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South Parade Pier

The original (591m) pier was intended for the use of passengers travelling to and from the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth. The old pier was opened, amid great ceremony in November 1879, by Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar.

South Parade PierThe life of the original, privately owned pier was to be unfortunately short lived when, in 1904, a serious fire destroyed the structure, necessitating a complete re-build. The new Southsea South Parade Pier, reopened in 1908. Designed by a local entrepreneur G E Smith and built to a length of just 600ft (183m), the new pier was much more a pleasure pier than a practical landing jetty.

Southsea South Parade Pier history remained uneventful during the next sixty years, even surviving the heavy bombing of the port during the Second World War. Two fires in the 1960s and 1970s were however to have an impact on the structure, as it survives today.

The revised Pier offered a number of different bars and entertainment areas and established the Gaiety Lounge Show Bar as a theatre for many live performers and bands such as David Bowie in June 1971, Genesis in December 1971 and Manfred Mann's Earth Band in November 1972.

In June 1974, Ken Russell used the pier for the filming of his rock opera "Tommy" starring Roger Daltry, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Oliver Reed, Jack Nicholson and Tina Turner. During the filming of the ‘Pinball Wizard’ scene a serious fire broke out in the Gaiety, causing damage to the value of £500,000 and resulting in the loss of some of the most iconic local photographs of that decade.

The Best Times to Fish

The pier is ‘wet’ at all states of the tide and can be fished through neaps and springs. A westerly run, strong on spring tides, occurs starting three hours before high water and diminishes to run slowly to the East from around three hours after high water. Plenty of fish can be taken throughout the tidal cycle, but the Solent as a whole tends to fish better when the tide is flowing westerly.

The new angling franchise owner promises 24/7 fishing and much of the all night potential is still to be measured. Certainly smoothhounds should show on summer nights and cod and whiting should be more plentiful than during the day through winter.

Plenty of bass are taken over low water by those brave enough to fish through the tackle-hungry iron girders using small livebaits. The best time for popular summer float fishing appears to be around two hours before high water and two hours after. There is often a lull in sport right over high tide.

Pier Marks

In 2007, most of the angling has been confined to the lower boat deck at the end of the pier. Most of the time, this is the most productive area anyway. There is disabled fishing only from the top platform and these areas are identified by large blue oblongs painted on the deck. This is for safety and access . Please check the signs, which designate angling areas.

THE JETTY: RIGHT HAND CORNER – this is the right hand side as you face the sea or the not too distant Isle of Wight. It is mainly a clean ground ledger mark which produces big plaice in March and April with  ragworm, squid and peeler crab baits.

Top tip – there are kelp and mussel beds to the left of the corner and not more than 30 metres out. A cast uptide of the mark will put you in the vicinity.

THE JETTY: OUTER MIDDLE – fishes for plaice from mid-March till May. Some specimens over four pounds are caught every year. This is a good mark for summer smoothhounds and bass on peeler crab. Cod, codling and whiting are found from late October to January. Uptide casting, when space allows, will allow you better control during the lateral westerly flow.

Top tip – small hardback crabs fish as well as peelers in the summer and are much more durable. Always keep a set of ‘feathers’ handy here in the summer months.

BOTTOM OF THE STEPS: ‘IRONWORKS’ – this is a narrow section to your left as you go down the steps to the lower deck. It is very much foul-ground fishing where over decades bits of the pier have been claimed by winter storms. Kiddies can have fun with a simple paternoster here while 30 lb line straight through will enable the very keen bass anglers to place a small pout or wrasse right into the ironworks.

Top tip – keep it simple here with a one hook paternoster and a rotten bottom.

THE IRONWORKS ON THE SEA SIDE – this is where steps used to enable embarkation onto ferries and pleasure boats at low water. The steps area is closed off now, but leaves some clear patches surrounded by concrete piles, which offer protection and buffers from the tide for a myriad of species. The smaller whitebait/blennies/smelts/pout/pollack and wrasse make a staple diet for all manner of predators including bass, larger pollack, mackerel, garfish and scad.

Top tip – small livebaits and live prawns/shrimps are deadly here on single paternosters or float gear.

THE JETTY; LEFT HAND CORNER – the favoured spot for float fishing or when using the ‘Southend Rig’ for mackerel, garfish, pollack and scad. This section tends to get crowded during the summer months and early or late will put you in with a better chance of space. Just as the westerly run gathers steam is the killing time here around 2 ½ hours before high water. It can also fish very well as the tide tails off around two hours after high.

Top tip – tiny Hokkai and Sabiki lures (down to size 10s) jigged up and down and small fish/sandeel imitations held in the tide can attract bold strikes from bass and pollack.

