Sea Fishing


 

 

 ' THE FINAL FLOP '

Skate fishing is simple..providing you understand how a big ray swims,how it searches out it's food,how it throws a shadow over it's intended victim and then lines it up with it's mouth before finally flopping on top of it in a giant smothering operation.

Some Gaelic anglers,notably the Irish claim that the ray uses the tips of it's huge wings,which can be up to six feet wide,in a waving motion to bring the food within striking distance of it's mouth.The deep water skate can measure up to two metres long and weigh in excess of 200 lbs.They are so big that American anglers,who have their own species,the raja laevis,commonly called 'the barn door skate for obvious reasons !

True bottom dwellers,they feast on all sea bed-living fish.Wide angle vision guides the skate to it's intended prey,it then drops down onto and ingests the meal.During all this messages are sent back up the line to the exited angler,who must interpret what's going on many fathoms below.

Before the hook is finally set the action begins by the angler setting the ratchet as lightly as possible to act as an audible alarm.The second act is to tie the rod to the gunwhale rails to prevent the rod being dragged overboard by a spooked fish ! two or three audible clicks from the reel's ratchet signifies initial interest from the skate.Gliding in to inspect the bait his long snout pushes against the line as he drops onto the bait.



A big common skate calls for a stout rod in the 50 lb class with roller guides,rings and butt gimble.Matched with this outfit you will need a heavy duty 6/0 multiplier reel loaded with 50 lb bs nylon.Terminal rigs consist of either a wire or heavy nylon trace with a size 1/0 175 lb or 2/0 225lb test crane swivel at one end,and a size 10/0 hook at the other ! Leads which can be up to 2lbs,depending on the depth being fished are hung off a stand-off boom.

Skate love fish,so it seems natural to offer them mackerel.Select the largest fish and using a sharp knife make several cuts in each flank to to allow the body oils and juices to flow freely.The large 10/0 hook is then inserted beneath the chin and pushed through until the barb protrudes between the eyes.The baited rig is then lowered slowly to the bottom,where it is vitally important that the bait remains static.

' LET THE BATTLE BEGIN '

Strapped into a butt pad the angler strikes hard into the fish and immediately begins to pump it to the surface.If the skate gets control and reaches the sea bed it will be virtually impossible to regain control of the fight.Spreading it's great wings across the sand into the tidal flow they will be able to immobilise himself and will be extremely difficult to move !Skate rarely run,but give give an exhausting and exhilerating fight which can last up to an hour or more.

Unfortunately there are few consistently productive skate marks left around the British Isles but quality fishing can be found off the West coast of Scotland,pparticularly around the Isle of Mull,Inner Hebrides.Mull is easily reached from Oban,Argyll's main port by boarding a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry bound for Craignure on Mull.The crossing takes about 45 minutes.


 

 TIME TO FLY

What fish pound for pound has no equal in turn of speed and strength ? Simple answer,the humble mackerel.Then how about trying to catch them on light fly tackle.Are you angler enough for it ?


Vast shoals of mackerel move inshore annually from deep water marks during July,August and September in search of whitebait and the tiny fry of other fish species to feed on.Feathering and spinning are the recognised methods of catching mackerel,normally on heavy tackle for use as bait.If you hit a shoal right it takes but minutes to fill a fish box for a whole day's boat fishing.Always hungry mackerel willing feeders but there are other creatures that roam the seas that feed on them.Many fall prey to birds that prey on the whitebait,to seals and larger predatory fish such as bass,which just love fresh mackerel.

The best time to fish for mackerel is in the late evening over a high tide when conditions are calmest.As darkness approaches,takes are less frequent and feeding finally comes to an abrupt halt.Mackerel usually roam up and down the shoreline,often venturing out to sea following the whitebait and pools of plankton,but there are tell tale signs to look for which show if mackerel are within casting range.Sea gulls working the surface in a feeding frenzy are a sure fire indication that kami-khazee mackerel are about.Increased seal activity can give the game, away tooIf the water boils as the mackerel erupt into a shoal of whitebait you are on to a winner !

BASIC KIT FOR FLY FISHING.

The great attraction about fly fishing for mackerel is that you only need minimal tackle and no bait !Basic kit includes a 9ft trout fly rod and reel loaded with a number 6/7 floating line and plenty of backing.Don't forget the backing ! many do .Tie in an 8ft leader of 4lb mono to the fly line and you are almost ready to go.To this is tied a number 6 lure hook dressed to look like a small fish fry.

Favoured lures are those with long flowing wings made from tinsel or hair with sparkling silver bodies in blue and silver or black and silver combinations.The salmon angler's collie dog is a typical example.Other patterns such as teal blue and silver,silver and blue tied on longshank hooks work just as well,as do many of the lures tied to attract rainbow trout.Jersey herd,polystickle,jack frost and baby dolls rarely fail.You don't have to be the World's greatest caster to hit the fish as most of the action will be within 20 / 30 feet of the shoreline.

