Home / How to Sea Fish / Species Tactics / How to catch common skate

How to catch common skate

The Talk Sea Fishing Guide to common skate fishing. We take a look at the areas, tactics and tackle requirements for catching these true leviathans from the boat and shore.


About common skate

Until recently, common skate were classed as being the species Raja Batis, but this has now been split into two different species, one being Dipturus intermedius or the Flapper Skate, and the smaller-bodied Dipturus batis, the blue skate.

This reclassification into two different species would make sense to the TSF team who have caught these giant skate in three different locations of Ireland and Scotland and noticed a marked difference in the shape and depth of the body of the skate from the Orkney Islands compared to those in Oban, Scotland, and from Clew Bay in Ireland. It has also created confusion regarding specific areas where the two species may overlap.

These fish are true leviathans, and commercial captures of the larger Flapper skate have approached 400lbs or more during the 1920s to 1950s, though in modern times due to a marked reduction in overall numbers due to commercial fishing practice and the resultant killing of large numbers of these fish their ceiling weight currently is nearer 250lbs. They can reach 10-feet in length, but the real weight comes from the body’s depth behind the head in the bigger fish.

They have no real commercial value as such and most were sold for fertiliser or a cheap lobster and crab pot bait, or just thrown back over the side as an unwanted catch.

Common skate identification

The Flapper skate can be identified from its olive-green eyes and patterning on each wing consisting of a group of pale spots. The blue skate has distinctly yellow eyes, and the wing blotch is relatively large, dark in colour, and with a pale ring around it. The eye colour is the best way to ID these two species.

The Flapper skate colour is generally light to dark brown on the back when living over sand and mud, occasionally a slight olive colour when resident over shingle. The belly is a grey colour with black pores visible. The blue skate tends to be darker on the back generally.

There are two other skate species, the Black Skate and the Long-Nosed Skate, but both live in exceptionally deep water and are unlikely to be caught by anglers. The black skate has a near-black back, hence its name and is rarely found in water depths less than 500-metres and found inside very deep Norwegian fjords, off Iceland, and towards the continental shelf off the west of Ireland. The Long-Nosed Skate unsurprisingly has a noticeably long nose and is found in depths exceeding 250-metres.

Common skate

Common skate distribution

The Blue skate is the more southern of the two species and is found to the south of Britain, inside the Celtic Sea, and off the west of Ireland possibly as far north as Iceland. The Flapper skate is resident in the northern waters of the North Sea, around the Orkney Islands and northern Scotland, also Northern Ireland. They’re range also includes the Norwegian coast.

Without doubt, though recorded evidence is limited, these species territorial limits overlap. We may understand better in the future as data is accumulated as to how these species co-exist.

The young are born inside egg-capsules or Mermaid’s Purses which are common along the shore after the egg-capsule has been discarded by the young skate. The capsules are large measuring up to 9-inches in length and as much as 6-inches wide. They are deposited over clean or mixed rough ground. The young skate emerge at about 8-inches in length. The males reach sexual maturity at about 59-inches and the females when a little larger.

Common skate habitat

Their preferred habitat is much the same with both species most commonly found on clean sand or muddy sand, though they sometimes live over fine shingle, and will take up station on clean ground close to rougher reef ground where there is a strong tidal flow.

Common skate diet

The giant common skate are deceptively predatory and not only feed on the seabed, but they will rise into mid-water to take shoal fish such as herring and mackerel. Their main seabed diet is smaller whitefish including whiting, codling, haddock, poor cod, pouting, flatfish and dogfish, but they also take larger species such as spurdog and even small rays.

They will also scavenge for anything that gets deposited on the seabed from predatory kills in the upper water column.

Boat Fishing

Season

They are a 12-months of the year target for sea anglers with winter fishing possible in all areas, especially the more sheltered waters off Oban in Scotland, also maybe some ports in the south and west of Ireland and inside Scapa Flow in Orkney.

The majority of captures are recorded from April to October, reflecting the main charter boat season in most areas.

Tides

This fish likes some run in the tide, but it doesn’t always figure that the biggest tides are the best. It depends on where you are fishing as the tactic is to fish at anchor.

In areas where the tide flow is very strong or partially restricted, then the smaller neap tides when the flow is reduced will be the better one to fish. In areas where the tide flow is less rapid, then the bigger spring tides tend to see the big common skate more active and willing to move around looking for food just as the flow picks up, but as it comes to the middle hours of the flood, the skate tends to hunker down and let the tide flow over them and any food wash down to them.

