting conger you must use study tackle. It's not just the fact that conger are large fish that put up quite a scrap, you will also be casting large baits, this will be difficult to do using a soft action rod. Back in the mid-80s when I did most of my eel fishing I used a 13 foot Bruce & Walker beach caster coupled up with an ABU 12 multiplier loaded with 35LB line. Whereas you can catch conger all year round, autumn time is favored by many anglers. Whether it is a coincidence or not, we used to find that fishing just after a thunderstorm was quite good. Extreme cold weather often slowed fishing down. Fishing the incoming and outgoing tide along the breakwater is the best time to fish.
Conger have got teeth that will bite through normal monofilament line as if it is cotton. It is imperative that you use a special trace made of either wire or heavy nylon in excess of 200LB. Hook sizes between 6/0 & 10/0 perfectly adequate. A running ledger is the simplest rig to use. Because the breakwater is so snaggy, you might be advised to opt for a rottom bottom. Basically this entails using a weak length of line to attach your lead. In the event that your lead gets snagged, at least you will get your hook back. I actually used to use old sparkplugs, definitely a cheaper option than expensive leads. Don't be frightened to use a big bait, in theory you catch big fish using big baits . Mackerel flapper, half a mackerel, a large mackerel head will all entice conger. To prepare a mackerel flapper, simply run a sharp knife along the fillet, when you can't cut anymore, turn the knife 45°and gently cut through the backbone and then bring the knife towards the tail along the other fillet. Remove the tail and backbone and you will be left with the head and two fillets that flap around in the current. Hooking a flapper couldn't be simpler. Put the hook in the mackerels mouth and out of the top of the head. Other types of bait work equally as well. Herring are very oily and make a superb conger bait. Squid, whole pouting and joey mackerel will all entice conger.
Anywhere along the breakwater will yield conger, although I've have most of my fish from the outside. Fishing alongside the oil jetty is also a favorite spot by some anglers. You don't have to cast very far, 30 or 40 yd. is far enough. Put the reel into free spool with the ratchet on and then just wait. Conger eel bites come in two forms. Sometimes you get very small bites were maybe your reel will just click a few times and nothing more. Whereas other times the eel takes off like an Exocet missile & your reel screams like a banshee, these are definitely the most exciting bites you can get, especially in the middle of the night when everything is quiet and then suddenly all hell breaks loose. Once a conger is hooked it will try and find the nearest snag. Once it's wedged itself into a hole it will be extremely difficult to extract, so try not to give it any line. This is why heavy tackle is absolutely imperative.
You'll need a gaff or a large landing net to safely extract the fish from the water. Avoid screw top gaffs as a conger will twist and spin its body violently once it surfaces, if you use a screw top gaff the conger can easily unscrew it and then you will have serious problems landing it. If you intend on returning the fish alive which I would always recommend, try and gaff the fish under the lower jaw, if you stick it into its body damaging vital organs, or into its gills, you'll cause it serious injury and it will probably die once back in the water. If it's swallowed the hook, cut the trace off and leave the hook where it is, it will rust and the conger will not come to any harm. If you try and extract the hook from the congers stomach, you will kill the fish.
For those of you who may be thinking about fishing for Conger Eel for the first time, please be aware that these fish have very powerful jaws that are full of very sharp teeth. When one of these fish is removed from the water they will thrash around on the floor and will snap out at anything that happens to be near their mouth. Take my word for it, if a conger manages to grab hold of your hand, you'll be heading to hospital with some very nasty injuries.
This diagram shows a running ledger incorporating a rottom bottom
The safest vantage point for disabled anglers on the breakwater is directly opposite the oil platform. There is a concrete platform with a large wooden sleeper attached to the floor, this will ensure there are no accidents and you don't end up going for a swim in your wheelchair. Use prawn, ragworm or peller crab on the sliding flight tackle and you will almost certainly catch wrasse, pollack and maybe even bass. For best results, try and get as close to the oil jetty as possible. The oil jetty shouldn't be overlooked, it is an absolutely fantastic place to fish at times. It's been there for quite a few decades and a lot of fish will have made it their home. In the past I have caught bass and some very large wrasse fishing under the oil jetty, you will also find mullet congregating underneath as well.
(click image to enlarge) Don't underestimate fishing at the very beginning of the breakwater. There is a small stone jetty just beside the breakwater that is absolutely ideal for wheelchair users. Many people think that because it's so close to the shore you won't really catch any fish. If you fish it at high tide then there's plenty of water there and there are lots of fish to be had from this spot. I fished there recently and lost a huge fish, more than likely a wrasse since I was float fishing ragworm. Although I can't promise you big fish, I can guarantee you lots of small wrasse in the region of half a pound, good sport on light tackle. To catch these wrasse, float fish close in to the breakwater and use baits such as prawns, ragworm, peeler crab. You will also catch mackerel and garfish in the summertime. If you are patient and put in the time then you may also catch mullet from this stone jetty. There is also no reason why conger shouldn't be taken here at night either. If you are a disabled driver then there is a disabled parking space right in front of the lifeguards hut, this is often overlooked by many people.
Fishing from the Breakwater Beach
If you like beach fishing and can't be bothered to walk to the end of Brixham breakwater then the breakwater beach is always worth a crack. My advice would be to fish the breakwater beach at night as this is when you are more likely to catch species such as dogfish, huss, whiting, pouting, bass, wrasse , pollack, possibly ray, flatfish and conger. I would forget trying to fish breakwater beach during the day in the summertime as the beach is used by lots of holidaymakers and it would be far too dangerous for you to start chucking leads around when there will be people all around you on the beach and water. A simple Paternoster or running ledger is all you need when fishing from the beach. Baits such as fish, worm and crab will all yield fish from the breakwater beach. I would fish two or three hours on the incoming and outgoing tide. Winter fishing will probably bring you plenty of action during the hours of darkness when whiting, pouting and dogfish will all be prolific.
I've covered a lot of what can be caught from the breakwater, and I have also described how to catch some of these fish. Like we all know, angling is hit and miss so don't blame me if you don't catch anything.
A nice little YouTube video to whet your whistle
Brixham Bait and Tackle
If you need any bait or tackle then visit Brixham Bait and Tackle. The shop is located almost opposite the Golden Hind. It is run by a father and son who really know their stuff and will be able to both advise and supply you with all the equipment and information you need to fish in the Torbay area. You can visit their website here
Sea Fishing Forum and Website
If you're looking for a friendly forum where everyone will make you really welcome then you can't really go any better than sea-fishing.org.