The Alan Charlton Page

Favourite Pleasure Fishing
Luce Bay, where a whole mackerel bait will entice all predatory species found in the area, from the humble dogfish, Bull Huss, Spurdog to the Noble tope. Best tope to date a male of 59lb taken from my own boat Alchemy.

Shore: While many anglers are risking there lives clambering around the rocks at The Mull of Galloway and on long treks to the many inaccessible marks found in this area. I prefer the idyllic setting of Portpatrick Harbour, where within 100 yards of parking your car you can catch Mullet from the harbour to over 5lb. In addition, reasonable sized conger from the old harbour entrance.
At home Boat: fishing the many wrecks strewn over the seabed when launching from my homeport of Cullercoats.

Heaviest Fish or Heaviest Bag?
Heaviest Fish, Heaviest bag which do you think is the best test of an angler’s skill? The Northeast is split in half over this. Competitions held north of the Tyne fished over rough ground go for the heaviest bag, with an optional heaviest fish pool. While competitions held south of the Tyne go mainly for the heaviest fish as their overall winner. I personally believe that between the two the heaviest bag competition is the best test of an angler’s skill. Having the knowledge to work out where fish will be under certain conditions and be able to catch more than one lucky fish. Some may say in that case why not make the winner the one with the most fish. I would be against this; an angler with the most fish may only have a small weight. If they fished for smaller species such as flounders, dabs, eels and whiting which can be quite numerous along our coasts and at times take very little skill in catching. Catching a good bag of quality fish, which quite often has the heaviest fish, is better than a bag of tiddlers. To me catching the heaviest fish is a bit of a lottery and should be kept as an optional extra. Unfortunately to me, the ultimate test of an angler’s skill the specimen hunt seems a lost cause in the Northeast the last one organised only attracting a hand full of anglers. Many argue that there are not enough species in the Northeast. However with cod, coalfish, plaice, flounder, bass, pollack, wrasse, dab, mullet, turbot, eel, and others this could make for quite an entertaining match. What type of match do you prefer ?

Bait Digging
Yes John you where right about my first input. Unfortunately, the bait digging issue has again raised its ugly head on the North East Coast at Boulmer Haven. The local residents and fisherman are outraged because idiotic bait diggers are digging in the moorings and abusing the whole area. Unfortunately as tentative approaches where being made by those concerned, for some reason the North East division of the National Federation (in name only) stepped in and made an agreement supposedly on behalf of all anglers in the area. You would not be able to swing a cat in the agreed area. No wonder the fishermen where happy. Thankfully, after representation by the N.F.S.A.S. the relevant parties, Northumberland Estates and their legal department realised they had not been talking to representatives of all concerned. In addition, due to complaints to the N.F.S.A. headquarters, the agreement was rejected by their Standing Committee. More talks will be taking place involving ALL bodies, with clubs being asked for their views before any agreement is reached. However, after the the National Federation going it alone new talks might just be able to limit the damage done. Instead of trying, to score points over each other we should be working for the good of angling.
On the bait-digging situation in general, many anglers just do not seem to be recognising what is actually happening. Complaints from anglers on the Cumbria coast and the coast of East and West Scotland are continually being aired about anglers from the North East visiting, what they call their areas, to dig bait. However, any angler has the right to dig bait anywhere he likes. Obviously, we do have the problem of commercial diggers. It is fair enough writing into the angling magazines and complaining, but trying to deter anglers by doing damage to cars is certainly not on. Acting in this manner only gives local councils the ammunition to brand us all hooligans. But rather than complain about visiting anglers and trying to get them stopped, have you ever wondered why North East anglers have to travel so far to get bait. English Nature, as you know, successfully put an order on Budle Bay banning bait digging. This was the major bait digging area in the North East. The number of diggers now going to Boulmer Haven have increased, and caused further problems. I wonder how it would be if those who are now complaining had lost their bait beds. Would you just pack up fishing or would you travel to get your bait. Of course, you would. Remember it was North East angler Tony Anderson who risked everything to prove that you had a right to dig bait. Thankfully, he won, and Alnwick D.C. had to pick up the costs of THIRTY THOUSAND POUND. Would you have done the same or would you have just let your bait beds be closed. I am sure if the case had been lost then many more bait bans would be in place now, maybe yours would have been one of them. It is no good complaining about anglers from other areas digging in what you claim is yours. The way forward is to stick together and fight all bans anywhere. Instead of complaining write to your councils and MP’s and let them know that bait-digging bans in other areas are causing problems in your area. This problem will not go away until all bait-digging areas are re-opened.

