Thursday, October 01, 2015

Don't stop me now...

With only one species left to catch from Scottish saltwater to reach my goal of fifty I decided to head west on Tuesday. I arranged to meet up with Oban angler Jonny who I have been exchanging emails with for a while now. He got in touch to ask me about my rock cook wrasse captures from Ganavan just to the north of Oban when he first got into light game and we've kept in touch ever since. After making the drive through and picking him up we headed to one of his mini species marks to try and find some fifteen spined sticklebacks. When we arrived Jonny spotted a couple of small ones but they quickly disappeared into the kelp fronds never to be seen again. The crystal clear water was teeming with poor cod, there were also a few goldsinny wrasse around and a healthy population of leopard spotted gobies as well. Fishing was fun and rather frantic but it was very hard to get through all the poor cod. Jonny has also caught a couple of Connemara clingfish at the mark in the past so we stuck it out for a couple of hours, trying to get our rigs down into likely looking hiding holes. I knew catching one would be highly unlikely but you never know, I never thought I'd catch scad, herring and two spotted gobies from Dunbar Harbour but had done exactly that only two days previously!

Royal Mail still haven't delivered my Tanago hooks. My one yen coin has arrived though and my quest for a fish that will fit onto it got off to a reasonable start with a small leopard spotted goby that managed to cram a #10 hook into its mouth.

As expected, after a couple of hours and several dozen poor cod, no Connemara clingfish had been caught. No more fifteen spined stickleback were sighted either so I suggested we head up to Kelly's Pier at Taynuilt on the southern shore of Loch Etive. I thought this would be another good spot to hunt fifteen spined sticklebacks as the entire length of the pier is lined with bladderwrack and the rotting wooden pilings at the end of it are covered in it too providing a perfect habitat for the weed impersonating fish. Upon arrival we spotted some tiny gobies moving along the sand, heading to slightly deeper water as the tide finished ebbing. By the time we had set up rigs with #26 hooks though they had all disappeared from the area we had seen them over so we started fishing from the small wooden jetty and before long Jonny had caught a small goby. I was expecting it to be a sand goby or small black goby but when he showed it to me I was excited because I suspected it was in fact a painted goby. I had my little observation tank with me, we popped it in to get a better look and my suspicions were confirmed. Obviously this was quite a rare capture but when Jonny caught a second I was sure I would get one too. To begin with I struggled to locate one but with a bit of perseverance and after trying a few different spots I eventually caught one myself by fishing my tiny bait close to one of the pilings. To say I was over the moon would be an understatement.

Species number fifty from Scottish saltwater in 2015. Mission accomplished!

Without the use of a little tank we may have struggled to positively identify them so I was glad I had brought it with me. The light coloured saddles and the distinctive colouration on the dorsal fins, deep red and light blue stripes over black spots, are their key distinguishing features. These were more prominent on Jonny's painted goby.

Very attractive markings and quite distinctive too.

After popping the fish back and taking a brief moment to reflect on my achievement I rejoined Jonny and we decided to find out what a shoal of small fish congregated around one of the  jetty's wooden pilings were. As we were right at the end of the pier we were slightly surprised to discover that they were three spined stickleback. They were very easy to catch, eagerly attacking a little piece of  Isome on my #26 hook.

Similar to fish like trout, common eels and flounder, three spined sticklebacks can be found in fresh or saltwater. This is a fact I had completely forgotten and whilst I was hoping that species number fifty one was going to be a stickleback I was expecting it to be the three spined's longer, even more spiny cousin.
I spent a little time amusing myself and caught a few more, trying to catch the small ones. This one was the smallest but still not small enough to fit on my one yen coin.

We fished away and after a few breaks wandering along the pier trying to spot fifteen spined sticklebacks unsuccessfully we scaled up a bit and had a few casts off the end of the jetty into the deeper water there which produced a few grey gurnards and small cod. As the tide began to flood and more of the bladderwrack along the side of the pier became submerged I spent a bit more time slowly working my way along it looking for my target but didn't spot any. Returning to fish on the jetty again we got a laugh watching a common eel fighting with a crab before snaking off into the weed as we caught a few more three spined sticklebacks. Then I caught a rather large two spotted goby and put my tank to good use again.

A bit of an old warrior, his spots were not very visible but you can make out the pale blue spots along his lateral line. At 6cm this two spotted goby was a real monster. Far too big to get my coin out.

Jonny had never caught one before so spent a bit of time trying and soon got one as well. By early evening there was a fair amount of water around the pier and a few slightly bigger fish started to arrive, mainly skulking in the shadows under the pier although the odd fish ventured out to search the sandy bottom for food. I couldn't believe my eyes however when I spotted one doing so which had the unmistakable banding of a pouting. Eagerly casting my tiny hook towards the fish it ignored my bait a few times and continued swimming around the area. I recast a couple more times, trying to put my rig in its path so it would come across it as it foraged. It ignored it a few more times before finally stopping and pausing briefly before taking it. Striking quickly the fish was hooked and was quickly wound in and swung up to hand.

Species number fifty two and only my second pouting from Scottish water, both were caught at this spot though.

Catching the pouting had been quite a bizarre, almost surreal, turn of events and I couldn't quite believe my luck. As light began to fade I had another look along the side of the pier for a fifteen spined stickleback.

While I pinched myself repeatedly and stared at the bladderwrack for long thin fish, Jonny fished the deep water at the end of the jetty in front of a rather stunning vista.

Soon it was getting dark and as I seemed to be on a roll I suggested we try one last spot for fifteen spined stickleback. We jumped in the car and went around the loch to Bonawe Quarry. I thought we would at least see some fifteen spined sticklebacks as the last time I fished it with my mate Mike we saw several, their eyes reflecting the light back from our headtorches giving their positions away.  My luck it would seem had all been used up however and we left after thirty minutes or so without finding any to target. After dropping Jonny off I made the long drive home quite happy with how the day's fishing had panned out. Like the session before it had been full of surprises and whilst I had failed to catch my target I had added three species to my 2015 Scottish saltwater tally. It was nice to meet up with Jonny for the first time and I hope we can meet up again. I seem to be enjoying a bit of good fortune at the moment, have caught some unexpected species that have seen me reach my goal and with some boat trips planned soon I'm started to wonder how many more species I can add to my tally before the end of the year. Perhaps reaching sixty might be achievable?

Tight lines, Scott.


  1. You should go full on for the 60, in for a penny in for yen, doubt that's been Scotland. That's a great picture of the jetty. What was the exchange rate for a single Yen anyway ? Could you not just have used an auld hawf pence?

  2. 1 Yen is about 0.5p funnily enough. I paid 90p. In the wrong business I think. :-D

  3. Well done on the 50 Scott, great work. I concur, almost certain 60 in Scotland hasn't been done in a year!

    1. Thanks mate. I'll keep plugging away but as far as I'm concerned the pressure is off now. Just going to relax and if I get to sixty great. If not I'm still pleased with the way the year's gone. :-)