Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All the leaves are brown...

Having not caught a fish since I returned to Scotland on the 15th I was feeling pretty bad due to withdrawal symptoms and needed a fix so I drove up to Orchill Coarse Fishery yesterday to take advantage of a break in the wet weather and had a day fishing maggots on a float ledger setup. In the morning I tried "Alex's Pond" but after three hours with out so much as a bite I decided to head up the hill to the "Snake Pond" and try my luck there. It was slow for a while but eventually the bites came and I soon connected with a few fish. Roach and perch made up the bulk of my eight fish haul over the next three hours but a lovely little mirror carp made sitting in the cold wind all day with leaves falling all around me worthwhile.

A rather lovely little mirror carp.
Autumn is here and getting back from sunny Crete was a bit of a massive come down if I'm honest. A good few tough months ahead but I'm sure I can make the most of whatever fishing opportunities present themselves and I still have a few species I'd like to try and catch before the year is out so planning around those will keep me occupied!

Tight lines, Scott.

Species hunting adventures on Crete : Part 5.

Over the last few days of our holiday we visited the south coast a few times. First on Lillian's list was Lerapetra so off we went. After passing Agios Nikolaos we headed further east along the coast and came to a very sharp right hand turn in the road. As we rounded it I spotted a nice looking little harbour down below with a sandy bottom so we went down to take a look.

Just what I was hoping to find!

It was a very hot day but having stumbled across this perfect spot to try for wide eyed flounder I had to have a go! First cast and a few lizardfish appeared from the sand and shot over to investigate what had just entered the water. A few were soon too inquisitive for their own good, eagerly grabbed the Gulp! Angleworm and were caught. I worked my way along the harbour and caught some ornate wrasse and a black scorpionfish closer in. Then I couldn't believe my luck when I spotted a small wide eyed flounder swimming along the bottom!

Try as I might I couldn't catch it on Gulp! or raw prawn. It kept swimming up to have a look and then turning away. By this point it was very hot and even the lizard fish had all buried themselves and were ignoring my hook bait when it passed there partially buried heads. Having spent too long already and getting quite frustrated in the process we got back on the road and were soon in Lerapetra. We had a ramble around and went for something to eat. I wasn't going to fish but when I spotted some strange fish in the mouth of the harbour that I guessed were pipe fish I had a go.

Another harbour...
...another potential new species!

I did manage to get them interested but I could not get them to bite and had to make do with a few ornate wrasse before admitting defeat.

In the early evening we headed back to the small sandy bottomed harbour on our way home and I tied up a simple three hook flapper rig with very short snoods and baited the #12 hooks with little chunks of prawn. Casting out I held the rod feeling for bites. There wasn't much happening to start with then I had a good bite and struck, hooking a fish that fought quite well. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was a striped seabream, a nice bonus new species.

Striped seabream have a rather strange looking head!

It was a little while before I got my second bite and because it was a gentle one I let it develop a bit before slowly winding into it. I felt the weight of something small but as I slowly reeled it in I felt something else biting. By the time I had reeled in my mini rig it had a triple shot of fish on it. The first fish that came into view was a lizardfish. So was the second. The third however was a tiny flatfish! My sense of anticipation briefly turned to dread when upon lifting them up the harbour wall I heard a splash as one fish fell off but luckily it was not the wide eyed flounder!

Small but perfectly formed. Nice almost floral pattern too.

I was over the moon and for the second time during the trip did a little jig. After that the bites slowed down again so after a while I switched to a drop shot rig and started fishing down the harbour wall in the hope of getting lucky again and finding a tentacled blenny. There were loads of small black scorpionfish hiding in the cracks that came charging out to grab my little lure and I even managed to hook a couple of shy biting damselfish. Last drop before we left I caught a tiny grouper that I would later identify as a goldblotch grouper, another new species for me.

The adults are much more bland.

The next day we drove down to the south coast again and after visiting a nice beach we then took a long drive up through the mountains and headed north again to the Aquaworld Aquarium in Hersonisos. We visited it the last time we were on Crete five years ago. The Scotsman who started it, John McLaren, and his lovely wife who helps him run it are great and it may be a fairly small place but I enjoyed it much more than the much larger Cretaqurium. There were lots of species on show but the tank with the weevers, stargazers and scorpionfish in it was my favourite.

These streaked weevers were quite big. I'd love to catch one!
You lookin' at me? Quite a friendly bunch really.

Out the back there are lots of reptiles on display and I got to cuddle a snake again. This time it was a bit bigger than the one I got to handle the last time we visited!

