Monday, November 20, 2017

Gilty as charged.

On the final day of my trip I had planned to head to Dorset to spent the day fishing Swanage Pier before making the drive back up the road. However, after hearing that small gilthead seabream were being caught in Weymouth Harbour I changed my plan so I could fish there first thing in the morning and then head along to Swanage. I got up early and drove down, arriving in Weymouth just after 08:00 I got my gear out of the car and began fishing angleworm on a dropshot rig. A few hours went by and I had worked my way around the harbour covering a fairly large amount of ground with no success locating my target. After having a break to pester some gobies I decided to concentrate my efforts in one area and switched to fishing with bait. I set up a scaled down three hook flapper rig with #10 hooks and baited them up with small sections of Dynabait ragworm. This produced a few small bass and then I hooked a small gilthead which fell off as I lifted it up the harbour wall. Another hour or so soon passed and having not hooked another one I was feeling a little frustrated so I adjourned for lunch and decided to head to the Weymouth Angling Centre to buy some fresh ragworm. Sandwich eaten and armed with a small amount of great quality bait I headed back to the spot where I'd hooked and lost my target. Baiting up my rig with small pieces of the fresh ragworm I cast it out, started getting bites straight away and I was soon reeling in a small gilthead seabream. I managed to land it this time, the first one I've caught in the UK.

What I visited Weymouth for and caught fairly easily once I changed my approach.

I was one species closer to my long term goal of catching one hundred saltwater species from around the UK so I was pleased to catch it but I was quite annoyed with myself for persisting with the same ineffective approach all morning. It was well into the afternoon and driving along to Swanage Pier when I would have to leave again less than two hours after getting there was just not worth it so I stayed in Weymouth and caught a few more gilthead seabream and bass. I was pretty sure that if I'd bought and used the fresh ragworm when I had arrived in the morning I probably would have had my target pretty quickly and been on my way to Swanage. Fishing lures can be fun but really if you want to catch fish quickly then in most scenarios good quality bait is hard to beat. As a species hunter and someone who just enjoys catching fish the method used isn't that important to me, it just needs to be the most effective one that's available on the day. This is something I know and my choice of approach had in all likelihood cost me a session at Swanage Pier, one of my favourite venues on the south coast. It's not the first time I've been guilty of fishing with lures when quality bait was available and proved to be the better choice of approach. A bit of an annoying way to end my trip but with several potential targets available on the south coast I'll be able to visit Swanage the next time I'm down.

Tight lines, Scott.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Something squidy going on!

On day five of my trip I headed back to Cornwall. Following up on the information about pilchards given to me by the angler at Mevagissey Harbour I had booked myself a place on Anglo Dawn, a charter boat running out of Falmouth. To cut a long story short the fishing was pretty poor and no pilchards were caught but on the way back in we stopped to do some jigging for squid. This was the most productive part of the day, a few were caught and it was quite good fun.

I caught this fairly large one. Beginner's luck.

As a catch and release angler I don't normally eat my catch but I do love eating squid. Sadly because I was staying in a B&B taking it wasn't really an option so one of the other anglers on the trip took mine. It was slightly dissapointing that we didn't hit a shoal of pilchards as the skipper confirmed he'd been catching plenty of them recently but that's fishing for you. During the trip there was talk of red seabream, bluefin tuna and porbeagle being caught in the area so I think I might be returning to Falmouth in the future.

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Species hunting in Sutton Marina.

On day four of my trip I headed south to Plymouth to fish Sutton Marina. I'd arranged to fish with an angler named Rich, who is a regular poster on one of the fishing forums I frequent, for the first time and was looking forward to some company. After meeting up we started of fishing with lures and caught a few rock gobies, goldsinny wrasse and ballan wrasse. I then spotted what I was confident were some two spotted gobies and pointed them out to Rich before catching one just to confirm I was right.

Two spotted goby are fairly common and are easy to spot if you know what to look for. They're the only goby I know that swims around up off the bottom preferring instead to hang around close to the weed on harbour walls.

After a while we started heading around to the top end of the marina where it was a lot deeper. We changed to fishing split shot and Carolina rigs hard on the bottom in an attempt to catch some flounder but didn't have any luck. Instead this produced lots of rock gobies, a couple of sand gobies and a couple of small mackerel that hit our rigs as they fell to the bottom. Carrying on around to the eastern side of the marina we started fishing an area where the lower wall was made up of small rocks inside wire that we thought might hold some tompot blennies in the cracks. At this point in the session I decided to switch to fishing with small pieces of Dynabait ragworm. This saw my catch rate increase with wrasse making up the bulk of the fish and before too long my species tally for the day had entered double figures.

In between lots of corkwing and ballan wrasse I caught this almost purple pouting,... first tompot blenny of the year...
...and a couple of rock cook wrasse.

It was a fun session but time had flown and sadly it was soon time to for Rich to head off. Before we said goodbye we headed back around the marina to Cap'n Jaspers snack shack for something to eat. Species hunting sure can make a man hungry.

