Friday, November 09, 2012

Battling against the elements in Jersey.

A few months ago I'd discussed a possible trip to Jersey with my friends Lee Goddard and Ross Johnson whom I first met over in Angelsey back in May at the North Wales Bumble. We decided to go and booked travel and accomodation and whilst they were driving down from Wales and taking the ferry, I was flying down via Gatwick arriving slightly earlier and leaving a day later. A week before we went the weather forecasts for our trip didn't look great but we tried to remain positive and were looking forward to fishing together again and having a laugh whatever mother nature would serve up!

The first day of the trip was last Thursday and after an early start to my journey and two fairly short flights I arrived on Jersey at 9:30. I jumped on a bus and headed into St Helier before catching a second one to Gorey, where the hostel we would be staying was located. On way there I had a text from Lee to say that their ferry had been cancelled due to the rough conditions and that hopefully they'd be on the next one at 5:30 following day. This wasn't great news but I knew at least they could do a spot of fishing to pass the time. Luckily for me I had arranged to meet fellow The Lure Forum member Martin Riddock who picked me up from near Gorey Castle and was good enough to show me a few places to fish near Gorey before dropping me off at the hostel. Before he left we agreed to meet up on Tuesday in the morning before I left as he fancied giving LRF a go.

Gorey Castle. My adventure would begin on the rocks at the back.
No it's not Jersey being nuked! Just a downpour in the distance. Wouldn't be the last either. Many of them hailstones!

After dumping my gear in the room I took my LRF gear and headed down to the back of Gorey Castle to start exploring. The wind and rain made things very difficult to fish the open sea though so I started exploring the rockpools. It wasn't long at all before I caught a rock goby. In the next rockpool a common blenny snaffled my Gulp! Sandworm. I worked my way around the rocks and soon caught another rock goby.

My first fish of the trip. A rock goby.
This Jersey blenny seemed rather shy compared to his Scottish cousins.

Then I spotted a nice rocky outcrop and started to make my way over to it. On the way there however I spotted some smaller gobies in a fairly large rectangular pool. I tied on a #26 hook and put on a tiny piece of pink Power Isome. After a bit of teasing I managed to hook one but it fell off as I lifted it from the water. I soon hooked another though and swung it up to my hand to discover it was a two spotted goby. I popped it back and kept trying in the hope that a new goby species might be in there for me and soon I caught another one. It had strange markings and certainly wasn't a common or two spotted goby. I began checking it and as soon as I inspected its first dorsal fin I realised it was in fact a tiny rock goby.

A bit like buses these two spotted gobies. I've started spotting them everywhere!
The smallest rock goby I've caught. Nothing escapes the #26 hooks!

Light was beginning to fade and I decided to head into St Helier to try around the marinas for scad. By the time I got there the wind was battering the place and heavy showers of hailstones were raining down. I tried in the Elizabeth Marina and also from the Albert Pier but apart from one or two strange bites near the bottom there was very little sign of any fish. Cold, wet and quite tired I called it a night and headed back to the hostel hoping that Lee and Ross would arrive soon so I wasn't going it solo for much longer.

On Friday morning I woke to find I had received a text from Lee during the night saying that they were on the boat over. They were due to arrive just after 10:00 but by 12:00 there was still no sign if them. I tried calling both of them but couldn't get them so I sent a text to say where I'd be and left a message with reception too. I walked down to the shore and just as I got down there and started climbing onto some rocks Lee rang me from the hostel to say they had popped into Mr Fish on the way and Ross would come down to pick me up. Together at last! After they'd told me about their nightmare crossing and how ill Lee had been we headed off to a mark to target giant gobies as Lee had never caught one before. It was a fairly slow start despite spotting some movement in a big rockpool the fish were very shy, hiding under large rocks and refusing to come out. Ross was first to get a fairly small one and then turned his attention to some tiny gobies he thought might be two spotted gobies. After exploring the area for a while I headed back to first pool. After a bit of patience and sticking my rod tip under a few rocks to deliver the Isome I managed to catch two giant gobies.

