Sunday, September 27, 2015

Full of surprises.

Today I headed down to Dunbar harbour with a few of my mates for a Fish Club meet. It was the first one for a while but it was the biggest gathering so far with seven of us in attendance including two anglers who I'd never met before. For a change the weather was nice and we enjoyed the sun while fishing away. Over the last few years I've caught quite a few different species from inside the harbour but today I added a few more. After we had caught a few flounders, blennies, long spined sea scorpions and a plaice I caught a small corkwing whilst trying to tempt a two spotted goby or a fifteen spined stickleback out of the weed lining the harbour wall. 

My first corkwing wrasse from inside the harbour.

Just after this one of the lads came over with a small fish he wanted me to identify. I was surprised to see it was a scad, quite an unusual capture for the harbour although my mate Nick tells me he has caught a few when he has been out in his kayak not too far away from it. I changed to a piece of isome on a jighead and tried to catch one where I was but when Mikey caught a second I was straight over to where he was fishing, pinched a piece of his smaller isome and was soon into one myself.

My first Scottish Atlantic horse mackerel and my forty eighth saltwater species from Scottish saltwater this year.

Quite pleased with this little surprise we carried on fishing away. The mood was relaxed and it was nice just mucking around, catching a few fish and chatting to each other. Really it's exactly what I had in mind when I started the group.

Nick and his son Harry, Mike and Tam all fishing away while a few passers by take an interest in what they're doing and catching.

There was a fairly big shoal of small silver fish swimming back and forth whose movement made me suspect they were something not normally found in the harbour. At first I thought they might be smaller scad but after scaling down to a #18 hook and pestering them for a while I managed to catch a couple of them. They turned out to be juvenile herring, another species I'd never seen or caught in the harbour before. After a while things slowed down a bit but when we saw a rather big flounder swimming along the harbour wall and heading underneath the bridge on its way into the old harbour we decided to head around with it. Fishing Gulp Angleworm and Isome on drop shot rigs soon saw us catching a few of them. A few small coalfish were caught too as well as the odd blenny from down the walls.

One of a few flounders caught from the old part of the harbour.

When a large commercial boat came in and churned up the bottom things went very quiet so we headed all the way around to the rocks at the mouth of the harbour to see what was around in the deeper water there. Not much was biting apart from lots of small coalfish. Fishing small metals and soft plastics on jigheads on the drop was most effective.

This greedy coalfish really wanted my metal. I had to undo my clip to remove it and my assist hook to get them both back. A treble fitted to the lure would have probably resulted in a dead fish.

A few dozen coalfish later we headed back around into the harbour to end the session. I focused on the weed lining the harbour wall again and soon spotted a pair of two spotted gobies hovering just above it. My tanago hooks haven't arrived yet so I tied on a #26 hook and put a tiny piece of Angleworm on it. A single split shot a few inches above the hook helped me get it down to them and one of them was soon having a go at it. Perhaps twice the size of the one I failed to catch on Tuesday it had no problem gobbling up my little offering and was quickly hooked and swung up to hand.

This is a fairly big two spotted goby. Their maximum size is only 6cm. With some tanago hooks in the post I fully intend to catch one that will fit on the one yen coin that I also expect to receive in the next few days.

This two spotted goby was another species I'd never caught from Dunbar Harbour before and it was also the first one that I had not winkled from a rockpool. Being my first of the year as well it leaves me with only one species to catch to hit my target of fifty from Scottish saltwater this year. A few more fish were caught before we called it a day and headed off bringing an end to a great little session. I'm looking forward to the next meet and hopefully there will be another good turn out. Given it'll be the middle of Autumn by the time we meet up again I think a night session might be likely. As ever if you're interested in coming along to Fish Club and want to know when the next meet is happening please get in touch

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The best laid schemes o' fish an' men.

