Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Seal in the bay!

When I got back from my fishathon at the start of the month I arranged a short trip back down to the south coast with my good friend Lee as he was keen to visit Swanage again after enjoying our trip there last year. Whilst I'm enjoying another superb year on the angling front Lee's fishing this year hasn't been so great. Conditions where he lives in Wales have restricted the amount of time he's been able to get out fishing. When he has managed to get out he's found that the severe winter storms have changed many of his usual marks and the fish movements through them have altered too as a result. All the time and effort he had put in to establishing the movement patterns of his main target bass will probably have to be repeated. On top of this he's been a bit unwell and recently has moved house, which can be a stressful thing at the best of times. I think it's safe to say he was quite glad to get away for a few days.

On Sunday the 20th off we went for a nice relaxing, stress free and hopefully fish filled seventy two hours species hunting. We decided that as well as visiting Swanage we would also fish around Weymouth Harbour, head west to Brixham to fish the breakwater there and also try fishing the deep water in front of the old quarry platform at nearby Berry Head. For a bit of fun we set ourselves a little goal of twenty species between the two of us over the duration of the trip. In addition Lee also had a trio of species he wanted to try and catch for the first time, these being black seabream, goldsinny wrasse and Atlantic horse mackerel. I wasn't too optimistic about catching anything new but I had read a report online that a single striped red mullet had been caught along at Swanage from the Banjo Pier and as ever there was a slight glimmer of hope that my little triple finned nemesis, the black faced blenny, could be tempted out from underneath Swanage Pier.

Arriving in Weymouth mid afternoon we dropped our gear off at our hotel, headed along to the Pleasure Pier and started fishing lures on ultra light tackle. Fishing was fairly slow and Lee and I had only caught a few corkwing wrasse and pollock between us when local angler Andy Mytton arrived to fish with us for the rest of the evening.

My first fish of the trip. The first of many corkwing wrasse.
A few small pollock soon followed.

After a while persevering at the one area the three of us moved along to the end of the pier. This improved our fortunes slightly and a few small pouting were soon caught. A young lad fishing close by then caught a couple of black seabream which had Lee quite excited. Andy and I then caught black seabream too but unfortunately Lee just wasn't having any luck getting one. Whilst trying for one Lee caught a small ballan wrasse and I changed to a small metal and caught a couple of sand smelt. The first one was taken jigging the lure and the second on a slow straight retrieve.

I think pouting are quite pretty fish.
Juvenile black seabream are pretty too and seem to be around in numbers on the south coast this year.
Lee bought me this little Palpuntin metal jig last year after I lost my only one. I find it's great for sand smelt and launce.

After a while we decided to move to another spot to try and locate some goldsinny wrasse. Exploring an area I've caught them at before and it didn't take long for me to spot some hiding in the weed down the wall about a foot below the surface as they came out to inspect my lure and started attacking it. I quickly pointed them out to Lee and he had go trying to catch one.

Target in his sights.

I moved to along a few metres and soon found some more but had difficulty hooking them on my #10 jighead so I switched to a split shot rig with a #18 hook at the end. This did the trick and Lee switched to this approach too. Soon all three of us had caught a few goldsinny wrasse and Lee was chuffed to get his first new species of the trip.

Kissing small toothy fish should only be done by trained professionals. Do not try this at your local harbour!

Lee carried on targeting goldsinny wrasse and caught a few more and then caught a tompot blenny which did not want to be photographed.

The tompot blenny did its best to avoid being photographed. Andy did a spot of photobombing too.
Finally calming down a bit the dark brown fish even managed a smile for the camera.

Andy and I then decided to fish our split shot rigs on the bottom and this saw us both catch a few gobies. I caught a couple of black gobies and a leopard spotted goby and Andy caught a couple of sand gobies.

A specimen leopard spotted goby.

Keen to add another species to our tally we moved again to another spot to try for flounder but this instead saw us catching a large number of black gobies. We also managed a couple of rock gobies though and I dropped down the side, worked my way along the harbour wall, eventually finding a crack that was full of common blennies and quickly caught one taking our species tally to twelve.

One of Lee's black gobies.
The rock gobies seemed to be located closer in to the base of the harbour wall.
I'll always have a soft spot for the common blenny.

By this point it was getting quite late so we called it a night despite not locating any flounder and headed off to get something to eat before heading back to the hotel.

Last Monday morning Lee and I headed east along to Swanage Pier. After passing through the small village of Corfe Castle we stopped to take a photo of the castle that gives the village its' name. It's a lovely little village and if I ever drag Lillian down to Swanage I'm sure she will insist we visit the old fortification up on the hill.

Corfe Castle.

After popping into Swanage Angling Centre and picking up some ragworm, a packet of mackerel fillets and a stray coarse angler also called Lee whom was about to try fishing in the sea for the first time we made our way out to the end of the pier. I decided to fish ragworm on or close to the bottom whilst Lee gave his namesake a few pointers to get him started fishing in saltwater before fishing himself with small soft plastics using a variety of rigging methods. The fishing wasn't quite up to the usual epic standards we've come to expect from the venue which we put down to the very small tide but most of the usual suspects soon made an appearance, the notable exception being pollock.

