Monday, September 25, 2017

More species hunting adventures on Crete : Part 3.

Arriving in Georgioupolis in the early afternoon at the beginning of our second week on Crete we had a couple of hours to kill before we could check into our room so we had a wander around the harbour there. It flanks the river that runs alongside the town into the sea and a small bridge crosses the river a few hundred metres up from its mouth. Standing on the bridge we spotted some mullet and then a few large gobies caught my eye straight down below so the gear was taken out of the car and a split shot rig baited with a piece of ragworm was slowly lowered down right in front of the biggest goby I could see. It eagerly munched it without hesitation.

Geogioupolis Harbour looked full of potential.
A nice big giant goby.

We then had a walk down the left hand side of the river and whilst down there booked ourselves on a three hour boat fishing trip with local skipper Nikos for later in the week before heading back into town for some lunch. When we got booked into our room and unpacked again Lillian said she wanted a nap so I grabbed my gear and headed back down to the harbour to see what other species were resident. Fishing small baits down the sides and angleworm on a dropshot rig further out I soon added a few more species to my tally.

Peacock blennies with their bright blue markings were easy to spot sitting on the harbour's walls and on submerged rocks.
A sandy area down towards the mouth of the river produced a couple of plain red mullet...
...and a striped seabream too.

Exploring the harbour further I began casting out from gaps between the moored fishing boats. This wasn't very productive until I caught a small barracuda that grabbed my angleworm as I was lifting my dropshot rig up from the bottom right in front of me.

I didn't realise until later on that this was my third new species of the trip, a yellowtail barracuda. It's another species that has migrated from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal.

Just to the west of the river's mouth is Kalivaki Beach. Before returning to wake Lillian up I had a few casts out into the bay from the back of a taverna situated on the rocks at its southern end. I caught a white seabream, a wide eyed flounder and a few lesser weever before heading back.

Another weever to carefully unhook and another species added to my tally which had passed the thirty mark.

The next morning we headed up to nearby Lake Kourna, the only freshwater lake on Crete. It's not supposed to have any fish in it but at some point someone has released their pet goldfish into it and there is now a healthy population of them in there. I thought it would be fun trying to catch one so I took some tackle out with us on our hired pedalo to try to do just that. Sadly they were very spooky and every time we got close they just swam off. I did spot some smaller fish attacking my bait however and popping on a tanago hook I managed to catch a couple of them. They turned out to be sand smelt so it would appear the goldfish aren't the only fish in there.

Lake Kourna. If I return to this part of Crete again I think I'll visit the lake early in the morning and try fishing from the shore.
Plenty of goldfish in there.

From Lake Kourna we drove along to Rethymno to have some lunch and a wander around but parking was a bit of a nightmare and after doing a couple of laps of the centre of town looking for a space we decided to return in the morning another day and left. Driving further east we headed to the beautiful village of Bali. After lunch I had a fish from the mouth of the harbour and caught a few ornate wrasse, damselfish, marbled rabbitfish and a single white seabream. I also saw what I think were two small amberjack harassing a shoal of tiny baitfish but they came and went before I could tie on a metal.

Another venue, another species added to my tally.

Later that day when we got back to Georgioupolis Lillian gave me permission to fish at dusk before we went out for a meal in the evening so off I went down to the river again. I had bass in mind so headed to a spot that I thought looked promising. I didn't have the place to myself for long however as a gaggle of geese soon arrived.

There are lots of these geese around the river. Quite nice looking birds but they don't have make a lot of noise!

For a change I gave the angleworm a break and tried some other soft plastics on jigheads and drop shot rigs. Fishing away I didn't manage to catch any bass despite seeing a few small ones follow my lures before turning away. Instead I discovered that the spot was a good one for catching giant gobies.

They're pretty aggressive fish.

As light faded I headed to the other side of the river to fish from some boulders into some slightly deeper water. I switched to a paddletail mounted on a 3g jighead and fished it fairly quickly across the current near the surface. This proved to be a good decision and I caught a few small barracuda which was good fun. In amongst them I caught a slightly larger one that looked a little different to the others I'd caught being a lot longer and having a black edge on its tail fin.

I'm now fairly sure this one is a yellowstripe barracuda making it my second new barracuda species of the trip.

