Friday, October 24, 2014

Species hunting adventures on Menorca : Part 3.

Reaching the halfway point of our trip last Friday we headed to the north coast village of Cala Morell to try fishing in darkness before first light. It was quiet to start with until Lee found a bit of rough ground and tempted another nice black scorpionfish out of pretending to be a boulder.

A great way to start the day. Who needs breakfast? This fish obviously fancied some.

I then caught a painted comber before landing a small dusky grouper after it tried its best to go to ground at fairly close range. Groupers fight quite hard for their size and I actually thought I had hooked a large black scorpionfish until I lifted it up unto the platform I was fishing from and shone my head torch onto it revealing its true identity and lovely markings.

The first grouper of the trip. They don't half scrap well for their size.

After that though we really struggled to find any more fish, despite trying at a few different spots. After the sun came up we eventually located a few wrasse and the odd painted comber in the shallower areas but to be honest we were looking for something different having had more of our fill of those species.

Fishing at a variety of different marks around Cala Morell from the shallow reefs to the deep water out at the mouth of the bay failed to produce, and we were starting to scratch our heads a bit.

We then headed east to fish from the rocks near the large resort of Son Parc. It looked pretty exciting ground when we arrived with lots of submerged structure and we were both pretty hopeful it would produce some more groupers.

Broken ground and fairly deep water on the north east coast.

Unfortunately fishing here was very tough and it was at this point we sort of hit a wall. After trying various spots and only catching a solitary rainbow wrasse I lost a few rigs in rapid succession and I told Lee I needed a break. He said he felt slightly frustrated also so we decided to go for a swim off of the nearby Cala de Son Parc. I had my snorkel with me so off we went. This turned out to be just what we both needed. Whilst snorkelling I still had fishing on my mind however and spotted an area on the seafloor that had quite a lot of striped seabream feeding over it. I was also lucky to spot a small stingray swimming along the bottom which was an awesome sight. Afterwards we felt quite refreshed, got dried off and had a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant before heading along the rocks close to where I had seen the striped sea bream digging around on the bottom. I was fairly confident of catching some but to increase my chances I put together a sort of one up one down rig that combined a drop shot rig with a running ledger and baited both hooks with a piece of Angleworm. This failed to tempt the striped seabream but the lizardfish were not so hard to catch.

A double shot of lizardfish. I ended up catching seventeen of the greedy little buggers.

As light started to fade we both tied on wire traces and clipped on metals hoping that some barracuda might show up and start feeding. Lee went with his only remaining Metalmaru and I opted for a Xesta Afterburner that I had removed the treble from and replaced it with two assist hooks, one at the top and the other at the bottom. Things were quiet until we suddenly started hearing some surface activity along the rocks from our position. Lee then called over to say it was being caused by shoals of flying fish. They are pretty cool and I had seen them last year whilst out on Crete. The water erupted to my left shortly afterwards and I spotted a barracuda moving at speed past the rocks I was standing on. For the next half an hour or so we thrashed the water in all directions but failed to interest any barracuda that may have been around. It was still quite exciting though and it was good to know that the barracuda seemed to be fairly widespread and quite predictable, again giving us hope of catching one before the trip was over. With a renewed sense of optimism and feeling a bit more relaxed about our fishing we made the drive back to our hotel.

On Saturday over breakfast we decided to just have a fairly chilled out day and stay local as driving all over the island seemed to be counterproductive at times. We quickly found a spot near the hotel where we could get down the cliffs to fish closer to the water. Things looked promising as there were lots of small fish around and a few locals were already fishing from both the cliffs above us to our left and jigging from a boat well within casting distance. We fished away, trying various methods but struggled to connect with any fish. The small ones we could see looked like damselfish and juvenile mullet, two difficult fish to catch. I did manage a single damselfish however and a small common comber. Lee then caught yet another painted comber before more locals turned up and started fishing near us.

Damselfish are very pretty little fish. Quite hard to catch as they are incredibly short biters. I normally resort to tiny hooks and tiny sections of Angleworm but this one attacked a whole one and got hooked on my #10.
A common comber. Nowhere near as common as their painted cousin but a welcome addition to my species tally.