The common skate will use the tide to their advantage and move areas and search for food. Baits anchored and releasing scent will be followed up by the skate.

Habitat

The skate’s shape being flat tells you the type of ground they like to live on. They like clean sand, flat mud, and at a pinch, fine shingle. They will sometimes be found on cleaner patches amongst rough ground, though this is not overly common.

If you can find depressions in the sand or mud, this is where the skate will be. They also like small sandbanks and will sit in the channels between them. They often use these banks, and the depressions, to break the tide, letting it roll past them but with their eyes scanning above for moving prey.

They also use small reefs or sections of rougher ground to break the tide’s flow sitting on the downtide side in the bubble of slacker water the reef creates as the tide flows over it.

What is rarely written is that big skate are often resident near wrecks. This is often the case on the wrecks off the south of Ireland and especially so around the wrecks inside Scapa Flow in Orkney. The skate often sits on the clean ground that backs right up the wreck itself during the flowing tide, but moves out around the wreck and explores any debris fields as the tide eases.

Although common skate are instantly thought of as a deep water species, this is not necessarily true. Certainly, in the Scottish sea lochs, they will be found in 400-feet or deeper. Conversely, inside Clew Bay in Ireland, we’ve caught them in just 60-feet of water not far off Inishgort Lighthouse. The fish in Orkney’s Scapa Flow are also in fairly shallow water around 100-feet or less.

Weather patterns

In water over 125-feet deep or so, they won’t move far during even prolonged periods of rough weather. They’ll just sit there, feed when convenient, but otherwise just ride it out.

It’s different in shallow water under 100-feet in depth. The fish will either move out to deeper water where there is less effect overtime for a persistent groundswell or find the deeper depressions. Again, just sit it out here until more favourable conditions resume.

Like so much fishing, the better days are the overcast days with less light travelling through the water column to a depth. A slight chop on the sea surface also has the same effect and is also beneficial. Very bright sunny days see the skate less active, especially when the sun is high in the sky. The best periods on these days are early and late when the sun’s angle is low, and the light levels reduce.

They prefer onshore winds to feed consistently. Winds from onshore out to sea, resulting in very flat sea conditions are rarely good for common skate fishing. We also look for a dropping barometric pressure as being ideal with rising pressure less reliable.

Tackle

These are big, heavy fish with the width across their wings to fully utilise their ability to suction down on the seabed and, when up in the water column, to use tidal pressure on their body and wings to change direction and suddenly increase rod pressure before diving.

This is a fight of attrition, and a 50lb class rod is by far the best choice giving you the power to pressure fish up off the bottom, which as you’ll read a little further down, is part of the fight with a skate. Rods need to be a fairly fast taper action with some suppleness in the tip section, but with a near stiff lower mid-section and a stiff butt. You need the leverage to work a big fish, hence the stipulation for a rod of this type. Purely for comparison, we like the Penn Regiment Halibut rod in the 50lb class. This is a near 7ft 9in rod. We prefer these longer rods as they allow you to fish more comfortably over the boat’s safety rails. But there is a disadvantage with longer rods, and that is that leverage against the angler starts to increase the longer the rod is. For this reason, some anglers prefer shorter 7ft rods. Much depends on the boat you’re fishing from and how high the safety rails are.

There is no need for a rod to be furnished with a full set of roller rings, but a roller tip ring certainly helps in the smooth playing of big heavy fish but is not vital.

Reels do need to be very robust. A size 4/0 on the old scale is about right. Good ones to judge others by are the Penn Squall 60 Lever Drag or the Penn Squall 16 VS Lever Drag 2-speed. The 60 size has a line capacity of about 450-metres of 0.60mm (roughly 50lbs mono), which is ample. The 16VS also takes close to 500-metres of 50lb mono. Such line capacities are useful obviously for fishing in very deep water. However, it also allows a lot of line to be off the reel spool, yet still retain a high line profile to preserve as much of the retrieve ratio possible. The option of a 2-speed reel is also an advantage. It allows you to drop down to the lowest gear and when you get a big common skate finally moving you can pump the rod tip up just a few inches, and the low gearing helps you inch up a big fish to get it away from the seabed. You can shift back to the higher gearing when the fish is well up in the water column.

The reels mentioned above have reel harness lugs as part of their build. These allow a shoulder harness or belt harness to be clipped to the reel and this allows you to use your full weight and back to support the rod when fighting big fish for very long periods. We’ll come back to this later.