I then caught a couple of fish that I suspected were small bluefish. They fought well for their size and were a most welcome unexpected capture.

Yet another new species. Geogioupolis was being very good to me.

Later that evening Lillian and I had a nice meal in Arkadi, the fish restaurant down by the mouth of the river overlooking one of the villages famous landmarks, a small church build out on the rocks.

What a lovely view.

To help me decide what I wanted to eat I went over to have a look at the restaurant's fresh fish display. Looking at all the potential meals I spotted a fish amongst the various seabream that sparked my curiosity.

This is a red seabream, also know as the blackspot seabream. I wondered if there was a chance of catching one the next day on our boat fishing trip?

The fish on offer looked fantastic but as we'd eaten a fairly big lunch in Bali we ended up just sharing a plate of calamari and a Greek salad.

One of my favourite things to eat on holiday.

At the end of almost every meal you eat in a restaurant on Crete you get a complimentary shot of Raki. Usually it's homemade and it's also rather strong. In the Arkadi fish taverna you get a small jug that contains about six shots of the stuff!

Raki. Personally I'm not a huge fan.

The next morning we headed down to the harbour for our boat fishing trip. Tackle was provided but after consulting with the skipper I decided to used my Rock Rover and trolled a 12g diving plug. After about forty five minutes or so I had a take and my reel started screaming. At the same time Lillian and one of the other people on the trip also connected with a fish. The identity of we had on was soon revealed when behind the boat several dolphinfish began jumping out of the water. It was all very exciting and as I was using lighter gear I took my time playing my fish. After it's initial run though it came to the boat without giving me too much trouble and was quickly netted by Nikos.

My first common dolphinfish. A very cool fish.

We carried on trolling up the coast for a while before eventually turning around and heading back towards Georgioupolis. With no further action on the way we stopped for half an hour and fished on the bottom in very deep water over a reef. My mate Andy had told me he had caught a swallowtail seaperch when he had done this whilst out with Nikos so I was hopeful that I'd get one too. When I showed Nikos a photo of one and told him I'd like to catch one, he was confident I would and he was right, I caught one on my first drop of a set of sabikis baited with tiny squid strips.

What a beautiful little fish.

After catching a few more swallowtail seaperch and a some common combers I asked the skipper about the chances of catching red seabream and red scorpionfish. He told me that red seabream was not a species he'd caught in the area we were fishing and only three anglers out with him had caught a red scorpionfish. Sadly I wasn't to be the forth. We did some more trolling on the way back in but didn't come into contact with any more fish. On the way back I spotted a nice looking rock mark that looked easily accessible that was just to the north of Kalivaki beach.

Ideal for an early morning session and the water in front of the dark rocks looked nice and deep too.

In the evening I had yet another short session before dinner down at the harbour. To start with I focused on small blennies and gobies in the hope that I'd pick a species I might have overlooked and hadn't caught yet on the trip. This tactic paid off in the shape of a few rock gobies. As the sun began to disappear behind the mountains to the west I caught a few bluefish again and inspecting one of them I had a closer look at its razor sharp teeth. It snapped its jaws shut in a rather ferocious manner and I wouldn't like to have my finger anywhere near the mouth of a bluefish when it did this even on small specimen!

I really enjoyed catching these small bluefish.
Nasty little set of nashers on them and a strong bite.

So, the fishing around Georgioupolis had been very good with the unexpected capture of a few new species that I hadn't anticipated encountering being a big bonus. My tally for the trip had almost reached forty species. The last time I visited Crete I ended up catching forty species so I was keen to try and better that. Adding more would be tough but with a few more day trips planned to new places and possibly a second boat fishing trip out of Agia Galini on the south coast I was optimistic about my chances of doing it.

Tight lines, Scott.

Friday, September 22, 2017

More species hunting adventures on Crete : Part 2.

On the forth day of our stay in Kissamos we decided to head to one of the spectacularly beautiful beaches of western Crete. We could have taken a boat to Balos beach from nearby Kavonisi Port but instead we decided to head south through the mountains by road to Elafonisi beach instead. Once there we headed away from the crowds at the beginning of the beach and walked along to a quieter area nearer the island of Elafonisi that the beach connects to the mainland. This was a good choice as with nobody around it allowed me to fish for a little while and then we had a swim.

