Monday, 20 December 2010

Reflections on 2010

It looks like 2010 is going to end like it began with snow lying on the ground and sub zero temperatures. In the run up to Christmas I like to take a break from fishing and spend time with the family. It is an ideal time to reflect on the years fishing, sort out the tackle and make plans for the year ahead.

During 2010 I fished on 71 days, most but not all of which are written up in this blog. Nine days were spent game fishing with the remainder evenly split between coarse and sea fishing. I failed to catch a fish on six occasions, mainly due to making poor decisions. I only bivvied up once whilst after catfish and the shortest session after a shanny lasted all of 15 minutes! Frankly I prefer short focussed sessions, lacking both the time and inclination to spend several days camping just to catch a fish.

 I travelled more than usual and fished in 17 counties during the year (Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Sussex, Gloucestershire, Surrey, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Rutland, Northamptonshire, Staffordshire and Anglesey). The most trips I had to any single water was three and I fished a number of new venues.

My favourite saltwater location is Weymouth,
due to the wide variety of fishing available from both boat and shore. Surprisingly I even enjoyed my trips to commercial coarse fisheries, not all of them are overstocked muddy holes!

At the start of this challenge my target was to catch 50 species during 2010, so I am pleased to end the year on 61. I caught 29 species for the first time. Only five species of fish that I had previously caught in British waters eluded me during 2010, these were blue shark, coalfish, stone loach, sea trout and zander.

In addition to the species I caught, I witnessed and missed out on a further eleven species: bull huss, common dragonet , tub gurnard, plaice, blonde ray,  blue shark, common smoothhound, tope, sea trout, baillions and cuckoo wrasse.

The sheer variety of fish to be found in British waters is staggering, some like the leopard spotted goby would not be out of place on a coral reef! The largest fish I caught during 2010 was a 20 pound plus catfish, the smallest a two inch three spined stickleback. Ironically it was catching some of the smallest species that gave me the biggest headaches, especially the bitterling and pumpkinseed.

I employed a wider range of techniques in 2010 than in any year previously. Less time was spent bolt-rigging in freshwater, a high proportion of the time saw me either trotting a float down a river or fishing a waggler or pole float on a stillwater. I fly fished on both stillwater and rivers for game fish and fished lures in the sea, as well as the more traditional float and leger rigs. I discovered that sea fishing can be sporting if you are able to use light tackle. Indeed after this challenge is over I intend to explore sport fishing in our seas, the last remaining truly wild fishing in our overcrowded island.

The highlight of 2010 for me was the 5lb 4oz ballan wrasse that I caught off Weymouth in October.

With only eight freshwater species left to catch, inevitably 2011 will be biased towards sea fishing. I hope to fish on 100 days during 2011 but as there are only four species that I can target locally, I will return to my specimen hunting roots for my midweek sessions. Weekends and days off will be spent at the coast and I hope to get out on the charter boats at least once a month.

I have drawn up a list of nearly forty saltwater species that I hope to target during 2011 which will take me to the west coast of Scotland, the coast of Wales and the south and south west coasts of England. I expect my species list to grow slowly during the first quarter of 2011, becoming more and more prolific as the year progresses through to the end of October. If I can reach 90+ species by  this time next year, then maybe achieving 100 species from British waters in three years will be within reach.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my fishing during 2010, have you? Join me in 2011 for another year of species hunting in British waters.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Flatties Galore and Science of Tides!

A last minute change of plan saw me return to Cley (pronounced cl-eye) in search of another flatfish, the flounder. The tide was too big apparently to fish my intended venue, Humberston Creek near Cleethorpes. Hopefully the barn owl that I spotted at first light would prove to be a good omen. The weatherman had predicted that the day would be cold and overcast with the wind coming from the north, with rain likely.

Following a little research I decided to fish the ebb down from mid tide and the early part of the flood. My two hook flapper rigs were tweaked to include four small yellow beads on each hooklink with size 4 and 6 aberdeen hooks baited with lugworm. For anyone in the area I must recommend ordering your bait from Brights of Sheringham as on both trips bait quality has been excellent.

