Brighton Pollack Fishing Competition 2015

For the third year, I have taken part in the Brighton Pollack fishing competition sponsored by Daiwa. The competition this year took place on March 17th. For a change we were blessed with good weather which improved during the day, until we could sit in T-shirts in the sunshine.

Pollock fishing out in the shipping lanes

Pollock fishing out in the shipping lanes

This year we headed slightly East and started with a few drifts on the wreck of HMS Keryado. This was to break up the journey and get the rods all set up as everyone wanted. Just one pollack weighing about 5lbs was caught so we headed further out into the shipping lanes. A good few fish were caught up to about 8lbs. A final move resulted in catching a lot of Pouting.

A fair number of fish caught but not not large enough for a prize. So I will have to make do with the cup for the best cup of tea for the day.

Award for the Best Cup of Tea

Award for the Best Cup of Tea

The top prize for the largest pollack went to Alan Coombs at 16lb 12Oz. The junior prize went to Michael Parker who landed a 12lb pollack

Tagged Black Bream

The Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA) has released tagged black bream into the Sussex Coastal Waters. The area of the release is Kingmere Rocks, the newly designated Marine Conservation Zone.

The purpose of taggingthe fish is to gain an understanding of the movement and behaviour of black bream. This information will be used to improve the management of the conservation zone.

The project relies on the information returned for the tagged black bream. The involvement of fishermen to report any tagged fish they may catchis paramount. As an incentive IFCA are running a prize draw to those returning information.

The plastic identification tags are attached next to the dorsal fin (the large fin at the top) and are about 75mm long. They come in three colours: flourescent green, red or blue.  Each tag has a reference number on it, which is used to identify the particular fish. The Green tags are particularly important as the fish has an acoustic tracking device fitted.

It is very important to return all fish unharmed if they are caught. You can download the original document from IFCA which gives further details on what to do if you find a tagged black bream

Sea Bream Nests

Black Sea Bream Nest

The Black Sea Bream (spondyliosoma cantharus) is a fairly common fish off Sussex coast particularly in the months of April and May when they come into lay their eggs. Sea bream are unusual in that they lay their eggs in a nest. The bream nest is a depression in the sand which the male excavates. The eggs are sticky and remain in the bottom of the bream nest. The male guards the nest until the young hatch.

Several trips to Kingmere Rocks have been made to photograph the bream nest with a fish in it. These have been unsuccessful. Bream are very rarely seen by divers. Kingmere Rocks have recently been designated one of the Marine Conservation Zones as it is a bream nest site. However, controls have not yet been put in place to protect the species during the breeding season. Consequently the fish in the nests are targeted and large numbers are being taken by anglers and commercial fisherman, who, with the technology available today, are able to target the breeding grounds successfully.

As a commercial skipper I cannot dive unless I have another skipper on-board. I have just taken the opportunity to dive a small area near to Brighton where Bream are often caught in significant numbers and was very likely to be a bream nest site.

The site consists of many hollowed out areas which I assume to be made by the bream. The depressions are very localised. Drifting off just 50m and they all disappear. There are no silt in the depressions, so they are recent and probably well tended. Unfortunately I did not see any bream or eggs in the nests.

Bream Nest

Bream Nest

Some of these depressions are up to 2m across and  have been cleaned out completely right down to the rock below. The picture below shows how free the nest is of silt. Even fossils can be seen in the rock below.

Bottom of Bream Nest

Bottom of Bream Nest

The stone and sand from in the bream best area has been banked up around the area to quite a significant depth of almost 300mm.

Side of Bream Nest

Side of Bream Nest

Bream Nest looking out at banked up stone

Bream Nest looking out at banked up stone

Other Marine Life

The area is a low energy site. I saw 1 Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) and a few cuckoo wrass (Labrus Mixtus). Along with a few gobies e.g. Common goby (pomatoschistus microps) and a larger variety I did not recognise. A few swimming crabs (Liocarcinus Puber) were present and a few shells of edible crabs. The Common starfish (Asterias Rubens), but very few molluscs. I saw two Dead men’s fingers (Alcyonium digitatum) and a few orange sponges.

Red Gurnard – Aspitrigula Cuculus

Red Gurnard - Aspitrigula Cuculus

Red Gurnard – Aspitrigula Cuculus


Gurnard are very distinctive with a large bony head with spines  and a steep profile. The front of the large pectoral fin is divided to form three fingel-like feelers. These are used to find food in the sediments. They are red in colour with a light coloured underside.


