Saturday, August 24, 2013

Another successful raid on Cornwall, Dorset and Jersey.

When my trip to Shetland this month got moved forward a week it left me with six days off work and I was really struggling to find something to fill it with. Then it hit me, I could go fishing! Ok, I'll admit it, what I was going to do was never in question. Where to go was the real dilemma. With a few places I love to fish but haven't visited this year and catching new saltwater species in mind I weighed up where would probably give me the best chance do a bit of both and decided to visit the south coast of England again and began planning my itinerary. I then checked out the cost of a ferry crossing to Jersey as a foot passenger and was pleasantly surprised. A quick text to my mate Ross Johnson, who is over on Jersey for the summer, to see if he was free was sent, I had the start of a plan and after checking tides and asking a few other people if they fancied meeting up I was really looking forward to the trip.

I drove down to Bodmin in Cornwall last Friday. After arriving and dropping off my case at the B&B in the early afternoon I went up to the north coast to fish some rockpools in search of Montagu's blenny. The rocks were next to Treyarnon Bay, a spot that can get very busy with lots of surfers and families enjoying it when the weather is nice.

Treyarnon Bay from the rocks to the north.

The rockpools were certainly full of fish but my main problem were the plentiful common blennies. As soon as my ragworm chunk went in they would shoot out and fight over it making it difficult to catch anything else. When I finally did it was a small giant goby. This was soon followed by a specimen giant goby that was hiding under a fairly narrow gap under a large slab of slate in a very shallow rockpool.

It always amazes me the tight spaces these big brutes sometimes hide in.

I also caught a few long spined sea scorpions and a single rock goby casting across a very large rockpool and working my bait back across the bottom.

Another nice change from the endless common blennies. Not the fish I was after though!

After spending a few hours there I resigned myself to yet another failed attempt to locate and catch my target blenny and headed off to meet up with my mate Lee Goddard who was in Cornwall for a family holiday. It was the last day of his trip and he had been given permission to go fishing late in the evening so I picked him up at about 20:30. We drove down to Fowey and fished at the small ferry pier. Lee was fishing a whole red Isome on a Decoy Rocket jighead whilst I used a mini one up one down rig and baited my hooks with small pieces of ragworm and slivers of mackerel. Unfortunately the fishing was quite slow. As the tide rose we moved up onto the wall above the pier and finally started catching some fish. I caught a long spined sea scorpion, a rock goby, a tompot blenny and a small plaice. Lee caught a long spined sea scorpion too. I told him that there were a few specimen long spined sea scorpions at the mark and sure enough he soon caught one which he was quite pleased with.

Quite a handful.

Just before we left Lee had a cast in the area I had just been fishing. I was rebaiting when he called to say he had hooked a topknot but it was stuck in the weeds on the edge of the wall below us. I reached out, took hold of the line and applying gentle, even pressure managed to slowly pull the fish free. Already celebrating, Lee started to lift the fish up only for it to thrash, come off and make its escape. He was gutted to say the least. This was the second time he had hooked a topknot, a fish most anglers will never catch, only to see it throw the hooks and escape. I really felt for him and despite trying to tempt it again or maybe catch another one it was soon time to go and it was a bit of a disappointing way to end the session although after a brief period of stunned disbelief we did laugh about it. It's always good to catch up with Lee and I wish we could have fished together for longer. After dropping him off back at his accommodation I headed back to mine.

I got up fairly early on Saturday but the weather was not great. A pretty miserable day in fact being overcast and raining quite heavily. I decided to head to Mevagissey Breakwater as it's a very comfortable venue to fish and if the rain got really bad I could hide in the car which was parked close by. In addition I wanted to catch some dragonets and there are plenty of them to be found there on the sandy areas on the bottom. There were two main reasons for this. Firstly I was hoping to catch a male as they are very colourful fish indeed. Secondly I wanted to check that the species present were indeed common dragonets using a simple test I have recently discovered. Running a fingernail along the gill cover towards the three backward facing spines you will feel a forth facing forward just below the common dragonets skin. Reticulated dragonets lack this hidden forth spine. So I began fishing ragworm on a one up one down rig. On my first drop down I managed to catch one. I eagerly did the fingernail test and located the forth forward facing gill plate spine confirming that it was a common dragonet.

A small specimen typical of those normally caught at Mevagissey.

I was rather pleased by this and after popping the fish back it started raining quite heavily but I was quite happy to get the day off to a good start. At this point I received a text from local angler Luke Fox whom I had arranged to fish with to say he was on his way. I caught a lot more common dragonets and a lot of small corkwing and ballan wrasse before he arrived. The wet conditions meant I had a tricky time handling some of the fish and got caught by quite a few spines on the fish.

