Sea Fishing - Berry Head Brixham
Berry Head is an abandoned limestone quarry situated at the mouth of Torbay. The waters are deep around this area, as much as 100 feet just a few yards from shore. During the summer months, mackerel are probably the most prolific species found at Berry Head. Sliding float tackle, spinners or mackerel feathers are the most popular way of catching mackerel. Some real monsters are often taken here. In fact, the current British shore caught record for the mackerel was taken at Berry Head in 1982, a magnificent fish of 5 lbs 11 oz taken by M.A.Kemp.
One of the most popular spots to fish is called the platform. Access to the platform is gained by means of rough gravel track which unfortunately is eroding year by year. The platform can accommodate quite a few anglers although overcrowding is a common occurrence. The platform has been one of the top marks for one of the smaller species of flatfish, the dab. Using ledger equipment try baits such as ragworm, lugworm, peeler crab and even small strips of squid. Other species which are often caught from the platform are pollack, garfish, wrasse, mullet, gurnard, horse mackerel, tons of lesser spotted dogfish and the occasional bass and cod in the winter time. When fishing for mullet, fish from the far righthand side, just under the old office. Mullet often frequent this area and if you ground bait properly, you could well be rewarded with a very big mullet. A landing net is a good idea when fishing for mullet as they have got fairly soft mouths. One final thing I should mention is that the platform is no longer accessible to wheelchair users. I would strongly advise you not to attempt to access the platform as you are more than likely to have an accident.
There is a very strong tidal flow in the Berry head area, both on the incoming and outgoing tide. High tide is the best time to float fish as you're not having to constantly reel in. Grip leads are absolutely essential when bottom fishing. If you don't use them, your gear will be swept away in a matter of seconds. To counteract the tidal flow at Berry head, try using a large float weighted with at least one and a half ounces of lead. If you use small floats, or underweight your float you'll find that they are carried along with the tide that much quicker. It won't make a massive difference, but it will at least mean you haven't got to keep reeling in every minute.
British Record Rod Caught Mackerel
British Record Mackerel 5 lbs. 11 oz.
click photo to enlarge
Photos never really justify how big fish really are. However, imagine catching a mackerel that is twice the length of your lower arm, that is how big this fish was. Special thanks to Graham down at Brixham Bait and Tackle for providing me with a copy of this photo
Some very large wrasse can be caught at Berry head. Fish approaching 8LBS have been taken in this area. A Paternoster rig using a three-way swivel is probably the best way of catching wrasse. A strong size 1/0 hook with a minimum of 15lb bs line is recommended. Instead of using shop bought weights, go to a garage and ask them for some old spark plugs. These make excellent weights in places where tackle loss is expected. If you want to fish light for wrasse, sliding float tackle can be very successful. Use such bait as prawn, crab, rag worm or even shellfish. Wrasse can be caught right under your feet so there is no need to cast very far. I would also recommend using what is commonly known in the fishing world as a "rotten bottom". It's quite simple, the length of line running from the swivel to your weight should either be weaker, or contain several knots. So in the event of snagging the bottom, all you will lose is your weight and not your hook.
Berry head is quite famous for the large conger eel that have been taken here in times gone by. Fish of up to nearly 50 pounds have been caught in the area. It is still a very popular mark for conger fishermen. The Southside of Berry head has often produced some extremely large conger.
During the winter months, cod can sometimes be taken in the deep cold waters. Bottom fishing using large fish baits, squid, peeler crab, several lugworm will catch cod. Spinning has also been known to catch cod. Whiting and pouting are also prolific in the winter months. Again, big ones can be taken here.
There is a very famous mark at Berry head called "hairy ledge". As the name suggests, it can be somewhat dangerous climbing down so be very careful when doing so. This mark has been known to yield large mackerel and mullet as well.
A normal hardback crab is not a particularly good bait. However at certain times in a crabs life they are probably the best bait for fish. Lots of fish love this type of bait, you'll catch flatfish, Wrasse, Pollock, Bass and countless other fish using peeler crab. In order for crabs to grow they need to shed their shells every few weeks. When this happens you have two types of crab bait, a peeler and a soft backed crab. A crab becomes a peeler just before it sheds its hard shell in order for it to grow. A soft backed crab is a crab that has already shed its hard shell but it's new shell is yet to harden. Peeler crabs are readily available from most bait shops and can be bought singularly, or in batches, alive or frozen.