Cast into thee shoal of feeding mackerel and strip the line back quickly right to the waters edge as mackerel will chase a fly for some distance before engulfing it.Takes are hard,fast and there is no need to strike as most fish hook themselves.Be prepared ! an attacking mackerel will strip 20 yards of line off a reel in he blink of an eye...Apply side strain to turn he fish into open water but be warned - they love to head for flotsam and sea weed to foul you.Drawing a fly across the surface creating a wake can be quite amusing as several nmackerel give chase snapping at the lure ubtil one takes or they turn away.Although showing great interest they will not take the lure off the surface so let it sink a little for an instant take

WHAT TO CARRY - WHERE TO CAST.

Travel light.All you need is a fly box holding a selection of lures and a spool of 4lb nylon for making up new leaders.Everything can be stuffed into a large pocket or bag - the important thing is to keep mobile.

Continue casting until the shoal moves and follow them ! Sport is usually fast and furious lasting from a few minutes up to an hour or more.

If there are no obvious signs of mackerel,begin by casting close into to the shoreline on your left handside.On each consecutive cast,work a little further out until until the last possible cast is directly parallel with the shoreline to your right handside.Having covered a wide arc of water move down several paces and begin again until fish are found .Fishing over rocks and along side weed beds in deeper water can be productive but it is necessary to change from a floating line to a sinking one.Adopt the same method as casting over the shallows but allow the line to sink,counting to five before retrieving the lure.On the next cast count to ten and so on,so that each cast fishes deeper than the previous one .Very often fish will take 'on the drop' as the line sinks.

White lures work well and often take pollack,and coalfish.Fly spoons.a single hook with a revolving blade of silver or brass,flicked out and retrieved fast are equally effective and can be baited with slivers of fish strip or worm.

 

 SQUIDS IN..!

' The harbour lights golden glow shimmer across a mirrored harbour still and glass like.The silence broken occassionaly by a distant rogue wave running to shore.November's chill bites to the bone as darkness throws an ebony blanket across grey skies,melting day into night.Under the cover of dusk's failing light squid come forth from secret lairs to ambush,hunt and feast upon small prey fish.'

Squid are sociable creatures often found in great numbers roaming open waters in search of succulent food items such as fish,ocassional prawns and shrimps and bait fish.Some however are lonesome creatures living a solitary life.During the months of October to March squid prefer the cooler depths of deeper water ranging from 20-50 metres,approaching shallow margins around jetties,piers,sea walls and marinas as dusk melts into darkness.Attracted to those places that are well illuminated at night time,to feast upon congregations of bait fish drawn into the light.Big pollack,coalfish and double figure cod love a meal of juicy squid,swallowed whole in one gulp these greedy fish will hoover up as many as three at a time.Fresh squid sourced from local fish mongers and fishermen often outfish frozen bait.

Squid have long tapered bodies creamy white in colour and about twelve inches long.Large predatory eyes dominate the head which is rounded.Unlike other marine species squid eyes have a lens and are mammal like.Hunting and prey selection is by sight alone.Squid have ten arms covered in suckers two are longer than the others with flattened tips known as tentacles.These long arms are used for catching food items.Found in mid to upper water levels dietry items consist of small fish species with occasional shellfish such as prawns and shrimps.When danger threatens black ink injected into the water from the squid quickly spreads into a large dense cloud masking the squids escape from lethal eyes and teeth.Concealment from predators is essential for survival.Squid have the ability to change their skin colour to whatever their immediate surroundings are.

Fish species such as pollock,cod and rays predate on squid whenever the opportunity arises.Sperm whales too pose a great threat diving down deep in search of succulent squid shoals to feast upon.

Squid do not swim as such but propel themselves by sucking water into their body through two slits.One below each eye.Water passed over the gills is re-directed out through a syphon beneath the head.Sharp muscular contractions force a powerful jet of water from the syphon pushing the squid forward at speed.To swim slowly squid simply beat their rudders gently.To move backward,forward,left or right the squid simply directs the syphon in the appropriate position.


Having spotted a meal the squid glides gently towards it's intended victim head on.With lightning speed the tentacles shoot forward.Suction pads loaded with tiny barbs hold the victim securely.In the same instant the tentacles are withdrawn with the victim wrapped up in a tangle of arms as the squid retreats backwards away from the point of capture.Drawn into the mouth or strong beak which is not unlike a parrot's salivary poisons disable the victim which is torn to pieces swallowed and digested at a later Weighted lures of wood or plastic moulded into a shrimp like shape with feather gills and a double row of non barb hooks at the tail end are the norm.Colours vary from blue back..green back..flame..golden shiver..pink head..and shiner.Small light sticks can be inserted into the bodies of some of these lures giving as an added attraction at night.A stout 9 foot spinning rod combined with a fixed spool or baitcasting multipler reel loaded with 12lbs bs nylon will suffice.A swivel and 24'' trace of 20lbs bs secured to the swivel terminating at the lure.To act as a shock leader ...Takes can be hard.Various drilled bullit or barrel leads for added distance and fishing at depth.A variety of lures covering alternate weight ranges and colours.For boat fishing jigging with a 12 lb rated boat rod is ideal and light enough to feel the squid's every move.