Donations to the angler’s legal fund should be sent to
Chris Clark, Linnies Lane, Sway, Lymington, Hampshire
(Dig deep your cash is needed)

Cheats
It seems as if we can not get away from it, and with winnings forever on the increase, it looks as if that undesirable element the Competition Cheat is here to stay. However, are we unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Unfortunately, to prosecute someone found cheating in Open, he would have to be allowed to weigh his fish and collect his prize, which would then have to be held as evidence.  If that prize happened to be the first prize then no doubt all prizes could not be given out until the case had been proven or not. That could take years, and nobody wants that. Imagine trying to explain that to anglers who had travelled hundreds of miles to fish and could well have come near the top.  The normal procedure is to use the open rules to disqualify anybody who you suspect of cheating. This only means that a rather embarrassed person ( I refuse to call him/her an angler) if he is intelligent enough to feel embarrassment gets away Scot-free.  However, what should we or what can we do.  Many, myself included would like to have cheats banned for life, from open competitions, membership of any club and refused entry to tackle shops.  However, would this be a correct punishment, being banned for life for a crime that would be looked on in law as a minor offence?  Even those who commit far worse crimes and served terms in jail are said to have done their time and given a clean sheet. Athletes who cheat in other sports by taking drugs are seldom given life bans for a first proven offence. This could be the reason why some take the chance and do it again, who knows how many get away with it.  Maybe angling should show the way to other sports and say there is no place for cheats in our sport and ban them for life.  However, how do you enforce it?  If he is not known to other open organizers how would they know who he was.  If he had not been found guilty in a court of law, you could not send out photographs or his name and address for fear of falling foul of the law yourself.  If he where recognized by another angler he could warn the organizers, and they could take steps to prevent him entering an open.  By simply refusing entry “covered in open rules”.  On the other point of clubs, it would have to be solely left up to the committee, but this could lead to loss of  “true members” which has already happened, if a known cheat was allowed to join their club.  I would personally fight against the reinstatement of a known cheat into my own club.  As for tackle dealers, would they refuse to serve someone who was about to spend a few hundred pounds in a shop?  I know of one that does a considerable amount of business with a known cheat, after all he has a living to make.  If I where a tackle dealer it would lay heavily on my conscience that I had knowingly sold tackle to someone who may use it to cheat.  A bit like a gun shop owner selling guns to known bank robbers. All in all, we can do without this type of being in our sport.

Irresponsible Boat owners
As a boat owner for more than twenty years and one that has worked his way up to my present Alaska 500 with a sixty-hp outboard.  I am increasingly concerned at how easy it is for anyone to go out and buy a high powered boat either for fishing or sport without needing any form of test of competency or seaworthiness certificate for their boat.  A car or driver is not allowed on the road alone until he has passed a test and his car is proven roadworthy, why should this not apply to pleasure boat anglers. I would not allow some of the boats I have seen launched at Cullercoats on a boating lake.  I even knew of one boat that had to be towed back nearly every time it went out In addition, the total lack of adequate clothing, equipment, and provisions taken is ridiculous.  In addition, the idiots that take alcohol with them should be treat the same way as car drivers. The awareness of this has always been there, but especially over the last couple of years. As the number of times my son and his fellow Lifeboat crew members have risked their lives to save idiotic boat owners “mainly anglers” has increased.  On one occasion after we had returned to port, a boat was being launched, my son said to me it will not be long before we have to go out after that lot.  Sure enough a few days later his pager went and off he went, you can guess who it was.  But no one has the power to stop these people launching boats when ill equipped or unseaworthy, they can only advise them not to launch which is usually met with a hearty f**k off.  In addition, even when these lunatics have got themselves in trouble and have needed the assistance of our RNLI heroes.  There are very little thanks and a donation to the RNLI for saving their lives and boat is very seldom forthcoming.  I am a great believer that if the incident is caused by your own stupidity by going to sea when it is to rough or you are inadequately prepared you should be charged for the service.  After all we pay for police, fire and other services why not the RNLI and Coast Guard. Just now, there is the fear that some coast guard stations are to be closed due to the lack of large boat traffic from our ports.  But what about the increase in small boat users over the last few years.  My wife solved the funding for these stations in one swoop.  Create a certification system for pleasure boats and users, similar to the driving test and car mot.  No doubt, some will cringe at this, but what price do you put on a life? Other countries do this to reduce the amount of boating accidents and improve services.  It seems daft that the only item of equipment onboard my boat that I had to pay for a certificate and a course was for my VHF radio. With the number of pleasure boat, users around now, the revenue would probably pay to keep these stations open and maybe open more to ensure the safety of those who go to sea.  I hope that it would also deter those who do not give a dam for the safety of others.  Of course the RNLI will always be, due to those who have probably never needed it’s use, but continue to support it, just in case they might or simply because it is a worthy cause. However, like other services some just use it to it’s full as long as someone else is paying for it.  Maybe it is time that the incompetent ones started to pay their dues.