Red Gurnard around most of the British Isles except the east coast. It lives on sandy or muddy bottoms. Inshore you find young individuals as shallow as 5m of water and can live down to 200m. Gurnard sit on the bottom on their feelers or lie flat on the sediment. They can be easily approached by divers and make good photographic subjects. When caught they can make a grunting noise. This is made by muscles in the wall of the swim bladder. It is believed that the noise is to communicate with others in the small shoal.


Gurnard spawn in spring and early summer. The eggs and larval fish float freely in the plankton.


Red Gurnard grow to about 30-40cm.


Gurnard eat mainly crustaceans such as crab and shrimp.

Tub Gurnard – Trigula Lucerna

Tub Gurnard - Trigula Lucern

Tub Gurnard – Trigula Lucerna

A very similar species to the Red Gurnard. The Tub gurnard can grow to 75cm but most are similar in size to the Red Gurnard in the 25-50cm range. Tub Gurnard are a more common species and are found right around the British Isles. The Tub Gurnard can be red or pink, but also reddish-yellow, yellowish or brown. The Tub Gurnard will also feed on small bottom living fish such as gobies, sand-eels or flatfish. The main  distinctive feature of the tub gurnard is the blue colouration on their pectoral fin. This can take the form of the edges, or peacock style markings or the fin could be totally blue.

Inshore Trawling – Eric Smith

I received this report from the local Seasearch co-ordinator. I think that it is interesting enough to publish here word-for-word as emailed to me. Read on……

Inshore Trawling

The late Mick Moore started diving after leaving the Air Force in 1956 he was one of the early pioneers of diving and spearfishing in the Sussex area. Apart from his many stories of large plaice and soul caught off the ends of the breakwaters along the waterfront at Brighton the information he told us on well known local marks stands out the most. College Rocks off Shoreham in the early sixties was a group of pinnacles standing some 15ft off the bottom in 35ft of water honeycombed with holes and ledges harbouring everything from large Bass to lobsters and congers. On his last dive on them in 1989 they had been reduce to a pile of rubble eight foot high with no holes big enough to hold a fish this he put down to constant trawler action over the intervening years.  His last words to me a few days before he passed away two years ago, had been about the pair trawlers that he watched for most of the summer zigzagging along the front at Brighton from a mile out to the end of the groynes. He knew, as an old timer that most fish bred in this small zone and he could not understand why the fishermen were smashing up the habitat for future generations.

I know that kelp can be affected in its growth by rising temperatures but in the first twenty years of my diving career huge beds covered the bottom up to one and a half miles out off Worthing in West Sussex. These beds had been a source of fertiliser for local farmers who used to come down and fill their carts after a big gale from the vast rafts of weed left on the beaches by the dropping tides. These beds were also a huge nursery for all the fish that breed inshore and I had many a lobster as they worked their way through the kelp stalks. Coincident or not the great gale of 1987 washed more on to the beaches than normal a lot with the ancore rocks still attached, this just happened to be the time that the trawlers started pairing up in our area and towing endlessly up and down off Worthing just as the kelp needed time to recover leaving it a barren dessert as it is to this day.

To show what the trawlers can really do! We had been diving an old wreak off Shoreham called the Billy Boy this has been marked up under several different names Billy, Billy Boy, Billy Bee and the Bee wreck and can be traced right back to 1856 in the local museum. It consisted of two rows of one ton blocks eight on the bottom and five resting on the top; this left a stack 12ft high on a flat bottom a long way from any other obstruction the perfect spot. Bass and Cod could be found shoaling around this high spot on most slack water lows with lots of very large congers lying in the holes between the blocks. Returning to it early one spring we were shocked to find a trawl not only stuck on it but it had pulled the whole top layer off and dumped it on the sea bed, it never fished the same again another mark lost to indiscriminate inshore trawling.

