Sunday, August 30, 2015

Species hunting adventures on the River Ebro and Catalonian coast : Part 1.

On Tuesday the 18th my mate Martin and I flew out to Spain to spend a week fishing on the River Ebro. It was an early start and after landing at Barcelona's El Prat airport we picked up our hire car. To break up the drive to Caspe, our base for the trip, we stopped on the way down the coast at Salou and fished on the Punta del Cavall, a rocky peninsula I spotted on Google Maps before we travelled. An hour or so fishing Angleworm on a drop shot rig saw me catching a few mini species. Martin fished a metal in the hope that something bigger would take it. 

My first fish of the trip was a ringneck blenny. I caught several of them from the rocky bottom close in. 
A couple of Mediterranean rainbow wrasse beat the blennies to my little lure. 

Casting out past the rocks into clean sand saw the bites dry up until I cast much further out. A few taps were eventually converted into a single lesser weever that had the decency to unhook itself and landing at my feet before flipping itself back in. A good thing as a weever sting wouldn't have been a good start to the trip. 

Martin patiently thrashed the water but didn't have any joy under the sunny Spanish sky which you could be forgiven for thinking was a sunny Scottish one. 

Back in the car we left the coast behind and headed inland. It was a nice drive and on the way we passed the Ebro a few times. Arriving in Caspe we passed a few tackle shops as we got lost trying to locate our hotel. One had several catfish stencilled on the walls outside.

Most anglers who visit the area do so to target the huge Wels catfish and carp that the river holds. 

Meeting our guide for the week, Lee Carpenter of Pro Predator, in our hotel bar we had a few beers and discussed the week ahead. He didn't pull any punches and warned us that the fishing of late had been tough but obviously we were still looking forward to getting out on the river the next day. 

The following morning we met Lee and were soon at the slip launching his boat on the river. Heading up stream we started off trying to catch zander using light tackle and a variety of different lures. We didn't have any success so did a bit of trolling lures for Wels catfish. Trolling is not really a method I've done much of or had the inclination to do so either but it soon became apparent that like other disciplines it has its own unique set of skills that need to be mastered. Lee knew his stuff in this respect and had one lure in particular that he has found to be very effective. The fishing was quite tough and sitting holding a rod can be a bit monotonous but when you do eventually get a take it is worth the wait, usually being very sudden and exciting too. 

My first Wels catfish on Lee's killer lure was just a small one
These Spro Pike Fighter jointed lures were very effective.
My first zander of the trip took one as well. 

After a while we had a go for zander around the pillars of a bridge. There were plenty of fish showing on Lee's fishfinder but getting them to bite proved difficult so we tried different lures and retrieve speeds which eventually saw Martin find out that spinnerbaits were effective. 

Martin's first fish of the trip was this nice zander. 

Then a rather big Wels catfish took Martin's spinner bait. As he was fishing using a light lure rod quite a battle soon commenced although to start with the fish stayed deep before deciding enough was enough and kicking off.

Fish on. To start with the catfish didn't really do much. It just plodded around and Martin patiently waited for it to start misbehaving whilst Lee slowly moved the boat away from the bridge. 
The big fish soon realised something wasn't quite right with its last snack, started to get a bit annoyed and as the fight intensified with each successive run it began heading back towards the bridge, slowly pulling the boat back with it. 

Martin did his best to try and maintain the upper hand but with the tackle he was using it was always going to be a difficult task. Eventually the fish ran under the bridge and when it went around one if its concrete pillars Martin's braid went and he lost the fish. He was gutted and the air turned blue as he vented his frustration. Putting it behind us and switching back to heavier gear we did a bit more trolling before calling it a day although this didn't see us getting any more catfish. 

Next morning we went back to the same stretch. Lee told us that some bait anglers were due to start fishing for catfish from the bank nearby the following day and their groundbait would draw the catfish away into the shallows. A spell trolling soon saw Martin get his first Wels catfish.

Martin's first Wels catfish comes to the surface. 
Then it heads back down into the murky depths again. 
Eventually it tired and Lee brought it on board for a quick photograph. 
They really are strange looking fish. Their tiny eyes can't be much use to them in the murky water so I guess they detect the movement of their prey with their long feelers and their lateral line sensors. Inside their rather big mouths they have crushing pads made up of hundreds of tiny sharp inward pointing teeth. 

We then did a bit of vertical jigging around the pillars of the bridge with some setups suited to the purpose. Plenty of big fish were showing on Lee's Humminbird screen but it took a while for one to strike at our lures, Martin's large white curlytail grub, as recommended and provided by Lee, being the lure taken. This saw him locked into another epic battle with a big fish. Armed with a setup perfectly suited to the task the biggest catfish of the trip was eventually boated after a lengthy but controlled fight. 