Just a week after writing this letter, and to emphasise the point I was making.  At approx. 10.15am on Jan 2nd two anglers launched their newly bought boat  (a Christmas present) at Cullercoats Harbour.  They had not passed the harbour bar when their engine conked out and their boat started to drift towards the rocks where a wave capsized them.  Luckily they where spotted very quickly and in almost record time the inshore rescue boat was launched.  At approx. 10-45 the two anglers where giving thanks to the lifeboat crew for saving their lives and returning to get their boat and as much equipment as they could.  Among this equipment was, some very good lifejackets,  altogether their boat was very well equipped.  However, what is the use of having the right gear if you do not know how to use it or what to do in a difficult situation.  At the first sign of trouble the jackets should have been on, better still they should have been on before they set sail.  In this situation, any experienced angler would have thrown the anchor over to prevent drifting onto the rocks.  The price they put on their lives, they offered to buy the crew a couple of pints.

The RNLI can ill afford time to do this kind of thing.
Compulsory charge??? I think so.

WD40
Myth or Magic Elixir.  A great deal has been made over the years of the use of WD 40 as a bait additive.  I first read an article about this many years ago, where American anglers sprayed spinners and lures, claiming that it removed the human scent off lures and therefore increased catches.  Surely, after trolling a lure a few times through salt water this would have the same effect.  In my experience of lure fishing for many kinds of fish, both fresh and salt water it is the appearance and movement of the lure that makes fish attack it.  Using a lure, which does not look like the natural prey, will not catch any fish.  Quite a few North East wreck anglers swear by it saying it gives greater catches, no doubt they have remembered the good days and not the bad.  Many of these anglers say that fish can not see in the depths they fish at so WD40 must work.  But yet my own experiences of wreck fishing from my own boat and charter boats along the North East coast prove without a doubt that sight plays a major part.  Quite often, a certain coloured lure will catch more fish than others.  On some days, I have seen black lures outfish others.  When there are plenty of prawns to feed on, red and orange work the best, while blue/silver work when sprat, herring, and mackerel are around.  To me sight has a great deal to do with fish feeding at depths, if visibility was poor at depth why would fish stop taking lures at night.  I and other boat anglers I know have taken very few fish from wrecks to lures during darkness.  However, we have all experienced good catches at dawn.  As for it being a bait additive, you have to look at what it is used for in normal use.  Removing moisture.  So instead of adding it is actually taking out the natural juices and reducing the affective life of bait.  If this was the magic potion it is cracked out to be by some, why are they not winning all the major angling events?  I have yet to see any of the Northeast’s top anglers, who have been winning competitions allover the country for years use anything other than good old fresh bait.  In my opinion forget the magic and put it back where it belongs in the boot of the car.

Licences
It seems as if the question “should sea anglers need a licence” has raised its head again.  My opinion on this is that once sea anglers have accepted that we need a licence to go fishing then we have given away our legal right to fish and collect bait along the shoreline.  This right which was won by only a handful of people, which could have proved very costly if it had gone the wrong way?  However, it is now used by the many to protect their rights.  If anglers voted in favour of a licence scheme then they would be selling down the river the few that had fought so hard to enable you to participate in your sport.  I would also suspect that if we did give our right to fish away then those who have been unable to impose restrictions or bans on our sport will have a field day.  Also I would find it very hard to hand over hard earned cash, which in no way could be used to improve our sport unless drastic changes are made to the current fisheries policy regarding, fish quotas, netting of inshore waters and netting of nursery areas. But these matters should be resolved anyway, otherwise there may be no fish left. Unlike a river licence, which funds the restocking of lakes and rivers and creating better access for the benefit of those that use the facilities.  The money raised by a sea angling licence could not be used to restock waters for the sole use of sea anglers as these waters are also commercially fished.  And who would give the guarantee that fish released into the north sea, say for instance off Whitley Bay would return or even stay  in the same area for the anglers in that area.  Another point is that to make it work, the licence fee would have to be astronomical to pay the cost of policing  the vast and inexcessible areas that anglers fish. Once again I am totally against any form of licence for our sport.

Please support the RNLI. YOU may need them.