Baits to use

The pier structure is a holding area for vulnerable shoals of small sprat, herring and general whitebait species. Occassionally, the sea can be black with clouds of small bait fish. Now here’s a problem. Bass in particular will often get preoccupied with one  inch fry and anything bigger than this will be ignored. This is why the ‘locals’ method of using a tiny piece of silver foil on a small hook is so effective. Float fishermen tend to use size 6 carp hooks baited with a small sliver of mackerel or garfish skin.

For jigging in the ironworks, small hokkais baited with ragworm are effective, particularly for pollack and wrasse. A four inch pout, pollack, smelt or wrasse will be devoured by bass and large scad, when allowed to drift well into the ironworks. Thirty pounds line and a beefy rod is often the only way out for hook-ups.

For spring plaice, nothing works better than a gaudy presentation of beads and sequins and a size 1 hook baited with ragworms and a long, thin strip of squid.

Summer smoothhounds will take anything at all as long as it’s a crab, a whole crab and nothing but a crab!

In winter, see if you can get hold of some lugworm. There are limited supplies of local blow lug available from the bigger tackle shops. These will give you a better chance of a codling or whiting from November through January; although squid is an excellent stand-by. The serious cod-seeker will use 6 lugworms and a whole calamari on a 6/0 Pennel hook set-up. Ragworm is second best in the colder months, so tip off with squid.

Tackle and Tactics

Fishing on this pier is very diverse, catering to a lot of species. No one rod can cope with all eventualities. Decide what you want to do and kit out for that. For slinging a lead from the middle or right hand corner, a medium action 12 feet rod will do, coupled with fixed spool or multiplier and 15 pound line. Shockleaders need to be used for casting but also, when a large fish is hooked at low water, it can aid in landing the fish when a drop net is unavailable. Grip leads in the range 4 – 6 ounces will cope with most tidal flows, although floating weed can be hazardous during the summer. Hooks should be size 1 or 2 for worm baits and 2/0 – 3/0 for crab and squid or large cocktails.

Float fishing is best attempted with an 11 feet carp rod, fixed spool reel and 10 pounds line. Freshwater floats (5 SSG) can be used for surface feeders like mackerel and garfish, although a light pike float carrying about one ounce is needed for strong tides or fishing a little deeper for pollack and scad. Lots of anglers use hooks which are too big for the small mackerel slivers of bait. A size 6 carp hook will handle mackerel, garfish, scad and pollack. Live shrimp or prawn is deadly for the pollack and wrasse. A drop net or scoop net left baited in the saline Canoe Lake opposite the pier will produce enough small shore crabs and live shrimps for a session.

Feathers and Hokkai-type lures work well jigged straight down or worked with a cast. BEWARE! Many of the cheap ‘shrimper’ lures being marketed from the Far East are not suitable for powerful casting. It’s far better to make your own from 60 lb snood or buy ‘mackerel’ flasher lures which are tied to a minimum 40 lbs mono. A bass/estuary rod will give best sport with ‘feathers’.

The ‘Southend Rig’ is adapted from what I saw being used there in the eighties. It enables three or more hooks to be positioned some 10 – 14 feet off the bottom for mid-water and surface species like mackerel and garfish. It has the advantage of being fished static and needs less room than float fishing. You could make a ‘rough and ready’ Southend Rig by tying 10 feet of 20 lbs mono to the lead link of a three hook flapper and attaching a 4 oz grip lead. You fish the Southend Rig almost straight down, but with a bit of a flip uptide to get the lead to grip. Tighten up carefully to spread the baited hooks. I rarely use hooks bigger than size 4 short shanks for this style of fishing. Tiny slivers of mackerel or garfish skin hooked once at the end of a 0.5mm x 40mm strip work best. As a rough guide, a strip about the size of your little finger!

How to get there

Approach Portsmouth via the M27 and look for Junction 12, which is well signposted to The Ferries. Take the M275 from junction 12. At the end of the M275, follow the signs to Southsea and Sea Front. The pier is approximately 2 kilometres travelling east along the sea front via Clarence Esplanade and South Parade. There is meter parking all along the sea front, but this is expensive. For the pier, try bearing left opposite the pier entrance when travelling east into St Helens Parade. There is free daytime parking along the Canoe Lake and some parking down Granada Road.

Local Tackle Shops:

Dans Tackle’ is on the Pier. Day tickets are £2.50 for adults (£1 for each extra rod). Juniors and OAPs £1-50. At present there is 24 hour angling, 7 days a week; but beware of pier restrictions where you can fish. Dan does bait and tackle suitable for the pier. Call him on 07971 704006.

Lock Stock and Tackle’s nearest shop is five minutes away at 26 Elm Grove, Southsea on 023 9281 2478

Allan’s Marine 143 Twyford Avenue, Stamshaw, Portsmouth 023 9267 1833 and

Solent Tackle 147 Winter Rd, Southsea 023 9273 9116

Where to stay

Southsea is a seaside resort with plenty of hotels and B&B along the seafront.

© Adrian Farley 2010

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