Jigging for squid or 'eging ' is a simple affair,sink and draw,straight retrieve and jigging at depth with specially designed shrimp like lures which range in colour from greens and blues through to reds and flourescent pinks.Decorated with feathers at the head end to aid movement and give the illusion of gill plates.Shorten the trace length to 20 '' otherwise the lure will entangle with the main line every cast and slip either a drilled bullit or barrel weight onto the line above the swivel.Select a lure,secure and cast into deeper water.On the retrieve raise and lower the rod tip with a slight pause to enable the lure to ' flutter ' enticingly unaided.

Squid tend to favour mid water for hunting and feeding.Simple straight forward overhead cast.Fishing the selected lure on a long leader of about 26''Allow the bait to sink to mid water and retrieve just fast enough to fish the lure at the required depth.As the bait wriggles and flutters so it catches the attention of any squid that maybe nearby

Jigging from a boat entails dropping the lure into the depths down to mid water level and simply raising and lowering the rod tip.Some weight may be required depending on the state of the tide and depth of water being fished.Fish a shorter trace of 20 '' with the weight situated above the swivel.



Takes can be solid as the squids tentacles shoot out and envelope the lure,and so gentle too that that they are barely noticeable.Do not strike when a take is felt simply continue winding in gently but steadily.Should the squid pull back with any semblance of power stop winding,the reel clutch should be pre-set on a light adjustment thus allowing a minimum of resistance both on the take and recovering line.When the squid stops pulling resume winding in.Squid skin is extremely soft and tears easily many are spooked and lost through applying too much force.Fish the lures all the way to the surface or into your feet when shore fishing.Squid more often than not follow the bait but can be hesitant to strike.Likewise they often attack the lure side on and not from underneath failing to ' hook ' up.

Most frozen squid on the market today are known and sold as calamari which should be white in colour any traces of pink colouration often means that the bait has been frozen ,thawed and re-frozen at some point.A tough durable lasting bait re-frozen squid does not fish as well but ideal for tipping combination baits.Illex or European squid are naturally tinged with pink and fish just as well either as a combination or solo as too do British squid which are bigger and pure white in colour.

Vast shoals of squid congregate along the length of the Continental shelf migrating inshore to breed.Attaining weights of a 1/4 upto 2 kilos.Maturingwithin one year,life expectancy is short due to continued predation and a natural lifespan that only covers maximum of three years .



Found throughout British waters the winter months are favoured for fishing.' Seasons ' vary dependant on location and squid can be picked up during the summer months dependant upon water temperatures which must be on the cool to cold side to entice squid into the region.



Scotland..Moray Firth..Late August-early December,Shetland Isles..Late November-January,Rockall..June-September,North West Scotland- all year round..December recognised as probably the best month.

South West Scotland...September-January,English Channel...Late August-January,North Sea...August-December

Recognised squid fishing areas would include the Dorset coast where squid fishing on a small commercial basis is still undertaken today.

Brighton sea wall turns up squid and cuttlefish to jigged lures and over at Weymouth the pleasure and stone piers fish well.


 

 BARKING MAD

Love them or hate them ...dogfish are hungry bottom feeders that roam in packs stealing baits meant for other seabed dwellers.

There are three species of dogfish that live in British waters.

The lesser spotted or common dogfish [sycliorhinus canicula],Greater spotted -Bull huss [sycliorhinus stellaris] and Spurdog [Squalis acanthias].All are relatives of the shark family and are plentiful around our coastline.

Dogfish are social creatures that gather in great shoals or packs during the summer months venturing well inshore to plunder the shoreline in search of crustaceans,starfish,worms,small fish and fresh carrion.

Growing to an average size of about 18 inches and weighing in at a kilo it is not uncommon for the lesser spotted dogfish to attain weights of upto 2 kilos.Sand coloured the well camouflaged dogfish blends easily into his favoured surroundings.The body outline broken only by small dark spots covering the upper body.The underbelly is white.

Typical of all sharks the mouth is 'under slung' on the belly side and laced with needle sharp teeth.With skins as rough as sandpaper great care must be taken when handling or unhooking this species as they have a habit of wrapping their tails around the wrist and lower arm.Removing the dogfish by force results in extremely painful skin sores.

Also known as catshark or rough hound the dogfish is not rated as a sporting species.However dogfish pull hard and fight well to the very end.Dogfish are very obliging taking bait on days when no other fish seem interested and there are plenty of those !.