On Sunday the 13th I headed down to Cornwall with my good friend and fellow species hunter Ross. He booked three days out on Penzance skipper Chippy's charter boat Bite Adventures earlier this year and I had eagerly reserved a space when he asked me if I wanted one. Subsequently the two of us decided to stay down on the south coast to do a bit more species hunting and extended our trip to last a full week. Joining us for the first three days to fish on the boat were two of Ross's mates from his University days whom both brought along their dads. The rich waters Chippy operates in offer anglers the opportunity to catch a wide variety of species including some that aren't really found elsewhere around the UK coastline so we were all looking forward to hopefully catching some of our favourites or species that we had never caught before. Personally I had the following little list of species I was looking forward to perhaps catching, some of which are amongst my "Most Wanted" targets.
  1. Black Faced Blenny
  2. Brill
  3. Dover Sole
  4. Gilthead Seabream*
  5. Greater Weever*
  6. Grey Triggerfish 
  7. John Dory 
  8. Meagrim Sole
  9. Porbeagle
  10. Red Seabream
  11. Reticulated Dragonet
  12. Thin Lipped Grey Mullet 
* I've caught these before but not in UK waters.

Spirits were high leading up to the trip but as has been the case many times this year the weather threw a spanner in the works. On the way down the M5 Chippy called Ross to tell him that the strong south westerly winds that had been blowing and were due to continue the following day meant that our first day out on the boat was cancelled due to the swell that was running. Tired from the journey down and after a drink in the holiday complex's bar we all went to bed fairly early. As we were staying in Hayle, in the morning Ross and I went and had a look at the pool there that is famous for producing gilthead seabream after picking up some supplies, tackle and bait. It looked promising but as the tide was on its way out we decided to head elsewhere. The rest of the lads decided to stay locally but Ross and I drove east to Mevagissey to seek shelter and spend a couple of hours targeting mini species. It's one of our favourite marks to fish and on a good day can easily produce over a dozen species. Upon arrival we found the sea to be nice and flat with the wall behind us on the breakwater offering us a little protection from the wind and the odd light shower. Fishing on the bottom with small sections of ragworm we were hopeful that we might get lucky and catch a reticulated dragonet. None turned up but we had an enjoyable session catching mainly wrasse to begin with.

A nice colourful corkwing wrasse was my first fish of the trip.
We caught a few ballan wrasse too.

Ross was also after a common dragonet and a long spined sea scorpion for a species hunting competition he is taking part in this year. Both are common captures at Mevagissey and Ross soon got comfortable at a spot he's caught them both at before.

Ross was fishing using a light feeder rod and was soon getting tiny knocks from something small. After borrowing some #18 hooks from me he eventually caught the culprits, tiny common dragonets and shortly afterwards he caught a long spined sea scorpion too.

Before we left Mevagissey Ross got another call from Chippy to say that the boat was cancelled again the following day as the swell hadn't died down enough for it to be worth going out. Not great news but Chippy was almost certain that we would get out on Wednesday as the wind was forecast to change direction and the swell would calm right down as a result. Ross was keen to catch a lesser weever for his species hunt competition so I suggested we head north to Charlestown, a lovely little harbour that holds lots of them. We both caught one on our first cast.

Normally I visit St Ives for lesser weever as the numbers of them there hiding in the fine golden sand are quite incredible but Charlestown is also a very good place to catch them. With so many around unhooking them soon becomes a pain so I debarb my hooks and try to shake them off using my forceps.

Fishing away we also caught a lot of pin whiting, a few corkwing wrasse and the odd blenny. Sand smelt were also about in great numbers and I decided to keep a dozen or so to have for my dinner. I've never eaten them before but my friend Dimitrios had told me they were tasty coated in gram flour and fried so that's exactly what I did when we got back that evening. Dusted with a little paprika and finished with a generous squeeze of lemon juice they were indeed most delicious!

The next day the rest of the lads did their own thing again and headed to the south coast whilst Ross and I went east again. This time we went to Falmouth to target thick lipped grey mullet. Some bread ground bait was thrown in at our chosen spot and while we waited on the mullet to arrive we fished ragworm on the bottom. This soon saw a few ballan wrasse being caught. When the mullet began to arrive we free lined bread for them, sight fishing in the crystal clear water. Ross managed to get his bread to sink very slowly, this soon had plenty of mullet mouthing it and when one greedily swallowed the generous flake he was fishing he quickly struck and set his hook. Landing the fish was tricky as my net didn't quite reach the water but by laying on my stomach and outstretching my arm Ross lifted the fish up a few feet and I swept the net across scooping it up.

A nice Falmouth thick lipped grey mullet for Ross.

