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.