A much larger common dragonet. The elongated first dorsal fin makes me think this one is a male but has not yet reached full maturity and therefore has not changed colour.
A lovely little Cornish ballan wrasse.
I caught quite a lot of these colourful little corkwings.

When Luke arrived I told him about what I had been catching and he started fishing with some Isome and Ecogear straw tails. I carried on fishing my bait rig for a while before deciding to switch to lures for a bit too. We both caught a few more dragonets and wrasse between us and I had a chunky tompot blenny before we decided to head up the coast to a small harbour so we could try for tub gurnard and lesser weevers.

Soaked but I didn't really care. This rather chunky tompot blenny was a nice reward for my efforts.

After a short drive up the coast we soon arrived and headed to the end of the outer harbour wall. Fishing over clean ground my first cast resulted in a small fish being hooked and quickly landed. It wasn't a tub gurnard though. It was a lesser weever and was the first of many.

Nasty but nice. When you inspect them up close they are actually quite pretty little fish.

Luke had never caught one before and was well chuffed to get his first. Handling them carefully is a must and whilst Luke was avoiding the spines he almost grabbed his first one by the sides of its head. I quickly told him to stop and explained that as well as poisonous dorsal spines they also have poisonous spines on their gill plates. A nasty sting narrowly avoided, Luke used his mini grips to hold it for a photo.

I'm not a big fan of grips but better safe than sorry.

We kept on fishing and must have caught about twenty lesser weavers between us. A switch to a metal baited with a mackerel strip to try and tempt a tub gurnard only saw me catch a mackerel as I retrieved it to cast out again! Also by this point the wind had picked up quite a bit making things quite difficult so Luke suggested a change of mark and a short walk later we were soon fishing for perch in a small pond. This was good fun and we must have caught a few dozen small perch between us.

I have to get some of those firetiger Fiiish Black Minnows.

It wasn't long before Luke realised his time was up and he had to head off to go to a wedding reception in the evening. Really wish we could have spent longer fishing together as I really enjoy his relaxed approach to fishing. After he headed off and with an early start the following day I decided to pop back to nearby Fowey for a couple of hours to see if I could tempt a topknot. I had no luck with that though but managed to catch a few ballans and corkwings which gave me a good scrap on my ultra light rod.

Great fun on ultra light gear.

It started raining quite heavily and when a group of seagulls came, stole some of my bait when I wasn't looking and it became hard to focus on fishing because the cheeky buggers kept trying to get into my bag to get more, I called it a day, packed up and headed back to the B&B.

On Sunday I had another appointment with a fish I failed to catch when I fished Swanage Pier in July, the black faced blenny. With the pier opening at 7:00 I left Bodmin at about 4:30 and made the two and a half hour drive along to Dorset, stopping briefly at the Weymouth Angling Centre to pick up half a pound of ragworm on the way. After speaking to the pier master to get some inside information and pay for my £3.50 fishing permit, I was soon at the spot he'd described to me where the divers have seen the little triple finned fish I was after. Like my last visit the action was constant from the start and over the course of the next six hours I caught over 170 fish from the gap in the middle of the lower section at the end of the pier. Mainly wrasse, the majority of those being corkwing wrasse, but I caught lots of ballan wrasse and Baillon's wrasse too with quite a few tompot blennies and a couple of pouting as well breaking up the wrassefest.

A lovely orange ballan wrasse with light turquoise spots.
How cute. I think this is the smallest ballan I've ever caught!
I caught over a dozen Baillon's wrasse too.
As well as having pink lips and fin edges Baillon's wrasse also have quite nice blue, violet and orange facial markings.
I caught this small ballan with rather odd eyes twice. I named him Marilyn. The chances are he probably wasn't the only fish I caught on more than one occasion on the day but he stood out due to his appearance.
Tompot blennies are so cool!

Whilst thoroughly enjoying the frantic action I was still quite disappointed not to catch a black faced blenny. I decided to try fishing off the side of the pier to see if I could catch one there or perhaps something different. This chance resulted in a couple of common dragonets being caught and a lot more corkwing wrasse.

The sand just a few meters out from the pier obviously held a few common dragonets.
I caught an incredible ninety four corkwing wrasse from the pier!

When I ran out of ragworm at about 17:00 I decided to call it a day, headed back along the coast to Weymouth and checked into the B&B there where I'd be staying the night before getting the ferry to St Helier the following afternoon. After doing this I met up with local angler and member of The Lure Forum admin team Mike Hayes and we went fishing using lures on ultra light gear at a few different spots around Weymouth harbour. It was a very relaxed session and we had a lot of fun catching mainly pouting, and gobies with a few goldsinny wrasse and whiting also taking our Isome and Gulp! Sandworm.

