If you are looking to target Plaice from your boat then there are some simple techniques that will help you along the way. In fact if you are fishing in an area that isn’t fully loaded with Plaice then in my experience these can be the difference between blanking or bringing something home for your tea!
1. More than a mile or 2 from the shore and you’ll find that Plaice prefer very clean sandy ground, ideally you’ll want sand banks or at least some contour change in the seabed. They love to gather on the down tide side of a bank.
2. Closer to shore Plaice can usually be found on flat clean sandy bottoms where there are also rocks and weed. They seem to love the areas of sand between the rocks.
3. Drifting rules. It’s something that anglers from the shore have noticed for years, flatfish tend to be very inquisitive and Plaice seem to be attracted to anything dragging along the seabed. If you do anchor then keep your bait on the move.
4. The right weight matters. Bomb style weights are no good for dragging along the bottom on the drift. You need those “Polo” shaped weights with the dimples on them. The main advantage being that they don’t roll around causing endless tangles in your end gear but they also have the advantage of kicking up sand of the bottom which can make a real difference on a slow day. Make sure you have enough weight to hold bottom, but not too much, you want fishing to be fun.
5. Bait combinations. When fishing for Plaice I’ve never varied very far from, Lugworm, Ragworm and thin strips of squid. Sometimes you need a cocktail, other times just a Lug or Ragworm on its own can be deadly. If you have those 3 with you then you’ll not go far wrong.
6. Plaice don’t like boats. This is especially true if you are targeting them closer to the shore or in less than 30 feet of water. When you first let your terminal gear down let it hit the bottom then let the boat drift a minimum of 20-30 yards before putting the reel into gear. This should give spooked fish time to lift and then settle again as you pass over before your bait finds them.
7. Do attractors work? Most fishermen swear by them. I’ve had mixed results so always like to keep an open mind about it. Again on tough days I’ve had some success using a spoon, other days a string of yellow beads has worked wonders. What I’ve never had much success with is the much famed yellow, green and black bead combinations that are so popular on the south coast. Experiment, just because you drift over an area once and don’t catch doesn’t mean the fish aren’t there.
8. Keep rigs short and hooks small. There is absolutely no need to be dragging many feet of trace behind your weight, more than likely you’ll just end up with a pretty tangle. These fish don’t have huge mouths, forget your standard 4/0 – 6/0 hooks!!! Size 1 hooks with a twist are my favourite although plenty of people go even smaller.
9. THE TECHNIQUE – READ THIS IF NOTHING ELSE. This is vital, the number of people I’ve had out with me on the boat who have caught nothing because they won’t listen. Plaice can be touchy biters. Seldom will they attack a bait in such a way that they hook themselves, they must be given time. At the first sign of a bite (which will feel like a short rattle), take the reel out of gear and let out some line, DO NOT DRAG YOUR BAIT AWAY FROM THE FISH. There are all sorts of recommendations for how much line to play out but this obviously alters on how fast you are drifting! My rule is to keep on playing out line as you count to 12, engage the reel and as the line tightens again slowly lift into the fish, if it’s there you’ll feel the weight on the end of your line. It’s really important that you keep the line slack whilst the fish is biting, Plaice aren’t the sort of fighters that are going to bury you in a snag, more likely you’ll not give them enough time and pull the hook away from their mouth. I spent a couple of years only hooking the odd fish (more by luck than judgement) until somebody taught me the importance of letting out line.
That’s just about all there is to Plaice fishing from a boat. The 1 key ingredient which I can’t share with you is one which implies to all forms of fishing, that is the significance of local knowledge. Every area has its own hot spots and it could be something as small as a 10 yard wide, 2 foot deep depression in the sand. You’re not going to see that on any chart! The great joy of fishing for Plaice from a boat is that just occasionally you’ll come across one of these secret spots, when you do make sure you keep it to yourself!