Dogfish are to be found in both deep and shallow waters over open ground or rocky reefs.Caught from the shore,boat and from piers and breakwaters the dogfish can turn up almost anywhere.

Baits range from sandeels,fish strip,deadbaits,crabs,worms and shellfish.Dogfish are difficult to hook one bite out three being the average being the norm.Bites usually register as a series of fast and hard knocks on the rod tip.Notorious for mouthing and playing with baits before actualy taking properly it is essential to time the strike correctly.Most will be nicely hooked in the scissors or side of the mouth.Once the hook is driven home the dogfish dives and twists shaking his head from side to side pulling hard for his size and weight.Very soon he is beaten and swung in to be unhooked.Armed with a towel take the dogfish's tail,bend it backwards against the body of the fish and hold tight avoiding contact with the rough skin of the dogfish.

A little force may be necessary to unravel the fish from the line,as most present themselves wrapped in a tight ball around the trace.Their eyes firmly closed.Taken with ease both day and night on simple no nonsense tackle and rigs.Heavy gear is uncalled for so scale down to lighter rods and reels loaded with 15 lb bs lines.Most dogfisjh are caught whilst in pursuit of other species on various rigs fished on or off the bottom.

Simple one or two hook flapper or running leger rigs tied on 20 lbs bs traces will sufice to cope with any other species encountered.Tough mouths require needle sharp hooks to ensure a good hold in their gristly jaws.Using smaller hooks than one normally would buried in the bait deters the dogfish from mouthing the bait for long periods.Hook sizes are dependant on particular chosen baits but as a general rule 1-1/0-and 2's are more than adequate unless using sandeels when a 3/0 longshank threaded through the eel is useful presenting thev bait in the correct manner.

A pair of long nosed pliers are essential for extracting the hooks.

Top baits include sandeel,fresh mackerel strip and mackerel squid cocktail,lashed onto a longshank hook with elasticated cotton.

Once a pack of dogfish are located sport can be fast and furious as one after another come to the hook,surprisingly very few immature dogfish are hooked and it seems to be adults only.

Also worthy of note is the common dogfish's big brother the bull huss.Found indep water strewn with rocks the huss is a stronger opponenyt than it's little brother and worthy fighting abilities make it a quarry species of note.Diet and habits are alike to the dogfish but they do differ sdlightly in looks.The huss is much darker in colour and has large dark spots over it's upper body.Mature huss reach 5 feet in length and weigh as much as 11 kilos.

If in any doubt as to species identification,turn the fish on it's back and examine the nasal flaps which run down from the eyers to the top of the mouth.In the lesser spotted dogfish the nasal flaps are joined and run in to one.The nasal flaps on bull huss are quite clearly seperated into two distinct flaps.

Bull huss are often refered to as nurse hounds .

 

 WRASSE


Wrasse could easily be mistaken for some rare exotic fish species that turn up on our shores occasionaly in the warm summer months.With their rich vibrant colours wrasse have a distinct tropical appearance.There are six members of the wrasse family,ballan,cuckoo,rainbow,corkwing,small mouthed and goldsinny.

Ballan and cuckoo wrasse are common to our shores,the others are quite rare with the exception of corkwing and rainbow wrasse which are summer visitors to southern waters.

Wrasse favour rocky outcrops that fall away into deep water where there are deep crevices and gulleys to hide in amongst the tangle of weed and rock.West coast regions tend to hold quantities of wrasse as the natural geography of the area is typically that of rock.Like their distant tropical cousins wrasse love warm water and are most active between the months of April to October when the summer's heat pushes the water temperatures up.In the colder winter months wrasse lye up dormant deep in the rocky gullies close to shore.

Ballan are the commonest and heaviest ranging between 1 and 3 kilos.Exceptional heavier specimens have been caufght from rock marks where rock runs down into much deeper water at the base of cliffs for example.

Ballans are thick set with a long spiny dorsal fin that stretches from the shoulder almost to the tail which is rounded.All wrasse have large scales with lighter coloured darker outer edges giving an overall appearance of being mottled.Colour can vary dramatically according to location and habitat.From shades of green to coppery brown.Most old males are deep copper.

Male cuckoo wrasse have vivid blue heads and flanks with yellow under bellies and fins tinged with blue.Their heads turn white during the spawning period.Cuckoos are long and slender in comparison to the stumpy ballan wrasse.Females are orange with three dark spots under the dorsal fin near to the tail.Both sexes rarely grow above thirteen inches in length and attain weights of little more than 1 kilo.

All species are armed with an impressive set of teeth which are rounded for crushing and grinding food items in small mouths.Large rubbery lips cover the teeth.

Dietry items includelimpets,small mussels,barnacles,crabs worms and other small crustaceans and molluscs.Wrasse do not travel far for food and have small territorial areras close at hand to their hideaways.

