Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mullet madness.

As planned I returned to Torness Power Station outflow today to have another go at catching a golden grey mullet. The first few hours were very frustrating indeed, watching dozens of juvenile mullet hoovering up my groundbait but ignoring the piece of bread on my hook. Once forced to retreat to the sea defences by the incoming tide I had to wait a short while for the tide to rise a little further before I could continue fishing for mullet. I killed time catching blennies from between the rocks after collecting a solitary limpet to use as bait. 

One of many blennies that I caught on slivers of limpet. An underrated bait I think that stays on the hook very well. 

Once there was enough water out in front of me I started adding groundbait and fishing bread flake under my float again. It took a while before any mullet showed up but the water was very clear and I was entertained by the resident blennies. They were coming out of the gaps between the submerged rocks, swimming up and grabbing small pieces of bread before quickly darting back down to the safety of their hiding places again. Five of them however made the mistake of munching on my hookbait and were unceremoniously hoisted up, unhooked and released again. Eventually some small mullet did arrive but again none of them disturbed my float. As high tide approached I was beginning to feel a little frustrated by the lack of action when my float finally went under. Unfortunately after about thirty seconds of the mullet on the end thrashing wildly my rod suddenly straightened and my float whizzed up over my head. Rather annoyed my blood pressure would rise further still when about five minutes later my float went under again only for a smaller fish to successful copy the first and throw my hook in a thrashing frenzy. Cursing my luck I didn't expect to get a third chance but shortly afterwards I did get one and taking my time playing the fish I eventually got it into my net much to my relief. Like the mullet I caught earlier this month it had a slight golden mark on its gill plate but checking other features I'm pretty certain it was another thick lipped grey mullet. 

A feint golden marking on the gill plate doesn't mean it is a golden grey mullet.

Quite surprised by the trio of hookups in fairly quick succession things got even better when I then hooked and landed a further two thick lipped grey mullet. By now I had used up all my groundbait and light was fading, making seeing my float difficult. After half an hour or so with no further action I packed up and headed home. Well, I hadn't caught my target again and it had been a strange session really. Very frustrating for a long time and then a rather mad short period where I hooked five fish and managed to land three. I have to say though I'm quite enjoying fishing for mullet, species hunting aside it's nice to have another fishing option over the colder winter months and when the conditions look right I'll be back again. I might however just try fishing an hour either side of high water as this seems to be the most productive stage of the tide.

Tight lines, Scott.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lovely day but no golden grey.

I popped down to the outflow area of Torness Power Station with my mate Nick yesterday for a spot of float fishing for the mullet that its artificially warm water attracts. It was a lovely day with clear blue skies and an offshore wind was flattening the sea nicely. 

A lovely day for a spot of float fishing.

I was hoping to catch my first golden grey mullet of 2014 to take my species from saltwater tally to ninety nine. Nick wasn't being so fussy. He's caught them abroad but hasn't caught a mullet in the UK and was just keen to get one regardless of its variety. We arrived about midway into the flooding tide and lots of small mullet appeared as soon as we began ground baiting in a small bay. A good sign and Nick's float wasn't in the water long when it suddenly went under. A cheeky blenny had come up from the bottom to take his bread flake and was quickly landed much to our amusement. As with my last visit there was no sign of any larger mullet however and before we knew it we were forced off of the rocks we were fishing from so we moved back to the boulders that make up the sea defences to the right of the outflow and started the ground baiting process over again. Whilst we waited on the tide flooding a little more and some mullet to arrive I kicked a limpet from the rocks, cut off a sliver and put it on my hook, lowering it down between the rocks into the water below. It didn't take too long for me to catch a blenny.

This little limpet lover opens my account for the day.

As the tide flooded we kept adding ground bait but for some reason even the juvenile mullet failed to show up. We persevered though and as the tide turned and began to ebb a few small mullet finally arrived.

Nick patiently watches for signs of activity registering on his bolo float.

After a while I was starting to think it just wasn't going to happen when my float suddenly shot under. My rod was soon bent nicely into a feisty fish, Nick grabbed the net and after a minute or two of the fish thrashing near the surface the first mullet of the session was safely in it. Was it my golden grey though?

