Wednesday, July 17, 2013

South Coast Fishathon Part 2 : Cornwall.

On Wednesday the 2nd of July at about 16:00 I arrived in Mevagissey, my base for the next four days. After dumping some of my stuff in the B&B I headed down to the harbour to fish. I could see that the outer harbour breakwater looked very busy so I started fishing inside the harbour using my ultra light gear and ragworm for bait. There didn't seem to be many fish around and the first bite I got resulted in a common blenny being hooked, landed and quickly returned to the gully it came from.

The view from my B&B. Mevagissey Harbour is a bit of a species mecca and can turn up all sorts.

Heading around to the outer harbour wall it wasn't nearly as busy as I thought and I found a space to fish directly above some kelp beds with a few sandy gaps in between them. Dropping my bait down on a drop shot rig into these gaps soon saw a ballan wrasse being landed, the first of many over the next few hours.

First fish out was a small dark brown ballan wrasse.

Also present in abundance were poor cod and I started catching lots of them too. Switching to small sections of white Gulp! Sandworm did not seem to slow down the action so I decided to fish further up the wall close into a band of weed there to try and catch something different. I switched over to a split shot rig and this resulted in three nice corkwing wrasse being caught as well as a couple of ballan wrasse and a couple of small pollock.

Lots of poor cod around.
Fishing further up the wall close to the band of kelp produced some corkwing wrasse.
Another nice ballan wrasse.
This small pollock was caught on a section of white Gulp! Sandworm.

I then wanted to fish hard on the bottom to try and catch some dragonets. I was keen to catch them both because they would add to my species tally and also because I was keen to have a good look at them and try and establish if they were common or reticulated dragonets. Going to the spot where I had caught them last year I set up a simple running ledger using a mini boom I made to prevent tangles as the rig dropped to the bottom.

I wanted to switch to fishing hard on the bottom and made this little boom by crimping a 7g lead onto some rig tubing.

After catching a couple of long spined sea scorpions I caught my first two dragonets of 2013. Inspecting them though and using the key identifying features of both species unfortunately left me not much further forward in deciding which species they were!

One of the long spined sea scorpions I caught from the bottom close in at the base of the wall.
A dragonet but which variety? Common or reticulated? Despite doing a fair amount of research into the differences between the two species, after doing some checks I was a little confused. Whilst most of my checks pointed towards them being common dragonets the spines on the gill covers pointed towards them being reticulated dragonets.
Common dragonets are supposed to have a forth spine pointing forward. The dragonets I caught only seemed to have three all of which were pointing back which is what a reticulated dragonet has. Further research upon my return would solve this problem and I now believe them to be common dragonets.
Addition #5 to my 2013 species tally.

Species identification headaches aside, pretty soon I had caught over fifty fish yet most of the other anglers seemed to have caught very little. Whilst I was paying little attention to what they were doing I think most of them had been trying to catch mackerel and obviously there weren't many around because by about 20:00 they had all given up, packed up and left leaving me to fish the breakwater on my own. This ordinarily would have been nice but at this point I decided to head up the coast to visit the rockpools at Spit Point to have another hunt for Montagu's blenny.

Mackerel not in. No one else seemed to be catching much and they all left one by one which meant I had the place to myself for a brief period. 

Looking at Spit Point on Google Maps it didn't really seem obvious where to park as there was a golf course and a large industrial harbour behind the area I wanted to fish. Upon arrival I parked the car in a disused part of the harbour, forced my way up some overgrown stairs before climbing over a fence to get myself onto the coastal path that led down to the beach. When I reached the beach it looked to have a reasonable amount of rockpools and I began searching them.

A disused concrete installation reminded my of the ones on Cramond Island back home.
Plenty of rockpools but light was fading already.

Unfortunately there was no sign of any fish at all and feeling quite uncomfortable having left the car where I had and with light fading fast I called it a night and headed off. Montagu's blenny had evaded capture yet again! With hindsight I should perhaps have went up there earlier but due to enjoying the fishing at Mevagissey I had forgotten the principal reason for my trip, hunting species that would add to my annual tally or even better be new to me. This is an easy trap to fall into as a species hunter!

