Fishing Lines: We can see for marls and marls

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The Independent Online
THE Channel Tunnel may despoil half of Kent, terrify millions of claustrophobics, bring in hordes of garlic-breathing misanthropes, bankrupt British Rail and generally mean the end of civilisation as we know it - but at least it could be good news for anglers.

When the 15,000 workmen dug the three tunnels, all that chalk marl (four million cubic metres of it) had to go somewhere. Eurotunnel could probably have sold it to one of the nuttier London councils, or used it to re-whiten Dover's cliffs. Instead they dumped the lot at the base of Shakespeare Cliff, between Folkestone and Dover. There was so much chalk (marl upon marl of it) that it has realigned the beach, stretching more than 800 yards into the sea and probably making a few keen swimmers think that maybe Calais is not so far after all.

Left alone, this huge artificial platform would slowly have tumbled back into the sea, so a concrete wall has been built to retain it. The site has been planted with grass seed and wild flowers. Eurotunnel hopes it will become one of the world's great picnic sites, though the public is being discouraged from walking there until the grass has grown to hide that unsightly chalk. (Incidentally, if you want to drive there, access is through a tunnel.) But tomorrow some 200 fishermen from England, France, the Netherlands and Belgium will get a privileged preview of its angling potential by casting for the Eurotunnel Trophy.

Given the tunnel's continued postponements, it is a moot point whether the competition should have been put off until next year too. But fishermen would probably have cast a line there anyway, because they need only to walk along the beach to reach an ideal angling spot. This addition to the Kentish seashore stretches so far out to sea that anglers can just drop a line over the side and be sure their bait is in deep water: indeed, in just the sort of place where fish live.

You might reasonably think that only a very silly cod would come near such a clearly unnatural set-up. But the opposite is the case. Any man-made construction in the sea, whether pier or oil platform, rapidly becomes a haven for fish. First the tiniest creatures are attracted there, because they can find shelter from fierce tides. Crabs and shellfish follow, and in their wake come the larger fish.

The best places to fish in the North Sea are around the rigs. Big cod, pollack, bass and haddock lurk among the huge steel legs that anchor the structure to the seabed. But take a boat a mile away, and you'll find very little. Another reason is that fish around the rigs are safer than in an aquarium. Oil companies ban rod-fishing because hooks and lines present as much danger to divers as fish, and trawlers are not allowed to net or place traps.

This example of fish behaviour (going where the food is) highlights a classic mistake made by many who fish from piers. The inexperienced try to throw their lines as far from the structure as possible, but it is far more productive to drop a bait just over the side. This is probably why youngsters capture so many big fish from piers.

Eurotunnel certainly didn't plan to produce a tailor-made fishing spot when it started digging, but its dumping ground could easily become one of the South Coast hotspots in a few years. It has many similarities to the Southern Breakwater, which protects Dover harbour. Here, fishermen can catch outsize plaice, cod, bass and many other species by casting only a few yards out. It's even a good spot for edible crabs. (A useful tip here. Edible crabs will nibble a bait but let go when you try to wind them up. So collect the biggest tangle of line you can find and thread a bait among the jumble. The crabs get their legs caught in the line and they're easy to haul in.)

While we're off the subject, Eurotunnel is seeking a new name for the construction dump (sorry, reclamation site). I suspect some of the competitors in tomorrow's competition may be able to offer suggestions if not much is caught. This is, after all, a poor time of year for fishing.

No prizes have yet been announced for the most appropriate name, but the winner will probably be able to choose from the superb range of commemorative goodies brought out specially for Celebration '94. Showing the originality that has characterised the tunnel building, these range from T-shirts to biros and keyrings. Let's hope the winning name is more original.