As usual corkwing wrasse made up the bulk of our captures with the odd small ballan wrasse getting hooked too. 
Tompot blennies are also resident in good numbers under the pier.

Lee also caught his first ever sand smelt, his second new species of the trip. Early in the afternoon I caught a black seabream, a species I've never caught from the pier before so again Lee was in with a chance of getting one. Moving out from the centre of the pier and fishing a running ledger onto the sandy areas on the outside I caught a couple of common dragonets.

The sandy patches around the pier usually contain a common dragonet or two.

I then started casting around further out to see what else might turn up. After a few more wrasse I hooked something that fought a little differently and was pleasantly surprised to see a striped red mullet appear. It was quickly swung up to hand and I was very excited to catch a new species.

Small but perfectly formed. A cool capture.

In the afternoon things went very quiet for a while and I switched to tiny pieces of mackerel on my hook hoping to avoid the resident wrasse hordes and give any other species down below more of a chance to get to my bait. This worked and I caught a couple of small rock gobies that at first I thought were female black faced blennies as they came to the surface. I always get excited briefly when I catch a small rock goby at Swanage Pier and should know by now not to. Anyway, I carried on fishing and the wrasse soon took a liking to my fish baits and a few were caught. Late in the afternoon Lee eventually caught a couple of black seabream which he was very pleased about.

Despite the serious expression Lee was very happy to get his first black seabream.

Meanwhile our apprentice and saltwater virgin had been ledgering baits at range and his efforts were rewarded when he caught a common eel on a sandeel bait. It was soon time to leave the pier so we said goodbye to our new friend after exchanging contact details and headed off to pick up some bait for the session we had planned in the evening. Overall it was a pleasant days' fishing but for the second time this year no Baillon's wrasse had been caught. I was a bit sad about this because they are a very pretty little wrasse and every time I fished the pier last year it always produced them. I hope they are still present. I'm also beginning to wonder if the black faced blennies are down there under the pier and to be honest I now have no real expectation of catching one when I visit. My mate Ross tells me a few were caught on Alderney late last year so I may have to make another trip over there to have a go for them with him. After picking up our bait and grabbing something to eat we made our way along to the Banjo Pier.

Sadly our evening bait session was very poor. Lee and I caught one ballan wrasse each but that was the sum total of the action all night and we fished into darkness. Andy came along too after he finished his work and fished a split shot rig along the clean sandy bottom to try and catch himself a lesser weever. He hooked something small at range but sadly it came off. The session was also spoilt somewhat by what I shall call "danglers". Cider drinking numpties who had an attempt at fishing, dangerously casting leads around our heads and generally getting in our way whilst they got drunk and let their kids run wild. Truth be told we should probably have moved off of the peir and fished from the beach but for some reason we didn't. By the time one of the drunken group came over to inform us repeatedly that the reason we weren't catching anything was that there was a "Seal in the bay!" we were quite tired, decided to pack up and head back along to Weymouth.

Last Tuesday Lee and I drove west into Devon and headed to Brixham. We were both quite excited as it's always nice to try somewhere new as you never quite know what you will catch. First off we walked along to near the end of the breakwater and found a spot we could climb down the outside of it and fish from.

Another nice day to be out fishing. Berry Head off in the distance.

Going with the highly effective Gulp! Angleworm on a drop shot rig I soon discovered that the ground in front of us was very snaggy so I cast out a bit further. This paid of almost immediately and I caught a small Atlantic horse mackerel.

The big eye and mouth of a predator.

This of course was the third of Lee's trio of species that he wanted to catch so it was good to know they were a potential catch from the breakwater. Lee was losing quite a few leads and seemed to be fishing into a particularly rough area so he moved along the breakwater a bit and this seemed to solve the problem. We started catching a few poor cod and small pollock with most of the fish coming at fairly close range where the rougher ground gave way to the cleaner sand beyond it. We then tried fishing the inside of the breakwater into the area between it and a disused concrete platform that had several sets if rusty old trawling gear piled up on top of it. This produced a lot of goldsinny wrasse.

I gave the Gulp! Angleworm a break and tried some other lures. These chartreuse lures proved popular with the goldsinny wrasse.

After catching about a dozen goldsinny wrasse and a single corkwing wrasse we headed back to the start of breakwater to try for flounders. Before doing that however I tried for a long spined sea scorpion down in a corner of some submerged steps. This didn't produce one but I did catch a couple of common blennies and a tompot blenny.

