Kent Coast Sea Fishing Compendium


BBC Coastal Forecast (North Foreland to Beachy Head)

Historic views of Dover Harbour (1595 to 1990)

This section of the east Kent coast includes the following 22 shore and boat fishing venues: Dover beach, Prince of Wales Pier, Admiralty Pier, Southern Breakwater (Knuckle), Shakespeare beach, The Warren, Samphire Hoe (and boat fishing venues at Fan, Crab and Langdon Bays and six fishing stations east of Admiralty Pier opposite (1) Langdon Steps, (2) The Cobbler, (3) Convict Prison (site of), (4) East Cliff Tunnel, (5) Guilford Battery (site of) and (6) Edinburgh Boarding House (site of) and six fishing stations west of Admiralty Pier opposite (1) Lord Warden Hotel and Trinity House Tower, (2) Shakespeare Cliff Point and Landslip, (3) Shakespeare Cliff Point and Coal Mine (site of), (4) Coal Mine (site of) and Channel Tunnel Landmark, (5) Coal Mine (site of) and Lydden Spout, and (6) Lydden Spout Old Coastguard Station (site of)

Click here to view archived items

Local Bait & Tackle Suppliers

Fresh lugworm, ragworm and the usual selection of frozen baits can be obtained from the following local bait & tackle suppliers:

Bill's Bait and Tackle
121 Snargate Street
Dover CT17 9DA
01304 204542
51.1210, 1.3097
Monday 6am to 3pm
Tuesday 6am to 3pm
Wednesday 6am to 3pm
Thursday 7am to 3pm
Friday 6am to 5pm
Saturday 6am to 5pm
Sunday 6am to 12 noon
146 Snargate Street
Dover CT17 9BZ
01304 242346
51.1221, 1.3111
Monday 9am to 5pm
Tuesday 9am to 5pm
Wednesday 9am to 5pm
Thursday 9am to 5pm
Friday 9am to 5pm
Saturday 9am to 5pm
Sunday 10am to 4pm
Channel Angling
158-160 Snargate Street
Dover CT17 9BZ
01304 203742
51.12252, 1.31165
Monday 7am to 5pm
Tuesday 7am to 12 noon
Wednesday 7am to 5pm
Thursday 7am to 5pm
Friday 7am to 6pm
Saturday 7am to 6pm
Sunday 7am to 12 noon
Brazil's Anglers Den
162 Snargate Street
Dover CT17 9BZ
01304 201457
51.12270, 1.31167
Monday 7am to 5:30pm
Tuesday 7am to 5:30pm
Wednesday 7am to 5:30pm
Thursday 7am to 5:30pm
Friday 7am to 5:30pm
Saturday 7am to 5:30pm
Sunday 7am to 4pm


The piers at Dover are:

Dover Port
  1. the Eastern Arm (fishing no longer permitted) at the eastern end of the harbour;

  2. the Prince of Wales Pier - a grade 2 listed structure located inside the harbour (park at 51.11949, 1.31195) - is open 24 hours (purchase a ticket from the machine at the entrance). Car access for the disabled is via the Marina Office. Described by the Dover Sea Angling Association (DSAA) as "the family-friendly preference for anglers young and old", it has a café at the end of the Pier which is open most days (including weekends), supplying a wide range of hot and cold food and drinks.

    The Prince of Wales pier is a short, walled pier situated inside Dover harbour. Open daily, it fishes at all states of the tide with high and down favourite. The café end is best for bottom fishing when casting towards the breakwater. The inshore section produces fish in rough weather and coloured water, while the Sea Cat gate is noted for pollack and flounders. Sport at the shelter is limited. Despite being a safe fishing mark, the pier is windswept and exposed during bad weather.

    In summer and autumn you can expect pouting, eels, plaice, bass, dogfish, mackerel, garfish, scad, mullet and soles. Codling, whiting, flounders, dabs and pouting are caught in the winter.

    Ragworms produce fish in summer, particularly bunches of small mud ragworm alongside the wall and off the bottom using booms and long snoods for flounders and pollack. Lug tipped off with a sliver of squid or fish is the winter bait.

    A three-hook flapper or two-up, one-down rig is best. A breakout grip lead is required because the tide is fierce during the early flood when it runs inland. Casting range is only crucial to find the deep gullies and holes made by the dredger. Three French booms spread over a 12ft trace are ideal down the wall. Local anglers use a rod-rest that clips to the railings to suspend the booms away from the wall and off the sea bed.

    Note: the Prince of Wales Pier is closed to anglers and the general public during renovation works scheduled for completion circa July 2019.

  3. "… Once constructed, the marina curve will include a new publicly accessible esplanade in front of the regeneration sites to help sustain the commercial regeneration opportunities. The new marina curve will provide a development opportunity for cafés, restaurants, retail, commercial and evening economy functions … The pier has to be closed during the construction period for obvious safety reasons but when completed the new marina curve will be publicly accessible and, when combined with the new marina pier, will continue to provide and enhance the recreational environment of Dover Seafront." Dover Western Docks Revival (DWDR) Update (July 2015)

    Western Docks terminal on completion

    The D.W.D.R. (01304 240400) does not state whether public accessibility includes sea angling …

    Dover Western Docks Revival
    It would appear that, following completion of the scheme (on a date yet to be announced), angling will be permitted from the Admiralty Pier but not from the Prince of Wales Pier. Click here to view Dover Harbour Board leaflet.

    As predicted, "No Fishing" from the Dover Western Docks Terminal (2019)

    Dover Sea Angling Association announcement: 15th September 2015

    "Closure of Prince of Wales Pier

    With the Prince of Wales Pier about to close for the Port of Dover's Development, DSAA are very pleased to announce they have been in talks with The Harbour Board about a new fishing venue for both disabled anglers and DSAA competitions.

    Cruise Terminal 3 (CT3) is located on the inside of the Admiralty Pier (at the seaward end) and offers space for around 40 anglers, with vehicle access and comfortable fishing.

    Access other than for DSAA competitions will be restricted to pass holders who will be vetted by DSAA and passes will be given to disabled and less mobile anglers who will be able to fish from the back of their cars. Applications will be taken soon so please watch this space for news. There will be an annual fee for a pass but this will allow you to fish as much as you like throughout the year. Please be aware that anyone found breaking any rules of the CT3 venue will have their pass cancelled.

    There will also be a members-only section created on the Admiralty Pier, which will be for bottom-fishing only, with no feathering allowed. It will also become free to walk along the Admiralty Pier.

    This is a fantastic offer and shows that the Port is listening and responding to concerns as well as providing a new venue that could actually be better than the Prince of Wales Pier."

  4. the Admiralty Pier is managed by the DSAA with stewards on-hand every day and is open from 8am to 4pm all year, with evening sessions running from 4pm to 9pm during the summer months. All night sessions run from 6pm to 6am every Friday and Saturday only. Fishing on the Admiralty Pier is on a "per session" basis and to continue fishing after 4pm in the summer months another session fee must be paid. The pier offers two fishing areas; the shore end as far as "The Turret" which is mid-way, and the Pier Extension, where many of the larger fish are landed. Strong tides are common. The cost of a day ticket is £7.00 (non-members), £6.00 for DSAA members and £4.00 for senior citizens and children. There are toilets at either end of the Pier and a small canteen half way along the Pier offering hot and cold drinks and a modest selection of confectionery. Pier telephone is 01304 225138. Park at 51.11501, 1.31168.

    (updated 19th July 2019) The Admiralty Pier is shortly to be closed to anglers for long overdue repairs which will likely take four years or longer.

    The inner (shore) section of Dover's Admiralty pier is famed for its summer mackerel, but in winter it's the extension that produces the fish and is considered to be the best shore cod mark in southern England. The only challenge for anglers are the extremely strong tides that run along the wall either side of high water. A fixed wire Gemini yellow head grip lead is essential here as breakout leads cannot cope.

    The best time to fish during the winter, especially in the new year, is from high water down and into darkness. A bonus for winter anglers is that the pier extension, from the Turret on, is often closed in summer when a cruise ferry is docked. However, in winter cruise ferry activity is much reduced. For details of Admiralty pier cruise ferry dates and club membership, contact Dover Sea Angling Association (01304 204722).

    In winter the codling arrive in numbers along with big pouting, whiting, dab and dogfish. Bigger cod show from mid November through to January, with the chance of a 20 lb fish to a whole squid or calamari/lugworm cocktail. In summer, bass are landed regularly from the pier extension and the end to fresh mackerel baits cast out and allowed to drift to the pier head; 50lb breaking strain line is required for this tactic. During summer there are mackerel caught on feathers around high water with the first half near the Turret the hotspot. Other species include garfish, scad, pollack, pouting, bream, gurnard, plaice, wrasse and mullet. Some big smooth hounds are caught from the extension on peeler crab in the summer.

    Fresh black and yellowtail lugworm are the best all round bait with squid essential to "tip-off" in winter. For big cod, a big bait is required to deter large pouting, whiting and dogfish. Large bunches of common lugworms can sometimes be very effective with peeler crab. Sandeel is a good standby bait and catches dogfish, whiting, pouting and codling. A 6oz yellow head Gemini fixed wire is essential with 15lb breaking strain main line improving its bottom-holding capacity during the flood tide. Make sure you use a strong leader knot like a Bimini twist because the bottom is muddy in places and a fixed grip sticks. There is no need to cast more than 50 yards and a long leader helps when lifting fish up the wall. The favoured terminal rig is a one up one down paternoster with a three hook flapper the matchman's choice. Size 1 hooks should be the minimum because of the strong tide with 3/0 and upwards for the cod. For bass a six foot long flowing trace and twin 6/0 Pennell is best and always take a net.

  5. Admiralty Pier could close for four years, Dover Sea Angling Association fears

    Kent Online, 19th July 2019

    A town's last fishing pier, used by 10,000 anglers a year, could close completely for four years. That's the fear of Dover Sea Angling Association, which says that this threat stems from a long postponement in repairs to Admiralty Pier by the Port of Dover. The group said, in a Facebook posting:

    "At the very best opening hours will need to be greatly reduced with weekend only opening much of the year and turning away anglers and walkers on the busier days. The worst outcome is the pier is closed completely for at least four years. Either option will almost certainly lead to redundancies among the pier staff and have a significant impact on the many local businesses who benefit from the local and travelling angles who are using the pier. This is something we are desperate to avoid.""

    The Facebook post, written by DSAA chairman Richard Yates, says that the first half of the walkway needs repairs and a year ago DHB said that would be done soon but the second half could still be used for fishing.

    But, DSAA says, DHB has now said that due to the scale of the work needed it would not start any repairs for at least four years. DHB owns the pier and DSAA is the leaseholder and Mr Yates said the long delay means his group would itself have to close the second half. This is because it usually just breaks even, would not be able to run a half-used pier, with resulting lowered income, for so long. The loss could only be absorbed if there was a semi-closure for a year to 18 months. Money comes from sources such as anglers' fees.

    Admiralty, the outer western boundary of Dover Harbour, is one of the best known fishing piers in the UK but is the only one in Dover where angling is allowed. Prince of Wales Pier closed because of the port authority's Dover Western Docks Revival scheme. The new Marina Pier, opened in May as part of the rolled-out development, does not allow fishing. Admiralty Pier is also used by walkers such as those on the Bluebird Trail, a self-guided heritage route. A Port of Dover spokesman said:

    "We remain in continuing dialogue with DSAA over the ongoing provision of fishing from Admiralty Pier and the impact of structural repair works. We have been working closely with the Association, balancing the interests of our stakeholders alongside the demands of long term port infrastructure provision and safety and security issues. We are investing hundreds of millions of pounds in our infrastructure across the port and are doing so during a time of great economic uncertainty for the nation. But we have maintained fishing throughout. We remain very mindful of the interests of all current users of the port, including anglers and related local businesses, and will continue to engage with them."

    Admiralty Pier set to reopen to anglers but storms could scupper plans

    Kent Online, Sam Lennon, 16th February 2022

    Fishing is meant to return to a major pier this week - but it could be stopped by stormy weather. Angling is scheduled to resume at Admiralty Pier in Dover on Friday after nearly four years.

    But Dover Sea Angling Association ("DSSA") has warned that could be scuppered, with the pier closing temporarily because of the forecast bad weather this weekend.

    DSAA said in a Facebook post: "The pier will be open unless Dover Harbour Board close it due to adverse weather. "As anglers we all know that the weather is out of our control, historically the weather has not closed the Admiralty for more than a handful of days each year so hopefully this will only be a minor issue. As things stand Friday, Saturday and Sunday are currently open however we will be surprised if all of the three days go ahead as the wind forecast is extreme. We will probably lose at least one day but we will know more on Thursday."

    DSAA, which manages the pier, says if anglers have already booked tickets for the weekend, and the pier stays shut to them, they can use them after re-opening.

    Angling has taken place since 1903, when DSAA was formed. The pier originally closed to fishing in October 2018 for repair work, then remained closed because the pandemic struck in March 2020 and then due to safety and security concerns.

    Nearly 4,000 signed a petition calling for the pier to be re-opened, citing the physical and mental health benefits of angling. Then last month landowners the Port of Dover announced angling would return to the pier within months, with an exact date to be confirmed. The breakthrough came after a successful trial day last October and further talks between the authority, DSAA and the the sport's governing body the Angling Trust.

    Anglers are delighted with news the pier is reopening. Steve Goldsmith said: "I am very happy the pier is opening again, it means a lot to local people who have childhood memories fishing there. I didn't bother fishing when it was closed. I am happy as many others are. I have been fishing all over Kent, on beaches but the Admiralty is by far the best venue Kent has to offer."

  6. the Southern Breakwater has 213 fishing spaces and can be reached by boat operated by the DSAA. Anglers are collected from the Dumphead (near the RNLI Station) at the western docks on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday mornings departing at 8am and returning at 3:30pm. The return fare is £6.00 and the new boat can carry 10 anglers plus 2 crew on each trip. Additional trips can be made on each of the above days depending on demand. The boat service does not operate when the wind speed is force 7 and above so, before setting off check the BBC Coastal Forecast (North Foreland to Beachy Head), and if the conditions or forecast look "iffy" check at the Marina Office or call Alan the boatman (07538 810314) to ascertain whether the Breakwater is open for fishing. Due to health and safety regulations, the minimum age for fishing the Southern Breakwater is 16 (if accompanied by an adult) or 18 if unaccompanied. Following the closure of the Admiralty Pier, Dover Sea Angling Association has decided to open the Southern Breakwater for night fishing from 7pm to 7am Friday & Saturday nights, subject to favourable weather conditions. For these night fishing sessions anglers are asked to book in advance with Alan (07538 810314). The minimum number required is 10 persons; alternatively, £100 Breakwater fee and £60 return boat fare. Please note that a strong south-westerly will carry the sea over the Admiralty Pier and Southern Breakwater.
  7. Anglers fishing from either the Admiralty Pier or Southern Breakwater are required by law to be a member of the DSAA (click DSAA Membership for details). Pier members pay an initial session fee of £6 (adults) or £3 (juniors and senior citizens) and any subsequent visit during the membership year is charged at the advertised session rate. Pier members are not entitled to access the DSAA clubhouse unless accompanied by a full member.

In summary, as at Thursday 17th December 2015 (updated 19th July 2019) :

  1. Eastern Arm: permanently closed to anglers
  2. Prince of Wales Pier: closed to anglers for two years (i.e. for the duration of the £120 million Dover Western Docks Revival scheme) from the first week of January 2016. Weather permitting, the Prince of Wales Pier will remain open throughout Christmas 2015. However, once construction is complete, the end of the Prince of Wales Pier will be incorporated into a new cargo terminal, the beginning of the Pier will form part of Dover's new waterfront and thereafter the Prince of Wales Pier will likely remain permanently closed to anglers
  3. Admiralty Pier: (updated 19th July 2019) shortly to be closed to anglers for long overdue repairs which will likely take four years or longer open subject to weather and sea conditions and visiting cruise ships (in particular arrivals and departures of Disney Cruise Line ships when, for security reasons, the Admiralty Pier will be closed to the public) - call 01304 225138 to confirm. Published Disney Cruise Line ship arrival/departure dates for Dover are: 2 and 9 September 2018, 21 July 2019, 18 and 25 August 2019 and 1, 8 and 15 September 2019.
  4. Southern Breakwater: closed to anglers

Lidar (also called LIDAR, LiDAR, and LADAR) is an acronym of Light Detection And Ranging (sometimes Light Imaging, Detection, And Ranging). Lidar  is a surveying method that measures distance to a target by illuminating that target with a laser light and is popularly used to make high-resolution maps. The following map shows the seabed in and around the Admiralty Pier, Prince of Wales Pier and Southern Breakwater.

Admiralty Pier, Prince of Wales Pier and Southern Breakwater (LIDAR map)

Samphire Hoe

Samphire Hoe (CT17 9FL) is located off the Dover to Folkestone carriageway of the A20 (CT17 9HH and 51.109953, 1.286052). You access Samphire Hoe through a traffic light controlled tunnel in the cliff. Samphire Hoe is signposted and is open from 7am until dusk every day of the year. Toilet facilities are available behind the kiosk which serves snacks and hot and cold drinks. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a lead at all times and any poo picked up.

There are plenty of car park spaces, on a pay and display basis. The current rates are:

Angling permits are available from the tea kiosk:

For more information, please call 01304 226 650.

Best fish of the Samphire Hoe season competition runs from May to September each year. The heaviest fish caught at the Hoe wins 6 months free fishing and the Crosbie Memorial Trophy. The second heaviest fish wins 3 months free fishing and the Eurotunnel Trophy. Both trophies are on display at the Eurotunnel Terminal in Folkestone. For more details, please ask at the tea kiosk.