I decided to fish closer in than on my last trip as flounder can often be found between twenty and forty yards out.
Despite the fact that at least one common seal was patrolling the area, most casts resulted in either a dab or a flounder. By low water I had taken eight dabs and two flounders with the odd pin whiting.

Interestingly the flood tide produced only one dab and an undersized bass, but as the tide grew in strength pin whiting became a decided nuisance. I cast around on one rod but to little avail. I also failed to get a decent photo of a seal despite one popping its head up and doing a "song and dance" within twenty feet of me!

Amazing to think that tides are created by the relative positions of the moon, the sun and the earth and the gravitational pull these celestial bodies exert on the sea. The spring and Autumn equinoxes see the sun, moon and the earth in alignment and the combined pull on the water leads to the largest spring tides of the year (that is when the difference in water level between high and low water is at its greatest).

The moon travels around the earth on a twenty-eight day cycle and a couple of days after the new and full moon sees the monthly spring tides. At periods of half moon the tidal range is at its least, these are known as neap tides.

High tide will occur around 50 minutes later each day as the moon travels around the earth. Surely a case could be made for reorganising time to fit the natural cycle of things!

The rate the rise and fall of the tide and therefore the speed of the tide is not constant. Gradually the tide flows faster until half tide and then gradually eases off again before falling slack as the tide turns. A quarter of the rise occurs in the first two hours,  half in the next two hours and a quarter in the last two hours. The period of slack water when the tide turns is also greatest on a neap tide.

Enough on tides, how can you tell flounders and dabs apart? Dabs are a small flatfish rarely weighing more than a pound, whereas flounders are sometimes caught at weights in excess of three pounds.

Both fish can be variable in colour and the dabs I caught today varied from a light brown to a darker brown/green mottling. The easiest way to tell the difference is to rub the fish along the back from tail to head, the dab is rough and the flounder smooth. In addition the lateral line of the dab curves around the pectoral fin in a semi circle.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Twitchers, the Gray Phalarope and the crock of gold at the end of the Rainbow

Cley in North Norfolk is a birdwatchers paradise and behind the marshes that attract wading birds to this corner of Norfolk lies a shingle beach giving access to relatively deep water. Cley is known as a good spot to catch dabs and flounders as the bottom is sand and mud. Although conditions were far from ideal with strong wind having coloured up the water I decided to fish from low tide up to high water.

I had arrived late morning in the middle of a major 'twitch', as a rare bird (gray phalarope) had been spotted. There were loads of birders, mainly men, dressed in green coats wandering about with large telescopes. The gray phalarope isn't grey but red and not stupid either as it had departed for pastures new amidst all the disturbance. If I wanted to spot birds I would quietly move to a suitable vantage point and stay still! Whilst fishing I have been lucky over the years to see most native bird species including some rarities such as the bittern and water rail.

En route I had picked up some lugworm and ragworm from Brights in Sheringham. I walked about half a mile away from the crowds just past a wreck which lay within casting distance of the shore. My plan was to fish two rods armed with two hook flapper rigs and cast one short and the other long until I started catching.

After ten minutes the rod cast short rattled and I wound in my target dab. The dab is a small flatfish which rarely weighs more than a pound. It can be distinguished from its close relative the flounder by the distinct curve of the lateral line around the pectoral fin. It also it feels rough when you stroke it from tail to head.

Throughout the afternoon I had half a dozen small bass, two being just over the size limit. The following day these were baked with lemon and herbs and provided a fine dinner. Towards dusk, pin whiting were a nuisance with most casts producing one or a pair of hand sized whiting. This continued through dusk and only one sizeable whiting was landed before I packed up.

Is there a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow? No, but there might be a gray phalarope and with this new information dozens of keen birders sped off towards Cromer!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A stroll around Weymouth Harbour

Tuesday was wet and windy, very wet and windy, storm force 8 wet and windy! 

I spent a few wet and windy hours during the evening trying to catch a flounder from the shore at Swanage which was sheltered from the south westerly winds. However the freshwater outlet outside the Mowlam theatre was discharging coloured water and the sea was full of weed. Unsurprisingly I struggled with only a poor cod and a missed bite to show for my efforts. 

