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Shorelines with Steve Walker – Fishing around Hartlepool

In this article Steve Walker take us out and about around Hartlepool’s productive shore marks.

London Rock

You can park next to the nearby war memorial gardens and then access the beach via the ramp at the corner of the pier.

London Rock is a good winter low water mark situated right in the outside corner of the Heugh breakwater. From it you can fish into a big long hole with heavy ground consisting of boulders, rock ledges, and heavy kelp. You can fish the same ground from the rocks on the other side of this hole but London rock gives slightly better access and you can fish slightly further out. Although not often fished this is a very good mark in a slight sea when there is plenty of colour in the water and when it is known that any fish are close inshore. Heavy ground means heavy tackle, light rods and small multiplier reels are of no use here. A good stiff rod and ABU 7000 size reel with 35lb line straight through, and a rotten bottom rig with at least a strong pattern 3/0 hook is the minimum required. Anywhere between September and May will produce some good sized codling to 6lb or more, as well as the odd coalfish, eel and some big rockling. Crab will take codling at most times, either fresh or frozen, and frozen crab and lugworm will take fish during November to March. Various worm cocktails will take fish during the middle winter months, and any bait bulked out with a big ball of mussel is a sure winner for any codling. Bites can be ferocious from these kelp codling so try to hold your rod at all times and be prepared to bully any fish out of the kelp. Three hours either side of low water will give you plenty of fishing time but watch out for the water coming in behind you. Daylight sessions can be just as productive as a night session and if nothing has shown after a few hours there are plenty of other rock marks to try over towards the nearby lighthouse corner. Because any swell can wash over the end of the flat rock waders are a must when fishing here.

The summer months are quiet but a big low water will expose the far kelp beds and a big crab bait is sure to pick up at least a few codling from the heaviest ground on the left side of the hole.

Low Moor Head

There is plenty of safe parking on the promenade road between the Heugh breakwater and the Pilot Pier.

A good winter rock edge cod mark best fished over low water during or just after a very heavy sea situated half way between the Breakwater and Pilot pier The ground is very heavy consisting of deep gullies and thick kelp, though there is a bit of cleaner ground off to the right side. A heavy beachcaster and ABU 7000 size reel with 30lb to 35lb line straight through and a rotten bottom rig is the only way to fish here. Anything lighter and you will not get any gear or fish back. There is no need to cast far, forty yards will put you into deep enough water, and fish will often be taken closer in than this. Over to the right side there is a little gulley called the “Wham” which often produces some good bags of codling. The ground off from here is mainly flat rock and smallish boulders and a lightly sprung grip lead will often hold bottom and give you a good chance of getting your tackle back.

September to April will see codling taking fresh or frozen crab, mussel, ragworm and black lug, and any cocktail of these with crab will usually find any fish present. Crab isnt always essential as the mid winter months will see big worm baits tipped with razor clam take plenty of codling. A strong pattern 3/0 or 4/0 hook as part of a pennel rig with worm baits or a single hook for crab baits is the minimum required. Codling will average a good 4lb, plenty of fish to 6lb are taken, and most winters produce the odd double figure specimen. A day or night session will produce the fish and it is advisable to hold your rod at all times as the bites can be ferocious. If the nearby piers are crowded it can be worth a try to fish the tide back into the Wham and then move onto the rocks as the tide uncovers them. Coalfish, whiting, eels, and some specimen rockling can all be expected to show at some time.

Middleton Inner Pier

To get here you need to park on the southern side of the marina entrance either approaching from the Seaton Carew coast road or by following the signs through the town centre approaching from the north. The pier is just behind the yacht club site and there is plenty of parking in the main carpark or you can drive up a short dirt track to the edge of the main basin and it is a 50 metre walk to the pier.

There are two piers within the outer Middleton pier but this is the easiest to get to and you can fish within sight of your vehicle. During very heavy winter seas you can actually pick up a few codling from here when they get pushed up the deep channel which continues into the marina entrance. The main advantage of this pier however is that it is an excellent venue for junior anglers, quite safe to fish, and you can expect to catch several species in reasonable numbers although most of them will be on the small side. There are exceptions though, and at some times between April and October you can expect to land some specimen sized eels to 3lb or more, and sizable coalfish, codling together with the odd plaice. Some of these can be of a reasonable size and are probably fish that have been resident in the marina complex and have “escaped” when the lock gates have been opened to let the boat traffic out. For a lazy summer days fishing all you need is a light carp or spinning rod, a fixed spool reel loaded with 10lb line, a few traces with size 2 Aberdeens and a couple of 1oz sinkers. Plenty of ragworm and mussel can be collected locally and although peeler crab might be of a slight advantage in order to catch eels, coalfish or codling, it is certainly not essential. Whiting, rockling, blennies, pouting and other smaller species can all be taken in good numbers about 3 hours either side of high water. There are a few rocks close in to the pier sides but otherwise the bottom is all mud and sand and you should not lose much tackle.

North Rock Pipe

Access is quite easy, just park at the northern end of the promenade road, Marine Drive, then walk down the steps directly in front of the pipe which is about 500yds before the promenade end.

North Rock is a good winter low water mark and produces some big bags of codling anytime between September and March. The pipe structure is quite high so you can get onto it even on small ebb tides. It is best fished on a falling sea with a moderate swell running but it will also produce fish in calmer conditions especially on a night tide. If you are getting onto the pipe early on the ebb tide beware of a rogue wave washing over the end. A really big ebb tide will uncover the kelp beds at the end of the pipe when you can see where all the holes and gullies are. Casting anywhere off the left corner will put you into some reasonably deep water. Tackle losses can be high so use suitable heavy tackle. Consider using 30lb to 35lb line all the way through with a rotten bottom rig and you should get at least a few end rigs back and hopefully some fish.

