Kent Coast Sea Fishing Compendium
BBC Coastal Forecast (North Foreland to Beachy Head)
Local Bait & Tackle Suppliers
Fresh lugworm, ragworm and the usual selection of frozen baits can be obtained from the following local bait & tackle supplier:
6 Kent Place
Kent CT11 8LT
Monday 7:30am to 1pm & 2:30pm to 5:30pm Tuesday 7:30am to 1pm & 2:30pm to 5:30pm Wednesday 7:30am to 1pm & 2:30pm to 5:30pm Thursday 7:30am to 1pm & 2:30pm to 5:30pm Friday 7:30am to 1pm & 2:30pm to 5:30pm Saturday 7:30am to 1pm & 2:30pm to 5:30pm Sunday 7:30am until 12 noon
In 1821 HM King George IV visited Ramsgate several times and received such a friendly welcome on these visits of embarkation to Hanover that on his return to London he decreed that Ramsgate Harbour should receive the title of "The Royal Harbour of Ramsgate" and stipulated that his Royal Standard should be flown three times a year on 29th January, 19th July and 12th August, being the dates, respectively, of his accession to the throne, coronation and birthday.
Only 75 miles east of London and home to a modern charter boat fleet, the waters around Ramsgate contain a good variety of fish throughout the year making it a popular venue for home counties anglers and to those from much further afield too.
Top inshore marks are:
- the chalk ledges off Thanet for bass and codling
- the Broadstairs Knolls, an area of rising ridges that prove holding areas for big bass
- the Quern Bank
The most famous mark off all is the Goodwin Sands. This area of sand banks has proved the final resting place for large numbers of WW1 and WW2 ships which, as wrecks, provide holding areas for big cod, bass, tope, rays, pollack and smooth-hound.
Late spring bass are taken from the ledges off Thanet along with an inconsistent run of spring codling to 6 lb. Cleaner ground off the harbour holds plaice and rays. Spurdog to double figures are possible from offshore marks.
Summer over the offshore sandbanks gives good numbers of bass, rays, tope running to 30 lb, smooth-hound and plaice. Mackerel also put in an appearance and conger can show around the wrecks.
Autumn sees double figure bass taken on Red Gills, with pollack to gills and cod on pirks and muppets from the wrecks. The pollack run to about 18 lb and some of the cod well over 20 lb. Codling show in fair numbers from September on along with whiting and dabs.
Bigger cod show to uptide tactics over the sand banks during November and December. Rays remain to be caught throughout the year. Smaller codling remain inshore during January and February, but quickly move offshore during March.
No tide restrictions exist, except during the highest spring tides when the low water period can retard harbour access. Tides run fast here, but are easily fishable. Pick the smaller neap tides for all wreck fishing. Inshore, generally the bigger tides fish best, especially for the bass and codling. When targeting the bigger inshore winter cod fish the bigger tides in November. This month has always proved the most consistent time for such fish in this area. Cod will stay until February, but the biggest fish will have passed through the Straits of Dover by the end of November and be gone for good.
Local anglers choose uptide tackle for most close inshore situations and for fishing the Goodwins. The latter venue can be fished with 8oz grip leads quite comfortably, even on the ebb. For downtiding, you will need leads between 1 lb and 2 lb. Pirks need to weigh around the pound, though a few larger ones are useful to carry.
Wreck fishing here is not quite the rough and tumble wrecking of elsewhere. A standard 30 lb outfit will cover pirk and lure fishing and it will cope with any downtide fishing. Some anglers prefer a 20 lb boat rod or uptider when fishing the wrecks with Red Gills.
A successful way to rig up is with a large single muppet mounted on a short 12 in hook length positioned about 6ft above the pirk. When both lures are hit by cod the upper fish can be gaffed while the pirk-hooked fish is still safely swimming in the water. Pink, red and black muppets are the killers here. Top Red Gill colours are red and black for pollack, and black and all white for the bass.
Baited feathers work well close to the wrecks for large channel whiting and also account for occasional pollack and cod. The shallower sand banks can be spun using tobies, krills etc, for the bass. This is a neglected tactic and can give in the know dinghy anglers some good fish.
