Score with Skimmers

Share the Score with Skimmers article:


We joined Neil McKinnon at Arrow Valley Lake to pick his brains on bagging huge weights of skimmers and bream. Read on to find out his secrets...

Catching big weights of skimmers is one of my favourite ways of fishing. At times they can be a difficult fish to catch quickly and build a big weight with, but with some careful thinking it won’t be long before they are virtually climbing up your pole!

To fully gain the confidence of the skimmers I start by fishing two lines, my main line at 13m and another at 11.5m. This lets me rest one until I feel that the fish will have settled over the bait, it also allows me to top up and give the fish time to settle again. You’ll often find that if you top up the feed and fish for them straight away that the fish can back off, and your catch rate will take a dramatic fall.

Gearing up

Choosing the right gear for skimmers is imperative, but simple. A 13m pole line is my main target. As long as there is a good depth, 5-8ft, I see no need to go longer. Size 8 Dura Hollo Elastic is spot-on for these skimmers, it is forgiving enough to prevent bumping off smaller fish, while still having enough power to land bigger bonus fish should they turn up. This elastic has made a big difference to my skimmer fishing and even small carp and F1’s in winter.

Two rigs are assembled consisting of 0.4 and 0.6 PB Inter 3 pole floats with a bulk of No.8 Stotz and two No.10’s as a dropper shot. Both rigs are constructed using 0.13mm Reflo Power with a 0.10mm Reflo Precision Power hook length, finished off with a size 18 PR 490 hook. These are as simple as it gets, a bulk and two droppers gets the bait into the bite zone quickly, and the droppers give the hookbait a more natural fall through the last 12 inches of water. The PB Inter 3 is a great float for this type of skimmer fishing. Its wire stem helps to keep it stable in choppy conditions, and the nylon bristle is sensitive enough to show up delicate bites from skimmers. 

Bait Choice 

My bait tray consists of four baits; Sonubaits F1 Green Groundbait, 4mm Fin Feed Pellets, 4mm Super Expander Pellets and a few dead maggots. At the start of the match I will feed the pole line by cupping in 4 balls of Sonubaits F1 Groundbait onto my 13m line. The fish really seem to respond to the sweet groundbait, and for any skimmer or bream fishing I don’t go without it. I’ve added a few dead maggots and some 4mm pellets to the groundbait too. 

The 11.5m line is fed with only two balls of F1 Green and only dead maggots. This is the line I will start fishing. I opt for the lighter rig and a double red maggot hookbait. I’ll usually give it 45 minutes before I look on my 13m swim. By this time the skimmers should have had time to settle over the bait and build some confidence. 

I’ll fish the main line until I feel that it needs a top up. Usually this is after every 10 fish. A small ball of groundbait and 25 4mm Fin Feed Pellets is dropped into a large Uni CAD Pot; just enough to keep the fish interested and in the peg. 

After I top up I will fish my shorter line. By regularly feeding 4mm pellets onto the 11.5m line, I should be able to catch fish while I give the main 13m pole line 5 minutes to rest.

The bigger bream can be caught on the pole under good conditions

Neil McKinnon

The Session

Fishing as described and it has taken about an hour and a half for the fish to really get going in the swim; to the point whereby it is now solid, with a fish every put in. These include skimmers around 8oz each and a large proportion of 2lb fish and the odd 3lb bream. A Super Expander Pellet is the best bait; these skimmers seem to find them irresistible and I’m getting bites extremely quickly, sometimes it goes under just as the float is cocking. 

Given the conditions have been very calm; with the wind blowing off my shoulder the results have been no less than great. I’ve caught about 75lb of skimmers and a few bigger bream. At the end of the session I introduced the remainder of my groundbait by balling in about 6 orange size balls to see what would happen. All went quiet for about 15 minutes, then once they returned there were too many fish in the peg! I’d over done it and started to foul hook fish.

neil says 

The bigger bream can be caught on the pole under good conditions. As with all fishing, the fish can be fickle at times, however this type of fishing certainly whets your appetite!

well over 60lb of skimmers and bream in only four hours of fishing