As the name suggests, a peeler crab needs to have it's hard shell removed before you can mount it on your hook. You can also remove the outer shell from the claws and legs as well as these also make excellent bait. Once you have removed the outer shell, you will be left with a very soft bait indeed. Using a fairly large hook, using either the whole crab, or half depending on the size, push the hook through the crab two or three times so that it is mounted on the entire hook and shank.
Because the crab is very soft you may need to secure it on your hook if you had fishing at a distance. Shearing thread has always been a favorite with many anglers to secure crab on the hook . Shearing thread is readily available from any haberdashery. Basically it's stretchy cotton that you wrap around the crab & just pull it tight, you don't need to actually tie any knots. You can treat soft backed crab in exactly the same way. You can use crab on the float or bottom, it will work just as well either way.
You could pay anything up to £1 for one crab, so it may be more economical to harvest your own crab. Because they are so vulnerable they always hide whilst they are shedding their shells. If you go to your local rock beach, you're sure to find peeler crab hiding amongst the weed and rocks. Peeler crab are easy to recognize. Look at the back of the shell, you will just see it starting to reseed revealing the soft shell underneath.
I have covered the most popular fish that can be caught at Berry head. Obviously, different fish turn up every now and then and we would be here all day listing them. Night or day fishing will yield results here. Just be very careful around the rocks especially when the tide is flowing hard.
Getting to Berry head is quite a trek so wear some decent boots. Parking at Berry head is reserved for disabled drivers only. However, there is plenty of parking space next to the information centre.
Conger Fishing at "Copper Kettle"
If you don't mind scrambling down a slippery rocky little path that is no more than a foot wide in the complete dark then I will tell you about a good spot for conger not far from the quarry. We always knew it as "Copper Kettle", don't ask me why, that is the name that we used to call it. There is a small rocky outcrop at the bottom of the cliff that can yield conger, some real whoppers so give it a go. It's easy to get to, jump over the gate on the right-hand side of the road just before you get to the main car park at Berry Head. Cross the field and then follow the path around to the left and you will see the small rocky outcrop below you. Being very careful, clamber down and fish from the rocks. Here are some photos showing you exactly where "Copper Kettle" is located.
Fishing Berry Head in a Wheelchair
Unfortunately Berry Head is not really a great place for wheelchair anglers. If you can get out of your wheelchair and walk a little, you may well be able to get down to the platform, if not then I would advise you not to risk trying to make your way down what is a very dodgy, pothole ridden gravelly road in your wheelchair. Erosion has taken its toll on the small road and you would just end of having an accident if you do attempt to use the path in your wheelchair. However, not all is lost, you may be able to fish from the wall just the right of the office, or even fish from inside the office from the balcony. However, the office is not really a very nice place, it's basically become a rubbish tip as well as a public lavatory, I certainly wouldn't like to spend very long fishing from inside the office. If you don't catch anything from the wall, at least you will give yourself a good workout because believe you me, you have got to do a good lob to get your float to a position where you can see it over the wall.
It really is a shame that Berry Head isn't more accessible to disabled anglers. Years ago when I was a kid, I can always remember a chap in a wheelchair who used to drive up and park right next to the concrete hut. In those days, the wall was only a foot or so high so this guy could cast out and sit there all day without any problems. With the recent news that they want to turn the whole place into a nature reserve and stop fishing, I don't suppose any work will be done to make fishing any easier for us disabled anglers anywhere in the near future.
Berry Head Parking Permit for Disabled Drivers
Please be aware that you cannot just drive down to the Berry Head anymore, you will need to obtain a swipe card which will drop an automatic bollard in the road. Permits cost £15 per week, or £30 a year. I know that I only paid £5 for my permit which included a swipe card for Berry Head, plus disabled parking privileges in other Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust car parks. I'm not entirely sure, but Torbay residents may get privileges that non-Torbay residents do not get, the easiest thing to do is for you to phone 01803 882619, I'm sure that you will get all the information you need about how you can obtain a driving permit for Berry Head. You may also find these following to websites helpful www.berryhead.org.uk/ / www.countryside-trust.org.uk/
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