Saturday, August 31, 2013

Three is a magic number.

Reviewing my list of potential target new species back in July I noted that I could catch a few from the waters around the Mull of Galloway so I booked the services of skipper Spike and his boat "Go West" for a trip in late August. I've been out with Spike before and I knew another day out with him would be a great way for me to enjoy a day boat fishing whilst getting the opportunity to target a few new species. When I made the booking the three species I thought I could realistically hope to catch for the first time were red gurnard, tub gurnard and tope. I caught a tope whilst over on Jersey since then so a bull huss was promoted into the top three of my new species hitlist for the day. Having gone ahead and booked the trip I had to try and get a few of my mates to come along! A text was sent out and my mates Nick and Naz replied saying they'd love to join me.

On Wednesday morning at 05:00 Nick picked Naz and I up and off the three of us went. Stopping in Stranraer on the way for breakfast I received a text from Spike to say we'd be fishing in Luce Bay due to the north westerly winds. Launching from Port Logan and fishing in the Irish Sea is probably better for species hunting but Spike reassured me we'd still be able to target a few different things and we soon arrived at Drummore where we'd be launching from. Spike was already there and after loading our gear onto the boat we were ready to launch.

A rather old and very rusty tractor is used to launch and retrieve the boats.

Soon fishing not far from shore, we made a few drifts to catch some mackerel to use as bait. A small box was soon full and we headed further out into the bay to target tope. Four baits were soon on the bottom and I was quite content to let Naz and Nick have any runs that happened on the two tope rods I had as neither of them had caught one before. I meanwhile fished a third rod with a two up rig to try and catch a few gurnards on mackerel baits. I opted to use #4 Sakuma Chinu hooks on the short 15cm snoods. I decided to try snelling these on to try and improve hook up rates. I soon caught a couple of dogfish and then Naz got a few knocks on his tope rod and caught his first bull huss. A good sign and when Nick caught one too I was confident that I would get one as well.

Naz's first bull huss.
A nice feisty bull huss for Nick too.

I then caught a double shot of grey gurnard, my first of the year. I handed them to Naz so I could get my camera and whilst I did that he put them both back. Just as well they weren't the red or tub variety! Luckily I caught a few more grey gurnard before it was my turn to catch a bull huss.

My third grey gurnard of 2013.

Busy catching gurnards, hoping that a red or tub would show up, I wasn't really paying attention to my other two rods and didn't spot one of them gently nodding away. As it was obviously not a tope Spike handed me the rod, the fish was already on and I wound it in. It didn't fight very much but I was still pleased to get my first new species of the trip.

I'm talkin' about sharkin'! Again.

We carried on fishing for tope, periodically changing our baits and increasing the amount of lead we had on as the tide started to pick up. I caught a few more grey gurnards and Nick had a second bull huss. After seven or eight more grey gurnard I caught a red gurnard, my second new species of the trip which I was very pleased about as they are the least common of the gurnard species in the area.

My second new species of the day, a red gurnard.

After about four hours with no tope runs we decided to head off to fish over a reef. The target there was pollock and we switched over to fishing soft plastics using light lure rods. There were plenty around and over the next couple of hours we caught and released about sixty between the three of us. Nick caught the biggest one and it really tested his light gear but he was able to bully it out of the kelp below the boat after some sustained pressure.

Naz's took this pollock on a Savage Gear Sandeel.
The biggest pollock boated.

The skipper then told us that despite fishing there for almost fifteen years he wasn't sure if the mark we were over held any wrasse so he dropped down my two up rig baited with small pieces of rag worm. Two ballan wrasse in quick succession soon cleared the matter up. Nick and I switched over to the same rig and caught a few wrasse too before we headed to our final mark where Spike told us we had a good chance of catching tub gurnards and also smoothhounds.

Once there Nick decided to ledger some crab to try and tempt a smoothhound and I focused on trying to catch a tub gurnard. Naz decided to lob out a small mackerel flapper to try and tempt any passing bass despite Spike warning him he'd more than likely catch dogfish on it. Having caught thirteen gurnards throughout the day on my two up rig, for some reason that looking back I can't quite explain, I decided to try a different approach and switched to mackerel strips fished on a two down running ledger setup. Spike meanwhile fished with one of my two up rigs baited with ragworm and when he caught the first tub gurnard of the day using it I quickly switched back and did the same! Time was running out though but when I got a decent bite I connected with the fish and it was the one I was hoping for.