Wednesday saw me take a leisurely stroll around Weymouth Harbour armed with a quivertip rod targetting the mini species again. A two hook paternoster with size 12 hooks were baited with pieces of ragworm. I fished through the ebbing tide from high water. I started on the pleasure pier and caught lots of ballan and corkwing wrasse. Although I tried several spots along the pier only wrasse obliged.     

I walked back to the main bridge and crossed over the river taking time to enjoy the comings and goings of various small craft. I sat down on the harbourside next to a family who were crab fishing and cast down the edge. I had a bite every cast which resulted in corkwing, ballan and a solitary goldsinney wrasse along with several gobies.  The children were fascinated by the different fish and the parents were amazed at the bright colours of the male corkwing wrasse.

The various species of gobies are notoriously difficult to tell apart and pictured opposite are a black goby (above) and a sand goby (below) or is it a common goby? The black goby is slightly darker and with the high dorsal fins, unfortunately the first dorsal is not fully extended.

A stop at the Stone Pier cafe for a bacon butty, piece of carrot cake and a pot of tea saw me ready to tackle the Stone Pier. Here I caught dozens of wrasse and mini pollack, and taught a couple of children to fish, before moving to the end of the pier. A cast away from the structure resulted in a short spined sea scorpion.

Another pot of tea at the cafe was consumed before fishing alongside a wall behind the sailing club. This was whiting and goby city.

During the day I had caught eight species of fish without trying too hard and enjoyed a pleasant stroll around Weymouth Harbour.

The final day of my Weymouth break was spent fishing the Dorset Frome at Wareham Quay hoping for a bonus sea trout. Several big dace responded to my swimfeedered maggots in the coloured water. The largest weighed in at ten ounces, only an ounce short of my personal best. However, I did have a decent fish come off which was probably my bonus sea trout!

Monday, 25 October 2010

It takes two to Conger!

My third and final day fishing aboard Flamer was on a reef and bank trip. We fished the Shambles bank on the drift for black bream, I fished a portland rig with a long flowing trace armed with some yellow attractor beads. This appeared to do the trick and several bream responded. As the tide slowed we moved and drifted over the mussel beds for plaice. Two plaice were landed by the same angler who fished a wishbone rig; was it the extra scent that attracted the plaice? I had to make do with pout.

Our final mark was a reef past Portland Bill where some of the party continued fishing for bream and other smaller fish. I decided to go big fish or bust and set up a 20 - 30lb class rod with a pennel rig holding a large squid and mackerel cocktail. After catching several dogfish I had a different sort of bite and struck into a good fish, or so I thought! The fight felt odd and I realised I had crossed lines with Ian who was also playing a fish. I slackened off and Ian landed a conger eel in the 15-20lb range. After Colin had released the fish, Ian told me that it had my hook in its mouth and had taken both our baits. It takes two to conger!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

You are the Weakest Link!

I don't normally fish competitions, however the opportunity to fish the Flamer Annual Two Day Species Competition was too good to miss. I knew that it would be an opportunity to fish a variety of marks, learn from some good match anglers and hopefully add to my species list for the year. Ten points were awarded for a species on the list and up to ten fish of each species would gain extra points. On landing a fish the captor calls out their name and species to Colin the skipper. I wasn't bothered about competing and decided to concentrate on tactics which might add a new species to the challenge.

The forecast for Saturday was poor and we set sail later than planned to miss the worst of the weather. As a consequence the water had coloured up and we could only fish inshore marks. 

At anchor we fished three hook flowing traces and caught dogfish, red gurnards, starry smoothhounds, scad and for James a dragonet.

In between the sessions at anchor we fished several areas around Portland drifting for wrasse. Due to the colour in the water the wrassing was poor, although we all managed to catch some ballan and corking wrasse along with pollack and pout. Just off the end of Portland Breakwater I had battle royal with a specimen ballan weighing 5lb 4oz.

