Thursday, January 17, 2013

Most Wanted : Blennies galore!

Blennies, blennies, blennies. I love them! As far as I'm aware there are ten "blenny" species in U.K. waters and so far I've only caught three of them. I've caught hundreds of common blennies, a few tompot blennies and a single butterfish. For completeness here's a quick guide to all of them, some of which I'd really like to catch!

Black Faced Blenny.

Not really a true blenny but a "blenny like fish". Great way to start a blenny post I hear you say! They are in fact a type of triplefin. Delais' Triplefin to be precise. Cool looking little fish. Too cool not to include I thought. Males and females are quite different with the male, top, being much more colourful, particularly whilst breeding. Normally found in the Mediterranean, these have now been discovered around some of the Channel Islands and also in a few small areas on the south coast of England.
Males swim in a figure of eight to impress the female during mating rituals. Kinky.


Also known as rock gunnel these fish are relatively common in some areas. Inhabiting the intertidal areas of many beaches, they can often be found seeking shelter under rocks and amongst the weed some rockpools as I discovered last year. They can also be found in harbours. Long and slender with distinctive dark spots along base of their dorsal fins they are easy to identify and they are called butterfish for a reason, they are extremely slippery!

Butterfly Blenny.

Wow! What a stunning blenny. Unmistakable with its large sail like dorsal fin and vivid black spot with light halo. Found around the south western coast of England.Certainly a blenny I'm hoping to catch in the summer.

Common Blenny.

Well these cheeky chappies should need no introduction. Also known as the shanny they are very aggressive and full of character. They are the reason I love blennies so much and can be found all around the country in rockpools and harbours. Careful handling is required though, they can and will bite!

Montagu's Blenny.

From above Montagu's blenny can be mistaken for a common blenny. Note the white/pale blue spots though.
Like the majority of other blenny species, Montagu's blenny has a lappet on its head. Quite unique however in that instead of two separate structures, in Montagu's blenny it takes the form of a single fringed flap.

Red Blenny.

Another beautiful blenny! No mistaking this one that's for sure with its red colouration, electric blue fin highlights and distinct dark spot at the front of its dorsal fin. Also known as the Portuguese blenny this fish is now being spotted around the south western coast of England and as for north as the west coast of Scotland.

Snake Blenny.

Very aptly named. A very long slender blenny with a pink and violet colouration with brown spots. More common around the coast of Norway it can also be found around the northern coast of Scotland. I think this may perhaps be the hardest blenny to track down and catch in U.K. waters.

Tompot Blenny.

A common catch around the rockpools and harbours of the south western coast of England and the Channel Islands this blenny has quite a chunky, stout appearance, is normally a mottled brown colour, can have an orange shade to fin edges and has a lappet in the form of two little antlers.

Viviparous Blenny.

Also known as eelpout it's easy to see why. Like the black faced blenny it's not technically a blenny. It does look like a common blenny, just a very long one and can be over double the length of one.
Like common blennies, viviparous blennies seem to like to live in groups.

Yarrell's Blenny.

Another quite distinct blenny. A brown and pink mottled colouration along with a long body. This species has a lappet consisting of two branched antlers as well as two small but similar structures on the tips of the first and second dorsal fin rays. Put these all together and we have a set of very unique key distinguishing features. Another fish found around St Abbs Head so perhaps a potential target whilst I'm down there waiting for an Atlantic wolf fish taking my bait!

I hope you've found this quick look at U.K. blennies interesting. Hopefully I'll succeed in crossing a few of them of my most wanted list this year! Finally a big thanks to the photographers of some of the above images who gave me permission to use them. Below is a series of links that will take you to various sites where you can view more of their excellent work.

Tight lines, Scott.

Portuguese photographer Vasco Ferreira's dive center facebook page.

The website of Italian photographer Alessandro Falleni.

An educational photographic resource and stock image library of the sea, maritime environment, marine and rockpool life in the coastal waters of south west England by David Fenwick.

The website supplementing Paul Kay's book "A Field Guide to the MARINE FISHES of WALES and Adjacent Waters". Signed copies of this book can be bought via this site.

UWPhoto ANS is a stock photo agency with images mainly from the colder areas of the globe. The work of Norwegian photographer Erling Svensen along with others can be seen here.

The website of Dutch photographer Arne Kuilman.

Biopix, a collection of biological photos, primarily from Scandinavia.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

If at first you don't succeed...