My first tub gurnard was in lovely condition. A quite beautiful fish I'm sure you'd agree.

With only ten minutes to go I wanted to catch more of them but a shoal of mackerel arrived which made it hard for me, Naz as predicted by Spike had caught a couple of dogfish, Nick's crab hadn't attracted the smoothhounds and soon we wound our lines up for the last time to head back to port. Making a start to breaking down gear and tidying up the deck of the boat whilst Spike lifted the anchor he showed us some odd crustaceans that had been hanging on to it.

Woof woof. Who put the dog baits out?

How bizarre! Is it a juvenile spider crab perhaps?
"Go West" anchored just off shore waiting to be put back on her trailer.

Soon back on shore we packed our gear into Nick's car and thanked Spike before making the drive back up the road. It had been a long day and we were all quite tired although Naz, who had been up quite late the night before, was clearly more tired than Nick and I and slept most of the way home.

Naz does a good impression of a pollock whilst making sounds like a gurnard.

The three of us really enjoyed our day out in Lace bay. It was a great day's fishing in good company and whilst it was slightly disappointing not to get any tope runs all three of us caught some nice fish and I got three new species in one day. Snelling my hooks certainly seemed to improve my hook up ratios and used in combination with the Chinu hooks I can't recall any fish that weren't nicely hooked in the mouth either so that's another little positive from the trip and I'll carry on snelling my hooks from now on. Spike is a top skipper and the three of us are already talking about booking his services again next year although we may go earlier in the tope season when there are more around. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, August 30, 2013

I caught ninety nine fishes and a viviparous blenny was one.

I thought I was going to get away from work yesterday but when a colleague went home early due to feeling ill that was knocked on the head. I had planned to head down to the borders last night to target three bearded rockling but finishing at 17:00 I decided to make the shorter journey to Dunbar and try in the harbour for a viviparous blenny instead. I knew that getting through the resident coalfish would be tough and it was made even tougher when I arrived and realised that I'd thrown my reel in the bag minus its handle! Oops. Despite this I rigged up a running ledger rig, snelled on a #6 Sabpolo Wormer hook, baited it with a chunk of raw prawn and still managed to catch a coalfish on my first drop and pretty much every drop after it. Spinning the bail arm round by hand to retrieve line was a royal pain in the backside and it was really slowing me down. In amongst twenty one coalfish I caught a common blenny and a long spined sea scorpion.

There are hundreds if not thousands of these ravenous little coalfish in Dunbar harbour.
Reassuring to know that other species could occasionally muscle through the coalfish to get to my bait.

At this point I was getting slightly annoyed with my disfunctional setup and if I wanted to speed up and get through the coalfish I had to get a reel with a handle so I sent a text to my mate Nick who lives in Dunbar close to the harbour to see if I could borrow one from him. He told me I could have his son's Shimano Nexave 1000 loaded with 8lb braid. Perfect I told him. What a life saver! I quickly went off to meet him and picked it up. When I got back down to my spot a boat had returned to the harbour and a large seal was being fed a few mackerel. I hoped its presence would get rid of some of the coalfish and make targeting the bottom feeders easier but it didn't have the desired effect.

Sammy the seal isn't shy and is a big lazy bugger too. He's clearly used to being hand fed and doesn't waste his time chasing down coalfish anymore it would seem!

I set up my gear again and was soon ledgering raw prawn on the bottom once more, if it got down that far that is! After coalfish number sixty nine I caught a second long spined sea scorpion followed by a tiny pollock. Then after three more coalfish I hooked a slightly larger fish that tried to tear off into the weed on the harbour wall. I managed to stop it getting stuck in there though and swung it up the harbour wall to discover it was a nice short spined sea scorpion. A very nice bonus reward for my efforts.

A bit bigger than the last two I caught and easily identified this time.

Thinking that I may not get my target blenny yet again despite catching over seventy fish I decided that I would leave once I had caught ninety nine fish as I thought it would make for an amusing post title. After a few more coalfish I felt a bite that definitely wasn't a coalfish and I let it develop for a few seconds before lifting into it. Like the short spined sea scorpion I knew I had hooked something slightly larger and more powerful than the coalfish I had been catching and when the long eel like fish appeared from the depths I got rather excited, carefully brought it to the surface and quickly swung it up the harbour wall into my hand.

