Our north east England correspondent Steve Walker takes us out and about on the shore from Greatham Creek to Seaton Carew via North Gare.
Greatham Creek is a few miles south of Seaton Carew at Hartlepool and extends from the mouth of the river Tees, past the nuclear power station, and then several miles inland to the village of Greatham. At its mid point it opens up into several square miles of mud flats at low water and is popular for collecting peeler crab. During the summer months light line tactics will take good numbers of flounders, eels, and small whiting, plus if you are lucky, the odd bass. Occasionally the odd mackerel shoal will move into the creek and you can sometimes see them chasing sprats on the surface. There are masses of bait robbing crabs here so peeler crab is the main bait to use at all times, although ragworm will still take fish.
Access is only possible from the Seaton Carew side and the area is very sheltered in all conditions other than strong westerly winds. The tide movement is negligible and you can use light tackle even in the winter months. The bottom can be a bit snaggy in some places so have a look on the early flood tide to see where the channels have formed in the soft mud and then fish these up to high tide and a few hours back. The short rock jetty near the power station can be fished at all times and a short cast will put you into the main channel but the best flounder action will be had when the tide starts to flood over the mudbanks when a light carp rod, fixed spool reel, and a 1oz lead will give some good sport.
The jetty will produce codling in the winter months to worm and crab baits but lots of small whiting can be a problem at times. During very heavy winter seas when everywhere else is unfishable it is worth having a try in this area as codling will move right up the river and into the creek. Flounders will be present all year round and ragworm tipped with mackerel will take them during the winter.
To get here park at the bottom of the old zinc works road, go through the gate onto the beach and follow the sand dunes round to the right.
The Ring of Stones North Gare
You can park at the bottom of the old zinc works road in sight of the security building where your vehicle will be safe, or you can park on the main road in Seaton Carew and walk along the beach.
The Ring of stones is a man made semi-circular area of slag rocks from the old steelworks that were deposited on the inside of the North Gare pier as a means of land reclamation. This is a good winter mark for codling and whiting and is best fished during or just after very heavy north easterly seas. At low water you can walk out on the exposed rocks and fish into a big hole on the river side and at high water there is a good depth of water all along the rock edges. As such it is possible to fish here at all states of the tide. The rocks do not extend very far out and the ground is all clean sand with no snags. During heavy seas some big holes form in between the sand bars and it is best to find out where these fish holding areas are and drop your bait into them. Crab will take codling early in the winter season from September to November but after this it is definitely a worm only venue with a big black lug and rag cocktail tipped off with whiteworm or razor clam the favoured bait. Double figure cod are taken here every year, and plenty of specimens around the 6lb mark will turn up during the right conditions. Whiting can also show in large numbers and can easily be taken two at a time on worm baits tipped with mackerel or squid. Some big flounders can also show, and small bass can be taken all year round. A night session will usually produce the better bags of fish.
Standard beachcasting tackle can be used here and you will probably need a grip lead at all times. A small multiplier reel and 5oz beachcaster will suffice at most times. Distance casting can be an advantage when fishing into the river at low water. However, you might want to use something a bit heavier as weed can sometimes be a problem. Always use a strong hook pattern even when fishing for whiting as a bigger codling can turn up at any time. Whiting will be scarce during very heavy conditions so just expect codling and use at least a 3/0 Viking pennel rig with a big worm bait.
The summer months will be quiet with lots of crabs quickly devouring any baits but flounders, small bass, eels, and small whiting can all be taken on worm and crab baits, and the baited spoon method will pick up the odd bigger flounder.
The Staincliffe Seaton Beach
The Staincliffe is the large expanse of rock scars and kelp beds which form the Longscar and Littlescar rocks on Seaton Carew beach which are directly in front of the Staincliffe Hotel. There is plenty of safe parking in the Staincliffe car park or at the side of the road.
This mark is primarily a winter low water mark best fished on a night tide when there is a good easterly to northerly sea running. The outer rocks, the Longscars, break the heavy seas and make it possible to fish the various rock gullies and holes between the sandbars on an ebb tide. This is one place where it is definitely an advantage to have a look at low water during daylight hours to find out exactly where any holes are and you can then fish directly into them on the later night tide. The holes change all the time, especially either side of the main rocks where the sand is always on the move. You will probably find that you need to move about a lot and follow the tide back as more fish holding areas become accessible. If you are unable to have a look in daylight hours just start at one end of the beach and work your way along until you find the fish.
Good bags of codling can be taken between September and March and a few double figure specimens are usually landed each year. Codling are generally a good average size of around 3lb to 4lb and a good session can see bags of 8 to 10 codling or more. Crab is the best bait from September to November, though it will take fish all through the winter. At other times a big black lug and ragworm cocktail tipped with razor clam will take plenty of fish. If you are fishing the rocks you will need a suitably heavy beachcaster and 35lb line all the way through, though you may get away with 20lb line and a leader. Expect to loose at least some tackle. Sometimes the fish are in the holes in between the sandbars, especially at the southern end of the rocks, when you can fish a bit lighter and probably get away with 2 hook rigs. A lightly tensioned grip lead will hold the bottom over the rocks if your casting is accurate enough to land in the holes and you will probably get it back most times. Otherwise stick to a plain lead and allow it to role into any deeper holes. Use at least a strong pattern 3/0 hook for crab baits and a similar size pennel rig for worm baits. Whereas any fish can often be taken quite close in, it is sometimes necessary to cast a bit further into the deeper water. Even calm conditions can still produce the odd codling especially on really big low tides when you can easily reach the large expanses of kelp and whiting and the odd bass can be taken on the sandy ground either side of the main rocks.
Fishing off the top of the promenade at high water can produce codling and whiting during darkness but distance casting will be necessary. Bass can be taken during the summer months on ragworm baits and the odd bigger bass will take lures fished on the ebb tide.