When fishing a downtide bait for the big winter cod use a whole calamari squid, even two on a pennell hook snood. Whole squid also picks up the big autumn bass as they drop back from the Essex coast.
Local yellowtail lugworm ("yellows") can be dug from Sandwich Bay and is the preferred uptide bait for cod and plaice with mackerel used for thornback rays and crab, or ragworm, for smooth hounds. Sandeels take the odd bass, thornback ray and dogfish. Turbot can show to sandeel and whole mackerel fillets in the late summer and autumn.
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 Royal Harbour of Ramsgate.The Royal Harbour of Ramsgate
"The Sea-Fisherman" (1884 - 4th edition) James Carrall Wilcocks at page 30
Same kind of fishing as at Margate, but fish in greater quantity. Bass are met with in the mouth of Sandwich Haven in summer; fish where any flock of gulls may be seen in a state of great excitement, with fly or spinning bait. Dabs, whiting, codlings, and cod in the offing.
The Illustrated London News (15th August 1885)
Rambling Sketches: The Isle of Thanet
(1) Ramsgate Sands with Railway Station, (2) Residence of the late Sir Moses Montefiore & (3) Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate
"Sea-Fishing on the English Coast" (1891) Frederick George Aflalo at pages 57, 93, 94, 117 & 119 - 122
The first three weeks of May may be said to conclude winter-fishing. Pegwell Bay affords a particularly good example of this. I have taken cod and codlings from Ramsgate in May, where they are never heard of a month later. For this sport the paternoster is the best tackle. The hooks should be rather small, as fish do not run large as yet, and I have never used either gaff or net till June or July. The best bait seem to be lugs and scalded mussels; a trot baited with the latter will take plenty of flat fish in a sandy neighbourhood.
The worst feature of this month is the extreme expense of the hire of boats, &c., on account of the "season". The laws of supply and demand, however, cannot be said to regulate these prices, as they remain at a maximum even if there is not a boat in use. Thus, at Ramsgate I have had a boat in May for five hours (including bait) for 4s., while in August I am told it is 2s. per hour or nothing. One can generally hire a boat by contract at about 15s. per week, especially if not particular as to her cut; and the boatmen generally get more moderate as you go further from London. Another disadvantage of this month is the shortness of its days. In a July day you can get two tides in daylight, but in August you cannot get two full floods during the light.
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.
Ramsgate (3 hours from Charing Cross ; 3rd return, 8 days, 10s.)
This is a very good place for spring fishing, April - June being the best months. There are three places from which you can fish - the harbour, the mouth of the Stour, and boats in the bay. In the Fishing Gazette of September, 1886, there is a most mournful complaint that the Ramsgate fishing, formerly so good, has degenerated into "small insipid codling, and now and then a Dab". This information was apparently furnished by a resident, and is, I take the liberty of saying, perfectly incorrect. What Ramsgate may be in August, I do not know, for the place is generally looked upon as rather to be avoided at that charming time of the year; but what it is in May, I do know.
A few hundred yards to the west of the pier-head is a large buoy (red and white), just inside of the "Brake" (see Fig. 61). Anywhere within a dozen yards of this there are fish, only you must move round it till you find them, as they constantly shift. Another good place in very calm weather is about 150 yards to the south of this buoy (Fig. 62), the marks being, the Lighthouse on the East Pier just covering the Tunnel. The water is rather shallow, consequently this spot is good only in very still weather. The fish caught at both these spots are codlings, silver whiting, and flat fish.
I was lucky enough to get a few days at Ramsgate towards the middle of May, 1888. I went off by myself at about 10 a.m., the water being so low that it was necessary to keep close to the harbour pier. I had never fished there before, but found no difficulty in finding the marks. The next day I fished at the other swim. The two days (five hours) gave a result of 28 codlings, 5 whiting, 8 pout, and 14 dabs. This was not so bad for five hours.
I had a still better time of it on the 31st May, 1889. The sea was very rough all through the last week of May, and a grand thunderstorm all over the Goodwins on the Thursday night wound up the storm.
