Summer fishing mini-reports

I find I tend not to do too much fishing in the height of summer, if there is such a thing in Scotland, but I do try and wet a line from time to time and here are a few mini-reports that didn’t get the full treatment.

An Afternoon on Loch Leven

Bonnie and I headed over to Loch Leven for a few hours shore fishing in July. A bit blustery with a mix of sunshine and showers, but warm enough. We pretty much fished all the way up a rather large tide.

High tide on Loch Leven covers most of the marks
High tide on Loch Leven
Bonnie waiting for her turn to play, as we spend the afternoon shore fishing on Loch Leven
Bonnie waiting for her turn to play

I can’t say as the fish were very co-operative, but I managed a couple of rays and a dogfish through the afternoon so a blank was thoroughly averted. Poor dog wasn’t so happy when I’d to deal with her tick fest later on though …

A small shore caught thornback ray
A small shore caught thornback ray
A great backdrop for an afternoon's fishing
A great backdrop for an afternoon’s fishing
Lesser spotted dogfish are one of the most common catches in Loch Leven
Ever-present dogfish

Early August off St Andrews

St Andrews threw up a few Pollack and a good number of codling for Ian and myself at the beginning of August, although we’d to wait the best part of four hours before they switched on as the tide turned and light started to fade. No monsters (I say that all too often!), but a useful top up for the freezer. Mackerel were fairly plentiful and I added coalie, ling, and a dogfish to the total for the day.

My fish of the day was this Pollack - kind of underlining the lack of quality from St Andrews today.
My fish of the day was this Pollack… (pic courtesy of Ian)

As usual the zig-zagging through the lobster pots in near darkness added a little interest at the end of the day.

Loch Etive Spur-fest

Last weekend saw me having a lazy day out on Loch Etive, trying a couple of new marks for me and trying to get a better understanding of a couple I’ve fished before.

About half the day was spent chasing small spurs and middleweight pollack miles up the loch, with a few whiting, doggies and a single codling making up the numbers.

A pair of Spurdog from 400 feet down in Loch Etive
Spurdog from 400 feet down in Loch Etive
This plump Etive whiting coughed up a load of fish farm pellet food
Plump Etive whiting – full of fish farm pellets

Shifting further down towards Bonawe and into deep (over 400 feet) water seemed to ignite more interest and I had a solid 90 minute spell of fish two at a time within seconds of hitting bottom. All of which would’ve been more fun if it didn’t involve a long, long haul to get them aboard!

A double hit of whiting and spurdog from Etive
A double hit of whiting and spurdog from Etive
A pollack from Loch Etive, taken on a lead head and firetail jelly worm many miles from the open sea
Loch Etive pollack

New Videos

I also found the time to put together a couple of videos for Loch Etive and Loch Leven, based on trips there in recent years and fleshing out Corkwing’s pages on each.

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Bonus Pollack from Dunbar

Well, I headed out of Dunbar early-ish this morning into a very calm North Sea. There was a small fleet of visiting boats in the harbour – a Mitchell 31 and a couple of other similar sized boats so someone has obviously been fishing their way up (or down) the coast for their summer hols.

A typical Dunbar codling
A typical Dunbar codling

I picked up a few mackerel whilst I sorted my gear out just off the harbour and then headed down to the River Garry wreck. The first 90 minutes here produced loads of small ling and a fair number of codling, including my best this year at around 6lb 2oz. I also caught the 5lb or so cod in the photo, which looked a bit like it had been sand-papered – I didn’t fancy eating it, so it’s acne saved it’s life this time around. The fishing tailed off after that, with the final straw being a large poorcod, so eventually I headed back in towards the lighthouse for a few drifts in shallower water.