Living right below and on the waters edge wrasse are unaffected by tides feeding throughout daylight hours.As the flood tide creeps towards shore so do the wrasse pulling and plucking limpets and barnacles from the rocks with their powerful rubbery lips.As the tide ebbs the wrasse drop back into their gullies.

To catch wrasse you will need a stout spinning rod with a fixed spool reel or small multiplier loaded with 15 lbs bs line.A selection of old discarded spark plugs to act as weights on a rotten bottom along with strong forged hooks in sizes 1 or 2 depending on the bait selected.

Do not rush to throw your bait into the water directly into the rocks ! Take a little time to watch the action of the waves.As a breaker pulls seaward look for areas of foam suspended on the surface.Deep gullies and crevices lye below which hold wrasse.

Gently lob the bait into the edge of the foam tightening the line immediately the bottom is felt.Keep the line taught at all times.Within a few minutes two or three sharp plucks will be felt followed by a sharp pull if ballans are on the feed.A strong pull into the shoulder with the rod held high and the hook is set.The first initial dive for cover will take the angler by surprise ! wrasse are incredibly strong for their size.A determined fish must be given line for fear of a breakage.Wrasse sdo not run as such but dive time and time again for the safety of the rock only feet below the surface !

Should a fish go to ground play out a length of loose line it may fool the ballan into breaking cover allowing the angler to gain control of the fight.

Be prepared to lose weights it is inevitable every other cast.Wrasse are not a good table fish so handle them with care and return them to the water as gently as possible.

Float fishing is equally exiting using a simple sliding float rig.

STRANGE WRASSE FACTS..

All ballan wrasse are born female maturing in their sixth year.After several spawning seasons some wrasse change to male gender !

The females build nests of fine seaweed in the clefts rocks in which to lay their eggs in,during the month of June.

Males can live as long as 18 to 20 years.

Wrasse were introduced into salmon rearing cages to pick offending sea lice from the salmon's flanks.

BE AWARE !!

Be aware of the dangers when fishing from cliffs,overhangs,rock platforms and slippyery shore rocks.

Dress accordingly and wear appropriate footwear.

Beware of rouge waves that may sweep over the rocks and pull you in !

Tell someone where you intend fishing and do not fish alone if at all possible.

For safety's sake tell someone what time you expect to return.

 

 WHITING


By the end of September most inshore species will have retreated into deeper water to escape winter's icy chill.As the summer species gradually move out  shoals of whiting and cod move well inshore.Whiting are prolific throughout October until early December,roaming the contours of the shoreline in shallow water searching out fry and other small prey fish.Always on the move whiting suddenly appear without warning.A most obliging fish whiting greedily take hook baits whilst little else is feeding or on the move.Providing an hour or two of hectic action for pier shore and boat angler alike.

Whitng are easily identified.Three equally spaced dorsal fins run the entire length of the fish's back.The first fin is unmistakeable by it's triangular shape.A distinct black spot lies at the base of the pectoral fins.

The upper jaw is slightly longer than the lower and the small mouth is set with needle sharp teeth.Mature fish at 4-5 years of age do not sport a chin barbel,evident in juveniles.Hunting mainly by sight whiting have large eyes common to all predatory species.Body colour is predominantly olive brown melting into bright silver flanks.Growing to about 18'' inches long most whiting average weights of 1 lb.Whiting favour clean ground over sand or mud down to a depth of 150 feet.Dietry items consist of shrimps,fry,small prey fish,ragworm,lugworm and crustaceans.

Females tend to be slightly larger than males with a lifespan of 8 years whilst the males normally only survive to reach 6 years of age.

Spawning occurs at any time between January and June depending on localised water temperatures.Fish that inhabit colder northern waters will reproduce much later than their cousins of  warmer southern waters.

Up to 300.000 eggs are laid and the hatching fry drift aimlessly in blankets of plankton upon which they feed.A plankton enriched diet ensures fast healthy growth and soon the young whiting resemble their parent fish.

The young fry face great dangers,mainly from other predatory fish species many seek refuge hiding between the tentacles of jelly fish where they are potentially safe from predation.As they develop and grow into adulthood the whiting move into deep water to feast upon crustaceans.

Fishing for whiting calls for a stout spinning rod and small multiplier loaded with 15 lbs monofilament  line in combination with a 10 lbs nylon trace and number 4 hook with a selection of leads to ride the current.A variety of baits including ragworms,mussels,lugworms,baited feathers or oily mackerel and herring will all take their share of fish throughout the summer months.

Late in the season from September onwards small whole or half sprats can prove deadly.

Paternoster type rigs such as two hook flapper rigs are popular.Having made the cast it is advisable to hold the rod at all times bites register as as sharp fast 'tapping' at the rod tip.Strike immediately to set the hook before the whiting strips the hook clean.

The best time to fish for whiting is at the top of the tide well into the ebb.Fishing tides that coincide with dusk and nightfall produce the best results.

Cod predate on whiting and are rarely far away.