At long last a viviparous blenny! My 50th saltwater species of the year.
A slippery customer indeed and quite hard to handle.

I did a little celebration jig, admired the fish for a bit before giving it a kiss and returning it. It was quite a buzz and moments like that are what I enjoy most about species hunting. Over the moon I sent a text to some of my angling mates to let them know my good news. I carried on fishing for another thirty minutes or so until I had caught a total of ninety three coalfish giving me my total of ninety nine fish so I could still have my Jay-Z-esque post title, even if I had to change it slightly, which I obviously was very happy about! I packed up with a huge smile on my face and Nick popped down to get his son's reel back, congratulated me and asked me what was next. Hmmmm. Good question!

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I wanna rock! (A few sand gobies and a fifteen spined stickleback too).

Since getting back from Jersey last week, where my mate Ross managed to catch a fifteen spined stickleback and I didn't, I've been having nightmares about them. I'm not even kidding! I can't stop thinking about them, so on Sunday I decided to go and try and catch one after being told that there were a couple of spots on the shore of Loch Etive where they can usually be found. Armed with my ultra light gear I set off at 5:00 so I could get through there for 8:00. Before heading to Loch Etive I wanted to pop down to Ganavan Sands near Oban over high water to catch a few sand gobies and then head along to the rocks to the north of Ganavan Bay to try and catch a rock cook wrasse.

The small pier at Ganavan Bay. Sand Goby lovers Mecca.

Catching sand gobies didn't take long. The clean sandy bottom next to the small pier there is covered with hundreds of them along with a few tiny plaice and the water is crystal clear so you can watch them attacking your bait. Sight fishing like this is a good way to learn about fish behaviour and twitching the bait seemed to attract more fish and incite more bites than fishing it in a static manner.

Small hooks are required to catch sand gobies. Today I fished a #18 Kamasan Animal hook baited with a piece of squid tentacle on a running ledger rig. 
This plaice is only a few centimetres long. You can't really tell that from the photo and it always amazes me how such tiny specimens are perfectly formed miniature versions of adult fish. 

Having caught a couple of each very quickly I briskly walked along the coastal path to the place where I caught my only rock cook last year hopeful that I'd quickly get one so I could spend more time hunting my new nemesis.

The rocks to the north of Ganavan Bay where I went hunting rock cook wrasse.

Fishing a single Sabpolo Wormer hook baited with a small piece of raw prawn on a simple paternoster rig with a single short snood I was soon getting the distinctive wrasse bites and as the tide started ebbing these bites became a bit more positive and I started catching a few ballan wrasse.

First of many and great fun on ultra light gear. 
Another nice ballan. Brown with turquoise spots...
...beautiful eyes and big juicy lips. 

Last year when I fished this spot I didn't catch any ballans and was able to see lots of goldsinny and a few rock cooks feeding on the rocks so I was slightly puzzled as to why all these ballans had moved in and the smaller wrasse species were nowhere to be seen. Next up was a pollock that grabbed my bait before it hit the bottom and tore off seaward before being tamed, turned around and landed.

This particularly grumpy looking pollock grabbed my bait as it fell through the water. It would seem it's not only lures they like to take "on the drop".
As the sun appeared over the cliffs behind me and illuminated the water I was fishing into, I started getting smaller bites that I knew were smaller wrasse and got quite excited. One was soon hooked and with my fingers crossed on my reel seat I reeled it in, but I knew it wasn't a rock cook and if it was it was a huge one! At first glance my instincts were proven correct and I thought the darkly coloured fish was a small ballan but closer inspection revealed it to be a female corkwing instead.

A good example of a female corkwing. Weird how the overwhelming vast majority I catch are males. Maybe the females are on nest guarding duties most of the time or are less aggressive?

I carried on fishing and the tiny bites kept coming. I had to keep rebaiting as the culprits were stealing the tiny raw prawn chunks from my hook rather quickly. I was beginning to contemplate switching to a smaller hook when I hooked one of the little thieves responsible. Again with fingers crossed I reeled my catch up, this time it was certainly small enough to be my target species and as it came into view the brilliant blue colours told me I had got the wrasse I had come for.

Mission accomplished! My sixth wrasse species from UK waters in 2013. The bright blue markings and golden hues of the rock cook wrasse are stunning.
Vivid blues and violet facial stripes are rather nice too. Also known as the small mouthed wrasse for obvious reasons.

