Fishing from Brixham Breakwater
Brixham Breakwater stretches approximately a quarter of a mile into Torbay. The breakwater is probably the most popular sea fishing mark in the whole of the Torbay. You have every chance of catching various different species of sea fish of the breakwater, including Mackerel, Pollock, Bass, Garfish, Wrasse, Conger and sometimes flatfish.
There's room to fish anywhere along the breakwater, whether that's on the inside or the outer wall. However, there are lots of rocks on the inner wall so you'll probably have to clamber down and get nearer to the water's edge if you want to avoid snagging when you reel in. If you want to increase your chances of picking up different species of fish then your best bet if the fish on the outside of the breakwater. Bear in mind that if you do hook into a fish that will need netting because of the size then you will have to clamber down the side of the breakwater which can be rather hairy at times. As kids, we didn't really have any fear and I would often clamber down the side of the breakwater at 2 o'clock in the morning in rough weather, I wouldn't advocate anyone doing the same thing now.
Have Fun Catching Mackerel
The breakwater is an excellent venue for a spot of Mackerel fishing. If you want a few hours fun catching as many as you can then put a set of feathers on and I almost guarantee you will catch a few. Feathers are basically imitation baitfish. You can get them in what we call strings, normally three or six feathers to a string. Traditionally they were constructed using white feathers, nowadays there is a wide variety of feathers made out of all different types of shiny material. To be perfectly honest, you could just have a set of three shiny hooks which would work just as well. The art of fishing with feathers is to use a "sink and draw" method which will put some life into your feathers and make them look like small baitfish. You cast as far as you can, let the weight take the feathers down a few feet and then start retrieving by lifting the rod up, winding in the slack line and so on. If you don't catch straightaway then experiment by letting the feathers think a little bit deeper until you find where the Mackerel are.
I would recommend using a fairly steady rod and reel when fishing with feathers. There's nothing wrong with using light tackle, however, if you do hook into six Mackerel there in mind you'll have to haul them 20 feet up the side of the breakwater.
I prefer to use fairly light float fishing tactics when float fishing for Mackerel. Mackerel are extremely hard fighting fish and to really enjoy catching them on float tackle you're better off using fairly light rods. I would recommend a with a test curve between 1 1/2 lb and 3 lb. If you are using fairly small floats at a short distance then the lighter rod will suffice. However, if you're fishing at distance with large floats and big baits then the beefier rod would be better. I use a mid-size bait runner type carp reel loaded with 10 lbs line.
The best hook baits to use for Mackerel are small strips of Mackerel or squid, or even better, a whole sandeel.
You can often catch Bass from Brixham breakwater, especially around September when there are quite a few big ones around. Although not accessible anymore, a real hotspot for Bass used to be underneath the oil jetty at the end of the breakwater. Way back in the early 80s when I was a young whippersnapper, we used to climb over the fence, down the ladders and stand on the concrete supports. You would often see large schools of Bass swimming underneath and if you use the right baits they were fairly easy to catch. Sadly there is no access to this location anymore. Having said that, there's nothing wrong with casting from the breakwater and getting as close to the oil jetty as possible, you'll still catch them if they are present.
If you want to maximise your chances of catching Bass from the breakwater then using the right bait and tackle is a good start. The breakwater is fairly rocky both sides so the chances are you are going to lose a lot of tackle bottom fishing. So my recommendation would be to use the sliding float method. This way you can vary your depth, you can fish very high up in the water, but also fish just above the rocks if necessary without the risk of snagging all of your gear.
If you want to bottom fish then I would recommend using a pulley rig. This should help reduce the chances of snagging the lead when you are playing the fish.
There are lots of rocks either side of the breakwater which will be home to thousands of crabs. In order for crabs to grow, they need to shed their shell every few weeks. After a crab has shed its shell it is extremely soft and vulnerable and is a food source for many species of fish, especially our friend the Bass. So fishing a whole peeler crab on a size 3/0 hook is absolutely deadly. During the summer time when people are fishing for Mackerel, try a mackerel head on a large hook, especially fairly close in where people will be cleaning their fish and discarding guts and heads. Small fish like Pollock and pouting can be lip hooked and work well after dark. Of course, we can't forget the humble prawn, these are fantastic bait for Bass around the breakwater. I always fish mine under a sliding float. Alternatively, freeline prawns very close in.