With rocklings and viviparous blennies on my mind I headed across the River Forth yesterday to Kinghorn in the Kingdom of Fife as I've read reports of them being caught there recently. I got there about 10:30, just before low water. This gave me an opportunity to have a look at the exposed features of the mark and also have a bit of ultra light fun in some of the nice looking rockpools I found.

Nice gullies that I suspected fish would feed in as the tide flooded into them later in the day.
I've learnt that a boulder filled pool like this is often full of surprises!

Dropping a section of Isome into likely looking spots it wasn't long before I caught my first fish, a tiny long spined sea scorpion that greedily scoffed my lure. Exploring the area further I soon caught a few more of them all fairly small. The fifth however was a fine specimen and had quite a large gut, much to my amusement.

Tiny but quite a nice golden brown colour.
Brown and pink this time.
Another small one.
The big brute! Hooked at the second attempt. They're very aggressive and usually have a second go if they don't get hooked first time round.
He was hiding in a small crack in about 6 inches of water.
Look at the size of that gut!

After popping into town for a bite to eat I returned to the mark and set up two bait rods. Electing to fish into one of the now submerged gullies I had seen earlier, three hook flappers with size 2 hooks baited up with black lug worm and tipped off with squid were soon out on the seabed and the waiting game began. Whilst watching my rod tips can be rather hypnotic, somewhat like watching a float waiting for it to go under, I had to divert my gaze a couple of times to admire the view of Edinburgh, Arthur's Seat, Salisbury Crags and the snow covered Pentland Hills behind them to the south and the sun beginning to dip beneath the horizon over towards the Forth Rail Bridge.

I can see my house from here!
A lovely sight.

As light faded I was hopeful of bites beginning to materialise as high tide approached. They did but were few and far between and not very positive. Just after high water a local angler arrived and we got talking. He told me I was in the right spot for my target species but that he found freshly dug blow lug or rag worm to be the best bait for them. I fished on for an hour or so but decided to call it a night at about 18:30.

Another nice photograph of my rod tips in a stationary position.

When I got home I looked at the weather forecast and decided to have another go the following day. So this morning I went out and spent three hours digging lug for another crack at the same spot tonight. Unfortunately the resident fish didn't appreciate my efforts and despite a few small bites again I failed to catch anything. Oh well, the little buggers have eluded me once again and I think next time I visit the mark I'll go on a smaller tide or maybe fish the tide as it floods. I think I'll also try smaller hooks and perhaps fish running ledgers to aid bite detection. Regardless I'l be trying and trying again until I catch my first rocklings and viviparous blenny!

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Most Wanted : Atlantic Wolf Fish.

This year I'm going to try to catch some unusual species, ones that are only found in localised areas or perhaps ones that may be widespread but are not really targeted by anglers. Being a big fan of blennies a few of them are on my most wanted list and I'll discuss them in a future post but first of all I'd like to feature a fish that looks like a blenny, a huge blenny in fact! The Atlantic wolf fish.

Looks like a huge pale blue blenny. Cool!

Also known as the catfish or seawolf, it normally lives in deep, cold water at depths of between 100-300m although around the North East coast of Scotland they can be found in much shallower water. With a face only a mother (or a blenny basher) could love, nasty looking fangs, a set of powerful jaws it uses to crush its main diet of shellfish and sea urchins and growing to over a metre in length, this fish certainly isn't one I would allow to bite me for a laugh!

These large powerful fish live in rocky areas making their lairs in crevices or under large boulders. Divers see quite a lot of them around the St Abbs area and this is where I plan to go and target them. I already have a mark in mind and have figured out how to get down the cliff to it! Hopefully when I return with some whole mussels, whole prawns with their shells still on or perhaps some edible crabs I'll be able to tempt one.

So with the beginnings of a plan of attack on the drawing board I'm looking forward to trying to catch one but I'll have to wait for favourable conditions before I can get started. I'll need good weather and flat seas before I can access the mark and fish from it safely. Oh well perhaps I can target some other unusual species in the mean time?

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

2012. Looking back.

2012 was a great year for me. I did a crazy amount of fishing, in some great places, met some great people and had a great time catching a load of fish in the process! 1042 to be precise! 60 different species including 36 new ones I'd never caught before. Here's the breakdown...

