Friday, December 13, 2013

More beards than ZZ Top.

Well it's that time of year again. No, not cod season. Rockling season! Having caught my first rockling species, shore rockling, at the start of this year I was keen to add another before the end of it. With the largest of the UK rockling species, the three bearded variety in mind, and after gathering some intel, I decided to visit Anstruther in the East Neuk of Fife to try and catch one. I was told that some had been caught there recently and conditions looked good so off I went on Tuesday for the first of two evening sessions.

Anstruther Harbour's western breakwater is known as "The White Pier" due to the white lighthouse at the end of it. About halfway along it would be my chosen mark.

Fishing with two rods I decided to keep things very simple and fished a running ledger on both with #8 Aberdeen hooks baited with black lug and tipped off with a little sliver of squid. It didn't take long at all for one of these small but smelly offerings to attract the attention of this passing flounder.

A nice start to the session. 

After the sun set the pace of the bites increased as the resident coalfish came out and after catching a few of them I caught a few small codling too.

Not the stamp of cod most anglers who visit the venue are after but nicely marked and a welcome change from the coalfish. 

I pretty much had the place to myself until a local lad came down, chatted to me for a bit and I explained what I was hoping to catch, before he headed home to get his gear. When he returned he lobbed out a juicy lug and mussel cocktail to try and tempt any larger codling that may have been around. He didn't succeed in catching any but did manage a few small greedy coalfish. Just before he left though he struck at a bite hooking the culprit and was soon reeling in a small fish. Another coalfish I guessed but as he lifted it over the wall he realised it was a small rockling and called me over so I nipped along to where he was took a look. Upon closer inspection of the fish which was maybe only 15cm long I couldn't believe the thing had managed to get a #6/0 hook into its tiny mouth!  It was a darkly coloured rockling so a quick beard count was completed and it turned out to be the five bearded variety, a species I'd never caught. The whole thing brought a huge smile to my face but I did jokingly tell him that if he caught another I'd have to throw him in! That's fishing though and it was good to know that there were some rockling around at least. I fished on for a while after the young lad called it a night at about 21:00 but left soon after rocklingless. 

The following afternoon I returned to try again. Thinking about the rockling the local lad had caught the night before as well as some of my angling mates advice to "go cod fishing" if I wanted to catch rockling and fish big baits and hooks I decided to try a compromise. I switched to a wishbone arrangement at the business end to hopefully put a bit more scent into the water that hopefully the resident rockling could home in on and this would allow me to continue using small hooks to increase my chances of a hook up should one decide to take a bait. As I set up the wind had dropped off almost completely compared to the previous day and the clouds had almost disappeared. It was a lovely mild evening especially given the time if year. 

A very picturesque December evening. 

Soon fishing black lug and mussel baits tipped off with squid the session started as it had the day before with another flounder and as soon as the sun began to set the bites were fairly frequent and a few coalfish were soon being caught. Reeling them in I was mumbling away to myself, "Please be a rockling, please be a rockling!" After a while I had a double shot of a coalfish and a viviparous blenny which at first glance I thought was a small rockling. It was a nice change from the coalfish though. They are cool little fish and are quite hard to handle as they slither around.

A slippery character indeed.

Shortly afterwards, after catching a few more coalfish and a single small codling, I was beginning to think it wasn't going to be my night again when I hooked another fish and as it came over the wall I was very excited to see it was a rockling. Which kind though? I knew straight away from its dark brown colouration that it wasn't a three bearded rockling so it was quickly unhooked and a beard count was eagerly done.

One, two, three, four, five,
Once I caught a five bearded rockling alive.
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
Then I let it go again.

I was over the moon to catch this as it was my first one! I really like rockling, I think they are a very interesting looking fish with their long bodies, small eyes and the barbules on their snout are most intriguing. I may be alone in feeling this way about them however as they are usually considered a nuisance, bait stealing pest by most anglers who catch them whilst targeting other, more prized species. Like all fish I think they are pretty cool fish in their own right. With about an hour or so left I decided to fish some slightly bigger baits on bigger hooks to try and tempt a three bearded rockling. This just resulted in coalfish tapping away but no more fish were hooked. Still a very pleasant couple of night's fishing, I left very pleased to have caught another new species and I'll certainly be out trying for a three bearded rockling again at some point over the winter.

Tight lines, Scott.

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