This large male iguana kept jiggling his dewlap (flap of skin on his neck) and jowls and generally showing off. 
This albino Burmese python was rather heavy. It seemed quite friendly though. 

Incredibly this was the first and last day of the trip that I didn't do any fishing!

Lillian has this thing about castles so the following day we made a three hour drive to the south west of the island to see the fortress at Frangokastelo. After having a look around I was allowed to fish the harbour there and from the rocks at the end of its outer breakwater. The fishing was pretty slow but I persevered and managed a few Buchichi's gobies, a rainbow wrasse and tormented another octopus that kept grabbing my bit of Gulp! and letting it go again. I really wanted to catch one so Lillian could see it up close but after a while it got bored with me and crawled off.

Tough going here in front of Frangokastelo fortress.

After lunch we headed further west to Hora Sfakion. It was another very hot afternoon and while Lillian took the opportunity to relax in the shade I fished for an hour in the fairly deep harbour there and caught a few lizard fish followed by some rainbow wrasse, including a couple of males.

Slightly more colourful than it used to be as a female.

I then moved to another part of the harbour and soon caught a marbled rabbitfish and a parrotfish before I caught something else at range that felt a bit different as I was reeling it in. When it came to the surface I was very pleased to see my first greater weever. This would be my last new species of the trip.

A small specimen but I was chuffed to catch it and laughing in the face of danger handled it in a manly manner.
Nice light blue and gold markings and a jet black dorsal fin with venomous spines just like its smaller UK cousin. Note the sharp spines on the gill plates too.

The day before we left I had an hour at "The Lake" after popping to Agios Nikolaos to buy some gifts for folk back home and caught a few more fish. My last fish of the trip was a small, but very angry, white grouper. Lillian said it was trying to bite me but I could have sworn it was talking to me!

Maybe it was saying goodbye.

Well I had a great holiday and was very sad to leave. The fishing was great fun too and again I was sad to be returning back to a cold, wet and windy Scotland! At least I was coming back with some happy memories, some of them fishy. Here's what I caught...

  1. Annular Seabream x 13
  2. Bass x 1
  3. Black Goby x 1
  4. Black Scorpionfish x 1
  5. Blue Runner x 9
  6. Bogue x 23
  7. Buchichi's Goby x 6
  8. Cleaver Wrasse (Pearly Razorfish) x 1
  9. Comber x 9
  10. Common Pandora x 1
  11. Common Two Banded Seabream x 6
  12. Damselfish x 9
  13. Derbio x 4
  14. Dusky Grouper x 2
  15. Dusky Rabbitfish x 5
  16. European Barracuda x 1
  17. Grey Wrasse x 1
  18. Garfish x 1
  19. Giant Goby x 5
  20. Goldblotch Grouper x 2
  21. Greater Weever x 1
  22. Lizardfish x 14
  23. Madeira Rockfish x 13
  24. Marbled Rabbitfish x 9
  25. Ornate Wrasse x 24
  26. Painted Comber x 7
  27. Parrotfish x 4
  28. Red Porgy x 3
  29. Rainbow Wrasse x 11
  30. Rock Goby x 1
  31. Rusty Blenny x 3
  32. Saddled Seabream x 5
  33. Salema x 11
  34. Slender Goby x 1
  35. Striped Seabream x 1
  36. Thick Lipped Mullet x 1
  37. Tompot Blenny x 1
  38. White Grouper x 2
  39. White Seabream x 11
  40. Wide Eyed Flounder x 1
Next year I plan to return to the Mediterranean. At least once. Slightly heavier tackle will be taken next time as well as my ultra light gear so as well as targeting tentacled blenny, flying gurnard and stargazer I can target some of the larger more powerful species like leerfish and mahi mahi that can be found there. I'm looking forward to it already!

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Species hunting adventures on Crete : Part 4.

As forecast it was a lovely calm day so off we went and hired a small boat for three hours. It wasn't cheap but I was keen to fish in some slightly deeper water to see if anything new would turn up or if there were any bigger specimens of the species I'd caught already around. First off we headed around the western side of Kalydon to tie up to a marker buoy that the guy at the water sports jetty had told us was over a reef system. On the way we saw quite a few garfish skipping along the surface to get out of our way which was quite cool. I don't quite know how they stay out of the water as long as they do. They seem to defy gravity. Soon at the marker and tied up, I fished chunks of raw prawn on a drop shot rig and was soon catching lots of small fish called bogue.

Bogue don't get that big despite their quite voracious appetites. They were taking my bait as it fell through the water and I soon caught over a dozen.