Robin suggested that we ended the day fishing for mini species in Weymouth Harbour itself! Imagine the scene, a charter boat moored up to a pontoon by the bridge with five grown men fishing off the stern of the boat, catching tiny wrasse, blennies and gobies shouting out their name and species to the scorer, with an audience on the quayside! Anyway I did catch my first black goby. Robin caught a light coloured goby, probably a sand goby. At the end of day one I was in third position.

One of the anglers, Gareth (who was the army champion) could not fish on Sunday. His place was taken by Andy's partner, Glenys. Sunday was an early start and it was still dark as we sailed out of Weymouth Harbour.

We started the day in Portland Harbour on the drift where we caught mackerel, pollack, pout and wrasse including a goldsinney to me and two cuckoo wrasse to Glenys.

A drift over the wreck of the Hood didn't produce the targeted red band fish so we went east off the Purbeck cliffs. The area just off Durdle Door is a top spot for cuckoo wrasse. Although the wrasse were not playing ball, Robin caught a rare baillons wrasse, which looks like a corkwing but with red fins.

A few drifts over a wrecked landing craft produced loads of pouting and some black bream. The day ended at anchor where once again the dogfish showed along with thornback rays, garfish and a tub gurnard.              

Over the two days I caught thirteen species including one new to the challenge and saw my first baillons wrasse, cuckoo wrasse, dragonet and tub gurnard. I learned that when species hunting, a sensitive boat quivertip style rod helps to convert more bites, especially on the drift for wrasse and that at anchor it pays to use attractor beads.

Although I came fourth, I was awarded the "weakest link" trophy as the lowest scoring angler who fished both days. The trophy currently adorns our downstairs loo.

Next year I will compete!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Captain Beaky and the Vibrating Fish

The breakwater that surrounds Brighton Marina is one of the best shore fishing locations in Sussex, giving access to deep water. The weather plays a large part in successful angling and after week of warm settled weather I decided to spend a couple of days after a garfish.

Following the advice of the staff at the tackle box on the Marina I decided to fish the western arm. The arm was already busy and by late morning there was an angler every ten yards back towards the shoreline. There were reports that scad had been caught pre-dawn along with mullet.

I set up float tackle on the barbel rod, with a cigar shaped float taking a half ounce drilled bullet and set the depth initially to ten feet. A three foot hooklength of 12lb flurocarbon was used as garfish have needle link teeth which would wear through a light hooklength. Bait was a small strip of mackerel (about an inch by a quarter of an inch) hooked through the end only.

I fished the rising tide up to high water on the float and over the next few hours caught a number of garfish interspersed with a handful of mackerel. 

The fight is a series of leaps, head shakes and short searing runs that compare with mackerel. The gars slim, streamlined body gives them speed through the water, however the bulk of their resistance is at surface level. I imagine scaling down to a light avon style rod and six pound line would provide great sport.

There are a team of helpful bailiffs who collect money for day tickets, offer advice and offer to take your rubbish away! A chat revealed that I could expect to catch a sea scorpion if I fished for mini species in the edge. 

Rigging up with a mini two hook paternoster with size 10 hooks baited with an inch of ragworm or a tiny strip of mackerel I caught various blennies, wrasse, pollack, a sandsmelt and several sea scorpions. Sea scorpions are amusing in that when you touch their undersides they start vibrating like a mobile phone on silent!

I returned to my floatfishing for the last couple of hours of daylight and caught numbers of garfish, with the biggest weighed at 1lb 3oz. Some anglers nearby were struggling and I donated the mackerel and some garfish as they were fishing for food. Is Brighton full of East Europeans or are a high proportion of them anglers?

I decided to stay for an hour after dark hoping for a scad, otherwise known as a horse mackerel. Changing the float to one that accepted a starlight allowed me to fish into the night. After a couple of missed bites and a fish dropping off I landed my first ever scad, a small example of the species. The first thing  you notice is the metallic grey colouration and how bony they feel.

The following morning I decided to fish the western breakwater which was not so busy due to the long walk. I fished a second rod on worm more in hope than expectation.

