Saturday, September 06, 2014

Species hunting adventures on Zakynthos : Part 3.

Early last Saturday morning I didn't go fishing and just got up with Lillian. After breakfast we went to Zakynthos Town and had a walk around. I was allowed to fish in the harbour for an hour or so and thought this might be a good spot to try and catch some blennies and gobies. Fishing a split shot rig straight down the harbour wall I didn't have any luck locating either but I did catch a few wrasse and seabream including some annular seabream which was an addition to the trips species tally.

At first glance it could easily be mistaken for its white or saddled cousin. The yellow pelvic and anal fins are the feature to look for on the annular seabream.

We then headed to a Ceramic Art Studio to have a look around and buy a couple of souvenirs. We were welcomed by the owner and given a glass of home made lemonade to enjoy while we looked around which was lovely in the afternoon heat. Lillian picked out a couple of things she liked and we bought them before heading back to Porto Roma.  After lunch we headed up to St Nicholas beach to have a swim and a snorkel around Vasilikos Cape.

Who needs a fish finder?

Whilst doing this I spotted a few fish that I hadn't caught. Small groups of Salema, large shoals of sand smelt and a solitary Atlantic lizardfish were all down there as we swam around as well as lots of wrasse, seabream and striped red mullet.

Swimming around was quite tiring and when we went back to the apartment Lillian fancied a nap so I drove back to Vasilikos Cape to try and catch a salema or an Atlantic lizardfish. Fishing in the areas where I had seen them things were very slow and I only manged to catch four fish. One of them was a small Atlantic lizardfish though so I was happy enough. One more species left to reach my target of twenty.

Towards the end of this session my fishing was interrupted at one point by what I thought was gunfire. Rather confused I looked up towards the small church to see that sure enough someone had fired what looked like a rifle three times out over the sea. Walking along towards the church at the end of my session I realised that a wedding had been taking place and the gunfire must have been part of the ceremony.

The next day I got up early and decided to head down to Porto Roma beach for a change. Fishing small soft plastic paddletail lures in conjunction with a caro I started at the harbour and worked my way along the beach as the sun rose. Sadly this did not produce any takes so I headed onto some rocks at the far end and had a few casts over a submerged reef off to my left. Again this didn't result in any action so I switched to Angleworm on a drop shot rig. First few casts with this and I caught a painted comber and an annular seabream. These were followed by a rainbow wrasse and a white seabream. Then I spotted a small fish moving across the sand in front of the rock that I was standing on. I was fairly sure it was a goby. Rigging up a split shot rig and #22 hook as quickly as I could I started twitching it along the bottom in the area where I'd seen the small fish but could no longer see it. As I lifted the rig up off of the bottom however a few small weevers appeared from beneath the sand and attacked my tiny piece of angleworm.  Jigging my rig up and down disturbing the sand it didn't take too long to hook one and I lifted it out to be pleasantly surprised to find out that it was the lesser variety.

My 20th species of the trip. Mission accomplished!

Trying for a bit longer to see if I could catch a goby I caught two more lesser weevers before heading back up to the apartment. On my way back along the beach I heard a strange noise and looking along the beach I could see a dog at the far end plodding along and pausing to howl in a most peculiar manner. The noise it was making whilst still distinctly dog like was oddly familiar and then I realised it sounded rather like a cockerel crowing. The confused canine headed up the road as I was putting my stuff into the car but I soon caught up with it.

I was sure that this dog thinks it's a cockerel!

Over breakfast Lillian and I discussed our plans for the day. Lillian still had a few things that she wanted to do and as she loves castles there was a Venetian Fort on her list so off we went to the small village of Bohali to explore it. I must admit I'm not a big fan of wandering around old ruins but when we got up to the fortress the views from its walls high above Zakynthos Town made it worthwhile.

A lovely view. A few clouds rolling by but to be honest it was nice to get a break from the midday sun.

There were also quite a lot of butterflies fluttering about and a few lizards running around to keep me interested while we wandered around the crumbling remains of the fort.

This butterfly was camouflaged rather well against the lichen on this rock.
Eddie was rather quick and it was hard to get close enough to get a photo.

Next on Lillian's to do list was a trip to Xigia beach. Located on the eastern side of the island this small beach is flanked on either side by cliffs. Spring water containing collagen and sulphur is said to enter the sea nearby so a swim from this beach is said to be good for your health. The down side is it smells of rotten eggs. Off we went but before we got there we stopped at Alykes for lunch. This gave me the chance to fish in the River Skourtis which runs into the sea there although there are no freshwater species in it as far as I'm aware.

There was no current to speak of due to the lack of rain water and as far as I could tell the river is really just a channel that runs inland that is full of seawater. It is also full of mullet but rather than get frustrated trying to catch one I fished small soft plastics on jigheads and small hard lures. After a couple of follows I hooked a small fish that turned out to be a small spotted bass, my forth new species of the trip.

Only slightly bigger than the last bass I caught.

