Tuesday, January 26, 2016

2015. Whatever the weather.

Well another year has come and gone and despite the weather being generally pretty dire, the wind in particular at times making getting out tough, it was quite a good year. A few planned trips were cancelled but I still managed to get out a lot and caught a few fish. Species hunting was again a focus and I did rather well catching over one hundred species from saltwater alone. I did a lot more fishing in saltwater than I did freshwater as a result of setting myself some saltwater species hunting targets at the start of the year. Here's a summary of everything I caught with new species asterisked;

From freshwater I caught...
  1. Blue Tilapia x 4*
  2. Brown Trout x 3
  3. Chub x 5
  4. Common Carp x 2
  5. F1 Carp x 5
  6. Largemouth Bass x 3*
  7. Minnow x 3
  8. Perch x 23
  9. Pike x 1
  10. Powan x 1
  11. Pumpkinseed x 5
  12. Roach x 41
  13. Sea Trout x 1
  14. Wels Catfish x 4*
  15. Zander x 4
From saltwater I caught...
  1. Annular Seabream x 10
  2. Atlantic Lizardfish x 14
  3. Atlantic Horse Mackerel x 1
  4. Atlantic Salmon x 2
  5. Baillon's Wrasse  x 1
  6. Ballan Wrasse x 54
  7. Bass x 6
  8. Bastard Grunt x 13*
  9. Bighead Goby x 19*
  10. Black Goby x 29
  11. Black Scorpionfish x 1
  12. Blacktail Comber x 4*
  13. Butterfish x 3
  14. Canary Damselfish x 41
  15. Cardinalfish x 6
  16. Cleaver Wrasse/Pearly Razorfish x 1
  17. Coalfish x 376
  18. Cod x 108
  19. Comber x 3
  20. Common Blenny x 68
  21. Common Dragonet x 1
  22. Common Eel x 1
  23. Common Goby x 2
  24. Common Pandora x 1
  25. Common Two Banded Seabream x 10
  26. Conger Eel x 1
  27. Corkwing Wrasse x 93
  28. Cuckoo Wrasse x 15
  29. Dab x 58
  30. Damselfish x 4
  31. Diamond Lizardfish x 12
  32. Dover Sole x 1*
  33. East Atlantic Peacock Wrasse x 1
  34. Emerald Wrasse/Atlantic Wrasse x 3*
  35. European Smelt/Sparling x 1
  36. Five Bearded Rockling x 1
  37. Five Spotted Wrasse x 23
  38. Flapper Skate x 1
  39. Flounder x 81
  40. Gilthead Seabream x 1
  41. Golden Grey Mullet x 1
  42. Goldsinny Wrasse x 35
  43. Greater Sandeel/Launce x 3
  44. Greater Spotted Dogfish/Bull Huss x 1
  45. Greater Weever x 16
  46. Grey Gurnard x 84
  47. Grey Wrasse x 24
  48. Guinean Puffer x 9
  49. Haddock x 23
  50. Herring x 7
  51. Knout Goby x 1*
  52. Leopard Spotted Goby x 10
  53. Lesser Sandeel x 1
  54. Lesser Spotted Dogfish x 91
  55. Lesser Weever x 15
  56. Ling x 1
  57. Long Spined Sea Scorpion x 15
  58. Mackerel x 130
  59. Macronesian Sharpnose Puffer x 6
  60. Madeira Goby x 11
  61. Madeira Rockfish x 16
  62. Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse x 13
  63. Mystery Blenny x 7*
  64. Ocellated Wrasse x 47*
  65. Ornate Wrasse x 142
  66. Painted Comber x 1
  67. Painted Goby x 1
  68. Parrotfish x 2
  69. Peacock Blenny x 2
  70. Pink Dentex/Lumphead Seabream x 2*
  71. Plaice x 22
  72. Pollock x 56
  73. Poor Cod x 80
  74. Pouting x 11
  75. Red Gurnard x 1
  76. Red Mullet x 4*
  77. Ringneck Blenny x 8
  78. Rock Goby x 10
  79. Rock Cook Wrasse x 3
  80. Rockpool Blenny x 9
  81. Round Goby x 39*
  82. Rusty Blenny x 18
  83. Saddled Seabream x 10
  84. Sand Goby x 1
  85. Sand Smelt x 26
  86. Sea Trout x 16
  87. Shore Rockling x 4
  88. Short Spined Sea Scorpion x 6
  89. Slender Goby x 1*
  90. Spotted Ray x 1*
  91. Starry Smoothhound x 2*
  92. Spurdog x 2
  93. Striped Red Mullet x 2
  94. Striped Seabream x 1
  95. Tentacled Blenny x 20*
  96. Thick Lipped Grey Mullet x 8
  97. Thin Lipped Grey Mullet x 2*
  98. Thornback Ray x 5
  99. Three Spined Stickleback x 10
  100. Tompot Blenny x 8
  101. Tope x 1
  102. Turbot x 1
  103. Two Spotted Goby x 23
  104. Tub Gurnard x 1
  105. Viviparous Blenny/Eelpout x 6
  106. White Seabream x 3
  107. Whiting x 88
  108. Yarrell's Blenny x 2