Keen to get one myself it didn't seem to matter how much I squeezed my bread to remove the air my bait just didn't want to sink. Ross told me he had one of my #10 hooks on which is what I was using too so I was slightly bemused but when he showed me how he was pinching on his bread to get it to sink slowly I noticed that he had in fact taken a #6 from my box instead and quickly tied one on myself. My buoyancy issues were rectified straight away and shortly afterwards I was soon into a mullet myself which Ross netted nicely for me. 

Slow sinking bread flake was a killer presentation.

Ross caught two more before we decided to head off to Fowey to try for some flatfish. Ross was keen to catch a flounder for his species hunt whilst I fancied trying for a topknot just because they are cool but the estuary was fairly coloured up from all of the recent rain and neither of us got what we were after. Instead we ended up catching a few goldsinny wrasse and a few gobies before driving back to Hayle.

These goldsinny didn't seem to mind the murky water.

Driving down to Penzance the following morning our gear was quickly loaded onto Bite Adventures and off we went. On the way to our first stop Chippy told us about recent catches including some incredible days he'd had catching lots of blue and porbeagle sharks. The weather meant that we wouldn't get an opportunity to go out to the grounds where they had been caught though and we would be restricted to fishing mostly inshore. Our first stop of the day was fairly close in drifting over nice clean ground. Ross and I were both keen to catch a greater weever as we had never caught one in the UK before. The rest of the lads had other species they were keen to catch and some got theirs fairly quickly when some turbot, plaice and gurnards were boated. I wasn't having much joy at all but after a few drifts where all I picked up were mackerel I hooked what I thought was another one only to see a greater weever appear.

I was just happy to catch something other than a mackerel! I could tell Ross was a little jealous and hoped he would get one too.

A few more were boated by the other lads and Ross was reminded by Chippy how easy it was to catch one every time one was brought onboard. After a few more drifts we tried fishing further offshore to target John Dory but the boat was drifting too fast and we were struggling to hold bottom. Heading back inshore again Ross resumed his search for a greater weever. We were also all hopeful that a meagrim sole might get boated. None were but after a few other flatfish, gurnards, whiting and a solitary cod were caught Ross finally got his first UK greater weever.

It'd only taken Ross three years to finally catch one. Often having to watch others get them on previous trips. 

As the afternoon progressed I was still having quite a poor day in terms of the variety of species I was catching but was hopeful that we would end the day trying to catch red seabream, a species I've never caught before. Unfortunately Chippy soon told us that the ground where they were found would be unfishable due to the wind so we ended the day fishing inshore and catching a few wrasse over rougher ground before heading back to port. It had been a good day out in the boat and whilst I hadn't caught that many different species between the six of us seventeen had been boated. A few had been kept and that evening the six of us enjoyed a superb meal made with them along with a few cold drinks.

In the morning we all got our gear sorted and packed our cars. Ross and I said goodbye to the rest of the lads and drove along to Dorset for the second half of our trip. A few hours later we arrived in Weymouth, where we would stay for the next three days. After dropping some stuff off at our B&B we fished in the harbour for thin lipped grey mullet using light gear and modified Mepps spinners with a few added beads and a bit of Isome on the hook but the water was very coloured from all the recent rain and we didn't have much joy really.

In the evening we picked up some fresh bait and headed to West Bexington to fish Chesil Beach for Dover sole. Stretching for eighteen miles Chesil Beach is quite spectacular and after trudging along the shingle for a while we reached a spot that looked the same as the rest of the beach. Ross assured me however that he'd fished there before and had caught a lot of fish.

Miles of shingle to our left.
Miles of shingle to our right.

We had soon set up a rod each and cast out our baits into the surf. Things were slow to start with so we got comfortable next to our tripods and waited for bites. Things didn't really pick up until after dark and even then all we caught were tiny pouting, there presence only discovered upon reeling in to check our baits. I also managed a solitary dogfish before we decided to end a frustrating day's fishing and headed back to Weymouth.

Ross diligently watches his surf rod.
A few little pouting took our ragworm baits after dark.

The next day we headed along to Swanage Pier, a venue I really enjoy visiting. Arriving fairly early it was quite a nice day although some rain was forecast for the afternoon. We both fancied catching some Baillon's wrasse but there was always the slim chance of a black faced blenny turning up too if we used small hooks.