When my lead did manage to get to the bottom the bites were fast and furious and lots of fish were caught including a couple of ornate wrasse, a few combers, several types of seabream, a parrotfish and two types of rabbitfish. I was going through bait like it was going out of fashion and peeling the prawns was wasting valuable fishing time so Lillian offered her services and a bucket full of peeled prawns was soon at my disposal. What a woman!

A lovely example of a common two banded seabream. Nice yellow stripes on it.
Banksy has not been anywhere near this comber.
A dusky rabbitfish. These have hard spines in most of their fins which are poisonous.
A marbled rabbitfish. Both these fish have migrated into the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal from the Red Sea.

Before we knew it two of our three hours were up and we still had to get back. We untied and headed back around the southern tip of Kalydon and fished on the drift for a little while. I was worried about losing rigs on the bottom but it wasn't too bad. After catching a few lizardfish and a rainbow wrasse I caught three lovely red porgy. These fought quite well and were good fun on my ultra light gear.

A member of the seabream family these fish are a light pink hue with tiny light blue spots that don't really show up in this photo unfortunately. Lovely fish.

Soon it was time to head back and I was quite pleased with my haul of fish even I hadn't caught anything new. That's right, I'd caught all of these species already during other sessions, I just left them out of the first three reports so I had some new species to include in this one!

Relaxing during the afternoon my thoughts turned to how I could try and catch some more new species during the remainder of the trip. In particular the three remaining Mediterranean species on my "Most Wanted" list, tentacled blenny, flying gurnard and wide eyed flounder. Out of the three I thought that wide eyed flounder may be the easiest to try for as all I'd need to find would be a harbour with a nice sandy bottom.

Also still in my mind though were the barracudas I'd seen. Surely if I got my approach right I could catch one as there seemed to be plenty around? After seeking some advice on barracuda tactics and getting permission from Lillian we headed to Plaka for dinner that evening and I had one hour at the harbour there to try and tempt one before we went to the restaurant. To start with I tried a few shallow diving hard lures, fishing each one using a slow retrieve with a jerk followed by a pause. The aim of this was to get the lure to turn side on to any fish following it to hopefully induce a take. With no action on the shallow divers I changed to a sinking stickbait style hard lure and fished the same retrieve slightly deeper down. On literally my last cast and with my mind drifting to thoughts of what I'd like to have for dinner I felt a solid take and my rod arched over. The fish didn't fight as hard as I'd have imagined, only taking line a couple of times and even then only did so because I had set my drag fairly loosely. A brief nervous moment lifting it up the harbour wall was soon over and the fish was soon on a pile of fishing nets being carefully unhooked. The fish was rather well behaved too which I found quite surprising and after I popped it back I did a little gleeful dance before popping my gear away in the boot of the car so we could go to dinner.

Happiness is a long torpedo shaped toothy fish.

All in all a great days fishing! So far I'd caught over thirty species. With only a few days left could I track down a wide eyed flounder? Would I catch any other new species? Having caught so many species so far it was going to be difficult but I was keen to try!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Species hunting adventures on Crete : Part 3.

On the sixth day of our holiday the wind had dropped off considerably so we decided to head up the coast to Plaka and take the boat over to Spinalonga. We got up there quite early and this meant I had an hour or so to fish at the harbour again. Drop shotting Gulp! Angleworm was soon producing a few different species again but nothing new. After a short while I thought I had found a snag but then it started moving. Slowly pulling it up whatever was holding on gave a couple of tugs before I spotted what it was. An octopus. I managed to get it up to the surface but it let go and swam off again. Still quite cool and Lillian was quite excited too as she loves them.

Not the last one we'd see. Octopus were quite common and I hooked a few only to lose them near the surface each time.

After spending a couple of hours rambling around the former leper colony we got the boat back to Plaka and I got permission to fish for a bit around the harbour again. Again fishing Gulp! on a drop shot rig I caught lots of fish and after a while hooked a small fish that put up quite a scrap for its size. No surprise really when I landed it and found out what it was.

These fiesty little blue runner gave a great account of themselves.

At this point I spotted some small European barracuda swimming along a few meters out from the harbour wall and decided to try and catch one. It didn't seem to matter what I tried though they just didn't seem interested. Just before we left though I did get a nice little reward for my efforts when I caught a small dusky grouper.

This fish took a small paddletail on a jighead worked quite aggresively through the boulders at the end of the harbour.

