Many anglers think that catching plaice is easy. All you need to do is to get the right mark, the right tackle, the right bait and the right distance from shore. In fact, if you get everything sorted you can have a terrific day’s fishing.
At least in theory! Get it wrong, however, and you are wasting your time…
The first place to start when shore fishing for plaice is to choose a mark that offers you a decent chance of catching fish. Beaches are obvious marks but you can catch plaice from anywhere where there is a sand or gravel bottom, especially if this is combined with plentiful food. What you need to do is to use a little imagination and figure out any advantages that will increase your chances of connecting with a decent fish.
Take your bait, for example. Ragworm and crab are very good baits, but keep an eye on what is happening around you. If you have turned up on the beach just after a storm then there is little point in offering ragworm if the fish are gorging themselves on razorfish and clams churned up by the swell. Similarly, if local trawlers have been hammering the beach where you are fishing, then is there really any point in trying at that particular moment in time? Surely it is better to wait for a few days and see what develops?
Sometimes it is better to ignore the beaches and go for a spot where a rocky headland gives way into deeper water. It may have rocks all around it, but distance casting with a streamlined rig, such as the tackle shown, will usually put a bait onto sand. This has several points in its favour, including the fact that there will be a sheltered area close to the rocks where larger fish may be lurking in comparative safety from the local trawlers.
Judge this distance accurately and you can put your bait in the midst of a natural feeding zone which offers more than the usual degree of shelter; perfect conditions for a population of larger than average plaice!
If the mark you are fishing offers just such a population, then it may be wise to experiment and see if you can reach them with conventional leger tackle instead of a clipped down rig like the three hook tandem traces. The advantages of this are twofold. One, that the fish can pick up the bait and run a little way without feeling the weight, giving you more time to strike, and two, that you can load up the hook with a substantial bait, thereby increasing your chances of tempting a larger fish.
Basically, you need to test the water and see what you find. For myself I like to go down with two beachcasters, one which I blast out as far as I can with a clipped down rig like an up and over leger, the other equipped with a standard running leger which I put out with an overhead thump, thereby fishing it at much closer range. If one rod then starts outfishing the other, then I will switch both rods to whichever is the most successful tactic.
A simple running leger is often all you need for plaice. It depends how far out they are.
When a plaice takes your bait, it will be unusual for it to give a really solid thump. Most of the time you will just get a rattle on your rod tip, followed by little or no movement as the fish sits on the rest of your bait. Not always, of course, for at times a bigger fish will make a good run, but on the whole the bites are not hugely exciting. Just as well they make up for it by being a superb eating fish instead!