Swanage Pier is a great venue for a spot of ultra light tackle mini species fun.

As usual the fish were plentiful and our ragworm didn't stay down long before being taken. Corkwing wrasse were as usual the predominant species but Ross caught a Baillon's wrasse on his third drop. We fished away and after catching a lot more corkwing and ballan wrasse as well as a few other species I caught a small Baillon's wrasse too.

It was good to find out that a few Baillon's wrasse had taken up residence under the pier again. Last year's visit didn't produce any.

In the afternoon the forecast rain started so we sheltered under the upper deck until the worst of it had fallen. More small wrasse, pouting and the odd tompot blenny making up the bulk of our catches.

What a handsome chap.The one with hair that is.

When the rain stopped we decided to bite the bullet and headed further east to Shoreham-by-sea to target Dover sole again.  Setting up on the inside of the western breakwater we both caught a tiny bass each and with not much else happening Ross decided to move to the end of the breakwater. I stayed put and just after the sun set and light started to fade one of my rods registered a small bite. I let it develop and when my rod tip nodded again I lifted the rod and slowly wound in. At first I didn't feel anything but about half way a fish shook a little. Appearing on the surface I could see it was a flatfish. Doubting I could be so lucky, for a second I assumed it was a flounder or plaice, but as it came closer I realised it was a small Dover sole and hastily swung it up the wall.

The sun sets to the west along Shoreham Beach.
My first Dover sole. They are a truly weird looking flatfish. Their mouth in particular is very odd indeed.

I shouted along to Ross and he soon came back along to join me. I let him fish the area where I had caught my fish and switched my attention to fishing on the outside of the breakwater. The next couple of hours saw us both catching a few whiting. Ross also caught a small common eel, another addition to his species hunt tally. Soon it was past the time we had agreed we'd leave but I told Ross I was happy to stay on for an extra hour. By the time the end of this hour approached Ross had three rods out and had declared he'd had his last cast when he got another bite. Reeling it in we both had our head torches pointed down on the water to see what would appear and a long flat fish soon did. Another brief nervous moment followed as he lifted up his first ever Dover sole but it was well hooked and Ross let out a shout of jubilation as his target came to hand.

Ross was over the moon and puckered up to give his Dover sole a kiss. The fish didn't seem quite so happy and undulated away as best it could.

Both very happy with getting a new species we quickly packed up and headed back to the car. The drive directly back to Weymouth took a lot less time than I had anticipated so we got back before midnight and treated ourselves to a celebratory takeaway.

When we got up the next day we decided to begin our final day's fishing by having another go for thin lipped grey mullet in Weymouth Harbour. The water clarity had improved greatly, the tide was in and there seemed to be a lot more fish around. We started off fishing with our modified Mepps baited with Isome but the fish that followed quickly turned away when they got close enough to inspect it. Ross had just made a pin point cast and was still boasting about how accurate it had been when another cast to the same area ended up landing in a small boat and he lost his only Mepps.  I gave him mine as I had a much smaller one in my bag that my lighter rod would still be able to cast. I didn't bother adding any beads but the fish seemed to prefer it that way and I soon had a few more follows. As we carried on fishing I might have been getting more interest but the fish turning away left me rather frustrated so I suggested that we try some of our leftover ragworm from the night before. This proved to be a good choice and I hooked three fish in fairly quick succession only for them all to quickly throw the hook. The ragworm we were using was in a sorry state however so I suggested we pop to the tackle shop and get some fresh ones and a smaller Mepps for Ross to use. This paid off and returning to our spot we both landed a couple of fish after a few casts.

My first ever thin lipped grey mullet. Some fresh ragworm on a modified 00 Mepps proving much more effective than Isome or poor quality worms.
Thin lipped by name.
The space between the gill plates under a thin lipped grey mullet's head is much wider than on its thick lipped cousin.

In the afternoon we spent a few hours targeting mini species further down the harbour. This produced a few wrasse, gobies, blennies, pouting and a solitary juvenile bass.

A nice chunky tompot blenny.

