Last week a temporary tent city sprung up on Brighton beach, as seasonal visitors flocked to the shore. We were invaded by men getting their tackle out. Not unusual in the vicinity of Madeira Drive (the site of Brighton’s nudist beach). However these weren’t the usual exhibitionists. Fisherman from around the south coast set up to patiently wait for a bite. In scenes more familiar on the shingle of Dungeness than Brighton, hard core sea anglers unloaded their considerable kit and braved a sharp easterly wind.
Word had spread on the fishing lines of communication of an early and abundant influx of plaice. Catches of 6 – 10 fish per angler were being reported. For those ill versed in the vagaries of angling, it’s rare to get such a rush of action. Fishermen are resigned to spending hours baiting their hooks, staring at the tips of their rods, relentlessly reeling and casting – for no more reward than a thorough beating by the weather. So, this really was very exciting indeed.
Plaice are rarely caught off the beach, and rarely this early in the year. Having grown up tripping over fishing tackle, impaling myself and hooks and sharing fridges with lugworm, I like to think I have a bit of fishy knowledge and was hungry to know why (and beginning to fancy some fresh dinner). This also came during the week that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was busy berating the EU and others (with some success – respect due to Hugh) to end wasteful and destructive fishing – so an easy catch of tea just seemed a bit suspicious.
However, fish can be fickle and follow food and tides. The word on the fishing forums was controls on commercial fishing could be increasing the amateur catch. However the Sussex fisheries experts say there is no particular reason – due to weather or anything else – they can think of why more plaice are in this place. It appears to be good news – there is an abundance of fish.
So, reassured of a healthy fish stock, the family fisherman was dispatched to bring a few platefuls back for tea – proving
our beach is a great plaice to be.