Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Big or small, love them all.

I was supposed to go to the Shetland Islands to fish aboard Oberon earlier this year but my trip was cancelled due to severe weather. I still wanted to go and managed to book a trip in August and last weekend I set off. Driving up to Aberdeen and getting the overnight ferry on Friday I opted to pay for a sleeping pod for the twelve hour crossing. Having been out fishing the night before until the early hours of the morning trying to catch bass with my mate Martin I was quite tired so just spent the evening relaxing in my pod before trying to go to sleep. I have to say it was not that comfortable, left me wishing I had booked a bed in a cabin instead and resulted in a poor night's sleep. I arrived in Lerwick at 07:00 on Saturday morning before being picked up along with six other anglers by the skipper John Keggie's right hand man Kenny Graham. I opted to hire a rod and buy end tackle from the boat to save me having to transport it. I did however take my ultra light gear and some jigheads, drop shot weights, hooks and some components to make up mini rigs with so I could have a go for mini species in any harbours should the opportunity arise. Gear loaded in the minibus we made the drive up to Cullivoe which involved a short ferry crossing. We stopped off at our accommodation to drop off bags, went down to the boat and we were soon leaving port heading north.

Conditions looked great as we headed out.

The first day would be spent targeting large cod, fishing a mixture of large shads on french booms and heavy pirks with a gummi makk on the bottom instead of a treble hook. As we headed to the first mark we saw a pod of dolphins which was an amazing sight. With new species in mind I spoke to the skipper about what was possible and he told me there was an outside chance of torsk and hake turning up with a few of each being boated recently. Fishing baits might also turn up a few other species too so I had this in the back of my mind as well. To be honest though as soon as we started fishing lots of fish were soon being boated and with the average fish being into double figures the rods were bent double. It was very tiring work pumping and winding them up from the depths but most enjoyable too and I soon forgot about catching new species!

After a double shot of single figure coalfish I landed my first double figure specimen.
Next drop and this huge coalfish grabbed my orange 750g Deep Seeker and got hooked on the #12/0 gummi makk!
Plenty of big cod caught too. I had sixteen of them and most of them were double figure fish.

By the time early evening came we had filled the ships hold with fish and so we headed back to port gutting the fish on the way. This soon attracted a large flock of gulls following behind the boat fighting over everything that was thrown in.

Fast and furious feathered feeding frenzy.

Back at port we unloaded the catch and after filleting it all and storing it in iced boxes the rest of the lads retired to the accommodation to unwind and have their dinner. I had other plans however, when I told the skipper about them earlier in the day he informed me I would be too tired to fish upon our return and to be honest I was pretty knackered but I still managed a couple of hours drop shotting around the pier with my ultra light gear. Hoping that something unusual may turn up I caught a couple of long spined sea scorpions followed by a succession of poor cod. Working my way around the rocks opposite the boat I then caught a few small pollock. Most of them were very brightly coloured with a striking orange honeycomb.

Cullivoe Pier. Ultra light species hunting time!
First fish caught. A nice pink long spined sea scorpion.
Followed by this smaller orange one.
Poor cod a plenty as well.
Lovely looking little pollock.

As it got dark a few coalfish started feeding too and were soon taking my Isome when suddenly I heard a splash, turned to see what it was and was confronted by an otter poking its head out of the water. I tried to get my camera but whilst I was fumbling around it swam off out of sight. By this point the wind had dropped off almost completely and the midges were getting rather unbearable so I called it a night and headed up to the accommodation.

It was to be an early start on Sunday morning and we headed north again, this time to target big turbot drifting over huge gravel banks. The fishing would be considerably less frantic than the day before but the stamp of turbot being caught recently was impressive the skipper told us. Stopping briefly on the way, after passing a strange looking installation on the cliffs nearby, we quickly filled a box with mackerel to use as bait. 

An old derelict military listening post sits atop the cliffs on the northern coast.

Soon at the turbot mark we began the first drift. Traces consisting of about five feet of heavy mono with a large spoon and a muppet to act as attractors and a whole fillet of mackerel as bait on a rather large hook were attached to a boom and 2lb of lead to make sure we kept in contact with the sea floor. It wasn't long before the action started and the first turbot of the day was boated. A few big cod as well were taken and when I got my first bite and hooked the culprit I knew by the thumping that's what I had on and a pretty big one too. I took my time and eventually it came up from the depths and was brought aboard by Kenny.

What a monster cod!

During one drift we spotted a whale breaching the surface off in the distance but again I couldn't get a photo. Early afternoon we tried for haddock but could not get through the big cod which smashed our feathers and Hokkais. Time had flown by and before we knew it we had to head back to port as myself and two others were heading home that evening.

On the way back we passed Muckle Flugga, the rocks that house the most northerly lighthouse in the U.K.

Sad to leave, the three of us made the drive back to Lerwick where I got dropped off and I boarded my ferry back to the mainland. Rather tired I managed to sleep a bit better in my sleeping pod and when I woke up it was just about to arrive in Aberdeen at 07:00. Feeling quite refreshed I decided to pop into Stonehaven Harbour on my way home for a spot of ultra light fun.

It was low water when I arrived but the outer harbour still had a reasonable depth of water in it. I'd love to return when the harbour is full.

Drop shotting Isome soon had me catching lots of little codling and coalfish. Given the difference between them and the ones I'd caught up in the Shetland Islands it really brought a smile to my face. 

This tiny codling made me chuckle out loud. Quite a contrast to the ones I'd caught up in the Shetlands!
As was this little coalfish.

Then I got a nice surprise when I caught my first short spined sea scorpion of the year. It was so small that I almost just put it back without realising that it wasn't the long spined variety. I caught a second one a short while later that was just as small as the first so perhaps they have been breeding in the harbour. This was my sixtieth species of 2013 and means I have equalled last years tally already! Quite a nice way to finish the weekends fishing.

Tiny but my first new saltwater species for a while. It almost went back without being recognised.

So, I had great time. The fishing up in the Shetland Islands was quite incredible and John, Kenny and the other lads on the boat were great too. I'd love to go back to do it again and hopefully catch a few other species next time. Having equalled last years species tally my focus for the rest of the year will be on new species. I'm off to the south coast of England again this weekend for six days to fish in Cornwall and Dorset before hopping on the ferry and going over to Jersey to fish with my mate and fellow species hunter Ross Johnson for a few days. Hopefully I can pick up a few new species while I'm away.

Tight lines, Scott.

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