Angler makes New Year's Eve catch
MILD conditions have given carp anglers a great start to 2013 with numerous chunky specimens banked at several fisheries.
Scott Bowden spent New Year's Eve on the banks of Stafford Moor with his girlfriend Jane and a bottle of champagne with which to celebrate at midnight.
At 10.15pm his bite alarm sounded as a carp charged off with his double maize hook bait.
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Jane wielded the landing net and a fine mirror carp of 29lb was soon being cradled.
The champagne cork was popped early in celebration.
Harry Hooper, aged 12, also enjoyed a great start to the new year at Stafford Moor, landing a superb mirror carp of 28lb.
The fish came an hour from the end of a three-day session in which his father had caught four double-figure carp to 17lb. A single boilie in conjunction with fake sweetcorn was the successful bait.
Nick Jones won the venue's latest winter league match with 104lb from peg three of Woody's Lake.
At Furzebray, a succession of 20lb-plus carp have graced the bank, topped by a fish called Clover caught by Dan Staves at 28lb 14oz.
Staves also landed two fish of 19lb and one of 21lb 4oz.
Neil Hood caught a stunning brace of a mint common at 28lb 4oz and a mirror of 27lb.
Martin Cox had a brace of carp weighing 21lb 4oz and 20lb.
Jason Hammond fished the complex's new Willow Lake with his nephew Harvey, who landed his first mirror carp at 11lb.
Rick Eavis secured his first victory in a Bideford Angling Club monthly rover with a specimen whiting of 1lb 12oz.
Martin Short was runner-up with a wrasse of 5lb, Andrew Atkinson third with a wrasse of 4lb 2¼oz, Phil Vanstone fourth with a rockling of 1lb 2½oz, and Anthony Smith fifth with a whiting of 1lb 2¼oz.
Short's wrasse won Appledore Shipbuilders' monthly rover, beating Atkinson's catch. In third was Michael Hammet with a wrasse of 3lb 5oz.
I joined a party of anglers aboard Ilfracombe charter boat Bluefin, skippered by John Barbeary.
Spurdog in mid-channel were the main target and more than 20 came aboard, several of specimen size.
Craig McLoughlin caught the largest, a fine fish scaling 16lb; Dave Shapland had a spur of 15lb 8oz and a bull huss of 13lb; Dan Spearman caught spurdog of 15lb and 14lb; and I had a brace of spurdog weighing 14lb each.
Conger, whiting, pouting and dogfish were also caught.
Spurdog numbers have increased dramatically in recent seasons as a result of a ban on commercial fishing for the species.
The exciting sport these fish provide brings welcome revenue for charter boat skippers.
Alistair Laird, of Combe Martin Sea Angling Club, fished a Somerset shore mark and landed a fine thornback ray of 13lb 2oz.
Fellow club member Kevin Legge also went to Somerset for six thornback ray to 10lb 6oz, four of them double-figure fish.
John Avery targeted grey mullet and landed a fine winter specimen of 5lb 4oz.
Legge won Combe Martin's Sakuma-sponsored fish of the month competition with his conger of 30lb 5oz.
The runner-up was Michael Taylor with a small-eyed ray of 10lb and in third was Legge with a bull huss of 9lb 2oz.
Winter trout fishing has been excellent at Bratton Water Fishery despite floods threatening stocks.
Simpson Valley has also been in top form with plenty of rainbows between 2lb and 5lb. Richard Skinner landed a superb fish of 9lb.
Blakewell Fishery is closed until February 1 to enable major desilting and improvement work.
Saturday and Sunday: Bideford Angling Club 24-hour rover.
Wednesday: Bideford Angling Club midweek rover.
January 19-20: Appledore Shipbuilders night rover.