The locals chucked in some groundbait and lots of the damselfish and small mullet started feeding on it. Then some bigger saddled seabream turned up and started charging up from beneath the shoals of smaller fish, attacking the bigger chunks of bread that were floating on the surface. Next to arrive were some garfish and this was what the locals were most interested in catching using pieces of float fished bread. I switched to a small metal and cast it into them and they started chasing and attacking it as I worked it through the first foot of water just below the surface. I soon hooked one but only had it on for a few seconds until it thrashed on the surface and came off. Before long the groundbait had all been used and the locals left to try somewhere else. This turn of events got Lee and I talking about fishing at Ciutadella and perhaps attracting some barracuda by making up our own groundbait and getting lots of small fish feeding around the concrete breakwater. Off we went to buy a bucket, a few loaves of bread and a few cans of sardines. I also bought a dozen whole prawns as I had brought a couple of light floats with me.

Supplies acquired from a local supermarket off we went and were soon in Ciutadella. Parking the car and unloading our gear Lee spotted a small lizard sitting on a wall. By now we had seen dozens of lizards but for some reason this one didn't scrabble off like all the others had and Lee managed to catch it. Most of its tail was missing, no doubt the result of a predator attacking it and the reptile shedding it to make good an escape while its tail became a meal.

Stumpy had already used his get out of jail free card.

Down on the breakwater I set about making up the groundbait by adding the bread, sardines and some sea water to the bucket and mashing it up. Lee meanwhile had started fishing, spotted a few decent fish swimming past and had dropped a lure down in their vicinity which one of them shot over and took. He was soon calling over to tell me he had hooked what he suspected was an amberjack. His rod had a nice bend in it and his drag was making a lovely noise so I quickly cleaned my hands and jumped up onto the breakwater to watch the drama unfold. The fish made a few strong runs and whilst Lee's adrenaline was clearly pumping and he was concerned about losing it he still managed to remain in control and took his time playing it, slowly working his way over to a point where the fish could be landed. We had stupidly left my net in the car however so I jumped down from the breakwater and when I felt the fish was well and truly beaten I grabbed the leader and quickly lifted it up the short distance to the wooden pontoon I was kneeling on below Lee's elevated position. Job done and Lee was buzzing, just the kind of sport he had been craving and simply the result of being in the right place at the right time.

What a start to the session and no ground bait had even been put in yet.

Lee's amberjack soon returned I left the groundbait production for the time being and had a go at tempting one myself but it seemed I had missed my opportunity as it soon became apparent that the amberjack had in all likelihood moved away again. I did however catch a nice East Atlantic peacock wrasse and a few seabream before returning to finish making up the groundbait. Once I started tossing balls of it down the side at the end of the breakwater it didn't take long for lots of small fish to start to congregate and we were hopeful this might attract a few more predators.

The biggest East Atlantic peacock wrasse I've caught so far.
It had lovely markings particularly on its fins.

Putting my rod down for a second shortly afterwards to add a bit more ground bait Lee called to say he thought he had seen some more amberjack passing the breakwater. I looked up to see that it was in fact a small group of leerfish! Of course no sooner had I proclaimed this to Lee his rod had a big bend it again.  Being down on the wooden pontoon I just stayed there and prepared myself for ghillie duties once more. Again the fish made a few line stripping runs and being slightly larger than the amberjack took a little while longer to play out but it was soon time for me to quickly lift it out and hand it over to a very excited Lee who was jumping around in a state of delirium and slight disbelief. An amberjack and a leerfish in the space of half an hour was quite something. I was very pleased for him and was desperate to emulate his success.

What an awesome looking fish. I was a little jealous to say the least.

Once the fish went back there was no sign of any more so I clipped on my Xesta Afterburner metal and started fan casting it around. Lee was still on cloud nine and went to the car to get the net just in case we hooked anything else that might require it. When he returned we were still in a slight state of shock really and had just finished saying things couldn't get any more surreal when as Lee was dead sticking his lure on the bottom a big mullet came swimming over and sucked it up. Lee quickly struck hooking the fish. Having never caught a mullet before I warned him it might take a bit longer to land than his previous two fish. He thought I was joking when I told him this, that I'd just keep fishing this time and he could give me a shout in about ten minutes to help land it when it was eventually tired. The mullet didn't really live up to its billing however and seemed slightly less energetic than ones I've caught in the past which surprised me somewhat. It did put up a reasonable fight but despite a nervous moment when it managed to get into a hole in the side of the breakwater, Lee calmly got it out again successfully and his first thick lipped grey mullet was in the net much quicker than I had anticipated.

For some reason this thick lipped grey mullet didn't fight anywhere near as well as I know mullet can. Lee wasn't complaining though.