Thursday morning I had breakfast and headed south west to resume my search for Montagu's blenny, this time at mark on the Penzance coastline where I had been reliably informed they were resident. It was quite a miserable start to the day and the view east from my fishing spot towards St Michael's Mount was rather less breathtaking than it usual is.

Normally a very scenic view sadly ruined by an overcast sky and light drizzle.
The cold grey conditions didn't seem to put off this swimmer though!

Well the area certainly held lots of blennies. In just over an hour I caught fifteen but all of the common variety. Blennies can breath out of water so I kept them out of the rockpools I caught them from before returning them each time I moved to a new one to eliminate the possibility of repeat captures of the same fish. It was amazing how quickly they all changed their colour from quite dark to a very light shade.

Blenny identity parade. The suspect was not amongst them unfortunately.

The area I was searching didn't have that many rockpools sadly and with half an hour or so left on my car park ticket I decided to have a quick fish in a nearby harbour to see what would turn up. I could see a few mullet grazing on the hulls of the boats but experience told me that casting towards them would probably have resulted in much frustration as they ignored my efforts. Dropping a piece of Isome mounted on a drop shot rig down the side of a large vessel instead I soon felt a few little taps and caught a small goldsinny wrasse. Heading back towards the car park I decided to try one last spot before leaving and found a small area that held a lot of black gobies. I caught seven in ten minutes before heading back to the car. Most of them having the very distinctive elongated ray on the first dorsal fin which is more prominent during breeding season.

Several of these little Penzance Pirates tried to steal my lure.

I then headed north to St Ives to hopefully quickly catch a lesser weever before trying to catch a garfish from the rocks at the back of St Ives Island. Whilst the drive was fairly short the change in the weather was quite incredible and after parking the car, applying some factor 30 and walking down to the harbour I was on some steps fishing onto the golden sand enjoying the glorious sunshine. First drop down and it was job done on a small piece of ragworm. I then switched to a piece of white Gulp! Sandworm and caught a second. Despite what some folk would have you belive about sea scorpions the weever is the only poisonous fish found in UK waters. The spines on the black dorsal fin and on the gill covers can deliver a nasty sting but despite this I decided to man up and actually handled them. Last year I used forceps to unhook and handle them. At this point it would have been easy to spend an hour or so catching lots of the poisonous little fish but I decided to head over to the back of St Ives Island to try for garfish.

Handle with care!
Addition #6 to my 2013 species tally.

It didn't take me long to get onto the rocks and I was soon flicking my new favourite metal, the cheap yet very effective Yoshikawa Jig, out some distance before working it back fairly quickly in the top few feet of the water. After a few casts I felt a few little bumps and decided to add a few pauses to my retrieve. I was glad I did because just after one such pause I hooked and quickly landed my first new species of the trip, a launce. Another cast five minutes later produced a second even larger specimen.

Greater sandeels (launce) eat lesser sandeels and can often be seen swimming below shoals of them picking them off.
Easy to see why they would attack this small metal.
New species #1 and addition #7 to my 2013 species tally.

I carried on fishing to try and get my first garfish but I had arranged to meet up with local lure angler Luke Fox that evening and had to drive east to Fowey where we would be fishing. Just as I arrived I bumped into another local lure angler Josh Fletcher, who won last years Cornish Lure Festival species hunt, and his mate Ben and whilst waiting for Luke to arrive we went down to fish from a small wall at the side of Fowey estuary. There weren't many fish around though apart from a few blennies and when Luke arrived he and I headed off on our own to a rock mark at the mouth of the estuary. Getting there was a bit of a hike up over a hill and then a fairly steep climb down a rock face onto the mark below.

Fowey estuary, another Cornish species mecca.
Did we just climb down there? Luke referred to this type of climb as a near death experience. I'm no adrenaline junkie but it certainly gets the heart going and the buzz you get is quite exciting.

