Thursday, April 03, 2014

The one that got away.

On Tuesday I decided to wet a line in the Irish Sea again and after looking up a few marks I flipped a coin and headed to Killantringan Lighthouse to fish for three bearded rockling from the rocks beneath it.

Killantringan Lighthouse. The light no longer operates. Killantringan House then.

I arrived just after high water and found a safe comfortable ledge to fish from. As my session a few miles further down the coast at Portpatrick was very slow last week I opted to fish two rods. Onto the first I tied a three hook flapper and after quickly preparing some mackerel strip baits this was cast out into the bay where the bottom was very clean. On the second rod I set up a simple running ledger and lobbed another mackerel strip close into the rocky area below me. 

Things were slow and as the tide receded I noticed the rusted remains of a ship start to reveal themselves. When I got home I did a bit of research and discovered they are what is left of the MV Craigantlet, a container ship that ran aground in 1982.

At the other side of the bay the remnants of the bow appeared and down to my left a few pieces of the bridge began breaking the surface too.

With no interest being shown on either rod after about two hours of waiting patiently and casting out fresh baits every now and then I prepped some squid strips, removed a few more mackerel fillets from my frozen baits and chucked the heads and guts into the water in front of me to try and draw some fish into the area. This did the trick and shortly after the groundbait went in I got my first bite of the session when my close range rod was slowly pulled down and straightened up again twice. Lifting the rod and winding down I felt the weight of a fish. A big fish. A big angry fish!

All hell broke loose and it didn't take long for me to figure out it was a conger eel. Getting it up away from the bottom I kept the pressure on as the fish thrashed around violently beneath me. Slowly I was able to gain line until the beast came into sight. It was a very big fish indeed and as I kept the pressure on to prevent it getting down again and to hopefully tire it out I started to think about how on earth I was going to land it! There was a gully to my left so I tried using the swell to wash it up into that. This was partially successful but as the waves receded it was putting a lot of pressure on my rod so I decided to try and get down to the fish from the rocks to my right. Landing the eel was one thing but unhooking it was going to be another matter entirely as I didn't really have the tools required to make it straight forward. I grabbed my long forceps, guided the fish over to a point where I could scramble down the rocks that I thought I could safely try to land and unhook it. As I got closer to the fish I could see that my #3/0 circle was nicely placed in its lower jaw so I was confident that if I could get the hook in the forceps I could quickly turn it, unhook the fish and release it. After a couple of failed attempts the swell brought the fish up the rocks towards me, I managed to get hold of the leader and quickly wrapped it around my arm. I waited for the next wave and pulled the fish up towards me a little further. As this wave fell away though I heard a crack and fell backwards against the rocks. My 30lb hooklength had parted under the weight of the fish just above the hook and I watched as it slowly swam off out of sight. Rather gutted to leave a hook in the fish I climbed back up to the safety of my ledge and just sat there for a few minutes gathering my breath and my thoughts. I couldn't quite believe what had just happened.

My composure almost fully regained but with a slightly surreal feeling remaining I got back to trying to catch my target species. As the session went on I prepped more bait and tossed in more groundbait but it was a while before I got another bite. Again it came on the close in rod just before daylight started to fade, this time it was a small codling that put up no fight and posed no landing or unhooking issues! Whilst removing the hook it coughed up a squid head that I had thrown in once again proving the worth of using a bit of groundbait in the area I was fishing.

A very hungry and nicely coloured little cod.

As it got dark the tide turned and started to flood and I started fishing both rods close in. It was soon pitch black and it took just over an hour longer for my third bite and fish of the session. As I reeled it in I could see it was a fairly big rockling. As I shone my head torch down onto the fish before lifting it up it looked like it had the pink hue of a three bearded rockling. I got a bit excited, although my celebrations proved premature because I quickly realised after hoisting the fish up that it wasn't the rockling variety I was after.

A big plump shore rockling.

Hoping that this might be the first of a few rockling and my target might be amongst them I fished on for another hour or so but with work to go to the following morning I packed up and headed back up the road at about 22:30 with no further reward for my efforts. Quite a strange session really. The conger was quite a surprise, gave me an awesome scrap and has sparked an interest in targeting them from the shore again. I dare say there will be a few living in the remains of the shipwreck so a trip back to Killantringan is on the cards. Obviously I wasn't expecting to hook such a large conger eel and as a result I didn't have the equipment with me to make handling and unhooking possible. I hate leaving a hook in a fish but it was lip hooked and shouldn't take too long to rust out. Gloves, a towel and a t-bar will be going with me from now on. The late shore rockling was also a bit of a cruel twist to end the session with, and my quest for a three bearded rockling continues. Who knows what might turn up next time I go out trying to catch one? One of the great things about fishing is you never know what your next cast might bring!

Tight lines, Scott.

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