After spending a short while bouncing lures along the bottom and failing to catch any flatfish we walked along to Berry Head and made our way down to the loading platform. It looked great but there was already a few other people fishing so Lee and I started fishing from the rocks to the left of it. Fishing was surprisingly quite slow but one guy on the platform soon caught a few scad. Lee was obviously excited by this. I caught a few small wrasse from close range before I moved over to the platform when most of the other anglers left. Lee stayed on the rocks but switched from fishing a metal jig to a caro rig and caught a sand smelt, a pollock and a mackerel.

It seems sand smelt aren't too fussy about presentation method and will have a go at most lures fished at the right depth.

Shortly afterwards I got a shout from Lee that he had another fish on. It was his scad and was on the surface before I could get over with the net so Lee quickly swung it up.

Lee was over the moon to catch his first Atlantic horse mackerel (scad).

Still on a bit of a high a large seal appeared which had Lee doing impressions of the chap we'd had the misfortune of meeting the night before. This had me in fits of laughter.

"Seal in the bay!", "Seal in the bay!".

Heading back over onto the platform I decided to switch from lures to fishing chunks of mackerel down the side close in. This produced a pollock and then a long spined sea scorpion.

Another species added to our tally.

By this point the tide had really picked up. Whilst I carried on fishing baits Lee decided to switch back to fishing metals from the right hand side of the platform and he soon got a nice bonus "fish".

This cuttlefish was a pretty cool little thing changing colours rapidly and when we put it back it spurted ink into the water before jetting off out of sight.

The current now too strong to hold bottom with the small leads I had with me I joined Lee fishing metals and  caught a mackerel. Lee then caught another scad.

A happy angler.

As light faded I decided to call it a night and packed up my gear while Lee had quite a few "last casts".

As light faded Lee was hopeful of a few more scad and didn't want to leave.

By the time Lee finally called it a night it was fairly dark and the only other angler still fishing caught a shore rockling just before we left. With only two species remaining to catch for us to reach our target of twenty I maybe should have borrowed a lead from the other angler and tried for one but with a two hour drive to get back to Weymouth we just headed off.

Last Wednesday was the last day of our trip and we decided to have a quick drive over to Portland after popping into Chesil Bait n' Tackle. Stopping at the top of a hill we took in the awesome view of Chesil Beach stretching out into the distance.

Eighteen miles of shingle beach. Having visited Weymouth several times now it's criminal not to have fished it really.

We then drove up to Portland Bill. It would have been nice to have fished there but it was a long way down to the water, the tidal rip would probably have made fishing difficult with the light gear we had with us and we only had a few hours before we had to leave so we headed back to Weymouth to fish around the harbour. First up we visited a spot to try for flounder again. There were a few small ones about and lots of tiny gobies. The flounder were half heartedly mouthing our lures though so on went a #22 hook and sliver of mackerel. Five common gobies were quickly caught taking us to nineteen species.

One more species to go.

For a little while we persisted trying to get flounder. Lee came close when one took his lure right into its mouth but frustratingly somehow it didn't get hooked when he struck. We then decided to try for a thick lipped mullet. There was a big shoal of tightly packed juveniles in a very shallow area so I cast in amongst them. Predictably they all quickly darted away but soon came back over and I was surprised to get a bite fairly quickly and struck hooking one. Quickly swinging it up to hand I got another surprise when I realised it was actually a tiny bass.

Pre-school bass.

Twenty species achieved Lee fancied fishing the Stone Pier for the last couple of hours so off we went grabbing a sandwich and a cold drink on the way. Fishing the outside of the pier bites were slow in coming but I eventually caught a few sand smelt at distance. Lee meanwhile was catch lots of corkwing wrasse.

Lee caught loads of colourful corkwings.

We then switched to fishing down the side on the inside of the pier and whilst Lee carried on catching loads of corkwings I wasn't catching any so made a few adjustments to my drop shot rig. This produced immediate results with a few corkwing wrasse quickly being caught. A few black seabream then turned up and we both caught some which was a nice way to end the trip before we reluctantly packed up and made our way back into town to the car to start the long journey home.

Well it was great catching up with Lee again and despite the fishing not quite being up to usual standard for the south coast we still caught twenty species and had a good laugh in the process. It was good to meet up with Andy again too. I was also really pleased to see Lee getting four new species, three of which he really wanted to catch and I was over the moon catching my first striped red mullet. A nice relaxing fishing trip in glorious weather is hard to beat and we are both really looking forward to more of the same when we fly off for a week on the Spanish island of Menorca. I just hope there aren't any "Seals in the bay!"

Tight lines, Scott.


  1. Well played Scott, looks like a decent trip. 20 species is good going. I'll try and make one of those dates in August and we can maybe get that Smoothie...

    1. It was great! I love it down there. Hope you can get down in August. Chance of a three bearded rockling too! :-D

  2. Just had the species update from the club, two caught at Troon apparently, easy to mistake them for a mottled shore rockling as I know, not saw the pics mind. If you see pics or fish by side its easy enough. Might take a half day in August, fish the evening.

    1. Cool. Get a look at the pics and we can add a trip to Troon to our list if they were indeed our three bearded nemesis. :-D