A roughly triangular island with the longest edge forming the beach to the South and facing Hayling Bay. It is truly an island and is joined to the mainland by a road bridge which used to be famous in post-war years as is was adjacent to the Hayling Billy steam train causeway.
The train ceased to run in the 1960s and the old track is now a Nature trail famous for its abundant bird life.
Visitors used to flock to the island in high summer for the four or five miles of white, sandy beaches.
Sadly, the beach has been transformed by a shingle barrier put in place to ease the storm flooding which had become a serious problem by the beginning of the 1980s when a decision was taken to prop up the shoreline with ten metres or so of imported shingle.Each year, in March and early April, monster trucks can be seen re-distributing the shingle that is displaced by storms and tidal movements.
Hayling’s long southward facing beach and mass of harbour channels provides very many species.
In early spring there is always a run of quality plaice and although numbers have declined dramatically in recent years there is always the chance of a fish in the 2–4lb bracket.
Ten years ago one angler reported to a local tackle shop with a bag of 19 fish up to 2lb 15oz. Furthermore, he caught 14 quality fish on the next daylight tide and13 the next. Unbelievable fishing, but sadly unlikely to be matched ever again.
Early summer sees an increase in quality bass although school bass remain all year through. There has also been an increase in dogfish and smoothhounds in recent years throughout the summer months.
Small bream can be a nuisance from the beach at this time and they are quite capable of launching piranha-like attacks on whole mackerel baits intended for large bass. There is also a chance of catching colourful gurnards on hot summer days and tasty sole at night. Garfish, mackerel and scad are present throughout the summer, particularly at the two harbour entrances.
In autumn and winter, there are pout, whiting and the chance of a good cod at night. Quality flounders show at this time from the numerous harbour marks.
The whole of the seafront is open to anglers and provides a stable shingle bank platform with clean sand at the bottom of the shelf.
Favoured areas include Eastoke Corner in the east along the seafront drive, the fun fair and ‘Inn on the Beach’ behind the sign-posted par3 golf course in the west. Beware of the sheltered board-surfing area to the west of the Inn on the Beach.
The entrances to Chichester and Langstone harbours offer good fishing for mackerel, garfish and scad to feathers and lures as well as float tactics. Weed can be a problem at these marks. Take great care at these marks as there are steep banks and tides which have claimed lives in the past. There is ample car parking all along the front at £3 per day at the last count.
The harbour marks include Northney (turn left), immediately after crossing the bridge. Buds Farm accessed through the Havant Industrial Estate before coming onto the Island and numerous marks along the old Hayling Billy track. Perhaps the best of these is behind the Esso petrol station one mile after crossing the bridge on the right. There is ample parking down the track, just 20 metres past the petrol station. Walk to the right and fish off the old oyster bed walls, but be careful because the artificial ‘bunds’, as the are called locally, are in a bad state of decay.
The Chichester and Langstone Harbour marks are best fished two hours up and two hours down. Eels, flounders and school bass are the most common species here although some quality bass and plaice can also show up.
Hayling beaches are clear sand with no known snags, although lost tackle can temporarily claim more leads and hooks.
Light to normal beach gear is needed with four/five ounces with or without spikes in the middle of the bay. Five or six ounce grips are needed, with more lead required the closer you get to the harbour mouths. The tide-run varies but is fiercest for a short period at the top and bottom of the tide.
For general fishing, two size 1 hooks clipped down is recommended and bait with ragworm in summer, lug in winter.
Cocktails with mackerel or squid strip can make baits more effective. Distance can be crucial on clear, calm days with the 90–120 metre band needed for plaice.
For specialised bass fishing size 2/0s are recommended and when slipper limpets have been deposited on the beach after a storm it’s a good idea to fish four or five of these plentiful, free offerings when available.
For calm summer nights and particularly when the mackerel have been running along the shingle, size 4/0–6/0 is recommended with whole pout or ‘joey’ mackerel. Fish these only 20 metres out without the disturbance of bright lights. The groynes to the east are best for large bass.
Fancy ‘up-and-over’ flowing traces or wishbone rigs work best for flats, while two hooks clipped down is effective for general fishing. For bass fishing, a standard one hook flowing trace works well because long casting is not needed.
Best conditions are calm seas with clear water for plaice. The same applies when targeting bass in the summer as these conditions allow the mackerel shoals to form up close to the shingle.
Large bags of bass can be taken in the autumn following south westerly gales and when slipper limpets are deposited along the shoreline.
During the winter, just after a blow or a steady force 4 south westerly seems to produce the goods.
Hayling Island is extremely easy to find although its popularity with day-trippers and board-sailors can mean traffic congestion through the summer months.
From the London area, take the A3M (not M3) through Guildford and follow all the way till you can see the sea through the gap in the South Downs; take the slip road to the left leading to Havant on to the A27, briefly, and follow the signs to Hayling Island.
Follow the single lane road on to Hayling and take the first left past Mill Rythe School and drive to the centre of the seafront. Easy car parking is available the whole length of the beach.
If travelling from East or West on the A27(M), look for the slip road indicating Havant and Hayling Island and on to the well-signposted
to Hayling Island. Again turn left at the roundabout after Mill Rythe School. This brings you out central to the main beach.
‘Paige’s Fishing Tackle’ Colin and Jim, tel (023) 9246 3500. This is the only tackle shop on the island, but makes up for this with superb tackle stock and reasonable bait prices.
To find Paige’s, go straight on at the roundabout after Mill Rythe School on Hayling and take a right at ‘The Barleymow’ pub. Paige’s is 250 metres on the right.
Also, ‘Allan’s Marine’ in Twyford Avenue, Portsmouth. Allan and Nicky, tel (023) 9267 1833.
‘Rod ’n Reels Farlington’ at Havant Road, Farlington. Bob on (023) 9278 9090
‘Bennetts of Havant’ opposite ‘McDonalds’ (023) 9245 0700.
Each of these stores offer quality bait and tackle, but give them a ring for availability.
Hayling Island Angling Club – Des Burnell on (023) 92 468263
Tourist Information (023) 92 467111
There are numerous B&Bs and Caravan Camps, as well as larger hotels.
Five top tips
In the summer months make sure you have a spare spinning/feathers rod set up. Mackerel and bass can suddenly appear in front of you.
In calm, clear conditions, aim for distance. In rougher weather fish closer in. Sometimes the bass are only 10 – 30 metres out at the bottom of the shingle bank.
On very calm days in the summer, a heavy waggler (4 or 5 SSG shot) fished on a carp rod can give excellent sport with garfish, mackerel and the odd gurnard, bass, golden grey mullet and bream.
After a blow, when you see slipper limpets on the beach, fish half a dozen threaded zigzag style on a 2/0 hook to almost certainly produce fish.
If you keep having hooks cleanly nipped off, spider crabs are to blame. Try using two floating beads on each snood to keep your baits away from them.
Hayling is served by two fleets; one based at Southsea Marina and the other from Langstone Harbour. There are pontoons which are user-friendly on both sides of the harbour so make sure your skipper know which side you are going to. There is ample car parking at both pick-up points. Here are some boats I’d recommend:
‘Torbay Belle’, Dave Adams (023) 92 464256
‘Starfish’, Dave Chapman (023) 92 467332
‘Shogun’, Colin (023) 461636
‘Bessie Vee’, Spike Spears (023) 92 613243
‘Cobra’, Barry (023) 92 466635
‘Valkyrie’, Glen (023) 92 461717
Article by Adrian Farley