I carried on fishing and quickly caught a second, then switched bait to a piece of squid tentacle to keep my bait on the hook longer which worked quite well and saw me catch a third rock cook followed by a lovely ballan with my "last cast" before heading off to try and locate some fifteen spined sticklebacks. 

One final "last cast" produced this lovely ballan. This one had some lovely mint green spotted markings on it.

I headed back to the car and a short drive later I was at a rocky outcrop next to the Connel Bridge. The bridge crosses the narrowest point of Loch Etive and the currents flowing under it, known as the Falls of Lora, can be incredibly strong indeed although when I was there they weren't too violent. I planned on fishing an eddy forming as the tide ebbed.  Armed with a rig made up using one of my goby bashing #26 Kamansan hooks to 1lb nylon baited with a tiny sliver of mackerel fished underneath a 0.4g pole float I began searching the area looking for my very distinctive yet quite hard to spot target.

Connel Bridge. The tide racing out of Loch Etive into the open sea is quite a spectacular sight.

After a while it became apparent that either my fifteen spined stickleback spotting skills weren't up to scratch or there weren't any around so I decided to try fishing a 7g Daiwa Prisoner II metal for a while before heading to a second spot. Casting it across the powerful current and letting it swing around soon saw me catching small pollock and coalfish which was good fun.

My new ultra light metal is aptly named. 

After catching quite a few small pollock and coalfish on my new metal I decided to try the second spot where I've been told fifteen spined sticklebacks can be found and headed further up the Loch's southern shore to the Taynuilt Ferry Jetty. The water here was also crystal clear and whilst I couldn't see any fifteen spined sticklebacks I could see several small gobies and little flatfish moving around on the bottom between weeds and what was left of parts of the pier.

The rotting remnants of the end of Taynuilt Jetty. Home to lots of gobies, flatfish and well hidden fifteen spined sticklebacks.

Resigned to not locating any fifteen spined sticklebacks and with time running out I switched over to a running ledger rig and soon caught a few of the gobies. Two of them were black gobies, a third was a sand goby and a forth goby may have been a painted goby, which would have been an addition to my 2013 species tally, but it was very small and whilst I was inspecting it and getting my camera ready to take some photos it flipped out of my hand, landed back into the water and escaped! 

A Loch Etive black goby.

It was now getting fairly late in the afternoon and the fifteen spined stickleback had eluded me. I had to leave because I wanted to pop into the Glasgow Angling Centre on the way home to pick up a few bits of end tackle for a species hunting boat trip I'm doing on Wednesday this week. Not overly disappointed not to catch a new species as I had caught some lovely fish and rock cook wrasse are perhaps my favourite UK wrasse species. Besides, I have seen fifteen spined sticklebacks locally, just not on a regular basis at any one spot and maybe that's the case generally speaking and therefore going out to find them isn't such a good idea. Perhaps it'll just be a case of having my tiny hooks and pole float rig with me the next time I happen to spot one whilst fishing for other species so I don't think I'll travel 200 miles to try and catch one again! That being said, a return visit to Taynuilt Jetty may not be out of the question. There were lots of gobies there and one may turn up that I haven't caught before. I'll definitely take the goby inspection tank with me next time! 

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Another successful raid on Cornwall, Dorset and Jersey.

When my trip to Shetland this month got moved forward a week it left me with six days off work and I was really struggling to find something to fill it with. Then it hit me, I could go fishing! Ok, I'll admit it, what I was going to do was never in question. Where to go was the real dilemma. With a few places I love to fish but haven't visited this year and catching new saltwater species in mind I weighed up where would probably give me the best chance do a bit of both and decided to visit the south coast of England again and began planning my itinerary. I then checked out the cost of a ferry crossing to Jersey as a foot passenger and was pleasantly surprised. A quick text to my mate Ross Johnson, who is over on Jersey for the summer, to see if he was free was sent, I had the start of a plan and after checking tides and asking a few other people if they fancied meeting up I was really looking forward to the trip.

I drove down to Bodmin in Cornwall last Friday. After arriving and dropping off my case at the B&B in the early afternoon I went up to the north coast to fish some rockpools in search of Montagu's blenny. The rocks were next to Treyarnon Bay, a spot that can get very busy with lots of surfers and families enjoying it when the weather is nice.

Treyarnon Bay from the rocks to the north.