  1. 3 Spined Stickleback x 1
  2. Arctic Char x 2 *
  3. Ballan Wrasse x 42
  4. Bass x 32
  5. Black Goby x 23 *
  6. Blonde Ray x 1 *
  7. Bream/Roach Hybrid x 3 *
  8. Brown Trout x 7
  9. Butterfish x 1 *
  10. Coalfish x 43
  11. Cod x 7
  12. Common Blenny x 329
  13. Common Goby x 3 *
  14. Conger Eel x 1 *
  15. Corkwing Wrasse x 7 *
  16. Cuckoo Wrasse x 2
  17. Dab x 2 *
  18. Dragonet x 4 *
  19. F1 Carp x 1 *
  20. Flounder x 13
  21. Giant Goby x 5 *
  22. Golden Grey Mullet x 2 *
  23. Goldsinny Wrasse x 6 *
  24. Grey Gurnard x 2
  25. Gudgeon x 9 *
  26. Haddock x 2
  27. Ide x 2 *
  28. Leopard Spotted Goby x 5 *
  29. Lesser Spotted Dogfish x 24
  30. Lesser Weever x 4 *
  31. Ling x 2 
  32. Long Spined Sea Scorpion x 114
  33. Mackerel x 36
  34. Minnow x 1 *
  35. Painted Goby x 1 *
  36. Perch x 25
  37. Pike x 27
  38. Plaice x 25 *
  39. Pollock x 66
  40. Poor Cod x 16
  41. Pouting x 11 *
  42. Rainbow Trout x 6 *
  43. Roach x 15 *
  44. Rock Cook Wrasse x 1 *
  45. Rock Goby x 43
  46. Rudd x 8
  47. Sand Goby x 15
  48. Sand Smelt x 5 *
  49. Sea Trout x 4 *
  50. Short Spined Sea Scorpion x4
  51. Spurdog x 1 *
  52. Tench x 1 *
  53. Thick Lipped Grey Mullet x 2 *
  54. Thornback Ray x 1 *
  55. Tompot Blenny x 9 *
  56. Topknot x 1 *
  57. Two Spotted Goby x 4 *
  58. Undulate Ray x 1 *
  59. Whiting x 11
  60. Zander x 1 *
* = New Species.

Many great catches in there for a variety of reasons. So many memorable fish and it's hard to pick my favourites but here are five that spring to mind...

Tompot Blenny.

I finally tracked one down during my trip to Anglesey. My 171st blenny of 2012 was a little special.

Giant Goby.

After doing a bit of research online a short session on Marazion beach during my trip to Cornwall produced two of these. They live up to their name!

Rock Cook Wrasse.

These are the types of catches I like most. Just turn up somewhere. Figure out what you might likely catch and go for it.
I was expecting wrasse but not my first ever rock cook wrasse. Stunning little fish.

Tony the Perch.

Say hello to my little friend! Caught this badly scared perch twice last year in the same area. I hope to meet him again.


Cold. Wet. Miserable.
Lost one stupidly lifting it into the boat instead of using the net. I left it late in the day to finally get one.
The relief was overwhelming! Cool fish. I'll be heading back down south to target them again for sure.

As a relatively new angler I've learned loads over the last year thanks mainly to other anglers who've given me great advice on a wide variety of topics. I've enjoyed without exception any style of fishing I've tried so far and will give anything a try. I've also come to realise that fishing can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. I prefer to keep it simple, besides finding the fish is usually the hardest part! I've also come to realise that to me size doesn't matter. I love catching many different species of fish irrespective of their size. Two spotted gobies deserve just as much respect as common skate and I can have fun catching both (or losing them!). I've realised that weighing and measuring fish and specimen hunting isn't really my thing. I didn't achieve some of my size related goals in 2012 but to be honest I didn't really try to, I was enjoying the species hunting too much! My one main regret is that I didn't really have a go at the wrasse grand slam and I hope to do so this year at some point and have a couple of marks in mind for it.

So what now? How can I match last year let alone surpass it. It'll be tough that's for sure! I just want to carry on fishing with my fishing mates and having a great time. I'll certainly be doing more species hunting! I'd like to target unusual species. Weird and wonderful fish that are rarely targeted. Hopefully I'll keep improving my fishing in the process. I plan to continue mixing up the styles as I have done over the last few months and will be doing more bait fishing. I'd also like to do more fly fishing and in particular try targeting saltwater species on the fly. I'd also like to fish a few more local spots but no doubt trips further afield will also be on the cards. Top of my list is a trip north to the Shetland Islands for some big cod, coalfish, ling and turbot. I'd also like to do a trip to somewhere in the Mediterranean to target some exotic species but I'm sure wherever I end up fishing, 2013 will be a great year!

Tight lines, Scott.