The Fishing Gazette, October 3rd 1958
By Benjamin Pond
There is one spot that will always linger in the writer's mind. That is the beautiful village of Studland, in Dorset.
The village is rightly claimed to be the prettiest in England, but it is the beauty of the bay which concerns this story. The bay itself, some 5 miles of coast line, has a fine sandy beach for over 3 miles, averaging 100 yd. in width, while the remaining length consists of high chalk cliffs, rising abrubtly from the waters edge.
A great variety of scenery meets the eye, the sand dunes with their waving marram grass, and farther away are the heather-covered moors, interspersed with copses and freshwater lakes, the 700 ft. Ballard Down rising behind, almost saying "You must climb my steep slopes to see all that I can See." And on the long uphill climb you may see violets of four colours, purple, white, blue and pink. But it is the blue sea and golden beach far below which calls the angler finally.
Now this bay is very little fished, yet it has great possibilities, as the writer knows, having extensively fished the area for about twenty years. The water in most of the bay is very shallow, around 2 fathoms at low water neaps, but near the white cliffs the water deepens and is a good anchorage for yachts, except in south-easterly wind. There is good mixed fishing in this deeper water, sometimes red mullet, bream and shad are among the catch. Fishing from the shore itself, in the shallower parts of the bay, is often very good, bass up to 13 lb. were recorded one season. There are flounders, plaice and at night in the autumn large silver and pout whiting, with odd codling and other fish.
Now we are coming to a very important thing, that is bait. The best all-round bait is the razor fish, which at one time was very prolific in the sandy banks. But today this bait has become rather scarce, and there are three reasons for this: firstly, too many unskilled diggers who spoil the banks; secondly, during the war the great Milkmaid Bank at low tide was used as practice landing ground for nearly two years, and blast from many explosions killed millions of razor-fish; thirdly, low spring tides occur early morning and evening in these regions and if 16 deg. or more of frost are registered at time of low water it proves fatal to some kinds of shell-fish. These extreme cold conditions were experienced in 1947, also in 1934, and razor-fish died in great numbers. Conger eels are severely affected by frost. They roam a lot at night from August to December, usually in shallow water. During a cold spell the conger is occasionally found in a stupor or numbed condition at the edge of the water, and it offers no resistance to the finder. These eels usually recover, if no harm befalls them, when milder conditions set in.
In years gone by the natives of Studland used to rake the sandbanks at low water on moonlight nights for sand-eels, which made a luxury meal.
The flounders which are in the bay are large gold-finned specimens, which are caught on the razor-bait. A boat is required if short trot lines are used, twenty or thirty hooks to each line. You will not get a large number of fish, in fact the writer's usual day's bag was only fourteen fish averaging 1 lb. 9 oz. As the years went by the size of the flounders slowly dropped to 1 lb. 3½ oz. in 1939. Now and again a fine dab comes up, weights of best three were 1 lb. 9 oz., 1 lb. 11 oz., and 1 lb. 6 oz.
The bay is subject to much seine netting, but the groundlines, though heavily leaded, slip over the backs of most flatfish, and trawling is only any good if the water is coloured, after a gale from the south, and then the trawlers risk grounding. It is not a very comfortable spot if there is a ground swell running, as the big combers pile up and crash with a tremendous surge in the shallower areas. If one wants to get ashore for a spell, while the lines are out, and there is a heavy swell running, great care is needed in getting through the surf, but the writer was only once completely upset, but often got a soaking or boots full of water - but it is all in the fun.
In all these years the best fish were 2 lb. 8 oz. and 2 lb. 11 oz. on rod. Flounders on the trots beat the rods, best three: 3 lb. 3oz., 3 lb. 4 oz., and 3 lb. 9 oz. We will see in another article how the fish extracts the razor from its shell.