The feint golden marking on its gill plate had me excited briefly until I examined the fish properly and discovered it was in fact a thick lipped grey mullet.

I was hopeful that this might signal the start of some more activity but unfortunately it did not and by the time we ran out of ground bait and bread for our hooks it ended up being the only mullet of a fairly  quiet session. That's mullet fishing for you though. Conditions tomorrow look good for another go though so I'll be back with another nice fresh loaf and a bucket of ground bait to try again. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Trying to find a viviparous blenny in a coalfish shoal.

Sitting in the canteen at work yesterday I had a look at the weather forecast and tides for Sunday. Whilst doing so I noticed that conditions looked good yesterday evening down at Dunbar for another session targeting viviparous blennies. Low water was at about 19:00 and I reasoned that perhaps there would be fewer coalfish around when there was less water in the harbour. I send my mate Nick who lives near the harbour a text to tell him that I would be coming down for a few hours, he said he was free and would join me for a while. Grabbing my gear after work I drove down the A1 and was soon fishing small chunks of raw prawn on a scaled down two up one down rig in the area where I caught my first viviparous blenny last year. My hopes that the coalfish would not be around in numbers which would perhaps make my difficult task a little easier were quickly dashed and by the time Nick arrived with his son I had caught about thirty of them including quite a few double shots. 

Nick's son was soon catching a few coalfish too which was nice to see and Nick cast out into the harbour entrance channel to try and catch a flounder which he soon suceeded in doing. I kept on ploughing through the coalfish, my rig barely getting a chance to settle before they were all over it. After a while I removed the top two snoods from it, basically converting it into a simple running ledger and fished a slightly bigger piece of bait. This cut down on the number of smaller coalfish being caught and after a couple dozen slightly bigger coalfish eventually I felt something biting that didn't feel like a coalfish. I lowered my rod tip slightly and let the bite develop for a few seconds before lifting it again. Feeling a little extra weight I began reeling in and quickly brought the fish to the surface, then hoisted it up the harbour wall even quicker when I saw it was indeed not a coalfish and was in fact the species I was after.

A small viviparous blenny, a new addition to my 2014 saltwater species tally so I was extremely happy. 

After I took a few photos of my slippery catch it was getting late and it was soon time for Nick to take his son home so they said goodbye and left me to it. I fished on for another half an hour but another dozen or so coalfish later, which took my tally to over seventy, I called it a night. I only have two species left to catch from saltwater to reach the one hundred mark and I'm now quietly confident I'll get them. Unless the weather forecast changes I'll be meeting up with Nick on Sunday morning to try and add species ninety nine with a session targeting golden grey mullet.

Tight lines, Scott.

Would you like Fries' with that?

Inspired by my discussion last Sunday night with the diver about unusual, rarely targeted/caught species, I decided on Tuesday to drive west to fish from the shore of Loch Fyne. My target for the day was a small fish called a Fries' goby that is quite rare in terms of its distribution but is quite common in some Scottish sea lochs. It is seen by divers and seems to have some kind of symbiotic relationship with another sea bed resident, the Norwegian lobster, living in borrows in muddy areas. 

This beautifully coloured goby only grows to about 10cm. Most anglers simply wouldn't be interested in trying to catch one. To a species hunter like me however, all fish are interesting and worth trying to catch.

A few factors make targeting this particular goby tricky so solving those problems is interesting too. The size of the target dictates that small baits be used so keeping them on the equally small hooks when casting them out is an issue. The muddy habitat where they live normally only occurs below a depth of 15m which at the spot I chose was quite far from the shore so tackle capable of casting out this distance is needed but I also wanted to maintain bite detection too so a compromise was required. I decided to adopt the following approach. I chose a sensitive lure rod rated to cast 10-40g as I felt given that because it was a fairly small tide, leads closer to the top end of that range would hold bottom. I used an 8lb braided mainline to aid casting distance and bite detection. My end tackle consisted of a scaled down three hook flapper rig made from a 15lb main body, very short 6lb snoods with #14 hooks. I clipped a 1oz lead to the end of that. For bait I decided to use the leftover raw prawns I had from my session on Sunday. I cut these in half lengthwise and bound the long thin halves up with fine bait elastic. Small chunks were snipped off and used as required. I did this to hopefully keep them on the hooks during the cast and on impact with the water and it worked quite well. Casting out as far as i could, trying to find areas of mud, things were slow to begin with and catching a trio of invertebrates had me chuckling away to myself and wondering if there were any fish around let alone my target.