 After catching several garfish I noticed that the water was becoming coloured due to the undertow. Mackerel and garfish are sight feeders and as expected bites ceased. Interestingly a change to my mini species rigs revealed that mini species also don't feed well in coloured water although a number of blennies, wrasse and sea scorpions did oblige. 

At the height of the tide I caught three "schoolie" bass in succession which brought my trip to an end.

Postscript: Checking Collins Pocket Guide to Fish of Britain and Europe at home I realised that I had photographed a long spined sea scorpion. Had I also caught short spined sea scorpions without realising? The easiest way to tell them apart is that the long spined sea scorpion has tiny barbules on the end of it's upper jaw.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Papal Visit

To commemorate the Pope's recent state visit I decided to pay homage to the fishy equivalent. My pilgrimage took me to the village of Handsacre in Staffordshire and the murky waters of the Trent and Mersey Canal. This member of the perch family is indeed a rarity nowadays and I had failed to locate one on two previous trips to the Grand Union Canal.

I decided to fish just downstream of a bridge using the bridge itself as shelter from the driving rain. After three hours on a mini maggot feeder catching perch, roach and gudgeon I decided to change over to the float. 
First cast the insert waggler slowly dragged under and I lifted into my second ever pope. My prayers had been answered. In light of the driving rain I decided on an early finish.

Isaak Walton knew this little fish as the pope but it is more usually known nowadays as the ruffe. It is also known affectionately by anglers as the daddy ruffe, tommy ruffe or tommy pope. How can such a small, rather drab and insignificant fish have so many names? 

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Bitterling and Stillwater Barbel

I failed to locate bitterling on two trips to the Burwell Lode earlier in the summer. In desperation I decided to follow up a tip off that the famous carp bagging water Decoy Lakes near Peterborough contained large numbers of these fish in Willows Lake.

My approach was to fish Crucian style with a pole float in the margins. I planned to fish for the bitterling initially and then set my stall for my first stillwater barbel. My hooklength was 1lb 14oz to a size 24 hook (the smallest I have ever used) baited with a pinkie. Within a few casts I had my target fish.

Bitterling are an interesting fish in that the females develop a tube from the vent known as an ovipositor and through this lay their eggs inside swan mussels. There are small colonies in Cambridgeshire, Shropshire, Cheshire and Lancashire which it is believed resulted from escapes or illegal introductions from aquaria.

Scaling up the hooklength strength to a size 16 hook to 5lb line and fishing at dead depth saw me catch nine small barbel upto maybe two pounds and loads of small carp and F1s despite the cold northerly wind and driving rain.

The barbel I caught appeared to be in perfect condition, however to my mind barbel are a river fish and I suspect that mortality might be high in summer in carp puddles as barbel require highly oxygenated water. I hope I am wrong!

Monday, 20 September 2010

My Way

My Way skippered by Gethyn Owen is one of the top charter boats in Wales. Unfortunately the planned trip to the Holyhead Deeps in search of tope,spurdog and bulhuss was cancelled due to the strong winds. Instead we would be fishing various inshore marks moving between them as the weather and tide eased.

Taking Gethyn's advice I rigged up with two up, one down rigs with size 2 hooks and baited up each hook with different baits, mackerel strip, squid strip and ragworm. Within minutes of lowering the bait I had a bite which resulted in a red gurnard. Apart from a small plaice and huss we were all plagued by lesser spotted dogfish. A move to Church Bay resulted in yet more dogfish.

Mid afternoon we moved again to fish for wrasse on the drift near South Stack. A three hook flowing trace baited with ragworm section is fished on the bottom, every few seconds the lead is lifted a few inches and replaced on the bottom to avoid snagging as the boat drifted. Geth advised fishing mackerel strip on at least one hook as this would maximise the chance of a cuckoo wrasse. Unfortunately on this occasion only ballan wrasse and pollack responded.

The day ended as it began anchored in Holyhead Bay, As well as the inevitable dogfish we all caught whiting. Despite the fact that the water had coloured up with the wind providing far from ideal conditions an enjoyable day was had by all. I certainly intend to return to Anglesey next summer to target the wide variety of species available from both boat and shore.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Species Heaven!