Our preference regards line is for mono wherever possible. Yes, it has its disadvantages in deeper water due to its stretch and lack of bit detection, but that stretch becomes an advantage when playing skate as the stretch helps preserve the hook hold and helps tire the fish due to the stretch working in conjunction with the action of the rod. There is an argument for braid when fishing deep water over 300-feet, but braid, being non-stretch, allows maximum rod pressure to be applied to a skate that has suctioned down to get it moving. On the other hand, when a big skate turns and twists and dives when up in the water column, the lack of stretch can really pressure the hook hold and overly pressure the weak links in the line such as knots. Braid can dig into itself on the reel spool when under very heavy pressure which can cause issues when line has to be given by the drag to a big fish. Our experience over 30yrs of common skate fishing has edged us towards mono as the best choice overall.

Common skate fishing

Rigs

A simple sliding ledger rig with a flowing hook trace is the best presentation. Always tie skate rigs with strength uppermost in your mind. Eliminate any weaknesses you can for a fish of this size will seek out anything that’s not 100%.

Sliding ledger common skate rig

  1. Begin with 4-feet of 250lb commercial mono. At one end knot on a 4/0 quality, heavy-duty swivel.

2. Slide on a Zip Slider, then an 8mm bead.

3. To the free end of the 250lb mono, knot on another 4/0 swivel. To the last swivel knot on 2-feet of 250lb mono.

4. To the tag end of the mono knot on a size 10/0 Mustad bronzed O’Shaughnessy hook.

The lead weight goes on the Zip Slider clip link.

The best knot to use in the heavy 250lb mono is a 3-turn Grinner knot. For added safety, bulb the tag end using a cigarette lighter to avoid any chance of the tag end slipping through under very heavy pressure.

The first section of 250lb mono acts as a short leader. This stops the skate’s wings as it takes the bait, and the nose when fighting the fish, from touching and chafing the mainline. The Zip Slider sliding on this section, and the separate shorter hook length avoids any tangles as the tackle and bait are dropped to the seabed.

In some areas, skippers also use short sections of wide diameter plastic tubing to act as a boom. This can be seen in the picture below.

Common skate fishing boom

Make sure you hone the point of the hook nice and sharp. Not thin at the point, but sharp, as skate have tough mouths. If you reduce the metal thickness on the hook point too much, it can bend and turn over when trying to penetrate the skate’s thick-set jaw structure.

Baits

The commonest bait for common skate is a whole mackerel. You’ll see so many people suggest a full flapper bait as best, but this is not the case in our experience. The problem with a flapper is that the skate can take the soft fillets into the mouth, but then either chew the fillets off with its strong jaws or move away and rip the fillets off the back of the mackerel’s head without getting near the hook.

We prefer to fish a whole mackerel cutting off the tail fin first. We then use the hook a bit like a needle and stitch the hook in. Begin at the cut in the tail section, and then repeatedly pass the hook and mono in and out of the body just underneath the skin until the hook point comes out just by the gill cover leaving the line hidden inside the body. On the opposite side, away from the line, use a knife to cut deep slashes in the body’s flank to release more scent. We also often add a small half fillet of mackerel to the hook point, just to increase the scent and to add a little movement when the bait moves in the tide.

Common Skate Fishing Bait

However, a short flapper can work well. Again, cut the tail fin off. The fillet flaps are then cut no more than halfway up the body length. Now pass the hook in through the eye of the fish, bring it out of the gill, pass it into the body where the rear of the gill starts, pull the hook fully through, pass it in and out of the body one more time, and pull the hook back inside the mackerel to hide it but leaving the hook point clear. This positions the hook just above the flaps. Stitched in this way the skate cannot nip off the mackerel flappers and miss the hook, which they can if the hook is just passed through the lips of the bait.

You can also fish small coalfish presented the same way, which is another good bait for common skate.

A bait we’ve done well on in the past is the head and body of a dogfish. Squid can also work, though it is best as an add-on to the hook point combined with a mackerel or coalfish bait.

Fish fighting technique

When using the longer rods around 7ft 6in plus, we prefer to use a shoulder harness with a separate butt pad worn around the waist. The shoulder harness is clipped to the reel frame lugs, and the weight of the fish is then taken on the shoulders and back reducing overall physical pressure on the angler.

Shorter rods under 7ft are better used with a stand-up waist belt. These support the mid and lower back and are a good choice for short stand-up style fish fighting utilising the shorter rod length better.

There is a right and wrong way to fight big fish in both cases. The wrong way is to try and stand upright and let the fish’s weight flatten the rod in relation to your body. In most cases, once a rod flattens, it is physically impossible to get it back to a natural 50-degree fighting angle, and you are then tiring far quicker than the fish is.