The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 5 January 1864 at page 4

The Admiralty Pier. At the Admiralty Pier, Dover a work is in progress which, when completed, will constitute one of the most attractive and ornamental features.

It consists of a gallery or promenade, extending the whole length of the pier shoreward from the first landing-stairs on the western side. The gallery is supported on twenty-eight iron columns sixteen feet apart, each twelve inches square at the base, which fixes in a huge granite block and nine inches at the top, across which span longitudinally immense iron girders. These have receptacles for smaller girders, about four feet apart, which stride across to the granite wall on the western side of the pier, thus making the framework of a gallery nine feet wide. In the girders there are places to receive large sheets of thick flagstone which, when fitted, will form the gallery walk.

A strong iron double railing extends along the gallery at the top of the columns to enclose it from the pier on the eastern side, while the massive granite wall on the outward side, rising about five feet above the level of the gallery will be a sufficient preventive against danger. Attached to the end of each cross-girder is a cantilever, branching eastward about three feet, which forms an iron shade for the purposes of shelter to the under traffic, extending the whole length of the gallery. At the point of each cantilever a lion's head in iron is to be fixed, which, with other ornamentations, will impart to the whole a finished and neat appearance. The gallery is ascended at the shore end of the pier by means of two flights of granite steps; and it is stated that eventually it will be the only part of the pier where the public may resort for pleasure.

The Illustrated London News: Tuesday, 18th January 1881
Damage to Admiralty Pier

"Terrific Storm in England" Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XVI, Issue 61, 12 March 1881

The London "Standard" of the 19th January devotes six columns to a report of a fearful snow and wind storm that raged on the previous day. The following extracts will be read with interest …

Dover - a furious gale has been raging here all day, the violence of which it is said, has not been equalled on the south-eastern coast since 1837. Shortly before midnight on Monday a strong wind sprung up from the south and gradually veered round to about east-south-east where it has remained all day. Throughout the morning it was blowing nearly a hurricane and showed no signs of abatement until after high water at one o'clock. It is blowing very heavily this evening, but the fury of the gale is considerably abated. The extent of the damage occasioned by the gale is not known, but it is very great and the shipping interest especially has suffered. The docks were a scene of such commotion as has not been witnessed here for many years. Several vessels broke from their moorings and sustained considerable damage. Two fishing luggers were sunk in the harbour and so heavy was the sea in dock that in less than twenty minutes after the vessels had sunk a great portion of them was was washed up on to the quay in the shape of matchwood. The property in the vicinity of the harbour is flooded. Towards high water time the whole of the sea front, and the Admiralty Pier and the neighbourhood of the Lord Warden Hotel, was a scene of confusion and disaster. Houses were unroofed, windows broken by stones hurled up by the sea, and basements flooded. In some instances the spray of the sea was washed over the highest house on the Esplanade. The sea rushed through the openings into the docks in a perfect torrent. On Marine Parade the iron standards and lamp posts have been destroyed, and in some places the promenade has been torn up, while blocks of granite and huge layers of boulders are everywhere to be seen. The amount of damage to the Admiralty Pier has not yet been ascertained, but it is certainly severe. A great number of iron stanchions have been broken off short by huge masses of stone being hurled against them, and many of the lamps have shared the same fate. The whole of the substantial iron gates at the entrance to the pier have been carried away, while not a vestige remains of the gate house and telegraphic box, which even defied the disastrous gale three years ago, when a great portion of the pier was washed away. A great deal of damage has been done to the promenade of the pier, where huge masses of flag stone weighing a ton have been displaced and carried away by the sea. The Channel service has been stopped.

Kent - A snowstorm of remarkable severity prevailed throughout East Kent since midnight, and at present there appears no sign of abatement. In Canterbury business is almost entirely at a standstill, it being impossible for persons to walk in the streets. In several thoroughfares, where the snow has drifted, there is a complete block, and the occupants of the houses are almost unable to keep the snow from their doors. The wind is terrific and has been blowing a gale the whole night. The railways are becoming blocked so that shortly there will be a cessation of traffic. In other towns in East Kent a similar state of things exists.

The South Eastern Gazette, Monday 26 May 1884


Mackerel in the Bay

The fishermen of Dover and the vicinity have had a busy time for a day or two, large numbers of fine mackerel having been taken in the Bay. The fish were first noticed on Saturday, when a haul of 2,500 was made in the evening, whilst on Sunday morning 5,800 were taken in the net. The greater part of the work, however, was reserved for Monday morning, when no fewer than 43,000 were netted. Most of the fish were sold at prices ranging from 10s. to 15s. per hundred, the principal purchasers being dealers named Scott and Peirce, who forwarded the mackerel to London and the country markets. More than 1,100 mackerel were netted by the Kingsdown fishermen. Boats which went away on Saturday for deep sea fishing returned with scarcely any fish. It is stated that there have not been such shoals of mackerel in the district for ten years.

"The Sea-Fisherman" (1884 - 4th edition) James Carrall Wilcocks at pages 29 & 30


Mullet, pout, smelts, whiting-coal, codlings, and occasional bass from the jetties, by angling with lug-worm bait, found between the rocks under the cliff. Whiting also from the end of the Admiralty Pier; mullet, flounders and eels in the harbour. Whiffing with flies along the breakwater or over the rocky ground, for whiting-coal, bass, and sometimes for mackerel.

"Angling in Salt Water: A Practical Work on Sea Fishing with Rod and Line from the Shore, Piers, Jetties, Rocks and from Boats" (1887) John Bickerdyke at pages 84 to 87

Chapter VII: Grey Mullet

Sea-Fishing as a sport (1886)

Once, on Dover pier, I saw a man angling for grey mullet in a highly artistic manner, which proved successful. His rod was long and light, and his line of twisted silk a trifle thicker than that used on the Trent for chub, and not quite three times as thick as ordinary sewing thread. At the end of the line was a three-yard length of gut, half as thick as salmon gut. He used three small hooks (about No. 10), one at the end of the gut, the others as droppers. There were three tiny cork floats on the line, and no sinkers. The sketch (Fig. 53) shows their position and appearance. The end hook is baited with the green weed found on piles in harbours, the others with paste made from stale bread. The day was quite calm, and the fish could be seen. He cast his tackle a few yards off the fish, in such a way that the tide gradually worked the baits over them, a handful of breadcrumbs being first thrown into the water to bring them on the feed. Fishing from a height, the line above the corks was easily kept from sinking. If the same tackle was used from a boat, the line would have to be greased. I do not think better tackle than this can possibly be devised for surface fishing for mullet in summer. As these fish play strongly, and must not be held tightly, having delicate mouths, from which the hook easily breaks away, it is advisable to have not less than 60yds or 70yds of running line. The point which the angler has to aim at in this kind of fishing is to get the ground-bait and tackle over the fish, at the same time keeping as far away from them as possible. Any noise or splashing of oars will to a certainty frighten grey mullet, as they are particularly susceptible to sound. For instance, when gunnery practice is being carried on from Dover Castle, it is rarely any good fishing for mullet from the Admiralty Pier.

A word more as to baits, and this portion of the subject is complete. Common flour paste is not a good bait, ordinary soaked bread being far better. The bread cannot be too wet, or the bait too soft, so long, of course, as it will stop on the hook. Very small portions should be used, not much larger than a pea. Boiled and unboiled shrimps and prawns, peeled, are useful baits when the angler can use the chervin ground-bait described on page 45. Pilchard guts are also very good, the angler ground-baiting with the same substance chopped up very small. When one thing fails, another should be tried. As a general ground-bait, pounded crabs are decidedly good. To speak of substances thrown on the water, which are intended to keep the fish near the surface, and lull their suspicions, as ground-bait, is, strictly speaking, incorrect; but anything in the way of fish food other than the hook-bait, thrown in by the angler, is usually so termed, and I see no reason to invent new expressions for the purposes of this book.

Fishing for grey mullet on the bottom, or at mid-water, does not require a lengthy description. In harbours and quiet waters generally, very light tackle should be used; the gut fine, but not fine drawn; and the float a porcupine quill, tipped with red paint, and so weighted with split shot, placed 1ft. above the hook, that only the red tip of the float is showing above the water. Any fine silk running line will do. A large variety of baits and ground-baits have already been given. Among the best for harbour fishing are ragworms and peeled, unboiled shrimps. If there is any current, the ground-bait should be placed in a small net, with a stone or two, and let down into the water with a cord, the tackle being placed about two yards below it, so that the stream washes the ground-bait by the hook. When it can be managed, the net should not be used, but the ground-bait cast in loose.

Grey mullet, as I have said, sometimes feed on the surface, sometimes on the bottom. They also often feed at mid-water, working up and down piles which are covered with weed, rooting in it with their noses. For mid-water fishing a small float is advisable; but when this, after a careful trial, fails, the angler should try fishing on the bottom. He may then either leger with bread paste, or place his float a foot farther from the hook than the water is deep (a plummet for testing the depth is shown on page 34). The hook link of gut will then lie on the bottom. He should use ground-bait, and strike at the slightest movement of the float. A paternoster of fine gut, with small hooks, can be used instead of float tackle, and in quite still water it is sometimes cast in without the lead.

Our foreign friends, who in most matters piscatorial are far behind us, have rather the advantage of us in mullet fishing. I have already described how mullet are caught at Nice and other places in the Mediterranean. At San Sebastian an elaborate ground-bait is made of chopped heads of sardines, potatoes, and clay, squeezed into balls. Immediately this is thrown in, the hook, baited with a very small square of salted tunny, follows, and good sport is obtained.

"Sea-Fishing on the English Coast" (1891) Frederick George Aflalo at pages 117 & 126 to 127

The South-east Coast

From an angler's point of view, this commences south of the Thames and extends to Eastbourne. The fishing at this south-east corner is very good indeed, including, as it does, Deal, Dover, and Hastings, while in the size and quantity of its fish, it closely resembles the south-west coast, which is, however, superior. It is very well adapted for fishing, there being, as one advances to the westward, a very suitable combination of rock and sand, in which large bass, mullet, mackerel, pollack, and conger, are all abundant. It presents varied fishing at all times of the year, the best months being, perhaps, July, August, and October.

Dover (2¾ hours from Charing Cross or Victoria; 3rd single, 6s 2½d)

I have never fished at Dover, with the exception of half-an-hour, while waiting for the boat, with someone else's rod. But information supplied me by friends, together with letters in the fishing papers, has enabled me to supply the following details.

The piers give fair numbers of bass, mullet, and pout, and occasionally an octopus. The Admiralty Pier is, I believe, a favourite spot. The shape of the girder-work round the pier led me to the conclusion that a long rod would pay; so I had a rod of 20ft length specially made up, thinking to visit Dover the following summer; but I have not yet been.

The favourite baits are the beards of Channel oysters, ragworms, lugs, and mussel. So, at least, says Mr. Sachs, who also writes that he caught mullet off the small pier about a foot from the surface, using a float-line baited with ragworms, as well as from the Admiralty Pier, with fine seaweed (Fig. 55).

There is a tackle shop on the left-hand side of the main street as you go towards the Castle.

Similar fishing is had at Folkestone, with rather more bass. They use mackerel for the bass, and soft roe of herring for the mullet.

"The Sea and the Rod" (1892) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske & Frederick George Aflalo at pages 37 & 38

Chapter I

On Sea Fishing in Particular

The "flood" that leads on to fortune, alluded to by the poet for all time [7], is a ruling power in the fortunes of the sea-angler desirous of laying before the admiring gaze of his family a respectable basket of fish.

No hard-and-fast rule can be laid down; circumstances generally alter cases, and along our deeply indented coast, with its many bays and promontories, these self-same tides are modified by a number of under-currents, which are somewhat difficult to explain on any general basis, arising as they do from sundry peculiarities in local configuration and abnormal variations in the temperature of the water. A striking instance of this is afforded by the currents prevalent in the neighbourhood of Dover. As a rule, the angler loves to leave the beach rather before low water, in order that he may fish during the whole of the "flood" and the slack water that follows. So powerful, however, are the tides and currents in Dover Bay, especially abreast of Shakespeare's Cliff, a favourite ground for codling during the early spring, that it is only possible to fish during the slack portions of the tide, at high or low water; as keeping one's hooks near the bottom, which is composed of sand and flat rock, at any other time would involve the use of very heavy leads, in consequence of which the rod would be placed hors de combat. It is therefore customary to embark just before high or low tide, and even then one can only use ordinary light tackle with any comfort for something under two hours; the hand-liner with his clock weight and cable might proudly bid defiance to Charybdis [17] itself, but far be it from me to concern myself with the very weighty affairs of so tremendous a personage.

[7] Editor's Note: Brutus in William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" (Act 4, scene 3, lines 218 - 224):

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

[17] Editor's Note: Charybdis was a sea monster, later rationalised as a whirlpool and considered a shipping hazard in the Strait of Messina. The sea monster Charybdis was believed to live under a small rock on one side of a narrow channel. Opposite her was Scylla, another sea-monster, that lived inside a much larger rock. The sides of the strait were within an arrow shot of each other, and sailors attempting to avoid one of them would come in reach of the other: 'Between Scylla and Charybdis' thus means to having to choose between two dangers, either of which brings harm. Three times a day, Charybdis swallowed a huge amount of water, before belching it back out again, creating large whirlpools capable of dragging a ship underwater. In some variations of the story, Charybdis was simply a large whirlpool instead of a sea monster. The theoretical size of Charybdis remains unknown, yet in order to consume Greek ships the whirlpool can be estimated to about 75 feet across. Charybdis has been associated with the Strait of Messina, off the coast of Sicily and opposite a rock on the mainland identified with Scylla. Were Charybdis to be located in the Strait of Messina it would in fact have the size to accommodate the whirlpool. A natural whirlpool does exist in the northern portion of the strait, caused by strong tidal currents, but it is seldom dangerous.

"Hints and Wrinkles on Sea Fishing" (1894) "Ichthyosaurus" (A. Baines & Frederick George Aflalo) at pages 16, 36, 82, 83, 87, 89 & 90

Sea Sickness &c

Where there is an old wooden or stone pier well encrusted, give it preference over the newer, more comely structure of bright metalwork.

The chief south coast piers from which there is any fishing during July and August are as follows: Deal Pier, pollack and flat fish; Dover Admiralty, bass, pollack and mullet; Promenade, pouting …

Some piers are not open for Sunday fishing later than eight in the morning; on others it is altogether forbidden. Sunday tickets for the Dover Promenade Pier are sold by the boatmen, no money being taken at the turnstiles.

Natural History and Sport

Pollack which with bass and mackerel constitute the sea fisherman's "game fish", feed at the surface during the warm July and August evenings; in October they still take artificial baits at midwater or lower; in the early part of the year they are caught with paternoster tackle, sand eel or rockworm being a killing bait.

But even in neighbouring localities a slight difference in conditions will entirely alter the habits of fish. Take the pollack, for instance, immediately north and south of the S. Foreland. At Deal, they are always under the end of the pier all the summer through, and may be taken with ragworm. You might rail along east and west of the pier all day and all night and very probably catch not one in a week. At Dover, on the other hand, they are not confined to any one spot, but hunt all over the rocks and are caught at the surface, or deeper down, anywhere between Shakespeare Cliff and the Cornhill.

Sea Fishing near London

There are a great many seaside towns within reasonable distance of London; and it is nowadays quite easy to leave town after breakfast, enjoy several hours of sea fishing and return the same evening with a good basket of fresher fish than might even be sold at Sweeting's - no disparagement to that admirable establishment. [18]

… But there are ten times as many places where one can get the whole tides fishing, and only sleep the one night away; and these, being within eighty miles of town, are well adapted to the requirements of a summer holiday.

Kent - The coast of this county extends from the south bank of the Thames estuary as far as just beyond Dungeness. It has some fishing stations of great importance reached by the S.E.R. and L.C. & D.R. trains; [19] and the aforementioned Sea Anglers' Society are therefore to be congratulated at having so soon obtained concessions from both these companies.

There are half a dozen places at which I have taken large fish; Sheerness, Herne Bay, Margate, Ramsgate, Deal and Dover, bass and pollack in the summer, cod and whiting between November and January.

Dover is another favourite station. Personally, I prefer it to Deal, as there is more going on if the fishing is slack. Deal is the slowest place on the whole coast. At Dover the angler has a chance of a good basket of bass or mullet in August, pollack in September or cod in November. The bass are caught at the end of the Admiralty, fresh herring be the best bait obtainable. The mullet are fished for from the west of the same pier; where they are caught I don't know, certainly not there. The pollack are caught by railing along the Mole Rock, or off Shakespeare Cliff, just in the twilight of summer evenings, especially when there is any phosphorescence on the water. They take the white and red rubber eels mounted with small spinners. They also take rockworm just inside the Admiralty beyond the Calais boat but they are smaller than those taken by railing.

The best cod fishing is from boats either westward off the buoy, or eastward about a mile out and opposite the Cornhill. Lugworm, sprat and the beards of Channel oysters are the most favoured baits. The jetties at the east end of the parade are also good spots for summer pollack fishing, but only of an evening.

[18] Editor's note: Sweetings Restaurant in the City of London: 39 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4N 4SF, first opened for business in 1889.