I then caught a striped red mullet and a white seabream before putting my gear back in the car and we wandered upstream to find somewhere to eat. As we crossed over a small stone footbridge I spotted a rather big blenny sunning itself on a ledge on the side of the bridge and permission was given to go back to the car and get my gear. Soon back at the bridge, Lillian had been watching the fish and had spotted a few more so I started lowering small pieces of Angleworm down in front of them. To my surprise the big blennies just turned their noses up at it and swam off into the nearest crack. My disappointment and frustration was soon forgotten however when a smaller, darker blenny appeared from one of these cracks and eagerly swallowed my offering. I was most pleased to discover that it was a rather beautifully marked peacock blenny meaning I had achieved my other target for the trip of five new species.

This species was also recently added to my "most wanted" list so I was very excited to catch it.

Waiting until the bigger blennies reappeared before presenting my tiny lure to them they carried on taking exception to my efforts to catch them. I did however catch a couple more peacock blennies and a few slender gobies before giving up on the big ones and heading off to lunch.

I've caught these before but at the time thought they were juvenile giant gobies. Not really a new species but I'll add it to my lifelist as it should have been in it already. 

After trying some tasty village sausage, a spicy dip called Tyrokafteri made from Feta and green chilli and yet another Greek salad we headed up the coast to the foul smelling swimming spot. The beach was rather busy despite being very pungent so to try and escape the gathered masses and the smell I did a bit of snorkeling further out while Lillian opted to have a swim closer to the shore.

Who let rip?

Visibility wasn't great due to all the health giving particles suspended in the water but I did see a few wrasse and a couple of wide eyed flounders which was pretty cool. After a while we'd had enough so we got out and headed further north to Agios Nikoloas for the second time. I had an hour or so fishing at the back of the harbour again. Metals and hard lures didn't produce another amberjack or anything else for that matter so I switched to a drop shot rig and caught a few seabream, a couple of painted combers and a parrotfish before landing a wrasse I'd never caught before.

A bit of research when I got home later would make me reach the conclusion it was a female East Atlantic peacock wrasse.

This took me to twenty four species for the trip. I then caught a few more fish before hooking something that put a nice bend in my rod. Bullying it up away from the rocks I was surprised to see a small goldblotch grouper appear.

These are very fiesty for their size.

I caught a second shortly afterwards before we headed off to enjoy a lovely evening meal. On the way to the taverna we passed a shop selling nets which reminded me of the amberjack I lost. Posing for a photo I picked one up and pulled a sad face. I didn't spot the praying mantis on it until I put it back down again. We both found this very funny as we checked the photograph of me only to realise it was right next to my face on the net.

I really need a travel net.
Always wanted to see one of these fascinating insects. Very aggressive as I soon discovered when I put my hand near it, lashing out at me with its front legs/weapons!

Relaxing by the waters edge in out chosen taverna more Greek salad was accompanied by swordfish and grilled squid before we made the drive back to our apartment.

On Monday I just got up with Lillian and after breakfast we headed to the small turtle rescue centre that is being established near the nesting beach of Gerakas.

If the turtles actually grew this big then they'd probably have the beaches to themselves. 
Whilst people can visit most of the turtle nesting beaches there are controls in place to try and minimise the impact this has on the turtle's breeding activities and a National Marine Park had been established within which there are restrictions on human activity. There is ban on fishing within this area, including fishing from the shore that runs from the peninsula to the east of Porto Roma all the way around the southern end of the island to the peninsula to the west of Keri. 

Afterwards we headed to Zakynthos Town to have a walk around, send our postcards and to have some lunch.

The church of Agios Dionisios sits near the harbour.

On the way back to our apartment we stopped in Argassi for a quick game of crazy golf.

I won but Lillian did manage a hole in one.

Having not fished all day I was suffering from withdrawal symptoms so after yet another home made Greek salad on the balcony we headed back to Zakynthos Town harbour in the evening and I fished on the large breakwater. Fishing into the deep water next to the pier that projects out half way along the inside didn't produce anything so we moved to a flat concrete platform on the outside and I fished into the open sea. 

Once again I gave some small metals a go to try and cover more water.

The water here was deep but chucking small metals around and working them at different depths for a while didn't produce anything so I tried fishing close to the bottom with drop shot tactics. After a while this produced a couple of seabream, a common pandora and an Atlantic lizardfish. 

Atlantic lizardfish have an impressive set of needle like teeth.

When we headed back to Porto Roma it was a lovely still night so we went down to the small jetty for half an hour and I cast my drop shot rig around the bay. Things were very slow and I only caught a single saddled seabream before we headed up the road to bed. Perhaps the flat calm sea and moonlight weren't the best conditions to fish in relatively shallow water. 

During the night I woke and heard a strange continuous noise. At first I thought our air conditioning unit had developed a fault but getting out of bed and waking up a bit I realised it was raining rather heavily. Quite surprised I woke Lillian so she could have a look. When we opened the shutters to our balcony the sky was illuminated by lightning followed by it's accompanying thunder. The power in our room went off briefly then returned. Before we flew out the forecast had been for sunshine for the entire duration of our holiday and I never thought to see if that had changed. A quick check revealed rain was forecast for spells the next day.