Amlwch in Anglesey was developed as a port and shipbuilding yard to serve the mines of Parys Mountain at the height of the copper boom. This picturesque harbour is set within a deep ravine. 

For the angler this venue offers deep water at all states of the tide, useful as I would be fishing the flood right up from low water. The breakwater would also provide shelter from the driving wind and rain.

Terry from Telboy Tackle had advised me that a recent match was won with seven species.

I set up my stall for the mini species hoping for the smaller wrasse species that had so far eluded me. A barbel rod would maximise bite registration and matched to ten pound line would enable me to lift fish up to my lofty perch above the water. A cut down set of size 12 sabikkis would be baited with one inch long sections of worm.

The bait would be lowered alongside the wall where the fish would be lying in the scoured out base of the wall and amongst the weed growing out of the stone work.

Even though I had arrived at low tide I had bites right from the off, catching several small ballan and corkwing wrasse in various shades of green and brown, some tinged with red. Wrasse bites start off as a series of rattles before the tip pulls down as the wrasse dives for it's bolt hole. It is surprising how even a fish of less than a pound can hoop a barbel rod over!

The next bite was different, just rattles which resulted in a leopard-spotted goby. This species has only recently been re-discovered in British waters by scuba divers. This goby is vividly marked, the almost translucent body being covered in large orange and red blotches with fins tinged with blue.

This was to be the first in a series of gobies which included more leopard spotted and several rock gobies. In contrast to the leopard-spotted goby the rock goby is rather a drab fish with mottled colouring ranging from fawn to purply brown in the breeding male. The first dorsal is edged in orange.

I had bites almost every drop down rarely waiting more than a minute before the rattles started. As well as the wrasse I caught tompot blennies, pollack, pouting and poor cod over the next few hours.

I did catch one example each of the rock cook and goldsinney wrasse. The rock cook has a rotund appearance and can be identified by a distinctive pair of dark bars on the caudal fin. The head is marked with vivid blue lines  similar to a corkwing and the scales above the lateral line are edged in blue.

The goldsinney is a more delicate looking wrasse which is identified by a dark spot on the upper caudal wrist and another on its dorsal fin. I am not sure whether the golden yellow colouring on the side is present in all cases.

I would commend fishing for mini-species to any coarse angler on holiday by the sea, it really is good fun and the colours on some of these fish wouldn't be out of place on a tropical coral reef.

I packed up at 6.30pm with so that I could find my digs in daylight. Would tomorrows boat trip provide me with my first cuckoo wrasse?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Swanning around on the Pier

At the Southern end of Swanage Bay in Dorset, lie two Piers, including the old original Pier now just a sparse collection of vertical piles.

The original Swanage Pier was constructed in 1860 and built primarily for shipping the local Purbeck stone to London. Horses were used to pull carts along the narrow gauge tramway which ran along the Pier and seafront linking Swanage to the local quarries.

In 1874 local entrepreneur, George Burt started a steamer service between Swanage, Poole and Bournemouth. With the Pier now being used for day-trippers as well as stone cargo, it soon became clear that the Pier was unable to cope with the ever increasing traffic and that a new and longer Pier was needed. This was opened to traffic in 1897. 

The new pier suffered decades of neglect in the second half of the 20th century and was nearly completely destroyed by the wood eating gribble worm. With the help of lottery grant funding and an innovative sponsor a plank scheme over one million pounds was raised for the restoration. This restoration has been completed to the original victorian specification and if you ever visit this magnificent  pier take time out to read the plaques on the planks. 

Tidal forces digs out the sand adjacent to the pier supports creating a deep gutter or trench, seaweed's become attached to the exposed bases of the supports and mussels, crabs, shoals of sandeels, small pout, shrimps and sand worms like rag and lug mass together and create a full larder from which passing and resident fish sustain themselves. 

Fish like structure so why do most anglers use the pier as a platform to cast out into the open sea?

I arrived early Saturday morning and was greeted by a rather lively sea, not ideal for species hunting. I also discovered that the pier closed at 5pm which limited me somewhat!

