Plaice Fishing Tips: Bait, Tackle and Fishing Methods
The plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) is a common flatfish, well known from the fishmonger’s slab. It is brown on the upper side, with red or orange spots, and completely white on the underside.
At times odd-coloured plaice are caught. These are known to professional fishermen as flukes, confusingly, because this is another name for flounders. The odd colouring can be a greyish-green or even orange all over the top side. One large fish taken off Bournemouth a few years ago had reverse colouring, an orange body with brownish spots. Reasons for colour variation are not definitely known, although some fishermen believe it is due to the habit of some plaice of keeping to heavily weeded areas, with the result that they eventually take on the colour of the weed.
Plaice do not grow to any great size. A 1.6 kg (3-1/2 lb) fish is a specimen, although weights of 3.2-3.5 kg (7 or 8 lb) are sometimes reached.
The plaice is caught over sandy ground. It spawns in the early months of the year, coming shorewards in April or May. Sport is often enjoyed until quite late in the year, although the length of the season varies on different coasts. In some areas plaice can be caught in harbours and estuaries all the year round.
Growth rates vary according to the feeding grounds frequented; often the heaviest fish are captured in estuary water Research on their migratory habits shows that some plaice travel large distances. But not all roam far. A batch of plaice netted from a mark on the south coast were tagged and released about five miles away. Within a week some were re-netted over their home mark; one was caught there two years later.
Generally, calm seas are most suitable for plaice fishing. A sudden rise of wind that makes the sea choppy will often make bites go right off. Small plaice are often found in the warm waters around power stations, but such spots are usually nursery grounds for very young fish and should be left well alone.
Plaice are mostly bottom-feeders, although they will rise on occasion to an attractive moving bait. Generally they stay put on the sea-bed, where they cover themselves with sand by quickly flapping their bodies. They can move quite fast when the occasion arises, however, turning into the vertical position to do so.
The largest fish are caught from boat marks, but one has to find spots which act as larders of food. These are the deep holes and hollows into which shellfish and other food is likely to be washed.
Shellfish is a favourite diet for plaice, a fact which many anglers ignore when choosing their bait. Ragworm and lugworm do account for a number of catches, but more fish would be taken if baits like razor-fish, slipper limpet, and soft crab were used. Sand-eels are taken on some coasts.
Plaice are changeable in their diet. A mark may be fished where razor-fish is readily taken on one day and completely ignored the next. For this reason it is always wise to take along a selection of baits.
Keep your tackle as light as conditions allow, remembering that a large-sized plaice over a boat mark will provide a much better fight than the same fish reeled in from the beach.
A runningcan be used to good advantage. Some anglers prefer float gear while others use nylon paternosters. But it is hard to beat a single-hook nylon trace. Make a trace of 3.5 kg (8 lb) b.s. nylon, 1.8 m (6 ft) long, and tie on a No. 2 longshanked hook. Attach the trace to the main line with a half-ounce double-swivelled Wye lead. Use a centre-pin reel in preference to the fixed-spool type.
Ground-baiting will improve catches a great deal and help prevent the plaice wandering too far away if disturbed. Anglers have their own favoured mixtures, ranging from fish cuttings and crushed crabs to mashed mackerel mixed with bran and pilchard oil. Put theof your choice into a fine-meshed net bag and attach it to the anchor rope. Or alternatively have it on a separate rope, let it down to the bottom and jog it up and down every so often.
Very often in boat fishing striking is unnecessary. A large fish will take the bait with gusto, but a smaller one will be inclined to suck the bait for a while, finally indicating that it has really taken by a series of thumping tugs.
From the shore still keep to the single-hook tackle, although this can be run off a boom if conditions require a heavier lead. A good place to cast is into that dark stretch of water between the waves and the shore. The breaking waves mean a sand-bar and the darker water indicates a gulley inshore from it. Here plaice lie in wait for food washed from the sand-bar by the waves and the tide.
A number of dodges can be used to improve shore fishing when sport is dull. A coloured bead threaded on the trace above the hook is often useful. An old but useful trick is to put a button on the trace about three inches from the hook to stir up the bottom. After the cast is made, reel in slowly every few seconds. The button stirs up the sand, and plaice often come to see what has caused the disturbance, in case it should be food. The addition of a few strands of red wool hanging above the hook sometimes helps.
The best time for beach fishing is usually from about two hours before dusk, rather than full dayight. Anglers rarely agree about which is the best state of the tide for productive fishing, which suggests that in some places reasonable fishing can be expected at all states of the tide.