It was easily the nicest day of the trip weather wise and we both got burnt a little by the sun. By midafternoon we were feeling a bit tired so we decided to pack up, got the rest of our things from our B&B and after relaxing for an hour or so begun our journey back up the road. I hadn't reached my targets for the trip of twenty five species including three new ones but I think I would have had we managed to get out on the boat three times as planned. Here's a summary of what I did catch with new species in bold...
  1. Baillon's Wrasse x 1
  2. Ballan Wrasse x 26
  3. Bass x 2
  4. Black Goby x 6
  5. Common Blenny x 2
  6. Corkwing Wrasse x 85
  7. Dover Sole x 1
  8. Goldsinny Wrasse x 14
  9. Greater Weever x 1*
  10. Lesser Spotted Dogfish x 1
  11. Lesser Weever x 12
  12. Mackerel x 15
  13. Pollock x 10
  14. Poor Cod x 2
  15. Pouting x 10
  16. Rock Goby x 2
  17. Sand Goby x 1
  18. Sand Smelt x 22
  19. Thick Lipped Grey Mullet x 1
  20. Thin Lipped Grey Mullet x 2
  21. Tompot Blenny x 7
  22. Whiting x 22
* My first in UK waters.

So, the weather might have forced us to change our plans a few times and had prevented us from targeting some of the species we would have liked to but we made the most of things and overall it was still a great trip to the south coast. It had been great catching up and fishing with Ross again and his mates too on the boat. I guess we'll just have to go back next year for another chance to catch species like brill, grey triggerfish, John Dory and porbeagle sharks.

Tight lines, Scott.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It takes two to tanago.

Yesterday I went out to try and catch a tiny little fish. Armed with some #26 hooks and a little 0.15g dibber float I visited Yellowcraig Beach in East Lothian and after an hour of staring into over a dozen intertidal rockpools, trying to see through the ripples being produced on the surface by the light rain that was constantly falling, I finally located my target, a two spotted goby.

Here's a two spotted goby I caught last November from a rockpool in East Lothian.

It was suspended fairly high up in the water and only its head was visible, its tail nestled into some weed on the side of the rockpool wall. I'm not sure how I even managed to see it but I was relieved I had and the "fun" could begin. The fish was even smaller than the one above at roughly 20mm long so I knew catching it was going to be very tricky. Hastily baiting the very tip of my tiny hook with a tiny piece of Angleworm I lowered it in well away from the fish and slowly pulled it back into range. Straight away it eagerly came out from its hiding place and attacked. Rather than wait for the float to move I watched the tiny bait and as soon as I thought the fish had taken it into its mouth I lifted my rod tip with a short sharp tug. This was repeated multiple times over the next half an hour or so until the little fish got bored and began to completely ignore my efforts. I was surprised the fish had been so persistent and whilst it had been quite frustrating, in a kind of twisted masochistic sense, I actually enjoyed the challenge of trying to hook it. By this point I was rather wet and whilst I did attempt to locate another two spotted goby to annoy, I failed to do so, resigned myself to a blank and headed home. When I got in I went straight online and ordered myself some snelled Owner Smallest Tanago hooks and a few Owner Micro Floats. Tanago is what the Japanese call bitterling and in Tanago fishing the objective is to catch the smallest bitterling you can. In fact the aspiration of many Japanese Tanago fisherman is to catch one that will fit on a one yen coin.

A bitterling. Another little fish I caught last year but big by Japanese standards.
The Tanago hooks are obviously tiny but the pattern also has an extremely short hook point that is not even 1mm long so that tiny fish can get the hook point into their mouths. I think these will be perfect for  micro fishing for two spotted goby, fifteen spined stickleback and other small fish with tiny mouths.

Hopefully it won't take too long for my package of little hooks to arrive so I can go and have another go for the little fish that will edge me a bit closer to my target of fifty saltwater species from around Scotland in 2015. 

Speaking of this goal, whilst writing this post I realised that catching the two spotted goby last November meant that I had caught at least forty eight saltwater species from Scottish venues over the course of the last year. Quickly looking back over last year's catch reports I discovered that on the 21st of September last year I caught a ling and a pouting from Loch Etive, two species I've also not caught yet in 2015. This means that over the course of a full year from 21st of September 2014 to 20th September 2015 I've caught fifty saltwater species from Scottish venues! Obviously I'm delighted to have reached this milestone even if I was unaware of doing so when I caught the shore rockling twelve days ago. This doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying to catch fifty species in 2015 though and maybe my new Tanago hooks will help me do it!

