Thursday, October 22, 2015

The real deal.

My mate Martin recently put me in touch with his fellow Ayr Sea Angling Club member Willie who very generously invited me out for a day targeting skate aboard his boat "reel deal".On Sunday I set of at 5:00 to get myself down to Ardfern on the Sound of Jura where Willie and Gordon were waiting for me having fished down there the previous day. With no traffic on the road I made the journey in good time and we launched just after 8:30. It was a lovely day as we cruised south towards our first mark.

Conditions were perfect.

It didn't take us long at all to get to the first spot and we were soon tied up on a buoy that had been left in place by the lads the day before. Six large baits were soon prepared for the skate rods and were lowered down over four hundred feet to the sea floor. With the opportunity to also perhaps catch a black mouthed dogfish or a cuckoo ray I fished a second lighter rod, opting for a spreader boom at the business end. Plenty of luminous beads were placed on my snoods and two #2/0 Sakuma Manta hooks were baited with sandeel, a favourite bait of dogfish. The lads assured me that catching a black mouthed dogfish was simply a matter of playing the numbers game and ploughing through the lesser spotted dogfish. Sure enough I was soon catching a few of the much more abundant of the two sharks. While I plugged away there was no action on the skate rods and when the tide increased we did a bait change to find that our the end tackle was picking up lots of weed so we lifted the anchor and moved to a second mark.

Anchored up again more big baits were lowered to the bottom and we waited for signs of skate showing an interest in them but after a while with no movement on any of the rod tips we reeled them up. There was very little left of the baits as they had been ravaged by the small slater like crustaceans that are found in the area so more fresh ones were prepared and dropped down. Gordon then began fishing a lighter rod too and after a couple of lesser spotted dogfish he caught a black mouthed dogfish.

Gordon shows off his black mouthed dogfish. It was a very cool looking shark.
The inside of their mouths is indeed black.

Some species hunters get frustrated when a fellow angler fishing along side them catches a fish they are after. I prefer to see it as an encouraging sign that the target is present and can be caught so I kept fishing away. By that point I had used up all my sandeel so I switched to mackerel strips on my hooks and caught a few more lesser spotted dogfish and a couple of thornback rays. 

A nice change from the procession of lesser spotted dogfish. 

With not much happening on the skate rods I was now pretty focused on catching a black mouthed dogfish but I soon forgot about them when a bit of interest was eventually shown in one of the big baits. Gordon put a butt pad and harness on me, Willie handed me the rod and the battle commenced.

Skate fights can last over an hour and are physically demanding. As the fight had only just started I managed a smile for the camera.

Having played skate before I knew what to expect, including the banter from the lads. In amongst the "Why are you taking so long?" and "It must be a big dogfish!" patter they kindly gave me a few pointers on my stance and my pumping and winding technique. I found this a big help and after getting the fish off the bottom only for it to swim back down again a few times I eventually got it off the bottom and kept it off, slowly gaining line and getting into a nice rhythm. The fish, a large male, eventually appeared from the depths and was quickly brought on board by Willie and Gordon before quickly being measured, photographed and returned. 

Despite taking on board the advice given and improving my technique my muscles were still aching but it was well worth the effort.
I love watching them go back. A few strokes of their wings and they gracefully glide back towards the bottom.

I was a very happy angler and had added another saltwater species to my tally from Scotland this year. No rest for the wicked though and I wanted to add another by catching my first black mouthed dogfish. As a few clouds rolled overhead Willie joined Gordon and I fishing a lighter rod and after a few obligatory lesser spotted dogfish he caught what he suspected was a ray as he retrieved it but it turned out to be a small skate. 

At just over 6lb this was easily the smallest skate I've seen caught by quite a margin.

The tide then really started to pick up and as it got stronger it was harder to hold bottom and the dogfish bites dried up. One of the big baits was picked up by something and Willie had a fish on for a brief period but it dropped the bait. He suspected it might have been a conger just holding on. Soon it was time to wind up the skate baits and head back in. 

Another cracking view as the sun disappears behind some clouds as we headed back to dry land.

It had been a great day and I can't thank Willie enough for the opportunity to spend the day out on his boat. When it comes to anglers who know their stuff the boys from the Ayr Sea Angling Club are certainly the real deal, great guys too who have gone out of their way to help me catch fish on several occasions this year. Without their generosity, experience, knowledge and advice I don't think I'd have reached my target of fifty Scottish saltwater species this year, let alone be approaching sixty and I hope I get the opportunity to fish with them again in the not too distant future.

Tight lines, Scott.


  1. Congratulations to the dream-ray :) A really nice catch!

  2. Congratulations! What a dream catch! The common skate is considered extinct here in Sweden after excessive fishing so I guess it is a species I will never catch here...

  3. Thanks lads! It is only found here in isolated areas. At least the capture of the juvenile perhaps shows that these populations are doing ok. :-)