Looking back towards the mainland. Well worth walking out towards the island to get away from the crowds.
The beach is famous for its pink sands. These are most apparent where the waves gently lap the shore.
The dunes behind the beach are a nature reserve and are off limits. They are home to these very rare flowers. They reminded me of our Daffodil.
Fishing from some rocks I caught a few wide eyed flounders slowly twitching angleworm along the bottom on a simple split shot rig over a clean sandy area.

After enjoying a relaxing swim we walked back along the pink sands to the car and took a coastal road back north so we could head to Sfinari on the west coast for an evening meal. We'd been told by the receptionist at our accommodation that there was a restaurant there where we could enjoy a nice meal as the sun set. With an hour or so before the sun started to dip down towards the horizon we headed to some rocks at the end of the beach that looked like a promising fishing spot. This was a good decision and saw me catching a few fish, adding some more species to my tally in the process.

Quite a nice spot at the southern end of the beach with a rocky area close in and a clean sandy seabed further out. Fishing out on the sand proved more productive but wasn't without risk in the shape of poisonous fish.
The last greater weever I caught stung me so I was extra careful with this one.
As well as weevers, sandy areas often produce another ambush predator. At least you can handle Atlantic lizardfish without worrying about any venomous spines.
Pearly razorfish are another fish found over sandy areas. They bury themselves in it when threatened. I caught a few of these.
I think this rather plump specimen had been feeding hard and might have struggled to get its rather full gut under the sand.
Lovely markings on this species and the colours around the eyes are stunning.

Happy to have added a few more species to my tally we headed back to the restaurant to enjoy our meal and the amazing sunset. The clouds had other ideas however, rolling in to blot out the sun so whilst the meal was nice the view was pretty disappointing.

Could be Scotland.

The next day Lillian decreed that we were heading back up into the mountains yet again. This time to spend a few hours wandering around Crete's botanical gardens. Stopping to admire lots of colourful flowers and the shade provided by various trees overhead made the walking up and down the hills of the gardens bearable and when we got back to the start a nice lunch made from produce grown on site was a nice way to end the visit.

Strange purple flowers.
Pretty pink flowers.
Delicate looking flowers.
Bright red and yellow flowers.
Lots of insect life to see too including some large swallowtail butterflies.
There was an aviary with nice finches as well.

After lunch we headed back to the north coast so I could fish for a bit. First we visited the ferry port in Souda, a venue I fancied returning to at dawn one morning later in the holiday, so it was more of a reconnaissance visit. There was a huge cruise ship moored and I did get the gear out of the car briefly but fishing was quite poor so we headed east to Kalyves Harbour so I could have another go for a stargazer. I went with the same approach as I had the first time, a small metal jig fitted with an assist hook slowly jigged along the sand. After half a dozen casts I thought I had got snagged on a mooring rope lying on the bottom but applying some pressure I realised that I had a fish on. It didn't fight much and reeling in I got rather excited when the unmistakable shape of a stargazer with its raised black dorsal fin came into view. It swam right towards me and was quickly swung up onto a waiting towel.

What a cool fish. I was over the moon. Caught on a jig my mate Lee gave me and fitted with an assist hook I made myself.

After this exciting capture I decided to spend the rest of the session freelining bread for the mullet in the harbour. Lillian gave me a hand, throwing in small pieces to get them all feeding, and lots of mullet soon appeared but the bigger ones were very cautious. In an attempt to catch some of the smaller ones I changed to a setup with two smaller hooks and fished smaller flakes of bread on them. Just after setting up this new presentation however a shoal of bogue arrived and they were much more gung ho in their feeding approach. After a while we gave up on the mullet and headed off. I'd have another go at the mullet later in the holiday.

One of the bread munching bogue.

On our last full day in Kissamos Lillian again dictated the itinerary and we headed off to the Akrotiri peninsula for what would turn into a monastery crawl. Exciting stuff! The first stop was Tzagaroli Monastery and we spent a while walking around the grounds before visiting a small museum and browsing religious gifts in the shop.  