There is a second species of whiting rarely encountered by the angler as it is found in depths of 3.000 feet.Blue whiting are similar to to common whiting in shape weight and size.As their title suggests blue whiting have an overall bright blue sheen to their bodies fading into silver flanks and white bellies.There are no visible black pectoral spots and the inside of their mouths and gill cavities are black.


 

 THORNBACK RAY.


Thornbacks are the most sought after of all the rays that frequent our shores and are well distributed throughout the British Isles.Found well inshore during the summer months in shallow water they can also be taken from deep water marks.Similar in appearance to skate the thornback is much smaller reaching weights of 38 lbs and is found over sandy bottoms with intermittent patches of broken ground.

Thornbacks are members of the shark family and do not have any scales.They are easily identified by rows of spiny thorns along the uppermost ridge of their tails,backs and wings.Skin colour can vary drastically from hues of yellow to deep browns all with white under bellies.The mouth is set well back from the snout.Two thick rubbery lips lined with rows of strong rounded teeth make short work of grinding up morsels of food.

In the late spring towards the middle of May thornbacks retreat from their deep water haunts coming well inshore to feast upon soft backed and the first of the new years peeler crabs which are plentiful at this time of year.Their diet consists mainly of fish species and they have a fondness for sand eels which overall are the best bait to tempt rays with.Hermit crabs,shrimps,lugworms,and a variety of bi-valves are also eaten as too are smallflatfish such as dabsand immature plaice which are picked up off the bottom and ground between powerful jaws.

To fish for thornbacks you will need a light beachcaster of abount 10 feet in length [easier to handle if boat fishing] or a suitable uptide rod and multiplying reel loaded with 30lbs monofilament.Slip a free running lead weight onto the main line and tie in a heavy duty swivel.To this attach roughly 2 feet of 30 lbs monofilament which is I turn tied to a 2/0 baitholder hook.Bait with either peeler crab or sand eel.Thornbacks wil also take a whole small deadbait with the hook pushed through from under the chin until it protrudes from between the eyes.Takes normally register as a 'knocking' on the rod tip.Give the fish a little time before striking to ensure that the bait is firmly in it's mouth.

Thornbacks are hard fighters that will will run for some distance and bore down deep given the chance.As with all rays once the fish 'bottoms' and spreads it's wings over the sand against the tidal flow he has the advantage and impossible to move.Should this happen take hold of the line between her reel and butt ring,pulling the line back and forth in a sawing motion.Irritating the ray into taking another run.Enabling the angler to gain line and regain control of the fight.

On light tackle thornbacks are exhilarating.

Other rays that may be encountered though less common are the blond,spotted,starry,cocko,small eyed and sandy rays.Using a free running ledger rig expect other both dwelling species to respond to fish baits.A mixed bag of conger,thornback,dog fish,spur dog and immature skate add to the exitement.

Take great care when handling thornbacks their spines inflict painful injuries to the hands of the unwary.The safest way of handling rays is to pick the fish up by the wing tips .

As thornbacks are true bottom feeders it is essential that the bait remains static on the bottom and for that reason it is advisable to fish at anchor and not on the drift.A good time to catch thornbacks is on the turn of the tide.The fish tend to turn into the oncoming tidal flow in order to breathe more easily.Often feeding as they do so.

Prolific inshore from May up until November's chill rays are much less active during the cold winter months.

Many anglers are uncertain how to prepare and where to cut rays for the the table.

[See Diagram]

Take a sharp knife and cut from the snout towards the tail following the body contours on either flank to free the edible wings.Which can be skinned and treated as skate.

Cooking is simply a matter of grilling,gentle frying or poaching with a few drops of vinegar in the water.

Leave the skin on and poach for fifteen minutes.

The skin is now well softened and easy tom remove from the flesh.

Serve with your favourite sea food sauce.


 

 

 TURBOT


One of the British largest flatfish turbot often weigh in at over 50 lbs and can reach up to 40'' in length.Unlike other flatfish the turbot's eyes lye to the left hand side of the head and large predatory mouth.Small bony tubercules cover the scaleless body on the upper side which is mottled with shades of brown.The skin is rough to touch whilst the underside is white and smooth.

Turbot can be caught from very shallow water down to a depth of about 60 feet.Steep sided sandbanks that drop away quickly into deep water are favoured by turbot.Lying over the sand at the base of a bank or in a trough between several banks turbot have a bird's eye view of the world above.Ideal for ambushing prey swimming overhead.

Well camouflaged against the sand turbot are difficult to spot from above lifting off the bottom with a surprising turn of speed turbot swim up attacking their prey from  below.Small baitfish,crustaceans and sand eels which localise the sandbanks are all taken.

To fish for turbot use a 30 lb class rod and multiplier loaded with 30lb monofilament.Thread a sliding boom onto the main line selecting a lead suitable to match the tidal flow and clip the lead onto the boom.Attach a swivel and to this tie on a 10 foot trace with a 4/0 hook.As a bait live sandeel cannot be beaten ,should eels be difficult to find fish strip will fool the turbot into attacking the bait.Fresh mackerel or herring are suitable as baitfish.