A 5lb cod with skin infection, caught off Dunbar.
This cod skin looks painful
A brace of codling from Dunbar, summer 2016
A brace of codling from Dunbar
 I spent a couple of hours in near Barns Ness, picking up a few more codling (fewer ling in here), and also this fine pollack which I think is my biggest from inshore Dunbar, apart from one over 9lbs from the wreck. It played hoopla with the Teklon until I could get it in the net and then weighed in – 8lb 6oz. Not the best photo, but it was in great condition and gave a good account of itself.
A cracking inshore pollack and fully fighting fit - this 8lb 6oz fish was caught off Dunbar and took a leadhead lure.
Pollack – 8lbs 6oz
A boxful of inshore codling from Dunbar
A growing boxful of codling
That was it, apart from a few more codling and mackerel, and I made it in not long before the rain arrived. Retrieval was very slick – if I say so myself, it’s largely because there was a large audience lining the harbour – I’d say less than 5 minutes from gliding to a halt to driving up the slip. Pure professionalism! 🙂
Final total was 23 or 24 codling, 15 ling, 2 Pollack and 1 chunky poorcod – plus some mackerel of course. Enough to keep a smile on my face.
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Humbled by my GoPro

All was good – not a red letter day, but a decent enough morning, with a fair collection of coddies, ling and mackerel. No wind, a little swell and some welcome sunshine. All you could expect from a summer trip out of Dunbar really.

A nice codling of around 5lb from Dunbar
A 5lb codling

And then I watched The Video. I’d been playing with the GoPro during a quiet spell and dropped it down to the sea bed to try and catch a view of the reef about 60 feet below me. Appearing on my screen back home was a very handsome reef – and a succession of codling, pollack, ballan wrasse, cuckoo wrasse and one or two unidentifiable others. My catch from this shoal was one solitary codling 🙁 I don’t think I’ve ever even caught a cuckoo from Dunbar either. OK, it was a small, dead, tide but it does make you think a little. You can see the short version below…

I did manage around 25 codling to 5lbs, with another 5 or 6 ling to similar size, plus enough mackerel to start restocking the freezer, so humiliation was not total. Despite catching a few, no ling showed on the video, which was taken on a reef about a mile out from Torness.

A nice codling from Dunbar
Good eating

There were a few other anglers out and about, with a fair number of fish coming to the surface.

A codling kicks up some spray, caught from a SIB just off Dunbar
A codling kicks up some spray
A Nice Codling from a SIB, caught off Skateraw, Dunbar
A Nice Codling from a SIB

Fish or no fish, it was great to steal such a fine day away from work and remember why you keep a boat in the first place. Notwithstanding the damage to my ego, I think I’ll be using the GoPro for more underwater surveys in future.

Alcatraz on a sparkling North Sea, off Dunbar
Alcatraz on a sparkling North Sea
A seagull's view of Alcatraz on a calm day fishing out of Dunbar
A seagull’s view of Alcatraz
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Galloway Smoothhounds

Ian, Trevor and I spent all last week hunting for tope and smoothhounds down in Galloway. Loads of fish, although decent tope proved a bit more elusive than last year.

Bar a single session from Isle of Whithorn, our time was spent fishing out of Port William and Garlieston into Luce Bay and Wigtown Bay.

Waiting for the tide to rise a little at Port William
Waiting for the tide to rise a little at Port William

Tope were very scarce out of Port William, although we did pick up some decent huss and thornbacks, plus loads of smaller stuff including a lot of tub and grey gurnards and the usual whiting hordes. Mackerel were generally easy to find, although a little bigger than last year, and there were a few herring and launce mixed in amongst them. Ian managed to up his personal LSD record up to 63 in one day, which I can’t imagine he’ll want to beat anytime soon.

A pretty tub gurnard
A pretty tub gurnard
A bull huss for myself from Luce Bay
Huss always look vaguely gangster-ish
Nasty looking bull huss dentistry
Nasty looking huss dentistry

Garlieston held plenty of smoothhounds and small/baby tope plus more thornbacks. Ian picked up the best hound, at over 12lbs (which took a mackerel bait), but most were in the 2-5lbs range. I’d 57 one day which is way more than I’ve seen before, although other days weren’t quite as hectic.