The gobies we caught were almost all black gobies. I caught this single leopard spotted goby which was a nice surprise.
A nice little goldsinny wrasse in perfect condition.
An early season whiting.
Weymouth Harbour on a warm summer evening.

We had a chat about various angling related topics as we fished and walked between the various spots and it was a real pleasure fishing with Mike. By the time we finished and walked back to my B&B I was quite tired and very hungry after a very long day with little food. After I thanked Mike for meeting up with me and he headed home I treated myself to a large pepperoni pizza before heading off to bed.

Up at 8:30 on Monday morning I had a tasty full breakfast before checking out and leaving the car as close to the ferry terminal as I could without having to pay for parking. It was a lovely day, very sunny and hardly any wind and I decided to fish from the end of the pleasure pier for an hour or so before heading to the ferry terminal to check in. I walked down there via Weymouth Angling Centre to get some bait but they were out of ragworm so I got a small frozen pack of six raw prawns instead. The end of the pier was quite busy and the short session saw me catch a few corkwing wrasse, a few pouting, a couple of whiting and a single tompot blenny. Before I left I helped a young boy improve his chances by giving him a hook, retying his end gear for him and giving him some of my bait. He was soon catching fish and bragging to his brother about it which was quite funny. I left him my raw prawns and headed off to get the ferry over to Jersey. The crossing was only four hours and the good conditions meant it wasn't going to be unpleasant one.

I arrived in St Helier at 17:30 where I was picked up by fellow species hunting fanatic Ross Johnson who is currently staying over there. After a quick chat about our options we headed off to try for garfish. Once down on the rocks Ross made up some chervy using a closely guarded recipe and I started fishing a sliver of mackerel under a float. Ross meanwhile decided to fish a small metal close to the surface.

The fishy, oily chervy groundbait certainly did the trick and we soon spotted one or two garfish breaking the surface.

We soon managed to catch a few fish but they were mackerel and pollock and the beaked berserker could not be tempted. Ross then hooked a gull which put up quite a scrap before being landed and carefully unhooked and released.

Ross pulls a bird.

Before long the sun was setting so we headed back across the island again stopping at Big J's for a tasty burger on the way. We then headed to try for horse mackerel under some harbour lights but as suspected it was perhaps a little too early in the year for them to be so far inshore and all we caught were a few more mackerel and a couple of small pouting. Before we left we checked a few other spots and Ross located a small group of feeding mullet. Knowing that as soon as one was hooked the others would more than likely be spooked and disappear Ross generously allowed me to have a go at catching one by free lined some bread in the current. After a couple of missed takes I managed to hook one and after quite a scrap Ross did a great job of landing it without a net.

My first thick lipped mullet of the year. Good scrap on my ultra light gear. It would seem at night they are slightly easier to catch too so I'll be trying for them after dark again in the future.

On Tuesday morning we headed to harbour for our first boat trip of two. Whilst we waited on the rest of the anglers turning up we messed about down the harbour wall where we caught a few sand smelt and small pollock. Ross then spotted a fifteen spined stickleback and borrowed one of my #26 hooks to nylon to try and catch it. Amazingly it took a tiny piece of mackerel straight away!

A sand smelt. The second addition to my 2013 tally.
Ross was very pleased to get a new species! Just as well I had brought my tiny goby bashing hooks for him to catch it on!

I had a go too but despite seeing a couple they were quite small even for fifteen spined sticklebacks and they didn't seem that interested in my bait. The rest of the anglers soon arrived and we got aboard Anna 2 skippered by Tony Heart and were soon heading west to drift over some banks for turbot.

Blue skies and flat seas.

Strips of mackerel on long flowing traces were soon being worked along on the bottom to entice the big flatfish but the fishing was quite tough with a fair bit of tide running and only one turbot was boated with a second being hooked and subsequently lost close to the boat. We then headed to another mark and anchored up to target black bream using strips of squid on two up rigs. Again the fishing was quite slow and didn't start to pick up until tide eased off in the early afternoon. Ross was the first angler to catch a black bream and pretty soon a few more were being caught. Trotting my bait away from the boat after Ross suggested it may help locate the fish I soon started getting bites and finally hooked a black bream which I asked Ross to net for me just to be on the safe side!

A lovely looking fish and my first new species of the trip!

I then changed to a running ledger with a whole joey mackerel for bait to try for a conger eel, a bull huss or a tope. One of the other anglers then caught a horse mackerel close to the bottom on his bream rig so after asking permission I fished a second rod with a set of feathers on and a pound of lead to get it down quickly to the bottom through any mackerel shoals that may have been around further up in the water. It didn't take too long before I hooked a fish. Reeling up I was hoping it wasn't a mackerel and to my relief it wasn't.

