The vast majority of experienced anglers have a specific target in mind when they book a day out boat fishing. Sadly though, we have a number of external influences on our sport such as particular time of year, large tidal range and worst of all the good old British weather.
Despite all our best plans, we can’t always target the species we enjoy catching the most.
Never the less, most anglers are willing to take the rough with the smooth and assuming here that a day afloat can still be had will quickly adjust their armoury with a selection of rigs, additional bait etc.
Good preparation can all help salvage a rewarding day afloat targeting many different species.
General fishing is just a name often used throughout the UK to describe a day afloat targeting a wide range of species, these days normally mixed to include stints at both anchor and also on the drift to help maximise the species count.
There are many styles of rigs we can use during a day out boat fishing; some of the most popular are generally referred to as scratch rigs. There are a variety of styles and variations you can choose from with the main 4 consisting of the following: – 3up rig – where all 3 hooks are fished above the lead thus off the sea bed. The 3 down rig – where all 3 hooks fish below the lead or along the sea bed, or a simple combination of both, simply named 2-up 1 down or 1-up 2-down.
When setting off to a particular mark, most skippers will inform the crew beforehand whether you will be fishing at anchor or on the drift and exactly what species you are likely to encounter. This will allow you to set up your gear and arrive at the mark well prepared. Thought has to be given to whether the majority of the species you are likely to encounter feed on the sea bed or just off.
I see many anglers, especially those that have come over from shore angling fishing paternoster style rigs.
There is nothing wrong with these rigs, after all many species in the area 2 to 3 foot off the bottom of the seabed, gurnards, whiting and bream amongst them. However if you’re not catching or you don’t have particular baits to help target a particular specie with a paternoster / 3up rig, you need to adapt and maybe try for the bottom foraging species. Your rig needs to present the hooks on or as close to the sea bed as possible. From having a torrid time blanking with a 3up rig, a simple change to a 3 down or even a 2-up 1 down style will present your bait exactly where the fish are feeding and have you reaping the rewards.
3 down scratch rig
A very high percentage of fish caught around the British Isles feed on or very close to the sea bed, an angler should carry a few 3 down scratch rigs in his or her tackle box at all times, especially if there is the possibility of dropping anchor for any point in the day.
A general all round rig, by adjusting hook sizes and attractor combinations it can be tailored to suit many different species.
On occasions when targeting mini species such as blennies and gobies on light fluorocarbon rig bodies, taking note of their small mouths, we are known to drop down to size 10 hooks or even smaller, but as a general rule of thumb for most 3 down scratch rigs tied by us, we tend to stick to hooks of either size 2 or 4, and using proven brands such as Sakuma, Kamasan etc.
When building the rig, you have to bear in mind that when working along the sea bed, the rig needs to flow neatly with the tide. Lying on the bottom means the rig body has to be of sufficient thickness and strength to withstand the various snags or sharp rock edges that often make light work of weaker thinner lines.
Rig bodies with this particular purpose in mind should be made from strong but equally supple monofilament of around 60lb in size. The suppleness of the line is especially important when building a 3 down rig.
Unlike a paternoster where, you have the weight below pulling any kinks from the rig body and presenting the snoods as intended, a line that is too stiff, when used with this rig wont flow correctly and can often result in a tangled mess being brought back without any fish being caught.
When fishing at anchor, targeting any specie that may be lurking around we favour 3 general attractor combinations for our snoods depending on possible targets and ground being fished, yellow & luminous, pink & luminous and finally red & yellow.
The snoods are always made from quality fluorocarbon lines, of which there are many different brands available to choose from.
Rightly or wrongly, I assume that when someone wants to hire rods, reels and end tackle, my main aim at least for the first few hours afloat is to help the angler catch fish and plenty of them. Regardless of species and size, I want that individual hooking into fish 1, 2 and if it can be done 3 at a time, fuelling their enthusiasm for the sport. My favourite rig for this task is the 3 down with snoods of 40lb flouro; size 2 Sakuma Manta hooks and an attractor combination of 1 pink oval bead and 2 luminous oval beads.
These rigs are delicate enough to present bait acceptable to small whiting, flatfish and mini species etc., but will also handle bigger sport like rays and bull huss with relative ease!
There is no hard and fast bait rule when targeting an array of different species, knowing what species are around will help you tailor your baits each drop. This rig is extremely versatile and can present most bait correctly. Experimenting with various bait cocktails can work extremely well. A piece of ragworm threaded up a hook, tipped off with a piece of mackerel to flutter in the tide can be deadly for many species.
Sandeel is another firm favourite with both the shore and boat angler and accounts for many species. When mounting a piece of sandeel to cocktail with a second bait, a handy hint is to carefully thread your eel section up the shank of the hook to keep the bait more streamlined in the tide and help release the scent slower, don’t make the common mistake when starting out by using a whole sandeel on this type of rig, or by hooking through the centre of your cut section, keeps things neat and tidy.
When casting in, take note that there can be a tendency for a flowing rig to twist around the mainline. A good tube boom to help stand the rig away from the mainline and by keeping constant thumb pressure on the spool of your reel to slow down the rig decent as it descends to the bottom will help avoid the tangled mess.
When the baits are in the water and you’re waiting for the fish to take your bait, never be too quick to pounce on a bite. A fish enquiry at you rig can show itself in many different ways and often you need to let the bite develop … not forgetting you also have 3 hooks you want to fill, more fish are lost through the eagerness of the angler than anything else.
Fish don’t always chomp quickly on their food taking the hook on first bite, now and then they will just pluck at the bait resulting in small twitches at the tip of the rod, if an angler jumps up excitedly and strikes at the fish with no purpose, normally it will just swim off to the next feed!
When scratching around looking for a variety of species I’m a firm believer that you rarely need to strike into a fish. Modern day hooks are not only strong and durable, but are also chemically sharpened to perfection; when a fish turns to swim away the hook takes a grip within the hardiest of mouths.
With each rattle and definite pull down of the rod tip, our excitement levels rise, but with 3 hooks down there, it’s worth trying to fill them all up. Double and triple shots are far more rewarding.
Give this a go, after the first few bites, count to 10 then let out around 10ft of mainline. Your rod tip will go quiet for a period of time, as the fish pulls away at the hook and tightens the loose mainline up. Wait for the next bite and do the same again! Then wait a minute before reeling in, you’ll be surprised at the result. Good luck.
General Fishing can be used to describe various types of fishing, for many it is when that planned day goes slightly pear shaped and your intended targets don’t play ball.