In Deep-Water Yet Again!
In Deep-Water again!
When I looked at my diary, I was shocked to see that I haven’t been out on my sea boat in almost nine months! This was due to an un-happy combination of poor weather and lack of opportunity on the most part, but I have also been spending a fair bit of time chasing fresh-water species, to the detriment of possible salt-water action.
This weekend’s forecast gave fair weather and light winds. A quick check with the tide tables showed suitable tides, and with that, there were no excuses. My Red Bay Fast Fisher would need to be brought out of hibernation, tidied up and pencilled in for its first run out of 2014. Lying under the trees in the lane-way all winter, it was looking a little “green” and filled with dead leaves. I know, I know, buy a tarpaulin! It’s on my “to-do” list.
Glenn looks happy with his Lesser Spotted Doggie!
My angling buddy, Glenn Drennan offered to help clean her down and check all was running well. This was much appreciated, as she was definitely suffering from winter neglect and required a little TLC! We scrubbed off the algae, cleared out the dead leaves, and I checked over the engine, fuel, electronics and replaced the fuel-water filter. The small, solar panel I had fitted to keep the battery topped up worked brilliantly, as the Yamaha fired into life first turn of the key! This is a “must-have” for small-boat owners. Not bad after sitting in the open, un-touched for most of the year! With everything now ship-shape, I looked forward to our first trip out the following day.
A perfect little Codling
Andrew Wolsey joined the team and we headed for the North Coast. With several hours to spare before dropping anchor, we searched for Mackerel, and I am glad to say, found plenty. We spent the rest of the spare time in search of a specimen Dab or two, and although failed to locate them, the session turned into a bit of a species hunt. With ever-present Dogfish showing, small Codling and Coalfish to name but a few, there was no shortage of mini-species.
A specimen Black-Mouthed Dog, or cat-shark at over a kilo in weight
It was now time to venture further afield, to the deeper waters and interesting off-shore contours that offer realistic opportunities to connect with interesting and much larger species. This is where I gave the lads a choice of two options, fish a mark that we have caught well on, on many occasions in the past, or risk a session on a gulley I found several years ago, while scanning the admiralty chart. Although I have yet to try it, the gulley looks like a winner, and I am pleased to say, my crew opted for the new mark. It is easy going for the safe bet, but new marks can be so rewarding at times, and you can be guaranteed that on most occasions, will never have seen a rod and line before.
Black-Mouth Dog, a new species to add to Glenn's list
With the anchor down, the Fast Fisher sat perfectly above and up-tide of the gulley. The tide ran from North to South as it filled, and the gentle northerly kept us perfectly in line with the scent trail emanating from the bag of chopped Mackerel and bran lashed to the anchor chain. A flat sea and perfect conditions, surely we would be in for a busy few hours! However, even though we were in neap tides, the severity of the tidal flow that runs between Northern Ireland and Scotland made angling impossible for the time being. It would be a full two hours before the flow slowed enough to allow a two-pound lead to touch the sea-bed. Two hours of soaking up the sun was certainly no hard-ship while the powerful tidal flow had the anchor rope “singing” under pressure.
Finally, the pace of the flow began to subside, and within minutes of the fresh Mackerel fillets touching the sea-bed, we were all into fish. As per usual, Dogfish were present in large numbers, but there was a healthy population of Black-Mouthed Dogfish present, and Glenn soon had a new species under his belt, his first ever BMD. These were a good size too for this species, most of which were only grams under the magical specimen size. Unfortunately, Spur dog failed to materialise, but I have no doubt they will turn up sometime on this productive new mark.
Calamari and Mackerel head cocktail on an Owner size 10/0 Circle Hook
With the “dogs” now becoming a little monotonous, I upped the “ante” with a larger bait, namely whole Calamari and Mackerel head and guts. Hopefully this might remain in one piece long enough to tempt a large Huss, Ling or Conger, something different for the camera. A nod of the rod and I lifted into solid resistance, and not for the first time, realised I had latched into something large and flat by accident! Every time I hook into a Common Skate these days, it is on in-appropriate gear it seems! This is not a complaint by any means, but it always ends up having to play the fish longer than necessary.
Wave-Blaster and Penn Fathom, and my groin, taking the strain!
I needn’t have worried too much, the Penn Wave-blaster and Fathom were more than capable, and the Skate thankfully turned out to be a youngster at 80lbs. She was tagged in the tail and soon sent back to the sea-bed, un-harmed by the whole experience. After landing and tagging quite a few of these beautiful creatures to date, I now prefer the smaller ones. Juvenile Skate are great fun, and a lot less tiring than the “lumpy” fellas!
At last, she comes to the surface
I know Andy would have loved to play this fish as he is still a “Skate virgin”, but I also know him well enough now that he would have refused to take it, preferring to tempt one on his own gear. By this stage of the tide, the Dogfish should have been working into a frenzy, but they were very “cagey” indeed. This almost always means there is a large predator still in the area. I said to Andy to persevere with the Skate gear, and to be honest, he needed little encouragement.
As I reeled in a small Conger, Glenn cried out and pointed to the water. Un-believably a huge shape “loomed” below the boat, obviously a large Common Skate; we could see it quite clearly. I have heard stories of Skate coming up to the surface but this was the first time I had experienced it myself. Had it followed the small Conger up through the depths? Who knows, but it was fabulous to witness it. The tide was now at slack water, and I really needed to lift the anchor and head for harbour before it began to push hard. As is often the case, Andy’s rod now gave a powerful nod and lunge as line peeled off the reel. Another Skate on, and Andy’s first taste of playing a ton-up flattie!
Andy "inches" his first Skate towards the stern, against the ebbing tide
Somewhat un-fairly, Glenn and I had a great laugh at Andy’s grunts and groans as he struggled to cope with the power these fish have in the tide, we’ve both been there before with Glenn’s PB at 183lbs and mine at 196lbs, we have experienced the satisfying pain! The best and most useful thing to do at this late stage of the day is to begin tidying the boat and packing away any gear not needed. Spare deck space is always an advantage on a small angling boat, especially when a “barn door” is on its way to the surface!
At 152lbs, a nice introduction into Skate angling
Approximately forty five minutes later, Andy’s fish broke the surface, and against the power of the tidal flow, he slowly inched it closer to the stern, and finally alongside. A well-aimed gaff in the extremities of each wing allowed Glenn and I to carefully slide her over the gunnels where Andy bathed in the glory, and wonder I suppose, of how this monster ended up on the deck of my boat. There is no doubt, landing a Common is always an extremely memorable experience, especially when it is your first! As usual, the hook was simply hanging in the mouth, held in place through sheer pressure, and easily un-hooked once on the deck. Quick measurements put the fish in the 150lb bracket, and with a tag attached, and trophy shots taken, she was quickly, if somewhat un-ceremoniously slid back to safety. At this size, it is difficult to control the re-entry!
As we made for harbour, Andy was on cloud nine, finally achieving his ambition of landing a Common Skate. It was a good day, and one where taking a calculated risk on a new potential hot-spot paid off. The stamp of Black-Mouths was very good and potentially a new specimen mark, but even better, on the way back, I found an even sweeter looking contour and can’t wait for the tides to come full circle and give this one a try, weather permitting of course!