I'm not a fan of religion but I can appreciate the beauty in some old religious buildings.

Driving north up into the mountainous national park at the north of the peninsula we soon arrived at the second monastery on our tour. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) we weren't allowed in. Basically because Lillian was dressed like a filthy whore bound for an eternity of suffering in the raging fires of hell. Not really, even I didn't meet their strict dress code because I had shorts on! Anyway, there was a gate in the wall surrounding the monastery so being curious we decided to see what was on the other side. It turned out to be a gorge walk that included another monastery!

It was the middle of the day, we only had one bottle of water and Lillian wasn't overly keen on the idea but as she loves monasteries I insisted we head down and then continue the walk all the way to the sea.
Here's the monastery situated in the gorge. Not as pleasing on the eye as the other two but with no one around and no dress code in place we were free to look around and it didn't take too long.
*Carrying on down the gorge we found the odd bit of shade to catch our breath...
..and eventually made it to the sea. I thought it was worth the effort and wished I had taken my fishing gear down.

Of course the climb back up was pretty hard going! Gorge walks are probably best undertaken in the morning or late afternoon when it's not so hot! Feeling quite tired we got ourselves some water to rehydrate and drove west to nearby Stavros for a spot of lunch. It was a nice place and several scenes in the 1964 film "Zorba the Greek" were filmed there. It's not a film that I think I've seen but I'll be making a point of watching it now. I didn't do any fishing there but on the way back to Kissamos we stopped for an hour at Kolymvari harbour. It was quite a big harbour and it looked like it had potential but sadly the fishing was very poor. All I managed to catch was two fish, a white seabream and a wide eyed flounder.

The halfway point in our holiday had arrived and I got up early on our last day in Kissamos and fished Kavonisi Harbour one last time. Yet again the fishing was disappointing although I did add another species to my tally when I caught a small goldblotch grouper.

Small groupers scrap hard for their size. I thought I'd hooked something much larger when this took my small jighead mounted paddletail.

Heading back to our accommodation we packed up, checked out of our room and drove east to the coastal village of  Geogioupolis to begin the second week of our holiday. The fishing had been hit and miss but I'd caught over twenty species including two new ones and was hopeful that a change of location might see me add a few more.

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More species hunting adventures on Crete : Part 1.

At the end of August I returned to the Greek island of Crete for two weeks' holiday with my girlfriend Lillian. We didn't arrive in Kissamos, where we'd be staying for the first week, until late in the evening but it was quite windy when we got there and as our accommodation was very close to the sea we could see a swell running and some waves were coming over the sea wall at the front of the town's promenade. In the morning we went for a walk along the coast to get our bearings. The wind had died down during the night but the sea was still fairly rough and coloured up.

Not great for fishing with the ultra light tackle I had with me.

Later that morning I got permission to quickly check out the nearby port of Kavonisi, a venue recommended to me by my mate Andy where several large vessels moor at night that take tourists on day trips to Gramvousa island and the lagoon at Balos on the western side of the island. It was fairly sheltered inside so I had a quick fish and discovered that the water inside was very deep. I thought this was promising but to my surprise the fishing was pretty slow going. I still managed to catch a few fish and got my species hunt for the trip underway.

My first fish of the trip was this rainbow wrasse.
A few common combers were also keen on my angleworm.
I caught this saddled seabream in a corner where some fishing boats were tied up.

In the afternoon to get away from the wind we drove south through the mountains to Paleochora for lunch. I thought it would be sheltered on the south side of the island but it was still fairly windy. After lunch I fished in Paleochora's large harbour for an hour or so but again things were pretty slow. I only managed a single striped seabream, a couple of annular seabream and a few black gobies.

Black gobies are probably just about small enough to escape from the fine mesh nets the Greek fisherman use.

The next day we headed east into Chania and wandered around the harbour area before having some lunch. As well as seeing all the old buildings we were lucky enough to see a large sea turtle swimming amongst the moored boats. After lunch I had a quick fish as we walked along the inside of the breakwater and added three more species to my tally for the trip, catching a few ornate wrasse, a single rusty blenny and a common pandora.

Chania's old Venetian harbour is very pretty with lots of shops and restaurants lining it.
The breakwater of Chania harbour where I did my fishing.
Seeing this sea turtle was an unexpected bonus. Not the empty plastic bag though,its never great seeing those in the sea.