Giant gobies are the biggest of the U.K. goby species.
I popped it into a small rockpool to show the lads.

Then as I worked my way over to where Lee and Ross were I caught a smaller giant goby followed by a rock goby. Lee then managed to catch his first giant goby and was quite pleased. Ross had been busy still trying to find and catch smaller gobies but hadn't been successful. 

Not all giant gobies are giant!
After searching the area for a while Lee gets his first ever giant goby.

We then decided we'd had enough of the giant gobies and went to visit Mr Fish where we met the guys who work in the shop and had a chat. Lovely blokes and we could have chatted all night long! We were planning to target undulate rays that night and Ross wanted to scratch with smaller hooks to see what else was around in the hope of picking up something new. With ragworm, sandeel and squid purchased as well as a few lures and other bits and pieces off we went to Bouley Bay. I was fishing two bait rods and also intended to try a bit of LRF but bites started coming from the off. I caught a dogfish. Ross and Lee caught some as well but are not fans of the species due to them taking baits intended for other targets but I think they are nice fish and don't mind catching them at all. A short time later one of my rods started nodding again and I picked it up and struck, hooking the fish. It didn't feel like a big fish so I thought it may be another dogfish. It wasn't until it came into view we realised it was a small undulate ray. As I pulled it in over the rocks I caught my other line and pulled it in a fair distance. After taking some photos of the ray and putting it back I proceeded to sort out my second rod only to find I had a fish on it. Reeling it in I knew it was something small but to our surprise it was a topknot that had swallowed half of my sandeel wrapped in squid including a #4/0 hook!

Lee says he hates dogfish. Could have fooled me.
First new species of the trip and an absolute cracker too.
Strange yet beautiful markings are fascinating to look at.
Pure luck but I don't care!
A quite bizarre fish and my second new species of the trip.
One of my dogfish. I like them!

After the initial action packed start to the night it went quiet for a while apart from a group of Portuguese anglers who were huddled closely together at the corner of the breakwater catching squid. Ross caught a few pouting and I had a go for sand smelt in the harbour but they just weren't interested in my tiny pieces of Power Isome or ragworm. As the night progressed most of the Portuguese anglers drifted away but when only one remained he caught a big squid that must have been about 4lb. As we packed up all our gear I decided I'd like to try squiding on my LRF gear! A trip to Mr Fish would be required to buy some small jigs.

On Saturday morning we went into St Helier and headed to the Victoria Pier. I decided to drop shot Gulp! Sandworm sections. It was soon apparent that the spot we were fishing held a healthy goby population. I soon caught a few black and rock gobies. I also hooked a whiting which came of on the surface. This would have added to my lure caught tally for 2012 and it was the second time I've hooked one on a lure only to loose it on the surface. I then caught a small ballan wrasse and Ross had a couple of corkwing wrasse. Lee caught a few sand gobies. Another species he is less than fond of!

A black goby. Note the elongated first dorsal fin. A key identifying feature.
This small ballan made a nice change from gobies!
Male corkwing wrasse are very pretty fish.

In the early afternoon we headed to Mr Fish again to meet up with fellow species hunter Andy Marquis who'd made the trip over from the island of Guernsey to fish with us. Whilst in the shop we all got some LRF squid jigs. Lee still wasn't feeling 100% after being ill on the ferry and had a massive headache so we went back to the hostel so he could have a few hours sleep. Whilst Ross went to dig some lugworm, Andy and I fished from a rock at the back of Gorey Castle and had a chat about fishing. The spot looked quite promising with rocks and weed mixed with sandy areas. We were both drop shotting but there was little action apart from some persistent if tiny bites. These were fairly constant so we scaled down our hooks. Andy went to a #14 whilst I went even smaller and tied on a #20. The bites kept coming and because they felt a little strange we persevered to try and catch a culprit hoping for something odd. When I finally hooked one I was disappointed though to find out it was a sand goby.

Amazing that we could even feel their bites.

