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Sand Point to St Thomas's Head

A Bass from Sand Point

This two mile section of Bristol Channel coast is situated between Weston-Super-Mare and Clevedon. It runs approximately west to east, with the far western end being Sand Point itself that has Sand Bay on its southern side. To the far east is St Thomas's Head, with the weapons testing facility. The fishing marks to the east are often referred to as the "Admiralty" or the "M.O.D", although I think it's a privately operated facility these days. But anyway, this gives you the excitement of fishing somewhere plastered with signs warning you that objects discarded on the shore might explode and kill you. The named marks to the Sand Point end are the Knuckles and the reef. The reef is right out on the end on the northern side of the point, and the Knuckles are a series of rough ledges that are exposed a little to the east of the reef from around 2 hours before low water. Between Sand Point and St Thomas's head is a bay called Middle Hope Bay that you'll sometimes hear mentioned, although the bay itself isn't an especially good spot as far as I'm aware. Either side, though, are plenty of opportunities for both low and high water sport.

We'll start at the Sand Point end, as "Sand Point" is often mentioned in fishing reports (or at least used to be, but it's a long time since I bought a fishing magazine to see if it still is). The name is a little misleading, however, as it's the northern face of the "point" that gets most attention. This area is best tackled on low water, when a series of rough ledges (the Knuckles) becomes exposed that provide good access to a reasonable depth of water on neaps over a bottom of broken rock and tube worms. You do need to climb down a cliff to access this mark, and there are several points where this can be done relatively easily. However, it is still dangerous, and a fall could kill you, or leave you incapacitated to drown and become food for the conger and crabs. Moreover, if you fish into darkness, you'll find it extremely difficult finding your way back up the cliff as it all looks the same after the light fades -- I speak from experience. All is not lost if you do find yourself stuck as a walk to the east brings you to a shingle beach where you can safely return to the car park via a route up a grassy hill. The bottom line is that you shouldn't take fishing here lightly. If you can't make it up the cliff or over the rocks to the beach at the end of a session you'll quite likely drown.

The Knuckles produces quite an assortment of species. Most likely to be encountered are cod during the winter, and in summer bass, thornback, conger and sometimes smoothound. The usual small stuff shows as well, and I've even heard of a hake being caught here. My favourite tactic is to use a pulley rig with peeler or rag in the summer, with lug and squid in the winter. You can get around 4 hours fishing here over low water, and in that time it's possible to get a large bag of decent fish if things are going well. You do get plenty of blanks as well, and you almost always lose tackle in the rocks. Another downside is that it does become busy at peak times, and the Knuckles can only hold so many anglers.

The more adventurous could fish the reef out on the end to the west of the Knuckles. My experience there is limited to a few trips where I managed to avoid breaking a limb slipping on the weedy rocks only to lose every set of gear I chucked out in to the abyss. Better anglers than I have allegedly caught monster bass, conger and cod from here at low water on spring tides. Remember, fortune favours the brave!

For easier high water sport you could fish in to Sand Bay from the southern side (opposite side to the Knuckles). This turns up ray, cod and bass as well as the usual small stuff. The sandy beach at Sand Bay isn't really worth bothering with, unless you want flounder and eels. And if you do there are many better places in the Bristol Channel you could try up towards Aust.

Between the small shingle beach (north side of Sand Point) and Middle Hope is the most popular part of this coast for fishing, probably due to the proximity of the car park -- but it's still a good walk. It is relatively easily accessed in places, and rocky weed-covered ground gently dips on to broken rock. Be warned that the weed-covered rock is very slippery, as is the rock along all of this coast, and it's easy to fall over and sustain an injury. Again, this is snaggy territory, but perseverance over low water may be rewarded with all the species previously mentioned. On spring lows a sand bar becomes exposed a short way off shore, although well out of casting range. As Middle Hope Bay is approached there are even a few high water spots where a short cast will enable you to fish over mud and broken ground.

East of Middle Hope Bay the broken rock at the base of the gently-dipping weed-covered rock beds is replaced by muddy sand that becomes increasingly coarser grained as St Thomas's Head is approached. At St Thomas's Head it is firm enough to walk on, although be careful as there are sometimes mud-filled craters from the weapons testing. Red flags fly when testing is occuring, and this is generally, from what I've seen, on spring tides. Years ago they used to drive large excavators out on to the sand in the course of their work, and you'd be asked to stay clear, although I've not seen that for some time. Several steel structures are permanently fixed to the sea bed here, and the area is best checked-out on a spring low prior to fishing. This is a top thornback mark, but all the species mentioned for Sand Point will show, as well. Unfortunately despite the sand it is very snaggy, as there are often metal posts and pieces of shrapnel protruding from that sand. In fact, at the bottom of a spring low your cast may be landing on rougher ground beyond the sand. You can fish at high or low water, and off to the east is a reef that gives access to similar ground to the Knuckles when fished on a neap low, although quite a bit shallower.

Here are a few photos from this whole length of coast. By the way, the bass in the photo above was taken in July on rag at the Sand Point end. I had a hell of a job taking the photo using the self-timer with the camera balanced on a rock, so I hope you can forgive it being very slightly out of focus! The photo below is looking west towards the end of Sand Point. To the right of the end of the point is the reef, the Knuckles around to the right of the picture, and the muddy ground of Sand Bay to the left.

Looking west along Sand Point.

Below is the shingle beach that provides an escape route without the need for climbing the cliff. This was taken on a spring low and you can see the sand bar off shore to the left. The brown strip along the edge of the black weed-covered rock is not sand, though, but broken rock. This continues as far as Middle Hope Bay.

Looking north of Sand Point.

The photo below shows the western edge of the weapons testing area. This type of ground extends back to the eastern edge of Middle Hope Bay, although becoming muddier along the way. This photo was taken on a spring low.

West of St Thomas's Head.

The next one shows anglers fishing St Thomas's Head on a spring low. The sandy ground below rock is typical of that encountered for several hundred yards west, although there may be a lot of shrapnel and ironmongery to get snagged on if they've been blowing things up. The section in the photo has a savage current on the first of the flood and the water literally races through here making fishing extremely difficult. A steep-sided channel is cut in to the sand by the force of water that only becomes exposed at the bottom of really big tides, so avoid any temptation to wade! Clevedon can be seen in the distance to the top right.

Fishing St Thomas's Head.

July 2010