I had waited the whole week, no boat daring to put off. But on Friday, the 31st, I went off with Spong, jun., at 6 a.m. By 9 a.m. the tide ran too strong to allow of our staying out, but in these three hours we caught 43 fish, including a codling of 4¼lb., which fell to my rod, 20 codlings ranging from ½lb. to 1½lb., and the rest flat fish. The bait was lugworm; the fish would not touch mussel. It will be seen that there are no silver whiting in the above catches, but Spong assured me that a month earlier one could catch nothing else.
A correspondent also informs me that October is just as good as May, giving very similar fishing. August is about the worst month for Ramsgate - in every way !
Besides this fishing from boats, the harbour affords some sport in June with large bass. Near the inside end of the East Pier is a low wooden platform down by the water, and very large bass are taken here on spinners. The angler can walk up and down this platform and trail a spinner or a "last" of mackerel skin. The best conditions are slack water and a westerly wind.
Off the outside of the West Pier are plenty of pout; but the fishing inside the harbour is not of any consequence, a few silver eels and small flounders being the only catches.
The mouth of the Stour contains plenty of bass and mullet during July and August. I have already mentioned the local baits (weed and mud) recommended for the latter.
Spinning baits and traces may be purchased at a small rope-shop (a kind of model dockyard), just up the street, at the foot of the West Cliff.
There are numbers of boatmen; my own were named Spong (father and son), their address being 55, Hardres Street, Ramsgate, and they were particularly reliable. Their charges in May were very reasonable - 4s. the tide; but in August Spong told me the tariff was double this or more. Mr. Wilcocks recommends J. Penny, 2, Kent Place, Ramsgate.
"Hints and Wrinkles on Sea Fishing" (1894) "Ichthyosaurus" (A. Baines & Frederick George Aflalo) at at pages 82, 83 & 87
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. 
… 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;  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.
The first two are the least important, though some good bass are generally taken in August at Sheerness, and Herne Bay gives some very fine dabs.
 Editor's note: Sweetings Restaurant in the City of London: 39 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4N 4SF, first opened for business in 1889.
 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 54
Round the British and Irish Coasts
Ramsgate offers much the same fishing as Deal - that is to say, for whiting and codling inside the Goodwins during autumn and winter. A good many silver eels are caught in the harbour, and a very occasional bass. In the spring months there is some fair fishing for whiting pout, dabs, and codling.
"Sea Fish" (1898) Frederick George Aflalo at pages 183 & 233
The smaller cod, or codlings, are caught inshore throughout the year, especially in May and June, and one of the best spots for them that I can call to mind is, or was, the particoloured buoy outside Ramsgate harbour.
Very different in character from the fishing on the Cornish and Devon coasts is that obtainable at Ramsgate, where the conditions closely resemble those already given for Deal and Dover. I know no sea-angler with a longer and more varied experience of this place than Captain Lambton Young, who so often presides, unless prevented by ill health, at the B.S.A.S meetings. He writes me that the best time for fishing is August to October. As to "marks", almost anywhere about three miles off the coast, or even off the red buoy just west of the harbour, where you may get a good catch of whiting or flat-fish. Also, off Sandwich, in the small Downs, and right up to the North Foreland, is all good ground. Boats usually keep inside the Goodwins, one favourite ground being about three to four miles due north of Deal pier and two to two and a half miles off Sandwich. Lug, dug in the mud of Pegwell Bay, or bought of the bait-dealers in the town, is considered the best bait, but squid, obtained from the trawlers, is also much used. Boats cost about 2s an hour, but an arrangement can usually be made by the week.
"Sea Fishing for Amateurs: A Practical Book on Fishing from Shore, Rocks, or Piers" (1904) Frank Hudson at page 91
Ramsgate (Kent) - Fishing: Fair. Fish: Bass, brill, cod, codling, dab, flat-fish, flounder, mullet, plaice, sole and whiting. Best Months: July to October.
