In smoothhounds, the fair-weather sea beach angler has at long last found his soul mate - they are the perfect sea fish to target when conditions are perfect for a stroll on the beach.
Karl Nangle with a fine smoothhound taken from the beach
at Chapel St Leonards, near Skegness
“Time of day or the size of the tide doesn’t matter for smoothhounds here near Chapel St Leonards - the key factor is the weather; you need it calm and warm,” says George. “They don’t like the shallows when it’s rough.”
The best time of year for smoothhounds is June to September. George says he fishes two hours up to high tide and four hours back down to cover all his options.
“Some years they’ll come in mainly on the flood tide and other years mainly on the ebb,” the England shore internatinal explains.
Whenever they do come, you’ll know about it. Anglers who have had their bait assaulted by a smoothhound already may skip the next few paragraphs, but if you’re a two-hook flapper angler keen to tackle a new species, you need to become more single-minded.
“Just fish one bait; this is not a species where you want catch two fish at once,” warns George with a smile. “I might fish two hooks if it’s a match but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.”
Don't walk away from your rods when smoothhound fishing.
They don't mouth the bait - they just scream off with it.
He is only partly-joking when he describes the classic sign of a smoothhound bite as “your rod disappearing down the beach” and he has one word for the ensuing fight. “Horrendous”
“They don’t play with bait, they just hit it. They’ll turn and go the other way when you hook them and they can easily snap your line,” he explains.
“You must make sure the drag on your reel isn’t too tight because these fish will easily pull the rod out of your hand when they take your bait. You shouldn‘t wander too far from your rod-rest either…
“You’ll find them up to 18lb but it tends to be the eight or nine-pounders that are the real fighters because they’re more agile. They’ll swim up and down the beach, so be prepared for a walk and try and get them in as soon as you can, so you don’t tire them.”
Another suggestion he offers is to try to pick up the fish with a hand at either end, rather than just by the tail.
“I worry that just ‘tailing’ them could cause them some damage, especially if it’s a heavy fish,” he explains.
You’re likely to get plenty of practice at this on a good day, when Smith says 20 smoothhounds in a session are not uncommon.
“Peeler crabs are best here,” he says of the bait requirements. “Fresh or frozen; smoothhounds aren’t fussy. The occasional one will take a squid or king ragworms, but a crab is the main choice. If you get good weather and the crabs peeling at the same time, that’s perfect. Your bait needn’t be massive, just a decent size.”
By far the best bait for smoothhounds is crab. You won't catch them on anything else!
Not surprisingly, fishing of this variety involves a durable rod. Smith favours the Daiwa Amorphous Whisker Tournament, from which he fishes 60lb shockleader and 5-6oz leads. His 3ft traces are made with 25lb line and finished with a Pennell pulley rig, employing 2/0 hooks as sharp as you can get them, for the smoothhound mouth is not easily penetrated. A cast of at least 80yd is required to get your bait among the fish.
Whether this has always been smoothie country, unheralded simply because comparatively few anglers fished it, George is unsure.
“They could have been there for years but we get more matches in this area now because it’s easily reached and anglers are always looking for new venues, so it’s started to become known as a smoothhound mark,” he says.
The best in Lincolnshire?
“One of the best in country,” is his emphatic reply.
Leave your 8lb line at home when you're after smoothhounds.
They are capable of doing some damage when roused!
Smoothies hunt in packs, so take a tip from match anglers and have a second rod baited up and ready to go. As soon as you bring a smoothhound in, the chances are it has left some buddies behind, so cast your second rodto get your bait back among the pack while you're releasing the first fish.
As smoothhound feed in packs, having two rods ready can reap rewards
This is no one-fish beach – the cod and whiting fishing is good during the winter months (codling were still around as late as July this year) and summer brings not only smoothhounds but also big flounders, a lot of bass, dabs, dogfish, thornback rays and the chance of a stingray. This summer also saw small tope being caught from the shore.
This is not a venue suitable for wheelchair users, who should instead go to nearby Chapel Point, at the north end of Chapel St Leonards or Vickers Point, found at the junction of Anchor Lane and Roman Bank in Ingoldmells. In both cases, you can fish from a promenade at high water for the same type of fish mentioned in this article.
From Chapel St Leonards, four miles north of Skegness, take the road heading north out of the village, towards Sandilands. Soon after leaving the village, you will see a car park, in front of which is the Chapel Six Marshes mark. The car park is free at the time of writing, but is one of several along this stretch of coast that have recently come under new ownership, so a charge for parking might have to be paid soon.