Safely down on solid rock we both started off targeting wrasse on lures but to begin with bites were pretty much non existent. I then switched from lures to ragworm and it didn't take long for me to catch a couple of corkwing wrasse from the kelp in front of me very close in.

A nice example of a female corkwing wrasse. Often not as colourful as a male and can easily be mistaken for a small ballan wrasse. Note the dark spot on the centre of the tail root though.

Luke had moved around the rocks and was fishing across towards a small bay where he caught a small bass and some small pollock so I jumped over to where he was, quickly tied on a metal and was soon into a few pollock as well. Luke then went back to targeting wrasse and caught a nice green and orange ballan.

A happy angler. This was what Luke came for.

After a few more pollock I turned my attention to a rockpool that had appeared as the tide had receeded and amused Luke by catching a few fairly chunky blennies from it. We then climbed back up and headed to another spot further up the estuary. It was a nice little harbour and we fished down the inside wall and caught loads of long spined sea scorpions. I also caught a couple of ballans, the first time I've caught them at night although there was a light above us which may explain this. It was a really relaxed evening and we had a good laugh, chatting away and when it was time to call it a night I agreed to meet up with Luke on Saturday morning to do some more wrassing.

On Friday morning I decided to head off and have one final go for Montagu's blenny and chose to explore the rockpools at Sennen Cove. I went there last year but only spent an hour or so exploring and from memory there were quite a few big deep rockpools there so off I went.

The sea was battering the offshore reef but it was nice and comfortable fishing on the rocky shore.

Unfortunately Montagu's blenny was not to be found again and I only managed to catch a couple of long spined sea scorpions and a few common blennies from what looked like rockpools that should have held a lot more fish.

The same two species I caught at Sennen Cove last year too.

With no sign of any other species after over an hour of poking around I decided to call time on my hunt for Montagu's blenny and headed south to try for garfish again. Fishing beneath the Minack Theatre had been suggested to me by a tackle shop owner but speaking to Luke the night before he thought it would be better fishing from Logan Rock to the east of it so that's what I did. I parked the car at Treen and walked down to the mark. Crossing a few fields I was soon greeted with stunning views to the west of Porthcurno beachs and the Minack Theatre.

Wow! Simply stunning.
Logan Rock. The flat ledge down next to the water caught my eye so I headed around Logan Rock towards it and figured out a way down.
Mind the gap. Access down from the top via this crevice was fairly straight forward.

Once I got down it became apparent that fishing form the bottom platform may not be a great idea. Waves were smashing into the rocks in front of me and coming up over it. I decided to stay on the next platform up above it and this was still an awesome place to fish from. Using my Yoshikawa Jig again I worked the top few feet of the water and soon hooked a fish but I knew straight away that it wasn't a garfish.

I was getting good at catching Launce on the Yoshikawa Jig.

A short while later I hooked a big fish close in which immediately started stripping line. It came off after about five seconds though and I would guess it was big pollock probably. Keen to explore other spots I headed back up an continued working my way around the rock looking for other areas I could access. I spotted a nice bay on the southern side and climbed down to it. After fan casting across the bay a few times in search of garfish without success I then worked the lure a bit deeper over the kelp beds next to the rocks on my right and was soon catching pollock.

Another good spot that involved a bit of climbing. Worth it though.
Casting fairly close to the rocks on the right I soon hooked a few small pollock.
Good fun on my ultra light gear.

A small boat went past and the occupants looked quite surprised to see me where I was and gave me a wave which I happily returned. I then climbed up again and went down the eastern side. This was by far the easiest place to get down to and I had a couple of chucks there but time was getting on and I wanted to go and meet up with Jake and his mate Dan. On the way back up to the top I was met by the ponies who are resident on Logan Rock. They do a fine job of keeping the grass trimmed.

Who needs a lawn mower?

