Friday, November 06, 2015

The hunt continues...

Over the last two weeks I've been out a few times trying to add to my 2015 Scottish saltwater species tally of fifty eight. Fifteen spined sticklebacks are proving elusive but I suspect that the conditions are a major factor and having treated myself to new waders and a new headtorch I plan on doing some shallow night time wading in weedy areas if there is a period of settled weather. Two spotted gobies however seem to be around whatever the tide and weather throws at them. I'm spotting them all over the place at the moment and have caught a few whilst trying to tempt fifteen spined sticklebacks out of hiding using my micro fishing float rig.

Dunbar Harbour produced this specimen two spotted goby. 

I've also had a few sessions targeting conger eels and three bearded rocklings. The first was locally with my mate Nick at the back of Dunbar Harbour but unfortunately we both blanked. On Sunday I headed down to the Mull of Galloway to explore some new marks there. This first two were on the northern side and involved descending a fairly steep grassy bank before carefully climbing down the rocks at the bottom. A misty morning had left the ground damp which meant I had to take my time so as not to slip. Once down however both offered a comfortable grassy fishing platform, I quickly set up and the waiting game began. 

East Tarbet along to my left. 
Reel in free spool with the ratchet on. I waited for clicks. 

The sea floor was very rough so I fished a mackerel fillet on a #8/0 hook at the end of a 200lb mono hooklength on a running ledger incorporating a rotten bottom. Standard shore fishing conger tactics really. My battered old Ron Thompson Axellerator sat motionless for a while and winding in to change bait the rocks and kelp claimed some tackle before I finally got a bite and landed the rather greedy culprit. It never fails to amaze me how big a bait a dogfish will try and munch. 

I don't care what other anglers think about dogfish, I still like catching them. 
They are quite adorable really. 

Over the next few hours more end tackle was lost and two more ravenous little sharks were landed but sadly my ratchet gave no indication that a conger eel had taken my bait. As I wanted to head up to West Tarbet while it was still light to find a spot on the rocks to fish for three bearded rockling into darkness, I packed up just before 16:00, climbed back up and headed back across the cow filled field to the car. Soon on the southern side of the peninsula I found a comfortable spot just as light faded and got as comfortable as I could wedged into a ledge. Focusing on three bearded rockling I swapped my hooklength out for a much lighter one with a #1 hook and fished strips of mackerel straight down the side. It was not as snaggy as the afternoon's marks and I was soon catching a few more dogfish. Then I felt a slow pull and reeling my rig up felt a dead weight which turned out to be an octopus. I carefully unhooked and put it down next to me to photograph. Trying to pick it up again to put it back the octopus turned white, went fairly rigid and refused to let go of the rocks so I let it make its own way back to the water. Watching it slowly makes its way down the rocks, squeezing through narrow cracks on the way, was fascinating.

 A highly skilled contortionist.

It went quiet after that but sitting on the rocks holding my rod I suddenly realised I had some company. A few rather large sea slaters had emerged from their hiding places for an evening snack on small mackerel chunks that I had dropped whilst preparing my baits.

Most fish will readily take mackerel. So do sea slaters. 

With a long drive home to make it was soon time to head off. I hadn't caught either of my two targets but it was good to fish some new marks and I'll be back to try them again.

On Tuesday I returned to the area, popping into the tackle shop in Stranraer for a box of ragworm and some advice on my targets from the shop's owner Eric. After receiving both I headed to Port Logan and made my way south looking for a new mark to try for three bearded rockling. Once I found a jagged rocky skeer that I could safely access I set up my rod and started fishing. The sun had not yet set and trying a section of ragworm on my hook saw me hooking a fish almost straight away. Given it's November I was slightly surprised to reel in a chunky ballan wrasse. It was followed by a few more. I guess the warmest start to November since records  began has delayed their departure to deeper water. 

The first and largest of seven. 

As light faded the wrasse stopped feeding and I started catching a few small pollock. It wasn't until it was really dark that my bait got the opportunity to sit unmolested on the bottom long enough to attract a rockling but unfortunately when it did it wasn't the three bearded variety.

A small shore rockling. Not the species I was after. 
Almost as greedy as a dogfish. This little chap managed to cram a #2/0 hook into its mouth. 

Shortly afterwards I caught a second shore rockling and then it went very quiet for a couple of hours so I made my way back to the car and headed north to Portpatrick Harbour. Eric had suggested that fishing a certain area inside it from low water up might produce a conger eel. As the chances were that any eel that I came into contact with would be relatively small one I scaled down my hooklength to 135lb mono with a #6/0 hook and fished mackerel fillets. Lowering my bait down the side close to some submerged blocks I got comfortable and waited for the ratchet to click. Sadly over the next four and a half hours it remained silent.

Feeding the crabs with mackerel fillets.

I was almost out of bait when it started to rain just after 03:30 and I was struggling to stay awake too so I decided to end the session and made the long drive back to the capital stopping for a sleep on the way. The seven hours plus of driving to and from the area is a the only thing I dislike and I really wish I had a good conger mark a lot closer to home. I do think the area offers me the best chance of catching both a conger eel and a three bearded rockling though so I'll be making the drive again soon when the conditions are favourable.

Tight lines, Scott.

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