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 has 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 start frequenting our waters around all this time and are always fun to catch. Sliding float tackle baited with fish bait will almost certainly catch garfish if they are around. Watch out for the tell-tale "garfish bites", your float will suddenly lift up in the water and lie flat as if it hasn't got any weight on it. This is the time to strike quickly because the garfish has taken the bait and is swimming upwards. Make sure you strike quickly because garfish are notorious for swallowing the bait.
A company sent me an e-mail recently showing me a new product that they have developed. The "silk hook" utilises strands of red silk that are attractive to garfish. When the garfish grabs hold of the cell, the silk becomes entangled in all its little teeth and it cannot escape. This is an environmentally friendly way of catching fish because you do not have to use a hook and therefore no harm comes to the fish. You can visit their website here and read more about the product and how to obtain it
WrasseThere is one fish that can nearly always save the day at the breakwater and that is the humble Wrasse. You can catch wrasse on both sides of the breakwater from the very beginning, right up to the very end. Breakwater Wrasse are not huge, I'd be surprised if you catch anything bigger than about 2 lbs, however, even a Wrasse of this size can put up quite a fight. Best tactics for catching Wrasse at the breakwater are sliding float tackle or bottom fishing. If you're going to bottom fish in your better off using a Paternoster setup which will mean the hook doesn't get tangled up in all the weed and rocks. If you fish using a sliding float then alter your depth so your bait is fairly close to the bottom where the Wrasse live. The best baits for Wrasse are worm baits such as rag and lug. Peeler crab and shrimp are also brilliant baits. You can also use hardback crabs if you are fishing for wrasse, they have a mouthful of strong teeth that are well equipped to deal with hardback crabs.
The fact that many anglers are unaware of is that wrasse will readily take many types of lures. Wrasse doesn't only feed on crabs and shellfish, they are also hunters as well and sand eels make up a fairly large part of their diet. Whereas people have caught wrasse on all different types of lures, there are a few that are known to be very good for catching these fish. One type that is readily available is made by a Japanese company called Yokozuna RYOSHI. They haven't got a name apart from "OBORO soft lures". I'm not sure what they are supposed to represent, I've not seen anything swimming around in the sea that really look like these soft rubber worms. However, I have been reliably informed that wrasse really likes these rubber critters. They are extremely light so are best fished using a weighted jig method. I fish them by putting on the line first, then a small cone weight, then a bead and then the plastic worm. You basically cast it out, let it sink to the bottom and then retrieve it slowly introducing the occasional jig which will put some life into the lure. Fish normally pick them up but won't necessarily bolt so you will feel resistance, at this point strike! The plastic worms cost around £2.99 for a packet of 10. To use them properly you will need a special offset hook which is specially made for rigging plastic lures "Texas style". Visit this article and read more about using artificial lures in the sea
BullhussThe breakwater also a good spot for catching not only the smaller species of dogfish known as lesser spotted dogfish, but also the greater spotted dogfish which is known as the Bullhuss. These dogfish can easily reach double figures and put up a great fight. You're best fishing for them after dark using big fish baits on a ledger rig. Use a fairly robust trace as there's a good chance of picking up a conger as well.
Fish the inside of the breakwaterMost anglers tend to concentrate fishing on the outside of the breakwater. However, don't overlook the inside of the breakwater, it can often be very productive as the water is very deep and has a lot of weed and rocks for fish to hide amongst. Unless the tide is very high you are probably best to fish as close to the water as possible, this will obviously mean clambering down the rocks so be very careful. Using a rubber jig as described above, cast out no more than 30 yards, let the jig sink to the bottom and then retrieve in the sink and draw motion, this will put some life into the jig and make it attractive to predators looking for an easy snack. Alternatively, use sliding float tackle, or a paternoster rig baited with ragworm or peeler crab for larger wrasse. Mullet, mackerel and garfish, as well as pollack, can all be taken from the inside of the breakwater as well. Fish either side of the oil jetty for large conger. Fish inside the jetty section casting as close to the jetty as possible for bass and wrasse, best baits are ragworm and prawn.
