Saturday, April 28, 2018

Species Hunting on Cyprus.

Earlier this month I had a week's holiday in Protaras on the island of Cyprus with my partner Lillian. My fishing expectations weren't very high as before I went I had been warned that the fishing wasn't as good as other parts of the Mediterranean. The chances of catching something new including a lionfish were good though so I was excited about that prospect at least. I only took a small amount of ultra light tackle with me to fish two styles, light rock fishing and to do a bit of bait fishing too. I treated myself to a new reel prior to the trip and loaded it up with fresh braid.

My new Daiwa Fuego LT 2500 loaded with 0.3PE Sunline Small Game. Lovely.

I fished for an hour or so every day and as I had been forewarned overall the fishing was pretty tough. During the first session it soon became apparent that there were a few puffers around. I wouldn't have minded these so much if I'd caught a silver cheeked toadfish but instead all I caught was a puffer species I'd caught before whilst on holiday on Crete.

The yellow spotted puffer. A species that's originally from the Red Sea. Known as Lessepsian migrants they are named after Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat who proposed the building of the Suez Canal, the commercial waterway they use to make their way north to the Mediterranean.

Over the first few days pretty much all I caught was yellow spotted puffers, with just a solitary rainbow wrasse and a couple of small parrotfish managing to find my lures and bait before them. Most of the coast was extremely shallow and the water was incredibly clear too. I'm not sure if this had anything to do with the lack of fish but I soldiered on trying several different spots.

The coast looked great but there didn't seem to be many fish around. Fishing in the sun is still hard to beat even when you're not catching much..

Eventually trying new spots paid off when I found an area that held loads of fish. Unfortunately it was a series of ponds full of koi carp outside a sushi restaurant. How annoying!

I've been known to carry out covert fishing operations in corporate ponds in the past and I was slightly tempted to carry out a dawn raid but they were just too cute and friendly so I let them be.

Despite the seeming lack of fish in the sea the locals were out having a go almost everywhere we went which was slightly encouraging and as ever Lillian was very generous allowing me to fish whenever I thought there might be a chance of catching something. At Ayia Napa harbour we saw a few bluespotted cornetfish as we walked around so I got permission to try and catch one.

A local float fishing at the mouth of Aiya Napa Harbour with a very long pole.
A tourist fishing at the mouth of Aiya Napa Harbour with lures on an ultra light setup.

Fishing small curly tail soft plastics on a 2.3g #10 jighead quickly near the surface I soon had several elongated fish following and having a go at my lure. After several hits I hooked up with a couple of small barracuda and then after a quiet spell where the fish seemed to loose interest I caught a small bluespotted cornetfish, a truly bizarre looking fish and a very slimy one too. I was very pleased to catch my first new species of the trip.

My first ever bluespotted cornetfish.

Midway through our holiday I decided to use the depth charts on Navionics' website to some deeper water, something I probably should have done sooner to be honest. I located a mark with good depth close in down the coast towards Cape Greco and had a few sessions there in the evenings as it got cooler. I was hoping to catch a lionfish there but had no luck sadly. The mark was a bit more productive though and I caught quite a lot of combers. Mostly the common variety but I also caught a few painted comber too, with the odd Atlantic lizardfish and some more yellow spotted puffers taking my drop shotted scented lures too. I also hooked something a little larger that I suspect was a bream but it managed to throw the hook unfortunately so I didn't find out what it was.

A nice colourful painted comber.

On the morning of our final day on the island we stopped at a small harbour on our way to Larnaca so I could have a few final casts. Unsurprisingly it was full of yellow spotted puffers although I did manage to add a couple of goby species to my trip tally as well. I also spotted a small wrasse that I couldn't positively identify but the puffers and gobies were way more aggressive and repeatedly beat the wrasse to my bait. Just before we left to get some lunch I fished over a very shallow sandy area and was pleasantly surprised when I caught my second new species of the trip.

My first Red Sea goatfish, yet another Lessepsian migrant.

Incredibly I picked a restaurant for lunch that was right next to Larnaca harbour and as we had an hour or so to kill after we had eaten before having to make the short drive to the airport I got the green light for a few more final casts. This proven fruitful and saw me adding a few more species to my tally in the shape of a few rock gobies, some axillary seabream, a plain red mullet and a marbled rabbitfish. From under the shade of the pontoon I was fishing on I then caught my final new species of the trip, another little invader from the Red Sea.

