Saturday, August 31, 2013

Three is a magic number.

Reviewing my list of potential target new species back in July I noted that I could catch a few from the waters around the Mull of Galloway so I booked the services of skipper Spike and his boat "Go West" for a trip in late August. I've been out with Spike before and I knew another day out with him would be a great way for me to enjoy a day boat fishing whilst getting the opportunity to target a few new species. When I made the booking the three species I thought I could realistically hope to catch for the first time were red gurnard, tub gurnard and tope. I caught a tope whilst over on Jersey since then so a bull huss was promoted into the top three of my new species hitlist for the day. Having gone ahead and booked the trip I had to try and get a few of my mates to come along! A text was sent out and my mates Nick and Naz replied saying they'd love to join me.

On Wednesday morning at 05:00 Nick picked Naz and I up and off the three of us went. Stopping in Stranraer on the way for breakfast I received a text from Spike to say we'd be fishing in Luce Bay due to the north westerly winds. Launching from Port Logan and fishing in the Irish Sea is probably better for species hunting but Spike reassured me we'd still be able to target a few different things and we soon arrived at Drummore where we'd be launching from. Spike was already there and after loading our gear onto the boat we were ready to launch.

A rather old and very rusty tractor is used to launch and retrieve the boats.

Soon fishing not far from shore, we made a few drifts to catch some mackerel to use as bait. A small box was soon full and we headed further out into the bay to target tope. Four baits were soon on the bottom and I was quite content to let Naz and Nick have any runs that happened on the two tope rods I had as neither of them had caught one before. I meanwhile fished a third rod with a two up rig to try and catch a few gurnards on mackerel baits. I opted to use #4 Sakuma Chinu hooks on the short 15cm snoods. I decided to try snelling these on to try and improve hook up rates. I soon caught a couple of dogfish and then Naz got a few knocks on his tope rod and caught his first bull huss. A good sign and when Nick caught one too I was confident that I would get one as well.

Naz's first bull huss.
A nice feisty bull huss for Nick too.

I then caught a double shot of grey gurnard, my first of the year. I handed them to Naz so I could get my camera and whilst I did that he put them both back. Just as well they weren't the red or tub variety! Luckily I caught a few more grey gurnard before it was my turn to catch a bull huss.

My third grey gurnard of 2013.

Busy catching gurnards, hoping that a red or tub would show up, I wasn't really paying attention to my other two rods and didn't spot one of them gently nodding away. As it was obviously not a tope Spike handed me the rod, the fish was already on and I wound it in. It didn't fight very much but I was still pleased to get my first new species of the trip.

I'm talkin' about sharkin'! Again.

We carried on fishing for tope, periodically changing our baits and increasing the amount of lead we had on as the tide started to pick up. I caught a few more grey gurnards and Nick had a second bull huss. After seven or eight more grey gurnard I caught a red gurnard, my second new species of the trip which I was very pleased about as they are the least common of the gurnard species in the area.

My second new species of the day, a red gurnard.

After about four hours with no tope runs we decided to head off to fish over a reef. The target there was pollock and we switched over to fishing soft plastics using light lure rods. There were plenty around and over the next couple of hours we caught and released about sixty between the three of us. Nick caught the biggest one and it really tested his light gear but he was able to bully it out of the kelp below the boat after some sustained pressure.

Naz's took this pollock on a Savage Gear Sandeel.
The biggest pollock boated.

The skipper then told us that despite fishing there for almost fifteen years he wasn't sure if the mark we were over held any wrasse so he dropped down my two up rig baited with small pieces of rag worm. Two ballan wrasse in quick succession soon cleared the matter up. Nick and I switched over to the same rig and caught a few wrasse too before we headed to our final mark where Spike told us we had a good chance of catching tub gurnards and also smoothhounds.

Once there Nick decided to ledger some crab to try and tempt a smoothhound and I focused on trying to catch a tub gurnard. Naz decided to lob out a small mackerel flapper to try and tempt any passing bass despite Spike warning him he'd more than likely catch dogfish on it. Having caught thirteen gurnards throughout the day on my two up rig, for some reason that looking back I can't quite explain, I decided to try a different approach and switched to mackerel strips fished on a two down running ledger setup. Spike meanwhile fished with one of my two up rigs baited with ragworm and when he caught the first tub gurnard of the day using it I quickly switched back and did the same! Time was running out though but when I got a decent bite I connected with the fish and it was the one I was hoping for.

My first tub gurnard was in lovely condition. A quite beautiful fish I'm sure you'd agree.

With only ten minutes to go I wanted to catch more of them but a shoal of mackerel arrived which made it hard for me, Naz as predicted by Spike had caught a couple of dogfish, Nick's crab hadn't attracted the smoothhounds and soon we wound our lines up for the last time to head back to port. Making a start to breaking down gear and tidying up the deck of the boat whilst Spike lifted the anchor he showed us some odd crustaceans that had been hanging on to it.

Woof woof. Who put the dog baits out?

How bizarre! Is it a juvenile spider crab perhaps?
"Go West" anchored just off shore waiting to be put back on her trailer.

Soon back on shore we packed our gear into Nick's car and thanked Spike before making the drive back up the road. It had been a long day and we were all quite tired although Naz, who had been up quite late the night before, was clearly more tired than Nick and I and slept most of the way home.

Naz does a good impression of a pollock whilst making sounds like a gurnard.

The three of us really enjoyed our day out in Lace bay. It was a great day's fishing in good company and whilst it was slightly disappointing not to get any tope runs all three of us caught some nice fish and I got three new species in one day. Snelling my hooks certainly seemed to improve my hook up ratios and used in combination with the Chinu hooks I can't recall any fish that weren't nicely hooked in the mouth either so that's another little positive from the trip and I'll carry on snelling my hooks from now on. Spike is a top skipper and the three of us are already talking about booking his services again next year although we may go earlier in the tope season when there are more around. 

Tight lines, Scott.

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