MulletMullet can be caught using various techniques. Probably the most common are using very light float tackle. You need to use sliding float tackle because unless you are fishing in the 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 flavour. 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 moves 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 main line, 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.
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 eel's body or you will just kill it and lose the effectiveness. The only drawback with using live sandeel is they can fly off 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 that 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 adds 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 during 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 its new shell is yet to harden. Peeler crabs are readily available at 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 favourite 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 is easy to recognise. 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 its large conger eel that has been caught here. Some absolute whoppers have been taken over the years, I myself witnessed someone catching a 50lb conger back in the mid-80s. Sadly many of the larger eels are no longer taken, this is probably a result of overfishing as a lot of people used to keep the fish, rather than returning them alive. Can nevertheless fish of over 20lb are still taken on a regular basis.
Study tackle must be used when targeting conger. Even small eels will fight hard, the big ones will make mincemeat of light tackle. You need to use a fairly steady rod that doesn't have too much bend in it, you'll need to really pull hard to make sure that the eels don't make it back to their lair which is often small caves or holes. A good sturdy beach caster is perfect. You can use a fixed spool reel, or a multiplier, as long as it is fairly heavy duty and is able to hold a line of at least 25lb, you'll be okay.
You can catch conger all year round, you may find things difficult if the weather is too cold. Try fishing a couple of hours before and after the high tide as this is when conger will feed. We always used to fish at night for conger, however, you can catch them during the day if they are present where you are fishing. You may find that during the day they don't tend to venture out quite as much, during the night they will go hunting.
Conger have got fairly sharp teeth so it's important that you use a very strong trace that they can't bite through. We used to use wire traces back in the 80s, however, I think nylon is probably more common nowadays. 100lb breaking strain nylon is more than capable of dealing with any conger you'll catch from the breakwater. I would probably go for 7/0, or 8/0 size hook. You'll need some way of casting your baits out and making sure that it stays in one place. Personally, I wouldn't bother with lead weights, they are expensive and you are fishing over the rock which means lots of snappy areas. We always used to use spark plugs that the garages were chucking out. To avoid losing all your gear, tie a slightly lighter length of line to the swivel with the spark plug on the end, this way if it gets caught up, you only use your hook. This kind of setup is commonly known as a "rotten bottom"
Oily fish such as mackerel or Herring are brilliant baits for conger eel. However, don't overlook other baits such as squid, cuttlefish, other small fish such as pollock or pouting, Conger will prey on all these fish. But using an oily fish is a very good attractor which will bring the fish to your baits. Many people swear by the mackerel flapper as it can be very attractive to predatory fish. A mackerel flapper is very easy to prepare, you simply cut up from the tail and stop just before the head, do the same the other side and remove the backbone leaving the two fillets hanging freely. All you do then is hook the mackerel through the top of its mouth.
One mistake a lot of people make is thinking that they have to cast a long way to reach conger. Conger will patrol the shoreline looking for things to eat. They will often live in this area as well. So a simple cast of 10 or 20 yards is all you need. Try fishing a few yards out on the inside of the breakwater, it's very deep here and conger patrol up and down looking for food. If you are fishing near the oil jetty near the end of the breakwater then try and cast next to the structure itself as this is where Conger will patrol. Conger will also live in holes in the side of the harbour walls, especially where boats are churning out lots of debris with the propellers. You'll often find that in an old harbour wall, the boats have actually made a hole in the harbour wall where Conger will make their home. So fishing at the bottom of the steps where boats offload the passengers is often a good place to catch conger.
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 the hospital with some very nasty injuries.
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 peeler 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.
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 into 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 lifeguard's 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.