Ready to launch at Garlieston slipway
Ready to launch at Garlieston slipway
Another thornback for Trevor
Another thornback for Trevor
Ian landing no less than 3 hounds in one cast
Ian landing no less than 3 hounds in one cast

I’ve never seen so many small tope, which were picking up crab and lug baits as well as mackerel, and we must have had many dozens on the days we fished there, but with the best only going 24lbs. I’d one tiddler that looked that it had just avoided becoming breakfast for an older brother.

A small tope with distinctive teeth marks in its belly
Tope eat Tope!
Only a small one - but a tope nonetheless
Only a small one – but a tope nonetheless

A few hours on the banks off Isle of Whithorn produced the largest tope (predictably for Ian again!) with a couple at 35lbs each, but we didn’t hang around for the tide to run against the wind on the flood.

The only decent tope from Port William this trip - a 25lber for Ian
The only decent tope from Port William this trip – a 25lber for Ian

Our last day saw a combination of boat weariness and squally weather push us out on a shore trip, which resulted in our first shore-caught hounds and a tope bite off for myself.

Casting a crab bait for smoothhound
Casting a crab bait for smoothhound
A small shore caught smoothhound
A small shore caught smoothhound

Incidentally, the petrol station at Port William is now open 24 hours with a self-service card machine, which will prove handy for future trips. And there is also a nice new coffee shop above the Inshore Rescue Boatshed, with a great view out over Luce Bay.

The GoPro got dropped over the side for a quick view of the seabed at Luce Bay, revealing a complete doggie-fest with a few dabs thrown in – plus this smoothie roaming about. We didn’t catch any hounds here, so interesting to see it on video.

A smoothhound ignores our baits off Port William
A smoothhound off Port William
A lesser spotted doggie lurks on the bottom of Luce Bay, out from Port William
A doggie lurks on the bottom of Luce Bay
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Early morning SIB session

The east coast has been slow to get going this year but I reckoned there had to be fish around by the end of May – besides I’d only a very short session available so it was Dunbar or nothing today.

To be honest I do like an early morning SIB session, as the sea breeze isn’t usually a problem, and there are no traffic hassles, so the idea of setting the alarm for 4 a.m. was OK by me.

SIB launched at Skateraw and ready to go
SIB launched at Skateraw and ready to go

Once afloat I headed over to the River Garry wreck as it’s usually a reliable spot for a few fish on a calm day. And so it proved again today, with a small ling hitting the bait within 5 seconds, and a nice stream of both codling and ling following it.

A small ling from the River Garry wreck, off Dunbar
A small ling from the River Garry wreck

As the tide slackened the bites on bottom baits dried up and I switched over to a spinning rod and jellyworms to target pollack, only to find more codling and another ling.

A gull with eyes bigger than its stomach measures up the prospects of swallowing a cod bigger than it is
A gull with eyes bigger than its stomach

I could’ve kept catching but I’d already outstayed my welcome, given I was supposed to be in the centre of Edinburgh by lunchtime so the Avon was pointed back towards Skateraw.

Enough teeth to make you think twice! A codling opens its mouth to show a set of small needle like teeth
Enough teeth to make you think twice!
A rather battered cod surfaces alongside the SIB
A rather battered cod surfaces

Coming inshore and pausing to fillet the catch the sea near Skateraw seemed filled with kayaks and a couple more inflatables, and it’s quite striking how much more popular the small end of small boat fishing has become in the last few years.

A collection of hopeful anglers off Skateraw, near Dunbar
A collection of hopeful anglers off Skateraw, near Dunbar

Final score was 13 codling and 10 ling, with the best fish going 4 lbs 10oz, and I was happy enough with that result for a few hours fishing.

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A bit of Surf and Turf in Lochaber

Yesterday saw me launching the SIB at Ballachulish before six in the morning, after a few hours kip in the car the night before. I made haste, to try and avoid the midges which are well and truly out of hibernation now!

An early morning launch for my SIB at Ballachulish

I don’t normally bother with Leven at this time of year as the fishing is usually taking off along the east coast and down in the SW. However the east has been very slow to get going this year, and I didn’t have any bait for a session in Galloway. The plan was to fish a fairly short session on Leven and then head for the hills for the rest of the day, exploring some of the other attractions that Lochaber has to offer.