The rockpools were certainly full of fish but my main problem were the plentiful common blennies. As soon as my ragworm chunk went in they would shoot out and fight over it making it difficult to catch anything else. When I finally did it was a small giant goby. This was soon followed by a specimen giant goby that was hiding under a fairly narrow gap under a large slab of slate in a very shallow rockpool.

It always amazes me the tight spaces these big brutes sometimes hide in.

I also caught a few long spined sea scorpions and a single rock goby casting across a very large rockpool and working my bait back across the bottom.

Another nice change from the endless common blennies. Not the fish I was after though!

After spending a few hours there I resigned myself to yet another failed attempt to locate and catch my target blenny and headed off to meet up with my mate Lee Goddard who was in Cornwall for a family holiday. It was the last day of his trip and he had been given permission to go fishing late in the evening so I picked him up at about 20:30. We drove down to Fowey and fished at the small ferry pier. Lee was fishing a whole red Isome on a Decoy Rocket jighead whilst I used a mini one up one down rig and baited my hooks with small pieces of ragworm and slivers of mackerel. Unfortunately the fishing was quite slow. As the tide rose we moved up onto the wall above the pier and finally started catching some fish. I caught a long spined sea scorpion, a rock goby, a tompot blenny and a small plaice. Lee caught a long spined sea scorpion too. I told him that there were a few specimen long spined sea scorpions at the mark and sure enough he soon caught one which he was quite pleased with.

Quite a handful.

Just before we left Lee had a cast in the area I had just been fishing. I was rebaiting when he called to say he had hooked a topknot but it was stuck in the weeds on the edge of the wall below us. I reached out, took hold of the line and applying gentle, even pressure managed to slowly pull the fish free. Already celebrating, Lee started to lift the fish up only for it to thrash, come off and make its escape. He was gutted to say the least. This was the second time he had hooked a topknot, a fish most anglers will never catch, only to see it throw the hooks and escape. I really felt for him and despite trying to tempt it again or maybe catch another one it was soon time to go and it was a bit of a disappointing way to end the session although after a brief period of stunned disbelief we did laugh about it. It's always good to catch up with Lee and I wish we could have fished together for longer. After dropping him off back at his accommodation I headed back to mine.

I got up fairly early on Saturday but the weather was not great. A pretty miserable day in fact being overcast and raining quite heavily. I decided to head to Mevagissey Breakwater as it's a very comfortable venue to fish and if the rain got really bad I could hide in the car which was parked close by. In addition I wanted to catch some dragonets and there are plenty of them to be found there on the sandy areas on the bottom. There were two main reasons for this. Firstly I was hoping to catch a male as they are very colourful fish indeed. Secondly I wanted to check that the species present were indeed common dragonets using a simple test I have recently discovered. Running a fingernail along the gill cover towards the three backward facing spines you will feel a forth facing forward just below the common dragonets skin. Reticulated dragonets lack this hidden forth spine. So I began fishing ragworm on a one up one down rig. On my first drop down I managed to catch one. I eagerly did the fingernail test and located the forth forward facing gill plate spine confirming that it was a common dragonet.

A small specimen typical of those normally caught at Mevagissey.

I was rather pleased by this and after popping the fish back it started raining quite heavily but I was quite happy to get the day off to a good start. At this point I received a text from local angler Luke Fox whom I had arranged to fish with to say he was on his way. I caught a lot more common dragonets and a lot of small corkwing and ballan wrasse before he arrived. The wet conditions meant I had a tricky time handling some of the fish and got caught by quite a few spines on the fish.

A much larger common dragonet. The elongated first dorsal fin makes me think this one is a male but has not yet reached full maturity and therefore has not changed colour.
A lovely little Cornish ballan wrasse.
I caught quite a lot of these colourful little corkwings.

When Luke arrived I told him about what I had been catching and he started fishing with some Isome and Ecogear straw tails. I carried on fishing my bait rig for a while before deciding to switch to lures for a bit too. We both caught a few more dragonets and wrasse between us and I had a chunky tompot blenny before we decided to head up the coast to a small harbour so we could try for tub gurnard and lesser weevers.

Soaked but I didn't really care. This rather chunky tompot blenny was a nice reward for my efforts.

After a short drive up the coast we soon arrived and headed to the end of the outer harbour wall. Fishing over clean ground my first cast resulted in a small fish being hooked and quickly landed. It wasn't a tub gurnard though. It was a lesser weever and was the first of many.

Nasty but nice. When you inspect them up close they are actually quite pretty little fish.

