Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Species hunting adventures on Madeira : Part 1.

On the 28th of February I flew out to Madeira with my mate Lee for a week's fishing. My girlfriend Lillian and my sister Sharon came with us as well to chill out and do a bit of sight seeing and walking on the island. A couple of hours after landing we arrived at our apartment and feeling rather hungry we headed to the local supermarket for supplies. As it was already quite late there would be no fishing that evening but whilst in the supermarket I couldn't help looking at the fishmonger's display to see what was there.

Up above the clouds with the best budget airline ever. Look closer.
An island delicacy, the black scabbardfish isn't the most attractive of fish. Locals fish for them at night attracting them up from deep water using lights on their boats.

Up early in the morning, Lee and I headed off to explore the rocks at either end of Praia Formosa, the black shingle beach in front of our accommodation.

Doca Do Cavacas at the eastern end of Praia Formosa. I thought this spot would be good before we arrived.
The massive 580m cliffs of Cabo Girão can be see here to the west but we would settle for having a scramble around on the rocky outcrop at the end of the beach.

We started our session at Doca Do Cavacas before sunrise but much to our disappointment things were quite slow. I opened my account for the trip by catching a small cardinalfish on Gulp! Angleworm on a drop shot rig.

A colourful little start to my species hunt. 

When the sun rose things remained fairly tough and I managed a single ornate wrasse so whilst Lee remained focused on the open sea I turned my attention to the large rockpools behind us. As the sun got higher in the morning sky the fish in them became more aggressive and were soon being caught on a simple split shot rig.

Despite the crystal clear pools being full of rockpool blennies it was a rock goby that grabbed my tiny piece of Gulp! Angleworm first and got hooked.
Rockpool blennies look very similar to our own common blenny. They have a slightly smaller head though by comparison and some light blue markings around their eyes.

Lee wasn't having any joy in the slightly coloured sea so we decided to move. Heading along to the rocks at the other end of the beach the water there was a little clearer but we found things very tough there as well and I only managed a single small Atlantic lizardfish. The bottom was quite snaggy too and we were losing quite a lot of drop shot leads. Lee was understandably getting quite frustrated so we decided to try in the middle of the beach. My first cast produced a small white seabream but again the bottom was very unforgiving and after losing a few more rigs and catching no more fish we headed back to meet the girls who wanted to have a bumble around the islands capital, Funchal.

The only reward for our efforts from Praia Formosa.

After dropping the girls off and with Lee still to get off the mark we decided to try inside Funchal harbour. After driving along we soon found a spot where we could park the car and stumbled across some locals down at the end of a small lane who were fishing mainly with bread paste under floats. We joined them and were getting a lot of bites at close range but finding it hard to connect with them so I started casting further out. Eventually I caught a fish.

At first glance I thought these were annular seabream due to the yellow tinge to their fins. Later in the day I'd realise they were in fact bastard grunt, my first new species of the trip.

Lee meanwhile was still getting lots of little bites down the side and his determination to find out what was responsible eventually paid off when he connected with one, catching his first fish of the trip, which turned out to be a black goby.

Perhaps not the exotic fish Lee was hoping for but a fish is a fish and he had opened his account. 

After catching a few more bastard grunt and black goby we decided to try another mark to the west of Funchal harbour. The spot I had in mind however was out of bounds due to a new hotel being built so we had a walk along the coastal path and spotted an area we could access not too far away. This proved to be a good move and we were both soon catching a few fish.

Canary damselfish are very pretty and are much easier to catch than their Mediterranean cousin, the damselfish.
Puffers were also present in large numbers.  Their small mouths make them difficult to hook though but they leave distinctive teeth marks on your soft plastics or just bite them clean in half which gives away their presence.

Ornate wrasse however were by far the most common fish and as we would find out they can be caught at most marks around the island. They are most prolific at close range where they hug rocky structures. Using larger hooks reduces catch rates but it also means you miss out on other species.

Another colourful ornate wrasse.

Next I hooked a fish at range. When it came into view I was excited to see it was a cleaver wrasse also known as a pearly razorfish. Another fish with a very small mouth that is a relatively rare catch so I was pleased to get it although it wasn't my first as I caught one two years ago when I visited Crete.

A truly bizarre but beautiful fish.
They have peculiar teeth that they can move like little pincers as I discovered when it tried to bite me.

Continuing to cast out a fair distance the next species I caught was my second new one of the trip and was also one of my "Most Wanted" targets for the trip, a small blacktail comber.

The stamp of fish may have been small but I was having lots of fun anyway.

Lee meanwhile was catching a few Madeira rockfish and then caught his first ever Guinean puffer. He was using AquaWave Ami, a very tough shrimp shaped soft plastic, to great effect.

An ornate wrasse falls to Lee's durable little lure. 

I then scaled up a little bit and switched from a #14 to a #6 hook on my drop shot rig and baited it with a whole Gulp! Sandworm. This almost immediately produced a nice big Atlantic lizardfish that tried its best to get into the submerged rocks below me. I eased off on the pressure a bit when it went behind a boulder to prevent my braid snapping and managed to successfully land it.

Sometimes the larger lizardfish give a good account of themselves. 
What a mouth. A very aggressive predator indeed

After a few more fish we headed back to the apartment only to find that the girls had popped out. While we waited on them returning with the keys we had a quick fish on Praia Formosa again. I managed to catch a few more bastard grunt realising what they were when they started "grunting" and that they were actually not annular seabream at all. Lee was keen to catch one as well but didn't have any luck, losing a few rigs to the rough sea floor. 

Grunts "grunt". Not sure why they are bastards though although Lee maybe thought they were as he couldn't catch one. 

In the evening I made us a tasty meal, Piri Piri chicken which we washed down with a few glasses of Madeira wine. Afterwards Lee and I started to formulate a plan for the following few days' fishing.

Not a bad backdrop for our late night planning session. 

The next day the girls were going to do a walk around the eastern peninsula of the island so we decided we would spend a few hours fishing around Machico in the late morning and early afternoon and then we decided to head to Câmara De Lobos for a few hours in the early evening when we all met up again. My species hunt was off to a good start, twelve species caught including two new ones. Lee was keen to catch some bigger fish that would put more of a bend in his rod though. I wouldn't mind that either and surely exploring more of the island we would eventually find some.

Tight lines, Scott.

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