Ahoy me hearties!
Chasing pirate radio stations can be very exhilarating as they certainly offer the
die-hard DXer starved of action on the rapidly depopulating tropical bands and cramped mediumwave band.
What makes pirate DX interesting is that these stations often only operate on weekends when their radio inspectors are enjoying their days off or having a sleep in, rather than chase hobbyists generally causing little harm to established broadcasting services. I say “generally” as many of the bands that pirates use carry fixed utility services and some times a pirate is only chased and raided after complaints through official channels from utility stations
Pirate activity mostly occurs in Europe, North & South America. The Euro pirates are most commonly heard on our Sunday evenings and the majority around sunset on the 48 metre band (typically 6200 – 6310kHz), the 39 mb (7440 –7500kHz), around 9290kHz, below the 25 mb (11470 – 11490), the lower end of the 19mb (up tp 15070), the upper end of 19 mb (15795 & 15807 often used), and the 13mb (21700 – 21890kHz). The higher frequencies can be heard anytime from midday on through the evening. The 48 mb can also provide activity around Sunday & Monday sunrise.
Euro pirates tend to move around in frequency, often to avoid interference though also to add an element of elusion. Most of the Euro pirates broadcast from Germany, The Netherlands, England & Ireland and they are also excellent verifiers. Their format is very heavily pop music, often English Euro-pops even on continental stations. The best website for pirate radio information is Shortwave Pirates. It has addresses and lots of useful info.
US pirates are mostly heard Sunday evenings around sunset between 6900 and 6970kHz, in particular 6955kHz. Unfortunately, the US pirates are not as good as QSLing. Their programmes are often anti-establishment, with black parodies and alternative musical styles (acid rock, elevator music, even Gregorian chants!). A*C*E (Association of Clandestine Enthusiasts) runs a good web-site at http://freeradiocafe.com/ACE.php A lot of the US stations use amateur equipment designed for the 40 mb and as a result, many use USB mode. South Americans tend to be spread around and not heard as frequently. Check around 6880 and 11420 for activity on Sundays.
Very few of these stations provide anything near “arm-chair level” signals, they are often mixed with powerful utilities, have bad audio (a lot use home-brew equipment) and the frequency may be unstable. All of this makes them a real DX challenge! Many of these are below 100 watts yet they still make it down-under… Another thing, pirates are understandably reluctant to give their correct address over the air so many use “mail drops” essentially a sorting house for reports often run by a pirate radio sympathiser. This means that the address you hear may well give no clue at all as to the station’s location!