A New Challenge, Part 2, Portaferry
A New Challenge, Part 2, Portaferry
Following on from my previous blog, I seem to have a mini-species bug! This time, I will be trying my luck on some local venues, chasing this elusive thirty centimetre Shore Rockling!
Portaferry, a small coastal village situated at the south end of Strangford Lough, County Down, is a local venue I know extremely well. It is one of those strange venues you fish from time to time, an area of outstanding natural beauty, and also an area of special scientific interest. But from an angling point of view, it is a tough nut to crack. Much of the ten thousand year old sea bed was famously destroyed by clam dredgers and over-fishing. This was eventually legally prohibited, but not before the damage was done! However, better late than never I suppose.
The old pier, south of the ferry crossing
Over the past thirty five years, I have fished most of the Lough. From my own personal experiences, it seems to be a veritable "fish soup" containing a diverse range of juvenile species, but an un-balanced small proportion of adult fish. I don't understand why this is, unless the destruction of the sea bed has caused the upset. But it can give you very little, then once in a blue moon.....give you something fantastic!
The "narrows" as the name suggests, is where the Lough "bottle-necks", forming a fierce tidal race. This area is rocky and rough ground, with bladder wrack and kelp beds abundant. I have caught plenty of Shore-Rockling here in the past, long before they were introduced on the Irish Specimen List. Definitely worth a look, particularly as it's on my doorstep.
As I will be shore angling, I suppose the obvious place to try is the old pier down below the ferry crossing. It is well lit up at night, comfortable and safe. I have had Conger to double figures here, along with codling to four pounds, Coalfish and Pollack, and some huge Lobsters as by-catch. The fishing isn't phenomenal by any stretch, but I do have some fabulous memories fishing with friends in days gone by.
Poor Cod, this species tends to inhabit most inshore marks around Ireland
On arrival, the wind would cut you in two, but dozens of gulls were feeding around the pier. Literally hundreds of small fish were pushing bait fish to the surface, but difficult to tell what they were. After my recent Portbradden trip, I had put away the Abu Atlantic beach rods and switched to a pair of LRF rods. The Berkley Urban Camou and the Shakespeare Agility drop shot rod. These are perfect little quiver-tip style rods that will now give me the sensitivity required for Irish mini-species.
Juvenile Coalfish, great fun on the LRF rod, but where are the adult Coalies?
Soon followed by young Pollock, again, fabulous to see in healthy numbers here
A small strip of mackerel, flicked over the shoal took an instant hit, a young Coalfish around 30 cms. I now know what the shoal is, and pestered them for a dozen casts, resulting in a mix of small Coalfish and Pollack. I must say this was great fun on the LRF rod, but had to drag myself away. I was here for the Rockling challenge and had to stay focused. It was extremely heartening to see so many fish in front of me, Mother Nature fighting back.
Target species, but yet again, well below the magic 30cm mark
With a pair of rods, I could leap-frog around the perimeter covering every few feet, over fifteen minute intervals. Any further out beyond say a metre, and it was instant Coalfish. Dropping tight to the pier eliminated the now "nuisance" fish by and large, allowing other species to get a look in. I soon found the target species, but as per usual, around 24-26 cms on the measuring board. This 30 cm specimen target seems elusive indeed.
I am beginning to understand the LRF phenomena. If you are into rod bending beasts, as I am, line ripping off the reel, touch and go whether you will even see what has picked up the bait, then hunting mini-species seems ludicrous. But also, I have a passion for all fish, and chasing these tiny animals has opened a new door of interest, as this night on Portaferry Pier demonstrated.
The best Rockling of the evening, at 27 cms
A poor Cod, another Lobster (they fight well on LRF gear!) some Rockling in between the Coalfish and Pollack, then, something a whole lot stranger! I photographed and weighed it, 55g on the calibrated scales, and after a fair bit of pondering, returned it to the water, having never seen or heard of this mini-creature in all my time angling. Saying that, I haven't fished in Salt Water too often with size 6 and size 8 hooks! A fish with a warty nose and a beard, extremely curious.
A couple more Rockling, but still nothing over 26cms. The challenge deepens, time to roll the sleeves up. Next trip will be another change of venue. Research tells me that Rockling grow to 33-35cms, there must be one of that size somewhere on the Northern Irish coastline.
Back home, I remembered about my curious catch, the tiny, bearded fellow, with the warty nose and huge eyes, that crashed the scales at 55 grams. Apparently, my little friend is called a Pogge, suits him actually. From what I gleaned on the internet, Agonus cataphractus, also known as Hook-nose, or Armoured Bullhead. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong! Distribution all around Ireland and the UK, British shore-caught record coming in at 45 grams! Ah well, at least I held a potential British Record in my hands, if not on paper! It pays to educate yourself!