Tuesday was our last full day on the island and having done most of the things on Lillian's list and achieved my species hunting targets we decided to go for a drive up the mountainous western coast of the island and just stop if we saw something interesting. When we left the apartment it was dry, the sun was out but the power was off again. Driving up towards Argassi we saw a sign for Daphni Beach and Lillian recalled wanting to visit it but couldn't remember why so we headed up through the hills towards it. On the way to the beach we found a turtle information centre and had a look round. The power was off inside but the volunteer working there opened a few windows shutters and this provided us with enough light to read the information and look at the displays.

As we were not able to watch some of videos that were part of the exhibition, the volunteer kindly gave us a short talk. The power came back on half way through that so when she was finished we got to watch the videos anyway. It was interesting to learn more about the turtles and the centre is well worth a visit if you are on Zakynthos. We then popped down to see the beach before we drove across the island to the west coast. Passing through the small picturesque mountain village of Agalas we saw a sign for the Damianou Caves so went up there for a look.

The Damianou Caves. Information on these was non existent other than a few signs pointing the way. The walk down to them was nice though and the view out from them was lovely. I wondered if anyone had ever lived in them. 

Afterwards we had lunch in the nearby taverna. Then we headed up the coast enjoying more of the scenery before driving east to head to Alykes. I wanted one final fishing session to have another go at catching the big blennies.

By the time we arrived in Alykes the sky looked like it could open up at any moment and drench us.

Stopping at a shop to buy some raw shrimps on the way we parked up next to the stone foot bridge and I quickly spotted a big blenny, shelled a shrimp and tossed the head and shell in to see if it was hungry. Sure enough it may have turned its nose up at a piece of Gulp! the last time I tried to catch it but it couldn't refuse a delicious shellfish snack and promptly snaffled it before swimming into a crack. Setting up a split shot rig I baited a #18 hook with a small chunk of shrimp and lowered it down close to a second big blenny. As with my previous attempts here the slender gobies proved to be much more eager though and a few of them got to my bait first before I finally managed to get my bait close enough to the big blenny for it to grab it.

A big chunky plump rusty blenny. The final addition to my trip species tally was a bit of a fussy eater.

I carried on fishing for a little while longer and caught a few more. Happy to catch some blennies as my final species of the trip we headed back to the apartment. In the evening we went down to Porto Roma for a nice meal. Shortly after ordering our food the nice view accross the bay disappeared in a torrent of rain which made us both laugh. We'd been lucky and had avoided the rain all day. Because I didn't have to drive I had a few beers and our grilled prawns and octopus in vinegar followed by moussaka and grilled steak was excellent as was, you've guessed it, the last Greek salad of the trip.

Flying home on Wednesday afternoon, we just had a lie in and after packing our stuff and saying goodbye to the apartment owner we drove to the airport. The end of a holiday is always tinged with sadness but we'd had a great time. As well as seeing a lot of Zakynthos and its attractions I had done a fair bit of fishing and had achieved the species hunting goals I had set myself. Twenty six species caught including six new ones wasn't bad especially as the fishing was a bit slow at times. Here is a summary of what I caught, the new species are in bold.
  1. Annular Seabream x 7
  2. Atlantic Lizardfish x 2
  3. Axillary Wrasse x 1
  4. Cardinalfish x 2
  5. Common Pandora x 2
  6. Damselfish x 2
  7. Dusky Rabbitfish x 1 
  8. East Atlantic Peacock Wrasse x 1
  9. Five Spotted Wrasse x 2
  10. Goldblotch Grouper x 2
  11. Greater Weever x 7
  12. Lesser Weever x 3
  13. Madeira Rockfish x 4
  14. Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse x 12
  15. Ornate Wrasse x 16
  16. Painted Comber x 6
  17. Parrotfish x 3
  18. Peacock Blenny x 3
  19. Rusty Blenny x 4
  20. Saddled Seabream x 5
  21. Slender Goby x 9
  22. Spotted Bass x 1
  23. Striped Red Mullet x 4
  24. Striped Seabream x 1
  25. White Seabream x 7
  26. Wide Eyed Flounder x 1
Having caught lots of nice colourful fish if pushed I'd probably say my favourites were the peacock blennies with their beautiful blue markings and the fiesty little goldblotch groupers. However by some distance my best catch so far is still Lillian.

I don't think anyone else would tolerate my fishing obsession the way she does and at times she actually encourages me. I'm a very lucky man indeed.

I really enjoy fishing abroad and fortunately it won't be too long before I get to do some more. I'm off to Menorca next month for my first ever week long hardcore fishing trip to the Mediterranean with my mate Lee. I can't wait!

Tight lines, Scott.


  1. Great post again, well done. Those blennies are awesome!

    1. Thanks mate. The peacock blennies were lovely with beautiful blue markings. Photo doesn't do it justice at all.