A Date With A Skate
A Date With a Skate
Helping some friends achieve an angling ambition.
Last year I had the good fortune to meet a lovely couple, Michael and Samantha Savage, and since that meeting, we have become good friends. Sam introduced herself at that time, and being passionate shore anglers, recalled stories and showed photos of their angling adventures around Northern Ireland. Although they have landed quite a few species, fishing from the shore obviously has its limitations. They had read some of my Skate blogs and expressed the wish that it would be awesome even just seeing one in the flesh, never mind catching one.
Of course, I took this as a challenge and made a promise that not only would they see one, I would orchestrate a trip where they could hook and land their own deep-water leviathan! When the tides and weather next suited, I dropped Sam a message and they jumped at the chance of a boat trip.
Not much about, but a personal best Huss for Sam and Michael.
We targeted a mark off the Antrim Coast, and to cut to the chase, it was a ball-breaker! Two other boats on the same mark complained of no fish, although we did manage a double-figure Bull Huss among the handful of Dog-fish, a personal best for Sam and Michael. Back on shore, we were told that a trawler had worked that area all week, such are the misfortunes of angling versus the commercial sector! One sweep of a commercial net and the angling is destroyed for weeks, months, possibly permanently. Maybe one day anglers will have marine protected areas to fish, on a catch and release basis, but I fear too little too late will be the conclusion to that dream!
Stunning Red Gurnard, such a beautiful looking species
Anyhow...... a new date and venue was arranged, weather permitting of course, and we were back out on the water, putting the trawled venue and bad memory of it firmly behind us. With time to spare, we drifted some sand-banks and "drop-offs" in search of smaller species and tempted Gurnards, Codling, Ling and Haddock. Another few boxes ticked in the "personal best" column for my guests!
Some decent Codling, caught and released
When the tide was suitable, I headed for deep-water and dropped the anchor. Dogs and Huss made an appearance, and a bonus Black-Mouthed Dogfish that neither Sam nor Michael had seen before, but no Commons. A few years ago I found myself actively avoiding these beasts from the deep, but now I can't seem to find one! Still, they had a great day on the water, and I was totally committed to see the challenge through, and importantly, so were they.
Samantha with a pb Bull Huss
And a totally new species for Michael, Black-Mouthed Dogfish
Several weeks passed until a window of opportunity presented itself again, and we found ourselves back out at sea. With continued commercial over-fishing, our once abundant Mackerel are now a rare commodity, even during these late summer months and we had to target Coalfish, which also proved elusive. I managed to put us over some Cuckoo Wrasse, Pollack and Ling, and kept a couple for the pot, knowing that head and guts can work well at times as bait for the bigger beasties.
Sam really enjoyed the Wrasse and Ling fishing
The Ling aren't large, but great fun on balanced tackle
With the anchor in place and the boat settling in to the pull of the tide, we tackled up, dropped baits to the bottom and waited. The tell-tale nod on the rod-tip let us know the ever-present Dog-fish were about, and although it is always great to see life abundant on the sea-bed, Dog-fish it's fair to say, can be an absolute nuisance when targeting other species!
Lovely to sneak a bonus specimen out every now and then!
They will tackle any bait, often impaling themselves on over-sized hooks, and reeling a two-pound "doggie" with two-three pounds of lead attached, three hundred feet to the surface is not my idea of fun! The high-light to come out of the "dog-fest" was a specimen Black-mouthed Dogfish for yours truly, always a pleasure to see this reasonably rare species.
Too many "dogs" about, time to up the stakes a little
After about the thirtieth "sand rat", our frozen Mackerel baits were too soft and being pulled to shreds, I lifted a Ling head and trailing guts from the fish box and hooked it up. If they get through that, then fair play to them. It would be easier to munch through a leather boot.
Sam experiencing the "tug of war" with a feisty male Skate
Dog-fish persisted, although the rod with the Ling head attached remained motionless, and with the tide dying away to nothing, and the day coming to an end, it seemed our date with a Skate will have to be postponed for yet another session. But hang on, a nod on the Penn International, then a firm dip, could this be it? With Sam "harnessed up" she had a short spell at trying to prise the fish off the sea-bed, just to feel the power of a large fish but decided Michael should do the hard work, she preferred the Ling and Cuckoo Wrasse!
Michael absolutely loving it! Skip (my sea dog) in the thick of it as always.
Michael enjoyed every minute of the battle, all thirty of them, grinning from ear to ear as the prize finally broke the surface. Although I have landed and tagged many of these awesome creatures, it is always amazing to see another one to the boat, particularly when someone else reels it in! At over 1.9 metres from nose to tail, this was a decent male that averaged 120lbs, not only their first Skate, but also an Irish Specimen to boot.
On the surface at last
Trophy shot before quick return to the depths
As we steamed back to harbour, Sam and Michael were over the moon with their Skate adventure, chatting away about how the day went and actually seeing a spectacular Irish giant. Job done I thought, then I heard Sam's voice in the background, "I would love a specimen Cuckoo Wrasse"!............ Here we go again, I can never resist a challenge.