I drove back to Mevagissey and met up with Jake, Dan and Dan's girlfriend Krystal who were beavering away in full competition mode on the harbours outer wall. They told me that the fishing had been very slow which I found quite surprising given the session I had enjoyed a couple of nights earlier. I joined in and only managed to catch one poor cod. A stark contrast to my last session there and we were perplexed as to the reason why as the conditions and tidal state were very similar. We then went over into the inner harbour and Dan caught a goldsinny wrasse. I decided to try fishing on the bottom but the only thing I managed to catch was the gutted and filleted remains of a large ling. Jake brought his landing net over which promptly fell apart when he tried to lify the carcass up the harbour wall. A good job it did this with the remains of a ling in it and not a potential competition winning fish I told him. Luckily he was able to climb down a ladder and retrieve the net and my fish.

Disgusting. Dan helps me hold the rotten remains.

After this quite bizarre catch and a quick release for the harbours crabs to enjoy we decided to head off for some food and meet up a bit later up on nearby Vault Beach to try for bass.

Vault Beach at dusk.

When we arrived it was dusk and the tide was pretty much fully out. The water was full of weed and after a few cast it became pretty obvious we were going to struggle to catch anything. Jake, Dan and Krystal had fished the rockpools at the end of the beach earlier the previous day and decided to try there instead. I wasn't keen on fishing there in the dark though so I wished them luck in the species hunt and headed back to the B&B.

On Saturday morning I met with up with Luke and off we went in search of some wrasse. After a bit of a walk we were soon looking down a rather steep slope towards the spot we intended to fish. At the bottom Luke told me we had another near death experience waiting for us.

Going down wasn't too bad. Coming up was a killer!
Another near death experience as promised. Luke loves them I think. Particularly if they involve cliffs and ropes.

When we eventually got down the mark looked superb. Crystal clear deep water close in and a few kelp beds and boulders to explore. Despite the fact we were there to target wrasse though I started off by trying for garfish but all I managed to catch was a succession of small pollock.

Once down there it looked wrassy.
Very wrassy!
Very pollocky too!. Every time my metal passed a kelp bed these little pollock would attack it.
All that sea to fish and Luke drops down the side. Best place to try for a wrasse.

Luke caught a few wrasse and then hooked a big one and called over for help landing it. I ran over the rocks and grabbed his net and got it ready. Soon safely in it the wrasse was a cracker, a beautiful dark brown and orange specimen with turquoise spots on its fins.

What a beast. Luke caught it on one of the Lunker City Ribsters in watermelon I gave him.
At 51cm this was a potential Cornish Lure Festival longest wrasse competition winning ballan for Luke.

Seeing this fine wrasse I quickly decided to forget about garfish for the time being and switched to wrassing too. After a few missed bites I had soon got into the action and my first ballan of the session put a rather big bend into my rod and almost made it into the rocks before I finally bullied it up from the depths and landed it. Not as big as Lukes but still another rather portly dark brown fish with lime green spots and an orange and white underbelly. A big plump set of juicy lips too.

My new Nories Flatfish Program Rough Surf 88, Daiwa Caldia reel and 20lb Sunline Castaway setup christened very nicely.
Lovely Cornish wrasse!

Both very happy with the two big wrasse we'd caught we kept fishing and Luke proceeded to pull out a few more ballans. I meanwhile was getting plenty of bites but they seemed to be a bit half hearted and I struggled to connect with them until I finally hooked my second wrasse of the session much to the delight of a racing pigeon who had taken a much easier route to the mark than we had and was perched watching us fish.

Our new feather friend sat and watched us wrassing for a while.

By this point a few hours had passed and with Luke keen to head to Mevagissey to try and catch a few species for the Cornish Lure Festival species hunt we bit the bullet and started to make the killer climb back up to the top before getting our breath back as we walked back to our cars. I really enjoyed fishing with Luke and wished him luck in the various competitions he was taking part in that weekend before I said goodbye and began the drive to Dorset for the third part of my south coast fishathon. I had a very early start the following day so when I arrived in Weymouth I quickly grabbed something to eat, checked into my B&B, set my alarm for 02:30 and had an early night.

Tight lines, Scott.

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