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Most Wanted : Tenerife.

Way back in January, feeling quite fed up with the particularly miserable Scottish winter weather, I booked a week long holiday to the Canary Island of Tenerife in December. It's a family holiday with my parter Lillian, my sister Sharon and her partner Julie but as usual my light game travel rod will be going into the case and I will be doing as much fishing as I can get away with. Having fished the Eastern Atlantic before on both Lanzarote and Madeira I now have a reasonable idea what species I'm likely to encounter. Nevertheless the islands in the western half of the Canary Island group do seem to hold a few different species to the ones in its Eastern half.  I had a look through my recently acquired and rather excellent "100 peces de Canarias" pocket guide by Sergio Hanquet to pick out a few species that I'd like to catch. Three have caught my eye. 

Atlantic Trumpetfish.

The Atlantic trumpetfish is a very strange looking fish indeed. I know that other anglers have caught these from deep water close in from both rocks and harbour breakwaters so I think there is a good chance of catching one. Small paddletail lures fished on jigheads seem to be a good choice. 


A pretty little fish that is found world wide in tropical waters. According to my research they are a shy species that like hiding in amongst rocks and around caves and are most active at night. My headtorch will be going into the case then for some fishing after dark. 

Starry Weever.

Weevers are cool. They taste amazing too. Having sight fished for lesser weevers I know they like lures jigged on the bottom. The disturbance the lure creates when it hits the sand they hide in draws them out and when you lift the lure up they swim up and attack. Metal jigs fitted with an assist hook might be the best approach for these.

Tenerife will be my final holiday abroad this year. As with previous trips I'm setting myself a little species hunting challenge again and this time I've decided on a target of twenty species during the trip including three new ones. I'm really looking forward to returning to the Canary Islands again and getting away from the cold, wet and windy Scottish winter!

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Punching and kicking.

On Thursday night I popped down to Dunbar Harbour to use up the small amount of ragworm that I had left over from my boat trip the Sunday before. Rockling were the target species and I fished half a ragworm baited on a #6 hook on a running ledger incorporating a rotten bottom. I'd never fished my chosen spot before, off the back of the old harbours upper walkway, but turning up just before sunset and at low water I quickly sussed out where there were gaps in the kelp and started fishing into them, casting my bait in close to where rocks gave way to broken ground. It is an area that I've always thought would produce rockling but for some reason I'd just never tried there for them. After a while as light faded I got my first bite of the session and caught a long spined sea scorpion. Once it had been dark for a while I got a second bite and caught my first rockling of the year which was of the five bearded variety.

I was over the moon to catch this little chap. My forty sixth species from Scottish saltwater this year.
Five bearded rockling have a nice golden hue to their flanks and on their gill plates. They also have, as their name suggests, five barbules or beards on their short stubby faces.

I had intended to only fish for two hours but when my rod tip rattled again just before I was about to pack up. I missed the bite but I decided to fish on for a bit. I was glad I did as shortly afterwards my rod tip went again and this time I was quicker to lift my rod and hooked the fish. Winding it up the wall another rockling appeared in the beam of my headtorch and was quickly swung to hand. This time it was a larger specimen and a different species to boot.

This fine example of a shore rockling. They are generally larger than their five bearded cousin and only possess three "beards". Not to be confused with the three bearded rockling, a variety I have never caught but hope to do so later in the year.

Returning the fish I punched the air in celebration, packed up and headed home a very happy angler. What a brilliant little session that really couldn't have gone any better although despite being on a high in the back of my mind I was kicking myself a little for not following my instincts and fishing there for them previously. I have only three species left to catch now and I have three months to catch them. To be honest I'd rather hit my target sooner rather than later but as I've just arrived on the south coast of England and will be fishing in Cornwall and Dorset for the next week my challenge is on hold until I return. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A kraken day afloat.

On Tuesday I headed down to Port Logan with two of my mates, Nick and Stewart, for a day out with skipper Spike aboard his boat Go West. I was hopeful that I could add some species to my Scottish saltwater species hunt tally with bull huss, herring, tub gurnard and red gurnard being the most likely captures that would see me do that. In the end I only managed to add one but we all caught a few fish, had a laugh and to top it all off the sun even managed to appear in the afternoon.

