Sunday, November 03, 2019

How many is that now?

A few days after my sessions with Nick on Belhaven Beach I headed west with a few of the lads from work to have day out with Blue Fin Charters out of Dunstaffnage Marina. The rest of the lads fancied a go for skate but I was after my first black mouthed dogfish. After a morning of catching mackerel for bait and then winding up lots of spurdogs and lesser spotted dogfish from the depths a few black mouth dogfish began being caught by the other lads, much to their amusement. After a few hours had passed and I'd listened to a fair amount of abuse from them all I eventually caught one myself, much to my relief!

I take a look at my first ever black mouthed dogfish, admiring its lovely markings,...
...beautiful eyes, a rather prominent nose covered in sensors,...
...and then showed the inside of its black mouth to the camera. 

I'd made several attempts to catch one of these unusual deep water sharks over the last few years and having also had several trips cancelled due to the weather it was great to get out and tick this one off. Straight after this the gear was swapped out for some heavier outfits and some big baits were sent off to the bottom for skate. Having caught what I came for I was more than happy to let the others take any skate runs as none of them had caught one before. Sadly over the next few hours the conditions began to deteriorate as a storm approached from the south and only one very small skate at 27lb was caught by my mate John before we had to head back in. Still John was chuffed to catch his first one and the other lads are all very keen to go back again next year for another go. I might tag along and try something a little different to see what else is lurking down in the depths. Adding further species to my all time Scottish tally from saltwater is now going to be quite difficult and I may have to think outside of the box. Since the trip I've figured out how many Scottish species I've caught over the years and will be discussing this in my next post.

Tight lines, Scott.

Monday, October 28, 2019

One species closer.

After hearing several reports in work from anglers throughout August that they'd been catching lesser weever from various beaches in East Lothian whilst targetting flounders I headed down in September for a couple of sessions to try and catch one myself having never caught one from a Scottish venue before. I met up with my mate Nick and over two evenings we caught five between us, ledgering small ragworm sections using ultra light tackle in the wash at very close range.

Belhaven Beach was our chosen venue, towards the end of the flooding tide as the day drew to an end.
My first Scottish lesser weever. They might be venomous but they’re also quite a pretty little fish with a nice pearlescent herring bone pattern along their flanks and their distinctive jet black dorsal fin.  

Much to our surprise every single one we caught buried itself right in front of us when we released them. One of them even stuck it’s little venomous dorsal fin up out of the beach’s fine sand. 

A little black warning sign jutting up.

Towards the end of the second session I hooked into a nice fish that certainly wasn’t a lesser weever that put up a rather spirited scrap in about six inches of water. I knew it was a flatfish straight away and a nice flounder was soon landed. 

At 36cm this was great fun on a very light 8' 6" rod rated at just 3-15g.

The two sessions had been very enjoyable and the question of the possibility of catching one hundred species of fish in Scottish waters came up at the end of the second as we walked back up the beach to the car. At the time I wasn’t even sure how many I’d caught over the years and I’ll come back to this in a future blog post but a few days later I'd have opportunty to catch a new species and in Scottish waters too so whatever my tally sat at I was hopeful I’d be another one closer to a hundred. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Hitting the rocks.

After enjoying my holidays to Kefalonia and Madeira earlier this year I decided it was time to hit the coast locally, something I had not done for way too long. I headed down to East Lothian to catch up with my mate Nick and we decided to have a go for pollock from the rocky coast of Eyemouth.

A glorious day to be out on the rocks.

Well the weather was great but sadly the fishing was not, with neither of us catching any pollock. After a while and a quick change of tactics from metal jigs to a soft plastic worm on a drop shot rig I did get a few tentative taps straight down the side which I though might be a small wrasse. After changing from an unscented plastic to tried and trusted angleworm on my hook I soon caught the culprit. As it turned out the fish wasn't a wrasse after all but when I realised what it was it did put a big smile on my face.

A rather big long spined sea scorpion. I always enjoy catching this funky looking mini species.

After a trying a couple more spots with no luck we called it a day, scrambled back up the rocks and headed home. It was great to catch up with Nick, getting a little sunburnt in the process and despite not catching our target species the specimen sea scorpion with its devilish appearance left me with a determination to get out locally more often. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Even more species hunting on Madeira.

