Codling Galore at St. Andrews

After an hour trundling along at 40mph in a pensioner rally I arrived at St. Andrews to find plenty of water in the harbour. Far too much water in fact, as the harbour gates were closed with Ian’s boat on the wrong side 🙁

Sluice gates in the harbour are opened
Sluice gates in the harbour are opened (not my image, but borrowed from YouTube)

Getting them opened again involved a tense race against time to allow the water levels either side of the gates to be equalised before the tide dropped too low to allow us out anyway. “Race” gives completely the wrong idea, as the sluices equalised water levels at roughly the rate your fingernails grow. It was a painfully slow wait until, finally, Ian managed to scrape through the half-opened gates and we crept out of a rapidly emptying harbour and out to sea.

A nicely marked codling which fell to ragworm on a purple muppet lure
A nicely marked codling which fell to ragworm on a purple muppet lure

A brief stop to confirm that the mackerel weren’t in yet and we headed eastwards towards cod territory. Fish were a little patchy but we hit clumps of them from the start and the rods were soon getting action. Fairly typical early summer fish – a bit thin and most around 2lbs – they were certainly hungry and happy to eat anything. Ragworm did nicely, but mackerel hammered quite a few, and Ian’s lure rod was very busy.

A typical inshore ballan wrasse - the colours of this one are a little subdued
A typical ballan
A cod with two tails, or two codling - it's hard to tell in this shot
Twin tail or two fish?

After a fairly slow hiatus over low water action picked up again with the tide. Pollack weren’t much in evidence, probably because the tide was fairly small, and codling certainly dominated the day. With an empty freezer I was happy to keep a few to restock, although the vast majority went back.

Nicely coloured fish and lure!
Nicely coloured fish and lure!

Ian’s plans for a final attempt to wheedle out a pollack or two were bushwhacked by a pod of dolphins feeding over the same territory. They weren’t exactly chasing us, but when we moved so did the dolphins. There didn’t seem to be much point in competing with them so we called it a day and headed back.

One of a small pod of dolphins working close inshore near St Andrews
Dolphins close inshore

The body count for the day was just shy of 70 cod plus a couple of pollack, a ling, ballan wrasse and a handful of small coalie. The ling was mine and the rest fell to Ian’s rod.

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March 4th 2011 – Loch Carron

Weather: Calm or light SW wind, mainly overcast. Chilly.
Sea: Calm, clear and cold
Time: Roughly 0845-1445 – 6 hours
Tides: LW around 1330 – largish tide

I hadn’t been up to Loch Carron for 6 or 7 years, since Ian and I had a windswept week struggling to find a few fish in late autumn 2004. It’s over 200 miles from Edinburgh, so not an easy daytrip and something like 5 hours driving if you’re towing a boat. However the plan was to use the inflatable (therefore no trailer hassle, and only a 4 hour drive), and then head up to see my dad in Nairn for the weekend. From that point of view it’s little more than a 150 mile detour – less than a Loch Etive trip.

Dolphins chase my inflatable
Dolphins chase my inflatable

An early start saw me launching from the Stromeferry slip before 9 a.m., heading towards the avalanche shelter area in search of a codling or two. After a mile or two I came reasonably close to a prawn creeler, and could see a pair of dolphins splashing around it. Once they picked up the sound of the outboard engine they made a beeline for me, easily traceable as the ploughed across the flat calm surface of the loch. I then had the pleasure of their company for the best part of an hour as I made my way up to the avalanche shelter and for a fair time afterwards as I tried to fish it. I’ve seen dolphins many times before, mainly on the east coast, but these were the most persistent I’ve encountered and the only ones I’ve ever caught on camera or video. Take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hgiqCQjt1A

Stretching my legs
Stretching my legs

After the dolphins eventually got bored and bu**ered off I started to pick up a few fish, mainly smallish ling in the 3-4lbs bracket on mackerel baited hokkais fished on a slow drift. I’d guess I fished roughly half to three quarters of a mile of the loch, centred on the avalanche shelter. The water got deep quickly, reaching 120 feet within easy casting distance of the shelter, even deeper from the point 200 or 300 yards to the west – perhaps 180 feet or more. Over the day I picked up 8 ling and a single codling, plus a heap of mussels for dinner later in the week. Nothing big or exciting but a decent day for March and no cause for complaint. I packed up early only because I had to be in Nairn for 5’ish and I dare say the score would have been higher if I’d hung around a bit longer.

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