Saturday, 9 July 2011
On the way to the skate grounds we stopped off to feather up some mackerel by a small island, where some seabirds had obviously been working earlier. Despite several moves the only mackerel we caught were on the small side. Ronnie had bought some frozen mackerel along as insurance as mackerel had been thin on the ground.
The skate rods were prepared and a frozen mackerel minus the tail was hooked through the head and lowered down slowly to the bottom. Although appearing crude the end rig had been developed over a number of years, a three foot trace of 250lb mono was followed by an eight foot rubbing leader. A tube boom made from electrical piping held the 2lb lead and allowed line to run freely on a take.
After enjoying a white tea without milk (in England we call it black tea!) the ritual of periodically checking baits continued.
Eventually as the tide started to strengthen I had a more positive bite and Ronnie stated that I had hooked a spurdog. It proved to be a male of around 4lb and was quickly followed by another.
Three thirty and the rachet clicked on one of the skate rods, I would like to say screamed but I would be lying. Four hundred and fifty feet below me a skate was clamped to the bottom, no doubt throwing mud over its wings to resist the pressure being applied from above.
Initially I was unable to make any line and we had to resort to hand lining a foot of line at a time to get the skates nose up. Eventually I was able to start pumping the fish up to the surface. Sometimes I would lift the rod and not even put an inch of line back onto the reel, and on one occasion the skate dived back down to the bottom.
It was clear that this was not going to be a spectacular fight, but a brutal battle which quickly took it's toll on my back despite the butt pad and shoulder harness. After a glorious day the heavens opened and I was going to get soaked.
Years ago skate would be killed and taken back to port for weighing on a gantry, followed by the inevitable big white hunter photos. In these enlightened times fish are measured and the weight calculated on this basis. Ronnie's initial estimate of 180lb proved to be well short, as the vital statistics 86 inches from nose to tail and 67 inches from wing tip to wing tip gave me weight of 202lb.
Mr Skate had made another anglers dream come true............. thank you Ronnie!