Once upon a time herring were plentiful around Scotland, sadly this is no longer the case due to overfishing. They can still be caught in the Irish Sea at certain times of the year and I was happy to catch two of them on a set of sabiki.
Nick caught a couple of tub gurnard after his first one spat the hook at the side of the boat. I had no luck catching one despite us spending a bit of time repeatedly drifting over the area where Nick caught his.
In the afternoon I caught a couple of nice colourful male cuckoo wrasse while scratching around on the bottom. They are one of my favourite UK fish. 
I also hooked and boated a couple of these amazing creatures. The first octopus was friendly enough, crawling around on my arm after I removed my hook from its tentacle, but the second one decided to bite me with it's rather sharp little beak whilst clinging onto my hand. Putting my arm in the water it let go, spurted its ink and swam off.
Later in the day we headed a bit further offshore to try for a ling over some rougher ground but instead we caught a few ballan wrasse and some dogfish before I caught this small haddock.

Before we knew it was time to wind up for the last time and head back to port. It had been an enjoyable day out and the herring had left me with only five saltwater species remaining to catch to reach my goal for the year. There are quite a few species I can catch out of Port Logan that I haven't caught yet this year so I will be back down there again as soon as I can. My mate Martin is trying to organise a day out for us with one of the guys from his angling club, also named Scott. I might also book another day out with one of the charter boats down there too with Stewart and some other guys from my work who are keen to go fishing. Hopefully the weather will be kind. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Overnight success.

Way back in April I had an enquiry from a fellow angler living in Edinburgh about meeting up for a light game session on the coast. We tried a few times to arrange this but never managed to meet up. Last week I asked Mikey if he fancied a day out in a boat that I had booked but he couldn't make it. During this conversation he told me he was going to Loch Etive to fish through the night and asked me if I fancied going too. I jumped at the chance and finally we met for the first time last Friday night. After putting my gear into his car off we went, chatting about fishing pretty much the whole way there. When we arrived at our preferred mark it was already being fished and a brisk wind was blowing directly onto the second mark we visited so we ended up going all the way around the loch to Bonawe Quarry. Walking through it we arrived at a spot I always do quite well at and got set up. Pulley rigs baited up we cast out our first baits of the night. Mikey fished two rods whilst I elected to fish only one. Our baits hadn't been on the bottom long when Mikey spotted a common eel snaking through the bladderwrack at our feet. I quickly tied a small hook onto a length of 15lb line and baited it with a small piece of mackerel. Flicking this out near the fish saw it eagerly swallowing the bait very aggressively and I quickly yanked the line upwards hooking it. Soon hoisted clear of the water it was a superb start to the session. 

A great unexpected bonus capture, adding to my 2015 tally.  

Action on the bait rods was quite slow to begin with and we amused ourselves watching more eels appear as we tossed scraps of bait in at the water's edge. They fought for these with the resident shore crabs and provided us with a bit of light relief. Eventually one of Mikey's rod tips registered some interest and he struck into the first spurdog of the night. 

The first of a few spurdogs for Mikey. 

I then caught a few dogfish whilst Mikey's rods produced a few more spurdogs. As we were pretty much fishing the same end tackle and baits I was puzzled as to why he was catching spurdogs and I wasn't but a cast over nearer to the spot he was fishing eventually produced one for me.

My first spurdog of the year. 

As the evening progressed we carried on catching fish and as well as more sharks a few cod and whiting were also landed too. The general size of the fish was small but the action was reasonably constant and it was quite a nice night to be out. By about 6am we had caught about twenty fish between us and things had slowed down a bit so we ended the session. We were both pretty tired but as I had to get back to Edinburgh so I could go to work in the afternoon we loaded the car and drove home. It was pretty hard going trying to stay awake but thankfully Mikey just about managed it thanks to a coffee break on the way back and with the help of the the rumble strips on the M9. I enjoyed fishing together and I hope it's not another four months before we meet up again although next time I think we'll stay on the east coast for a spot of light game at a much more sociable time of the day.  

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

It's a small world.

