The shingle beach at Lee-on-the-Solent attracts anglers seeking smoothhounds, but is a haven for other species too
While the shingle beach at Lee-on-the-Solent has much to offer the angler thanks to a wide variety of species throughout the year, on this occasion during June I was out in search of smoothhounds.
This shingle beach near Gosport is popular with tourists throughout the summer, hence evening sessions are really recommended for most species with the exception of plaice that often show from March onwards.
Being within the confines of the Solent makes the beach a fairly sheltered venue, which is only adversely affected by a strong south-west blow. Generally the last three hours of the flood and the first two hours of the ebb, when there will be a left to right tidal pull, are favoured especially for the bigger species.
I was fishing with Portsmouth angler Darren Dixon and his 12-year-old son Bradley. We arrived just after 7pm with high water expected around 11pm; hopefully the first smoothhounds would appear just before dusk.
While we would be using very similar bait, mainly peeler crabs, I had a few hermit crabs which often produce some bigger fish. Our choice of rods and reels was very different. Darren had a pair of Zziplex rods along with green multiplier reels from Akios loaded up with 16lb Berkley mono. His reels were positioned on the lower section of his rods. Bradley fished with a Century rod and Shimano fixed-spool reel loaded up with 16lb mono. I went for a pair of Yuki Orata rods along with Daiwa Basia fixed-spool reels loaded up with 12lb Daiwa Sensor line and a tapered leader. When hound fishing I would always recommend using a traditional, honest line like Sensor rather than one of the modern low diameter versions.
Our terminal tackle was different too, with Darren and Bradley using pulley rigs armed with a size 3/0 Sakuma Manta hook. While I use pulley rigs over semi-rough and rough ground marks, I have never found them that affective when targeting smoothhounds over clean ground, hence I have a very different approach.
I favoured a clipped-down rig with at least a 3ft long hooklength. My main hook when targeting hounds is a size 3/0 Kamasan B950u, but I also position a size 1 Uptide on the hook line just above the 3/0. However careful you are when whipping on a peeler crab, which is a soft bait, there is a very good chance it will slip down the main hook shank and mask the point when casting. Before casting it is very simple to twist the hook line around the small hook three times before embedding it into the top of the bait, which will keep it in position even with erratic casting styles.
On this occasion Darren had supplied the peelers while I chipped in with a dozen frozen hermits crabs collected from a crabbing boat and frozen immediately. Once thawed they handle just like a fresh hermit crabs. Darren and Bradley were quick to get their baits in the water while I decided to wait until the tide started to pull just after 8pm. Young Bradley’s angling skills and casting had really improved since I last saw him a couple of years ago.
It was nearly 8.30pm before I eventually got my baits in the water and then it was a waiting game. Thirty minutes ticked by with the light starting to fade as I tried to get some final photographs of the hermit crabs. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of my rods arc over with line starting to pour from the reel. Alas, by the time I had put the camera down the fish was gone.
Much to my surprise less than a minute later my second rod was doing a repeat performance but on this occasion I made no mistake. After a short but spirited fight the first hound was at my feet. It was not a monster, around 5-6lb, but they always give a surprisingly good account of themselves.
Thirty minutes later Bradley gave a shout as an angry hound made off with his peeler crab bait, but the fish was no match for the youngster. A few minutes later after some pictures he released the fish in the edge.
Twenty minutes later I was just ambling back after have a chat with Darren when my rod stand tipped over as a hefty fish made a dash for freedom. For some reason the clutch had not worked correctly. I had the fish on for a few minutes before it was gone, it felt like a good double but that’s fishing.
As it neared high water the action really kicked off with plenty of bites. I landed a brace of fish within a 10-minute spell, one of which weighed around 10lb, the heaviest of the evening, and gave a really good account of itself in the shallows. After a hectic 30 minutes the rods remained motionless again as the tide started to ebb away, which is very often the case when hound fishing along this stretch. It was time to head for home.
For those heading to Lee-on-the-Solent during January, February and March expect plenty of pin whiting, pout and rockling at night. As a result it is a very popular match venue. During mid-March the first plaice filter inshore followed by nocturnal thornback rays during April and then smoothhounds from May through to September.
During August and September shoals of mackerel come close to the shoreline. Throughout September and October a wide variety of species can be expected mainly at night, while in November and December the venue becomes a match angler’s heaven with whiting and other smaller species showing in numbers.
While this venue will produce fish throughout the year, weed can be troublesome at close range especially when the tide is pulling towards the top of the tide. The area is also best avoided during daylight throughout the main holiday season. For the smaller species, both ragworms and lugworms rule supreme while peeler crabs always pick up the better smoothhounds. For the thornback ray sand dogfish, you’ll find bluey, mackerel and squid all take a few fish.
Words and photography by CHRIS CLARK
NEED TO KNOW
Lee-on-the-Solent is five miles west of Portsmouth. Leave the M27 at Junction 11 and follow the signs for Fareham and then onwards to Lee where the coastal road (Marine Parade) runs just behind the beach for approximately one mile. The arcade car park. located at the centre of the venue, is right on the water’s edge. It is free after 7pm. There are other car parks and free roadside parking.
Rover’s Tackle, 176B/178A West Street, Fareham, tel: 01329 220354.