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.