"Sea-Fishing" (1911) Charles Owen Minchin at page 222
Some Harbours on the South Coast of England
… RAMSGATE Harbour is comfortable enough inside, but the getting in is sometimes troublesome on account of the nasty set of tide right across the harbour mouth. There are some small bass about the piers in summer, but generally more local anglers than fishes, and the bottom-fishing for cod and whiting near the White Buoy and the Break and on to near the Gull light, though very good, does not begin till quite late in the autumn: which remark applies also to the Downs off Deal and Walmer.
"Modern Sea Angling" (1921) Francis Dyke Holcombe at pages 219 & 264
Speaking generally, the late summer and autumn months are the best for plaice fishing ... Probably most sea anglers will recollect a remarkable epidemic of plaice fishing which broke out some years before the war near Dumpton Gap, between Ramsgate and Broadstairs, where large quantities of plaice made their appearance, attracted, it was said, by beds of young mussels ... this was in or about the year 1909. Some remarkably good takes of plaice were made, and it was said at the time that as many as 150 or 200 boats, all pretty close together, and all engaged in plaice fishing, might sometimes have been seen while the fun lasted - which was not for very long.
Ramsgate is more attractive to the London holiday maker than to the serious angler. But there are sometimes good grey mullet in the harbour in the summer, and early morning, before there is much boat traffic about, is the best time to try for them; while the autumn fishing for whiting and cod is often very fair.
"Sea Angling Modern Methods and Tackle" (1952) Alan Young at pages 161 & 162
Where and When to Fish
Bass: Late May to mid-October. Soft crab, ragworm. East and west piers; eastern foreshore. These are regarded as exceptionally good bass grounds.
Cod & Codling: October to March. Soft crab, ragworm, local lugworm. Both piers, promenades, foreshore and boats.
Conger: May to November. Crab, lugworm, herring, mackerel. West Pier, east pier head and boats.
Dabs: June to October. Lugworm, ragworm, sprat. East Pier; east promenade. From boats on any sandy bottom.
Dogfish: September to January. Lugworm, ragworm, fish baits. Boats. Frequently caught from piers after sunset.
Flounders: All the year round, but best in summer. Lug and ragworm. Piers, east and west gulleys. Crosswall into harbour.
Mackerel: Odd specimens occasionally caught from boats.
Plaice: June to October. Lug and ragworm, crab. Piers on sandy bottom.
Pouting: May to January. Lugworm, ragworm. Piers.
Skates & Rays: April to October. Crab, lugworm, herring. Boats only.
Soles: April to August. Ragworm, crab, lugworm. West Pier and head of East Pier. 1½ to 2½ lb specimens frequently caught.
Tope: March to June. Herring and small whole pouting or whiting. A few caught offshore.
Whiting: Late September to January. Lugworm, ragworm, herring, sprat. Fair catches from piers. Best from boats.
June and July are the best months for specimen bass, 5 to 9 lb., but smaller ones are caught throughout the off-season. Surf fishing generally, and float fishing at night from the Invicta Landing Stage, with live prawn or ragworm bait. Motor-boats are available and charges are reasonable.
"Sea Angling" (1965) Derek Fletcher at pages 226 & 227
Recent successes here include whiting, 2lb 10½ oz; conger, 18lb 5oz; flounder, 2lb 4oz; cod, 14lb 1½ oz; tope, 42lb 6oz; bass, 13lb 6½oz. Fish expected throughout the year:
January: cod, skate, dab, flounder. Baits: lugworm, sprat, herring.
February: cod is the main fish and best baits from boats are sprat and lugworm.
March: cod, dogfish and dab. Baits: ragworm and sprat.
April: cod, dab, dogfish, plaice, sole, silver eel, bass from the shore. Best bass baits: peeler and soft crab, ragworm.
May: Pier: sole, bass, flounder, dab, plaice, silver eel, dogfish. Baits: lugworm, peeler crab, ragworm.
June: Boat: dogfish, skate, tope and all types of flat-fish. Baits: lugworm and rockworm. Pier: bass, silver eel, all flat-fish. Baits: ragworm, peeler crab, lugworm and rockworm. Shore: bass, dogfish, all flat-fish. Baits: ragworm and peeler crab.
