Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s stingray were a common target for shore anglers, especially from the St Osyth, Essex area, along the Hampshire coast, South Wales, and also from Cardigan Bay in mid Wales, with stingers also showing from numerous marks in between. But with the new millennium, catches seemed to stall and the numbers of stingray reaching UK waters dramatically dropped. So much so that few anglers now target them.
The only consistent catches in the past 10-years, and even here numbers have fallen, have come from marks inside Tralee Bay in Co Kerry, Ireland.
There are numerous factors that could govern the reason why stingers are not as evident as before, but the erratic weather patterns of the past ten years would shoulder much of the blame. The common factor in the past when stingray were more numerous, were mild winters followed by an early spring.
Stingray are typically found on shallowish beaches and especially so if they are adjacent to, or in close proximity to estuaries. Big stingray can be caught in just two or three feet of water and right in amongst the surf tables!
The weather has to be just right though. The best conditions are a flat calm sea, little or no wind, hot and warm conditions with clear sunshine. Look to fish middle sized tides climbing towards big spring tides. Aim to fish a tide that ideally starts to flood around 1 to 2pm, and fish through the flood tide, though the middle hours are typically the most productive. The time of the tide is actually more important than the size though. There’s a reason for this. The hot sun will heat up the exposed sand. As the new tide floods over this hot sand, in turn the sand heats up the shallow water and the stingray like the warmer water so come in to the shallows. Fish outside this window and your chances drop massively.
The majority of fish are caught using shorter casts, no more than 40-yards, that puts the bait either in to, or just beyond the light surf tables. A bait at long range can sometimes score, but this is way less successful.
The top baits for stingray are peeler crab or king rag. A few fish are taken on mackerel and squid, but these are third rate for stingers and should only be used as a last resort.
These rays fight hard. They will run parallel through the surf and run off a fair bit of line, especially a big one. Just let it take line if it wants and slowly tire itself. When beaten, use the leader with an incoming wave to slide the fish ashore.
Watch the poisonous tail, which is used just like a scorpion’s arcing over the back! When removing the hook have someone put a gentle foot on the tail to stop it trying to wound you. Experienced anglers hold the tail with a thick cloth just below the sting to handle the fish and slide it back in to the water. Common sense will see both fish and angler come to no harm!
Article written by Mike Thrussell