Luke had never caught one before and was well chuffed to get his first. Handling them carefully is a must and whilst Luke was avoiding the spines he almost grabbed his first one by the sides of its head. I quickly told him to stop and explained that as well as poisonous dorsal spines they also have poisonous spines on their gill plates. A nasty sting narrowly avoided, Luke used his mini grips to hold it for a photo.

I'm not a big fan of grips but better safe than sorry.

We kept on fishing and must have caught about twenty lesser weavers between us. A switch to a metal baited with a mackerel strip to try and tempt a tub gurnard only saw me catch a mackerel as I retrieved it to cast out again! Also by this point the wind had picked up quite a bit making things quite difficult so Luke suggested a change of mark and a short walk later we were soon fishing for perch in a small pond. This was good fun and we must have caught a few dozen small perch between us.

I have to get some of those firetiger Fiiish Black Minnows.

It wasn't long before Luke realised his time was up and he had to head off to go to a wedding reception in the evening. Really wish we could have spent longer fishing together as I really enjoy his relaxed approach to fishing. After he headed off and with an early start the following day I decided to pop back to nearby Fowey for a couple of hours to see if I could tempt a topknot. I had no luck with that though but managed to catch a few ballans and corkwings which gave me a good scrap on my ultra light rod.

Great fun on ultra light gear.

It started raining quite heavily and when a group of seagulls came, stole some of my bait when I wasn't looking and it became hard to focus on fishing because the cheeky buggers kept trying to get into my bag to get more, I called it a day, packed up and headed back to the B&B.

On Sunday I had another appointment with a fish I failed to catch when I fished Swanage Pier in July, the black faced blenny. With the pier opening at 7:00 I left Bodmin at about 4:30 and made the two and a half hour drive along to Dorset, stopping briefly at the Weymouth Angling Centre to pick up half a pound of ragworm on the way. After speaking to the pier master to get some inside information and pay for my £3.50 fishing permit, I was soon at the spot he'd described to me where the divers have seen the little triple finned fish I was after. Like my last visit the action was constant from the start and over the course of the next six hours I caught over 170 fish from the gap in the middle of the lower section at the end of the pier. Mainly wrasse, the majority of those being corkwing wrasse, but I caught lots of ballan wrasse and Baillon's wrasse too with quite a few tompot blennies and a couple of pouting as well breaking up the wrassefest.

A lovely orange ballan wrasse with light turquoise spots.
How cute. I think this is the smallest ballan I've ever caught!
I caught over a dozen Baillon's wrasse too.
As well as having pink lips and fin edges Baillon's wrasse also have quite nice blue, violet and orange facial markings.
I caught this small ballan with rather odd eyes twice. I named him Marilyn. The chances are he probably wasn't the only fish I caught on more than one occasion on the day but he stood out due to his appearance.
Tompot blennies are so cool!

Whilst thoroughly enjoying the frantic action I was still quite disappointed not to catch a black faced blenny. I decided to try fishing off the side of the pier to see if I could catch one there or perhaps something different. This chance resulted in a couple of common dragonets being caught and a lot more corkwing wrasse.

The sand just a few meters out from the pier obviously held a few common dragonets.
I caught an incredible ninety four corkwing wrasse from the pier!

When I ran out of ragworm at about 17:00 I decided to call it a day, headed back along the coast to Weymouth and checked into the B&B there where I'd be staying the night before getting the ferry to St Helier the following afternoon. After doing this I met up with local angler and member of The Lure Forum admin team Mike Hayes and we went fishing using lures on ultra light gear at a few different spots around Weymouth harbour. It was a very relaxed session and we had a lot of fun catching mainly pouting, and gobies with a few goldsinny wrasse and whiting also taking our Isome and Gulp! Sandworm.

The gobies we caught were almost all black gobies. I caught this single leopard spotted goby which was a nice surprise.
A nice little goldsinny wrasse in perfect condition.
An early season whiting.
Weymouth Harbour on a warm summer evening.

We had a chat about various angling related topics as we fished and walked between the various spots and it was a real pleasure fishing with Mike. By the time we finished and walked back to my B&B I was quite tired and very hungry after a very long day with little food. After I thanked Mike for meeting up with me and he headed home I treated myself to a large pepperoni pizza before heading off to bed.