Pap of Glencoe backlit in early morning sunshine
Pap of Glencoe backlit in early morning sunshine

The first hour passed slowly with a little ray and a smaller codling, but then cheered up somewhat as several more rays happened upon my mackerel strips.

A pretty little thornback ray gets returned to Loch Leven

I packed in around 9.30 with 9 rays, a couple of whiting and 1 mini codling to show for my efforts. Best was only 6lb 8oz, but it was a decent enough session, making the best of a windless early morning.

A slightly alien looking thornback ray clings to the Avon's tubes
A slightly alien looking thornback ray

A thorny thornback ray and best fish of the day

And the turf element? Well I’ve never hiked up Ben Nevis before, and thought it was about time I got around to it. I reckoned it would take around 6 hours to complete the round trip, but in the event it was a 5 hour haul up and down the steep access track. It was rather too crowded for my liking, but the weather was kind and it was a pleasant enough afternoon.

A crowded Ben Nevis.
A crowded Ben Nevis.
The view from the summit of Ben Nevis, May 2016
The view from the summit of Ben Nevis

Incidentally, I swapped cars a few months ago, and one of the advantages of the Yeti is that it’s fairly easy to arrange things to get a half decent night’s sleep – even sharing with an inflatable and outboard engine.

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Definition of Insanity…

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. (Albert Einstein)

Three trips afloat “out east”. Poor fishing again, and again, and again. Draw your own conclusions. At the very least it’s frustrating as things are usually starting to pick up by now.

The inner harbour at St Andrews
The inner harbour at St Andrews

Yesterday was probably my worst ever trip ever from St Andrews in terms of fish caught. When I say that Ian cuffed me with a single codling, a pair of coalies and a pollack you get some idea that things were a tad slow.

Ian playing a St Andrews pollack
Ian playing a pollack

Anchoring or drifting made no difference, as the fish remained resolutely sullen. Lots of activity on the sonar, but nothing hitting the bait or the mini sabikis, so maybe too many sandeel in the water. Perhaps.

Ian with a St Andrews codling
Ian with a smallish codling

Apart from some squalls early on the weather was decent and the drift manageable. Tactics varied through jellies, metals, shads, sabikis, bait and we cycled through the marks all right. Fish there, but not feeding, or fish not inshore yet?

A slim early season Pollack from St Andrews
A slim early season Pollack from St Andrews

So what did I actually catch? One little herring. I can barely bring myself to put that in writing 🙁

 

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Early days for Dunbar

The smooth, easy rollers running in from the NE were on the small side and no hazard to Alcatraz, but the occasional spine jarring impact into a swell served to remind her crew that they weren’t getting any younger. With no wind and a fair bit of hazy sunshine it was actually a fine day to hit the east coast, even if it was early days for Dunbar to be fishing well. Happily, our destination lay only a few miles down the coast so we could afford to cruise along at a fairly modest pace and keep personal damage to a minimum.

The wreck of the River Garry has been here for around 130 years now, beaten down into a mass of plates and girders with only the boilers standing well clear of the seabed. At times it can hold good numbers of cod, ling and pollack, which makes a very popular mark for anglers over the summer months. At other times it can be a slow, hard, spot to fish and very reluctant to reward a fisherman. Yesterday was more towards the latter end of the scale, although there was a bit of life about.

Small and thin - a typical early season codling
Small and thin – a typical early season codling

We were joined a little later by Alcatraz’s near identical sister, but everyone was struggling to connect with fish. Ian retrieved a very beaten up pollack with some rather nasty bites and scrapes on it, and I added a couple of ling to our total. Another 165 off Dunbar

Small and hungry ling
Small and hungry ling

We were also treated to the sight of the schooner Flying Dutchman passing just inshore of us – I do like the looks of a tall ship and the sense of adventure they always seem to exude, although this one spends most of its time as a mini cruise ship.
The Flying Dutchman off Dunbar - the Flying Dutchman passes inshore of us
The Flying Dutchman off Dunbar

We did try a couple of marks inshore for 90 minutes or so, but it was pretty dead with only one undersize codling to Ian. With no wind, a nice steady drift of around 1 knot, decent water clarity and a pair of anglers who can actually catch a few fish (despite appearances sometimes on this blog), you’re left with the conclusion that there wasn’t very much fish life around – yet. Another couple of weeks should hopefully change that fairly radically.