July: Boat: skate, pouting, flat-fish. Baits: lugworm, rockworm. Pier: bass, dogfish, pouting, flat-fish. Baits: ragworm, lugworm, crab. Shore: bass, dogfish, flat-fish. Baits: lugworm, ragworm, peeler crab.
August: Boat: dogfish, skate, pouting, flat-fish. Baits: lugworm, rockworm. Pier and shore: bass, dogfish, silver eel, flat-fish.
September: Boat: cod, skate, conger, pouting, whiting. Baits: herring, lugworm, ragworm. Pier and shore: bass, cod, conger, silver eel, whiting, pouting, flat-fish. Baits: ragworm, herring and crab.
October, November, December: cod, dogfish, whiting, pouting, bass, all flat-fish. Baits for boat, pier and shore: lugworm, herring, sprat and lugworm.
"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 pages 176 & 177
Your Guide to Where to Fish
Ramsgate, Kent. Popular area for sea anglers, and many specimen fish have been recorded. In one N.F.S.A. boat competition held over three days some 10,000 fish were brought to the scales weighing 2½ tons.
The Eastern Chine and foreshore can be fished by shore anglers for much of the year. Large bass arrive about May after the peeler crabs and remain until September. If the water is too clear August is sometimes a poor month. Useful catches are also made from the Western Chine and foreshore.
In the first two months of the year whiting, codling and various flatfish are caught, although fishing goes off after a heavy snowfall due to the cold freshwater running into the sea.
April casting will usually yield codling, flatfish and dogfish and May has the additions of sizeable bass. July and August supplies bass, pouting, conger, flats, dogfish, and similar in September with usually codling in 'bags'. Rest of the year, bass, codling, flats, whiting, etc.
Several parts of the large harbour is fishable, and sometimes the West pier can be successful with similar varieties to those caught from the shore. At the East pier there is no fishing at low Spring tides.
Boat fishing starts in May continuing until the latter part of the year. Usually the first catches are skate up to 8lb, together with dabs, dogfish, pouting and some codling. Throughout the season good catches are made of skate, conger, dogfish, whiting, cod, horse mackerel and flats.
During Spring tides fishing is restricted to the Pegwell Bay area from two hours before top to two hours after. Other tides can be fished right through inshore. For inshore fishing three hook spreader gear is used, with one up and two on a trace for deeper water. A good all-round bait is local lugworm, and large ragworm for dogfish, skate and pouting. Peeler crab can also be used successfully, and sprats in November and December.
Several boats are available for fishing trips, and there are a number of bait suppliers and tackle shops. There is an active club, the Royal Ramsgate Invicta A. A. which welcomes visiting anglers, and will give advice and guidance as to local conditions. Annual pier and boat festivals are organised.
"Modern Sea Angling" (1971) Alan Young at page 188
Where and When to Fish
Summer catches include tope, skate, bass, mackerel, dogfish, conger, plaice, flounder, dab and pouting. In late autumn and winter heavy catches of cod are made, some of them exceeding 30lb for individual fish. Catches totalling 200lb are not unusual.
About 50 licensed fishing boats, manned by licensed and experienced skippers, are available seven days a week. Local lugworm and most of the standard baits are readily available.
"Sea Fishing in Kent" (1973) Hugh Stoker at pages 28 to 33
Ramsgate (with Broadstairs and Pegwell Bay)
Tides. High Water: 2 hours 22 minutes H.W. London Bridge. Rise: 16 feet at Springs; 13 feet at Neaps. Tidal Streams: The tides run hard at times in the open sea off Ramsgate, and for the most part follow the general north to south trend of the coast - although in places the streams are deflected by the Goodwin Sands, and may then follow more closely the deep-water channels between or around the sandbanks. However, this cannot be relied upon around H.W. because there are then certain areas where the tide sets strongly across the Goodwins, creating at the same time an upsurging mass of water which is liable to result in turbulent conditions. The tidal streams are too complex to five full details here, but as a general guide it is worth noting that just outside the entrance to Ramsgate harbour the flood tide (direction north east going) begins about -1 hour 50 minutes local H.W. and the ebb (direction south west going) begins about +2 hours 20 minutes local H.W. The maximum rate of flow during the flood and ebb is about 3 knots at Springs. During the flood, craft entering the harbour must make allowance for this north east set, otherwise there will be a risk of being carried on to the East Pier.
