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.

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