A switch back to the wreck for a few more drifts brought a few more codling and ling as the tide finally died away, with Ian (as usual) bagging the best codling with one of 4lb 9oz.

A codling glides towards Alcatraz
Coming alongside

Even at arms length this cod for Ian isn't really a monster
Cod of the day for Ian

By now the sun had largely been swallowed by the haze and it was getting quite cool, so it wasn’t difficult to call a halt and head back to Dunbar, just in time to catch the slip before it dried. The final tally between us was a dozen, so quite hard work although not far off what I’d expect in early May.

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Spurdogs play in the sun on Loch Etive

I had a better day than expected yesterday, as most recent reports from Loch Etive have been poor, and I thought I’d be struggling. As it turned out however, a decent break with the spurdogs saved the day, whilst unbroken sunshine was the icing on the cake.

Alcatraz has been out of water for almost 5 months now, and a little shakedown cruise was well overdue so I grabbed the weather and took the day off. Bonnie the spaniel was press-ganged as crew and we escaped Edinburgh just on 5 in the morning, to try and launch around HW at Taynuilt.

Flat calm at Kelly's Pier, Taynuilt

Even after a layup over winter the ETEC started first time and we were soon skimming over a flat calm surface and down towards Ardchattan. Anchor set and rods deployed we could turn to the more important matters of coffee and gravy bones (your choice depending on whether you’re human or a spaniel).

A small ray hits the surface
A small ray hits the surface

We spent the morning plugging away at a couple of spots around Ardchattan but it was fairly slow going, with only 3 rays, 3 doggies and a single spurdog and micro-cod to show for our efforts.

My cocker spaniel Bonnie looks a bit puzzled by this small thornback ray

By lunchtime Bonnie decided it was high time to get ashore and have a proper play about so we pointed Alcatraz back up the loch and just kept going until civilisation was safely left behind. Parking the boat just offshore we stretched out on the beach, had a bite to eat and a chuck about with the ball.

Bonnie is glad to be ashore and off the boat

Snow on Ben Cruachan and gorse coming into flower made a great backdrop.

Bonnie playing on the shore at Etive, with Cruachan behind

By half two I thought we’d better put some more effort into the fishing so persuaded a rather reluctant dog back in the boat and headed out to a nearby mark.

The breeze had picked up a little, but we sat quite nicely with wind and tide aligned. A set of small sabikis drew the first fish as the spinning rod hooped over to a hefty take. On the light rod this felt to be a good size until things went pear shaped about 30 seconds later. I assumed that a spurdog had nibbled the small sabiki and just bitten through the line until a rather beaten up whiting surfaced.

An Etive spurdog slides alongside the boat

No time to worry about it as my “proper” rod was now bouncing hard, and I hit into another spur. This one made it to the boat and was quickly returned – a modest 4-5lber at best, but welcome. This set the scene for the next couple of hours as fish after fish hit the baits.

A brace of spurdogs

None were very big, apart from the one that got away (! – even that was no monster), but most were in the 3-5 lb range with the biggest a 7 lb fish.

Netting a modest spurdog from Etive

Not huge, but the largest fish of the day - a 7 pound spurdog

Nothing else got a look in until towards the end of the session when a couple more dogfish and small whiting hit the surface.

All in all the score for the day was 22 spurs, 3 rays plus doggies, whiting and a micro-cod. Not a red-letter day, but not too shabby for a few stolen hours in the sunshine chilling with a furry friend.

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New Loch Etive Charts and Imagery

A few months ago I mentioned that the UK Hydrographic Office was releasing survey data for many areas which contained much more detailed information than the standard charts from Navionics, etc. When I checked back on their website recently I noticed that a full survey is now available for Loch Etive, mainly using a 2m x 2m grid.