The short stiff catfish rod allowed Martin to apply more pressure to the fish helping him to keep it away from the bridge's concrete superstructure. 
108lb of Ebro predator.
Martin was left covered in smelly catfish slim but he didn't complain (too much). 

With no more takes fishing soft plastics vertically we did a bit more trolling and with Lee's jointed black and pink deep diving hard lure on the end of my line I caught another two catfish. 

After plodding around for a short period another angry catfish heads off on a short run. 
The catfish I was catching were getting bigger. 
I hold on tight as my second catfish of the day motors off up the river.  
My biggest one of the trip at 82lb. 

Our second day's fishing had been quite tough again but when we did get some action it was intense. Catching the catfish had been great fun but the following day we decided to have an earlier start to head down the river to the clearer waters there to target largemouth bass. 

A beautiful start to the day. 

On the way to the largemouth bass holding bays we stopped off to try for zander but despite lots of them showing up on the fishfinder we didn't have any luck tempting them. At the first largemouth bass spot Lee suggested that we work lures quickly near the surface over some submerged rock platforms and this advice soon saw Martin catch his first Spanish largemouth bass after he had a few bumps from fish. 

This fish took a Berkley Ripple Shad in white with a red tail. 

As we slowly worked our way around the bay Martin had a follow from another, much bigger fish but it turned away as it got closer to the boat. I meanwhile was getting a few knocks but wasn't having any joy connecting with them so I scaled down until I eventually caught a very small specimen that took my lure almost as soon as it hit the water very close to the rocky shore. 

A bit of finesse saw me catch my first, small but perfectly formed, largemouth bass

A visit to two additional largemouth bass holding spots didn't produce any more fish although we did see five or six of them close to the surface lazing in the sun that we couldn't tempt with anything we threw at them. Heading back up the river we fished soft plastics and eventually found a few fish. Martin had quite a bit of success slowly fishing a craw bait on a jika rig along the bottom. 

A nice zander for Martin. 

I fished my soft plastics on a drop shot rig. Lake Fork Trophy Live Swimmin' Slug, which are heavily scented with garlic and salt, caught a few nice perch. 

A nice chunky Ebro perch.
Jika rigged craw does the business again. 
Perch love worms. Gulp Sandworm is probably the deadliest worm imitation I know of. 

As our session finished late in the afternoon I talked Martin into heading to the coast for a couple of hours light game fun in the sea in the evening. L'Ametlla de Mar was our chosen destination and we headed all the way to the end of its outer breakwater to see what we could catch. Martin hadn't really tried this style of fishing before so I set him up with a drop shot rig baited with Angleworm and he was into a nice saddled seabream on his first cast before I had even finished setting up my own drop shot rig. I followed suit and we then enjoyed fairly steady action over the next couple of hours. 

Casting my rig out just past some boulders produced a few taps and eventually an East Atlantic peacock wrasse.  
This was the biggest of several annular seabream caught. 

After a few more annular and some saddled seabream Martin called over to say he had hooked a bigger fish. I was quite jealous when he landed this lovely looking fish.

I'm pretty sure this is a brown meagre. It had a beautiful purple sheen on its head and nicely coloured fins too. 

Shortly afterwards we both caught a black scorpionfish each and I also caught a single striped red mullet. 

Another new species for Martin. 

Exploring further around the rocks I spotted a few small black fish. Tying on a #14 soon saw me catch a few of them. 

Another pretty little species that is common in the Mediterranean, Damselfish have tiny mouth and an equally tiny hook and bait is needed to catch them. 

It was soon getting dark so we headed back through the mountains to Caspe. We had reached the half way point in the trip and whilst the fishing on the Ebro had been tough at times we had also caught some nice fish. It had been a long day and due to this we had arranged to meet Lee at noon on day four for an afternoon into darkness session. We were both keen to catch some more largemouth bass and bigger zander. The forecast was not looking great for the morning with thunderstorms and lightning forecast. We had our fingers crossed that these wouldn't continue into the afternoon but were optimistic that perhaps a bit of cloud cover would maybe see few more fish biting. 

Tight lines, Scott. 

3 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It's quite breathtaking setting to fish. Every fish caught was thoroughly earned. It was very hard fishing at times. I'd love to be there when the fish are in the mood!

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  2. I've been away for a while and finally caught up on all of your posts to date thru October, and really enjoyed them all as you proceed with your annual adventure. I really love that ringneck blenny...what a beautiful fish! Between your trip catching one of those, the tompots, and all the other blennies that you catch, I can only imagine what a cool fish tank I'd have had I been on the other side of the Atlantic pond!

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