Plaice Fishing Brighton

Many anglers confuse flounders and plaice because both can carry orange spots on the back.

Plaice have a series of individual bony knobs in position from the centre of and behind the eyes. These travel rearwards as far as the top of the gill opening and count between 4 and 7 in number. Flounder do not have these bony knobs but do have prickly scales directly above the pectoral fin and also along the body line edge of the anal and dorsal fins that can be felt by rubbing the finger along these towards the head. Plaice have a slightly more overall rounded shape than the flounder and the anal ray count of the plaice is between 48 and 59, whereas on the flounder it is only 35 to 46.


The belly of the plaice is pearly white and often almost transparent whereas the flounder is egg shell white and more dull without the transparency. Shore caught plaice The back of the plaice varies depending on the ground it lives over. Usually a warm brown over sand, but can be greenish grey over shingle and gravel beds. The spots on the plaice are usually vivid orange, whereas those on the flounder are pale and dull.


A post Christmas spawning season from January to late March. The bulk of fish spawn in deep water, but some fish spawn close to shore in depths less than 60′. The eggs are surface floating and take about 15 days to hatch. The larvae and post larvae remain at the surface for up to 6 weeks which by then the left eye has started to migrate to the right hand side of the fish and physical changes are occurring that allow the fish to adopt its bottom living pattern. The juvenile plaice also move into shallower inshore waters at this time.


Found throughout the waters of the UK, also south into the Mediterranean, along the coast of Scandinavia and the Barents Sea off Russia, around Iceland and also along the southern tip of Greenland. Localized hot spots in Britain occur off Devon and throughout the English Channel, the western facing Scottish lochs, the Cumbria Coast and the Channel Islands. Plaice however, are wide spread and remain in undiscovered pockets in most areas.


In deep water likes ground made up of rolling sandbanks and gutters where the tide runs across and deposits food. Also the inclines of gravel and shell beds. Often found living along the edge of rough ground and reefs where clean sand patches are broken by rocks and patches of boulders. From the shore favours clean sand and gravel in deepish water with steep to beaches like Chesil Beach a far better proposition than shallow surf beaches. Will also live over mussel beds at the heads of estuaries and favours deep scoured holes in the main channels of estuaries where the tide passes overhead. A frequent dweller inside sea lochs and found over clean sand tight in under high rising cliffs and rocky headlands.


Favours shellfish like small sand clams, razorfish, crabs etc, but will also diversify taking sandeels, worms and shrimps.


Fishing for plaice Although plaice may show inshore as early as late March, the time to hunt plaice from the shore is from mid April on. These are still thin fish after spawning, but during April they start to fatten a little and are getting back towards condition by May. May and June are the best months, but fish will continue to be caught right through until Christmas prior to moving out again for spawning. In the estuary mouths May and June are good over the mussel beds, but July is better when settled weather keeps the water clear and the plaice feeding.


On steep to beaches the knack is finding some tide run. Plaice like to sit at the edge of the tide in the slacker water, so expect the ends of beaches to fish better than the middle. If the tide run cuts back into the middle of the beach, and this is usually marked by wash ups of weed and plastic bottle accumulations along the high tide line, then plaice will congregate here, too!

Shore caught plaice

Shallow surf beaches are less reliable. Plaice prefer deeper water and stay off the banks that dry with low water. Plaice living here will be in the gutters beyond the low water mark and are unlikely to move in far with the tide. Also pick out patches of boulders, gravel and shingle, and especially mussel beds around the low water mark. Otherwise, fish the ends of the beaches and coves where the rocks and cliffs fall onto clean sand. Estuary plaice don’t penetrate far up the estuary and are rarely taken more than half a mile inwards. A prime target for them and you are the seed mussel beds that are nearly always a feature of estuary mouths. Plaice never leave the confines of the main deeper estuary channels unlike the flounder. Summer estuary resident fish will be found in the deeper holes where the tide passes overhead, in the slack water bays in deepish water, inside the harbours and occasionally around pier supports and under jetties. Off the rock marks is less easy. Try to use surface water sign to locate the tide runs and fish near these, or if the rocks fall vertical onto clean sand, then short casts are more likely to find the fish.


From rock marks and steep to beaches the size of the tide need not take up much consideration time. More important is the timing of the tide. Low water around mid day is good with the plaice feeding for the first couple of hours of the flood, then again over high water slack. The other prime time is the two hours before dark coinciding with low or high water. From shallow beaches, choose only low water and the biggest spring tides. The exception would be a shallow beach with deeper water close in along the low water line. Such marks prove to be good neap tide marks immaterial of tidal run. When fishing the estuaries go for the medium sized tides avoiding the spring tides which really hammer through the main channel. As before it’s the two hours around low and high water that the plaice feed best in with dusk and the mid day period the icing on the cake.


Plaice like it hot and sunny with settled weather keeping the sea clear and calm. Plaice are not put off by bright daylight, though a slightly overcast day fishes really well. dark, rainy days are poor and very unreliable. Rough seas after storms, seas just showing signs of incoming rough weather, coloured seas and those carrying flood water from the estuaries should all be ignored as a waste of time. Winds ideally, should be variable or just gently off the land or sea. Once wind strength exceeds a force 3 the plaice fishing generally deteriorates rapidly. Odd plaice, contrary to what you read, are caught in the dark hours. These are mainly the smaller juvenile fish upto 8ozs and tend to be taken from the deep water rock marks.