[19] Editor's note: The London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) was a railway company in south-eastern England created on 1 August 1859, when the East Kent Railway was given Parliamentary approval to change its name. Its lines ran through London and northern and eastern Kent to form a significant part of the Greater London commuter network. The company existed until 31 December 1922 when its assets were merged with those of other companies to form the Southern Railway as a result of the grouping determined by the Railways Act 1921. The South Eastern Railway (SER) was a railway company in south-eastern England from 1836 until 1922. The company was formed to construct a route from London to Dover. Branch lines were later opened to Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, Canterbury and other places in Kent. The S.E.R. absorbed or leased other railways, some older than itself, including the London and Greenwich Railway and the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway. Most of the company's routes were in Kent, eastern Sussex and the London suburbs, with a long cross-country route from Redhill in Surrey to Reading, Berkshire. Much of the company's early history saw attempts at expansion and feuding with its neighbours; the London Brighton and South Coast Railway in the west and the LCDR to the north-east. However, in 1899 the S.E.R. agreed with the LCDR to share operation of the two railways, work them as a single system (marketed as the South Eastern and Chatham Railway) and pool receipts: but it was not a full amalgamation. The S.E.R. and LCDR remained separate companies until becoming constituents of the Southern Railway on 1 January 1923.

"The Badminton Library: Modern Sea Fishing" (1895) John Bickerdyke at page 52

Chapter II: Round the British and Irish Coasts

In years gone by Dover Admiralty Pier used to afford first-rate sea fishing (codling, mullet, bass, whiting, &c.), but the steamer traffic has worked evil things for the sea angler here, as in other places; and though there are still fish to be caught, they are certainly not numerous. A very long rod is required for fishing from this pier, and the best sport is obtained by the favoured few who obtain orders to fish at the extreme end. In the autumn there is fair whiting fishing in the offing. There are various people in the town who sell baits. Ragworms, called locally lugs, are plentiful, and the enlarged ragworm which is found among rocks is also obtainable.

Chapter XI: Surface-Feeding Sea Fish

I once saw a man fishing for and catching grey mullet from Dover Pier by means of a somewhat, similar tackle. His line was of twisted silk; just such a one as is used on the river Trent for chub, but perhaps a little thicker. At the end of it was a three-yard cast, such as we should use for lake trout; at the end of the cast was a small hook, while at intervals of three feet were two droppers. The arrangement was, in fact, just like a fly cast made up for stream fishing, bare hooks being substituted for flies. But in addition, between the hooks, there were small fragments of cork which kept the arrangement from sinking. The end hook was baited with that slimy green weed which is found in harbours growing on the piles. The two droppers were covered with bread paste. The day was calm, which is the most favourable condition for mullet fishing, and the fish were now and again visible. The tackle was very carefully cast above the fish, and some breadcrumbs were sprinkled over the water. The line was worked very skilfully, and several fish of no great size were caught while I looked on.

The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 13 September 1898 at page 6


A shark seen off the Pier

Surgeon-General Paske, whilst fishing from the Admiralty Pier, Dover, on Friday, suddenly noticed a commotion in the water, and then saw a large fish rise to the surface, and remain stationary for three or four minutes. It proved to be a shark at least six feet long. The General, who is an expert in piscatorial matters, states that the formation of the tail, the back fins, and other characteristics of the true shark were distinctly visible, as the fish was so close to the pier. He is of opinion that the prolonged intense heat has so increased the temperature of the water that these dangerous fish have been attracted beyond their usual spheres. The presence of the shark caused considerable excitement amongst persons on the pier.

"Sea Fish" (1898) Frederick George Aflalo at pages 134, 216 & 217

A time-honoured practice may be witnessed throughout the summer months on the western parapet of the Admiralty Pier at Dover, where a number of veteran mullet-fishers hang out enormous rods, fixed in a clamp. I have watched these patient men off and on for ten years and more, but I never yet saw a fish caught. They bait with rag-worms …

Almost immediately west of Deal, separated only by its continuation, Walmer, by St. Margaret's, once famous for its prawns, and the Foreland, the famous port of Dover offers somewhat different fishing. The ground generally is rougher, so that we have on summer evenings an amount of pollack-railing close to the beach that is unknown at Deal. From the piers, there is not perhaps very much sport to be had; the new Promenade Pier has been ruined by the insensate scraping ("cleaning", I believe it is called locally) of the piles of all the weeds and mussels that render them so attractive to the different fish; and the Admiralty Pier is too lofty to be a convenient spot for angling, not to mention the continual arrival and departure of mail steamers. There is nevertheless a certain amount of hand-lining in the autumn for codling and whiting over the west parapet, whence also radiate the "weavers' beams" on which local anglers, baiting with ragworm, are said, though I never witnessed their triumph, to catch fine grey mullet in August.

For the following notes I am indebted to my friend Surgeon-General Paske, who resides at Dover, and has consequently opportunities of watching every change of grounds.

One of the best all-round grounds is on the west side of the Admiralty, anchoring the boat opposite the first horizontal ventilator of the tunnel and in line with the staff on which they hoist the weather signals - i.e. about half-way up the Admiralty. On this rough ground, as well as on a more sandy one fringed with rocks, and situated somewhat further west, just before you come opposite the spot at which they are now boring, you may catch large pollack on the drift-line, and, in the autumn, cod on the paternoster. There is yet a third good ground still further on, beyond "Gatehouse's Den", and just off the spot at which the fresh-water spring empties itself on the beach.

To the eastward, and at intervals as far as the South Foreland, there are several grounds, two of the best being that opposite the caves, a little beyond the jetty; and another, somewhat better as a rule, in a line with the outer end of the jetty and just beneath the coastguard station, where the zigzag pathway up the face of the cliffs just comes in view. Bait, never easy to obtain at Dover, is becoming an increasing difficulty with every succeeding year. Rockworms were hard to procure last season, even at the very fair price of 1s a score, whereas three or four years ago they could generally be bought for one-third of that sum. Ragworms, good bait at times, though always inferior to the last, are plentiful in the mud of the harbour, though it is not always easy to find any one to dig them. Squid is brought ashore, if bespoken, by the smacks from the Varne grounds outside; otherwise, not being in any demand among local professionals, it is thrown overboard with appropriate language. Mussels of good quality and large size are imported by Drincquier, the fishmonger (Snargate Street), and cost about 10d per gallon.

To these notes of Mr. Paske, I may add that some hard-lining is done from the wooden jetty off what is known as the "Mole Rock", soft crab being a first-rate, though not always procurable, bait; and pollack of fair size are sometimes landed on summer evenings from the breakwaters at the east end of the town.

"Dover as a Sea-Angling Centre" (1900) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske at pages 5 & 6

Chapter I

… Now and again, one bolder than the rest leaning against a post with a well coloured clay pipe in his mouth would venture on a note of seemingly well intentioned warning, "Don't think you'll do much sir with them 'ere sticks!" followed by a look intended for compassion … Prejudices we know die hard, very hard … The "Rod" emphasised this, because Noah and his family fished from the ark with hand-lines, and every nation under the sun has done the same until recently, in their eyes it appeared hard to disturb the old order of things - as well train a cat to bark and a dog to mew. That is their logic. Nevertheless, Eureka! It has been accomplished - and still the wedge is rapidly cleaving the old, stubborn, effete block, while ere long the ancient order of things will be looked upon as the exception; the new, the rule. Last of all it will die in Dover, say a century hence!

"Dover as a Sea-Angling Centre" (1900) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske at pages 10, 18, 19, 21, 22 & 25

Chapter II

The stretch of water coming under Dover's "sphere of influence" from an angling point of view extends from the South Foreland to about half-way to Folkestone, not far from the point where "this pale, this white-faced shore" [2] curves suddenly inland, enclosing a wild, shrub-covered undulating strip of ground known as the Warren; a place seemingly designed by Nature for pic-nics and lovers; celebrated also for its wild flowers, terrestrial orchids and somewhat rare species of moths and butterflies. From point to point the distance may be put down from five to six miles. The happy angling grounds lie, for the most part, between the two extremes …

[2] Editor's Note: The author is here paraphrasing Austria in "King John" (Act 2, Scene 1) by William Shakespeare:

Upon thy cheek lay I this zealous kiss,
As seal to this indenture of my love.
That to my home I will no more return,
Till Angiers and the right thou hast in France,
Together with that pale, that white-faced shore,
Whose foot spurns back the ocean's roaring tides
And coops from other lands her islanders,
Even till that England, hedged in with the main,
That water-walled bulwark, still secure
And confident from foreign purposes,
Even till the utmost corner of the west
Salute thee for her king: till then, fair boy,
Will I not think of home, but follow arms.

Chapter III

To enable the angler to decide in what part of the six miles of available ground to exercise his skill and also for the convenience of description, it is proposed to divide it into three parts. The first extending from the South Foreland to the East Cliff, on the summit of which Dover Castle rears its proud and majestic head, a land-mark in every direction; a middle portion from this to the Eastern aspect of the Admiralty; and the third from that structure to where the cliffs recede inland; while a bee-line drawn from one point to the other represents the average distance to which ordinary boats venture out for the purpose of fishing …

As nothing but perpendicular cliffs bound the first portion on its land side, all that remains for the angler is to trust himself to a boat [3], when under favourable circumstances and with a conscientious, careful man, sport is to be had in abundance. The nature of the sea-bed alone proclaims this, for being of compressed chalk resembling rocks - and quite as hard - covered with a luxuriant growth of sea-weed, no better feeding ground than this could be imagined.

These so called rocks present an almost uniform level, grooved by innumerable, parallel, narrow channels in whose interstices all sorts of crustaceans find a home, and small fry shelter. Fully alive to the advantages of such a well provisioned larder naturally enough the denizens of the deep reside there in considerable numbers and variety - the lordly bass, voracious pollack, greedy pouting, migratory silver whiting and cod, besides that tough customer the conger …

Fish being plentiful in this section of water and gregarious as well, the difficulty to solve is where to find them. There are certain spots which they are in the habit of frequenting, well-known by certain "bearings" to the local professional, and to get at these much diplomacy and palm lubrication must be brought to bear …

The fish to be found in this highly favourable stretch of water are bass, pollack, gray mullet (sometimes), fine codling, pouting, silver whiting, congers and flat fish of all sorts. Not a bad array, even for the most fastidious. In an appendix [4], the best well-known spots will be found indicated by drawings, in which their "bearings" are clearly shown.

At present no part of it can be properly fished without a boat …

[3] Editor's Note: The author is here referring to the stretch of sea extending from the Eastern Arm of Dover Harbour (where fishing is no longer permitted), north along the coast to South Foreland and comprising Langdon, Crab and Fan Bays.

[4] Editor's Note: The author's drawings of these "well-known spots" can be found here:

"Dover as a Sea-Angling Centre" (1900) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske at pages 27 to 34

Chapter IV

The middle or midship, to use a shipbuilding term, section of Dover's fishing ground extends from the East Cliff to the western side of the Admiralty, the latter structure acting as a sort of partition or neutral ground to be hereafter described. The Bay proper … During the summer months it is here that trawlers may be seen dragging astern nets whose capacious mouths swallow up all the unfortunates which come across their path, and yet the cry is - still they come. Tomorrow will be just the same, the next no diminution, and so on ad infinitum. To the prodigality of the sea there appears no end, accounted for by the special provision which enables fish to multiply in such a manner as almost to baffle our finite comprehension …

The fish which the angler may expect to find are: pouting, plaice and dabs, nearly all the year round; soles, once in a blue moon; codlings in the autumn very abundant, and silver whiting in vast numbers in October and November, but owing to the uncertainty of their migrations it is difficult to give the exact time … Pollack and bass figure also, though not so prominently, save in some more highly favoured spots where rocks and sea-weed abound, and round about the piles of the "house now being erected by the Honourable John", more familiarly known as "Jackson's works" …

Whereas in the first section angling could only be enjoyed from a boat, here many structures carried out into the sea may be utilised with advantage …

A score of boats may be seen anchored out in the Bay, mostly to the east of the Promenade Pier, fishing from "rosy morn to dewy eve" [5]. Hand-lines predominate, though here and there rods have been accepted as more sportsmanlike, much to the credit and discrimination of their owners. Good catches are very frequently brought ashore, consisting of a miscellaneous collection of both flat and round fish; of the former, large plaice may be seen weighing from 4 lbs to 5 lbs … The ubiquitous pouting is absent and, considering the number met with in almost any spot, must be as the grains of sand on the sea-shore in multitude. Later on codlings and silver whitings arrive in shoals when the boats are, if anything, still more in evidence.

[5] Editor's note: Quotation taken from "In Vinculis; or the Prisoner of War" Anthony M. Keiley (1866) at page 78.

When darkness has set in, hand-lines thrown from the beach are responsible for some fine bass, particularly in that part east of the stone jetty. The brilliancy of the lights facing the Bay seem to attract them as well as pollack, and advancing with the wave about to break on the shore the wonder is why they do not become frequently stranded. No need to be particular as to bait, for they appear to be omnivorous, fish flesh or fowl, and good red herring - especially the latter - being equally to their taste. But here, as elsewhere, nothing proves more irresistible than strips of the bag containing and enveloping the cuttle fish or squid as it is called. Being exceedingly tough it resists rough usage when knocked about at the bottom; glistening and of a white colour it shows up wherever immersed and remains on the hook for almost any length of time, thus proving on all counts most valuable to the angler, and more so when darkness renders re-baiting a troublesome business. It is brought into Dover by the Varne-bank trawlers but, to prevent disappointment, be careful always to enter into arrangements for a supply. This should be done well in advance, the return of the boats being uncertain. If laid out flat, wiped dry and placed between two layers of salt in a cool place, it may be kept fit for use for a week or more.

… Pollack frequent these waters at two periods of the year; one when advancing shorewards for the beneficent purpose of spawning, the other for the more prosaic one of searching for food. Some time in April they generally arrive laden with ova, that affair accomplished, out they go again into the recesses of the deep to recover condition … About July they wend their way back invigorated, in good condition and then worthy antagonists.

… The locality in which they most do congregate is in and about that ridge of rocks running obliquely out from the mouth of the harbour in an easterly direction. These rocks, like all others hereabouts, consist of indurated chalk … Covered with entangled masses of sea-weed, the fronds of which are visible at low tides, they fulfil the several purposes before alluded to. The new pier [6] delved through this, and as the piles increased in number they furnished additional hunting places for fish in general … When open to the public in about the space of two years, this new structure promises well for anglers. At present it overlaps its elder brother, the Admiralty, and for some years is bound to be a formidable rival. What name it will be christened has not yet come to my knowledge [6]

So far, angling from boats and the shore has been principally considered and, on the whole, this section of water may be looked upon as a fair field for sport, very encouraging for those who can afford the luxury of a boat with or without a man, and what the fish may lack in size is, in the estimation of the majority, compensated for by numbers and variety. But for those who, from want of means or inability to venture out, Dover enjoys exceptional advantages in the way of piers and jetties all situated in the Bay. These are as follows:

(a) The Stone Jetty opposite the War Office.

(b) The Promenade Pier.

(c) The two projecting Horns forming the entrance to the Harbour.

(d) And last, but by no means least, that renowned and well patronised structure the Admiralty.

One and all being so important from an angling point of view, each deserves separate consideration …

[6] Editor's note: subsequently named "The Prince of Wales Pier" after Edward VII who, when Prince of Wales, laid its foundation stone in 1893. From "The History of Dover Harbour" (1980) by Alec Hasenson:

"The works marking the beginning of the Harbour Board's new east pier were given a royal inauguration on Thursday, July 20th, 1893, H.R.H. the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) laying the first stone of the intended pier in high wind and driving rain … at the start of the ceremony two large sealed bottles containing some newspapers and various coins of the realm were placed in the foundations of the approach road … That done, an ornate silver trowel was handed to the Prince who solemnly adjusted the foundation bed, after which the stone itself, consisting of Cornish granite, was placed on top. Two or three taps with an ivory mallet and the stone was declared well and truly laid. The east pier now became known as the Prince of Wales Pier."

The Prince of Wales Pier was opened on 31 May 1902 by the Marquess of Salisbury, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

"Dover as a Sea-Angling Centre" (1900) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske at pages 36 to 41

Chapter V

The Jetty … lies just opposite the District War Office … This, though by no means extending far into the sea appears to the … angler as having been purposely constructed for him and him only … Roughly speaking, the first part measures 145 feet in length by 9 in breadth, is railed in on two of its sides, and nearly horizontal. The second portion falls considerably short of this measurement, possesses a somewhat steep gradient and of protection not a vestige; for all that, it is undeniably the most frequented and sought after.

During the day, when the sun is shining forth in all its majesty and glory … the angler had better remain at home … It is when the shades of evening are falling and the tide about half flood that this Jetty deigns to smile on the angler …

In proportion as darkness enshrines the sea as with a mantle, so the lights ashore attract fish nearer and nearer - especially bass and pollack.

It is more probable that the electric light encircling the arc of the promenade proves additionally alluring. As if to substantiate this theory, many fine bass have been captured hereabouts by means of hand-lines promiscuously hurled into space. But as both sides of the Jetty are equally under its rays, this will not account for the eastern aspect being more frequented by fish than the western. Yet it is so and facts are stubborn things.

In addition to a single-handed, light rod, the finer the tackle the better, when selected with due regard to strength … For bait "rock" and "rag" worms answer every purpose, and if sportive enough to try a fly, an ordinary white moth will attract. Of the former, the "rock" is my stand-by, inasmuch as being larger and more vigorous, showing more activity, lasting longer, and less troublesome to manipulate, they suit my vision better. Nevertheless, the "rag" come second and are preferred by many, mainly for the difference in price as between 2d. and 6d. a score, no mean consideration after all.