After getting back from Kefalonia I didn't do any fishing locally but luckily I also didn't have to wait too long before I was packing my fishing gear into my suitcase again. Less than five weeks later, at the beginning of July, I drove down south to fly down to Madeira for a spot of species hunting with two of my good friends and fellow anglers, Lee and Ross. Having myself already visited the beautiful Portuguese island twice before I had a pretty good knowledge of marks for us to fish both visited previously and also some new ones for us to investigate. Lee had been with me the first time I went to Madeira, for Ross it was his first time, but we were all looking forward to seeing each other again after about eighteen months apart, having a great time and were hopeful that us visiting later in the year than any of my previous visits would mean better fishing. Well, Madeira did not disappoint!

Madeira is a beautiful place.
With lots of interesting wildlife.
It's famous for flowers and the town streets get decorated with them during festivals.
The locals don't mess about when it comes to cooking large quantities of well seasoned meat on large skewers.
They also make a tasty beverage called Poncha that should be enjoyed responsibly.
If you're really lucky you'll bump into friendly locals who'll show you incredible hospitality and generously offer to take you out fishing on their boat where you'll have an epic time catching dentex!

Wait a minute! Perhaps I should rewind a bit and explain how on earth Lee, Ross and I found ourselves out in a boat catching dentex with Team Portugal member and world championship winning shore angler Nuno Barradas and his partner Fabyy. 

Ross with our hosts Nuno and Fabyy. Two of the friendliest people I've ever met and very good anglers too.

So, after an enjoyable but fairly uneventful fishing wise start to our week we were out on the second evening of the trip looking at a couple of new marks that I thought might produce barracuda, a species we were all keen to catch. Driving past the first mark we could see from the motorway above it that it was already very busy so we went to the second. Unfortunately we couldn't find an access point so we decided to head back to the first mark and see if there was in fact enough room. When we got down it was still very busy with local anglers and it turned out most of them were fishing jigs for squid. Amongst them all Ross instantly recognised Nuno as he had been over in North Wales for the world shore fishing championships last year and had visited the tackle shop that Ross had been working in at the time. It's a small world after all! We all got talking and Nuno very generously invited the three of us out in his boat the with himself and his partner Fabyy, an offer simply too good to turn down so of course we accepted. Early next morning we all met down at Funchal Marina, headed out to sea and along the coast where we had an epic couple of hours fishing for dentex using live squid as bait. It was a great experience and we knew afterwards that unless something truly incredible happened, it would probably end up be the fishing highlight of the week.

As the week continued we fished various marks all over the island and were racking up the species as we did. Some places we'd fished before but we also explored some new spots that on the whole fished really well too and between the three of us we caught some nice fish using a variety of methods.

Lee's fished exclusively with light game jigs most of the week and was rewarded with some nice fish like this pink dentex with its funky fins.
A nice male parrotfish for Ross. If memory serves it took a chunk of raw prawn ledgered on the bottom down the inside of the harbour wall.
In the same harbour this cracking derbio took a freelined bread flake. It went off like a rocket, stripping line of my reel multiple times. Awesome sport on my ultra light tackle!
After seeing a huge stingray swim past a breakwater we were fishing on a deadbait was rigged up and cast out on Ross's heavy lure rod. This produced two small stingrays in quick succession, one each for Ross and Lee. Sadly a third run didn't materialise so I never got the chance to catch one myself.
An early morning session fishing metal jigs into fairly deep water from a rock mark produced a few nice white trevally and this cracking striped seabream for Ross.
Night time sessions after dark were quite productive too. Lee's not usually a fan of fishing a drop shot rig but this white seabream was caught on a Gulp Fish Fry rigged on one.
A very happy species hunter with his first ever African striped grunt! Caught on the last after dark session of the holiday just before we were about to call it a night. Lee and Ross had both caught a few of these earlier in the trip and I took a fair amount of abuse for failing to do likewise so I was over the moon to catch my second new species of the trip.
Just for good measure I caught a second African striped grunt a few casts later. A nice looking fish that seem to only feed after dark.

By the end of the week we had racked up a very respectable thirty seven species between the three of us.

Here's what I caught with new species in bold...

