A proper night dive at Knacker hole

Finally after a few attempts a planned weekend diving was going to happen, although with the sea conditions due to worsen making Saturday a dry day it wasn’t going to be quite the wreck-fest that I had planned.

With one thing and another, well basically not trusting the forecast that things would improve on Sunday I thought that it was imperative that we got in on Friday night and it was night and a real night dive, and the darkness combined with prevailing conditions of rising swell and rain making rocks wet and slippery the only option was Knacker Hole at Beadnell, or more accurately the only safe option was Knacker Hole!

We were diving on an ebbing tide, probably from an hour from top of the tide and didn’t dive an hour but nevertheless it was a very interesting dive. The vis? Well with a torch I would say around 4m but only after we had moved out of the shallows where the vis was adversely impacted by the fresh water which was carrying a little silt and running into the site in gallons from the culvert which drains local fields into the sea at Knacker Hole.

As we were diving in tandem and I had little faith in Cams dive torch, well I say dive torch, it was a torch in a dry-bag and for that reason I limited things to a maximum depth of around five meters, however even at this restricted depth there was still water ingress into the damp bag, oh and before people pooh-pooh a dive in such shallow water there is always plenty to see in our shallow seas and the night brought out other animals.

I think that I had previously mentioned that normally you only really see flounder and topknot when you go on a daylight flatfish hunt but during the night you get large numbers of plaice moving in, probably from deeper water, or more accurately slightly deeper water, many moons ago when I was keener in fishing between dives you could always catch a few good size plaice from deeper water at Beadnell Bay, typically areas where it was around fourteen meters deep. I must say that I rarely, if ever dive in the 10m to 20m depth range, it’s too deep for a shore dive, you’d have a bloody long swim, there aren’t a huge amount of wrecks at that depth and being honest I wouldn’t tend to go out half a mile in the boat, throw in an anchor and roll overboard, perhaps I will but that is more driven by scallops, we shall see. So there were lots of plaice with quite a few being of a size where I did think about picking them up, trouble was that they were actively hunting so when you got your hand within an inch of their head they were off, and I don’t like skewering flatties as it damages the flesh. As well as the plaice tonight there were several hand-size turbot, now turbot are a different proposition to plaice and I have seen a biggie this year at Howick, but to see so many on this site was encouraging. Turbot tend to be more active predators of small fish and fry so don’t directly compete with plaice and the like that will also take fry but do rather like worms and small crustaceans.

Finally on the fish front it was odd not to spot any dogfish or huss, although I am sure that they were about but this was more then made up by spotting quite a few conger eel. In the shallower water they were typically smaller than those situated just off Black Top Rock but those in crevices were probably around 3lbs in weight whilst the one which was out swimming will have been just shy of 2lbs I reckon.

Before we started Cam had admitted to not catching lobsters before, well tonight he was able to fill his boots, the conditions were a bit wishy-washy at times but this swell action meant that the detached seaweed that you usually find in huge amounts was ‘gone’, I don’t think it has been washed up so its probably just been shifted to slightly deeper water but it meant that there was nowhere for walking fiends to hide when spotted and there were walking fiends everywhere, hundreds of them. My first reaction was positive, of all the lobsters I saw one with no nippers which might have suffered from the attention of an amateur lobster whisperer but the rest were intact with good sized nippers. But on the scragging front it was one of those days where you picked a bag of the largest and then chose the biggest at the end of the dive and he was more than happy with the results on the foraging front.

It was interesting looking at the reeflet where the weed had shifted as the stone was stained black to a height of about one foot, with the staining of both the rock and indeed the sand which was the sea-bed being caused by the rotting weed giving off relatively large amounts of Hydrogen Sulphide. I must say that I have never noticed this noxious gas when diving any site other than the Haven at Beadnell where there is a dead-zone maybe ten meters wide where you can taste the gas through your regs.

As a foraging aside with so many blue fiends out and about its important to either watch where you intend kneeling when bagging a lobster or retain neutral buoyancy and keep off the bottom as your typical walking lobster doesn’t take kindly to a leg landing close to it and will take a good hard nip before zipping off in disgust, Cam you have been warned!

As is usual for our sites there were large numbers of velvet swimming crabs and whilst I didn’t bother and never have, taking any for the pot I am reliably informed by my buddy that if you take half a dozen they do make a reasonable meal, although with thinner shells you do get odd bits of shell splinter in the meal. Maybe I shall give them a go, certainly they are popular on the continent where they form the base of ‘fish’ stock when they are cooked, liquidised and strained.

There were the usual late evening Sand Smelt in the very shallow water, the depth where you are looking to stand up, and whilst not shoaling in the normal meaning of the word there were lots of them and they are relaxed in staying in the torch-beam. I am sure that these small fish are a food to some fish but the only fish we saw that would have made a meal of a Sand Smelt was a reasonable size Saithe that was also mooching about in shallow water, now I know that these baitfish are about then next summer I will make an effort to catch a couple and then float fish them as live-bait during the early hours of the night as I do think that if there are good-size bass in the area then that would be they way to catch one.

Whilst not odd I did notice that of the half dozen hen lobsters I picked up all were egg free and not squidgy, at the time I thought it was just one of those things as I usually find a good third of the hen lobsters I extract are berried and therefore put back into their hidey hole. When I was taking my fins off with my torch dangling down I noticed that the top few inches of water were home to huge numbers of tiny, free swimming ‘baby’ lobsters, they were translucent so obviously they had not been long hatched, and it maybe gave an explanation as to why there were no signs, in my very limited sample size, of berried hen lobsters.

And finally I did spot and pick up a couple of lost fishing weights, but Cam had the best found then lost moment, when he picked up a dive watch/computer but he dropped it when getting nipped by a blue fiend, so it’s out there somewhere in Knacker Hole.

Dive safe


Weight this dive – 0.3kg

Weight this year – 833.0 kg

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