Take a sharp knife and cut a long thin sliver of flesh from the belly flap.Thread onto the hook shank leaving a long tail to represent the body shape of an eel.Once settled in the tidal flow the bait will flutter enticingly to and fro across the current.Movement and mobility is vitally important to complete the deception.Fooling the turbot into attacking what it believes to be a live sandeel.Static baits hanging limp and lifeless will simply be ignored.Turbot feed on live fish and presentation of the bait  must be meticulous and fished correctly to trigger a predatory response from the turbot.

It is best to fish from an anchored boat situated on the edge of the sandbank.Gently lower the baited rig directly into the strength of the tidal flow freelining the lead and bait downtide.Allowing the lead to tumble into deeper water as it slides over the lip of the sandbank.Slowly take in line until you are satisfied that the lead is sitting on the edge of the bank between shallow and deep.As the current catches the long flowing trace the bait is pulled out over the deep water trough above the turbot lying below.Fluttering from side to side with the pull of the current the eel bait encourages a response from the turbot which rise off the bottom to meet the bait.

A strong hard take is normal.Do not strike immediately give the fish time to take the bait well into it's mouth before pulling the rod hard into the shoulder setting the hook.

Fighting not only the fish but tide too exerts enormous pressure on rod and tackle.Lightly hooked fish simply drop off soon after the initial strike.


 

 BRILL


Brill share the same ground as turbot and are similar in colour and shape.Their eyes are also set on the left handside of the head .

Often mistaken for small turbot brill are smooth to touch and only grow to a mature weight of 16 lbs.

Both species predate on live fish and fished for with the same rigs and methods.

Very few if any turbot are caught during slack water.

Good sport is offered by other predatory species during slack water,dogfish,pout,whiting,tope and mackerel plus a variety of rays are all to be found feeding off the sandeels that frequent the sandbanks.

Well known marks such as the 'Shambles' off Weymouth,the 'Varne Bank' off Folkstone and the 'Skerries' off Dartmouth are the most prolific regions.


 

 'HADDOCK'


Mention haddock and most of us conjure up visions of a lone trawler battling against heavy northern seas scooping out net-fulls of prime fish from deep water marks well off shore.Out of reach of the shore angler ?

Quality shore fishing for haddock can be found in localised regions throughout Scotland's west,north eastern and easterly shores.Next to cod succulent haddock are the most sought after food fish.

Haddock have three dorsal fins.The first or leading fin is largest and triangular in shape with two smaller fins behind and has one anal fin followed by a secondary smaller fin.A large black spot is clearly seen on the upper shoulders placed between the pectoral fin and black lateral line.Upper body colours range between grey / purple to green/brown along the back and flanks which melt into silvery sides and white under belly.The upper jaw is slighter elongated in comparison to the lower jaw which carries a small barbel.In general haddock have small mouths and large eyes,common to most deep water species.

Found in depths between 100 and 1000 feet haddock favour clean ground over sand or mud.Dietry items consist of crustacea,sea urchins,worms and shellfish..scallops are a favourite food source.

During the summer months vast shoals of haddock spend their days foraging for food items in deep off shore marks until winter's icy chill drives them inshore into shallower waters.

To catch haddock you will need a beachcaster capable of throwing a 6 oz lead armed with a multiplying reel loaded with 20 bs nylon.Rigs are simply one up one down flapper arrangements clipped down for distance casting.For fish feeding close in a standard paternoster will cope adequately well.Hook sizes are determined by choice and size of bait generally a selection of 1,1/0,2 and 2/0 are sufficient.

Bait up with narrow fish strips,lugworm,mussels or whole scallop.Mussels must be fresh and taken from the shell alive prior to being threaded with a baiting needle onto the hook and secured with bait elastic.Scallops can be bought ready dressed but are a fearsome price for so few ! Better to ask around the fishing boats or shell fish dealers for scallops with no sale value,those with badly broken shells foe example,and use those instead.Scallops are soft and do not stand upto distance casting.Try tipping a lugworm bait with a piece of juicy scallop meat for an enticing cocktail of flavours.

Fish the flood tide into the ebb to meet haddock head on as they venture into the shallows seeking out food items.

Best times and tides vary with location so seek local knowledge from the nearest tackle dealer or fishermen.Most are only to willing to help and divulge some of their favourite fishing tips.

Cast over clean ground,tighten the line and wait for the action !

Haddock give two different bites.Small fish attack the bait hard and fast rattling the rod tip.Striking on the sexcond or third rattle should result in a cleanly hooked fish. Big fish tend to mouth the bait for a while showing on the rod tip as a tremble there is little distinct movement.Patience is the called for allowing the fish to take the bait well into it's mouth.Pulling the rod tip down hard.Lift the rod into the shoulder to set the hook .Haddock have soft mouths and a hard strike simply pulls the hook free.