April 17th 2005 Bognor a dive to stick in the memory, we had suffered quite a few dives that year in the cold water of early spring with few fish and bad viz, this was the first day that the water felt warmer and with the viz at twenty foot it held a lot of promise. We found the Bream quite quickly spotting their moon beds dug into the chalk from the surface. The sea was alive with fish the smaller bream were doing the digging fanning the bottom to create the hollows and the bigger fish moving in to lay their eggs or fight over the right to. Undulated Rays were laying around the outskirts of the beds feeding on the worms and other small crustaceans disturbed by the bream along with vast shoals of Pollack up to two kilos drifting above the scene. As we lay looking at this panorama with Cuckoo Wrasse nosing around us the Bass came through in shoals some weighing in at eight pounds. We ended the day with a couple of good Bass each and two bream of over two kilos and left feeling good at seeing the sea so alive with fish and with intensions of returning a week later on better tides to take some specimen fish.

April 24th 2005 the sea was calm and we had started at first light under the old adage that the early diver catches the fish. As we pulled the boat up onto the promenade two pair trawlers could be seen towing out to sea at an angle along side the main reef less than a mile out. Slipping into the water 30 mins later a scene of total devastation could be seen below us in the crystal clear water, no fish could be seen in our field of vision the bream beds so prolific the week before were wrecked, the edges of the beautifully dug pits had been dragged down and large boulders had been dumped into the middle of them. Torn weed lay about the bottom and all that remained were a few very small bream trying to rebuild their nests. We followed after the trawlers that were now some two miles ahead finding many small Bass of about 200 grams floating dead on the surface having popped out of the now full nets.

The wreck of the Indiana is a large local wreck in twenty five feet of water it has been a perfect spot for bream fishing over the years with the beds sometimes going down tide for 150 yards either side of the ship with the fish protected by the bulk from the trawlers. This all changed over the last few years with more sophisticated GPS sounders the trawlers now tow right up the side of the wreck sometimes touching the plates needless to say no more bream or the fish that follow the shoals.

Just a last word on this subject that is close to my heart I think that nothing should be towed within six miles of the shore especially in the months of March April and May the trawlers are killing a whole ecosystem with their greed.

                                                                           Eric Smith

Minimum legal sizes for caught fish

Minimum legal sizes

The Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority currently apply the following minimum legal sizes for fish and crustacea.

Fish Sizes

It is the overall length of a fish that is measured from the tip of the head to the end of the tail fin as in the diagram:


WHITING (merlangius merlangus) 27 cm
COD (gadus morhua) 35 cm
HERRING (clupea harengus) 20 cm
POLLACK (pollachius pollachius) 30 cm
SAITHE (pollachius virens 35 cm
MACKEREL (scomber scomber) 20 cm
HORSE MACKEREL (trachurus trachurus) 15 cm
PLAICE (pleuronectes platessa) 27 cm
LING (molva molva) 63 cm
HAKE 27 cm
BASS  (dicentrachus labrax) 36 cm
DOVER SOLE (solea solea) 24 cm


Crab are measured across the shell. Whereas lobster it is the length of the shell (carapace) that is measured.

Measurecrab measurelobster

LOBSTER (Homarus gammarus) 87 mm carapace length
EDIBLE CRAB (Cancer pagurus) 140 mm carapace width
VELVET CRAB (Necora puber) 65 mm carapace width
SPIDER CRAB (Maia squinado) 130 mm (males)         120 mm (females) carapace length
CRAWFISH (Palinurus spp.) 95 mm carapace length


Although the following fish do not have legal limits placed on the size that you can land, the following sizes are recommended minimum by the Sussex Sea Fisheries District Committee:

Black Sea Bream (spondyliosoma cantharus) 26cm
Brill (scopthalmus rhombus) 34cm
Dab (limanda limanda) 17cm
Flounder (platichthys flesus) 23cm
Turbot (scopthalmus maximus) 34cm
Garfish (belone belone) 43cm
Red Gurnard (aspitrigla cuculus) 32cm
Conger eel (conger conger) 66cm
Tope (galeorhinus galeus) 72cm
Dog fish (schyliorinus canicula) 23cm


In general we encourage people to fish sensibly. To only catch the amount that they are going eat. We do not allow fish caught to be sold.

Daiwa Pollock fishing competition

Defiance took part in the Daiwa Pollock fishing competition. Although not the most successful days fishing a few fish were caught weighing about 6-7lbs. None of them winners, but on a day when everyone struggled to catch anything. 

Fishing in the shipping lanes

  Fishing in the shipping lanes

A small Pollock caught on the day

A small Pollock caught on the day