Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Creatures of habit.

Last Monday morning after breakfast whilst I waited on the local tackle shop opening I had a few casts around Stranraer Harbour. As well as killing time  it was nice to try somewhere new as you never know what you might catch. The water was quite coloured up but I fished away for half an hour or so and managed to catch a solitary long spined sea scorpion before heading to get a box of ragworm. I suspect if the water clarity had been better it might have produced some more fish.

A grey start to the day.
Long spined sea scorpions are pretty funky looking fish. They look like little gargoyles.

As the afternoon approached the clouds soon started to disappear but it was still fairly windy. It had been my intention to head down to the Mull of Galloway to target small wrasse from the rocks on its northern side, another spot I've never fished from before, but I was unsure what the conditions would be like down there so I popped to Portpatrick first.

Clouds all gone but because of the wind blowing down the coast and the accompanying slight swell I decided to have a fish in shelter of the harbour.

In the past amongst other species I've had from Portpatrick harbour I've caught sand gobies and rock gobies and the capture of  either would have added to my annual tally so I setup to try for them. My scaled down one up one down rig with #14 hooks and tiny chunks of ragworm wasn't tempting anything to bite though so I worked my way around the harbour until I ended up fishing in its mouth. There is a lot more kelp and snags in it though so I switched to a one up rig and eventually caught my first wrasse of the year, a small ballan.

Wrasse love ragworm. I could have fished with the ever reliable Angleworm too but really if I have the choice of that or quality ragworm then the bait wins every time.

I carried on fishing but feeling quite frustrated by the lack of further action I decided to bite the bullet and head down to the Mull of Galloway to see what the sea state was like. Getting down there I found that the north coast of it was a bit too rough to fish for wrasse and whilst the southern side looked a lot calmer most of it was inaccessible or involved dangerous climbing. Given my recent rock climbing misadventures I decided against that and instead parked the car at East Tarbet and headed north from there to try and find a sheltered gully to fish.

The Mull of Galloway lighthouse in the distance. It was a pleasant walk along the clifftop footpath and I did head down the grassy slopes to the rocks to try a couple of spots but the water just wasn't deep enough really and I had no luck finding any wrasse.

It was turning into a bit of a frustrating day really and after some head scratching I headed back up to Portpatrick. This time I explored some gullies to the north of the harbour and managed to catch an additional three ballan wrasse. It was hard work though and I had to do a fair amount of rockhopping to find them. Still it was good to cover some new ground that I'll no doubt return to during future visits to the village. 

I love ballan wrasse. Even small ones scrap hard and you need to react fast to get them away from their lairs quickly.

Later in the evening I returned to the mouth of the harbour and managed to catch a small coalfish, a small pollock and a couple of corkwing wrasse, another welcome addition to my 2015 Scottish saltwater species hunt.

A nice male corkwing wrasse.

I fished on for a while hoping that as light began to fade later in the evening some shore rockling might start feeding as I've caught them there before. I switched to a running ledger with a bigger hook baited with a large chunk of mackerel from a couple of fillets I'd kept from the fish we'd caught the day before. This didn't produce any bites though and feeling quite tired from the day's fishing, driving, clifftop walks and clambering around on rocks, I packed up and headed back to the B&B. The wind was forecast to drop off the following day and I was heading to the Isle of Whithorn to target small wrasse again as well as tompot blennies at a spot my mate Martin and I had caught them at last year.

After checking out of the B&B and picking up another box of ragworm last Tuesday morning I made the drive around Luce Bay and down to Isle of Whithorn. It was a lovely sunny day and as forecast the wind had almost died off completely although it was blowing onshore so when I got down to the rocks I found there was a little bit of a swell running. I also found someone already in the spot I wanted to fish but luckily he was just leaving.

An old gentleman tends to his lobster pots. Pulling an empty pot up from the gully I wanted to fish in he decided to drop it elsewhere which was great for me.

With goldsinny and rockcook wrasse in mind and to combat the tackle hungry kelp I went with a single #14 hook at the end of a very short snood on a one up rig baited with a little piece of ragworm. Things were slow to start with but once the tide started to flood I started getting some positive bites which I soon started converted into hooked fish. Ballan and corkwing wrasse were the first to be caught but eventually I caught a few goldsinny wrasse too.

A nice little brown and biege mottled ballan wrasse was my first fish of the day. 
All of the goldsinny wrasse I caught were beautifully coloured with golden undersides and vivid dark spots on the leading edge of their dorsal fin and top edge of their tail roots.

A few more ballan, corkwing and goldsinny wrasse followed although I caught no where near the amount of fish that I did when Martin and I visited mid July last year. After a quiet spell I started getting more bites again though and landed a few more wrasse. Eventually I caught my first rockcook of the year.

Again a particularly vibrant example. Not sure if I prefer these or male cuckoo wrasse. Both are quiet stunning when their livery is bold.

With the wrasse species having added another four species to my annual tally I swapped my hook for a slightly bigger one and used a larger piece of ragworm to try and tempt a tompot blenny. After a few more ballan wrasse I caught a blenny and got excited for a brief moment before hoisting it to hand and realising it wasn't the right one.

A common blenny. The one I was after is much rarer in Scottish waters.

Last year Martin and I caught two tompot blennies each so with it being only mid afternoon I was confident I'd get one if I just kept plugging away. I also remembered that we caught them after the tide rose past a certain level and not long after it reached a similar height I caught one. This brought a huge smile to my face.

Tompot blennies are funky looking fish. I was over the moon to catch another Scottish one. Another species ticked off that may prove pivotal in my quest to catch fifty from Scottish saltwater this year. 

Mission accomplished really and I was in two minds about what to do with the rest of the afternoon. Should I stay where I was and try fishing other methods to see what else might turn up or head off somewhere else? In the end I decided to head up the coast to try somewhere new. Walking back to the car I bumped into another angler who was on his way down to the rocks I had just left to try and catch some mackerel. He told me that there was a nice little pier along the coast at Garlieston so I headed up there to use up the last of my ragworm.

Fish are creatures of habit and so am but I try not to be all of the time. Fishing new spots is a great way to perhaps discover somewhere else that produces fish. You might also get a surprise species too. 

Fishing a one up one down rig with #10 hooks I didn't have any joy fishing it out onto the sandy bottom around the end of the harbour. Dropping it down closer in onto some patches of small rocks resulted in a steady stream of kamikaze shore crabs and a dozen common blennies before a female corkwing wrasse took my final piece of bait.

Once I managed to get my hook back off them rather than make good their escape the shore crabs become rather aggressive, arching up and spoiling for a fight.
A nice little fish to end the trip on.

All in all a productive three days fishing if a little slow at times. Five species added to my tally whilst out in Spike's boat with Martin and another five added whilst out species hunting on my own. That's twenty eight down and twenty two left to catch, a much better position to be as the half way point in the year approaches than when I left Edinburgh last Saturday night. Looking at my list of remaining viable targets I can see more visits to Dumfries & Galloway on the cards.  Portpatrick, Killantringan, Mull of Galloway and another day out in Spike's boat all offer opportunities to add quite a few things to my tally. Some of these trips will be to places I've fished before but some will involve trying new spots too. I better start planning when I can fit these trips in!

Tight lines, Scott.


  1. Love those little wrasse. Unfortunately, I'm stuck here in land-locked Nottingham, Gran Canaria already a distant memory and no trips to the coast planned until the end of August!

    1. I don't think I could live too far from the sea especially over the summer. :-)