Up at 8:30 on Monday morning I had a tasty full breakfast before checking out and leaving the car as close to the ferry terminal as I could without having to pay for parking. It was a lovely day, very sunny and hardly any wind and I decided to fish from the end of the pleasure pier for an hour or so before heading to the ferry terminal to check in. I walked down there via Weymouth Angling Centre to get some bait but they were out of ragworm so I got a small frozen pack of six raw prawns instead. The end of the pier was quite busy and the short session saw me catch a few corkwing wrasse, a few pouting, a couple of whiting and a single tompot blenny. Before I left I helped a young boy improve his chances by giving him a hook, retying his end gear for him and giving him some of my bait. He was soon catching fish and bragging to his brother about it which was quite funny. I left him my raw prawns and headed off to get the ferry over to Jersey. The crossing was only four hours and the good conditions meant it wasn't going to be unpleasant one.

I arrived in St Helier at 17:30 where I was picked up by fellow species hunting fanatic Ross Johnson who is currently staying over there. After a quick chat about our options we headed off to try for garfish. Once down on the rocks Ross made up some chervy using a closely guarded recipe and I started fishing a sliver of mackerel under a float. Ross meanwhile decided to fish a small metal close to the surface.

The fishy, oily chervy groundbait certainly did the trick and we soon spotted one or two garfish breaking the surface.

We soon managed to catch a few fish but they were mackerel and pollock and the beaked berserker could not be tempted. Ross then hooked a gull which put up quite a scrap before being landed and carefully unhooked and released.

Ross pulls a bird.

Before long the sun was setting so we headed back across the island again stopping at Big J's for a tasty burger on the way. We then headed to try for horse mackerel under some harbour lights but as suspected it was perhaps a little too early in the year for them to be so far inshore and all we caught were a few more mackerel and a couple of small pouting. Before we left we checked a few other spots and Ross located a small group of feeding mullet. Knowing that as soon as one was hooked the others would more than likely be spooked and disappear Ross generously allowed me to have a go at catching one by free lined some bread in the current. After a couple of missed takes I managed to hook one and after quite a scrap Ross did a great job of landing it without a net.

My first thick lipped mullet of the year. Good scrap on my ultra light gear. It would seem at night they are slightly easier to catch too so I'll be trying for them after dark again in the future.

On Tuesday morning we headed to harbour for our first boat trip of two. Whilst we waited on the rest of the anglers turning up we messed about down the harbour wall where we caught a few sand smelt and small pollock. Ross then spotted a fifteen spined stickleback and borrowed one of my #26 hooks to nylon to try and catch it. Amazingly it took a tiny piece of mackerel straight away!

A sand smelt. The second addition to my 2013 tally.
Ross was very pleased to get a new species! Just as well I had brought my tiny goby bashing hooks for him to catch it on!

I had a go too but despite seeing a couple they were quite small even for fifteen spined sticklebacks and they didn't seem that interested in my bait. The rest of the anglers soon arrived and we got aboard Anna 2 skippered by Tony Heart and were soon heading west to drift over some banks for turbot.

Blue skies and flat seas.

Strips of mackerel on long flowing traces were soon being worked along on the bottom to entice the big flatfish but the fishing was quite tough with a fair bit of tide running and only one turbot was boated with a second being hooked and subsequently lost close to the boat. We then headed to another mark and anchored up to target black bream using strips of squid on two up rigs. Again the fishing was quite slow and didn't start to pick up until tide eased off in the early afternoon. Ross was the first angler to catch a black bream and pretty soon a few more were being caught. Trotting my bait away from the boat after Ross suggested it may help locate the fish I soon started getting bites and finally hooked a black bream which I asked Ross to net for me just to be on the safe side!

A lovely looking fish and my first new species of the trip!

I then changed to a running ledger with a whole joey mackerel for bait to try for a conger eel, a bull huss or a tope. One of the other anglers then caught a horse mackerel close to the bottom on his bream rig so after asking permission I fished a second rod with a set of feathers on and a pound of lead to get it down quickly to the bottom through any mackerel shoals that may have been around further up in the water. It didn't take too long before I hooked a fish. Reeling up I was hoping it wasn't a mackerel and to my relief it wasn't.

My second new species of the trip. Again netted by Ross just to be on the safe side. It was followed by two more on the feathers.

No action on the big baits and by now the tide was really racing, making it very hard to hold bottom so we lifted the anchor and headed to an inshore mark. The tide wasn't as strong here but the fishing was still quite slow although the other anglers did manage to catch a few more black bream before we headed in. Quite a tough days fishing really but I was very pleased to catch two new species.