  1. African Striped Grunt
  2. Atlantic Lizardfish
  3. Axillary Seabream
  4. Bastard Grunt
  5. Black Goby
  6. Black Seabream
  7. Canary Damsel
  8. Cardinalfish
  9. Chub Mackerel
  10. Common Dentex
  11. Common Two Banded Seabream
  12. Couch's Seabream
  13. Diamond Lizardfish
  14. Emerald Wrasse
  15. Guinean Puffer
  16. Lesser Weever
  17. Macronesian Sharpnose Puffer
  18. Madeira Goby
  19. Madeira Rockfish
  20. Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse
  21. Ornate Wrasse
  22. Pandora Seabream
  23. Rock Goby
  24. Rockpool Blenny
  25. Salema
  26. Thick Lipped Grey Mullet
  27. Thin Lipped Grey Mullet
  28. White Seabream

Lee and Ross also added these to our group tally...
  1. Blue Runner
  2. Bogue
  3. European Stingray
  4. Gilthead Seabream
  5. Golden Grey Mullet
  6. Pink Dentex
  7. Saddled Seabream
  8. Striped Seabream
  9. White Trevally
As always it had been superb spending time with my two great friends and also it was nice to make two new friends in Nuno and Fabyy. After our initial chance encounter and the subsequent early morning boat adventure we'd met up with them again a few more times during the holiday. We did some lure fishing for bluefish and barracuda at sunrise one morning from the shore but sadly this didn't produce the target sepcies and all we caught was some crazy lizardfish that attacked lures almost as big as themselves. We also met up with them a couple of times in the afternoon and had a great time in their company eating some traditional island food. I was really taken back by their incredibly warm hospitality and generosity.  They are both really lovely people and when we return we'll certainly be meeting up with them again for sure. Over lunch we even talked about catching the ferry to Porto Santo together for a couple of days to do some fishing there. Madeira is an amazing place and I can't wait to get back down there again!

Tight lines, Scott.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Species hunting fun on Kefalonia.

Well the weather of late has been pretty terrible with August being particularly dreadful and to be honest this along with working a lot of hours means my drive to go fishing locally pretty much deserted me over the summer. My motivation to write blog posts about what little fishing I have done also sadly seems to have waned somewhat but better late than never as they say so I'll be making a concerted effort to catch up over the next week or two.

Way back at the end of May I had a week long holiday on Kefalonia with my partner Lillian. Having visited both Crete and Zakinthos several times we thought it would be nice to try a new island for a change, after all Greece does have over two hundred of them! To be honest we weren't sure what to expect from Kefalonia but it did not disappoint and we had a great time. With mountains falling away straight into the sea it was lush and green with beautiful views around every corner and our hire car allowed us to experience many of them. We stayed in the lovely harbour town of Sami on the island's eastern side but every day we headed off in our hire car to explore rest of the island, returning in the evening to enjoy some great meals by Sami's large yacht filled marina in one of it's dozens of excellent restaurants. As we travelled around the island I was as usual permitted to fish for an hour or two in various spots we found that looked a little fishy and I did quite well, catching lots of different species.

The small village of Assos on the north west coast.
A stunning place to wet a line just a matter of getting down to the rocks at the waters edge.
Common combers were out in force especially around deeper areas with rocky seafloors.

As well as wetting a line at various places as we explored the island I also had a few sessions along the coastline of Sami, around its various harbours and at the back of its ferry port. These were also quite productive in terms of catching several different species.

There were quite a few East Atlantic peacock wrasse in the harbours, some like this one had vivid markings.
Normally a night time capture, Cardinalfish can be targeted during the day if you drop your rig down into dark gaps between boulders that often shore up a harbour's external sea walls.
Whilst out and about I found myself a new fishing partner.
Sight fishing a bit of freelined dried ragworm caught this nice parrotfish.
As you'd expect in the Mediterranean, I caught a few different types of bream too including this common two banded seabream.
There were plenty of damselfish down the harbour walls in Sami's main marina so a #18 hook was tied on, baited with a tiny piece of angleworm and another species was added to my tally.

One evening after another day exploring the island in the car we stopped before returning to Sami and had some delicious fresh fish in a small taverna called "The Fisherman's Hut" in the little village of Zola on the island's north west coast. It was another beautiful spot so after eating the last piece of rather tasty fried red mullet we went for a walk along a nearby beach. Being a romantic at heart my fishing tackle came along too and after only a couple of casts I caught my first new species of the trip. Being a venomous fish it was handled with extreme care and quickly photographed before being carefully released again.

Lesser and greater weever are usually amongst the fish I catch on holiday in the Mediterranean. This one however was my first ever spotted weever.

Midway through our holiday we decided to spend an afternoon climbing to the top of the island's highest mountain. Being a couple of lazy sods we took the easy option and drove most of the way up the mountain to a carpark not too far from the summit, passing several large herds of goats on the way. From there it was an very easy thirty minute hike to the top.

Driving on the island requires extra caution due to the amount of goats roaming around freely, often around blind corners!
Sami from the side of the mountain as we hiked up.
Sadly once at the top it was very cloudy so we didn't get to enjoy the awesome views of the whole island.