The following day we headed back to Agios Nikolaos to go on the semi submarine boat trip. I have to say I was quite sceptical about what we would see but the variety of fish was quite good even if by this point in the trip I had caught most of the species we saw! One fish that we saw though was the obvious exception. European barracuda. This made me even more determined to catch one and the amount we saw swimming about under the boat made me confident that there were plenty around to be caught. Obviously while you are down below the surface in the glass panelled hold of the boat there are guys up on deck throwing in groundbait to attract the fish but when a turtle appeared and swam around the boat a few times even I was pleasantly surprised.

"Oh my God, it's coming back again!" exclaimed one women who obviously didn't spot all the free food appearing from above.

Back on dry land it was a very hot day so after popping to the fishmonger for a few prawns we headed to a sheltered spot at the back corner of "The Lake" where Lillian relaxed under a big tree whilst I fished away for an hour or so. This time I decided to fish a small chunk of my chosen bait under a small waggler float. Plenty of fish caught again and as I peeled my prawns and threw the heads and shells into the shallow water to my left I noticed some small gobies fighting over them when they reached the sandy bottom. A quick dangle of my baited hook in their vicinty saw me catch a few of them.

Plenty of Bucchich's gobies at the back corner of "The Lake" if you love gobies as much as me.

The next day we headed up west along the north coast and on the way back stopped off at the picturesque Bali. I'd seen photographs online of flying gurnards that had been taken there so was hoping I may get lucky and catch one. As I was fishing a small group of little garfish swam into the harbour so I quickly tied on a #26 hook, baited it with a tiny piece of prawn and freelined it on the surface. One of them came right over and took it straight away hooking itself in the process. I quickly hoisted it up and just as well as it fell off the hook as soon as it was in my hand.

Isn't that adorable?

I carried on fishing but didn't manage anything new. Lillian then spotted an octopus climbing up the harbour wall that kept dissapearing into cracks and reappearing again to continue its ascent. It came all the way up to just under the surface and had a staring contest with Lillian before heading back down the wall into a crack.

They are pretty cool.

Lillian then spotted a fish on the harbour wall and when she pointed it out to me I thought it was a blenny or a goby. Knowing how obliging they both normally are I lowered a chunk of prawn down in front of its face and sure enough it quickly gobbled it whole. Quickly hoisted up I realised it was a goby. But what kind?

I'm still not sure if this is a juvenile giant goby, a very large rock goby or another Mediterranean species.

We were now past the half way point of our holiday and whilst I was still enjoying my little short sessions here and there and catching plenty of fish in the process I decided the following day to try a different approach to see what I could catch. With the wind forecast to drop right off it was time to hire a small boat and hit the open sea!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Species hunting adventures on Crete : Part 2.

On the third day of our holiday Lillian and I made the short drive up the coast to Plaka. This small village provides the shortest boat trip to the island of Spinalonga that leave its very small harbour so after a walk through the village I had an hour or so fishing there before we went for lunch.

Plaka Harbour would produce several species during the trip. Spinalonga island is in the background.

The previous day whilst fishing at "The Lake" I had seen lots of small, very dark fish that had repeatedly stripped the bait from my hook. I quickly spotted some of these swimming close to the harbour walls and decided I'd unleash my #26 hooks on them. Setting up a split shot rig and using a tiny section of Gulp! Angleworm I soon caught one of them.

Damselfish are quite common and are aggressive feeders but are tricky to hook until you go really small.

I decided to carry on fishing with this set up to see what else I could catch and much to my delight a succession of new species were soon falling foul of my tiny piece of lure on my equally tiny hook!

Tiny #26 hooks meant I could catch small mouthed and short biting fish. This little saddled seabream was next to grab my micro lure.
These derbio went like little rockets putting a nice little bend in my ultralight rod. Great fun.
This small wrasse which I think is a grey wrasse was next to be caught.
It's tiny mouth making my lure look quite big!

Then I caught a couple more new species in quick succession. The first, a small black scorpionfish, was the third species I caught that was on my Mediterranean "Most Wanted" list. It had to be handled with care due to its venomous spines. The second was my third new wrasse species of the trip, a rainbow wrasse, which I was very pleased to catch.

Black scorpionfish must be handled with care but danger is my middle name!
Like cuckoo wrasse all rainbow wrasse are born female, like the one above, and later change sex.
This is the life!

I was having a great time but soon it was time to head of for lunch so we popped into the taverna right next to the harbour and enjoyed some Calamari and a Greek salad before heading off. In the evening Lillian fancied a nap so I headed off for a couple of hours to fish over on Kalydon again.

I spotted these red rocks whilst fishing further along the coast on the first day of our holiday and decided to try fishing from them.