Up to the time when the tide has attained the limit of - "thus far thou shalt go, and no further" and within a short period of its ebb, may be considered the most likely period for sport. After that, fish gradually wend their way back to deeper water, hie [8] to the bottom where the influence of the current is less noticeable, and there continue to carry on the aim and scope of their existence - searching for food.

[8] Editor's note: "hie" means hasten, go quickly.

… To them day and night appear much alike, though more active during the latter than former period. "Early morn and dewy eve", experience teaches us, are the periods when hunger troubles them most; and thus it happens that those anglers who can watch the sun rise, ready armed for the affray, or like moles can work in the dark, meet with most success …

Fished then after the manner described above, this coign of vantage is in nowise to be despised. The average run of scaly ones may not be large … Always present to the mind as well is the chance of a pollack … The salmon of the sea, as the bass is often called, may likewise pass that way in search of delicacies … With such a probability dangling before the eyes of the ambitious disciple of Walton, he may devote an evening to this noble and very powerful fish. In this case stronger all round tackle and a different modus operandi will be necessary. A large float with about 4 feet of strong twisted gut below and a bunch of rock worms, squid, the head of a plaice, or mouthful of "good red-herring" attached to the hook, may be allowed to wander about in various directions, now alongside the Jetty, anon further afield.

Size for size, the bass represents one of the most powerful, gamey fish a man is likely to encounter. He tugs at the line in a manner simply alarming, bends the rod to its utmost capacity and fights to the bitter end. Plenty of time he wants and will have. Yield to him; hurry him not and in the end he will succumb. Bear in mind, too, his formidable armature when lying at your feet vanquished, for even in his death struggle he is capable of inflicting very nasty and somewhat dangerous wounds, those being inflicted by his spiny dorsal fin, gill covers as sharp as lancets and teeth studding his mouth …

The Promenade Pier

The town council vetoed plans for a pier in February 1881. A company was finally formed in 1888 and work on the pier structure began in 1892. J. J. Webster was the engineer and Alfred Thorne the contractor.

The Promenade Pier was opened on 22nd May 1893 having cost £24,000. It stood opposite Burlington Hotel above Waterloo Crescent on Marine Parade. The total length was 900 feet, and for the first 640 feet it was 30 feet wide, the width increasing to 100 feet at the pier head where it was planned to build a pavilion. This pavilion would have been large enough to accommodate 1,000 people, with an auditorium, stage, dining room and top deck promenade.

Before work could commence on the pavilion the pier suffered the first of two set-backs. With the pier only six months old a ship, the "Christine", collided with the seaward end which delayed construction of the pavilion.

In November 1894, heavy seas carried away two of the piles of the pier and, in that weakened condition, other piers and girders collapsed. Repairs to the 100 ft damaged section proved no easy task, but it eventually re-opened on 4th August 1895. However, it was not until 1897 that the pavilion was finally built.

The pier offered promenade facilities and summer concerts in the pavilion until 1913 when it was purchased by the Admiralty to serve as a naval landing stage. Used as such during the First World War, it was leased back as a pleasure pier after the war and steamer trips to Hastings began again. However, extensive rebuilding became necessary and, by 1925, the pier was dilapidated. With repair costs unjustifiable, the pier was closed and demolished in 1927.

"Dover as a Sea-Angling Centre" (1900) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske at pages 44 to 51

Chapter VI

The Promenade Pier … A fee of 2d. per line, and entrance the same, entitles the angler to fish there all day if so inclined; but leaving, and afterwards returning, subjects him to another admision payment. This somewhat vexatious proceeding might be done away with by substituting the plan in vogue at Deal, where 6d. entitles the ticket-holder to go off and on whenever so disposed. This may be considered as mere hair-splitting, nevertheless, such seeming trifles often make all the difference between convenience or otherwise.

On a cloudy day when the wind blows in moderation from the S.W. producing a ripple on the water, fair sport amongst the pollack may be met with in so far as numbers are concerned, the best time being when the tide is rising and for two hours or so of the ebb …

Had the water been less disturbed in the manner aforesaid and the piles uninterfered with, that shy, delicate-mouthed and artful fish, the gray mullet, might have roamed its precincts …

As the pier extends so much further out into the sea, the angler can remain far longer than on Jetty (a), and it is only at low water he need gather up his tackle and depart … Let him lay to heart, that there exists also a tide in the affairs of fishing which, taken at the flood, leads to more probable satisfactory results than when found at the low ebb. My experience goes to show that the last two hours of the former, and the first two hours of the latter are the most witching periods, while the slack of either reigns supreme. From this it will be observed that fish swim with the tide. coming shorewards as that advances, going seawards as that retreats. In this respect then the Pier, having the whip hand of the Jetty as regards length, the angler can count on a longer spell …

The sea bed at the end of the Pier being of a sandy nature, the Paternoster form of tackle can be used with advantage where flat fish are considered game, for in this weapon the lowest of the three hooks, being near the bottom, the bait comes within range of their vision, while the two upper are open to an offer from either pollack or bass. It is a deadly contrivance, more responsible for full baskets of an "omnium gatherum" than the single trace, but less sportive.

The pier is fished to the best advantage late in the season … During the months of October, November and December, vast shoals of cod, codlings and silver whiting crowd into the Bay, most probably in pursuit of a still greater multitudinous army of sprats which arrive about the same time … Very large catches are made on these occasions, the place resembling a miniature Billingsgate … Some day an angling competition may be organised.

"Dover as a Sea-Angling Centre" (1900) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske at pages 52 to 60

Chapter VII

The Harbour Piers … These Piers are respectively known as North and South and, in many respects, resemble each other, both being constructed of massive piles having a considerable slope inwards from base to summit and filled up with uncemented masses of stone. For angling purposes they measure some 500 feet long by 30 broad, and having a low substantial parapet are admirably adapted for the purpose.

… use a long rod and gear to which a float is attached, the length of the trace being so adjusted as to allow ample margin for steering clear of weeds. Cast out for some little distance it obeys the progressive movement of the tide, advancing, and then slightly receding, but on the whole making towards the shore, here represented by a sloping curtain of stone … If arriving near this wall without success, let him try back from the end, searching every foot of water into which he can guide his float; for, as previously stated, fish being roamers he stands a better chance of coming across them by imitating their habits than remaining on one spot. Here be it understood, what are called game fish are alluded to, such as pollack, bass and gray mullet; for ground fish hugging the bottom there must they be sought after.

… Instead of a roaming line, the Paternoster constitutes the most likely form of tackle, only as rather heavy sinkers must be used the rod should be a stiff one.

From a piscatorial point of view the South Pier differs but little from the last, while structurally it is much broader …

Its west and favourable side takes a graceful curve round till it joins the Admiralty, forming a shelving apron built of stone, terminating in a cul de sac. It differs from the North one only in shape and extent. There are times and seasons when fish resort to the spot in considerable numbers … in front, hemmed in by the stone apron; to their right a row of piles with sundry rods projecting therefrom, and last but not least, a trammel net in the rear cutting off any prospect of further retreat … In like manner, bass assemble about that trap in considerable numbers …

This western side of the pier is, consequently, much patronised by certain anglers, the same tactics being employed as with the other, and for the same reason. Of the two, it holds out even brighter prospects, but with one drawback - the sun in one's eyes. Why it should do so is not easy to answer, for the nature of the bottom in both cases being much the same - rock covered with masses of sea-weed …

The head of this pier often exhibits a row of fishermen in pursuit of poutings, codlings and flat fish …

Fortunately, connected with the Harbour yet remains another area of water well worth the angler's attention, viz., the Granville Dock. Here it is that vessels are admitted at high water for the purpose of unloading, and many being alongside the quay for weeks together, it can be easily understood how it comes to pass that fish regard its tranquil water as a happy and prolific hunting ground. More especially is this the case with that shy and much-sought-after denizen of the deep - the gray mullet, whose favourite food appears to consist of that silk-weed … which grows so rapidly on ships' bottoms, piles - anywhere, everywhere. Not much in evidence during the busy hours of the day, on warm sunny afternoons and evenings shoals of them may frequently be seen leisurely floating on the surface … Although permanently settled in the Dock, there are times and seasons when they migrate for a time into the Harbour proper … In some way or other the time for opening the gates seems as familiar to them as the officials, for they assemble in front of them beforehand and, as soon as ever space will allow, out they rush in single file! … Anglers have attempted to beguile them with every delicacy which could be thought of, but here too failure has predominated. Being naturally shy, having very small sensitive mouths and living on the fat of the land may account for a good deal, though not all.

The Admiralty Pier

The original 2,100 feet long section of the Admiralty Pier was built between 1847 and 1872 and terminated in Admiralty Pier Turret
(Victorian colour photograph)

"Dover as a Sea-Angling Centre" (1900) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske at pages 61 to 69

Chapter VIII

The Admiralty … From its very earliest days the upper or promenade portion has been the most frequented for the purpose of fishing, a circumstance due more to the fact of "free admission" to all sorts and conditions of men than anything else … Very long rods are here necessary, owing to the fact of the base extending further out and then curving upwards; also by reason of a forest of tangled sea-weed protruding as far up as high water mark … Rods from 18 to 20 feet are common but, being too weighty for much handling, the practice is to lay them on the parapet, where their safety is insured by several ingenious contrivances, and although such a proceeding deprives the sport of half its excitement there is, unfortunately, no other way of fishing this side from above.

The furthest end of the promenade portion being the locale most in favour, it is by no means an uncommon thing to see the parapet literally bristling with rods …

The lower stage of the Pier being, for the most part, appropriated to purposes commercial, about a sixth part only of its furthest end is, under ordinary circumstances, open to free access … Abutting, as this does, close to the turret, fish appear to hit upon that spot in their way round its bulbous extremity before proceeding on their travels shorewards … It is not by any means the only spot in this segment, however, for up to the boundary gate as good fish are to be met with, more especially if the angler proceeds on the roaming principle.

The remaining and greater portion of this lower platform can be fished with permission, and at times without, there being periods when the gate is open, others when closed … here access to the landing stages is obtained. Irrespective of these, there is a point just at the spot where the lines make a curve which, with a rising tide, enjoys a considerable reputation. It faces the western side of the Southern Pier and within a short distance of the cul de sac before alluded to … If the time can be hit upon when … three-quarters flowing tide has arrived, the chances become very favourable.

… the upper end of this platform being now in the hands of the contractor … solid masonry will usurp the place of an area of water once so prolific. In short, it will be blotted out from all save "memory dear" …

… a word of warning may not be amiss. It is this - don't fish on the Admiralty on Saturday afternoons when every man and boy of Waltonian propensities assembles thereon armed with gear more calculated to frighten than attract …

The landing stages - two on each side of the Pier … can only be approached during the day by the portal so zealously and conscientiously guarded by by its janitors. Even at this period they are tempting places from which to beguile an afternoon - more especially those on the western side, but as far as my experience goes, not very productive. During the prevalence of an east wind they afford almost complete shelter, and that sums up their chief advantage, for as the "boats" hie hither and thither … the water is kept in such a perpetual state of commotion that sport cannot reasonably be expected. Neither is it an easy matter to steer one's line safely through a veritable net-work of hawsers … With a soft S.W. wind the conditions are different and the angler may spend a pleasant and profitable time. But, on the whole, it is the witching time of night when Nature and human nature are comparatively silent that these structures shine forth in their usefulness … and repay the angler for loss of sleep … The goal … being, for the most part, the silvery and sportive bass …

The Admiralty of the past from an angling point of view may soon be relegated to the domain of history with all its stirring associations. Political and other considerations having rendered it absolutely necessary to carry it still further out, to the tune of several hundred yards, a new angling are will dawn on the coming generation … What may actually result from the extension it would be too hazardous to prophesy, but one cannot help thinking - judging from the habits of fish - that near the shore will they still be found and not somewhere approaching mid-Channel.

"Dover as a Sea-Angling Centre" (1900) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske at pages 70 to 79

Chapter IX

The remaining section of Dover's legitimate fishing ground now claims attention … "Shakespeare's Cliff" … As soon as ever, then, the shadows begin to fall, let him commence railing, making the best use of the time which he can count upon. On the whole the water is more inclined to be amiable on this than on the eastern side, and to my mind preferable on other counts - fish, on the average, of a larger size; more interesting environments; the sea decidedly less choppy, and the boatmen more accommodating, courteous and anxious to please.

… The peculiarity of the bed of the sea in this section consists in being of a varied character, nothing like the general uniformity met with in the other two, and such conditions point to many advantages as they tally with the requirements of the anglers … There are three well marked differences - sandy, rocky, and a mixture of these two.

(1) Sandy. This character prevails from the Admiralty to the beginning of Shakespeare Cliff - about a fourth of the whole distance. On such a bottom, flat-fish may naturally be looked for, as on it alone can they live, move and have their being. Accordingly they are in evidence, but unfortunately for anglers with sensitive noses … they congregate in the immediate vicinity of a spot indicated by a large buoy around which any number of gulls flock together all day and night the year round [10]. … There are fishermen who anchor over the spot without a thought or suspicion of anything unpleasant, returning home laden with dabs, plaice and others of a like nature, well satisfied with themselves and the world in general … Of course it signifies not a jot what fish live on, and as for man, "he may fish with a worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed on that worm", for nature's laboratory, being all powerful, can by conversion, a re-arrangement of elements, alter carrion even into wholesome, nay appetising, food. An instance of this may be seen in the Gangetic prawns which feed on the defunct Hindus floating down the river, and yet, what more delicate? We pay any price, and manœuvre to obtain them when in season, so much are they esteemed.

There is no mistaking the locality … he has only to anchor, let down a ledger-line and business will soon commence … More satisfactory is it to roam about railing after nobler game, many of which are here caught, especially near the shore in the vicinity of the rock called "John Bull" [11]. He may also take a few turns alongside the Admiralty as evening sets in, where the chances are very favourable, keeping as close to the weeds as safety will allow, in and about which their habit is to prowl. Here the beach is utilised, as in other parts, by handliners … the angler can resort to the locality with his rod, when by using a stiff top-joint, Nottingham reel and good sized sinker, he may accomplish wonders. A quiet, balmy night in July fits in very well for this style of angling, but applicable only when the tide is flowing.

[10] Editor's Note: This buoy marks the end of the town sewer outfall shown on the section of the 1884 Admiralty Chart of Dover Harbour below:

[11] Editor's Note: Bull Rock is situated near the end of the Promenade and is visible at low water. Some good dabs and sole are taken at the west end, on sandy ground.

(2) From the sandy to the rocky bed is exceedingly abrupt, commencing at once at the base of Shakespeare Cliff and remaining as such till close upon where shaft sinking is being carried on … Indurated chalk [12] of considerable hardness, supporting a forest of weeds, characterises its bed, but instead of presenting the level, furrowed surface peculiar to the east side, it is more irregular and diversified.

This portion can be strongly recommended as a most excellent ground for both bottom and drift-line fishing, there being several first-rate places to anchor over in the one, and where to find game fish in the other. The largest and greatest number of fish which have fallen to my rod in a given time has been here, and that at no great distance from the shore. A rising tide is by far the best to fish on, and the longer the slack thereof can be utilised the better; for not only are fish then more in the biting mood, but concentrated …

When the right spot has been anchored over and the angler is busy with his Paternoster, the plan of having a second rod fitted with a drift-line is a very profitable one as a rule. Varying lengths - from 10 to 15 fathoms - should be unreeled and allowed to float away with the tide, and in proportion to the strength of this so should be the weight of the sinker attached to the line end of the trace. The butt of the rod, having been passed, say, under a seat close at hand, all the angler need do is to give a glance at it occasionally and, if he sees an offer, accept it at once. Should an opportunity occur he may handle the second now and then and search the water round about, a moving bait being more attractive than a stationery one.

Fish having a decided predilection for places where a rocky bottom merges into a sandy one, the two extremes of this portion are more favourable than the middle; there indeed most sport is generally met with. The reason for this is clear, the weeds and rocks affording concealment and safe places from which to keep a look-out, any suitable object passing can be pounced upon and a retreat effected if necessary.

[12] Editor's Note: Indurated chalk is formed by the hardening of carbonate sediments through cementation or compaction, or both, without the introduction of heat.

(3) The remaining portion being a mixture of patches of sand and masses of rock peeping out here and there … It ought to have been mentioned that all along this section - save its first part - lobster pots are as numerous as eastward, if not more so; and these being supplemented by numerous rocks jutting out of the water in the most irregular manner, it behoves the angler to exercise additional caution when engaged in railing. Besides a careful look-out on the part of the occupants of the boat, it is a safe plan to shorten line somewhat and use one rod only on which he can concentrate his undivided attention. When anchored for the double purpose of trying the bottom and mid-water after the manner alluded to above, there are several very favourable places; one just opposite the coal works, the other in line with the coastguard station at the base of whose cliff a perennial supply of fresh water issues forth, running into the sea, and called the Lydden Spout, its water being supposed to come from a place of that name. Here every artifice the angler can employ should be utilised, for in addition to the usual routine of fish some sea trout may be met with. To the exclusion of all others it is well worth while devoting time and attention to these; fine but strong tackle, small spinners and rock worms being the most likely methods for attaining the object in view - a few brace of these handsome and sportive beauties. To my way of thinking, this last segment eclipses the others by reason of the chance of coming across trout, the rocks protruding here and there, and grandeur of the cliffs; while its distance from the starting point, constituting the drawback, is compensated for by the above weighty considerations.