It was an overcast day but it was quite mild with hardly any wind. I could see the bright white buildings of the small town of Inveraray across the water to my east.
The first thing I caught was a small common starfish that was followed by...
...a rather grumpy shore crab and then...
...a hermit crab who badly needed a new "home". His current one had a large hole in the side.

Casting around in different directions eventually some fish took an interest in my baits. Fishing at a fair distance into deep water I was still able to detect the little bites on my light rod and quickly struck at them to try and avoid deep hooking the culprits.  Upon feeling any extra weight I wound in quickly to get my rig and any hooked fish up over the weed covered ledge out in front of me that is typical of many Scottish sea lochs and I managed to start landing a few small fish.

A tiny cod was my first fish of the day. Proof that my approach could produce small fish at distance from deep water.
A few small dab followed with mouths much smaller than the cod. A sign that my hooks and baits were small enough. 
I also caught a few black gobies, another encouraging indication that my approach should work if I could cast my rig into an area that contained any Fries' gobies.

As light started to fade I caught a few more small fish and I decided to call it a day when the sun set.

This small haddock was my final fish of the session.
Quite a nice sunset to look at whilst packing up.

So no Fries's goby but I was quite happy to try out this approach and was encouraged by the results. To be honest I'm not entirely sure I'm fishing in exactly the right area. Further sessions will no doubt be required and perhaps a different spot on the shore might produce my target. Maybe distance is the key though in which case a different approach might be required. I really don't want to go as heavy as a beachcasting setup so perhaps a vertical assault from afloat may be required. Food for thought and if I do eventually catch the little colourful goby it will be a very satisfying capture indeed. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cold, wet and informative.

I did a bit of overtime at work last week. Next year's fishing trips require financing after all! That and the weather conspired to ensure that opportunities to get out fishing were pretty much non existent. Sunday was my only day off and I had planned to head to Loch Fyne with my mate Nick but unfortunately he text me on Saturday to say he couldn't make it after all. When I woke up on Sunday morning I didn't really fancy the five hour round trip on my own so instead opted for a lie in and made the much shorter drive down the east coast in the evening to have a go for a viviparous blenny, an old nemesis that I've not caught so far this year. The conditions were far from ideal with the water in both Eyemouth and Dunbar harbours being very coloured due to a bit of a swell running outside them. The harbours did afford me reasonable shelter however and fishing very light with scaled down bait rigs I did manage to catch about thirty fish but my target species wasn't one of them.

Coalfish predictably made up the bulk of my catch with a couple of very small cod successfully muscling their way to my raw prawn baits.

I was suitably dressed for the cold weather and apart from the persistent rain from about 19:00 onwards it was actually a fairly pleasant evening. I ended up with company when a chap out walking his dogs whom I'd got talking to last year stopped and had another good chat with me for a while. A fellow angler and also a keen diver we discussed species hunting and he gave me some useful information on the locations he had observed some of the species which are on my "Most Wanted" list. Targeting some of these species sometimes presents different sets of problems to overcome in terms of the approach adopted but it obviously helps tremendously to have a rough idea where they might be in the first place! From that perspective alone it had been well worthwhile venturing out for a few hours on a cold and wet November evening.

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Two out of three ain't bad.

When I got back from Menorca and updated my saltwater species tally for the year I noticed that I had reached ninety five species and had a though. Perhaps I could realistically hit a total of one hundred if I did a bit of planning, got a few breaks with the weather and a slice of luck? Looking at potential targets that I haven't caught during 2014 (or haven't ever caught for that matter) I came up with a shortlist of species that I could try and catch and have subsequently decided these will be my focus for the rest of the year. Three of the species on this shortlist, two spotted goby, golden grey mullet and thick lipped grey mullet, I had caught previously around East Lothian so on Sunday I took advantage of a calm spell in the weather and headed off to try and catch the three of them. First stop was the rather nice Ravensheugh Beach at low water to try and catch a two spotted goby from the rockpools at the eastern end.

