Because stingray are becoming more of a popular target species from the shore these days I thought we would have a look at some of the basics you need to know about these great rays!
Because of the sporting aspect of these rays they produce powerful runs when they just take the bait and run leaving your reel screaming with line peeling off and then when you get some control just when you think you are winning they get near the surf and they tend to take off again cruising up and down the surf line taking line of your reel again, and with stingers reaching good sizes in excess of 100lb you want to be prepared! So whats not to love about these fish!
In the last 20 or so years people have been studying Stingers a lot, they have noticed that the rays are a lot more prevalent in our waters than we previously thought and that there are 5 year fluctuations around the British coastlines that hold them and some years there will only be a few rays beached but of a good size and yet other years there is a lot landed but all will be a lot smaller sized stingers.
When landing Stingrays and handling them you have to be careful due to their tails it’s long and thin and can whip round extremely quick using a serrated spine it has in the tail normally there is just 1 or 2 of them but 3 spines has been known.
Not only can they produce a nasty stab wound they have toxins covering the spines so you really want to be extremely careful.
The way the rays use their tail is generally producing a strike over its body and head impaling the spine into you if this should happen you need to seek immediate hospital attention.
They come in a variety of colours depending on where they live if over sandy mixed ground you will find them a brownish colour or over muddy/weedy areas a dark olive green or greeny grey hue, the underside is a cream colour and has grey edges some prominent some not.
So how do we catch a stingray?
The baits you want to be prime baits are crabs, ragworm and shellfish a good wrapped up peeled crab and ragworms mixed in does wonders or mussels are a favourite and a common bait they hit! Again mix it with ragworm and try and keep the bait long and slim so it’s taken easier by the ray.
Although these baits are the "preferred" they will also take fish strips and squid baits.
The best time to hunt stingers is from mid April is warm through to June which will see good numbers of stingers closer to the shore but after this period larger rays tend to head out to sea more leaving smaller rays closer in.
Stingers tend to feed during daylight and love warm sandbanks you don’t always have to cast far for stingers as they don’t mind coming into warm shallows especially if there is food being surfed about in the gentle surf lines of a beach.
They tend to prefer mid tide according to most anglers not either end like a lot of fish at just before high water and low water when the movement is normally stronger.
So, calm, warm, clear seas they don’t like murky water or rough seas/ heavy surf.
Stingers also predominantly hunt by scent so get a good stink in the water by breaking and scoring baits etc.
The rigs that are probably best for stingers are: Running ledgers Up and over rigs Pulley droppers with a 3ft trace which gives plenty of room for a large ray to move over and hoover up your bait! These rigs also keep your bait harder on the bottom and give a good presentation. ( if using large baits use a penneled hook to aid presentation)
A large ray is going to test your rig and tackle you want a good strong pattern 3/0 - 5/0 hook they don’t have massive mouths so long thin baits are best presented to them.
Your line wants to be: On a mixed ground I would use 80lb rig body and 70/80 lb mono line or amnesia line in a heavy gauge.
With clean ground you can drop it down a bit which again will aid presentation amnesia line for the hook length can also be a great aid.
You will want a strong rig with strong knots (I use Palomar knots) as they will be tested if you get one of size and the with the runs it will make.
SO quick recap: -Clear, calm water, warm shallows and sand banks/ gulleys -Bait should be crab, ragworm, shellfish like mussels. -Rigs running ledger, up and over, pulley dropper all with a 3ft trace. -line on mixed ground 80 body 70-80lb trace. -clean ground 60-70 body (depending on casting and weight used) with a 40-60lb trace. -Hooks should be a strong pattern 3/0 – 5/0 - Streamline your baits. Happy hunting all and stay safe until next month hopefully tight lines and a screaming reel!