Learn the tricks to enjoy exceptional smoothhounds fishing at this rocky mark near Porthcawl
Words and photography by Tom England
With the smoothhounds now back inshore it reminds me how last summer was a particularly prolific season for this popular shark species in South Wales and how I was fortunate enough to be part of the action.
My aim had been to beat my personal best as well as catching a big ray. One particular session at Newton Point, which is at Porthcawl, turned out to be one of the most memorable I may have in my life.
I’m normally lucky because the hounds turn up just when my college term ends and I can go straight to my caravan, which is a two-minute walk from Newton Point, and stay all summer for the full six weeks’ holiday.
This is a low tide mark, where you fish three hours before low water until two hours afterwards. Because the water rises fast, make sure you know the tide times otherwise you could get stranded quite quickly. It can be dangerous here because the rocks get very slippery and sometimes you can’t see what’s under your feet because the ground is quickly covered by shifting sand. Make sure you have a contact number to reach the Coastguard and try the What Three Words app.
Basically, it’s a rocky mark with a few patches of sand, where the only rig worth recommending is a Pennell pulley with 60lb line straight through and size 2/0 hooks. A lot of anglers incorporate a rotten bottom when fishing here, but I don’t because I’m familiar with the sand patches. However, any day can be different.
There was a crab shortage last year but I used small hardbacks mostly for the hounds. For cod I use crabs, squid and black lug, while I like a longer rig (about 3ft 6in) with size 3/0 wide gape hooks for the rays, which tend to rest over the rig. If your lead weight is too close to the bait it can spook the fish.
During the first hour on the mark, there is sometimes a big rip tide that will pull your lead weight across the ground. Use a six-ounce gripper for the first hour but you’ll get away with a plain lead of five or six ounces for the rest of the session. Always carry enough sinkers because this is a snaggy mark where you can lose a few weights, especially if your using rotten bottoms
My first fish last summer was a cod, which was a surprise for the time of year, even though winter is good for them at Newton. Next I landed my first hound, weighing 4lb (well below my personal best of 12lb 2oz), to get the ball rolling.
Soon I was fishing for hounds almost every day and catching fish into double figures. During one short session I took only a trio of Pennell pulley rigs with size 2/0 hooks, three lead weights and my last three crabs. My first cast went out and, as I started baiting a second rig, my reel screamed when what turned out to be a 7lb hound took off with my bait.
The second cast ended up snagging, so it was down to the last cast. I had a slack liner within two minutes of casting so I tightened my line as fast as I could and, thankfully, hooked into the fish which felt bigger than normal. Being on my own it was difficult to land the hard-fighting fish but eventually I managed to beach it on a small patch of sand. It was a monster, which took the scales to 14lb 4oz.
With a personal best in the bag I wasn’t resting on my laurels and continued to fish Newton Point for the hounds. Along the way I met some amazing people and caught some incredible fish. I even bagged myself a new species, a three-bearded rockling.
The summer included some memorable sessions, the first with Mark Denscombe when we saw porpoises hunting for food and bass jumping out of the water to avoid the marine mammals. We each caught three hounds and I lost a big one at my feet when it broke my rig. To finish the session we were treated to a lovely sunset which was the prelude to a massive lightning storm soon after we left.
The best session was a crazy one. It was on July 25 when I was joined on Newton Point by some top-class anglers – fishing guide Gareth Griffiths, Matthew Herring, Robbie Gratton, Ieuan Griffiths and Milo Bjegovic. Having met at 1pm, we were ready to wade across and passed the time baiting our first rigs. Within 20 minutes the rock was uncovered enough to wade out. Because Newton starts off as a small ledge only three of us managed to get on the rock.
Before I cast out the first fish was hooked by Matthew, and behind us on Billy’s Rock I saw Ieuan was playing a fish. As I turned back to my rod the line had gone slack, so I wound in the line and could feel a fish on the end. While Matthew and I played our fish, Milo, Ieuan and Robbie joined us on the rock. We placed our hounds in a large pool so we could cast out again, just as Gareth landed his first hound and his second rod was going too. Not even two minutes later I was in action again with another hound.
The action continued throughout the crazy and unforgettable session. Robbie even caught two smoothhounds, for a total of 16lb, on his Pennell rig, proving the fish were competing to get the food. Milo had to leave after three hours but had landed 20 hounds, while Gareth stopped counting at 35.
Normally the hounds appear in May and leave in mid-September, but last year they left during the last week of August. The codling had moved in with some big ones being caught from the shore and boat.
With one week left before returning to college, my plan was to target cod and rays. Using crab and squid for most of one session, I blanked until low tide when I saw a little rattle on the rod tip and decided to retrieve my gear. There was no fight at all, but there seemed to be some weight on the end and, to my surprise, I caught a cod. I managed to add a few little strap conger eels too.
With a few days left of summer I wanted to catch a ray and managed to bag myself an 8lb 7oz small-eyed, just shy of my personal best of 8lb 9oz, about 60 yards out.
NEED TO KNOW
Travelling west, leave the M4 at junction 37 for the A4229 to Porthcawl/Pyle. At the roundabout take the A4229 for Porthcawl. At the next roundabout with the Esso petrol station in front, take the third exit on to Pyle Road. At the next roundabout take the first exit (A4106) for the Trecco Bay before turning right into Newton Nottage Road. At the T junction, turn left and follow the road to its junction with the Globe Inn. Turn right and at the roundabout take the first exit into New Road. Take the next right to St John’s Drive and the Trecco Bay Holiday Park is just ahead. It has a free car park only a three-minute walk from the mark.
Ewenny Angling Supplies, 21 Coychurch Rd Gardens, Bridgend, CF31 3AP, tel: 01656 650604.
Keens Tackle and Guns, 117, 119 Bridgend Rd, Aberkenfig, CF32 9AP,tel: 01656 722448.