Ravensheugh Beach is also known to produce the odd turbot, another species I've not caught this year, so I may return in the near future.

Making my way to the rocks at the end of the beach I tied a #18 hook onto the end of my line and squeezed on a single 2g shot a few inches above it. On the hook went a tiny sliver of squid and I began working my way around the various rockpools. To start with I couldn't see any two spotted gobies but after catching a few long spined sea scorpions I was exploring my third rockpool when I finally spotted two of the little fish. 

No sign of my target in this fairly deep pool but a nice big boulder in it provided a place to hide for...
...several of these super aggressive little predators.

Having located the fish I was after, which is usually the hardest thing to do in fishing, I set about trying to catch one. Lowering my bait down in front of the tiny fishes they swam over to inspect it but didn't seem interested at all and after a while trying to tempt them I decided to move on and try and locate some more in other rockpools. I soon spotted a single specimen in the next pool poking its head out from beneath a large rock but again it didn't seem to be in the mood so I moved again. The next rockpool was a lot bigger and dropping my bait into the middle of it saw three two spotted gobies appear from the weed around the edges, swim up and start fighting over it. This was a lot more promising but I feared they might struggle to get the #18 hook into their tiny mouths. I normally use #26 hooks for these tiny species but I've run out and after a while I was cursing the fact I hadn't ordered more. Just when I was thinking about quiting and heading off to target mullet I finally managed to hook one and quickly hoisted it up out of the rockpool.

This small gobies are pretty easy to spot as they have a dark red back with light brown saddles. They don't seem to spook either so once located a bit of perseverance (and a suitably tiny hook) normally sees them caught. Note also the nice blue spots down the fishes flank. These appear much brighter when the fish is in the water.

Quite pleased that my efforts had been rewarded I headed back to the car and drove down the A1, stopping briefly to buy some bread and sardines to make up some groundbait to hopefully attract a few mullet down at Torness Power Station outflow. Conditions didn't look ideal when I got down there however, with a slight swell running and the water ever so slightly clouded up as a result. I decided to give it a go anyway and set about making up my groundbait as I waited for the tide to flood over the area I planned to fish. As I started setting up my tackle I spooned in some groundbait and after a while a few juvenile mullet began appearing and started nibbling away at the chunks of bread floating on the surface. Tackle wise I went with an 8g bolo float, 6lb mainline and a #10 hook at the end of a 4lb hooklength. Squeezing on a bread flake about the size of a 5p piece and casting it out I sat patiently watching for the float to register bites. Over the next two hours or so I kept the groundbait going in, rebaiting my hook regularly and my patience was finally rewarded when I got a cracking bite, my float shooting under and staying there. Fish on and it was much bigger than the small ones I'd seen near the surface. I was surprised it didn't make any runs but instead it just thrashed around for quite some time in front of me. After a nervous moment when I thought it was going to swim into the rocks I was fishing from I managed to get it in my net.

Mullet are hard fighting fish. They have a lot of stamina too and don't give up easily. Luckily this one was well hooked. 

I carried on fishing hoping that a golden grey mullet would be next to sink my float and complete my hat trick of species for the day. My float did go under a second time but unfortunately the fish threw the hook after a few seconds of persistent thrashing. It felt like a bigger mullet than my first though so in all likelihood it was another thick lipped mullet. Just after high water I ran out of groundbait and then slices for my hookbaits so I packed up and headed off. Two out of three ain't bad and I'm confident I can return when conditions are better and catch a golden grey mullet. I now have only three species to catch to reach the one hundred mark and just over seven weeks to get them. Neap tides this weekend should have seen me out on Sunday night trying to catch a five bearded rockling and a viviparous blenny during slack water from Anstruther's White Pier but the incredibly strong easterly winds currently forecast may make this impossible. I may have to wait until the weather calms down again to resume my saltwater species hunting.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Most Wanted : Largemouth Bass.

