Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tough going.

I popped down to Torness Power Station outflow yesterday to try and catch some golden grey mullet. Alas despite generous amounts of groundbait going in not a single mullet showed up. Perhaps the persistent and fairly strong offshore winds have seen them all head elsewhere or maybe even the artificially high water temperatures of the outflow have dropped too low and they have become inactive? Who knows? Mullet can be frustrating even when they turn up but not seeing a single mullet enjoying my free stale bread buffet was almost soul destroying. At least the groundbait was nice and cheap I suppose at the bargain price of just 10p a loaf! To avoid a blank I vented my annoyance, kicked a limpet from the rocks and spent thirty minutes catching blennies.

Blennies go crazy for a chunk of limpet. Watching them fight over it is quite funny too and this soon had me smiling again. 

January has been a very tough month. It's hard to get excited about fishing in cold, windy conditions when there aren't a great deal of fish around. I think I'll leave the mullet until later in the year and will turn my attention to targeting rockling over the next few weeks or perhaps I might try and open my freshwater account. I was also hoping to have a day species hunting out on Loch Etive with two of my mates this month but again the weather has forced us to put that off. Hopefully we'll get to do that in February at some point. If I'm honest I really can't wait for winter to pass. On the bright side my week long holiday to Madeira is just over four weeks away and will be a most welcome escape from the cold, windy weather and difficult fishing.

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Size matters!

With no sign of the strong winds of late dying down any time soon I headed out yesterday to spend a few hours fishing in the rockpools around Torness Power Station. The large sea defences there offered me good protection from the icy cold gales blowing from the south west. I had three targets in mind although I also hoped that a bonus species might show up. Two of them were mini species and the third is what I would class as a micro species. Some anglers would no doubt frown upon such activities but when you are on a species hunt you can't ignore the smaller ones and besides I enjoy messing around in rockpools and find it can offer insights that benefit other areas of my fishing.

A long spined sea scorpion was first on my radar although their short spined cousin and leopard spotted gobies have also been caught in the area I was fishing. I decided to experiment a little with my end gear and fished a running ledger style setup with a 1g egg weight, 1mm bead, a micro swivel and a three inch hooklength to a #10 hook instead of using a split shot rig. I like using these types of presentations in rockpools as when the lead hits the bottom I think the noise it makes can attract the attention of any fish in the vicinity and then the bait takes a few seconds longer to sink down giving in the chance to pass enticingly into a fish's line of sight. Dropping the rig in next to various boulders and cracks it didn't take long for my target to charge out in a typically boisterous fashion and swallow my Gulp! Angleworm.

A perfect little ambush predator.

The next few rockpools also produced a couple of long spined sea scorpions and seeing each appear, stop in front of the lure and swallow it whole it was noticeable how easily they did this compared to when I use a split shot rig. As I mentioned above, this is one of the things I like about sight fishing in rockpools, you can learn quite a lot about rigs and tactics that can be applied when you scale up again to target larger fish on heavier tackle.

Next up I headed to another spot to catch an even smaller fish, a common goby. The rockpool where they live sometimes has two spotted gobies in it as well but there was no sign of them yesterday. Common gobies have a maximum size of only 6.5cm and an average size of 2-4cm so their tiny mouths require a seriously small hook. Onto my swivel went a #26 to 1lb nylon hook length baited with a tiny chunk of Angleworm. I find the best way to catch these bottom dwellers is to very slowly drag your rig along the bottom. This kicks up sand and normally has small groups of the diminutive fish following and fighting over it. Before too long I caught a couple of them. 

I find all fish interesting and small ones are no exception.

The last species on my list was the common blenny. A firm favourite of mine due to their cheeky character they are without doubt the easiest fish to catch at the power station outflow and are present in astonishing numbers. The artificially warm water from the outflow also sends them into a feeding frenzy when it floods into the boulders of the sea defences when the tide comes in. I have also seen a bootlace conger eels feeding in amongst them too but again only my target was caught. I don't think rig or bait choice matters in instances like this and this in itself is an important lesson, i.e. the warmer the water the more fish feed and the easier it becomes to catch them.

Common blennies are nasty little fish and will try and bite you. They have powerful jaws and will clamp on if successful. The par boiled examples found at Torness Power Station outflow area can be particularly feisty and this is probably another side effect of the warm water. All this being said though I've never had one break my skin. 

After catching a few more I decided to call it a day and headed up the road for something to eat. It was good to get out again though and I enjoyed targeting these small fish, even learning a little more about the benefits of using free running leads in rigs in the process. Fishing in rockpools might not be everyone's cup of tea but I think more anglers should try it. They might be pleasantly surprised how much fun can be had and it might just improve their fishing too.