One of my targets for 2015 was to fish "locally" more often and with this in mind I set myself the goal of catching fifty species from saltwater around Scotland. This kept me busy and formed the main focus of my fishing throughout the year. By the end of September I had reached my goal but looking at what I could still potentially catch I decided to keep going and try to hit sixty. At the end of November I caught a conger eel whilst out fishing with my mate Martin and reached this milestone. It's something that I don't think anyone else has done before, it took a lot of time and effort to do and towards the end my sanity was at risk so I don't think I'll be trying to do it again in a hurry! It's something I'm very proud to say I've achieved though and the challenge provided me with many great memories. Here are a few fish that stand out for various reasons from the sixty. The full list is here.

Nought to sixty in 2015.

I'd only ever caught one butterfish before so I knew the chances of catching one were very slim. They're not really a species you can deliberately target, or so I thought. I ended up catching three of them throughout the year and two were at the same spot so perhaps they can be targeted! When I caught the first one though it was the first time I remember thinking that with a bit of luck I could reach fifty.
By June I had passed the twenty mark catching species I'd caught before. A day out with skipper Spike in Luce Bay with my mate Martin was a good opportunity to catch something new in the shape of a starry smoothhound and we managed a few brightening up an otherwise grey afternoon afloat.
During the same boat session I also got lucky with an unexpected bonus spotted ray which was also my first. Another moment when I thought I could hit my target of fifty.
By August I was making great progress and had caught almost forty species from Scottish saltwater. During an unsuccessful session targeting golden grey mullet I spotted some smaller fish that I thought I recognised. I'd caught lots of sand smelt on the south coast of England and on Jersey before but after a quick change of rig I'd caught my first Scottish ones. 
Last year I started up a little group called Fish Club and tried to arrange get togethers when I could. During a group session at Dunbar Harbour one of the other lads caught an Atlantic horse mackerel and excitedly heading over to the spot where he caught it I soon caught one too. I love Dunbar Harbour, I've caught many species from inside it but this Atlantic horse mackerel was another to add to the list and it took me one species closer to my goal. 
A trip west in September to target fifteen spined sticklebacks didn't see me catching any but instead saw me adding three other species to my tally, achieving my goal in the process. This painted goby was my fiftieth saltwater species of 2015 from Scottish venues. 
I had planned on taking a break when I hit fifty but switching off was hard so I just kept going. Lady Luck was on my side when I caught this red gurnard whilst feathering for mackerel. The same day I also added a ling to my tally for the year.
The red gurnard and ling really spurred me on and the next day despite being very tired I headed north to the Pirate's Graveyard with my mate Ad for a second attempt at catching my first Scottish turbot. It didn't take too long to catch a small one making the drive well worth it. I love their markings ,they really are beautiful flatfish. 
With three species left I was treated to a day out on "Reel Deal", Martin's friend Willie's boat, to target flapper skate. It was a beautiful day and this capture was a reminder that without the generous help of other anglers I wouldn't have reached fifty let alone be pushing to hit sixty. It left me with only two species to catch.
European smelt are occassionally caught from the Tay Estuary in spring when they head upstream to spawn. When I heard that a few had been caught in October during a match I headed up to see if I could get lucky. On my second trip I caught one almost straight away. Sadly they are a fairly rare fish that to my knowledge are now only found in three Scottish estuary systems so it was a real privilege to catch one again. 
This conger eel, caught whilst out fishing with my mate Martin was my sixtieth saltwater species from Scottish saltwater. It was nice to reach the milestone in his company and I couldn't have done it without his help and advice throughout the year.