Codling, coalfish, and eels are the main species to expect and the codling run to a good average of between 3lb to 4lb, with plenty of cod around the 6lb to 7lb mark landed each winter. A big crab and mussel cocktail will take codling early in the season, and it will take fish all year round, but once early November arrives most fish will be looking for a big black lug and ragworm cocktail. Use at least a strong pattern 3/0 hook on a 25lb hook length, and be prepared to reel in fast to avoid any snags and get any fish in.

A late evening session during the summer months will produce small codling, coalfish, eels, and the odd pouting to crab baits.

Old Town Wall

The Old Town Wall is the stretch of promenade between the New Pier to the north and Newburn Groyne to the south. To get here park in the marina or yacht club car park, or in the road behind the promenade next to the apartments and it is a short walk along the sea wall where you can then get a good view along the rocks and decide where to fish.

During the winter months it is best fished over a big high tide on a falling sea when some good bags of codling can be taken. Most winters see one or two double figure cod landed from here but conditions have to exactly right, and a night time tide is usually the most productive. If you are fishing the nearby Middleton Pier in a moderate swell and it is too crowded or there isn’t much showing it is worth moving to here because the codling can be very close inshore in the white water along this stretch of beach. You will need to jump over the promenade wall and fish on top of the large blocks which form the sea defences. There are some big holes in between the blocks so take care not to fall in them, and beware of big waves breaking over the promenade. Although you don’t always have to cast far it can be a big advantage to do so just to clear any heavy white water and fish just behind the breakers which will give you a better chance of holding the bottom. The bottom is all sand so snags are rare and you will need a grip lead at all times. With distance casting in mind, a big black lug and rag cocktail tipped with white worm or razor clam on at least a 3/0 hook pennel rig clipped down should be the norm. Crab will also take codling between September and November but lots of weed can be a problem early in the season. Landing a fish from the front of the blocks can be difficult in rough seas so it will be an advantage to have someone with you, both to land fish and for safety reasons. The summer months are very quiet although a good south easterly sea will see the odd bass taken, some big plaice have been taken from here in the past, and mackerel can be taken in good numbers during August on a heavy spinner cast well out past any surf.

The Ferry Steps

To get here take the main lower road, Northgate, onto the headland past the Friarage tackle shop and turn right to go around the back of the fish quay site towards the main quay entrance. You can park on a small area of paving to the left of the main gates or at the side of the road which follows the dock channel and old town wall back towards the Pilot Pier.

The ferry steps are at the mouth of the dock entrance on the Hartlepool headland, and are very sheltered in all but the most severe weather. This a good summer mark for big eels with specimens to 3lb or more likely. They usually start to show around mid may and stay until October. Plenty of club matches and open comps have been won from here with a big bag of eels. Mackerel also move into the dock channel during August and can stay in the docks until October. They can be taken on float tackle and lures. Flounders, blennies, small whiting and pouting are also present during the summer months. Crab is usually the best bait but ragworm will also take plenty of fish and can often out fish the crab. Best fished over high water and a few hours of the ebb the water is very deep and a 40 yd cast will put you into the main channel. The bottom is muddy with a few snags but you can easily use multi hook rigs. Light tackle is the best way to fish for the summer eels with a bass rod and small multiplier, or carp rod and fixed spool reel loaded with 12lb line and a 1oz lead which is then allowed to move over the bottom in the slight tide pull. A 3oz lead should be the heaviest that you need but you might need to go a bit heavier during very big high tides when the tide is a bit stronger, or switch to a grip lead. Sport can be excellent on light gear and the eel bites can be very hard and will pull the rod tip right over. If you start missing bites leave your reel in free spool and allow any fish a bit longer to take the bait and move off with it before striking.

During heavy winter seas codling and whiting will move right up the channel and codling to 6lb are easily possible. Fresh or frozen crab and black lugworm cocktails will take the codling, and tipping a worm bait with mackerel or squid will take the whiting when there is a lot of them present.

The Folly / Wreck Hole

Access is via the promenade and Marine Drive, you can park safely on the road side and walk down the ramp onto the rocks which is about midway along the promenade.

The Folly and Wreck hole are basically the same mark as one leads into the other as the tide ebbs. The Folly is a large rock filled hole with the Wreck Hole at the end of a rock scar on the right hand side. You can fish the Folly from almost high tide back and then move onto the Wreck Hole as the Folly empties. Big ebbs will see it empty altogether, whereas smaller ebbs usually see enough water remaining to fish it all the time. It does not appear to be a particularly big hole to look at but it produces some big bags of codling every winter. Any time between September and May will see codling present here when there is plenty of colour in the water and there is a nice moderate swell at the back end of a falling sea. Even calm conditions will usually see at least the odd fish landed during a night time session.

The Folly is not too heavy but you will lose some gear, and the Wreck Hole is extremely tackle hungry. A good stiff rod such as a Conoflex Nemesis and an ABU 7000 type reel are needed to fish here. There is no need to cast too far and 35lb line all the way through with a 25lb hook length as part of a rotten bottom rig will be suitable. Use at least a strong 3/0 hook pattern as you will need to bully any fish out of the kelp at the Wreck Hole. A daylight session will produce fish, but a night session is the best time to fish here. Codling average a good 3lb to 4lb, with fish up to 8lb taken most winters, and the occasional double figure specimen can be expected. A big crab and mussel cocktail will take codling, coalfish, and eels up till about early November. Frozen crab and black lug will take fish after this, but most fish will be happy to take a big lug and rag cocktail. April and May will see any fish looking for crab baits again. The summer months will see small codling, coalfish, and eels showing, and there is always the chance of a bigger codling from the kelp beds in front of the Wreck Hole.

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Steve Walker

Steve Walker