I set up a barbel rod with a two hook flapper with size 12 sabikkis (I has read that they were deadly for species hunting) baited with one inch ragworm sections. I fished the inside the pier from the lower deck. Over the next three hours or so rarely waited more than ten seconds for a bite and gained quite an audience, as I caught loads of small ballan and corkwing wrasse, several tompot blennies, immature pouting and a solitary sandsmelt. A couple of hours fishing mackerel strip on float tackle produced a number of pollack around the pound mark.

I returned sunday morning, the sea if anything was rougher and it rained through much of the day. However it was not until the tide started flooding that the bites started. I fished two rods, one cast to the right of the pier onto broken ground and the other on the outside edge of the pier with the mini species rig using slithers of mackerel for bait. 

The result was similar to the previous day but with decreased numbers of wrasse and increased numbers of pound pollack and immature pouting. I also had a second sandsmelt and a solitary tompot blenny. 

With a couple of hours to go I noticed that the sea had appeared to have cleared and went all out for a garfish on the float set 6-8 feet deep. I failed to catch a garfish but enjoyed wonderful spot from mackerel which on the light tackle fought harder than trout of twice their size. The colours of a mackerel fresh from the sea are amazing with iridescent greens and blues set against a silver backdrop.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

God, I hate litter!

August had been a struggle, three trips had seen me land loads of fish however I failed to catch my target fish barbel, bitterling and zander.

In an attempt to get the species hunt back on track I decided on a weekend away, fishing Holyhead breakwater for a couple of days. Holyhead breakwater is renowned as a venue where virtually anything can turn up.

Picturesque it isn't, I have never seen so much litter in my life. Litter really is a pet hate of mine, whether its smokers dropping cigarrette butts or drivers chucking rubbish out of the car window. However when it is obviously, so called anglers that have left the rubbish it really makes my blood boil. How difficult is it to take a bag with you and clear up your own and any other litter in your peg and take it home to dispose of. These morons should be banned from fishing, period! The welsh authorities are no better as there clearly hadn't been any effort to clear the litter for some considerable time!

Back to the fishing. On the Saturday I set up two rods, a bass rod with a two hook flapper rig fishing lugworm or mackerel strip and a barbel rod fishing small strips of mackerel and pieces of ragworm on size 12 hooks for mini species.

On the heavier tackle I was hoping for a dab or gurnard. What I caught was a lesser spotted dogfish, several whiting and a tiny poor cod. The mini species rig attracted loads of ballan and corkwing wrasse, pollack and a solitary shore rockling. I packed up around six to check into my digs and find something to eat.

On Sunday I followed a tip given to me by the proprietor of Winnies Worms in Holyhead and drove round to a mark near south stack. What a contrast to the breakwater, a walk from the carpark along the cliffside through heather and some miniature form of gorse in full bloom.

Unfortunately I was too laden to scramble down the cliffside to the mark and I confess I bottled it! One day I will return with minimal gear and a safety rope.

So I returned to the Breakwater and fished right up the end by the lighthouse. I decided to concentrate on the mini species without the distraction of a second rod. After ten hours catching a small ballan or corkwing wrasse every five minutes I had had enough. I was starving and my milk had turned leaving me without a decent cuppa!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Beware the Blenny!

As this was a family holiday apart from my sharking trip, all my fishing was in short sessions lasting from 1 to 4 hours.

A visit to the tackleshop suggested that I could expect to find bass from the rocks in front of the Tom Sawyer pub and that sandeels were the best bait.

Wednesday evening saw me wandering along the river on a flooding tide searching for sandeels. Half an hour spent jigging mini sabikkis saw me land a dozen sandeels.

Still using a carp rod matched to 10lb line I float fished a sandeel just off bottom in the gulleys between the emergent rocks that form this part of the coastline. Twice the float went under, the first I missed and the second was a small pollack of around a pound. After dark I legered mackerel sections only twenty yards out. Again I had two bites, missing the first and landing a lesser spotted dogfish from the second bite.

The following evening I joined the holiday makers on a three hour conger trip. One conger was landed between ten anglers, not suprising as the bait supplied was hardly fresh and it was a spring rather than neap tide.