Towards the end of our holiday we spent a fair amount of time exploring the island's capital Argostoli. Whilst taking a stroll over De Bosset Bridge which crosses Koutavos Lagoon we were surprised to see quite a few sea turtles heading in and out of the inner part of the lagoon via the bridge's arches.

Always nice to see these beautiful creatures and it was a most unexpected bonus.

After lunch one afternoon we went for a drive along the coast just to the north of Argostoli past the main part of town and before too long we passed a nice little harbour that looked promising  so I fished there a couple of times. The variety of ground in and around it again meant it turned out to be very productive species wise. The water was crystal clear and after catching a few fish I decided to take my time to have a look for mini species on the bottom in shallow areas and amongst the boulders on the outside of the harbour walls. After catching some gobies I spotted a few very small but very colourful fish. I had an idea what they were and there were a few of them around but they were easily spooked. It took a fair bit of persistence with #18 hook that I ended up baiting with a tiny piece of mussel before I eventually caught my second new species of the trip and my first ever fish from the triplefin family.

This is a male red-black triplefin, cousin of the black faced blenny that is sometimes spotted in the UK on the south coast. Once caught they change colour and become mottled brown and red.
Here's what the males looked like when I was spotting them relaxing on the bottom with a jet black head and bright red body making them stand out like a sore thumb! Triplefins have three separate dorsal fins hence their name.
Like the black faced blenny, the male of which has a black head and bright yellow body, a female red-black triplefin is pretty dull being a fairly drab mottled brown colour. Not very colourful but certainly well camouflaged. There were probably just as many females around as males but I just couldn't see them!

Over two visits to the little harbour I caught lots of fish, had lots of fun using a variety of techniques and nudged my tally over the thirty mark which I was quite pleased about. Painted combers were a particularly exciting target as I was able to see them charging out from cover to attack my lures. There were plenty around and after I'd caught my fill Lillian had a go and caught a few of the them too.

Straight retrieving small soft plastics on jigheads fairly slowly over the boulders down the outside of the harbour wall produced lots of aggressive painted combers.
Inside the harbour a piece of angleworm fished on a drop shot rig caught this black scorpionfish.
Casting out as far as I could into the deeper water at the back of the harbour produced a few brown comber.
Fishing small pieces of angleworm on a split shot rig over shallow sandy areas produced some wide eyed flounder, striped sea bream and this Bucchichi's goby.
A drop shot rig baited with angleworm slowly worked over a rocky area caught this nice rainbow wrasse...
...and the same rig over clean sand produced a funky colourful pearly razorfish. I love these!
The biggest surprise techniques wise was catching this tompot blenny on a metal jig, a first for me.

As always before we knew it the end of the holiday had arrived and all too soon. My species hunting had been pretty good too especially as I'd kept my sessions reasonably short. Here's what I caught during the holiday with new species in bold.
  1. Annular Seabream
  2. Atlantic Lizardfish
  3. Axillary Seabream
  4. Black Goby
  5. Black Scorpionfish
  6. Bogue
  7. Brown Comber
  8. Bucchichi's Goby
  9. Cardinalfish
  10. Common Comber
  11. Common Two Banded Seabream
  12. Damselfish
  13. East Atlantic Peacock Wrasse
  14. Giant Goby
  15. Gilthead Seabream
  16. Goldblotch Grouper
  17. Madeira Rockfish
  18. Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse
  19. Ornate Wrasse
  20. Painted Comber
  21. Pandora
  22. Parrotfish
  23. Pearly Razorfish
  24. Red-Black Triplefin
  25. Rock Goby
  26. Rusty Blenny
  27. Spotted Weever
  28. Striped Seabream
  29. Thick Lipped Grey Mullet
  30. Tompot Blenny
  31. White Seabream
  32. Wide Eyed Flounder
We'd enjoyed a fantastic stay on Kefalonia and I'd definitely like to go back there again. We love visiting the Greek islands and we also want to return to Crete again in the not too distant future. With so many other islands to try as well and the potential for a trip down there with some of my mates for a week long dedicated fishing holiday I can see myself having a few more vacations there over the coming years.

Tight lines, Scott.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Nothing fishy going on?

I've not been out fishing much this year. On the first few occasions I did venture out I blanked and when I did finally open my account for 2019 it was with a solitary but rather large sand goby that I caught at Burntisland Breakwater.

A fine example of the species with a bold marking on the rear edge of its first dorsal fin.