"Dover as a Sea-Angling Centre" (1900) Deputy Surgeon-General Charles Thomas Paske at pages 88 to 96

Chapter X

… But conservatism being stamped on Dover all along the line in indelible characters, it becomes no easy matter to wander outside the beaten track of the unwritten and recognised law, be it socially, politically or piscatorially, without creating great surprise and much wagging of tongues … A boatman once nearly refused to take me afloat when he perceived I was going to use the latter (mother-of-pearl) declaring that nothing could be done with "that ere thing". You may batter it down for a time but it is bound to come up again, such elasticity does it possess. It has been said of old that "when in Turkey we should conduct ourselves as Turkeys", and certainly here in Dover we are expected to follow the example of Dovorians in all things, not excepting the utter ruin of even an ostrich-like digestion by eating heartily at afternoon tea two hours before dinner. My firm belief is, that the evil one suggested such "teas" to suit his own sinister purposes.

For the benefit of those anglers who only come here for a time and are unacquainted with the ins and outs of the place, and knowing from experience what difficulties they encounter in procuring bait, I may mention that the parties who go in search of the commodity live - for the most part - in "Seven Star Street", [13] a thoroughfare running parallel to the S.E. station, with only a block of tenements between. The most reliable men are "Richards" and "Gatehouse", the latter a son (I believe) of the aforesaid "ancient mariner" of such celebrity, who prefers living here to so far afield. These two deal in worms - rock, mud and sand. For mussels, not indigenous to the place, and larger, the town will have to be depended on. Those fishing on the east side can be supplied by "Hogbin", fishmonger, Woolcomber Street [14], nearly opposite the Hotel Burlington, who is very reliable. For the west side "Drincqbier" and "Lawrence" in Snargate Street [15] are more handy and also reliable. All these arrange for a regular supply during the season, the usual price being 10d a gallon.

When the angler has the opportunity of laying in a stock of rock worms he would do well to avail himself of the chance of keeping them "all alive oh" and healthy. For this purpose, a wooden box 8 by 5 by 2½ inches with a lid having leather hinges answers admirably. Nearly fill it with damp silk-weed somewhat lightly arranged and gently place the worms therein where they will be quite happy if stowed in a cool, dark cellar; but it is essential to have a daily inspection to remove any which may have died and to wash the "weed" every second or third day with fresh sea-water. This carefully attended to, they may be kept for ten days or more in good condition. N.B. - a few small holes should be bored in the lid of the box for air and ventilation.

[13] Editor's Note: Seven Star Street is a narrow thoroughfare, which runs at the rear of Beach Street. This narrow row was for many years the dwelling place of mariners, and it is easy to suppose that Seven Star Street (at one time notorious in the town) was a mariners fancy since fair Pleiades conspicuous in the midnight sky was a favourite guide to the sailor seeking a friendly shore.

[14] Editor's Note: Woolcomber Street was built on land which had gradually been formed since 1500 when an old harbour situated here had became useless. Before houses were built the lower part of the street was occupied by saltpans where the sea water was evaporated by different processes and salt made. Long after these works had been done away with this area was called "Salt's" or "Saltpans". In the days when there was a great deal of smuggling in Dover, there was a portion of this area where smugglers' hoards were put and ingeniously covered with piles of sand and rubbish, the sand being brought on the back of donkeys who had to cross a little bridge which spanned a small stream flowing towards the river. Opposite the smugglers' hiding place on the ground now occupied by Busseys coal store, the Quakers had a burying place until 1830. The rest of the street consisted chiefly of premises for wool-combing belonging to wool merchants in the town. When the industry was no longer carried on in Dover and houses were built the name Woolcomber was given to the street.

[15] Editor's Note: Snargate Street did not, as some have supposed, take its name from Snar Gate in the old town wall. There was a Snargate Ward long before the gate was built in 1370. One plausible suggestion is that the word came from a snare which engineers may have devised to trap rubbish which came down the river Dour and tended to block the river mouth and the Pent into which the river discharged, to which was added the gate that stood by Mr. Grossman's and there you have Snargate Street. Another possible derivation is that there were overhanging rocks above the street resembling a snare.

Illustrated London News 1902
The Progress of the New Admiralty Harbour Works at Dover

The Daily Express, Monday 2 November 1903 at page 5

A sea-angling club was formed on Saturday at Dover. The bay is literally alive with fine plaice, soles, whiting and mullet.

Editor's note: the Saturday here referred to is 31st October 1903 and the club - probably - the Dover Sea Angling Association. This briefest of mentions is included as a footnote to a report of two sea angling contests held in Brighton and Folkestone on Saturday, 31st October - see images below for details. The Folkestone Festival was "the first organised by the Folkestone Sea Angling Association".

"Sea Fishing for Amateurs: A Practical Book on Fishing from Shore, Rocks, or Piers" (1904) Frank Hudson at page 81

Dover (Kent) - Fishing: Good. Fish: Bass, flounders, mackerel, mullet, pollack, rock-fish, smelt, whiting-pout, etc. Best Months: June to September.

"The Salt of My Life" (1905) Frederick George Aflalo at pages 54 & 55

Early Memories

At Dover I fished a good deal in the spring and summer of 1892 while staying with an old and valued friend, Surgeon-General Paske, a survivor of some of the hot scenes in the Mutiny and a devoted sea-fisherman. He has never deserted Dover, and has since those days caught fine bass and pollack, as well as some of the few grey mullet ever taken on a rod in the Granville Dock. Thanks to his acquaintance with the powers that were, we were allowed to fish from the Turret, then at the extremity of the Admiralty Pier, now only half way along that structure, which has grown to the dimensions of the sea-serpent. We also used to hire a boat and fish near a buoy under the shadow of Shakespeare Cliff, in days before financiers dreamt of Kent Coal, and at both places we caught numbers of pollack, codling and whiting. That lofty pier was not very convenient for fishing, though the difficulty of getting leave lent it a fictitious value, and there was of course the advantage of immunity from the crowd. It was a blessing, difficult of exaggeration, to be free of the ordinary loafer, who is always prying into baskets, always asking silly questions, his hand rarely out of your creel, his nose never out of your face. The many changes, which Government improvements and other developments have made in the harbour have not improved the sport, while the busy trawling fleet, that once fished the Varne and Ridges, is all but extinct, only a few fishing boats nowadays creeping in and out of the dock gates. Those once prolific grounds have been indeed almost depleted by our friendly neighbour's steam-trawlers.

1908 Plan of Dover Harbour showing the locations of the
Eastern Arm, Castle Pier (aka Castle Jetty), (Stone) Jetty, Promenade Pier, Prince of Wales Pier, North and South Piers (aka the Harbour Piers), Admiralty Pier and Southern Breakwater

The Graphic, 15th July 1909
Bird's-eye View of Dover Harbour Showing the Progress of the Extension Works

The Graphic, 16th October 1909
Dover's New Harbour Opened by the Prince of Wales (drawn by Harold Oakley)

Today, October 15, the Prince of Wales formally inaugurates the great Admiralty Harbour, which has been under construction for eleven years. The works were designed by Coode, Son and Matthews, the contractors being Pearson and Son Limited. Some idea of the magnitude of the undertaking may be gathered from the fact that the sea works, aggregating 2½ miles in length, have been constructed necessitating the use of 260,000 tons of Portland cement. The total cost of construction has been over £5,000,000. The harbour has been the principal base of the Atlantic Fleet since the beginning of the year.

"Sea-Fishing" (1911) Charles Owen Minchin at page 222

Chapter XVI

Some Harbours on the South Coast of England

The new harbour works at DOVER have made such changes that it is difficult to form an opinion whether the fishing is likely to be goor or bad for the next few years. In time, however, when the seaweed has grown on the new concrete work and the swirls of the currents have piled up banks of sand in which the worms, star-fishes and other feed can breed and multiply, it may be anticipated that Dover will become an excellent station. In the old days there used to be many pollack about the Admiralty Pier and on the reefs a little distance to the westward, and it is quite likely that in the future Dover will again be a haunt for good pollack. The autumn fishing for whiting, pouting and plaice is not to be despised even now.

"Modern Sea Angling" (1921) Francis Dyke Holcombe at page 265

At Dover there is fair boat fishing for whiting, codling, flatfish etc, while sometimes the boat angler who is trying specially for pollack on the rough ground between Dover and Folkestone will get hold of a good one, although they are not exactly thick; and a very keen and capable sea angler who lives at Dover has caught a good many bass - among them some very good ones - from the harbour pier, usually baiting with a small live pouting.

"Sea Angling Modern Methods and Tackle" (1952) Alan Young at pages 162 & 163

Where and When to Fish

Dover (Kent)

Dover caters well for boat, pier and beach anglers.

For boat anglers there are a number of reliable, capable and hard-working boatmen, who own good boats, and who vie with each other to ensure that their parties get the best possible sport. They study local conditions and know the best marks. Really good motor-boats, some covered, can be had for £3 for the usual "day" of six hours. The boat angler at Dover can get afloat in fair or foul weather, for if the Channel is too rough there is excellent shelter and good fishing within the harbour.

The renowned Breakwater is unrivalled for sport anywhere around the coast. It can only be reached by boat, and when weather makes the trip undesirable, good fishing can be had in all conditions from three piers - the Eastern Arm, the Admiralty Pier, and the Prince of Wales's Pier.

For the beach angler there is a long strip of foreshore at Shakespeare on the west side of the harbour, which extends to the open sea. Alternatively, there is beach fishing within the confines of the harbour itself, either from the Clock Tower Beach or at East Cliff. Recently particularly large conger have congregated in shallow water close to the sea front opposite the Drill Hall, and these sporting fish have been taken in quite large numbers, particularly at high-water after dark.

The species most commonly frequenting these waters in their seasons are bass, cod, conger, dabs, flounders, huss, ling, mackerel, plaice, pollack, pouting, silver eels, skate, soles and whiting.

Local baits, nearly always available from either of the two local tackle dealers, are king rag and ordinary Whitstable lugworm, sometimes supplemented with yellow-tail, Dungeness dried lug, razor fish, rock worm, and soft crab. White bait, such as mackerel, herring and sprat, are popular when in season.

The D.S.A.S is at all times willing to assist would-be members. (Dover Sea Angling Association.)

"Angles on Sea Angling" (1963) Captain S. Norton-Bracy at pages 7, 8 & 9

Fishing from Pier and Beach

Skill in casting can help to improve your 'luck' when there are other anglers about.

When you are fishing from a pier, or from a beach where there are a lot of other anglers, the farther out you can cast the more likely you are to catch fish. The continual bump of weights hitting the bottom, close in to the pier, and the jangling of paternoster booms, are enough to scare away any worthwhile fish. So try to out-cast all the other anglers.

There is no doubt that most beach or pier fishermen could, with the right equipment, increase their casting distance by 25 per cent. What you need is better stance, and this calls for correctly-balanced tackle. With multiplyer or fixed-spool reels, anyone can reach a minimum of 100 yards. You will find heavy rods tiring: the ideal is a glass-fibre rod of 12 feet to 13 feet. The line should be 16lb to 27lb breaking-strain nylon. A 4oz weight is heavy enough to take the line out without causing it to over-run.

When you get a "bird's-nest", the reel is revolving faster than the line is running out and the result is a tangle. How does it happen ? The most frequent mistake when casting is to use too much effort. A smooth 180-degree cast is enough to get your weight to its maximum distance without the worry of an over-run. Make sure that the line is free from knots and the spool is filled to capacity. Keep these rules - and you will still occasionally face the "bird's-nest" nightmare. But not so often.

The standard casting method is used with a beachcaster rod and multiplier reel.

For the beginner, or for casting short distances into the "fish zone", a straight over-the-head cast is the most suitable casting method. Ensure before casting that:

"Sea Angling" (1965) Derek Fletcher at pages 186 & 187


Popular with many anglers, Dover needs little introduction. Enthusiasts come here, year after year, drawn by the knowledge that they are sure of good sport. In addition to boat-fishing, three much-favoured places are the Eastern Arm, the Prince of Wales Pier and Admiralty Pier. An attraction for many an angler is the 4,200-ft long southern breakwater, which forms the seaward boundary of the outer harbour. This has to be reached by boat and one is able to arrange for one of the local boatmen to take one out and to return later in the day. Ferry boats also run to the breakwater from the Admiralty Pier. Many varieties of sea-fish are landed, in particular large conger.

As the name suggests, the Eastern Arm is the most easterly pier and subject to bitter winds at times. The whole length of this arm can be fished and in the past whiting, cod, bass, wrasse, plaice, soles and pollack have been caught on various baits from worm to fish cuttings.

The Admiralty Pier is the one from which the cross-channel passenger services principally operate, and is the scene of great activity, particularly during the summer months. The point farthest from the shore is favoured by anglers and is equal in sea distance to the breakwater.

Fishable in all weathers, the Prince of Wales Pier is used by locals when the breakwater is unusable through southerly gales. Sometimes the sport is good, and the pier is often in the news with double-figure catches.

It is necessary to have a permit to fish from the breakwater, the Eastern Arm and the Prince of Wales Pier, and this may be obtained at the pier gate offices at 1s a day. The permit is valid for use on any or all three of these places. The upper deck of the Admiralty Pier is available free of toll.

Frequent sea-angling festivals are arranged during the year and the Dover S.A.A. has always a friendly welcome for the visitor, who may become a temporary member if he wishes.

"Sea Angling" (1967) Alan Wrangles at pages 138 & 139

10 Sporting Opportunities Around the British Isles

From the east of Brighton the coastline assumes a completely different aspect. From the flat, sandy and shingly beaches of West Sussex the coastline changes to massive chalk cliffs and a rocky foreshore, which to those who know the marks means bass and conger. Eventually these cliffs give way to the flatter land of the Sussex/Kent border and the wide, open beaches of the Dungeness area. It is here that great catches of cod are made, also whiting, flounders, plaice and many other species can be taken. Being a very exposed stretch of coastline, strong winds can rapidly make conditions unfishable.

At Folkestone there is good shore and boat fishing. Those who seek their sport from the deeper marks should return with plaice, conger and, in due season, cod and codling.

At Dover, boat fishing with a good skipper can mean almost certain success, and most species are to be caught. This is an area which is greatly affected by enormously powerful tides which ebb and flow through the bottleneck between England and France. Most of the Harbour installations at Dover are available to the angler, but respect these privileges, and re-member the safety code which should be practised by all sea anglers.

At Deal there is plenty of sport to be had from the pier, and beach fishing at Ramsgate and Margate can result in good catches of bass, flounders, dabs and soles. The big attraction throughout this area is the exellence of the cod fishing during the colder months. From Dungeness right away around the North Foreland and northwards up the east coast, when con-ditions are right, enormous shoals of these fish give sport to the beach and the boat fisher throughout the winter.

"Pelham Manual for Sea Anglers" (1969) Derek Fletcher at page 155

Your Guide to Where to Fish

Dover, Kent. A lively fishing area offering a variety of species and numerous venues to follow many methods. Three places favoured by anglers are the Eastern Arm, the Prince of Wales Pier and the Admiralty Pier. A further attraction is the 4,200 foot long detached breakwater, a mile from shore, which is reached by boat.

The Prince of Wales Pier is fishable for nearly the whole length and there is little tide trouble except at the end of high water. Care must be taken while reeling in from the west upper deck at low water as the base of the pier projects. About 100 yards inshore be careful of obstructions on the bottom. Along the extension there is a strong tide about an hour before until an hour after high water.

The Breakwater is a favourite fishing spot in good weather. There are some 10 fathoms of water at high tide. The tide often makes fishing impossible outside, especially about an hour before and one and a half hours after high and low water, but good sized fish have been caught inside. Heavy leads are advisable to avoid snagging with nearby anglers. To reach the Breakwater a daily motorboat service is in operation.

The North pier jetty forms part of the approach to the inner tidal harbour and is very popular with junior anglers. It is also a favourite for prawners.

There are several bait merchants that will supply lugworm and ragworm to order and there are plenty of party boats for fishing. Mainly dogfish, pouting, whiting and codling are caught.

"Modern Sea Angling" (1971) Alan Young at pages 28 & 189

2. Tackle

… The heavy rod is, naturally, for heavy fish such as congers, skate and rays. It must also be used when tides call for heavy weights. Much depends on the area in which fishing is done. Off Dover breakwater, for example, anything may turn up, and although hundreds of small fish are caught on terminal tackle suited to their capacity, it is always anchored to a heavy weight to withstand the tide, and connected to a suitably heavy line. Bringing a half-pound pouting in on such tackle may not seem very 'sporting' fishing, but the situation dictates the tackle and anglers on the breakwater enjoy their fishing as much as the most advanced exponents of light tackle fishing.

11. Where and When to Fish


Dover is noted for its bass during the summer months from external piers, boats and beaches. All the usual remaining species can be caught (including unlimited pouting) and good skate, tope and huss. In winter excellent cod and whiting are available, the latter averaging 1½lb, with the local record standing at 4lb 8oz. Main flatfish are dabs and plaice.

One of the main fishing attractions of Dover is its Breakwater. This stands about a mile offshore and is 1,400 yards long. Except when the weather is really tempestuous, boats leave the Prince of Wales' Pier at 8am to take anglers to the Breakwater, returning at 4pm.

For those who are less ambitious or who have limited time, fishing can be done from the Admiralty Pier, which forms the southern arm of the harbour. Mackerel are caught here by thousands in July and August, but at all times it offers fish of many species on the seaward side.

The Prince of Wales' Pier is entirely within the harbour. Big specimens are rarely caught, but it provides fishing when the Breakwater cannot be reached and when waves are breaking over the Admiralty Pier. Permits to fish this pier and the Breakwater can be obtained at the Pier Gate Office.

