Sunday, June 23, 2024

From coast to coast.

On Wednesday, I headed west to East India Dock in Greenock with my mate Ryan for a spot of species hunting. The first target I was hoping to catch was the rock dwelling flatfish, the topknot, so I spent the morning trying to drop my running ledger rig down into likely holding areas where one might be lurking. After a few hours of catching small wrasse and a couple of long spined sea scorpion, the bites slowed right down, so we jumped back in the car and headed to Loch Goil to try fishing a new spot there. Rather annoyingly, this proved to be a complete waste of time. After three hours, we hadn’t caught any fish at all, never mind any species I’d never caught before! A cool looking ladybird landed on me at one point, which was the highlight of our time there!

I’d never seen an orange ladybird before, so this little beetle was a new species!

By this point it was early in the evening, and with a three hour drive back to Edinburgh to do, we had a decision to make, try one more spot, or head straight home with our tails between our legs. After a short discussion, we decided to break up the journey with one final throw of the dice. An hour later we arrived at Loch Long, climbed down onto a rock mark, quickly got setup and started fishing again. As I'd done at Loch Goil, I opted to fish three hook flapper rigs at distance, tied with tiny hooks on light line. Things were slow, but I eventually caught a black goby, followed shortly afterwards by a poor cod, my first of the year. Ryan then caught a nice male common dragonet. Things were quiet after that, and after losing a few rigs to the bottom in quick succession, we called an end to a frustrating day's fishing.

The poor cod, probably the least desirable member of the cod family for most anglers.
Ryan's dragonet didn't want to display its impressively tall first dorsal fin.

On Thursday, I decided to go out fishing again, but this time closer to home on the east coast. I popped down the A1 to St Abbs Harbour where my target again, was a topknot. A customer in work caught one there last year, so I knew it was a slim possibility. I collected a few prawns from some rockpools and set about dropping them down the walls of the harbour.

My bait for the session. I think they form a large part of the diet of the topknot.
My presentation of the live prawn. The luminous beads were more for my benefit, so I could see where the prawn was.

Fishing in tight down the first section of wall not much was happening, but slowly working my way along whilst raising and lowering the prawn up and down it, a fish eventually appeared from a cluster of seaweed and began attacking my lead weight! After realising it wasn’t edible or a threat, it quickly turned its attention to the prawn, making short work of it and getting itself hooked in the process.

Anger management classes and a trip to the optician may be required for this super aggressive blenny.

Moving around the harbour and patiently trying my luck on different sections of wall didn’t produce any more fish for a while, but my efforts were eventually rewarded when my first ballan wrasse of the year munched the prawn and tried to take off into the kelp bed out from the wall.

This nice looking ballan wrasse put a nice band in my Rock Rover rod.

At this point, my mate Nick popped down to say hello, and we caught up whilst I fished away. I’d been trying to catch a topknot for a few hours and spotting some tiny fish down the harbour wall that I suspected might be two spotted goby, I tied on a tanago hook and fished it under a tiny float. It didn’t take long to catch a few of the diminutive fish.

They turned out to be tiny coalfish. Not much bigger than my Japanese one yen coin!

After a while, Nick headed off and I left St Abbs too. I didn't go home though, instead visiting the sea defence boulders at the inlet area of Torness Power Station, again hoping to catch a topknot. Dropping live prawns down into the deeper holes between the huge boulders was my chosen tactic, and this produced a few fish. Not the one I was after sadly, all the same species, long spined sea scorpion.

Dropping live prawns down into gaps in the rocks and being patient.

Some people struggle to tell the difference between long and short spined sea scorpion. The long spined sea scorpion has a tiny barbule on the corner of its mouth. Its short spined cousin does not. It also has long spines!

After a while, and having slowly worked my way a fair way along the sea defence boulders, I decided to fish from the gantry up above the inlet. Dropping my rig down next to a kelp lined sloping concrete wall produced lots of coalfish and a solitary pollock. Fishing right in next to this structure but below the weed produced a solitary goldsinny wrasse. By this point I had been out fishing for almost twelve hours, was feeling quite tired and my prawns had been used up too, so I called it a day.

Vanilla. The coalfish has a straight lateral line.
Kinky. The pollock’s lateral line has two bends in it.

Normally a nibbler, this goldsinny wrasse eagerly munched a whole prawn no problem.

So, another couple of lengthy sessions visiting five different venues hadn’t produced any new Scottish species. I can't say I'm in any way surprised. I realise that catching anything new in Scotland has become a very difficult challenge indeed. Despite this reality, I'm looking forward to the next few months, I'm going to have a lot of free time soon and July to September should be the best months of the year for me to get out, try to catch something new and push my Scottish species tally a little closer towards my goal of one hundred!

Tight lines, Scott.

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