The tides do not run so hard within the sheltering influence of Pegwell Bay.
Further out to sea near the Gull Stream, on the west side of the Goodwin Sands, the flood tide (direction north-north-east going) begins -1 hour local H.W. attaining a rate of nearly 3 knots at Springs. The ebb (direction south-south-west going) begins +5 hours local H.W., attaining a rate of over 2½ knots at Springs.
Off Broadstairs the tides run hard quite close inshore, attaining a rate of 3 knots in both directions at Springs. Close inshore between North Foreland and Foreness the general tidal trend is north west to south east. The north west tide runs between -1 hour and +1 hour 5 minutes local H.W. This south east stream continues until -4 hours 30 minutes local H.W. when the current becomes irregular until the north west stream begins again.
Topography. Ramsgate is a sizable holiday resort, offering good sea fishing possibilities. The west end of the town rises picturesquely in tiers above the large harbour, which is protected by two long stone piers. Ramsgate harbour is divided into an outer harbour, known as Royal Harbour, and a large non-tidal inner basin contained behind lock gates. These gates are, of course, kept closed except around H.W. Fishing is not allowed in the inner basin.
Immediately beyond the harbour, on the north east side, there is a fine stretch of firm sandy beach with cliffs rising beyond in the direction of Broadstairs.
Car-trailed boats can be launched into the outer harbour from the slipway at any state of the tide except dead L.W. Permission is obtainable from the harbourmaster. Parking facilities nearby for car and trailer.
Broadstairs is a pleasant medium-sized holiday resort, and is fortunate in having a number of sandy beaches and bays, divided from each other by a series of picturesque chalky promontories. There is a small tidal harbour, and car-trailed boats can be launched here, with limited parking space nearby behind the pier. (Note: Strong tides make this coast unsuitable for the novice, and even experienced visiting boat-owners should seek local advice). Small craft can also be launched at Botany Bay (steep slip on to soft sand) and Joss Bay, but here again sound experience is essential, and it is unwise to venture out into the main run of the tides, especially at Springs. (See Mark 6 below for details of a good inshore fishing position inside Botany Bay).
1. West Pier. This massive stone pier forms the west side of Ramsgate outer harbour, and provides good fishing for conger, codling, whiting, pouting, dogfish, flounders, bass and grey mullet, according to season. Also some extremely good sole are taken during the summer months. Mackerel, too, are sometimes taken spinners, feathers and float tackle (mainly in July and August) when a shoal ventures within casting range. Rocky ground adjoins the outer (west) side of the pier towards its inner end, and this provides an attraction for certain species of fish, including bass and conger. Favourite local baits include lugworm (codling, whiting, pouting, flatfish), peeler crab (notably for bass), herring and mackerel strips (conger, dogfish, pouting, whiting, bass).
2. East Pier. This position is capable of yielding codling, whiting, dabs, flounders, bass and pouting. Depths on the outer (east) side of this pier are considerably less than at Mark 1, and the sandy bottom dries extensively at L.W. Springs.
3. Eastern Beaches. During the holiday season shore casting from these sandy beaches is mainly carried on during the evening, when there are no swimmers. Bass may be encountered from late spring to about early autumn, using a light running leger and flowing trace. Results can be particularly good during early summer evenings. The bass here average about 4lb., but have been taken on occasions up to about 12lb. Other species include flounders, dabs, dogfish, whiting and codling according to season. Baits mostly used are lugworm, king ragworm, peeler crab, mackerel and herring strips.
4. Broadstairs Beaches. Most of the beaches at Broadstairs offer useful shore casting possibilities, particularly after dark for bass. It usually pays to cast out on to sand, as near as possible to the rocky extremities, using running leger tackle and flowing trace. There is also very good rock fishing at Botany Bay, most local species of fish being caught here, according to season. There is a drop of 6 to 8 feet at the edge of the rocks, and one experienced local angler recommends a position in line with the Captain Digby Hotel.