Lee was really on a roll and I was obviously keen to get into similar fish. I carried on fishing my metal trying to cover as much water as possible in case more amberjack or leerfish should pass us but I sadly had no joy. Lee meanwhile was happily fishing down the side and giggling away to himself like a little boy. I decided to try a different approach, set up a float rig and fished chunks of prawn under it. I kept the groundbait going in and I caught a few more seabream before something bigger pulled my float under and shot off to my right. It was headed straight for the corner of the breakwater though, I put a bit too much pressure on and it broke me off. I was a bit annoyed with myself for trying to bully the fish and started to feel that things just weren't going to go my way. As I carried on float fishing, hoping that I'd get another decent take, a group of kids arrived to fish. Lee showed them the photos of his catches and they were all very excited. They started asking Lee if all the lures they had with them were good for catching amberjack and leerfish. Lee and I found this funny at first but after a while them asking us this, asking us to tie knots for them and wanting to see our lures did begin to get a bit annoying. Lee was very generous with them though, showing them how to texas rig and giving them all some soft plastics to try.

Resident amberjack and leerfish expert Lee gives out advice and a few freebies to his young students.

By now I had kind of accepted that maybe I wasn't going to get lucky but the relaxing nature of watching my float in the sun had a calming therapeutic effect and after the groundbait had all been used I decided to give the Xesta Afterburner another go. I really liked its action and was sure that if I retrieved it across the path of an amberjack or leerfish they would more than likely find it irresistible. Well a fair amount of time had passed by when I was getting to the end of a retrieve and my metal came into view. It was only a few metres out in front of me when from nowhere a small amberjack shot at great speed and nailed my lure, turned and shot off to my right. My rod was bent double, the fish was stripping line and my heart was pounding as I called over to Lee to let him know I would hopefully need the net. The fish made a few more runs and tried to get under the wooden pontoon a couple of times but I managed to steer it back out again before it swam around a rope. I really thought I had lost the fish at this point but it was still hooked and I had a quick idea. I quickly pulled the rope up out of the water, keeping enough pressure on so my line stayed taught but letting the fish pull my line around the rope when it wanted. I passed the rope to Lee to hold and quickly passed my rod round the rope trying to maintain the tension in the line. Somehow the fish was still hooked, the tangle had been undone and I was free to quickly get it over to the end of the pontoon where it was netted by Lee. Whilst all this had been happening one of the kids had also hooked an amberjack and with my fish safely landed Lee and I helped the kid land his.

A super fast aggressive predator. Great fun on light gear.
The rope that almost cost me my first greater amberjack.
This young fellow caught his amberjack on a rather big Berkley Ripple Grub that had the curly tail missing fished on a 15g #2/0 jighead. Lee caught his on a two inch EcoGear Katsu Aji Straight fished on a 1g #6 jighead and I got mine on a 12g Xesta Afterburner metal so I think it's safe to say that amberjacks aren't too fussy and really it's just about having a lure in the water when they pass through.

We fished on hoping to enjoy some more great sport but it seemed that they had moved off again. The sun was getting lower in the sky by this point however and before long the barracuda started showing up. With Lee and I as well as five kids all chucking lures around though it didn't really make for pleasant fishing. Two of the kids were the first ones to hook barracuda which I helped them land, unhook and dispatch as they wanted to keep them. Just when things started to go quiet though I hooked into one and it put up quite a scrap on my ultra light gear. Seeing me hook one though the kids all crowded around me and while Lee was trying to get passed them with the net the fish thrashed one final time and threw my lure. To be honest I was ever so slightly annoyed but it was a good fight and I would have put the fish back anyway so I wasn't overly fussed. Rather tired and slightly hungry Lee and I decided to head back to the hotel. Before we left though, we asked the kids if they'd be there again the following evening. They told us they would be and that kind of made our minds up to fish elsewhere on the last day of our holiday. The kids were OK but we just wanted to enjoy our last day on our own in peace and quiet. Before we left though I took a photo of a drawing the kids had no doubt scrawled in marker pen on the wooden pontoon.

Yeah, you got the better of both of us. For now.

Back at the hotel we indulged ourselves in the bar to celebrate the day's rather excellent fishing. Over a late breakfast the following day Lee and I were feeling a little rough as we reflected on how the holiday had went. We had caught some nice fish and had seen a lot of the beautiful island but there was still one spot we really wanted to visit. Calas Coves is a picturesque bay on the south coast of the island that has tombs carved into the sides of the cliffs. To be honest we knew the previous day wouldn't be beaten so we just wanted to wind down a bit and not take the fishing too seriously. Arriving at the end of the road, we made the half a mile walk down and were soon at the water's edge. Climbing over the rocks we found a nice spot to fish from.

Dos pescadores. Dos amigos.
A stunning spot to fish and really catching anything was a bonus.

