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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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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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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Low key at Dunbar

Just a quick update on a short 3 hour outing about 10 days ago on the inflatable, out of Skateraw beach. Mackerel, Pollack and ling were all in evidence, but no trace of their tasty coddie siblings.

Early morning Autumn sunshine off Dunbar
Early morning Autumn sunshine off Dunbar

The most exciting hookup gave a really solid fight all the way until just under the surface, when up popped a 4lb ling rather than the double figure fish I’d been eagerly expecting. However it soon became obvious that my ling had been heavily beaten up by something larger, with big bite marks on the head and striations all along its body, and the mystery was pretty much solved when a large seal popped its head out the water looking for its dinner.

A mauled ling (with culprit in background)
A mauled ling (with culprit in background)

Best fish was a ling around 7lbs and it was a fine, calm day to be out on the North Sea, just a little subdued on the fishing front.

Just playing with the SIB
Just playing with the SIB
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Lazy Summer Morning…

Whales are still rare enough round here for a sighting to be memorable, and this Minke looked very purposeful as it ploughed steadily along in the direction of St. Abbs. Close enough to be impressive, but too far for a decent photo! A little later its baby cousin, a small porpoise, also paid a fleeting visit, so a good day for cetacean watching… More welcome than the seal that hung around for a while earlier on – I’d swear there’s a smile on its face.

A rather contented seal
A rather contented seal

Earlier in the morning I’d slipped out of Dunbar on the ebb tide and nosed Alcatraz out onto a sunny and windless North Sea. Not exactly calm, mind you, with a steady NE swell rolling in – nothing major, but enough to remind me that the weather lately has been anything but summery.

Leaving Dunbar through the Harbour Bridge
Leaving Dunbar through the Harbour Bridge

An inshore drift  produced mackerel, codling and Pollack – but only one of each before my blubbery “friend” turned up and outstayed his welcome. A move out to the wreck resulted in more activity, with a slow but steady stream of ling and a couple more codling.

Small but greedy ling
Small but greedy ling

Getting tired of constant short drifts and only lacklustre fishing I switched back to the inshore marks for a couple of hours, trying a few spots near Torness. Nothing dramatic but more Pollack and codling were my reward – no tiddlers and no monsters either, with the best fish a 6lb ling.

Fish of the day - a modest ling
Fish of the day – a modest ling

A long final drift as I filleted the codling produced a couple more Pollack and mackerel, which hit a slim silver belly fillet of mackerel fished on a long trace from a spinning rod – great fun as the light rod hoops over hard as the fish hits.

Dinner - a pan sized codling
Dinner – a pan sized codling

The final tally was 22 or 23 fish for the morning, split pretty evenly between codling, Pollack and ling. Very few mackerel showed up, although they were of good size and I wasn’t really targeting them.

About to leave Dunbar harbour
The remains of Dunbar Castle dominate the harbour entrance

This was my first shot out of Dunbar since May, with most of the summer lost to a variety of little time-stealers and a fair bit of rubbish weather. On the plus side, I’ve spent a fair bit of time pulling together a little expedition to somewhere warmer, which hopefully kicks off in a couple of weeks. Nowhere near saltwater though!

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First blood on the East Coast

A few hours free this morning and a good forecast, so it seemed time for Alcatraz to hit Dunbar for the first time this season. Hopefully things should be waking up on the east coast by now and the cod larder is very bare indeed.

Off Dunbar

Launching at HW just around 7 was a piece of cake – or it would’ve been if I’d remembered to pop the bung back in. After a bit of red-faced baling and general sorting myself out, it was a trip down the coast towards the Barns Ness/Torness area.

Small Ling off Dunbar
Small Ling

To be honest things were fairly slow and I tapped away with the odd small ling and codling. The early chop died off as the tide turned and the drift was a little on the slow side, but not enough to be a problem.

Fish On!
Fish On!

A couple of moves gave pretty much the same result, until I hit mackerel not too far off the lighthouse. I knew it was possible to pick them up in May, but was a little surprised given the day was otherwise fairly quiet. They were stonking great mackerel too, with the biggest topping 1lb 12oz when I popped it on the kitchen scales later.