5. Pegwell Bay The triangle formed by Ramsgate Harbour, the Brake light buoy, and the Knoll buoy is a popular inshore boat fishing area during spring tides, when fast currents make it difficult or impossible to fish at deeper marks. In this area large catches of thornback rays are made during the spring (8 to 16lb); also dogfish, pouting, whiting, dabs and mackerel according to season. Catches may also include one or two plaice, and the occasional turbot or brill. Note: Much of this bay dries out at L.W. Springs, so the area is fished mainly during the flood tide.
The River Stour flows into Pegwell Bay, and this influx of freshwater provides an attraction to flounders. In fact most kinds of flatfish, including sole, are likely to be encountered in the sandy shallows and channels.
6. Botany Bay. An excellent spot for general inshore fishing is situated inside this bay. To locate it, keep the road open clear, with Foreness Pumping Station on Goodwin House. The tide here ebbs for 7½ hours. This is a useful position for the angler with a car-trailed dinghy, as it is possible to launch (tide permitting) at Botany Bay, provided the boat is light enough to manhandle up and down a steep slip on to soft sand.
7 - 17. Wrecks. Not a great deal of wreck fishing is carried on at Ramsgate, owing to the fast tides. Also, locating the wrecks is not always easy, as few of them are buoyed. However, when tides permit the local wreck fishing potential is undoubtedly good, and the following is a list of the better-known wrecks: "Surrenden Court" (7), "Dunbar Castle" (8), "H.M.S. Blanch" (9), "Japanese Cargo Vessel" (10), "Harkalor" (11), "Yvonne" (12), "Brivore" (13), "Napier" (14), "Collier" (15), "The Flanders" (16) and "Lorent" (17).
Tope fishing is usually good at Ramsgate during the summer months.
Cod fishing is often good from about October onwards, and in some seasons is excellent.
Broadstairs Knoll. Good for thornbacks, cod, dogfish, etc.
North Goodwins. Good for thornbacks, cod, whiting and dogfish. See under Deal for further details.
Local Bait Grounds
Lugworms (L) can be dug on the extensive flats of Pegwell Bay.
Cockles (K) are also found in the sands and shallow pools of Pegwell Bay. They make an excellent bait for plaice, dabs, whiting, soles and many other fish.
Peeler and Soft Crabs (C) are most likely to be found during the warmer months around L.W. Springs, on rocky and weedy stretches of shore. One likely area is the extensive stretch of rocks bordering the west wall of Ramsgate harbour. Also further round towards Pegwell Bay, where the low tide rocks adjoin softer ground, and among the chalky rocks in the Broadstairs area.
Mussels (M) can be found in places on sheltered rocks.
"The Sea Angler's Guide to Britain: Where to Go" (1975) Jonathan Webb at page 24
Species caught from shore: conger, pouting, cod, tope, bass, flounder, plaice, dab, mullet, garfish, turbot, whiting, mackerel
Species caught from deep water: skate, shark, conger, ling, mackerel, pouting, cod, black bream, tope, bass, dogfish, turbot, whiting
Shore fishing at: beaches crowded in summer during day time. Good night fishing, or day time winter fishing, at Western Undercliff, Marina Slopes, Pegwell Bay (especially at Stour estuary)
Pier and\or harbour fishing at: East and West Piers (West Pier noted for conger), The Groyne
Boat fishing available from: The Les Dent Agency at "Bunnys" Tackle Shop, 30 Harbour Street, Ramsgate, Tel: Thanet 53208 (100 anglers daily catered for); Enterpise Line, Tel: Thanet 54223; Motor Boat "Ocean Dawn", Tel: Thanet 53417
Tackle shops & bait suppliers: *"Bunnys", 30 Harbour Street, Ramsgate, Tel: Thanet 53203; *The Ramsgate Bait & Tackle Shop, 7 Westcliffe Arcade, Ramsgate, Tel: Thanet 53195; Anglers Retreat, 32 Addington Street, Tel: Thanet 52655; Decca Sports, 36 King Street, Tel: Thanet 53128; Success Stores, Turner Street, Thanet
*Angling Times Report Station: "Bunnys"; The Ramsgate Bait & Tackle Shop
"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.