The fishing as expected wasn't epic but it was enjoyable none the less. A steady succession of rainbow wrasse making up the bulk of the catch. By the afternoon it was very hot though so Lee and I put down our rods and went for a cooling swim. It was a stunning place to do so and when we got out and started fishing again I caught a tiny dusky grouper.

Micro dusky grouper. Perfectly formed miniature fish. How cute is that!

A few garfish then arrived that we had fun trying to catch but despite getting several bites we just couldn't make them stick. We were both now pretty thirsty so we headed back to the car and drove to a nearby village to get a much needed couple of cold drinks in a bar before heading to Es Castell which is situated to the east of Mahon. We found a spot to fish there but yet again the fishing was pretty dire. I spent half an hour or so trying to locate some blennies or gobies and after covering a fair amount of ground finally got lucky.

I'm pretty sure this little chap is just a lightly coloured black goby.

We then decided to head along to Mahon to fish in Cala Figuera and then move around to El Funduco at dusk for one final go at barracuda. Whilst Lee was happily catching common pandora and Mediterranean horse mackerel, both of which were new species for him, I spent most of my time trying to tempt the resident blennies out of their hiding places. My persistence paid off when I spotted a couple of rusty blennies swimming along the harbour wall and caught one of them.

I couldn't leave Menorca without catching a blenny now could I?

Moving round to the barracuda spot we caught a few more fish while we waited for light to fade. When it did though, the barracuda failed to show up, so we fished close to the bottom again. Something big took my lure at one point and snapped me off in rapid fashion. That's the risk you take when fishing so light though and we speculated what it might have been but I'll never know. We both fished away and had a few seabream and combers before day turned to night and we decided to pack up for the last time. I did have one final last cast though and was glad I did because I caught a small fish I didn't recognise, adding a second new species to my tally in the process.

Another common comber for Lee.
A new species but I didn't know which. A bit of research once back in the hotel bar would reveal it to be an axillary seabream.

Well back at the hotel we hit the bar again to celebrate the end of a wonderful week's holiday. When you're all inclusive you've got to make the most of it! Another adventure had come to an end. At times the fishing was great, at times it was tough. There were highs and there were lows. At the end of the day I caught a load of fish and had fun doing so which is what it's all about really. Here's a summary of everything I caught, new species are in bold.
  1. Annular Seabream x 8
  2. Atlantic Lizardfish x 30
  3. Axillary Seabream x 1
  4. Black Goby x 1
  5. Black Scorpionfish x 3
  6. Black Seabream x 1
  7. Bogue x 1
  8. Cardinalfish x 2
  9. Common Comber x 3
  10. Common Pandora x 7
  11. Common Two Banded Seabream x 36
  12. Damselfish x 2
  13. Dusky Grouper x 2
  14. East Atlantic Peacock Wrasse x 5
  15. Five Spotted Wrasse x 2
  16. Greater Amberjack x 1
  17. Lesser Weever x 1
  18. Mediterranean Horse Mackerel x 3
  19. Ornate Wrasse x 10
  20. Painted Comber x 30
  21. Rainbow Wrasse x 52
  22. Red Porgy x 1
  23. Rusty Blenny x 1
  24. Saddled Seabream x 11
  25. Striped Red Mullet x 1
  26. White Seabream x 6
I didn't achieve my species hunting goals for the trip of thirty species including ten new ones, finishing up on twenty six including two new ones but to be honest I only set these targets as a bit of fun. Most important of all was that Lee and I had a great time and we already have a trip to Madeira booked for early next year for more species hunting fun in the sun. Something to look forward to over the coming winter months!

Tight lines, Scott.


  1. Great report Scott and such a pleasure to share the whole experience with you.

    1. Thanks mate. Likewise. I had a great time. Next time you're on groundbait mixing detail though. ;-)

  2. The baldies always get their fish. Leerfish look the biz btw.

    1. Indeed. Yeah the leerfish was a beautiful fish.

  3. Enjoyed reading all bout you and Lees trip , can't wait for my next holiday in the med, I want one of those painted combers, they look cracking, as do a lot of the other species.

    1. Thanks Col. The best thing about Mediterranean species is that, with only a few exceptions, they scrap really well so you can have a lot of fun on ultra light tackle. Even the small ones give a great account of themselves. Painted combers are pretty feisty and have stunning colours on them. Reasonably common too over rocky ground so you should have no trouble finding some when you are next on holiday in the Med. :-)

  4. Sounds like you had a wonderful time and loads of fun. I really enjoyed reading the three posts about your trip!

    1. It was a great trip. Lee and I are off to Madeira next. I can't wait!