Tides run strongly in the Straits of Dover and heavy leads are necessary to hold the bottom when fishing from boats or the Breakwater.

Lugworm is the favoured bait …

"Sea Fishing in Kent" (1973) Hugh Stoker at pages 41 to 46


Tides. High Water: -2 hours 42 minutes H.W. London Bridge. Rise: 19 feet at Springs; 15 feet at Neaps, but subject to variation depending on wind direction and strength. Tidal Streams: Very complex in and around the harbour entrances and breakwaters, and in certain areas there are often considerable differences between the direction of flow at the surface and lower down near the sea-bed. Owing to the shape of the coastline the east-going (up-Channel) tides at Dover are much stronger than those flowing down-Channel. Beyond the sheltering influence of the Admiralty Pier they may attain a rate of 5 knots at Springs about 150 yards outside the west harbour entrance. The period of maximum flow here is approximately 1 hour before H.W. to 1½ hours after H.W. It should be further noted that a large eddy forms eastwards of the harbour during the east-going stream, so that when the east-going tide is flowing hardest off the entrance of the harbour there is also a strong tide running south along the outer side of the Eastern Arm of the harbour.

In the open sea, about 3½ miles south-east of Dover Harbour, the tides attain a rate of approximately 3 knots at Springs, and 1½ knots at Neaps - the periods of maximum flow being around -5 to -4 hours H.W. (direction south-west) and +1 to +2 hours H.W. (direction north-east).

Topography. The historic town of Dover lies in a fold between the famous white chalk cliffs, and is dominated by the impressive hilltop stronghold of Dover Castle. Admission to much of the castle is free, and the lofty ramparts provide an excellent vantage point from which to survey the 600 acres of harbour and study the possibilities of its various fishing positions.

In particular, Dover has a great deal to offer the sea angler who specializes in pier and breakwater fishing, for there is a wide selection of fishing spots around the miles of harbour piers and breakwaters to suit all tastes and weather conditions.

Dover possesses a varied shoreline - some of it exposed, and some sheltered. Main Beach lies within the harbour between Prince of Wales Pier and the Eastern Arm, and provides sheltered water for swimming and the beaching of small boats. A launching ramp runs down from the centre of the Promenade into the harbour, and boats up to 16 feet can be launched here at any state of the tide. Parking facilities for car and trailer will be found nearby.

Shore Fishing

General Remarks. Anglers fishing from the harbour piers and breakwaters mentioned below are recommended to carry a good selection of leads to suit varying tidal conditions. Provided the reel line does not exceed 25lb breaking strain a 6 to 8 oz grapnel casting lead should be sufficient to fish all tides except the top of Springs. Running leger tackle is recommended when ground fishing with a heavy lead, as there is then no resistance to the fish, and the pull of a biting fish is transmitted direct to the rod-tip.

A wide variety of species may be expected, including most kinds of flatfish, bass, pollack, mullet, skate, conger, pouting, huss, cod, whiting, mackerel and scad according to season and other variable factors.

A day ticket, obtainable from the Dover Harbour Board at the entrance to the Prince of Wales Pier, enables the angler to fish from either Prince of Wales Pier or the Southern Breakwater. Weekly, monthly, season and annual fishing tickets are also available at reduced rates. Fishing from the Admiralty Pier is free.

1. Prince of Wales Pier. This pier (2,900 feet in length) lies within the shelter of the main harbour breakwaters, and it therefore offers fairly protected fishing under most weather conditions, with comparatively little interference from the tides - except possibly for a short period at H.W. The water is fairly shallow along the open pilework section of the pier adjoining the shore, but the depth increases fairly rapidly thereafter. Catches include flatfish, bass, pollack, mullet and pouting. From about November to January evening fishing for whiting is very popular, the favourite baits being strips, sprats and lugworms. In some years school bass provide good sport during darkness at H.W. - favoured baits are sprat, ragworm, rockworms and feathers.

2. Admiralty Pier. (Length 4,041 feet). The main passenger steamer traffic between Dover and the Continent is handled from the east (inner) side of this pier, which forms the west arm of the harbour. An upper promenade, to which admission is free, runs the whole length of the pier on its outer side. The tide runs very hard at times along the outer side of the pier, and during Springs it makes all but first 200 yards unfishable from about -2 hours to +2 hours H.W. During Neap tides it is possible to fish the whole length over the H.W. period, but a grapnel lead is essential. The beginning and tail-end of the tidal flow produce best results, particularly during the cod season. The actual fishing from the Admiralty Pier is best considered under two separate headings as follows:

First Half. Catches include flatfish, pouting, whiting, huss, bass, sole, mullet and conger (alongside the wall). Large catches of mackerel from May to August.

Extension. As above, but less flatfish. Thornback rays, good cod and codling. More fish are lost on this pier (owing to its height above water) than are landed, and the angler is advised to take a drop-net.

3. Southern Breakwater ("The Wall"). This mile-long detached breakwater is considered to be by far the best all-round fishing venue at Dover, but of course it can only be reached by boat, the return fare being quite reasonable. Also, as the breakwater is very exposed, a visit is dependant upon suitable weather conditions. A boat leaves Prince of Wales Pier for the breakwater about 8 a.m., and once the angler is on the breakwater he must stick it out until the boat returns to pick him up again - usually about 4 p.m. Before paying for admission to the Prince of Wales Pier, the angler would be well advised to inquire at the ticket office whether the boat is, in fact, running that day, because the service is liable to be cancelled at short notice when the weather forecast is unfavourable. As a rough guide, when the early morning shipping forecast for Dover area mentions a south to west wind of Force 5 or over, the boat service is very doubtful, whilst any gale warning will result in cancellation.

There is deep water out at the breakwater, and some very good mixed catches are made here, including plaice, flounders, dabs, sole (from inner side), bass, pollack, grey mullet, mackerel, pouting, huss, conger, occasional thornback rays; also large cod and whiting in autumn and winter. In 1963 black bream also put in an appearance, and there are hopes of their return in future seasons.

Fishing on the outer side of the breakwater is hampered by strong tides, and often becomes impossible during periods of peak flow around H.W. However, catches are also good on the inside, where tidal conditions are easier, and fishing is always possible provided suitable tackle is used, with grapnel leads when necessary. The tide flows most strongly along the east end, the current changing three times over the H.W. period, followed by a 2-hour slack period. The tide has little effect at the west end during Neaps.

4. North Pier. This jetty forms the north side of the entrance leading into the tidal inner harbour. It is capable of yielding some good fish, including bass and mullet. Mole Head Rocks [9] (they are the remains of an old chalk pier) lie east of North Pier, and evening fishing with suitable fish baits may tempt some of the conger which inhabit these rocks. Prawns can be caught from North Pier, using baited drop-nets.

5. Shakespeare Beach. Shore casting after dark is capable of yielding mixed bags, including pouting, bass and codling according to season. A useful place to try is either side of the Bull Rock around H.W. This rock, situated near the end of the Promenade, is visible at L.W. Some good dabs and sole are taken at the west end, on sandy ground.

Boat Fishing

6. Bass Trolling Areas. Trolling inside the harbour breakwater can be rewarding, particularly in the evening during summer and autumn. The east and west ends are most productive.

Some decent-sized bass have also been taken on occasions by trolling close inshore around the South Foreland. Suitable baits include rubber eel, "Mevagissey" and "Red Gill", plastic sandeels or a slender, silver-coloured wobbling spoon with a ragworm or squid tentacle attached to the hook. Catches vary considerably from year to year.

7. The Wrecks. A large number of sunken vessels lie off Dover, including several grouped fairly close together a mile or so from the east harbour entrance. A number of others, including the popular "Melodia" wreck, are scattered a mile or two off Shakespeare Cliff, and the coastline a little further west. These wrecks, which need to be visited with a knowledgeable local boatman, are capable of yielding large conger, as well as mixed bags of huss, spur-dog, pollack, pouting, whiting, bream and cod in season. The main difficulty lies in the strength of the tides, and fishing the wrecks is best attempted during Neap tides. At the deeper marks it is often necessary to use 1½ to 2lb of lead.

Fan Bay. This bay, situated east of Dover harbour, is a popular mark in winter for inshore cod fishing. Catches include plenty of large fish up to 20lb.

Local Bait Grounds (Chart symbols are shown in brackets)

Prawns (P) can be taken with baited drop-nets from the North Pier, and by hand-netting among rock pools in the Shakespeare Beach and Warren areas.

Peeler and Soft Crabs (C) are sometimes to be found among the low-tide rocks in the Shakespeare Beach area and also among the rock ledges at St. Margaret's Bay.

Lugworms. See under Ramsgate (Pegwell Bay) and Deal for details of the nearest digging grounds.

[9] Editor's Note: A "mole" is a massive structure, usually of stone, used as a pier, breakwater, or a causeway between places separated by water. "Mole Head Rocks", which lie east of North Pier, are the chalk foundations for a pier which, although commissioned by Henry VIII in 1533, was never completed.

"A new History of Dover &c" (1828) William Batcheller at pages 281, 282 & 283

The first works, which enclosed a small basin of water with a quay for shipping goods, were confined to a narrow compass in Paradise pent. It was intended, however, in order to secure this small harbour and the bay, to extend a main pier, from Archcliff Fort, 131 rods (2,161 ft 6 in) eastward into the sea, or about 20 rods (330 ft) farther out than the present south pier head.

Two rows of piles, or pieces of timber, each pile being twenty-six feet long, and some of them shod with iron, were driven into holes cut in the solid rock, and fastened together with large beams, bolts and bars of iron. Immense blocks of stone (some say of twenty tons weight) were placed between the rows of piles, and the interstices filled with chalk and beach. By the contrivance of one John Young, whom the King rewarded with a yearly stipend, during life, for his ingenuity, these stones were brought from Folkestone, on rafts or frames of timber, supported by empty casks.

Two projectures, one called Chapel and the other called Stoneham's groin, were built on the south side of the pier and secured with blocks of chalk. The work was extended nearly to the site of the present south head, to a place called the Black Bulwark, on which it was intended to erect a platform for cannon. The foundation was extended about twenty rods farther and may still be seen at low water and is called the Mole Rock.

After expending £50,000 on these works, the King died in 1547 and left them in an unfinished state; and no provision being made to keep them in repair, the sea soon made several breaches in the wall and accumulating banks of beach were forming in the bay.

Nothing appears to have been done during the short reign of Edward the Sixth; and though Queen Mary granted letters patent to collect money throughout England to repair Dover harbour, the sums were inadequate for the purpose. The banks of beach increased to such an alarming degree that a boat drawing only four feet of water could not enter, and the timber and iron work of the dilapidated ruins were stolen by the distressed mariners.

Mole Head Rocks

The following map shows the seabed in and around the Admiralty Pier, Prince of Wales Pier, Southern Breakwater (southern tip) and Mole Head Rocks.

Admiralty Pier, Prince of Wales Pier, Southern Breakwater (southern tip) and Mole Head Rocks (LIDAR map)

The State of Dover Haven with the New Workes
Thomas Digges, 1595

This is a plan of Dover harbour. It shows the harbour after construction work had begun. Dover harbour was at constant risk from the build up of silt, shingle and flooding and by the reign of Elizabeth I was in a state of decay. Elizabeth I was keen to improve this state of affairs and various schemes were submitted and rejected before the proposals of Thomas Digges were carried out. Digges was a mathematician and Member of Parliament and his scheme was put forward in 1584 with many of his suggestions being carried out in the years leading up to 1592. Before proposing a scheme Digges made a plan of the channels of the area enabling him to devise a remedy to the problems. This plan dates from the year of Digges death in 1595 by which date most of his proposals had materialized, including the building of a wall, the Great Pent, which stretched out into the northern end of the bay. A guide to the new works is provided by a numerical key which distinguishes between the new and previously existing works. The arms are those of Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I's Secretary of State.

"The Sea Angler's Guide to Britain: Where to Go" (1975) Jonathan Webb at pages 24 & 25


Species caught from shore: pollack, pouting, cod, black bream, bass, flounder, plaice, sole, dab, mullet, whiting

Species caught from deep water: skate, shark, conger, mackerel, pouting, cod, black bream, red bream, tope, bass, dogfish, sole, gurnard, turbot, whiting

Shore fishing at: between Dover and Folkestone, also at Harbour beach, and from the Castle Jetty which is good for winter codling

Pier and\or harbour fishing at: The Southern Breakwater reached by boat from Prince of Wales Pier, Admiralty Pier

Boat fishing available from: Dover Motor Boat Co., "Sunningdale", Green Lane, Temple Ewell, Dover, Tel: 1161; Bill Solly, 7 Napier Road, Dover; Basil Ebsworth and Son, 23 Albany Road, Chapel-le-Ferne, Folkestone, Tel: 53804; Johnny Johnson, 76 Folkestone Road, Dover, Tel: 1226

Tackle shops & bait suppliers: *Basil Ebsworth, 5 Russel Street, Dover, Tel: 1059; D. J. Brazil, 162 Snargate Street, Dover, Tel: 1457; J. C. Kinson, 3 Snargate Street, Dover, Tel: 20

*Angling Times Report Station: Basil Ebsworth

"Catch More Bass" (1976) Keith Elliott at page 28

Chapter Three: Baits

Fish Baits

Fish baits are underused, particularly for big bass, though at Dover one of the most effective ways of taking the big bass that stalk near the Southern Breakwater and the Admiralty Pier is with a whole 'joey' or mackerel.

At Dover they catch a lot of mackerel about 6in, and these prove deadly for bass, either fished live close to the wall or dead and by sink and draw.

"Fisherman's Handbook" (1977) The Marshall Cavendish, Part 9 at pages 231 to 235

The Kent Coast

Map showing the sand banks and wrecks where fine cod and conger are fished

The Kent coast offers some of the finest sea angling in the British Isles. Many species are encountered with cod predominant, particularly during the autumn and winter. The great advantage of fishing this coastline is that excellent fishing can often be had only a mile or two beyond the embarkation point.

The North Sea, ebbing and flowing through the Straits of Dover, gives rather fierce tides, but the relatively shallow water compensates for this. Rarely is it over 14 fathoms deep, and is on average 7-10 fathoms. There is good fishing up the Thames as far as Gravesend and the Isle of Sheppey but this is estuary fishing. Open sea fishing begins at Whitstable.

Whitstable is reached directly from London via the M2 and A299. The sea around this town is shallow for the first five miles out, and on average less than three fathoms deep. Boat anglers can expect to find dabs, whiting and cod in winter, and flounders, eels and bass in summer. Shore anglers enjoy beachcasting for the same species from the gentle shelving beach east of the harbour.

Herne Bay lies 4 miles to the east of Whitstable still on the A299. Several available charter boats will take anglers to the famous Pansands for the excellent bass fishing in the summer, or to the broken ground off Reculver for winter cod fishing.The town was famous for its tope fishing before the war, but this species seems to have declined since then. The average depth here is about 3 fathoms until one reaches the shipping lanes nearly 7 miles out.

Most varieties of seafish are caught in the appropriate seasons with thornback ray and smooth-hounds especially prolific during the peeler crab season in April, May and June. For the shore angler, fishing from the Eastern Promenade can be very rewarding, particularly in the autumn and winter after dark. Unfortunately the ¾ mile long pier was closed as being unsafe in 1968.

Good fishing

The twin towers of the ruined church known as Reculver are 3 miles east of Herne Bay. The beach here shelves gently. and thornback and stingrays are caught during spring and summer and cod and whiting in autumn and winter. Shore angling is good for another 2 miles east of this landmark.

Several charter boats are on hire from the harbour at Margate. The water here is 5-6 fathoms deep and the bottom, except at Margate Sands, is of chalk and flints, unlike the sand and gravel bottom at Herne Bay. Excellent bass and thornback ray are caught during spring and summer. The North Foreland Lighthouse is south-east of Margate, and the Elbow Buoy is approximately three miles out at sea from this point. Here one can expect the finest cod fishing to be had in the British Isles.

Many dinghy anglers favour the Longnose Buoy which is nearer, being a mile offshore, and where similar catches can be made. During the summer, bass fishing is good off the inshore chalk ledges and artificial lures are very successful. In the town there is a stone jetty and promenades from which most varieties can be taken depending on the season.

Broadstairs, on the A225 about 4 miles south-east of Margate, has a harbour where boats can be chartered to fish the same area as the Margate boats. Shore angling is possible from the harbour arm and from the chalk ledges north and south of the town.

Ramsgate, south of Broadstairs, is on a direct route from London via the M2, A222 and A253. With its very large harbour and excellent boat facilities, it accommodates both individual and charter anglers. The boats fish as far as the Elbow Buoy, particularly in winter for the cod, at North Goodwins for thornback ray during the summer months, and at Quern Bank for the good bass fishing. Pegwell Bay, which is a shallow water mark, is good for flatfish and whiting. Shore angling takes place from the harbour arms and a large variety of fish are caught although the ground is rather snaggy from the western arm. Large shoals of mullet abound inside the harbour during the summer months and can be caught on freshwater tackle. Other shore stations include the Chines and Under-Cliffe.

Sand and shingle

Although Sandwich lies a mile inland from the coast there is a road through the sand dunes to the shore. The chalk of Ramsgate has now given way to sand and shingle and excellent sport can be had by the beach angler from this point. Big catches of cod are made during the autumn and winter, and mainly flatfish, including soles, through the summer.