My second new species of the trip. Again netted by Ross just to be on the safe side. It was followed by two more on the feathers.

No action on the big baits and by now the tide was really racing, making it very hard to hold bottom so we lifted the anchor and headed to an inshore mark. The tide wasn't as strong here but the fishing was still quite slow although the other anglers did manage to catch a few more black bream before we headed in. Quite a tough days fishing really but I was very pleased to catch two new species.

In the evening Ross and I went to try for garfish again. Sadly though all three spots we visited, even a fairly secluded one, were already being fished by other anglers feathering for mackerel and with the sun dipping we decided to head to the Victoria Pier area of the harbour for a fairly relaxed session in the hope something odd might turn up. When we arrived Ross made up some more chervy, this time using a different but equally closely guarded recipe. A rather stinky concoction was soon attracting lots of small pouting and some rather large sand smelt. We both then caught a small black bream each.

Small harbour pouting. The south coast equivalent of East Lothian harbour coalfish.
Once you go black...

After a while we decided to cast out a few bigger baits to try and tempt some common eels or perhaps a passing bass. It took a while to get any bites and my rod was the first to go but when I lifted it and struck there was nothing on. Ross then had the same thing happen and told me that his mate Dan had hooked a cuttlefish there recently which he'd failed to land. Sure enough the next time I got a bite rather than striking I just slowly reeled it in and it was indeed a cuttlefish holding on to the bait but it let go as it came up to the surface. We tried using a large squid jig Ross had but had no luck with that so we decided to call it a night and headed to Big J's again on way home for another very tasty burger.

The last day of my trip had arrived and we headed down to the harbour to go out fishing on Tony's boat again. Going down early I spent forty five minutes trying to locate and then pester some fifteen spined sticklebacks but despite finding a few small ones they seemed to be quite easily spooked and I didn't manage to tempt any of them before we set off. Off we went to the turbot mark again, making a quick stop on the way to catch some mackerel to use as bait. Again the fishing here was very slow. Only one fish was hooked but came off next to the boat as it came up. As it was quite apparent that a move was in order Tony wasted no time in taking us to the edge of a reef to fish for black bream again. I decided to tie up a rig with some Sakuma Chinu hooks and added a few pink and yellow beads to both snoods to hopefully give me an edge. This seemed to work a treat as I caught the first black bream of the day. Again I then swapped over to ledgering larger mackerel baits to try and tempt a conger eel, a bull huss or a tope. With two rods out this time and the tide dropping off I soon had a fish on one of them and it was one of my favourite species.

Lesser spotted dogfish. Some anglers hate them.
I love them and have been known to kiss them before release.

Whilst the other anglers carried on fishing for bream and were now catching a few I was happy to watch for bites from something bigger. One young angler in particular was having a great day and was showing most of the adults how to catch fish.

This young angler got the biggest black bream of the trip.

The next time I got a bite it was a tope picking up one of the baits and running with it before dropping it again. A second run shortly afterwards resulted in me hooking a tope but after being on for just a few minutes the hook pulled. I do have previous history of having bad luck with sharks and thought it was going to be one of those days! Pretty soon after though one of the rods started going again and I picked it up. No run this time but something was still there so wound down and struck. The fish was on and was putting up a bit of a fight but not much, I was hoping it was a bull huss as this would have been a new species for me but after watching the rod tip Ross knew what it was.

Ross called it correct and my first conger eel of the year was soon boated.

Time was now running out and I really wanted to get a tope. Watching the rods patiently in anticipation one of them started going, I quickly picked it up and a tope started running with the bait before stopping. When it started running again I wound down and struck. Shark on. With Tony and Ross offering advice and encouragement I took my time playing it and they soon expertly brought it on board. After taking a few measurements and tagging the shark I had my picture taken with it before it was carefully put back, swimming off strongly.

I'm talkin' about sharkin'!

With very little time left before we headed back in I decided not to fish anymore as catching the tope seemed like the perfect ending to a wonderful trip. As we returned to port the high speed ferry that would be taking me back to the mainland passed us.

Quite an impressive vessel.

Back at the harbour I thanked Tony for his services and then Ross dropped me off at the ferry terminal where I would begin my long journey home. It had been a superb trip and over the six days I had managed to catch twenty six species in total, adding six to my 2013 tally including three new ones. It was also great to fish with Lee, Luke, Mike and Ross again, visit some great places and the two trips fishing with skipper Tony aboard Anna 2 were great too. I don't have any more extended fishing trips planned at the moment but I still have some way to go if I'm to achieve my 2013 fishing targets and it's going to be very tough but I'm going to give it my best shot and who knows where that will take me. On more adventures no doubt!

Tight lines, Scott.

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