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 page 11
I always think of Ramsgate as the start of the Channel cod grounds. I can remember many trips down from London in bitterly cold winter weather when boat marks situated only a few hundred yards offshore have produced a seemingly endless stream of cod and codling. Ramsgate cod never grow to a vast size but what they lose in quality they certainly make up for in quantity. Lugworm always seem the best bait in this area and a bunch of big black lugworm fished on leger or paternoster usually produced a flurry of good bites, seconds after getting down to fish level. On days when bad weather made boat fishing impossible, I used to fish from the shore at Pegwell Bay, again often with good results. Ramsgate, like Margate, is basically a holiday resort, which means that during the summer months the beaches are jam-packed with swimmers and sun-worshippers. Under conditions like this, fishing is out of the question but at night or during the winter months Pegwell Bay, the Western Undercliffe, or the Marina Slopes can fish well. The East and West Piers are worth fishing, the West Pier in particular fishes well after dark for fair-sized conger eels. Deal has steep-to beaches and is very much fished by the professional boatman, and is not therefore very suitable for the angler wishing to launch himself.
"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.
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.
Most local species are to be caught from the piers, especially the south-western arm which gives onto deeper water. To the south, at Pegwell Bay, the water is too shallow for worthwhile fishing. There are booking agencies for charter boats at: 95 King's Street (Tel: 0843 5294); Fisherman's Corner, 6 Kent Place (Tel: 0843 582174) and Ramsgate Bait and Tackle, Wstcliff Arcade (Tel: 0843 53195).
"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.
Bass, flatfish, mackerel, garfish, conger and turbot, with good winter cod and whiting fishing from the shore at Pegwell Bay and the Stour estuary, Western Undercliff and Marina Slopes. East and West piers also good shore bases. Boats for hire or charter, giving access to shark, red and black bream, skate, conger, dogfish and turbot, as well as big winter cod. Tackle and bait available locally.
"Sea Angling: Kent to Cornwall" (1990) Mel Russ & Alan Yates at pages 20 & 21
At the southern tip of Thanet is the town of Ramsgate, with its large harbour protected by two piers. The harbour itself offers summer mullet fishing with the inside of the Eastern Arm being favourite, fished with a bread bag from July through until November. The piers themselves offer the usual eels and flounders along with pouting, plaice, dabs, pollack and codling. Both offer free fishing. Best results come either side of the high water.
To the south of the Sally Line Ferry Terminal there's Western Undercliffe, which offers easy access to the angler who likes to fish from the car. A narrow winding road reaches down to the promenade where bass, flounders, codling, eels, pouting and rockling can be caught in season. Peeler crab is one of the best baits throughout summer with lugworm, rockworm, white ragworm and king ragworm all good alternatives.
"Sea Angling: Kent to Cornwall" (1990) Mel Russ & Alan Yates at page 34
Kent Alan Yates
Boat angling guide to the Kent coast
A large and well-equipped charter fleet operates out of Ramsgate harbour with boats not restricted by tide except during very low springs. Boats find fish all year with cod inshore from the North Foreland marks throughout the winter months and during spring. In summer the main venue is the Goodwin Sands, with its many wrecks and sandbars holding thornback ray, tope, bass, plaice, smoothhound and dogfish. The inshore area of the Stour Estuary in Pegwell and Sandwich Bays holds flatfish for much of the year, with some good catches of plaice recorded in spring and summer. Limited launching facilities are available at Ramsgate harbour and at the Eastern Undercliff.
"The Complete Book of Sea Fishing: Tackle and Techniques" (1992) Alan Yates and Jed Entwistle at page 179
17. Boat Fishing around Britain
A major fleet of vessels ply for hire out of Ramsgate, the closest port to the infamous Goodwin Sands. In winter, cod, whiting and dab catches predominate inshore, and spring and summer usually bring runs of plaice and thornbacks. Offshore, wreck trips produce large cod, pollack and conger, while turbot may be taken off some of the farther banks. There are several slipways with access to both inner and outer basins of the harbour; for these, contact the harbourmaster.
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