Tim Burgess, 45, cold store manager, is chairman of the Humber Cruising Association Fishing Club …
“This time of year (Jan/Feb), it’s all about cod, which you get to a surprising size upriver as far as Paull, with smaller ones a bit beyond, maybe five miles up altogether.
”They start moving in roughly October. By Bonfire Night you can be sure they are in, and they stop to around March, leaving the odd resident. A few commercial boats make a living out of the estuary during the best months.
“There’s a lot of whiting, too, which give you problems by snaffling the bait. Flatfish are down in number but we still get them and a lot of Stingback rays in the summer and also in summer, for some reason that has happened over the past five years, endless smoothhounds, dogfish, or rats of the sea as some call them. Since the Humber banks were forced to clean up, you get a fair few bass too.
“The Humber is quite shallow most of the way out from both sides and it’s hard to get into the deep water where the big cod are, in the gullies and drops and over rough ground, feeding off the turbulence from a six-knot tide over mud.
“The Association has its own marina, in Grimsby docks, and I pay £550 a year for a mooring for my main boat, a 23-foot fast sports boat with onboard engine. But I’ve got a little inflatable with an outboard, for travelling with, and I’ve had that out on the Humber. We’ve got all shapes and sizes from about 15 ft, including quite a lot who launch from the beach at Cleethorpes. There are slipways on the Cleethorpes corner you can rent from the council for less than a pound a week.
“Even from Cleethorpes, you can walk a mile before you are out of your depth. And there and Grimsby are about it for easy access points.
“You wouldn’t try it out there when there’s a short sharp chop on from the east if you can help it. On a big tide, you can break a prop on a boulder three miles out, halfway across the mouth. And you obviously want to stay out of the main shipping channels, where you could easily get run down.
“I’ve got the equivalent of your car satnav, so I can go back to places I know. But I’ll also use radar echo to check the ground, which can change quickly. The machines are sometimes called fishfinders and you can buy one for £80 but it will only really usefully give you ground profile at best. In the Humber, where there is no visibility, you could spend all day chasing bundles of rubbish unless you’ve got colour, which highlights the fish in red and also gives you a spot of yellow off their swim bladders, which is the confirmation. I’ve got a Lowrance with colour, cost about £600, but I’d use it mainly when we go further out, into clear sea, scouting for wrecks which have been colonised by the fish. In the Humber, it’s more about using your experience to find the right places.
“Theoretically you could just drop a line over the side, which is why most boat rods are quite stubby. But there is a theory that the rush around your anchor rope is a scare, so you want to cast a bit out. I take two kinds of rod, an uptider of around 7ft and a lighter downtider, a bit shorter, plus back-ups in case of breakage. You want to be able to cast at least 30 or 40 yards with an 8-ounce weight. The uptider has to take a lot more strain from the forces in the water, and the rod is harder work, but sometimes you need to go uptide, especially if there are two or three of you.
“A good rod in carbon fibre, which is the standard, used to cost close to £150 but it’s come down to £60-£70 lately. You can buy a glass and fibre rod for £20 but the less work the rod will do, the more strain you are putting on your line.
“My line is 30-pound braid. It’s about £50 a hundred metres for a good braid, but monofilament stretches too much. However, I do use monofilament for the terminal tackle, because it’s more resistant to sawing by the fish’s teeth but on the other hand it will snap before the braid if you are just stuck.
“In the Humber we generally use Gemini weights, with wires which will hold the bottom but snap straight when you pull, then flick back into grabbing mode for the next cast. But a guy called Steve Souter at Planetseafishing is making one I have been buying lately.
“The weight will usually be on a little boom of plastic or wire, to help avoid line tangles. It drops from a swivel onto which is clipped a pre-tied short trace with two substantial hooks – one slightly smaller than the other to hold up each end of a bit of unwashed Patagonian squid with nice presentation. That’s the simplest and commonest rig – known as a two-hook paternoster. You probably want the bait at about 50 foot deep but you’ll experiment until you get it right. The natural bait would be lugworm or peeler crab but it’s a lot cheaper to buy a block of frozen squid. It’s important it is unwashed, rather than cooking calamari, because that means it stinks a bit and in the Humber, the fish are hunting on scent alone. I might also prepare tubes of chopped squid, with the ends tied off with a special mesh from Cox Bait & Tackle, which I will clip to the weight, or somewhere along the line, to add a bit of scent to the area. I’ll have 15 or 20 of those on standby for a competition.
“Reels are normally multipliers. The Abu Garcia 7000 C3 is popular. The work is too hard for most open-faced reels.
“As for the cod, anything less than 15 lbs usually goes back in the water. Trawlers will bring back cod up to 50 lbs but I am pleased with 20 lbs plus. From the bank, you would be lucky to get an eight-pounder.
“I do end up eating a lot of cod. But I like it.
* See http://www.humbercruisingassociationfishingclub.co.uk/