I downloaded all the data and ran it through Reefmaster to generate a full set of AT5 Etive charts for my Lowrance chartplotter, plus a set of images that might be of interest to anyone fishing Etive. The shallower areas are charted with a 25cm contour, whilst deeper areas have a 1m contour spacing – so there is a lot of detail in there.

To cover both my ass and yours I need to make it clear that these files are not intended to be used for navigation, but to help you identify marks to fish and get a better understanding of the loch. There isn’t really very much to hit in Etive, but don’t blame me if you do!

If you just want to look at an enlarged version of the images below then click on these to download the larger version. These are quite large (6-14 MB each) so may take a little while. Then just open in Photo Viewer or something similar and zoom in to the areas of interest to you.

Reefmaster chart of Loch Etive (from the mouth of the loch to the Abbots Isles area) using UKHO survey data (9 MB download)
Reefmaster chart of Loch Etive (from the mouth of the loch to the Abbots Isles area) using UKHO survey data (9 MB download)
Etive Charts - Reefmaster generated chart of Loch Etive (from the Abbots Isles to Ardchattan area) using UKHO survey data (10 MB download)
Reefmaster chart of Loch Etive (from the Abbots Isles to Ardchattan area) using UKHO survey data (10 MB download)
Etive Charts - Reefmaster generated chart of Loch Etive (roughly the area from Airds Point to Bonawe) using UKHO survey data (13 MB download)
Reefmaster chart of Loch Etive (roughly the area from Airds Point to Bonawe) using UKHO survey data (13 MB download)
Etive Charts - Reefmaster generated chart - Bonawe Quarry to Cadderlie (12MB)
Etive – Bonawe Quarry to Cadderlie (12MB)
Etive Charts - Reefmaster generated chart of Loch Etive (roughly Cadderlie to Kinglass area) using UKHO survey data (12 MB download)
Reefmaster chart of Loch Etive (roughly Cadderlie to Kinglass area) using UKHO survey data (12 MB download)
Etive Charts - Reefmaster generated chart of upper Loch Etive using UKHO survey data (6 MB download)
Reefmaster chart of upper Loch Etive using UKHO survey data (6 MB download)

The main problem with the images is that is difficult to relate them to a specific feature or place in Etive. However, if you are a Google Earth user you can download the KML files below and save them in the same folder as the image file (i.e. download the image file(s) first, before the equivalent KML file). Then simply double click on the KML file to open Google Earth and load the image file alongside the Google imagery. The files may take a few minutes to load properly, so best to go get a coffee at this point.

Entrance to Loch Etive
Abbots Isles to Ardchattan
Airds Point to Bonawe
Bonawe to Cadderlie
Cadderlie to Kinglass
Upper Loch Etive

I haven’t uploaded the Lowrance AT5 files yet because (a) I haven’t checked them out myself and (b) they’re created for my older Lowrance chartplotter rather than the newer versions and (c) I need to sort out instructions for using multiple AT5 files on one card. Everything should work OK on newer kit than mine but with fewer features, and I’ll probably pop the files up at a future date.

A little update…

I’ve added a few more images, most of the area from Bonawe Narrows looking NE up Loch Etive, which show the some of the same information with a 3D view. They are scaled down from the full sized images, but might still take a few seconds to load.

3D Reefmaster view of Bonawe, Loch Etive

The underwater cliffs on the right hand side of the image are roughly where the fish farm is (a popular mark which throws up quite a range of fish), opposite the main quarry.

This next one is an export view from Reefmaster of the same chart. The KML file to use with Google Earth is here.

Relief view of underwater trench near Bonawe Narrows, Loch Etive

And this shows the results after embedding the previous file in Google Earth using the KML file – it makes it much easier to locate yourself within the charts (and you can zoom, etc. as you would normally in Google Earth).

Google Earth view of 500 foot deep trench NE of Bonawe

And a final image of quite an interesting little feature near Ardchattan, which looks like an old esker ridge left over from the ice age. I don’t know whether any of this really helps catch any more fish, but it does boost confidence a bit, and feeds my general fascination with maps and charts!

A possible Esker ridge at the bottom of Loch Etive

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