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Our Darling Annette…01/04/2013

I was on the water thinking about Sea Palling the next day, Paul was free and had been promised a ride as he had the day fee at last and had not had the opportunity to get out for a while. Sea Palling at least promised the chance of some species as the usual Corton and Lowestoft marks were just throwing up whiting and juvenile cod and becoming far too familiar; I had a need for another flounder and rockling for the WSF hunt and that place throws up a few oddities too (James having had a sole and Bruce wheedling out a Sea Scorpion already this year). And a bloke from work wanted a paddle so I’d picked up an extra kayak and that sea looked absolutely perfect, calm and flat and not too much flow. Perfect for an offshore trip in fact, rather than tucked in behind the shelter of the reefs.

Colin had also seen the forecast and was off. This was the forecast that had eluded him in the autumn and there was something in the water that was filling the screens and distracting the cod. Something that tastes fine to people and the shortly-arriving roker. Brian was aware too and had been out the previous afternoon and had bagged up with those builders of towns, the east coast’s silver darlings! And now Colin was on the phone offering a plan change that really was tempting…but what about Paul? Very graciously invited along too! I had to check he fancied it of course and there wasn’t the slightest hesitation and three was, as it turned out, a far better number for working the nets.

Now I know that netting can be a bit of a contentious issue amongst anglers, which the three of us are, first and foremost, and that angling sites aren’t really the place where this kind of thing is written about usually however it’s a fascinating thing to partake in and carries as much if not more excitement when done in this way. Drift netting for a target species is not a static ‘lay it and leave it’ affair, it’s very hands on the trepidation is akin to watching a float in a river I kid you not! The idea is that a dan is thrown over, attached to a rope which then attached to the net itself – in our case one that is eight feet deep and maybe eighty yards long, corked at the top and lightly weighted at the bottom – with the rope continuing through to the second dan. Once this is over hopefully the whole thing is pretty straight and can drift with the current picking up fish of the size dictated by the mesh which get their heads through and then stay there to be pulled up and picked out a short while later as we hold station nearby. Around high water slack seems to be the optimum time, with the fish up near the surface, darkness being the absolute pinnacle of hunting time but bright sun shine is just so much more pleasant!

So, down to the boat for 9, a nice lie-in first because high water isn’t until midday and off we go, through Lake Lothing and out through the heads before heading south with our eyes on the sounder. What a beautiful day! Who would want a day job? T-shirts again at long last.





The tide’s starting to ease as Colin cuts the throttles and we start creeping along the bank, the screen fills, 3, 4. 5ft of marks at the surface. We’re on the money. The two crates are loaded with the nets – one for herring and one with smaller mesh to try for sprats at the same time.



The sea is like glass.



I go into the wheelhouse with instructions to creep forwards on an easterly direction while the other two get ready to chuck the nets out at the stern. It was all going so well…



The herring net goes out fine, not quite straight as I drive a boat like a squid on a unicycle, but then the second dan decides it wants to go over the stern as well, prematurely and I call out to Colin who’s back is to it and things go pear shaped. The sprat net comes out from the wrong end, bunched up and I get the levers mixed up and between revving, idling, going into forward and reverse things take a few seconds before we’re idling. At this point we just have a bunch of net floating about untidily. But then we drift onto it and it gets hooked up on the prop. Swearing ensues but the design of Colin’s Coble allows access to the prop and with a bit of gynaecology and a small knife it’s soon cleared and the sprat net is pulled in and stowed away. Best we stick to the one net then.


Time for a cuppa! There’s one seal around, surprising as I’d have expected more especially with the net in the water and we can see for miles. We’re watching he net slowly travelling south and the anticipation is building – are those corks sinking? We give it three quarters of an hour and then motor around to haul it, Colin bringing it in while I prepare to gaff the dan and pull the rope up.



Gotcha! We’re hauling and laughing, we’ve got a meal or two!



The net piles up onto the deck and fish are coming in, not loads, a nice amount…when we tried last summer we had 30-40 fish in three hauls, very late in the year but now we’re getting better and we’re loving it.