South of Ramsgate, and accessible via the M2, the A257 and the A258, Deal is the Mecca of sea angling. Large numbers of charter boats are launched from the steeply-shelving shingle beaches and just about every species of seafish has been caught at some time in these waters. A number of wrecks, particularly on the Goodwin Sands, provide good conger fishing, and in the summer tope and thornback are still caught in fair numbers over the sands. There is often good plaice fishing north of the town and south of Kingsdown, but the town's reputation is primarily for winter cod and whiting. Angling is allowed throughout the year from the modern pier and also night fishing at weekends.

Known as the gateway to England, Dover boasts a magnificent harbour with several angling charter boats. This is the narrowest part of the English Channel and the tides are therefore the strongest, but on neap tides the fishing is good, particularly for conger, cod and pollack found among the many wrecks. The water here is deeper than the rest of the

Kent Coast and the bottom is very hard chalk with fissures. Varne Bank, lying nearly half-way across the Channel, can provide good cod fishing throughout the summer with brill and turbot often a bonus. For the shore angler, the large harbour gives plenty of opportunity, although the eastern arm was closed to anglers many years ago. The Southern Breakwater is only accessible by boat, but a ferry service will take anglers for a nominal charge. Admiralty Pier is free fishing and anglers will often be shoulder to shoulder feathering for the vast shoals of mackerel found here during the summer.


Folkestone Harbour, approximately 5 miles west of Dover, has charter boats which fish Varne Bank in summer and supply good inshore fishing in winter. Several of the inshore marks have 14 fathoms of water, and the sea bed is very rocky particularly off the Warren. Conger to 30 lb are not uncommon near the British Rail Harbour Arm where anglers may fish for a small charge. West of Folkestone, the first mile of shingle beach runs off to snaggy ground, and further westward gives way to sand. This beach extends for 4½ miles, and the road at the top known as Princes Parade enables one virtually to fish from the car. Many species are caught here including bass, conger, plaice, cod and whiting. West of Hythe are the Military Ranges, where fishing is prohibited except on special occasions.

Dungeness is reached via the A259 to New Romney, then the B2071 out to the point. From Hythe to Dungeness the tide goes out so far that very little beachfishing is possible, but at Dungeness itself the steep shelving beach of shingle and the deep water make it ideal for the beach angler. Many years ago Leslie Moncrieff made this station famous for its cod fishing during the winter months. With the right conditions, anglers catch more cod than they can carry, and many of them are over 20 lb. In summer Dungeness and Dengemarsh provide excellent sole fishing and quite often large shoals of mackerel come right to the water's edge. Nearly all species of seafish are contacted; at one time there was even a small thresher shark caught from the beach here.

"Sea Angling Around Britain" (1977) Trevor Housby at pages 11 to 14

From the sea angler's point of view, Dover is one of the top fishing venues on the south coast. Big fish and big catches are common here, particularly during the winter-time when vast packs of big cod move inshore on all fronts. Basically, Dover is a cod fishing hot-spot, for despite the fact that many other species can be caught, most anglers arrive with cod fishing in mind. There is plenty of fair fishing on local beaches and from Castle Jetty, but most shore casters go out by boat to fish the Southern Breakwater. Boats operate from the Admiralty Pier and from the Prince of Wales Pier to take parties of anglers out to this noted fishing spot.

The Southern Breakwater, officially a shore station, provides a sort of mixture between beach-casting and boat fishing, for although anglers still use conventional beach-casting outfits, they cast their baits out into comparatively deep water where big cod abound. I have fished the Breakwater on many occasions, usually in bitterly cold weather when rough seas have made life far from comfortable. Despite inclement weather, I have usually gone back home with something to show for my efforts, although there have been many occasions when my catches have been limited to whiting. I have nearly always seen a big cod or two caught, and on many occasions, when my luck has been in, I have returned via the ferry boat with several good big cod to my credit …

… The Admiralty Pier at Dover is famous for its big bass. Local anglers have devised and developed a unique after-dark technique for taking big bass in quantity. This method is extremely interesting for it could work just as well round other piers and harbours, although as yet I have never heard of anyone using it elsewhere. Basically the method is simple. Using just a rod, reel, line and hook, the success of the method rests on keeping the bait floating on the surface. Somehow or other Dover bass specialists discovered that the very big bass that hang about the pier structures will eat dead fish they find floating on the surface. These Dover bass actually rise like trout to a fly and in all probability someone saw them do this, tried floating a dead fish out to them and ended up by catching big bass and developing a new technique. Most of the big bass caught on floating baits are taken at night and invariably the bait is a small, freshly-caught pouting. Pouting tend to fill up with air when being brought to the surface, consequently when used as bait they have a sort of built-in buoyancy tank which keeps them floating for long periods. Small pouting are commonly caught off the pier at Dover and anglers have formed the habit of unhooking the little fish and throwing them straight back into the water, where they float away on the tide. Local bass have obviously learned to cash in on this plentiful and easily obtained food supply and so accept a floating dead bait as a natural part of their normal diet.

There can be little doubt that the Admiralty Pier bass are used to feeding in this way, for when they do rise and take a floating bait, they take it with a great show of confidence which makes them very easy to hook. I am inclined to think that this technique could be adapted for use round many piers or harbour walls and for this reason anglers are advised to try the method in their own locality.

"How to Improve Your Sea Fishing" (1978) Melvyn Bagnall at page 29


Livebaiting and deadbaiting

… A conventional legered deadbait is not a particularly effective method of catching bass, but a variation has proved very successful in the past few seasons. News of this style of fishing first reached the ears of the angling press with a spate of double-figure bass from Dover Breakwater. The anglers catching the fish were using deadbaits, usually pouting, which they injected with air by using medical syringes. These baits, which were used on a lead-free line, floated up in the water and proved deadly for bass. This method has since proved effective along other parts of our coastline.

"The Sea Angler's Guide to Britain and Ireland" (1982) John Darling at pages 12 & 13


There are some dramatic changes in the shore line as one works south along this section of the Kent coast. The rocky ground north of Ramsgate contrasts sharply with the shallow sands at Pegwell Bay. The water deepens slightly south of the Stour estuary, round the broad sandy sweep of Sandwich Bay, a place many anglers visit if sou'westerlies at Dungeness make fishing impossible. Around Deal, the beaches are steeper still, of shingle, mixed rock and sand below the water line, which in turn becomes very reefy if the South Foreland area. This continues round to Folkestone, becoming sandier at Hythe, and more shallow again at Dymchurch before the dramatic depths and tides at Dungeness Point. The water is deep along Denge Marsh but is shallower again at Camber and towards Rye Harbour.

The main fish species caught from the shore are cod, flounders, dabs, pouting and whiting in winter; bass, conger eels, small tope, mackerel, scad, garfish, small pouting and whiting, plaice, sole, some cod and some dogfish in summer. Many of the locals fish for sole and bass in summer, big dabs and large cod in winter.

Mullet are common in the harbours at Ramsgate, Dover, Folkestone and Rye and in the Stour and Rother estuaries. These are mainly thick-lipped, but thin-lipped mullet are found in the Rother and a few golden grey mullet are taken from the beaches.

Boats from Ramsgate, Deal, Walmer, Folkestone, Dungeness and Rye Harbour all provide good fishing in winter for big cod until late December when huge sprat shoals move in and blot out everything but small bottom feeders. Offshore grounds provide good tope, spur dogfish, flatfish, some rays and black bream and smaller species in summer. The wreck fishing can be very good for medium pollack and ling and for good cod in summer. The Straights of Dover have several large sandbanks like the Varne, which also provide good cod and infrequent turbot fishing in summer.

Slipways are available for those with boats on trailers at Broadstairs (4 hours before and after high water); Ramsgate harbour (not at dead low water); Deal Rowing Club; Dover (all states of the tide); Folkestone (all times); Sandgate, behind the rowing club; Princess Parade, Hythe, and at Rye Harbour (not at dead low water).

The tides, especially to the north of Dover, run hard and in a confusing pattern. The visitor is advised to obtain expert advice for setting out. High tide times are 2½ (Deal) and 2¾ (Dover) hours before London Bridge. Tidal Streams are very complex.

There are thriving sea angling clubs at: Dover SAA, 14 Priory Road, Dover (Tel. 01304 204772); Deal AC at 13 The Marina, Deal; Deal and Walmer AA at South Toll House, Deal Pier.

Bait Areas

A Plenty of blow-lugworm at Pegwell Bay. Dig it by trenching, but moat diggings to keep out surface water. Keep an eye open for hovercraft. Lots of good black lugworms which should be dug individually with a proper lugworm spade. Dymchurch and Dungeness, Galloways and Rye.

B Plenty of peeler crabs among the rocks in spring and autumn, also piddocks and rock worms here.

C Small harbour ragworm from the Stour and Rother estuaries.

D Storms often wash in large numbers of razorfish etc at Hythe and Dungeness.

8 Dover

Some doubt about the future of fishing due to the new Hoverport. Plenty of mullet in the harbour but access is restricted by bye-laws and the weather. A ferry boat is required to reach the Admiralty pier [16] and that may be cancelled in poor weather. Good fishing there, though, for big cod and bass and conger eels. Other species, too. Tides run very fast off the piers. Check out local details from Bill's Bait and Tackle, 130 Snargate Street, Dover (Tel: 01304 204542 day and 01304 206894 evening).

[16] Editor's Note: The author has mistaken the Southern Breakwater - which is accessible only by boat - for the Admiralty Pier, which is accessible by foot. Hovercraft were withdrawn from service on 1st October 2000.

"The Penguin Guide to Sea Fishing in Britain and Ireland for Shore and Boat Anglers" (1983) at pages 29 & 30

Four: The South Coast and the Isle of Wight

Ramsgate to Lyme Regis

It is difficult to generalize about the Channel in fishing terms, save to say that it is blessed by lying between the North Sea, noted mainly for its splendid winter cod fishing, and the warmer waters of the Western Approaches, where, besides ling, bass, pollack, coalfish and conger, there are numbers of the larger sharks and, from time to time, stray exotics like the sunfish. A mixture of North Sea and South-West species spreads throughout the Channel, but there is a marked influx of winter cod towards the eastern end, off Kent and Sussex, from October onwards. If the Channel has any one speciality, it is the shoals of bream which move to offshore stations during summer. What they lack in size, black and red bream make up for in spirit, quantity and edibility, and their arrival is eagerly awaited.

The coast, with its famous resort beaches, is broken by numerous ports and harbours, and a huge choice of boat fishing exists. For the beach fisherman, night fishing, rock fishing and the remoter beaches give refuge from summer holiday crowds, as do the harbours and breakwaters. Tackle shops are numerous, and most supply bait in some form.

Inshore trawling has made inroads into Channel fish stocks in recent years, with bass particularly suffering, but in general fishing is very rewarding.

Fishing methods vary according to the location: harbours and jetties lend themselves to paternoster ledgering and float fishing, while spinning can be rewarding in both locations and from beaches and rocks. When mackerel shoals are close in, a trace of feathers thrown well out and drawn swiftly back near to the surface can sometimes give dozens of fish in minutes. On the gentler beaches long casting gives the best results, but there are good steep shores, like the immensely long Chesil Beach, where deep water lies close in. On most beaches, night fishing on a high tide is usually best. A range of baits is useful, lugworm and ragworm being the universal first choice, followed by fish strip, squid strip, peeler crabs and shellfish. Most of these baits are available at coastal tackle shops, with some worm grounds for digging your own (although this resource is diminishing as some grounds become worked out by professional and amateur diggers). The fish-monger is a useful back-up but catching mackerel for a boat trip is usually no hardship.


There are excellent choices of shore vantage-points in Dover, where summer catches include black bream, bass, conger, pollack, mullet and flatfish, with cod (sometimes very big) from October onwards. The bass can also be big and often stay late in the season, with smaller fish year-round. While the beaches from here to Folkestone all offer reasonable sport, the harbour beach, the Southern Breakwater, the Admiralty Pier and Prince of Wales Pier are local favourites. With tides running, the outer vantage-points require fairly heavy tackle and leads. Boat fishing out from Dover (local hire available) gives bass, black bream, conger, gurnard, cod, dogfish, sharks, rays, turbot and tope. The Varne bank (15 m) is a favourite mark. Bait and tackle available locally.

"Sea Angling: Kent to Cornwall" (1990) Mel Russ & Alan Yates at pages 24 to 27

The large harbour complex at Dover offers a limited amount of fishing despite its size and, in recent years, the closure of the Admiralty Pier because of storm damage has left only the central Southern Breakwater and the Prince of Wales Pier, in the centre of the harbour, open to anglers. However, there is hope for the Admiralty Pier and the Dover Sea Angling Association are negotiating repairs and hope to re-open the first half of the pier by 1990. The fate of the pier's extension is unknown and it looks as if this excellent bass and cod venue may be lost to angling for good.

By far the major venue at Dover is the Southern Breakwater, which is situated in the centre of the outer harbour between the Admiralty Pier and Eastern Arm. The latter is not open for angling. The Breakwater is only reachable by boat - return fare £1.50 - which makes the journey to the wall daily from the Dump Head jetty at Wellington Docks. Boats leave from 8am daily and return at 3:30pm. A ticket for the Breakwater is required and these cost 75p, available from the Prince of Wales Pier ticket office.

The Breakwater includes 213 permanent fishing pegs on the central wall plus additional angling from the inside walls at each end. The pegged section offers fishing into the harbour and out to sea, where a large variety of fish can be caught. The outside wall is scoured by very strong flood and ebb tides, which can only be fished by using 6oz fixed wire sinkers. A midday high-water is the best choice for a visit to the wall, although it is wise not to travel to Dover if the shipping forecast gives a wind strength above Force 5 as this stops the boats ferrying anglers out to the Breakwater. Information on boats from the Dover Motor Boat Company (01304 206809). Local tackle shops stock the necessary fixed spiked leads needed to hold bottom here.

Just about every species is at sometime or another caught from the Breakwater. From September through until March cod and codling are plentiful from the outside wall with fish in double figures common. Top baits are yellowtail lugworm, squid and peeler crab. The hotspot for cod is the Knuckle (Peg numbers 1 to 13). In the new year codling move into the harbour and can be caught from the inside wall on all baits. Bass patrol the wall in summer and the new British record Bass of 19lb 0½oz fell to a whole squid fished down the wall during a flood tide. Also favoured as bait for bass is a whole mackerel head fished alongside the wall when the tide runs west to east. The rising tide switches direction regularly and it pays to check which way the tide is running before casting out.

During spring smooth hounds are regularly caught from the outside wall with fish to 10lb preferring fresh peeler crab or ragworm. The inside wall offers lots of flatfish with a large head of flounders and dabs all-year-round. These patrol the harbour and are joined by plaice and sole between May and November. Lugworm and small ragworm baits are the most deadly for the flatfish, which can be caught at very short range, with a 30-yard "plop" all that's necessary. High peg numbers are best for flatfish. Other species include the ever present pouting, which is a pest in summer when pollack, bass, dogfish or plaice are sought. Mackerel shoal off the outside wall from June onwards as do grey mullet, which can be attracted by dangling a net bag full of bread just under the surface.

The Prince of Wales Pier inside the harbour is open daily - tickets are 75p. It is an ideal venue for juniors and disabled anglers because of the easy access. Fishing is good in autumn with whiting, codling, pollack, pouting, dabs, flounders, plaice and mullet plentiful. Top baits include lugworm, ragworm and harbour ragworm, which are particularly deadly for the pollack and flounders when fished alongside the pier wall on a French boom rig.

There is limited beach fishing at Dover with a small section of beach inside the harbour open to angling. Fishing is not allowed from the promenade inside the harbour. To the west of the harbour is Shakespeare Beach, which is an excellent venue for cod in winter and bass in summer, although it is often only fished by local anglers.

The stretch of coastline below the White Cliffs of Dover and between Dover and Folkestone is known as the Warren and offers seven miles of shore angling from promenade and cliff protection aprons. Access is only possible by foot and therefore this large area is relatively unfished by all but local anglers. Bass, cod, pouting and eels are the main species whilst the area also offers plentiful bait supplies, including peeler crab in summer and lugworm, which can only be dug over the spring tides. Access to the Warren is easiest from the Folkestone end at Wear Bay Road.

"Sea Angling: Kent to Cornwall" (1990) Mel Russ & Alan Yates at page 36

Kent Alan Yates

Boat angling guide to the Kent coast

To the west of Deal, marks off Kingsdown and Fan Bay, near Dover, are known for their good cod and plaice fishing within one mile of the shore. There are a considerable number of wrecks within easy reach of the Deal and Walmer boats, and hauls consist of cod, conger and pollack with feathers, pirks and artificial eels all scoring well, especially for the cod. Dinghy anglers should head for the Kingsdown SAC, where there's excellent launching facilities close to the Zetland Arms at Kingsdown. Inshore dinghy fishing under the White Cliffs of Dover is excellent for cod in winter and bass and plaice in summer.

Despite its large harbour, Dover has only a small charter fleet of 12 or so craft. These offer inshore fishing for cod and plaice in season, although several of the boats specialise in offshore wreck and sandbank fishing. The Varne Bank, some ten miles out, is first choice for pirking for cod with feathers and Red Gills fished sink and draw scoring well during most of the year. Inshore fishing is best during winter for cod, with fish to 20lb plus common from marks at Fan Bay and Warren Bay, especially during October and November. A six-foot flowing trace is the best rig for bottom fishing and yellowtail lugworm, dug fresh from nearby Sandwich Bay, the top bait. The bigger winter cod are taken on whole squid fished on a two-hook Pennell rig.