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Under the weather.

I've not been feeling great the last week or so, even taking a few days off of work to stay in bed.  I had planned to get out on Sunday for some fresh air and to open my 2015 account but when my alarm went off I felt terrible, thought better of it and didn't go out. With some truly horrible wind forecast to arrive today I popped out late yesterday afternoon for a few hours. I headed down the coast to see if I could pick up where I left off at the end of 2014 by fishing Dunbar Harbour into darkness for a viviparous blenny. It was very slow to start with and took over an hour to even get a bite. Eventually though as it got darker I caught my first fish of the year.

A small coalfish. Dunbar Harbour is full of them most of the year.

The next fish to take my ledgered raw prawn chunk was a long slippery one. It would seem I'm getting much more efficient at catching viviparous blennies. Dusk seems to be the best time, before the coalfish really switch on, but as with all species if you know exactly where they are then the task is so much easier. Focusing my efforts over a patch of small rocks about a metre square I soon caught a second.

 Viviparous blennies. I know where you live.

As it got darker I started catching a few more coalfish, although bites were no where near as frequent as they usually are. My mate Nick then popped down to say hello and fished tiny slivers of squid under one of the bolo floats he has bought for use targeting mullet. After catching a few he then increased the depth he was fishing at until his bait was on the bottom to try and tempt a flounder. By now it was dark and the coalfish bites were coming as often as they usually do, almost every cast, but my #6 hook meant most did not get hooked and I did manage a third viviparous blenny before the wind started to pick up, my hands became unbearably cold and we packed up. I'm still not feeling 100% but I'm quite pleased to get my 2015 Scottish species hunt off to a good start. It's now blowing a gale outside and the forecast for the next week or so isn't looking great. I'm not sure when I'll get out next but if the weather lets up slightly I might pop out to some rockpools and try and tick a few more mini species off my list of targets using the #26 hooks to nylon I treated myself to for Christmas.

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Most Wanted : Barbel.

Over the last few years I've had a great time fishing in freshwater all over the UK and in the process have caught many of the species that are found in our rivers, reservoirs, lochs and fisheries. I've barely scratched the surface in terms of techniques, learning just enough to catch my targets in many instances but I've really enjoyed finding out a bit about various freshwater fishing styles and having a go at them along the way. There is one UK freshwater species that I haven't caught however that I am determined to catch this year, the barbel.

Fond of highly oxygenated, fast flowing water this strong streamlined fish uses its four barbels to locate food amongst the stones and gravel on the riverbed.

I could of course head to one of the rivers in England that are famous barbel waters to try and catch one but there are some here in Scotland in the River Clyde. I'd really like to give that a try and whilst I'm not sure how many barbel it holds they do get caught occasionally, most of the time by anglers targeting game species. This makes me think that spending time deliberately targeting them might prove productive. There's only one way to find out!

Tight lines, Scott. 

Saturday, January 03, 2015

2014. My fishiest year yet!

Well another year has come to an end and as always I like to have a quick look back on it before I start fishing again. I had a truely wonderful time, probably my best year's angling so far. I caught 125 different species including 35 new ones. Here's a summary of what they were. New species are asterisked. 