The legendary "Jasperizer" double quarter pounder with bacon, cheese, loads of onions, a few pickles and some chilli sauce!

It was good to meet up with Rich and fish Sutton Marina again. It had been a relaxing session and I'd enjoyed my most productive day's species hunting there into the bargain which I was pleasantly surprised by given how late in the year it was. I guess being closed off most of the time means that a lot of the fish inside it are permanent residents and can be caught all year round, especially if you're prepared to fish lures and bait like I did. This venue is well worth a visit if you're in the area whether it be for a spot of species hunting, to fill an empty stomach with a large tasty burger or even both!

Tight lines, Scott.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Double dragonet.

On day three of my trip I headed to Mevagissey in Cornwall to try and escape the rampaging children that had taken over Ilfracombe. When I arrived just late in the morning it was a nice day and more importantly it was very quiet. Settling down to fish on the outside of the harbour's southern breakwater I was curious to see if the multitude of species that can be caught in the summer were still around. In short the answer was a resounding no! However, it was nice to enjoy some peace and quiet as I sat fishing a scaled down three hook flapper with #14 hooks baited up with small pieces of Dynabait ragworm on ultra light tackle waiting for bites. The fishing was incredibly slow and I was starting to think that in fishing terms the drive had been a complete waste of time when I finally had a bit of interest and caught something. It was a small dragonet that for some reason looked a little funny. Upon further inspection I got a pleasant surprise.

Looking at it casually it would have been easy just to assume it was a common dragonet but something about told me it was different. I think it was the slight red tinge to its head that made me take a closer look at the little chap.
Extending the first dorsal fin revealed a nice pattern and also that the fish was a male.
Extending the tall second dorsal fin revealed another set of striking markings and confirmed my suspicions. I had caught my first ever reticulated dragonet.

I was delighted and probably wouldn't have been bothered if I hadn't caught anything else but over the next few hours I caught a few common dragonets. Another angler then turned up and we had a chat about species hunting. I showed him the photographs of my reticulated dragonet so he could identify one should he catch one and he told me that he'd caught some pilchards whilst out on a charter boat a few days previously. He didn't stay long and didn't catch a reticulated dragonet but managed to catch a few common dragonets too. After he left I caught a second reticulated dragonet and then a few more common dragonets.

Here is one of the common dragonets. Note the completely different fin shape and colouration. They group of spines on the rear edge of the gill plate common dragonet is also slightly larger and stands out more prominently.

Towards the end of the session I tried fishing straight down the wall through gaps in the kelp along at the end of the pier. Using this tactic I had clingfish in mind but instead caught a few of goldsinny wrasse and a long spined sea scorpion. Before heading back to Ilfracombe I decided to get something to eat and ended up trying something new. I can now heartily recommend huss which was very tasty indeed served with some chunky chips. So my trip was going well, whilst the fishing certainly hadn't been frantic at the two venues I'd fished, it had been most productive in terms of catching new species and with three days left I was keen to try and catch some more.

Tight lines, Scott.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

...three bearded by nature.

I headed down North Devon at the end of last month to spend six days fishing from Ilfracombe Pier. That was the plan anyway but upon arrival early in the afternoon I discovered that the town was really busy. I hadn't realised that it was the English schools' half term holidays. I spent a few hours dodging crabbing net wielding children trying to catch a clingfish down the side of the lower section of the pier but had no luck. I did catch a few fish the majority being juvenile pollock and sand smelt. After checking into my accommodation I headed back down to the pier to fish into darkness for three bearded rockling. The ground close in that I decided to fish was pretty rough so I fished a one hook paternoster rig with a rotten bottom to try and minimise tackle losses. A strip of mackerel was the bait of choice and I tossed a few small pieces down the side of the pier to help attract my target. Having spoken to a few local anglers before arriving and a few more on the pier earlier in the day who all told me there were plenty three bearded rockling around I was confident about catching one but I didn't expect to catch one after only half an hour.

Success! My first ever three bearded rockling.

As the lower deck of the pier where I was fishing was soon to be covered by the rising tide, having caught my target and feeling pretty tired having left Edinburgh at 04:00 to make the drive down, I headed back to my accommodation to get some well earned sleep. The next day I headed back down to the pier and waited on the tide to drop so I could get onto the lower section again to try for clingfish once more. Whilst I waited I fished straight down the walls of the upper platform and caught loads of blennies. The pier is home to a huge bronze sculpture by artist Damien Hirst so I took some time out to have a look at it.

"Verity". A rather large and equally strange piece of art.

As soon as the tide dropped far enough I started fishing on the lower section for clingfish but before too long the hordes of noisy kids had arrived and started throwing their crab nets in. Later in the day the navy also arrived and started training divers around the pier too forcing all the anglers who were there to move over to where I was, making it a little cramped. The fishing over the next few hours was pretty dire and eventually I decided to retreat to the B&B to rethink my plans for the next few days' fishing.

Tight lines, Scott.