With the pier open again for angling, this seaside town is definitely worth a visit
Words by Wesley Shrubsole Additional info from Matt Lingard
The popular seaside town of Hastings, which is one of the medieval Cinque Ports, offers some very good fishing on its main seafront from both beach and pier.
The local small boat fleet launches from the beach and this is the start of where it is possible to fish into a good depth of water on a clean mud and sand bottom.
Going westward along the front at Hastings, the beach has good access. Here the Victorian pier comes into view. Opened in 1872, it was closed in 2006 due to safety concerns, and in 2010 a fire burned down most of its buildings. The pier reopened in 2016, although fishing had not been possible for a total of ten years. Following a lot of hard graft by local residents and a new owner, anglers can once again wet a line here. Beyond the pier, you are going towards St Leonards beach.
Currently the pier fishing is from 8am to 10.30pm on the end section, with space for up to six anglers. Fishing availability is subject to other events and strong wind. Recently advertised costs were £5 for one rod and £8 for two.
The fishing at Hastings Pier is best described as being for mixed species, mainly flatfish (plaice, soles and dabs) and in spring and summer, bass and rays.
In spring, plaice are caught on worm baits, while flounders can be taken in a good run of tide. Bass will be caught on lug. In summer, mackerel can be caught in numbers while bass continue to be caught to a variety of methods. Plaice dominate catches close in or at range Expect an occasional strap conger and plenty of dogfish.
May this year saw plenty of small smoothhounds, along with soles and bass, a few plaice and flounders. June is best for hounds.
Strap congers have returned in recent years and most fish are in the 3-4lb bracket but some of over 15lb have been landed in autumn. Every year a few codling will be caught but these fish are usually small. Expect dabs during February and March. They make a change from the hordes of whiting. Late winter can also see a short run of plaice.
Rarer catches at the pier include black bream, thick-lipped mullet and tub gurnards, even undulate rays. A small stingray was caught last year.
Hastings Pier fishes well when the sea is clear. Only gentle lob is required to get you on to clean ground. Big casts are unnecessary to find the flatfish, particularly in a good run of tide when you can let the lead weight move to find the troughs on the eastern side. There is not too much tide and a 150g breakout lead will be adequate.
Three-hook flappers will give you the chance to mix and match your baits to find what the fish prefer. A Wessex-type rig with a long bottom snood will be ideal.
Fresh lugworms and ragworms are the favoured baits for flatties, but sticky black lug is good for dabs. Small fish baits produce weevers in summer. Bass will be caught on lugworms. Remember to bring a drop net for landing and releasing your fish.
Mullet can be seen cruising in and out of the structure during summer. Some very big fish visit this pier, but they are not easy to catch. Put a bread bag down into the water and fish with float tackle.
NEED TO KNOW
From the M25, take the A26 past Tunbridge Wells across the High Weald towards Hastings. This road takes you to the seafront on the Queens Road. As you continue, the A259 coast road goes east towards Rye or west toward the town.
Car parking can be difficult in summer, but there are a few pay and display areas along the sea front.
Hastings Angling Centre, 33 The Bourne, Hastings, TN34 3AY, tel: 01424 432178.