As we’ve seen, plaice like scoured out holes and the inclines of sandbanks as their resting place. This tells us that static ledgering tactics with a grip wire lead will limit the chances of success. In each and every situation, if you aim to fish with a lead that will be slowly swept around by the tidal current on the line so that it washes into the depressions and gutters, then eventually you’ll locate plaice. Two rods allows you to use both a long and short cast. The longer cast will travel downtide quite quickly in a shoreward arc, but the closer cast much slower, again in a downtide arc. Slowly bring the casting distances towards each other to further your chances of locating the fish. You’ll see the rod tips repeatedly nod as the lead rolls over the seabed. When the rod tip pulls over a little and the line tightens, this tells you that the lead has found one of those depressions and you can expect a bite. This trotting technique works well inside the estuaries, too, and also when working a bait over and alongside a seed mussel bed.


On the open beaches when the fish are at range you’ve no option but to use a 5-6oz beachcaster, 15lb line and a shock leader. But the estuary fish are often accessible with a 1-3oz bass rod, small reel and 10lb line. Long range tactics requires the following rig. Take a 4-foot (120cms) length of 60lb mono. Tie a Mustad oval split ring on at the bottom, then a Breakaway Impact Shield and a bead stop. About 30-inches (75cms) above the shield put in a bead trapped swivel to take the hook length. Finish with a strong swivel or link. The hook length should be 12-20lb line, preferably a clear colour. Slide on a few small size 4mm coloured beads, red, black and yellow are good, then a Mustad 3261BLN Aberdeen or Mustad Flatfish 32601N hook size 1 to 2/0. Use a short length of telephone wire to keep the beads close the hook when fishing. For short range fish the same rig without the impact shield and with the bead trapped swivel placed immediately above the split ring. You can also drop down in trace line strength for smaller leads and less powerful casting. A hook length of 8-10lb is enough in most instances.


Blow lugworm, small king rag, white rag, mussel and cockles are reliable beach and rock baits. Cocktails including long, thin strips of sandeel or squid add movement and can increase the catch. Inside the estuaries stick with mussel over the seed mussel beds and peeler crab everywhere else.


Fishing for plaice The trawlers have hit the plaice stocks hard, so try to find clean areas of sand flanked by rocky ground where the trawlers can’t work. Clean patches on reefs, areas of undulating sandbanks, gravel banks, clean ground close to vertical rock, in fact much the same features as described for shore fishing.


Often the neaps fish well because the bulk of plaice fishing will be on the drift and the travel of the boat is obviously slower and more controlled on a neap tide and presents the bait to the fish better. This applies to the deeper water banks and reefs, especially. Shallower inshore ground fishes better on medium sized tides and again either side of the slack tide periods.


Calm seas and settled high pressure weather systems give the very best of the fishing with bright days far better than heavily overcast ones. Clearish water is ideal, and moving sediment off a reef, sandbank etc, disturbed by the increasing tide run will force bites to drop away.


The most successful method for most boat fishing is with the baited spoon. The spoons are the ice fishing design from Scandinavia. Delta make oval shaped spoons which are excellent, though you can also use the same companies revolving bar spoons with great success, or similar designs either home made or bought. To rig the spoon you tie a three way swivel to the main reel line attaching the lead weight, usually a watch type or plain torpedo bomb, to the middle swivel eye via a split ring. To the end of the swivel tie on 6 to 12-foot (360cms) of 10lb line and then the spoon to this. The hook length from the end of the spoon needs to be about 3 to 4-feet (90 to 120cms) long and have a few coloured beads added for extra attraction. Some anglers like to add another hook snood in the middle between the weight and the spoon by adding another three way swivel. Once on the seabed and fished to a tight line the spoon flutters and rolls in the tide as the boat drifts attracting the plaice to it which then sees and smells the bait. Baits are the same as for shore fishing, but using cocktails of two and three different baits works well. Try lug, crab and a long strip of sandeel or squid. Another is lug or rag with splints of razorfish tipped off with mussel. The other option for drift fishing is to use the Knotless Mustad Twin Boom Spreader rig. This is a long boom with the hook snoods attached at each end and the main line connection in the booms middle. The hook snoods needs to be about 12-inches (30cms) long, again with coloured beads added and using the same baits. The weight is attached to the split link in the centre of the boom. Hooks are still the Mustad Aberdeen 3261BLN and Flatfish pattern, or a Kamasan Aberdeen of the same size. Use the watch type lead where possible for drift fishing as it’s design makes it kick up spurts of sand which also attracts the plaice. Plaice bites on the drift are usually felt as a series of plucks initially. Some anglers keep the bait moving and wait until the plaice pulls the tip right over, but others release free line allowing the plaice time to swallow the bait, then strike! Take the time and trouble to net all the sizeable plaice as the hook holds are not always good when drift fishing.


Using such light lines requires either a 6lb class rod, though these are few and far between these days, or a 10-foot 2lb test curve carp type blank with a soft tip but some backbone in the butt. Some coarse fishing swimfeeder rods also have the right action. A small ABU 5000 type multiplier or a fixed spool reel loaded with 10-12lb line completes your outfit.


When fishing in harbours etc, try casting the bait near to the moorings themselves. Seed mussel accumulate on the mooring chains and attract plaice to the anchorage point. Plaice are also attracted to sound as well as colours and movement. Try putting a rattling Booby Bead just above the spoon, or when ledgering try bouncing the weight up and down on the seabed. Mixing the colours of the beads in sequence is good, but adding a couple of highly fluorescent beads larger in diameter than the others is also worth trying when bites are scarce. Alternatively, use a bead top and bottom, but with yellow or green fluorescent tubing half the length of the hook snood below the spoon and charge this with a torch before each drop.

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• A deposit of £100 is required for boat bookings. The balance is payable in cash on the day.
• For individuals £50 deposit is payable at the time of booking.
• In the event of bad weather we offer another date or refund.
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