From freshwater I caught...
  1. Bitterling x 1 *
  2. Bleak x 18 *
  3. Blue Trout x 2 *
  4. Bream x 49
  5. Bream/Roach Hybrid x 5
  6. Brown Trout x 2
  7. Chub x 8
  8. Common Carp x 5
  9. Crucian x 1 *
  10. Dace x 27
  11. F1 Carp x 10
  12. Gudgeon x 134
  13. Minnow x 67
  14. Motherless Minnow/Sunbleak x 2 *
  15. Mirror Carp x 1
  16. Perch x 32
  17. Pike x 6
  18. Powan x 2 *
  19. Pumpkinseed x 12
  20. Rainbow Trout x 4
  21. Roach x 382
  22. Roach/Rudd Hybrid x 2
  23. Rudd x 2
  24. Ruffe x 2 *
  25. Silver Bream x 78 *
  26. Tench x 1
  27. Zander x 1
From saltwater I caught...
  1. Annular Seabream x 15
  2. Atlantic Chub Mackerel x 1 *
  3. Atlantic Horse Mackerel x 1
  4. Atlantic Lizardfish x 41
  5. Axillary Seabream x 1 *
  6. Axillary Wrasse x 1 *
  7. Azores Damsefish x 13 *
  8. Ballan Wrasse x 106
  9. Bass x 1
  10. Black Goby x 26
  11. Black Scorpionfish x 3
  12. Black Seabream x 20
  13. Blue Shark x 1 *
  14. Bogue x 7
  15. Canary Damselfish x 25 *
  16. Cardinalfish x 4 *
  17. Coalfish x 382
  18. Cod x 39
  19. Comber x 6
  20. Common Blenny x 90
  21. Common Dragonet x 6
  22. Common Goby x 14
  23. Common Pandora x 9
  24. Common Two Banded Seabream x 36
  25. Corkwing Wrasse x 167
  26. Cuckoo Wrasse x 12
  27. Dab x 10
  28. Damselfish x 4
  29. Derbio x 1
  30. Diamond Lizardfish x 7 *
  31. Dusky Grouper x 2
  32. Dusky Rabbitfish x 1
  33. East Atlantic Peacock Wrasse x 6 *
  34. European Smelt/Sparling x 1 *
  35. Five Bearded Rockling x 2
  36. Five Spotted Wrasse x 4 *
  37. Flounder x 39
  38. Garfish x 1
  39. Giant Goby x 4
  40. Gilthead Seabream x 1 *
  41. Goldblotch Grouper x 2
  42. Golden Grey Mullet x 2
  43. Goldsinny Wrasse x 33
  44. Greater Amberjack x 1 *
  45. Greater Sandeel (Launce) x 4
  46. Greater Weever x 8
  47. Grey Gurnard x 2
  48. Guinean Puffer x 2 *
  49. Haddock x 2
  50. Leopard Spotted Goby x 5
  51. Lesser Sandeel x 2 *
  52. Lesser Spotted Dogfish x 21
  53. Lesser Weever x 12
  54. Ling x 1
  55. Long Spined Sea Scorpion x 32
  56. Mackerel x 47
  57. Macronesian Sharpnose Puffer x 8 *
  58. Madeira Goby x 10 *
  59. Madeira Rockfish x 15 *
  60. Mediterranean Horse Mackerel x 3 *
  61. Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse x 64
  62. Montagu's Blenny x 1 *
  63. Ornate Wrasse x 86
  64. Painted Comber x 40
  65. Parrotfish x 3
  66. Peacock Blenny x 3 *
  67. Plaice x 3
  68. Plainhead Filefish x 1 *
  69. Pollock x 99
  70. Poor Cod x 24
  71. Pouting x 19
  72. Red Gurnard x 1
  73. Red Porgy x 2
  74. Ringneck Blenny x 3 *
  75. Rock Cook Wrasse x 2
  76. Rock Goby x 8
  77. Rockpool Blenny x 10 *
  78. Rusty Blenny x 5
  79. Saddled Seabream x 19
  80. Sand Goby x 20
  81. Sand Smelt x 13
  82. Sea Trout x 1
  83. Shore Rockling x 4
  84. Short Spined Sea Scorpion x 2
  85. Slender Goby x 9
  86. Spotted Bass x 1 *
  87. Spurdog x 7
  88. Striped Red Mullet x 6 *
  89. Striped Seabream x 1
  90. Thick Lipped Mullet x 7
  91. Thornback Ray x 5
  92. Three Spined Stickleback x 1
  93. Tompot Blenny x 15
  94. Tub Gurnard x 1
  95. Two Spotted Goby x 1
  96. Viviparous Blenny (Eelpout) x 2
  97. White Seabream x 14
  98. Whiting x 5
  99. Wide Eyed Flounder x 4 *
  100. Yarrell's Blenny x 1 *

Fishing all over the UK, in the Mediterranean and the Eastern Atlantic I had many wonderful adventures and was luck to share many of them with my friends as well which is always great. Reminiscing it's difficult to single out my favourite moments but here goes.

Ruffe and Powan from Loch Lomond.

Early in the year I enjoyed a few sessions at Balmaha Pier on the Eastern shore of Loch Lomond feeder fishing maggots in search of these little cheeky chaps. It was a beautiful day when I finally managed to catch a couple of ruffe.
These sessions also produced some pristine roach, a few perch and a couple of powan. A nice surprise to catch such a rare and beautiful fish.

European Smelt from the Tay Estuary.

My expectations when I visited Dundee of catching a smelt were not very high but I had a great days fishing catching lots of flounders and it was topped off when I caught a single smelt. Another fairly rare fish that I felt quite privileged to catch.

Trips down South.