Well it's that time of year again. The nights are getting longer and the weather is getting colder and wetter. Fishing opportunities are become more limited and my thoughts inevitably start to wander a bit to next year. In my head my plans for extended fishing trips during 2015 were already taking shape nicely when my mate Martin decided to throw a spanner in the works. When he told me he was going to the River Ebro in Spain for a week to target freshwater predators using lures and asked me if I wanted to join him I had to have a rethink. After watching a few videos he sent me I was quite frankly blown away, quickly told him that I'd love to go and subsequently the flights, accommodation and guide have all been booked.

Having caught perch and zander in the UK I'm looking forward to hopefully catching some of the larger specimens that the warm water of the River Ebro produces. It is another target however that has captured my imagination, largemouth bass. A fish native to the US, where it is a popular target species for many sport anglers due to it putting up a fair old scrap when hooked, often going airborne in an attempt to get free. It has, like a few other species, been introduced to the River Ebro.

"Take me to the river. Drop me in the water."
Our guide for the duration of our trip is Lee Carpenter of Pro Predator Fishing Adventures. This is Lee with a largemouth bass.

The trip will be my first experience of freshwater fishing abroad and I'm really looking forward to it. Obviously there is also the option of targeting the huge carp and catfish that the Ebro is famous for and being there for a whole week we might also manage to squeeze in a trip to the coast one evening for some ultra light fun in the sea as well. All in all it should be an epic adventure indeed!

Tight lines, Scott

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

This little piggy went to the minor injuries clinic.

Whilst out on Menorca with my mate Lee I caught my right foot under a tree root as we walked along a dirt path to one of the marks we fished. Luckily this little accident didn't affect the rest of our trip too much but when I returned home the pain in my swollen big toe got so bad that I could hardly walk and had to visit the minor injuries clinic at the hospital. Tendon damage was the nurse's diagnosis and I was simply given some advice on how best to reduce the swelling, manage the discomfort and hopefully speed up the healing process. Luckily my job involves me being sat on my backside for long periods so I only ended up having one day off and it has gradually been getting better every day. Resting it whilst not at work had however meant that I'd not been out fishing for almost two weeks! Some kind of consolation was the fact that the weather during this period had at times been quite bad so perhaps I would not have made it out much anyway.

On Sunday my big toe was feeling OK so I decided to head down the coast to try and add another species to my tally this year, a two spotted goby. There are a couple of spots I've caught these little fish at before but as low water wasn't until later in the afternoon I decided to head to Dunbar Harbour first. The target there was flounder and after casting my drop shot rigged Gulp! Angleworm around the old harbour for half an hour or so I had a solid take at range and a nice flounder soon had my rod bent over and the tip bouncing away.

My first fish in a fortnight!

A dozen or so casts later I caught a second flounder which was a bit bigger than the first. It was a bit thicker too and gave a really good account of itself. It also had a big set of rubbery lips and inspecting its head got me thinking about flat fish and their strange lifestyle, essentially swimming around on their sides all the time.

A nice chunky flounder.
Amazing to think of the transformation that flat fish undergo. At a very early stage in development they look like any other round fish with an eye on either side of their head. One eye then migrates over onto the opposite side which becomes their "back". Quite a bizarre process really.

After admiring the lopsided face of my catch briefly I returned it and watched the fish powering off back to the bottom. I then decided to head down the coast to Torness Power Station's outflow area where I'd be trying to find my main target for the day. 

Some of these shallow rockpools to the east of the warm water outflow are home to lots of tiny gobies.

Rigging up a simple split shot rig with a #18 hook I started off with a tiny piece of Gulp Angleworm on it and dozens of common gobies were soon moving from their stationary positions on the bottom and investigating it. After catching a few I still hadn't seen any two spotted gobies though. Common gobies are lightly coloured and any two spotted gobies normally stand out as they have a darker, reddish brown back with four light brown saddles along it. 

There were dozens of these tiny common gobies in the rockpools.

I patiently worked my way around a few rockpools, slowly moving my hook past any likely looking hiding places. After switching to a tiny piece of squid on my hook, which saw tentative exploratory bites become much more positive, I caught a few more common gobies and a few blennies before the sun began to set and I reluctantly admitted defeat. It had been a nice day, especially for the time of year, and despite not catching what I wanted as I drove back up the road I was very glad to finally have gotten out to wet a line again. 

Tight lines, Scott.