The correct way is to stand with your upper body leaning backwards slightly and your knees bent at the knee slightly. This shifts the balance of your body to a point where maximum leverage is applied against the fish, and your point of balance is slightly backwards creating a point of balance between you and the fish. This stance allows you to stand for a considerable period with the rod fully bent, applying maximum power to a big common skate without tiring yourself too much. It also means you can pump the rod tip upwards in short pumps to regain inches of line at a time incrementally. Once you’ve mastered this simple technique, it is deadly against all big fish, even those that run fast and far.

The drag of the reel needs to be set so that in this body stance, maximum pressure can be applied with the rod almost fully bent, but should the fish decide to move the drag can give line without your stance changing.

Common skate fishing

Fishing technique

The fishing is done with the boat at anchor. If you’re positioned on the sides or gunnels of the boat away from the stern, then choose a lead weight heavy enough to keep you fully anchored to the seabed. If you can flick your bait a little way away from the boat, just a few feet, this also helps you get your bait slightly away from all the others. If you fish this position on the boat, we would suggest changing your bait more regularly than the other anglers do to keep your bait as attractive as possible. Also occasionally lift the rod tip up a couple of feet then drop the bait back down. The knock or sound as the lead weight hits the seabed is an attraction in its own right, but the bait movement can sometimes trigger a close by skate to take the just moved bait.

The best positions on the boat are fishing downtide off the stern. Again swing the lead weight and bait out a few feet to get it that little bit further back. If the tide picks up enough speed, use a lighter lead weight and as you release the bait hold it on the reel a few times to let the line pull out in the tide, then release. This will have the effect of dropping the bait further back from the boat than the other anglers bait’s who just drop over the side straight down. Use the lightest lead you can get away with as this helps you get the bait further back. This puts your bait out on its own and gives you a better chance of a skate swimming up the scent trail from all the baits finding your bait first.

The rod can be fished from a rod pod or holder off safety rails but put the reel almost into free spool with just a hint of drag on and the free spool clicker engaged.

You’ll often see a common skate start to take a bait before you hear the reel click as the line is given. This is typically two or three knocks on the rod tip. This is the skate settling over the bait to smother it naturally. As the wings or snout touch the mainline, the rod tip will knock. Leave this and watch the rod tip. When the rod tip pulls over, and the line begins to release from the reel, pick up the rod, let a few more turns of line spill off the reel, then engage the lever drag or click the reel into gear, hold the rod at 50 degrees and let the line pull tight. The weight of the fish will set the hook for you. There is no need to strike if your presentation is good with the hook point clear of the bait.

This is the exact moment to assume that bent knee slightly leant back fighting position. When the skate feels the hook and the rod pressure, it may shoot off a few yards, but invariably they go straight to the seabed and use their weight to suction down. There is only one way to shift these fish at this stage, keeping full rod pressure on. It roughly takes 10 minutes per 100lb weight of fish to get them to move. So, a 150lber is likely to take 15 minutes to move, a 200lber 20 minutes or a bit more.

Once the fish moves, then really pile the pressure on and try to get it up in the water column. Smaller sub 100lb fish may not dive much once off the bottom, but male fish and bigger females do have the habit of coming up say 30 to 40-feet, then crash diving back for the seabed. If they make the seabed, then expect them to suction down again, or run for a short distance across the seabed. Let the drag do its work in this instance and give line as it needs to, but once the fish stops moving, pile on the rod pressure again. They won’t stay down anywhere near as long as when they initially suctioned in.

Remember to use those short pumps of the rod to regain small increments of line. This is pretty much all you can do anyway with a big fish, and it’s a war of attrition regaining what you can a little at a time. The skate will kite in the tide, twist and turn, but keep the pressure on, and it will slowly come up. You’ll see the colour of the fish down deep when it’s still 30-feet or more down. When it hits the surface, use the rod to steer the fish to the boat, then ease a little off the drag pressure while the boat crew secure the fish. This drag adjustment allows the fish to crash-dive if things go wrong without overstressing knots and line.

These are incredible fish that can live for maybe 50 and 100-years. By all means, get a quick photo or two, but do try to get the fish back into the water within a couple of minutes. They are a tough fish and recover quickly as tagging results prove, but they deserve respect, as all fish do, and a fast return to the water is essential.