I opted to fish Gulp! Angleworm on a dropshot rig and started casting out and working it back to me. For the first time the bites were few and far between so I slowly worked my way along the rocks until I caught a couple of lizardfish. Then I found a nice gully filled with boulders that looked quite wrassy. Dropping my lure down into the gaps between them I soon found a fish whose bites felt quite like a wrasse and when I managed to hook it I was pleasantly surprised to find it was another new species, a parrotfish.

Who's a pretty boy then? A male parrotfish. Pretty drab if you ask me!
Funky set of teeth though.

I carried on exploring close in and soon landed a second parrotfish. After that the action dried up again so I moved further along and started casting out again, feeling for bites and when none came moving the lead back towards me and repeating the process. This soon produced another lizardfish and a rainbow wrasse. After a little while I felt some more tapping at range and hooked a fish. As it came into view I could tell it was another new species but wasn't sure what it was. Quickly hoisting it up I was confronted by a rather odd looking fish indeed that I would later identify as a cleaver wrasse.

A very thin fish, some nice subtle violet markings with an unusual silver mark on its flank. A small mouth too with two teeth on the upper jaw and a single tooth on the lower jaw gave it a quite goofy look. All in all a very bizarre little fish.

At this point I received a text from Lillian to say she was up so packed up and headed back to our apartment quite pleased to get a couple more new species despite the fishing being a lot slower than previous sessions.

Over the next couple of days we headed to a few places Lillian wanted to go and see. My rod went too of course and I got an hour here and there to fish. Due to the wind there was quite a swell running on the north coast so this was restricted to sheltered harbours. First up we went to the Cretaquarium. This was quite good although a lot of the tanks seemed to be filled with dusky groupers for some reason.

Juicy lips.

My favourite tank was a small one containing stargazers. They are a member of the weever family and like other weevers they bury themselves in the sand and ambush unsuspecting prey that swim too close. Stargazers however have a cunning trick that they use to tempt their prey closer, wiggling their tongues so they look like a worm! Once buried they are extremely well hidden too!

Growling sand. Perfectly camouflaged, a stargazer buried waiting to pounce.

After that we headed into Heraklion to have a wander. Fishing in the sea here was out of the question really though so I made do with an hour in the harbour while Lillian took some photos of the Venizian Fort there.

Heraklion Harbour provided a bit of shelter...
...from the rather fierce wind and rough sea of the north coast.

Inspired by the stargazers I decided to fish a Gulp! Angleworm on a jighead and slowly twitch it along the bottom to see if this change of tactics would result in a bottom dwelling species or two. This produced a few white bream and a rock goby before I got a nice surprise when my rod tip suddenly arched over and the hooked culprit tried to head off into the harbour. A few headshakes and a couple more short runs against my loosely set drag gave me a idea what it was and sure enough a small bass was soon played out and quickly lifted up onto a pile of fisherman's nets to be unhooked.

A nice little white bream.
This small bass grabbed my lure as I twitched it slowly along the bottom.
The fine mesh nets that the local fisherman use don't allow many fish to escape but are very useful as an unhooking area.

The following day we did a drive around the eastern side of the island and headed to a few spots we picked out of our guidebook. The first stop was Sitia and I had about an hour to mess about in the harbour drop shotting Gulp! Angleworm. Bites were few and far between but when the came they weren't shy! The first fish fought a bit like a bass so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it wasn't one.

My first grouper of the trip. This one is a white grouper. Fought a bit like a bass.

The second fish was caught just before we left. I had just explained to Lillian that corners are a good place to try for fish in harbours and dropped down my lure. Something grabbed it violently before it got to the bottom and shot off along the harbour wall before coming off after a few seconds giving me quite a fright in the process. Waiting a bit I dropped the lure into the corner again. Bang! The exact same type of aggressive take except this time the fish tried to head downward putting a nice bend in my rod before I put some pressure on and turned it walking along the harbour wall away from the corner at the same time to try and keep it away from his hiding place. Soon on the surface was a rather chunky black scorpionfish, considerably larger than the others I had caught so far to say the least!

These can get quite big and as I discovered very powerful.
With aggression, mouths and appetites to match.

Our little tour of the east of the island continued and I had an hour fishing from the the rocks at the south end of the sandy beach at Zakros but drew a blank and half an hour fishing in Makrygialos Harbour on the south coast in the evening as sun set only produced a solitary black goby. I packed the gear in the car and we enjoyed a nice meal before making the drive north back to Elounda. So, only three fish caught all day but to be honest I'd have settled for the first two I caught had I been offered them at the start of the day!