In the evening I popped along to Kavonisi Port for an hour's fishing whilst Lillian had a nap. Again the deep water out in the harbour didn't produce much so I turned my attention to fishing for the small species down the side of the wall using #26 hooks baited with tiny pieces of dried ragworm. Amongst the fish I caught as light faded I added bogue, cardinalfish, damselfish, marbled rabbitfish and salema to my tally.

Cardinalfish are like little rubies.

In the morning on the third day of our holiday I got up early and headed back to Kavonisi Port again. The wind had now completely dropped off and the open sea was flat calm so after an hour of trying various methods inside the harbour with little reward for my efforts I decided to move along the coast to try a new spot.

This needle nosed chap took a piece of angleworm on a drop shot rig and was my only reward from the deep water in the harbour.

At my chosen mark the sea floor was very rough and I quickly lost a fair amount of drop shot rigs so I moved along to try another spot. This was less tackle hungry and produced a few ornate wrasse and a common two banded seabream.

Feisty little fish.

Later that morning we took a drive up through Therisou Gorge. It's the only gorge on the island that has a road running through it. Perfect if you are a little out of shape.

The easy option if you want to explore one of Crete's many gorges without all the hassle of walking.
Watch out for pedestrians! The gorge is full of goats but the noise of their bells clanking gives their presence away.

Exiting the top of the gorge we carried on up into the mountains and headed to the small village of Drakona to have lunch in a restaurant called Dounias that Lillian had read great things about online. It's on a sharp corner making it easy to miss it and we did just that, driving right past before realising our mistake and turning back. I'm not sure how I missed it though to be fair as some of its ovens are out in front of it and lunch was already being prepared!

Dounias' speciality is traditional Cretan food cooked slowly using wood ovens.
You can sit inside but on a beautiful summer afternoon the outdoor dining area is the only real choice.

Relaxing in the shade we didn't even have to order any dishes, instead simply allowing Stelios the chef to send us a selection of dishes including some meat ones. The food soon started arriving a dish at a time and whilst my expectations were high the food didn't disappoint. Everything we ate was mouth wateringly tasty.

Stuffed vegetables have never tasted so good.
The rustic meat dishes were full of flavour too.

After several plates of amazing food we continued our mountain drive, heading slowly east until we eventually reached the National Road. Driving on the windy roads was a lot of fun and some of the views from the mountain roads were great too.

A view from the mountains towards the island's north coast.

Before heading back to Kissamos we visited Kalyves Harbour, a venue where my mate Andy has caught stargazer whilst fishing during his holidays on the island. While Lillian hid in the shade and enjoyed an ice cream I chose to ignore the obvious target, namely the several mullet cruising around in the harbour, and instead began by working a small metal along the sandy bottom hoping to twitch it close to a buried predator. This approach didn't produce anything though and when Lillian spotted some gobies moving around on the sand I got some tiny hooks, split shot and a packet of dried ragworm out. I had an idea what the tiny gobies were and being gobies it didn't take long to confirm my suspicions.

A Bucchich's goby. When species hunting you can't ignore micro species.

Having turned my attention to the fish I could see, I began pestering some blennies that were hugging the wall below my feet. They were being quite skittish and I was pleasantly surprised when a filefish appeared from a crack down the harbour wall to eagerly attack my baited hook. It had a few goes before being hooked and was quickly hoisted up into my hand. Whilst it looked similar to the filefish I've caught before in the Canary Islands, the planehead filefish, this one was a little different shape wise and had different markings too. I remembered looking into the filefish found in the Mediterranean when Andy had sent me a photo of one he had caught and this one was the same species as his capture.

This is a reticulated filefish, a migrant from the Red Sea. It was also my first new species of the trip.

By this point Lillian was getting a little bored and when I suggested we go and get some bread and try and catch a mullet she gave me a look that told me I was pushing my luck so I packed up and we drove back to Kissamos. It had been an enjoyable start to our holiday and whilst the short sessions spent species hunting were slow at times I'd still managed to catch a few different fish and an unexpected first new species of the trip.

Tight lines, Scott.