Ross returned at this point and he had a go for a two spotted goby for a bit in the rockpool where I had caught mine a couple of days earlier but after half an hour he admitted defeat. We went back up to hostel to find Lee up and feeling a bit better. Ross wanted to fish a rock mark for red mullet and sole which involved a bit of a climb and Lee didn't feel up to it and Andy suggested we could target scad instead so Lee and I went with him whilst Ross went off on his own. The three of us headed to mouth of the Elizabeth marina but it was way too windy so we headed back to Gorey to fish under the breakwater lights. No joy there though so we headed to Bouley Bay again. Fishing there was slow too. A few small pollock were caught and then I turned my attention to the sand smelt again. It took me a while but once I had my first another four soon followed. Lee then hooked a topknot but it escaped as he brought it to the surface. He was pretty gutted to say the least. We then had a go at squiding but had no joy. Even the small group of Portuguese anglers targeting them caught very few. A garfish then swam into the harbour but wasn't interested in the small metals I cast towards it. Lee caught a few more pollock but was still cursing his luck over the lost topknot. We called it a night about midnight and headed back to the hostel. When we got there Ross was already in bed sleeping. We wondered how he'd got on but would have to wait until the morning to find out.

Small pollock kept Lee busy on a tough night.
It took me a while to figure out how to get the sand smelt interested and biting before cracking it and catching my third new species of the trip

When we got up on Sunday morning Ross told us he'd had no luck with red mullet and sole and had instead caught a load of shore rockling, three bearded rockling and pouting. Andy had to leave early due to his ferry being cancelled and having to catch an earlier one so we thanked him for making the effort to come over and said goodbye, not before buying a load of drop shot leads from him though! We then headed to "White Rock" for three hours to try for bass and wrasse. Conditions were tough again but we had a go anyway. Despite it being very windy Ross caught two bass in quick succession and Lee managed a single ballan wrasse. I lost quite a bit of tackle to snags and Ross and I had a break whilst Lee seemed to be feeling a lot better and was enjoying his fishing for the first time.

One of Ross's rockling from the previous night.

White Rock on the north coast.
Lee's only reward for his efforts. We both had a few shy bites but this wrasse was a bit more aggressive.
Lee searches for more wrasse. Ross watches from the top of the hill.

Later that afternoon we had arranged to meet up with two well known anglers, Steve Mullins and Roger Mortimer, to dig some bait for another crack at red mullet. We met up with them at 2pm and after digging enough lugworm for the evening they took us to the first mark. Fishing was quite slow though and whilst Steve worked his way along the shore trying for bass on hard lures Roger who was also fishing a bait rod told us a few fishing stories to keep us entertained whilst we waited for bites. None were forthcoming however and when Steve returned we packed up and headed back to the cars. Roger had to go at this point but he said he could fish with us again in the morning which we happily said yes to. Steve took us to another mark and after we were set up he wished us luck and left us to it. Again the fishing was slow with no red mullet caught and only a few dogfish and pout saving us all from blanking. It was quite a nice evening though and we all agreed that whilst the days fishing had been tough we'd all enjoyed it!

Gorey Harbour as the tide goes out. Lugworm lookout!

On Monday morning we met up with Roger Mortimer again and had a spot of breakfast before going fishing. Whilst enjoying a bacon, sausage and egg roll we all listened to more of Rogers fishing stories. As well as being a great angler he's a lovely bloke and listening to him recall his fishing experiences was a real pleasure. Breakfast over off we went and were soon at the mark, a nice sheltered bay on the north east coast. Ross wanted another go for a red mullet and was fishing two bait rods. Roger was fishing one rod and was first to catch. A nice little bream. Meanwhile Lee and I were trying for wrasse down the sides but were having no luck so I tried drop shotting Power Isome a bit further out to try for a bream. Ross then hooked something and was ecstatic when he reeled it in to find a Baillon's wrasse had taken his lugworm bait.

Finally a new species for Ross. A nice fish too!
Pink lips and fins along with bright orange markings make Baillon's wrasse quite distinct.

I managed a couple of small pollock before the wind suddenly decided to swing round into the bay and it started raining heavily signalling a change of location. We said goodbye to Roger who had to head off to go to his work. He took a quick group photo of us before we climbed back up to the cars and went our separate ways.