Pound for pound the powerful haddock fights hard ducking and diving with powerful thrusts,heading for deep water with every twist and turn.

Haddock can be fussy eaters so try and offer a variety of different baits.


 

 ANGLER FISH.


The seas and oceans are full of strange oddities and freaks of nature that inhabit the deepest darkest waters.Every now and then one turns up unexpectedly on an anglers line.

A lover of deep waters the angler fish can be found in depths of up to and in excess of 1000 metres and weigh in at 80 lbs plus !Hardly a beauty this ugly fish is unmistakeable by it's prehistoric appearance,lack of scales and bony body armour.

All head and no body this misshapen fish has an enormous mouth cavity laced with row upon row of needle sharp teeth.Some are curved and hinged backwards owards the gullet.Their prey have little chance of escape unable to shake themselves free of such powerful vicious jaws.

True bottom dwellers they feast on all sea bed living fish and a variety of crustaceans.The 'flat' angler fish buries itself in the mud,brown mottled skin almost invisible against the sea bed.In order to attract a meal the first ray of the dorsal fin is raised upward and forward of the mouth and beady eyes.The angler fish begins to 'fish' by waving the ray back and forth.Attracting small fish to the 'lure'.The unsuspecting baitfish is quickly sucked into the cavernous mouth as the fish lunges forward in a display of speed unbecoming of it's looks !

Not taken seriously as a quarry species many are captured on rod and line from relatively shallow waters when fishing for other bottom dwelling fish.

Legered fish strip or whole fish baits are taken by angler fish which when hooked are extremely dour and of little sporting value.


 

 LOCH ETIVE                                     

Where can you find no less than eleven species of fish in a 'landlocked' salt water loch all year round  Loch Etive situated on Argyll's west coast is such a place.

                                                                                              THE LOCH

Etive springs into life 15 miles inland deep in the Lorn hills gently flowing seaward past Bonawe ironworks and the village of Taynuilt.Down to the narrow Falls of Lorn at Connell Bridge and out into the Firth of Lorn,Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull.Boxed in sheltered by high craggy hills only the fiercest north easterly winds sweep down the loch

 'LAND LOCKED'

The Falls of Laura are a natural barrier of rock between loch and open sea.Powerful tide rips and turbulent waters prevent the natural progression of migratory species travelling from sea to loch and vice versa.

Tidal movement too is minimal,further preventing fish escaping the confines of Etive.The biggest spring tides breach the falls barely flooding the loch with any real effect.

Trapped both by rock barrier and tide summer and winter species share Etive year round.

FRESHWATER

Etive has a layer of freshwater several feet deep lying on top of the salt.Probably due to the lack of tidal flow and high salinity levels.

The River Etive drains the loch high up in the upper reaches along with several other streams and rivulets flowing down from the hill tops.

 SPECIES

Expect to find,gurnard,thornback rays,whiting,cod,ling,hake,conger,pollack,dogfish,spurdogs and mackerel.

Mackerel are normally found in localised shoals during the summer months of June through to October.Only found in small numbers an occasional fish has been caught as late as December !

Spurdogs between 3lbs and 6lbs roam freely throughout the loch in search of carrion or livebait such as young whiting.

Double figure fish tend to prefer deep water marks.

Conger and pollack to 8lbs are to be found tight in against quarry waste and rubble that has overspil;led into the loch from local industry along Etive's shores.

Most other species dominate mud and sand flats.

BAITS

Oily mackerel and herring fished as chunks,flappers strips or fillets will catch a variety of species.

Squid strip is a useful bait for tipping cocktails with rag and lugworms.

     DEPTH

Etive is a deep loch reaching in excess of 450 feet,anchored up most boats fish at 300 feet.

            EQUIPMENT

A thirty pound rod armed with a fast retrieving multiplier loaded with 30 lbs bs line will cover all eventualities.

Weights ranging from 6 ozs to 16 ozs will suffice reaching and holding bottom in the deepest holes as there is no noticeable tide race to contend with.

Simple running leger rigs to bottom fish with one up and one down flapper rigs to fish off bottom are all that is required to lure a variety of species to the hook bait.

Artificial lures such as hokkais are popular in Etive even for spurdogs.Tie your own traces with heavy nylon to prevent losses and breakages.Sharp teeth cut weaker nylon with ease.

             BOATS

Charter boats out of Oban Argyll's principal port fish Etive throughout the winter months when bad weather forces them inshore to sheltered waters.

Small dinghies can be launched and beached at Taynuilt slip.There are also several self hire craft available from Taynuilt Hotel.


Loch Etive lies about 8 miles north of Oban and easily accessed from Glasgow and Stirling.

 

A GHILLIESTALE JOHN LINDSAY (C) J LINDSAY 

 

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