Things may have changed at these Essex beaches, but, as John Popplewell explains, there is plentiful all-year fishing at Clacton and Holland
During the last 10 years there have been some major changes to the Clacton and Holland beaches in Essex. Gone are the wooden groynes evident since Victorian times, to be replaced with granite rock breakwaters.
Along with a regeneration of the beach with new sand pumped on to the beaches along the whole area at a cost of £38 million pounds, all this means that the fishing is now a lot more comfortable because the high to low tide does not move more than a few yards.
The granite rock fishtail-type breakwaters run all the way along from Clacton Pier to Holland Sluice, a distance of about four miles, and create easy fishing bays. The seabed can be slightly rough the further you travel down along the Holland beaches, so expect the occasional lost lead weight.
These are fairly shallow beaches with around 15 feet of water at high tide. Here five or six-ounce breakout leads will hold bottom even on the biggest tides.
Spring sees the main appearance of thornback rays, which can be caught all year with only a very cold spell sending them off to deeper water. There will also be dogfish and early bass in spring. Squid or bluey baits are best for rays, which can be up to 12lb although the average is around 5lb. The bigger bass appear around the middle of April, with peeler crab or ragworm baits the top choices.
When Summer arrives so do the holidaymakers, meaning it is best to wait for the evening tides when the beaches are quieter. Soles feed after dark, along with bass and those prolific thornbacks.
There is no need to cast too far for the soles because they will be only 40 metres out. Ragworm baits are best for these prized flatties. Keep your hook traces short and as close to the seabed as possible to catch more fish.
Bass can now be caught on lures from around the granite breakwaters. There are plenty of school bass but expect some bigger fish too. A Dexter Wedge lure will catch a fair share, but it is worth trying surface poppers when weather conditions permit.
Autumn brings vast shoals of whiting, which make up the majority of the catches in the local matches. Expect the occasional bass too because they will be feeding on the abundant whiting.
Winter was always a time for cod but over the last few years the Thames Estuary has been void of fish, apart from a few small codling around 1lb which are usually caught after a gale. Dabs appear around November and stay until the spring, with the best bait beinge old lugworms retained from previous fishing trips and dried in newspaper.
Use pulley rigs work for most of the general fishing with size 2/0 hooks as big as you will ever need. Up-and-over rigs baited with calamari squid or bluey work very well for the thornback rays.
Two hook flapper rigs and size 1 Kamasan hooks baited with slivers of fish bait will catch the whiting.
My sole rig is a two-hook version with a running lead weight. At the top of the rig is a swivel with a short length of 60lb line with a drilled bullet (1/2oz to 1oz) followed by a Gemini rig clip. The main part of the rig has a 60lb body and connects to the Gemini clip on a swivel. The body line has a 20lb snood with a short length of silicone tubing to make it stand off. This snood is crimped in place just below the swivel. The snood is followed by a Finn breakout lead, a bead and another swivel, to which is tied another 20lb fluorocarbon snood. Both hook snoods h
ave size 2 Kamasan B940 hooks with a sequin and silicone stop above. This rig fishes close to the seabed.
Take the A120 from Colchester and the A133 to Clacton, before following signs to seafront. There is plenty of free parking all the way along the seafront and it is only a short walk down one of the slopes to the beach.
Clacton Angling, 100 Pier Ave, Clacton CO15 1NJ, tel: 01255 221863.
Deans Tackle & Guns, 43 Palister Road, Clacton CO15 1PG, tel: 01255 425992.