A New Challenge part 3 Bangor Pier
The continued hunt for a specimen Shore Rockling!
As with all Irish fish species, once I put my mind to the task ahead, I usually pursue it to the end, bitter or sweet! Shore Rockling are considered a mini-species, with a specimen, i.e. a "fish of a lifetime" currently set at thirty centimetres. Although this seems tiny by specimen standards, a thirty centimetre Shore Rockling is no easy task it seems!
Bangor Pier, County Down. Can this be where success lies?
Night time view, always bare in mind, personal safety
Having tried venues at opposite ends of Northern Ireland, it was time to concentrate on a mark a little closer to home, namely, Bangor Harbour in County Down. With this being a local water for me, I could also afford to nip over every now and then, and drop a small amount of chopped fish in areas that looked "fishy". Obviously with the hope that it will create some amount of interest, and possibly place the odds of a larger fish in my favour.
Frozen Mackerel, fresh fish-bait can be difficult to obtain through these winter months
After a few evenings of pre-baiting, my old mucker Mike Mcgympsey joined me down at the pier for a couple of hours to see if we could "winkle" out a thirty centimetre Rockling for the measure mat. Over the last hour of daylight, we dabbled with a bit of float fishing, picking up Ballan Wrasse, Pollock and Codling. Nothing of any notable size, but it is always exciting to see a float bury below the surface.
A decent Codling falls to float tactics
Plenty of Poor Cod, Pollock and Pouting about
Mike sorting out some sizeable Ballan Wrasse after sun set
I use a Berkley Urban Camo "drop-shot" rod for my mini-species adventures, it is light and sensitive and being quite short, also handy for dropping a bait down cracks and crevices between the rocks and kelp, typical Rockling habitat. Unfortunately, this is also typical Lobster habitat, and they can become an absolute nuisance at times! If you manage to get one to the surface, return it at least a hundred yards away, or it will be straight back to annoy you!
Other than Lobsters, the usual mixed bag of mini species made an appearance, including Poor Cod, Pouting, Long-Spined Scorpion Fish and of course...undersized Shore Rockling. I even mouth-hooked my first ever rod-caught prawn, I swear I saw the bite!
A couple of Rockling were worth a measure, fat as butter, obviously feeding on the free samples I had been throwing in over the past couple of nights, but as always, nothing over 26cms. I was beginning to think that's as big as they get in Northern Ireland. As the tide pushed in, forcing us back, Mike decided to call it quits for the night, the excitement too much to bare I think!
I said I would give it ten more minutes or so, and follow suit. Standing up to your waist in water, in the depths of Winter isn't the most pleasurable way to spend an evening, and my target of a specimen Rockling was fast becoming a task rather than angling enjoyment. Michael headed off, but left me a handful of prawns to try. One more drop, or "last cast" that, as dedicated anglers, we are all guilty of on every fishing trip.
Variety of species at this venue, with this Long-Spined Scorpion Fish
Down amongst the crevices and kelp, the image of the small section of prawn faded out of sight and my mind drifted to summer Tench fishing amongst lily pads, or heaving ton-up Skate through the depths on calm summer days. What am I doing here, I could hear myself saying!
My happy thoughts were rudely interrupted with a swift rattle on the Berkley LRF, and I was into another Rockling, slightly more feisty than any previous ones. Worth slipping the net under this one as it looked a little bigger, and they have a tendency to "rattle" themselves off the hook just as they break the surface. I'm not sure I could bare the loss after all the effort I've put in!
On the measure mat, this chunky little fellow went beyond the thirty centimetre limit, and I can't believe I am saying this, I was over the moon. Possibly because I didn't have to freeze my bits off any more!
Finally! 30CM+ Shore Rockling do exist in Ireland!
A call to Mike on the mobile, "where abouts are you?"....."just getting in the car, why?" "I need a witness to weighing and measuring, the prawns did the trick, challenge sorted". I think he thought I was pulling his leg, but in fairness, Mike dandered back up the pier and witnessed the capture for me.
Cold....but delighted, challenge met!
I swore that night that I wouldn't go back, messing about with mini species, tiny quiver-tip rods, freezing cold etc ....but to be perfectly honest, a small part of me enjoyed the challenge. I haven't sold the LRF rod yet, as a matter of fact, I've purchased a Savage Gear SG4 to compliment it! I've been sucked in to Light Rock Fishing it seems, not to the extent of the dedicated lads, but definitely an enjoyable way to spend a few hours away from the telly!
I found the Berkley Urban Camo 7 foot, 5-9 gram LRF rod quite suitable to target inshore mini species. They arent available any more, but there is a plethora of similar on the market from Berkley, Shakespeare, Savage Gear etc. I teamed this with a low profile Abu Bait caster, simply because it felt easier to hold, and didn't catch my bulky winter clothing, kit bag and landing net whilst wading, and searching fish-holding spots. Loaded with fifty pound b/s braid means I never lose any main line in this inhospitable environment, but simply tie on another hook, hook-length or sacrificial sinker should they become "snagged".
The end rig was forty pound b/s fluoro, with twenty pound b/s short hook-lengths, size 8 and size 6 Mustad Ultra-point hooks. This is all open to interpretation of course, but it worked for me on this occasion. I used small rotating swivels to attach the hook-lengths, held in place with rubber float stops. I find this beneficial if a hook becomes snagged. When the float stop slips under pressure, on many occasions, the hook frees itself, but important to keep it simple.
I make my own lead sinkers, as you can go through quite a few during a couple of hours angling in these "snaggy" areas. Tied to a weak link of mono, they are basically sacrificial leads to save the main rig. These are simply made from one half of a drilled bullet mould.
Baits that worked well on this campaign were the usual suspects, Peeler Crab, small pieces of Mackerel, Spratt or Herring, Rag-worm and of course, un-cooked prawn. Drop-shotting with artificial lures would most likely work too, as one of the Rockling regurgitated the remnants of a Butterfish, so Shore Rockling are obviously active hunter-scavengers similar to their larger cousins, the Three-Bearded Rockling.
Tonight's specimen Rockling "spewed up" the remains of a Butterfish
The Savage Gear SG4 isn't quite as "tippy" as the Berkley, but still a versatile piece of kit for this type of angling, and fits the purpose perfectly.