Having not been out fishing since I got back from Spain two weeks ago looking at the weather forecast for my days off last week I wasn't going to bother going out but on Tuesday afternoon I decided to throw caution to the wind with some float fished bread flake as well for good measure. Golden grey mullet were the target and conditions weren't ideal with a bit of swell rolling into the gully where I prefer to try for them to the right of Torness Power Station's outflow area. After a while, and having introduced a few generous handfuls of groundbait, there was no sign of any mullet and I had all but given up so I took a break and got talking to another angler. I could tell from the tackle he had and the lack of a postal worker's shoulder bag that he wasn't one of the regulars there. It turned out Nathan had driven up from the North East of England to try to catch a bass for a species hunt he was taking part in. As we chatted it became apparent that I had watched a YouTube video he'd uploaded recently of a session he'd had along the coast beneath Fast Castle that my mate Dimitrios had sent me a link to only a couple of days previously. It's a small world! Anyway, trying to be helpful I suggested he fish a soft plastic rigged weedless close to the bottom instead of fishing metals and hard lures as he had been and he went off to try it. I decided to hang around and see what the sea state was going to be like when the tide came in a little further to find out if it would be worth trying for mullet again. To pass the time I amused myself with the resident blennies.

Not sure what the collective noun is for blennies. It should be a gang because despite looking rather cute and innocent here they are in reality a vicious bunch of nasty little hooligans. Bass would probably call a group of them breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Nathan wades out onto the submerged rocks and tries for a bass on a soft plastic that looked fairly close to a blenny being long, slender and brown. He caught one on his third cast. It's always nice when advice you offer helps another angler catch fish.

Once there was enough water in front of the sea defences I put in some groundbait and pinched a flake of bread onto my #10 hook. By this point Nathan had joined me on the rocks and when my float went under and I hooked my first mullet of the day he grabbed my net to help me land it. This was slightly premature however as despite my patience playing it with a soft tipped rod and a loosely set drag, the fish threw my hook. I wasn't surprise as my experience catching them means I've come to expect roughly a fifty percent success rate in landing them. Really it just depends on how well they are hooked. After loosing a second fish Nathan netted the third which was well hooked in the corner of its mouth.

Third time lucky. Mullet really are great fighters.
Thick lipped grey mullet are the only UK species that have the pronounced nodules on their very thick upper lip. They also sometimes have a faint golden area on their gill plate just to confuse. Also note when their mouth is closed the maxillary bone is very visible (the small white diamond shaped structure at the corner of the mouth).

I asked Nathan if he would like to borrow a float to join in the fun but he declined saying that he would prefer to try and catch one on a lure. After helping me land a second thick lipped grey mullet I remembered that I had a modified Mepps in my bag and he had a go with that, threading a piece of Isome onto the small hook on the short piece of fluorocarbon tied to the back of it where the treble once was. It had been grey all day but the sky eventually opened and it rained for a while. My float kept going under briefly but I didn't hook anymore fish for a while. Nathan didn't have any luck slowly spinning the Mepps/Isome rig and after watching me briefly hook and loose a couple more fish he decided to head off, wishing me luck with my search for a golden grey mullet as he went. I carried on fishing away and was just about to call it a day when my float disappeared again, staying under and taking up the slack line a small mullet was soon thrashing about just under the surface. It fought a little differently and when I first got a look at it I got a bit excited as it had a slightly different profile to the other two fish I'd caught. Now on my own I grabbed my net but just as I was about to slip the fish over it a wave rolled in and lifted the fish away from the net, dropping it down in between the rocks I was standing on. A brief heart in my mouth moment followed but dropping my net and slowly lifting the rod up much to my relief the fish was still on and I gently swung to hand my first golden grey mullet of the year.

Another angler kindly came over to take a photo for me. The spray from a wave breaking on the rocks soaking me as he did so couldn't stop me from smiling. This was my forty second species from Scottish saltwater this year.
Golden grey mullet have a much more vivid golden gill plate marking. They lack prominent teeth on their upper lip and their maxillary bone is small and almost completely hidden when their mouth is closed.

Mission accomplished I packed up and headed home to dry off. Having nearly not ventured out I was very happy that I had. It was nice meeting Nathan and catching a few mullet is always great fun. As well as moving another species closer to my target of fifty, catching the golden grey mullet also means that I won't have to visit the outflow again in a hurry either which is good as there are so many other places I'd rather go fishing.

Tight lines, Scott.