Strong tides are encountered throughout the region and upwards of 1lb of lead is needed to hold bottom, especially during the spring flood tide. Uptide casting is possible in the relatively shallow Fan Bay area to the east of Dover Harbour, and light line sportsmen take some excellent catches of cod during the winter on simple one-hook paternoster rigs and fixed grip leads fished uptide. The Dover fleet is not restricted by the tide, except during the spring lows. Boats can continue fishing inside the harbour during winter gales, although results are limited.

"The Complete Book of Sea Fishing: Tackle and Techniques" (1992) Alan Yates and Jed Entwistle at page 179

17. Boat Fishing around Britain

Dover (Kent)

A substantial fleet of angling boats work out of Dover. Cod, whiting and dabs figure mainly in winter bags. Summer fish include plaice, turbot and bass with pollack, cod, conger and an occasional ling from the wrecks.

"The Sea Angler's Guide to Top Marks" (2003) Mel Russ, editor Sea Angler at page 66

Admiralty Pier, Dover, Kent

The Admiralty pier stretches half a mile into the sea and includes 500 angling spaces. Hot spots include the pier end during an ebb tide and the seaward side of the turret at high water. The end fishes best after high water as the strong tide eases. Casting is hampered by a tall fence, but a 30-yard lob often brings results. Tickets are £3.50 for Dover SAA members (non-members £3), available at the main entrance or on the pier when busy. The pier is open between 8am and 4pm during winter and all-night fishing over Friday and Saturday nights only. Dover SAA runs the pier. For club bookings, fixtures, Tel: 01304 204722. Direct line to pier, Tel: 01304 225138.

SPECIES Large numbers of mackerel are caught on feathers during June and August, while bass, mullet, plaice, pollack, scad, dogfish and pouting are also landed.

BEST BAITS Yellowtail lugworms, king ragworms, peeler crabs and squid are the best baits, with harbour rag and bread suitable for mullet.

TACKLE Strong tides experienced during high water means a 6oz Lead is essential to hold bottom. During spring tides, an 8oz lead may be too tight. A short trace is successful in a strong tide with a mono paternoster ideal at all other times.

GETTING THERE To reach the pier, follow Snargate Street via the A2 or A20.

TACKLE SHOP Channel Angling, 158-160 Snargate Street, Dover, Tel: 01304 203742.

"The Sea Angler's Guide to Top Marks" (2003) Mel Russ, editor Sea Angler at page 68

Dover Southern Breakwater, Kent

Dover's breakwater guards the entrance to the harbour and its angling potential is enormous. Nicknamed the concrete boat, it can only be reached from the sea and boats set off from Wellington dock pontoon at 8.30am before returning at 3.30pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays only (weather permitting - wind under Force 7 on current BBC Shipping Forecast). Night fishing is available through the Dover SAA only. The motor boat company's return fare to the breakwater is £3, Tel: 01304 204722. Fishing tickets cost f3.50 for Dover SAA members (£5 non-members, including temporary membership). Contact Dover SAA, Tel: 01304 204722. Club bookings etc, Alan Edgington, Tel: 01303 822864.

SPECIES The variety is huge, but bass, mackerel, mullet and flounder show in summer. Cod and whiting sport dominates in winter.

BEST BAITS Yellowtail lugworms and peeler crabs are the top winter baits for cod, while king rag and harbour rag are good for pollack and flounder in summer. Fresh mackerel, herring or cuttlefish will catch dogfish, while bread tempts mullet. Feathers catch mackerel in clear water.

TACKLE Use standard beach tackle, but the very strong tides here at high and low water require weights with nose grip wires. A favourite rig is a two-up, one-down with longish snoods. Size 1 hooks are good, but size 3/0 should be used for the bigger winter cod and summer bass.

GETTING THERE Follow the M20 until the A20. Turn right at the third roundabout as you enter Dover. You will be within walking distance of Wellington dock and Limited parking is available.

TACKLE SHOP Channel Angling, 158-160 Snargate Street, Dover, Tel: 01304 203742.

Southern Breakwater

The Southern Breakwater is completely isolated and can only be reached by boat. Few such breakwaters exist around Britain's coast and perhaps the most famous, in angling terms, is Dover's Southern Breakwater. Local sea anglers think nothing of taking the short boat ride out to the "Concrete Boat" or "The Wall". While many popular beach venues along the Channel coast become more devoid of fish, Dover's Southern Breakwater remains one of the most productive daylight venues nationwide.

One of the fascinating things about Dover Breakwater is that there is no commercial fishing allowed inside the harbour - a veritable angling paradise un-trawled, un-netted and un-potted, while the non-stop ferry and cruiser traffic makes commercial fishing anywhere near the harbour impossible. The absence of pots gives the inside its large population of lobsters. It is the only mark on the Kent coast where the shore-based angler can catch plaice in large numbers.

To reach the wall requires a five minute boat trip with the Dover Motor Boat Company from the Dump Head pontoon, Western Docks at 8am and a return trip at 3:30pm. Anglers are dropped off and picked up from the western end steps, although a request for passage to the eastern end steps is rarely refused when the boat is not busy. Access via the stone steps from the boat can be precarious when the sea is lumpy. Don't take mountains of gear and always assist each other getting off the boat.

The weather, particularly wind strength, is decisive in allowing access to the wall. The boat won't take anglers out if the Shipping Forecast is over a Force 6 for the Dover region. If you are travelling a long way to Dover you can telephone the Dover Motor Boat Company to find out if the boat is running but remember the decision is made after the 5:35am shipping forecast. The telephone number is 01304 206809. If the Breakwater is unavailable then the Admiralty and the Prince of Wales piers can be alternatives.

The current patrolman on the wall is Tommy Preston. He is employed by Dover SAA and is in touch with the Harbour Board at all times via a VHF radio. In case of emergency he should be notified immediately. Getting from the boat to the steps on the side of the wall is precarious and anglers are urged to assist each other and not run off and try to be the first to the best fishing spots. For this reason the wall is only open to able-bodied anglers under Dover Harbour Board rules. There are restrictions on juniors too - you must be over 18 or 16 if accompanied by an adult.

Fishing is only available on the centre section with 213 pegs spaced at approximately two metres along the wall. A short length of the inside wall at each end is also available. Known as the battlements, this area includes the wartime accommodation blocks.

The main problem encountered on the breakwater is the strong tide - there are not many places where the tide runs as strongly, and the English Channel bottleneck around Dover is responsible. From newcomers, both the strength and changing direction of the tide produce looks of amazement. It's capable of catching out even experienced anglers with is sudden change of direction, just when they have cast "up tide" … suddenly they find their lead going the wrong way.

Both the flood and the ebb tides surge along the breakwater with the harbour entrance creating an eddy effect. The 12 hour tidal cycle is as follows: The tide runs strongly to the west during the ebb. The flood tide then runs east for about an hour, two hours before high water. After that it runs west, then east, west and east several times throughout the high tide period, changing direction in minutes. A slack period occurs for a short time after high water before the strong ebb returns. Top times to fish are during the flood run and as it stops, as well as during high tide slack or during the tidal direction changes. The ebb produces the occasional fish. On the inside wall low tide up is the best time to fish.

A good grip lead is of paramount importance for anglers journeying to the wall - it can be frustrating to find yourself marooned on the wall for the day with only breakout leads in your tackle box. Grip leads for strong tides come in many models and you only have to look at the Dover experts to see what they use. A 7oz yellow head Gemini fixed wire grip lead is needed to hold bottom.

Beating the tide means you shouldn't cast too far. Short casts mean less line in the water to catch the tide, while casting a similar distance to your neighbours prevents too many tangles.

The depth of water also helps eliminate crossed line problems, although the angler casting long or very short can cause problems for others if unaware of the situation. Cast slightly uptide and release plenty of slack line. This ensures your lead sinks quickly and grips the sea bed. Tidal movement on the inside or harbour side is considerably less and a breakout lead or soft wire fixed lead will hold bottom well. The latter helps combat the inside snags.

The breakwater produces a large variety of species from both sides of the wall during summer. The fishing is so varied it can cater for the bite-a-chuck tastes of the matchmen with pouting, dogfish, scad and pollack; the more patient approach of the specimen hunter seeking big bass, smooth hound, plaice or mullet; and the casual angler, who just wants to wet a line with a chance of catching something.

Regular daytime completions used to produce double figure weights and the series of summer night matches would regularly yield 50lb bags. Pleasure catches include bass into double figures, smooth hound to 12lb, plaice to 5lb, mullet to 5lb and the occasional double figure stingray or conger.

Standard beach gear is adequate for fishing either side of the wall, although rods should be rated for the heaviest grip leads required.

Mainline of 15lb is most suitable to combat the strong tide. Heavier lines can be used for the bigger species and for fishing down the wall or on the inside in places where the bottom is snaggy.

The make up of rigs is important when fishing close range, although this aspect is ignored by many to their cost. Because the water is so deep, fishing at close range often means that hook snoods fished up the line are off the bottom. A flowing trace is the best terminal rig for all species when fishing the outside wall or inside at short range in a strong tide. At other times a one up one down is the best all round tactic, while French booms are a worthwhile consideration either down close to the wall to suspend baits mid-water for bass, pollack and scad or inside after flatfish. Flounders can be caught just under the surface on booms aimed at pollack because they swim up the wall.

Railings run along both sides of the wall so you don't need to bring a rod rest. However, a railing rod rest is used to hang the baits just under the surface or out from the wall. Otherwise rods should be tied to the railings on all occasions. Use a rod bag or luggage straps, not only because the tide can pull a rod over, but fish can as well when aided by the strong tide.

The area to the western end between pegs 1 and 13 is known as the "Knuckle" and is a favourite spot for bass, just as the flood run picks up. The inside here produces pollack on the surface after dark. The other end, where the boat drops off, at peg 213 is also a bass hot spot from the outside wall. You will have to be first on the boat to fish these pegs. For the Knuckle it's a daily race when everyone gets off the boat.

The middle numbers can be more productive and less snaggy for plaice from the inside wall. Snags are a problem and the worst place for hook ups is around pegs 20 to 30 on the inside wall, also around pegs 65 and 110 on the inside, although snags do tend to come and go with rough weather and variations of angling pressure.

Smooth hound regularly come to pegs between 50 and 150 on the outside wall. Top summer match draw is in the 30s on the inside. Here you can cast to a hole in the sea bed caused by the ferries turning. Note the depth of the weed fringes at low water because this is the hot spot for browsing bass, mullet and pollack at high tide.

When pleasure fishing it is difficult to decide which side to fish. A rod either side is the answer.

A good days fishing can depend a lot on the weather, if the wind stays and sits in easterly direction fishing can be hard work, but can be good after a prolonged easterly blow will churn up the Goodwin Sands colouring the water from deal and sends the sediment round to Dover where there will be lots of colour in the water and hopefully lots of fish.

Cod travel the outside wall immediately following the short, but strong flood run. The tide runs to the left towards Deal. The start of the flood tide run is a hot time for bass, time to fish a fresh mackerel head alongside the wall in summer and autumn.

Watch the waves - once the tide starts to slack after the strong flood run, they start to slap against the wall. This is also the time to keep a careful eye out for the odd rogue wave because when its rough these freak waves can breach the wall and threaten tackle.

Getting there

Scheduled trips are Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday mornings departing at 8am and returning at 3:30pm. Call Alan the boatman (07538 810314) to check whether or not the boat is going out.


Park in the Marina car park behind the RNLI station, just off The Esplanade. It will cost you around £5 a day.


The return trip to the breakwater costs £6. A days fishing for a member of DSAA costs a further £6 or £7 for non-members.

Bait and tackle

There are four bait & tackle shops located across the road from the Marina at Snargate Street:

Brazils of Dover
162 Snargate Street, Dover, Kent CT17 9BZ
01304 201457

Channel Angling
158-160 Snargate Street, Dover, Kent CT17 9BZ
01304 203742

146 Snargate Street, Dover, Kent CT17 9BZ
01304 242346

Bills Bait and Tackle
121 Snargate Street, Dover, Kent CT17 9DA
01304 204542

Book it

You can fish any day of the week if you're in a club and can get at least 12 people fishing. Call number below for details.


For more information on the Breakwater, contact the DSAA on 01304 204722.

Record Bass and Conger

The biggest conger eel landed from the wall was caught by local angler Nigel Brice in 1990. It weighed 60lb 8oz and was 7ft 3in long. The former British record bass came from the western end of the breakwater during the 1988 holiday week organized by Dover SAA. Caught by David Bourne, it weighed 19lb.

"Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary July/August" (15 August 2013) Alan Yates

A great day's fishing recently from Dover's Southern Breakwater, not that I caught lots of fish, but for the sheer fun of trying something different, which came off. Currently the Breakwater is alive with dogfish so avoiding them is a priority for freelance anglers and, other than fishing a giant crab bait for smooth hounds, most anglers have been targeting the bass. Why ? Because the fish swim around the Breakwater wall well up off the sea bed and away from the dogfish … well, that's the theory, although I must admit to catching dogfish well up the wall on occasions. So a head hooked ragworm, or two, dangled into the tide via a set of booms up the wall is the way to fish.

On this occasion I thought, why not fish a float and so I rigged up a slider on my rod and trotted a float down tide along the wall. On the business end was the standard 1½oz bullet lead, it was a big bright float and a two-hook wishbone on the end with size 2 carp hooks which are very strong. Bait was head-hooked ragworm, nice and wrigley. Into the tide the float drifted away - the harbour entrance was where I wanted the float to end up and although it took 20 minutes to get there and a whole spool-full of line, my reward as soon as the float rounded the wall and went out of sight was two school bass. The long haul back was exciting because although they were both around the 36 to 40cm mark, they got the tip bending against the tide. Bass big enough to keep but the conscience says they had to go back unless they are barbecue size (45cm). I managed to reach the pier entrance four times and on three occasions hooked a couple of bass; on the fourth, no bite and when I retrieved I found the hook length tangled around the float! Other shorter drifts caught wrasse, pollack, mackerel and a lone scad before the tide turned and I could not reach the killing zone. The beauty of the sliding float is that, apart from the fact you can work the bait continually over new water, you can lift, drop and tantalise and keep it moving naturally in the tide and this the fish just cannot refuse. One word of advice and that is to keep the snood line light - I used 8lb which fools the fish. You do, though, need a soft-tipped rod to avoid snapping the light snood line and a net in case you hook a biggy.



  1. 2 score of blacks
  2. score of yellows
  3. 2 score of rag (20 large and 20 small)
  4. 8 peeler crabs
  5. pack of sandeels
  6. pack of squid
  7. plus some exotica e.g. "maddies", whites and stringer rag/rock worm
  8. bread bag filled with 2 loaves, 2 tins of cat food (salmon) and plenty of pilchard oil


For the outside of the wall, size 2/0 Pennell rig loaded with yellows/blacks/crab for cod. The same rig with crab for smooth-hounds. Three-hook flappers size 1 with the bottom snood coming off a short (3-4 inch) boom, snoods in general 18-22 inches baited with blacks, commons, rag tipped with squid strip, used in conjunction with 175 impact uptide leads for dogfish, whiting, pouting and codling.

For the inside of the wall (incoming tide), three-hook, clipped down size 2 or "Golds Portsmouth" clipped rigs loaded with blacks, yellows, rags and commons tipped with thin squid strip for flatties, dogfish, pouting and whiting.

The two-hook "Golds rig" (named after matchman Ian Golds of Portsmouth, who first came up with the idea of using an inline Cascade swivel on the lower hook snood) and also known as the one-up, one-down clipped rig, Loop and "Portsmouth rig", is the best possible configuration for achieving maximum casting distance. The one-up, one-down loop arrangement places two baited hooks directly behind the lead weight for minimum drag so the sea angler can gain those extra yards. The rig was primarily designed for fishing at extreme range with fairly large baits so it can be used for cod or matches when a bait has to be fished that little bit further out. It can be made in a two-up, one-down format for match fishing. The rig is so streamlined it can beat the weather, making it particularly effective for punching baits into a strong head or side wind. This configuration of two hook snoods is fairly tangle-free and enables you to space several hooks further apart than most other rig designs. Made with long snoods, this rig is the perfect answer for long-range match fishing for dogfish or ray using a frozen sandeel for bait.

Drop the bread bag down the outside wall for mullet, fine hook snoods size 6 short shank baited with the bread mix.

Hook snoods need to be 6-8 lb breaking strain as mullet have very keen eyesight and can spot and shy away from thicker lines.

Take one or two pollack rests and drop fish booms down the wall with rag on size 6 for pollack, or near the base of the inside wall for wrasse. Substitute the rag for sandeel, fish strip, live small pouting for bass approximately 4-6 turns off the bottom of the inside wall.

Also fish a long flowing trace with a size 2/0 baited with whole squid, live pouting or mackerel for bass on both sides of the wall. Pollack gear as before on the outside wall baited with mackerel belly strip for scad.

Try a slider float on the inside of the wall, again baited with thin belly strip for garfish.

The "Knuckle" is the name given to the section from peg 1 to 13 (looking out to sea, the eastern end seaward wall to the lighthouse). You can fish beyond that point on the inside of the wall up to the grey 6ft railings that separate the "batteries" from the very end of the breakwater. This is the same from peg 213 at the western end.


Dover SAA members used to be allowed to fish inside these areas (which are usually out of bounds) on DSAA all night competitions, DSAA "mini weekends" and the DSAA "holiday week" but that privilege has now been withdrawn because of health and safety issues. On those occasions some prolific bass catches were made at night under the sodium lights at the western end of the breakwater and, to a lesser extent, the eastern end, using live bait - pouting, small pollack , mackerel and scad - caught during the day and kept alive in creels in the water.

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