I knew this was a cardinalfish but I had to do some Googling in the airport departure lounge to discover it was a pharaoh cardinalfish.

So the fishing had been tough but I still managed to catch seventeen species including three new ones which are in bold below. Also worth noting that just over a third of the species caught are Lessepsian migrants and I've underlined these below.
  1. Atlantic Lizardfish
  2. Axillary Seabream
  3. Black Goby
  4. Blue Spotted Cornetfish
  5. Bucchich's Goby 
  6. Common Comber
  7. Marbled Rabbitfish
  8. Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse
  9. Ornate Wrasse
  10. Painted Comber 
  11. Parrotfish
  12. Pharaoh Cardinalfish
  13. Plain Red Mullet
  14. Red Sea Goatfish
  15. Rock Goby
  16. Yellow Spotted Puffer
  17. Yellowtail Barracuda

So whilst we had an enjoyable holiday on the beautiful island of Cyprus I'm not sure I could recommend it for the saltwater shore fishing. I think if I were to return I'd have a go fishing in the islands freshwater instead.

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

When the boat comes in.

Last month I visited Dunbar to have a fun session targeting coalfish after dark. As well as shoals of coalfish there were a few velvet swimmer crabs paddling around near the surface and also some oddly shaped small fish. I recalled spotting one of these distinctive looking fish a few years ago and I had an idea then what they were. After seeing a few I set about trying to catch one to see if I was right but had no luck. Everytime I put a jighead near one it swam down out of sight and besides the 2.3g #10 jigheads I was using were probably too big! Since that session I've been back a few times armed with a 3g controller float, some tanago hooks and a couple of raw prawns to bait them up with to try to catch one. Last week during a session there were a few of these small fish around again and with a bit of patience I successfully moved my rig into position without spooking the largest of them. With a bit of very gentle twitching I had the fish showing a little interest and then it took one of the miniscule baits on my three hook rig. Worried about it coming off it was very quickly wound in and swung up to my hand before being unhooked and popped into a small clear plastic tub for some photographs.

My suspicions were correct. The fish was a hooknose, also known as a pogge or an armed bullhead.
It's an odd little fish that has a hard bony body and the underside of its head is covered in small barbules which it uses to search for food on the seafloor.

Looking at the fish I was a little puzzled as to what a bottom dwelling species was doing swimming around near the surface and I suspect these are being brought into the harbour on shrimp boats along with their haul before being thrown over the side as they sort out their catch. Pure speculation of course and really I wasn't too fussy about how they had found their way into Dunbar Harbour, it was just nice to catch my first new species of the year.  

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Most wanted : Cyprus.

I'm off to Cyrus in April for a week's holiday with my girlfriend Lillian. I'll be doing some fishing whilst there and as it's our first time on the island I've been investigating what species I'm likely to catch. As well as many Mediterranean species that I'm already familiar with there are a few odd looking invaders from the Red Sea that I may encounter. I first heard about two of these because my mate Dimitrios caught them when he fished there last year.

The rather bizarre looking bluespotted cornetfish...
...and the equally weird silver cheeked toadfish.

It's another invasive species however that I've decided to add to my "Most Wanted" target list and it's one that you may recognise because they are a very popular exhibit in many aquariums.

The lionfish. Both beautiful and dangerous, in amongst its long elaborate fins are eighteen venomous spines.
In red above are the spines to avoid. Thirteen in the first dorsal fin, one at the front of each pelvic fin and three at the front of the anal fin.

Most invasive species are not welcome but apparently lionfish are a most unwanted migrant because of the devastation they can cause when they move into a new environment. They have very few predators and can breed quickly, spawning as often as every four days. They are also a voracious predator, eating huge amounts of small fish and crustaceans. All this means they are extremely successful at colonising new territory at the expense of its native species. Over the last few years lionfish seem to have done exactly this along the south west coast of Cyprus which means there's a chance for me to catch one.

If I do catch any lionfish I'll obviously need to handle them extremely carefully and although I usually release the fish I catch I think I'll do my bit to reduce their numbers by keeping any landed, this decision has been made easier by the fact that they supposedly make a very tasty meal. So, I'm really looking forward to visiting Cyprus for the first time and perhaps catching and eating something a little different too.

Tight lines, Scott.