First mackerel off Dunbar
First mackerel off Dunbar

Unfortunately time was all too limited today, so I’d to call it quits around eleven and only just made it onto the bottom of the slipway as it dried at the bottom of the tide.

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Three badgers and a Wedding

Yes, it was a rather short but surreal trip last night…

I occasionally take the dog and a rod for a short flattie bashing session on a quiet East Lothian beach. Not being particularly into either beach fishing or flatties I usually only give it an hour or two at dusk, and yesterday looked to be a decent enough evening with some chance of flounder activity.

The beach requires a short walk through farmland and some woods, and I wasn’t surprised to encounter a couple of deer just before I reached the dunes fringing the beach. Walking across the sand to my chosen spot I was hailed by a rather friendly chap who then asked if I’d be willing to perform a marriage ceremony for him and his beloved. Faced with such a radical change from “have you caught anything yet” style questions I was too gobsmacked to argue, and duly spent a few minutes going through wedding vows with a mildly new-age theme. I can only assume there was no-one else around, which is why a random dog walking angler was selected to officiate, but the setting sun on Mayday, standing on a beautiful beach seems to me like a good enough place to get hitched. Good luck to Nicholas and Helen!Dusk-at-Beach-2

A few minutes later your newly appointed wedding registrar was setting up shop for flounders near the bottom of the tide. As the sun faded it was pleasant enough, but a little cold as the light force 2-3 wind was blowing off the sea. There was a little weed about but nothing too bad so I lobbed out a couple of small mackerel baits and kept the dog amused with her ball whilst I waited.

I only gave it a hour, given I was out for some fresh air as much as any fishing, but my shiny new Teklon 802 spinning rod duly broke it’s duck with a surprisingly fat flounder a little while after the sun disappeared completely. No monster and well short of a pound it was still a welcome visitor and another species for the year to date – a total of 11 so far. Not long after something long and low caught my eye as it scuttled across the beach in the last of the light – at first I thought it was someone’s dog before it dawned on me that it must be an otter heading off to prowl the nearby rocks. No chance of a photo, but that’s the first time I’ve seen an otter along the east coast shoreline.

A fairly plump spring flounder

To cap off the evening the woods on our walk back seemed full of activity, with several deer and no less than three badgers crossing our path. So a very brief trip, but no shortage of activity last night.

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Inshore codding off Skateraw

Given the weekend is probably going to be a washout for boat fishing, I nipped out of Skateraw for a short session on Friday afternoon.  The weather was calm, but with a small swell running from the NE.

First up were a few mackerel for bait, and I took a few shots with the GoPro of them underwater. I’m still learning the basics with this camera, but it certainly does open up a new dimension for angling photography.

Underwater shot of a group of mackerel taken on mylar lures
Underwater shot of a group of mackerel taken on mylar lures

Even in a more conventional shot, mackerel are a very beautiful fish and very underrated just by being so easily caught.

Mackerel - A very pretty fish when you take the time to look at it, fresh from the sea
A very pretty fish when you take the time to look at it

About a mile offshore I fished one of my regular marks for a few codling in what was a very slow drift. Normally the problem is slowing down a SIB but today there was hardly any movement and the GPS was showing 0.3 to 0.4 mph speed over ground.

No matter as there were a reasonable number of small codling about and I took 9 plus a couple of ling in around two hours. The fish came to a mix of artificial shad lures (fun on a light spinning rod) and mackerel baited muppets, but there were no Pollack amongst them which was a bit of a surprise.

A small codling tries to escape after swallowing a large artificial shad completely
A small codling tries to escape after swallowing a large artificial shad completely

Heading back to Skateraw beach I paused to fillet the fish inside the breakwater at Torness before landing ashore through a small surf at just after HW – a bit splashy but nothing too dramatic.

SIB ashore in a surf
SIB ashore in a surf

And I’m writing this whilst looking out the window at a blustery day with some rain spittering against the windows – so glad I took the chance yesterday!

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