In the evening Ross and I went to try for garfish again. Sadly though all three spots we visited, even a fairly secluded one, were already being fished by other anglers feathering for mackerel and with the sun dipping we decided to head to the Victoria Pier area of the harbour for a fairly relaxed session in the hope something odd might turn up. When we arrived Ross made up some more chervy, this time using a different but equally closely guarded recipe. A rather stinky concoction was soon attracting lots of small pouting and some rather large sand smelt. We both then caught a small black bream each.

Small harbour pouting. The south coast equivalent of East Lothian harbour coalfish.
Once you go black...

After a while we decided to cast out a few bigger baits to try and tempt some common eels or perhaps a passing bass. It took a while to get any bites and my rod was the first to go but when I lifted it and struck there was nothing on. Ross then had the same thing happen and told me that his mate Dan had hooked a cuttlefish there recently which he'd failed to land. Sure enough the next time I got a bite rather than striking I just slowly reeled it in and it was indeed a cuttlefish holding on to the bait but it let go as it came up to the surface. We tried using a large squid jig Ross had but had no luck with that so we decided to call it a night and headed to Big J's again on way home for another very tasty burger.

The last day of my trip had arrived and we headed down to the harbour to go out fishing on Tony's boat again. Going down early I spent forty five minutes trying to locate and then pester some fifteen spined sticklebacks but despite finding a few small ones they seemed to be quite easily spooked and I didn't manage to tempt any of them before we set off. Off we went to the turbot mark again, making a quick stop on the way to catch some mackerel to use as bait. Again the fishing here was very slow. Only one fish was hooked but came off next to the boat as it came up. As it was quite apparent that a move was in order Tony wasted no time in taking us to the edge of a reef to fish for black bream again. I decided to tie up a rig with some Sakuma Chinu hooks and added a few pink and yellow beads to both snoods to hopefully give me an edge. This seemed to work a treat as I caught the first black bream of the day. Again I then swapped over to ledgering larger mackerel baits to try and tempt a conger eel, a bull huss or a tope. With two rods out this time and the tide dropping off I soon had a fish on one of them and it was one of my favourite species.

Lesser spotted dogfish. Some anglers hate them.
I love them and have been known to kiss them before release.

Whilst the other anglers carried on fishing for bream and were now catching a few I was happy to watch for bites from something bigger. One young angler in particular was having a great day and was showing most of the adults how to catch fish.

This young angler got the biggest black bream of the trip.

The next time I got a bite it was a tope picking up one of the baits and running with it before dropping it again. A second run shortly afterwards resulted in me hooking a tope but after being on for just a few minutes the hook pulled. I do have previous history of having bad luck with sharks and thought it was going to be one of those days! Pretty soon after though one of the rods started going again and I picked it up. No run this time but something was still there so wound down and struck. The fish was on and was putting up a bit of a fight but not much, I was hoping it was a bull huss as this would have been a new species for me but after watching the rod tip Ross knew what it was.

Ross called it correct and my first conger eel of the year was soon boated.

Time was now running out and I really wanted to get a tope. Watching the rods patiently in anticipation one of them started going, I quickly picked it up and a tope started running with the bait before stopping. When it started running again I wound down and struck. Shark on. With Tony and Ross offering advice and encouragement I took my time playing it and they soon expertly brought it on board. After taking a few measurements and tagging the shark I had my picture taken with it before it was carefully put back, swimming off strongly.

I'm talkin' about sharkin'!

With very little time left before we headed back in I decided not to fish anymore as catching the tope seemed like the perfect ending to a wonderful trip. As we returned to port the high speed ferry that would be taking me back to the mainland passed us.

Quite an impressive vessel.

Back at the harbour I thanked Tony for his services and then Ross dropped me off at the ferry terminal where I would begin my long journey home. It had been a superb trip and over the six days I had managed to catch twenty six species in total, adding six to my 2013 tally including three new ones. It was also great to fish with Lee, Luke, Mike and Ross again, visit some great places and the two trips fishing with skipper Tony aboard Anna 2 were great too. I don't have any more extended fishing trips planned at the moment but I still have some way to go if I'm to achieve my 2013 fishing targets and it's going to be very tough but I'm going to give it my best shot and who knows where that will take me. On more adventures no doubt!

Tight lines, Scott.