Boat fishing for common skate top tips

  1. Giant skate respond well to noise. Try adding a double Bobby Bead about 10-inches above the hook and lock this in place with a few turns of pliable coated jewellery wire and an 8mm bead. The jewellery wire can be slid up and down on the hook trace to readjust the position of the Booby Bead. It needs to be slightly nearer the bait in slacker tides, and further away in faster tide runs.
  2. Remember to occasionally move the bait back towards you a couple of feet by lifting the rod tip and dropping it back. This adds a little natural movement and helps the skate home in on your bait.
  3. Skate often move in small groups of two to five fish. If another angler catches one, while he’s playing the fish if you’ve had to reel in your gear, use that time to put fresh bait on and as soon as his fish is released, get your bait back down there as fast as you can as there is a high chance of an immediate second fish being in the vicinity.

Shore fishing

This is a fairly specialised form of angling targeting these huge skate from the shore. There are probably many venues where their capture is possible off the shore, especially in Northern Ireland and Northwest Scotland. Currently, this fishing is mostly confined to the Loch Aline area of Scotland above Oban where there are shore marks that give instant access to 100-feet or more of water directly off the rocks.

Season

Again the season is pretty much all-year-round. However, if there are periods when the spurdog packs are heavy in the area and close to shore, it’s often a case of waiting until the spurs thin out as the skate doesn’t get time to get to the baits before the spurs are on it. This is typically in the general spring and autumn months.

Tides

Tide choice is down to the marks you fish. If there are fast tides in the vicinity, only fish the smaller neap tides. If tide run is not too fast, then the bigger tides, especially those increasing towards the higher tides of the cycle can often fish the best.

The tide’s middle period is usually best, but sometimes, on the bigger tides, the common skate will start to move just as the tide picks up speed directly after slack water and this can be a great time to pick up an early fish.

On some marks, the fish will come past on the flood, and drop back on the reverse path on the ebbing tide giving you a double chance of them.

Tackle

Heavy-duty gear is a must with stiff 6-8oz rated rough ground beachcasters and large, powerful multiplier reels such as the Daiwa SL30. However, the now obsolete ABU 9000’s and 10,000’s also have the power and rigidity in the frame necessary for this type of fishing, if you can find one, maybe on eBay. A line capacity of around 300-yards of 30 to 40lb is ideal. Common skate will run, but won’t normally take more than 30 to 50-yards of line overall during a fight. Their main tactic being to suction down and then circle when up in the water column.

If your reel choice comes with a reel clamp, then use it. Although the reel is secure in the reel seat, the reel seat clamp helps ensure nothing moves when the rod, and reel, are under full pressure from a big skate.

Mainlines of around 30 to 40lbs are needed. It’s much the same as boat fishing, with mono the best choice due to its ability to cast well off a large multiplier reel. It does not suffer from trying to cut into itself on the spool when under heavy direct pressure, resulting in issues when the drag is required to yield line, and when casting. The mono stretch also helps to tire the fish once you’ve got it moving.

You will still need to use a strong 80lb shock leader for casting and added abrasion resistance in most cases. This needs knotting to the mainline using back to back 4-turn Grinner knots. Make doubly sure the knot is moistened before tightening and that it tightens down evenly. Do not keep yanking on the knot to tighten it. Just keep the knot under a heavyish pressure for 20-seconds, which will fully tighten it, providing it has been well moistened.

Rigs

This needs to be specialised with big skate in mind. The best rig proves to be a modified 1-hook Pulley rig which is easy to use.

  1. Begin with 70-inches of 150lb clear mono.
  2. At one end, tie on a Gemini lead/bait clip.
  3. Slide on a size 8mm bead, a 2/0 rolling swivel and another 8mm bead.
  4. 30-inches above the bait clip, tie in a figure-of-eight knot to form the hook length.
  5. Slide on a crimp, a 5mm bead, followed by an 8mm bead. When the crimp is crimped in place 7 to 8-inches above the hook, this stops the bait blowing back up the hook trace in the initial release phase of the cast.
  6. Tie on a size 8/0 Mustad O’Shaughnessy hook.
  7. Using a cigarette lighter to bulb the tag end of the hook knot to help reduce the chance of the knot slipping under heavy pressure.

Generally, the 150lb mono is enough to land even a big skate. However, if casting distance is not the be and end-all, then 200lb mono is stiff and awkward, but it does add some extra security. The one advantage with the heavy mono is that it vastly reduces the chances of tangling as the rig and bait are in free fall to the seabed.

With the hook point being well exposed outside the body of the bait, the short tag end clip on the bait clip is enough to just tuck in over the hook bend and hold even a big bait in place for the initial cast.