On the Friday I travelled to Mevagissey for an early morning session and fished the harbour wall.

The first hour was spent fishing a sliver of mackerel in the hope of a garfish. A single pollack resulted. A switch to a running leger and an inch of ragworm saw a procession of small ballan and corkwing wrasse responding before I hooked something that didn't fight.

Checking my Collins Fish of Britain and Europe confirmed my that I had caught my first tompot blenny. It bit me!

A change over to the float, a 5SSG loafer float fished at 4 foot saw me land another small pollack, miss several bites and hook and lose something that screamed off at a rate of knots before coming adrift! I suspect that it was a mullet or bass.

Earlier in the holiday my great-nephew Jacob had caught two blennies on a crabline. Jacob was so proud of his catch that they were brought over in his crabbing bucket to the pub for formal identification. I failed miserably as I needed my book to confirm that these blennies were Common Blennies also known as Shannies.

Jacob briefed me on his secret spot and I spent about fifteen minutes on my final evening stalking some fish that were swimming along some submerged concrete steps. Several missed bites later I hooked my first shanny. They really are aggressive fish homing in on the ragworm section as the bait was slowly lowered onto the step. In one day I had been bitten by two species of blenny, apparently blennies feed on barnacle penises, luckily I was bitten on the finger!

Postscript: I discovered that the record for a tompot blenny is little over 5oz caught from Mevagissey in 1995. I had missed out on claiming a british record today!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Shark Angling Club of Great Britain

The Shark Angling Club of Great Britain (SACGB) was formed in Looe, Cornwall in 1953 by the late Brigadier J. L. Caunter. Looe quickly became established as the top venue for angling for Sharks on rod and line in the UK.

The main purpose of the SACGB is to promote the sport of Shark Angling in Great Britain with a mind to conservation, and provide members with an organisation which is regarded as the central authority in Great Britain for this sport.

In the early days a great many Sharks were caught and unfortunately killed. Holiday makers flocked to the quayside in Looe each evening, to see the Sharks being weighed. Sharks had to weigh 75lbs (34.1kg) or more to qualify for membership to the SACGB. However, since 1994 it has been the Clubs Policy that Sharks should be measured instead of weighed and released unharmed back to the sea.

The qualifying measurement for a Blue Shark is 7ft (213cm) or more from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. For Porbeagle, Mako and Thresher Shark it is 4ft 6ins (137cm) from the tip of the nose to the fork of the tail.

Since 1998 the SACGB has operated a tag and release programme whereby the Sharks are tagged before being returned to the sea. The programme has provided the Club with valuable information as to the migration route the Sharks take in the Atlantic Ocean, how far they travel and their growth rate and the information has and is being used in the conservation of Sharks. When a tagged Shark is recaptured, usually by commercial fishermen, the tag is returned to the Club and the returnee receives a 15 dollar reward. This has proved very successful and helps with the conservation of Sharks worldwide.

When I last visited Looe 12 years ago I was lucky enough to catch a blue shark of 60lb. However when I booked a days shark fishing on Typhoon I realised that the odds were against me as only around 200 sharks are landed annually by the Looe fleet compared to 6,000 back in the 1950s and 60s.

Shark fishing is a waiting game, mesh bags containing 'rubby dubby' (mashed up fish) are hung over the side at water level and with each wave bits of fish and oils are washed out to create a scent trail for the sharks to follow.

The boat starts a drift 10-15 miles out and mackerel flappers are suspended under floats at different depths and ranges from the boat. Four rods were fishing and we all drew lots for who had which rod. I drew the rod at the bow, unfortunately the two runs occurred on the same rod which was nearest the stern.

The lucky angler successfully landed both sharks, blues of 40lb (56 inches) and 80lb (84 inches) respectively.

Whilst waiting for the sharks to arrive we feathered for mackerel and I soon realised that mini sabikis were the most effective mackerel feathers I possessed. I also fished baited hokkai lures on the bottom and caught a number of whiting for tea. The sea bed we drifted over was sandy and held little else.
Although disappointed not to land a shark myself I was privileged to see two blue sharks being boated.