In July and August I made a few visits to England and also popped over to Alderney for a few days. These trips produced some memorable fish including this beautiful blue shark.
Over on Alderney my mate and fellow species hunter Ross helped me catch my first Montagu's Blenny.
A visit to Swanage Pier with my mate Lee produced a lot of wrasse as it always does as well as a few other species. In amongst them I caught my first ever striped red mullet.
We also visited Berry Head near Brixham where this massive "seal in the bay" made us both laugh.
A short tour of a few coarse fisheries in August saw me catch a few new freshwater species too including this pretty little bitterling.
Marsh Farm is famous for crucians and a morning there saw me catch this lovely example, adding another new species to my 2014 tally.

Species Hunting on Lanzarote, Zante and Menorca.

A fortnight on the Greek island of Crete in 2013 really got me excited about fishing abroad. 2014 saw me visiting three more islands and having a great time. Puffers were great at destroying my soft lures on Lanzarote but I managed to catch a few as well. This Guinean puffer performed its party piece.
A surprise capture, this Plainhead Filefish was a very odd looking fish indeed.
In August I had a great time on Zante with my girlfriend Lillian. She's incredibly tolerant of my fishing obsession, at times encouraging it! Again I caught lots of fish but it was a peacock blenny that was perhaps my favourite of the trip. It was caught in brackish water and had stunning bright blue markings that unfortunately aren't captured very well in this photo.
In October I enjoyed a superb week of fishing on Menorca with my mate Lee. Rainbow wrasse were by far the most common fish around the island but this one was a particularly colourful specimen. 
These common pandora, with their light pink colouration and light blue spots, were very pretty fish too. 
Towards the end of our trip Lee had a real red letter day catching a greater amberjack, a leerfish and a thick lipped mullet all on very light tackle. I was pleased for him if a little jealous but later the same day I caught this greater amberjack after thrashing the water for quite some time with a small metal. We both also hooked and lost European barracuda as well during the trip. Next time we're abroad we'll hopefully land some!

Tampot Blenny and Yarrell's Blenny.

I make no secret of my love for blennies. During a session down at Isle of Whithorn targeting wrasse with my mate Martin we both caught our first Scottish "Tampot blennies".
After my mate Col caught a Yarrell's blenny in Burntisland Harbour I had to try and get one too. Two trips later I managed to do just that. A funky little blenny indeed. 

Five to go.

When I returned from Menorca I realised that I was only five species away form catching one hundred from saltwater in 2014. A shortlist of species was drawn up that I could target and I set about trying to carch them. First to be caught was this tiny two spotted goby.
Next up was this thick lipped grey mullet.
I had two sessions trying to catch a viviparous blenny from Dunbar Harbour. It's very hard to get through the coalfish there but on the second night after a few hours and several dozen coalfish I managed to catch one.
My goal in sight a trip to Anstruther White Pier saw me catch a couple of five bearded rockling fairly quickly leaving me only one species left to catch and four weeks to do it.
After several visits to Torness Power Station outflow area to try and catch a golden grey mullet I read something online that made me suspect that lots of the smaller mullet I had seen might in fact be the species I was struggling to catch. Scaling down my hook and hooklength breaking strain saw me catch two of these mullet and they were indeed the golden grey variety, my 100th species from saltwater of 2014.

As with previous years I had a lot of fun species hunting and that's not going to change in 2015. In the UK I already have a few trips in the pipeline, my mate Martin and I have been discussing a trip to Ireland for the shad run in May. In July a trip to the south coast is being discussed and in September I'll be joining my mate Ross aboard the Penzance charter boat "Bite Adventures" for some species hunting. No doubt I'll squeeze in a few short trips to various other places around the UK as well. I also want to spend time fishing around new areas in Scotland and with that in mind I'll be trying to set myself some goals to make sure I do. 

That being said, catching new species in the UK is becoming harder ever year so to keep things interesting my thoughts are turning to travelling abroad more and more and in fact three trips have already been booked. I'm off to the Portuguese island of Madeira at the start of March for a week with my mate Lee. In June I'll be visiting Nessebar in Bulgaria with Lillian where I'll no doubt squeeze in a short fishing session or two, wetting a line in the Black Sea for the first time. In August I'm visiting the River Ebro with my mate Martin for a weeks guided fishing targeting perch, zander and largemouth bass on lures. It would be rude not to have a go at the huge carp and catfish so we may do that as well and I think we'll squeeze in a session on the coast too if possible. Lots of fun in the sun to look forward to and I'll probably book another holiday, perhaps in the Canary Islands, for Lillian and I later in the year as well. 

So, 2014 was absolutely amazing but I'm sure 2015 will be a great year too. If my fishing comes even close to the level that I've enjoyed over the last twelve months then I'll be a very happy angler indeed!

Tight lines, Scott.