With the net up we start to take the fish out. Most slip through head first with a bit of a push, some have to come out backwards were the twine is around the gills or a fin or they’re on the other side of the net but quarter of an hour later we have exactly fifty fish in the box and a pile of silver scales on the deck.



…and here’s a darling, the freshest Paul has ever seen and what a pretty little fish they are!



A couple more hauls like that and we’ll all have food and bait a-plenty. We set the net again, the tide easing down and almost on slack now.



We give it a similar length of time even though after a couple of minutes we are wanting to see what we’ve got. As it is we need to straighten it because of my apparent drunken weaving at the helm so after only a few minuet sin the water we hook the dan and with Paul and I holding on Colin goes into reverse to pull it around. It’s heavy but as we move the bottom lifts up to the surface and we’re all grins – there are fish in already!



So, the requisite time passes and we’re all fidgety…what have we got? What have we got? Where are all the corks? We approach the dan and hook it out…



Rope in, start hauling…



 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
YES!!! It’s heavier!







There’s a hell of a pile! Colin is deservedly chuffed!




Scales everywhere, glistening in the sunlight, silver, translucent and reflecting rainbows. They need sweeping up.



I didn’t count this haul, I’d not have stood a chance – that’s a ten stone box!





We’re jumping for joy…what are we going to do with them all? We have a few ideas! The thing is, we have time to shoot once more and still make the bridge lift if needed. Should we? Well, we have the time, we have enough fish but we also have freezers and the roker are on their way so it won’t do any harm to have enough bait. I have plenty of smoke dust and have cleaned the smoker out in preparation and there’s always roll mops…we decide on a short drift, mainly to clean the net out as we shouldn’t have too many in the fifteen minutes we’re going to give it presumably (though you never know). There’s virtually no tide as the net goes over on the edge of a bank, running 8ft to 23ft as we lay it.

Paul’s on the gaff as we head for the dan.





He’s hooked it and starts pulling the line in as Colin calls me to take a look at the screen…



See that? The top half is fish! I thought the corks seemed to be pretty hard to see…We jump out and start to haul.



WOW!



A second box in such a short space of time! This time though we have some bycatch – one solitary mackerel and two whiting. As bycatch goes that’s pretty good! One of the whiting swims off fine, the other not…and the mackerel is destined for the Barbie!



Colin sets course for home, dropping a bag off fish of for the harbour master en-route while Paul and I sit there pulling herring from the net all the way home. What an absolute joy of a day on every level. I look up as we pass the Excelsior, an old Lowestoft herring boat of yesteryear and reflect on how we’re doing something so traditional and how lucky we are to be able to do it on such a fine day for fun rather than because we must, without the pressure of having to fill the hold. Paul, too, is ecstatic. He’s experienced nothing like this either and to be honest there probably aren’t all that many pleasure fishermen who have; it’s not something you normally see available as a charter trip, being so weather dependant and as we pull up to the berth we sweep up the last of the scales we can (they’ll turn up again for years of course) and unload, dragging the twenty stone, maybe a thousand glittering fish, up to the cars and head home.

It’s half three, I should wait until six really for dinner but I can’t. There’s nothing quite like fresh herring dipped in egg, rolled in oats and fried in butter served up with horseradish…a meal fit for kings.



By the time the girls get home I have a basin full of herring brining in the sink with a mixture of salt and sugar. The sugar sweetens them, the salt draws the moisture out and helps preserve them and the brining gives a better flavour once smoked. The sugar also caramelises in the pan…just time to head down to the beach before firing up the smoker.

So here’s a footnote. Abigail and I walk down and see the tide right out. We turn back and get the pushnets and return, there’s a big pool by the pier and we play about in there. A few shrimps initially so I try in the sea itself, a few more. I decide to push it under the pier until the water is up to my stomach; a few more and then back again and…what on earth is this? I think at first it’s a turbot but it turns out to be a brill. That’s the first one I’ve seen here! Only small, it comes home to go into my aquarium. Then I have a last go in the pool, finding a slightly deeper part and amongst the shrimps I have three postage stamp dabs. I’m going to need a bigger tank.

 
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