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!


  1. Great write up I really enjoyed the read and the pics. Whats the best way to handle a scorpion fish Scott ?

    I fished Elounda on my pole with prawn. Had a few good fish. Then my elastic shot out and I was into a better one. My pole then slammed down into the water as a large preditor took my fish.

    After a 15 minute battle I brought the fish to the rocks but i could't land it without a net no pics

    I later disovered it was a King Fish of at least 10 lbs....I was just glad I had got to see this beautifull creature....

    Best place I have been fishing on holiday in the sea. ......... :)

    1. Thanks Mike.

      With care and not with your hand near the spines on its anal fin like I have in the photo above. If you can shake them off the hook using forceps. If you find yourself catching lots of them its a good idea to debarb your hook if it has one.

      Pity about the big fish but it's always a risk when you fish light abroad to catch the smaller fish that are much more plentiful. I've been busted up a few times myself. Never nice.

      I like the Greek Islands too. Might visit (or revisit) one or maybe Cyprus late next year. :-)