Matching hoodies kindly given to us by Mick at Mr Fish.

Back in the car and both the headlamps on Ross's car had stopped working so we headed into St Helier to find a garage to get the problem looked at. After that was done we decided to have an hour or so down at Victoria Pier again to see what may turn up. We tried a new spot but apart from a small dragonet that Ross caught on a rather big lugworm bait the action was slow so we headed back round to the spot we'd fished before. I was hopeful of a whiting but once again the area was full of gobies. I caught nine black gobies and nine rock gobies before we decided to head up to Bouley Bay again so Lee could try for another topknot, I fancied a go at squiding, Ross's mate Dan Ferguson was going to join us and Ross was going to have a final go for red mullet. Whilst I waited for the Portuguese to start catching squid I drop shotted the inside of the harbour to see what may turn up. Lee and I managed a few small pollock and the Portuguese were having very little success squiding so we decided to join Ross and Dan on the rocks. When we got over there Ross said there were some small fish in some of the rockpools so we went to have a closer look. I was pretty sure they were gobies and also that they were a species I'd never seen or caught before. Out came the #26 hooks and Ross and I soon had caught one each on tiny chunks of pink Power Isome. Inspecting them closely I was sure they were painted gobies due to the blue markings on their dorsal fins. A new species for both of us.

You can't see the colours on the dorsal fin in this photo but I didn't have my observation tank with me!

Soon it was time for Ross and Lee to head off to catch their ferry and as I was staying the night and flying home the following evening Dan, who has caught several conger over 30lb, suggested he and I head off to try for one with also the chance of some rays turning up. After saying goodbye to Ross and Lee we jumped in Dan's van and headed north. After a short walk we arrived and set up three bait rods. Fishing one large bait for conger and two smaller baits for rays the action was pretty non stop. A steady stream of bites and you can probably guess which species was responsible! First cast saw two dogfish hooked on a pennel rigged double snadeel bait.

First cast. Two dogfish on one bait. A first for me.

This would set the scene and ten dogfish in total were caught. A single pouting made a nice change and a fresh conger bait but towards the end of the session I caught a lovely ray. At first sight I though it was a spotted ray but it was actually a small blonde ray.

My second ray of the trip and my fifth new species.
Another beautiful shark species. I may be "Talkin' about sharkin'!" more often in the future.

I must say that Dan was very generous with his time, effort and bait, was happy to let me do most of the fishing and helped me enormously by rebaiting the hooks as the resident dogfish munched their way through everything we cast out. After a climb back to the car that seemed a lot steeper than the climb down Dan drove me back to the hostel.

Tuesday morning and after sorting out my stuff I was picked up by Martin and we headed off for a spot of LRF. The wind had dropped slightly and it was a reasonably sunny day. Having had the most success at Victoria Pier we headed there and after explaining drop shotting to Martin and setting up his rod we were soon fishing the bottom in search of gobies. It wasn't long before I caught a few and after missing a few bites and switching to a slightly smaller hook Martin had soon caught his first ever rock goby. After just over an hour or so of catching gobies we decided to try some small metals for an hour at another part of the pier but this didn't produce any action. Martin had to head to work and kindly dropped me off at Mr Fish on his way. I think Martin may have caught the LRF bug and hopefully next time I visit Jersey we can fish together again.

I had a further two hours to kill before catching my bus to the airport so I left the majority of my stuff in the shop and after a bit of advice from one of the guys headed for a bite to eat before trying my luck for flounders from a long concrete waste pipe that runs out into the bay. I started at the end and worked my way back to the shore but the water was a bit cloudy and I didn't have any luck. I collected my gear from Mr Fish and began my journey home five species better off.

Whilst the weather really made the fishing difficult and at times painfully slow I still enjoyed the trip and it was nice to spend time with the lads again. Ross's previous trips helped us locate some fish and the helpful advice from the guys at Mr Fish and a few local anglers also played a huge part in us making the most of our time on Jersey. I'll be back for sure and I know you can't predict the weather but I think next time I'll go in the summer!

Tight lines, Scott.

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