When you cast, and the bait hits the water, after initial braking by the thumb as required to avoid overruns, release the thumb and allow the line to spill off the spool until you feel the lead weight hit bottom. This slackline free fall ensures you maintain as much casting distance as possible as the bait drops down.

Baits

You can’t beat either a whole mackerel or coalfish with the tail fin removed and no bigger than 8ozs or so, or a half a bluey. This bait size will be cast out to a decent distance, and it’s also a good size for the common skate to easily eat.

We present the bait as we did on the boat with the hook point pushed in through the tail fin cut then used like a needle to stitch the hook in out down the length of the body with the hook point exiting the fish’s body towards the gill-plate or just rear of the head. Like many predators, skate like to take a bait in head first for ease of swallowing. This leaves the hook length hidden neatly inside the body. Again slash the opposite side of the body with a knife to give out more scent. The bluey is done the same, but you’ll need to secure the bluey body section with a fair few good turns of bait elastic to allow powerful casting.

Other good baits are dabs and flounder. The best way to present a flatfish is to cut it length-ways head to tail to create two separate halves. Pass the hook in and out down one body half. Now lay the other half down the side of the hooked half on the opposite side to the hook and bind well along its full length with bait elastic to fully secure it. This gives a streamlined bait with lots of scent.

Common skate will also take squid, but we like to add a good half fillet of bluey or mackerel to a squid bait to up the scent value. Other fish baits such as large launce sandeel, or two or three of these all bound together, herring, codling, whiting, pollack etc., the oily baits always prove to be best though.

Technique

The first thing you need to do when picking a spot to fish is to think about how you will land a fish of this size. You need to get a position where ideally a common skate can be slid ashore right at your feet on to a rock ledge, or brought into a small opening in the rocks where it can be grabbed. In this day and age gaffs are to be avoided if possible. If the angler can also be above the fish on slightly higher ground, this can help you steer the fish into position and also apply maximum pressure in the final stages of the fight.

Having cast out as described, allow the line to sink and settle for a good 30 seconds or more before gently tightening it to the rod tip. You do not need a tight line, just a semi-tight one to see bites from a skate. Just be mindful of any rocks or snags immediately out from where you are fishing such as rock shelves.

Use a good heavy lead, say a minimum of 6ozs and slightly bigger if need be. The bait needs anchoring to the seabed and to stay there.

Bites can show in two main ways. You need to watch both the rod tip for gentle knocks as the skate’s wings settle over the bait and touch the line, but also for slackline bites as skate will sometimes take the bait and shuffle inwards towards you before resettling. Slackline bites should be struck straight away. Knocks on the rod tip should be allowed to develop into either a full-on pull-down of the rod tip and line peeling off the reel as the common skate swims away. Only when the line starts to peel off the reel should the bite be struck.

Don’t strike by lifting the rod tip and sweeping it back. This archives nothing. The best way to set the hook is to wind in any slack and let the line come tight against the preset drag. The rod will take on a progressively more powerful set as the line comes tight to the fish and it’s this constant pressure that will pull the hook home.

The skate may now run for a short distance, but inevitably goes to ground and suctions down. It’s not easy with a long beachcaster, but you need to keep as much full pressure on as you can. The longer you can keep the rod fully bent into the fish, the faster it will give in and move. As soon as it moves, then pump and wind as fast as the fish’s weight lets you and gain as much line as possible. The fish may well try and crash-dive back to the seabed and will kite in the tide and circle in the water column flapping its wings.

When you see the colour of the fish get to the edge of the water and keep as high up as you can so you see the fish and steer it towards your colleague. Sometimes smaller common skate can be steered in right onto flat rock ledges at the water’s edge using the heavy trace mono and then are grabbed by the front of the wing edges either side of the nose to be slid a little further onto dry land. Photos need to be taken right there and then and the fish released as fast as possible.

Top tips for fishing for shore common skate

  1. When tightening knots in heavy-duty mono, take a tip from big-game anglers and smear the not yet tightened knots with lip balm. This is an excellent lubricant but will wash off in water. It can help fully tighten a knot with persistent medium pressure and is way better than saliva.
  2. Plain leads are the best choice unless tidal conditions dictate that you need to use a release wire lead. When a skate approaches a bait and swims over it then settles on it, it makes sense to have a plain lead as the fish is way less likely to spook off it when it settles. The sharp wires of a release wire lead can have the opposite effect and stop the skate from easily settling to eat the bait as the wires come in contact with the wing.