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Aberdeen Thistle Sea Angling Club

Sea Angling in North East Scotland
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Tips for those new to rock fishing...




In this area bait can be more of a problem than elsewhere. Sources of bait include local tackle shops, who buy-in farmed ragworm at some times of the year and also offer blast-frozen baits of all kinds. Online suppliers vary in both bait quality and carriage charges; if you have a reliable source please tell us.



Other sources include fresh or cooked shellfish from fishmongers, or frozen from supermarkets (especially Tesco), or from exotic foods suppliers (Matthews Foods on Causewayend stock velvet crabs, squid etc intended for human consumption).

If you want fresh bait, the best answer is to dig your own and learn to keep it. Thistle members like fresh ragworm dug from Newburgh or Montrose. You can collect peeler crabs in season from Rosehearty, Peterhead, or just about any suitable stretch of the coast. From time to time members club-together to order bulk quantities of peelers (notably from Tayside, where there are one or two well-defined crab moults annually) and frozen black lugworm (usually from the Blackpool area). We also re-stock bait freezers with mackerel in season, although results with fish-baits from the rocks are said to be not as good as fresh worm or crab.

It can also be worth checking beaches directly after very severe storms. In December 2012 a member found razorfish washed-up on Aberdeen beach, circulated the news and several members were able to collect hundreds of free baits before the seagulls got to them. 



Any beachcaster with backbone will 'do'. Given that there's rarely any need to cast great distances, the priority is for a rod to be capable of hauling a fish through kelp and sometimes up a cliff face. Long soft beachcasters may be great for clean beaches and have easy-casting capabilities, but they do not fare so well when fished in rough conditions when a stiffer blank will both stand-up to wind and tides better, and can sometimes lift fish from the water without your having to get to the water's edge.

Reels are usually of multiplier type, for cranking-power, of 7000 size to hold enough line. Abu 7000, Penn 535 or Daiwa SLOSH30 types work well.

Line can be mono of 30-35lb test, usually fished straight-though, or braid of 30-50lb test with a suitable shock/rubbing leader.

Rigs need to be simple, to avoid snagging. A simple one or two-hook paternoster or pulley set-up suffices for most marks. Stout hook patterns like Mustad 3261BLN or Viking 4447-B in sizes 2/0 to 5/0 are preferred. Circle and semi-circle patterns have self-hooking capabilities while inturned points seem less prone to damage from contact with rocks, but these types can be fiddly to thread worms round. Rotten-bottoms can be a good idea in some areas.

Most Thistle members keep their rigs simple and tie their own. They also cast their own simple weights from scrap lead and expect losses - if you're not getting snagged, you're probably not fishing where the cod are.

A tripod can be an advantage at some marks, but you can generally find a crevice to wedge a rod into. Don't forget to carry a bag for your catch!

In recent seasons members have enjoyed success with jellyworms on spinning tackle in calm conditions for pollack, especially in summer and autumn months. Black firetail patterns work well, mounted on lead-heads with 3/0 to 4/0 hooks. The same gear can also be used for mackerel from July, when strings of feathers or silver lures replace the jellies.

It's a good idea to carry the least amount of tackle you can get away with, in a compact rucksack to keep both hands free while climbing. Hiking boots make ideal footwear; wellies have their place on marks with rockpools. Most Thistle members wear a flotation suit in poor weather. A mobile 'phone is useful, but network coverage can be patchy in some parts. It's worth thinking about carrying other signalling devices (whistle, flares etc) for safety.

On the subject of safety, please remember that this is a dangerous sport and there have been injuries and fatalities in this area. Anglers are advised to take the utmost care, fish in groups or within sight of each other, be aware of tides and sea-states at all times and watch out for unexpected swells which are a feature of this area.



There are not many places to fish which can be reached by public transport, so it's important to have your own transport. Very few marks are productive in all tide states; if you're out for the day you'll probably want to shift spots at least once, which can also mean a short drive between marks.

If you don't have your own transport your fishing will be very restricted unless you can arrange a lift with someone who does.