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?