The main reason for my lack of fishing is simply that I'm working a lot at the moment and also have a fair amount of other things going on too that always seem to get in the way of wetting a line but I did have a week on the Greek island of Kefalonia at the end of May where I enjoyed a bit of species hunting and I'm off to Madeira this afternoon with two of my friends. When I return I'll have a fair amount of blogging to do and I really need to get out more often here as well and have a trip to have a go at pike on the fly to begin to remedy this situation. 

Tight lines, Scott.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Species hunting fun in Japan : Narita.

Our last few days in Japan were spent in the small hot spring town of Shibu Onsen up in the Japanese Alps. On the way there from Osaka we split the journey up with a few hours in Matsumoto to visit its castle and grab some lunch. The castle was spectacular and well worth visiting but unfortunately the restaurant I really wanted to eat in wasn't open so we settled for some fried chicken and a beer near the train station before continuing our journey north.

Matsumoto castle is Japan's oldest original wooden castle. You can take a tour inside too.

Shibu Onsen is famous for its nine hot spring baths that are only available to town residents and guests of the town's traditional Japanese inns via a special key, but there is also a famous snow monkey park where the primates enjoy their own hot spring fed bath only a few miles away from the town. In the morning after our first night in our inn its owner drove us up to the start of the path leading up the valley to the park. Despite there being signs at the visitor center advising that seeing the monkeys wasn't guaranteed they were out in force, no doubt due partly to the fact that the park staff feed them daily.

Snow monkeys relaxing around their own onsen.

After taking a forest walk back to Shibu Onsen we visited a sake museum and then decided to have some lunch before soaking in some of the town's hot springs. Soon sat on the floor of a cosy small restaurant I quickly spotted something on the menu that was a little bit unusual. Basashi is raw horsemeat and it was the dish I had been hoping to try in Matsumoto so I was pleased to see it on the menu and ordered myself some.

I've never tried cooked horse meat before so trying it raw was a bit adventurous perhaps. It's served thinly sliced and is accompanied simply with some freshly grated ginger. It was incredibly good and I'd highly recommend it.

The day before we flew home we made our way back to Tokyo on the bullet train and then caught a local train to Narita where one of Tokyo's two airports is located. Arriving at our hotel Lillian wanted a nap so I jumped on a local train and headed just out of town to have one last attempt at catching some tanago in a drainage canal next to Lake Inbu-numa. I caught a few fish, mostly small bluegills, but sadly I failed to catch any tanago. I did add two new species to my trip tally before light started to fade and I headed back to Narita.

In amongst the bluegills I caught a solitary dusky tripletooth goby...
.. and a few field gudgeon.

With an early flight to catch in the morning we went out in the evening for one last meal in Japan. We decided to try an all you can eat buffet and enjoyed unlimited gyoza, noodles, chicken curry and fried vegetables at a small restaurant called Spiral Staircase which was close to our hotel. The meal came with a massive glass of Asahi and was a great way to end our trip. If you're in Narita it's well worth a visit and at about £14 including the beer and also pancakes and icecream for dessert it was superb value too.

A nice big ice cold beer.

I loved Japan. It was such an amazing trip on so many levels and there were so many things I haven't mentioned in these reports. This is a fishing blog after all. That being said I probably didn't do as much fishing as I would have liked and it was also tough at times but despite that I managed to catch a respectable sixteen species with fifteen of them being new. Here's what I caught.
  1. Bleeker's Wrasse
  2. Bluegill
  3. Common Carp
  4. Darkbanded Rockfish
  5. Dusky Tripletooth Goby
  6. Field Gudgeon
  7. Japanese Horse Mackerel
  8. Japanese Whiting
  9. Marbled Rockfish
  10. Multicolorfin Rainbowfish
  11. Oblong Rockfish
  12. Pearl Spot Chromis
  13. Red Seabream
  14. Short Nosed Tripodfish
  15. Spotnape Ponyfish
  16. Star Bambooleaf Wrasse
Several of the saltwater species I caught were identified using the following book which I would highly recommend if you plan on fishing in Japan. It was bought and sent to me by someone who lives in Japan so getting a copy isn't straight forward.

The title is "Marine fishes of Japan". The book's ISBN is 9784635070256. Well worth the extra effort required to get a copy though.

I'd also like to quickly thank Masa for the advice he gave me while I was in Osaka and Adam for putting me in touch with him. Masa has also promised to meet up with me and take me fishing with him when I return and because Lillian and I had such a great time we have already booked our flights and will be heading back in November again. This time we will be exploring the southwesternmost of Japan’s main islands, Kyushu. It goes without saying some fishing tackle will be going to the land of the rising sun again too. 

Tight lines, Scott.