Family holidays and fishing trips outwith Scotland provided a nice break from my Scottish saltwater species hunting at various points throughout the year. When I think about the fact that I spent four weeks out of the country it makes my achievement even more remarkable.

Madeira in March.

A week on Madeira with my girlfriend, sister and my mate Lee saw us catching a few colourful fish. These pink dentex were my favourite. A close relative of Couch's seabream their elongated dorsal ray fins are the obvious difference.
We were fishng light game all week and the average size of fish was fairly small. The fish all give a good account of themselves though and this white trevally that took Lee's small metal put a real nice bend in his rod and a smile on his face. The perfect cure for a Poncha induced hangover.

  Nessebar in June.

A week in Bulgaria with my girlfriend saw me enjoying a few short light game sessions in the Black Sea sun. Gobies, blennies and wrasse made up the majority of my catches. These ocelated wrasse were a new species to me and were very colourful little chaps.
I also managed a few pumpkinseeds from a large pond on the last day. Another very pretty little colourful fish. 

River Ebro in August.

Martin and I enjoyed a week's guided lure fishing on the River Ebro with Pro Predator guide Lee Carpenter. The fishing at times was tough but we both caught our first Wel's catfish on lures.
We also had a few largemouth bass. I'd love to have another trip to target them, they scrap like mad.
Martin got a new PB zander too. He also lost a bigger one. Zander are good at throwing hooks.

South Coast of England in September.

The weather was pretty dire when I headed to Cornwall to meet up with my mate Ross. We lost two out of the three days we had booked out on the charter boat Bite Adventures but when we did get out we both caught our first ever UK greater weevers.
Working our way east, Ross and I headed along to Shoreham to target Dover sole. We managed one each. Another new UK species for us both but as Ross had been trying to catch one for a few years he gave his a kiss. Judging by the fish's reaction I don't think Ross was the sole's type. 
Before heading back up the road we both managed to catch some thin lipped mullet from Weymouth Harbour on Mepps baited with rag worn. Great fun on ultra light tackle and another UK species added to my life list.

Tenerife in December.

By the time I flew out to the Canary Islands I had taken a couple of weeks off after catching my sixtieth species from Scottish saltwater. It was a family holiday and really I was looking forward to some relaxed light game fun. The fishing wasn't fantastic and the puffers were a bit of a nuisance but I did catch my first male parrotfish.
These little buggers make short work of soft plastic lures and 6lb line with their razor sharp teeth. In short they were a bit of a pain.

So that was 2015. I didn't do any fishing when I returned from Tenerife and I haven't been out yet this year either, mainly due to the wet and windy weather but I also felt like I needed a break. I did treat myself to a new pair of waders and had planned on kicking off this year with a bit of trotting maggots for grayling but all the rain has put a stop to that. Currently I'm in no rush to get out to be honest, I'm considering which direction I want to take my fishing in this year and I have a few ideas about what I'd like to do. No doubt I'll be doing more species hunting as I really enjoy it but I might structure any targets around single sessions or trips instead of annual ones. This might see me fishing less as a result because really I want to get back to just enjoying my fishing again so that will be a more important factor in determining what I do rather than just fishing all the time. I'd like to have more Fish Club meetings if possible as I'd like to fish in the company of others more often. It's great to share the joy af catching fish with others. On that note, I'm really looking forward to a week long trip to Fuertaventura with my mates Lee and Nick at the end of February. No doubt other holidays later in the year will provide additional opportunities for me to fish abroad as well, something I love. Finally I want to do more fishing in freshwater this year. Hopefully the UK weather will be better than that of 2015 but whatever it throws at us and whatever I get up to in 2016 I'm sure I'll catch a few fish and have a great time in the process.  

Tight lines, Scott.