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Shorelines with John Francis Costello – Fishing around Plymouth Hoe

In the first of a two part series John Francis Costello takes us on a conducted tour of popular shore marks around Plymouth. John tells us how to get there, fishing methods and what species may be encountered with lures or bait.

The Plym

The first bit of water you will come to when you enter the city from the A38 at marsh mills is the river Plym. You can fish either side of the river with the first few marks you will come across being on the Embankment road, the most popular marks on this side being the yacht club or the small green next to the car park just before the pedestrian footbridge. The other side is accessed by crossing Laira Bridge and taking the very first left there is a small road the leads to Chelson Meadow recycling centre. There are several marks along this road along with Laira Bridge itself, which is a noted mark with locals.

Anywhere along the Plym can throw up good flounder and mullet. The river is also known for prolific school bass fishing but there is the odd large fish present. Maddies and peeler tend to be the best baits for flounder and schoolies with bread for the mullet. Just to the sides of Laira Bridge are a few localised marks that can fish well for the LRF angler targeting pollack, schoolies, flounder and scad in the warmer months.

The Barbican

The next mark you will come across on your way to the city centre is the famous Plymouth Barbican. This area is very easy to locate and is well signposted off Exeter Street.

The whole of the Barbican area is an LRF dream. Sutton harbour is stacked with marks to fish, is sheltered from all but the worst weather and is fishable at all states of tide. Fishing down the walls can account for numerous mini species, with corkwing, goldsinny and small ballan wrasse common, as are pollack, tompots, sea scorpions and the various goby species. Huge shoals of mullet are resident in the harbour and will happily take small pieces of Isome worms or bread. A slow retrieved lure along the bottom can sometimes tempt flounder too. A standard cast and retrieve method in the summer can lead to a good days sport with mackerel, pollack the odd bass and even the odd sea trout.

plymouth ballan wrasse

Heading out of Sutton harbour there are plenty of places for refreshment or you can restock the lure box at the Art of Fishing tackle shop. Captain Jaspers is a very famous burger bar right on the waterfront that is a great place to stop for a hot coffee on a cold winter’s night, or a cold drink in the summer. The front of Jaspers often produces some good-sized mullet and to the side it is hectic sport for the wrasse species, pollack and the occasional bass. As you carry along towards the water taxi a cast off the walls can produce all the mini species you can think of including some very large sea scorpion.

Mount Batten

Jump on the water Taxi over to Mount Batten to one of Plymouth’s most famous and prolific fishing marks. The Mount Batten breakwater is an ex-RAF runway that extends out into the Sound, and just about any species can be found along its length. The seaward side is known for big ballan wrasse and conger eels up to 40 pounds. Mackerel, garfish and even the odd huss show up towards the end of the structure during the colder months. Bottom fishing with substantial fish baits will bring dogfish, conger, huss, pout, whiting and bass. Float-fished ragworm will have you catching plenty of wrasse and pollack. Hardback crab is the preferred bait if you want to pick out the larger wrasse that can weigh over the 5lb mark here.

On the inside of the breakwater there are lots of small wrasse and pollack together with strap eels, flounder, the odd plaice and thornback ray for the bait fisherman. Live prawn is a local favourite when targeting the thornbacks. Fishing small baits on the bottom with scratching rigs can results in other species, including red mullet, black bream and gurnards. For the lure angler early mornings can produce bass when the breakwater is quiet and if using LRF gear the possibilities are endless, as all sorts of mini species lurk among the boulders. Wrasse, mackerel, bass, pollack and black bream are all realistic targets in the summer with plenty of pout and whiting about in the winter.

Elphinestone Car Park

Back again on the Barbican side and just a few hundred yards south of the water-taxi is the Elphinestone car park. Here you can fish right from your car if that’s your sort of thing or fish of the hard standing right into the mouth of the Plym. This mark is very popular with bait and lure anglers alike and in the summer mackerel, garfish, pollack, wrasse, black bream, scad, bass, thornback rays and a whole host of mini species. When winter arrives, there are plenty of whiting, poor cod and pout with cod into double figures occasionally putting in an appearance.

The Lion’s Den

Moving west round the Hoe we arrive at the marks around the Lion’s Den and the swimming pool. This area is a summer favourite with float anglers and produces lots of pollack and wrasse along with garfish and the odd bass. A few hundred yards down the road, you will find a small concrete jetty named West Hoe pier; this is a great mark for all methods of fishing, and most species. Fish baits will produce dogs, conger, bass, and ray. Lure fishing is great for mackerel, gars, bass and pollack.There is a small rocky out crop to the right known as the Rusty Anchor and it holds much the same species but you have a better chance of a bigger conger and is home to some good wrasse.

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John Francis Costello

John Francis Costello