7th March 2010 – Etive

Weather: Chilly with a light SE wind and mainly overcast. Wind less than 10mph all day
Sea Conditions: Calm
Tides: 11:36 1.3m
Time spent: 0900-1700 – 8 hours

Started off at Inveresregan in about 210 feet, and maybe 150 yards from shore. Fishing was slowish – quite a lot of small rattles, probably from whiting – but not many coming aboard. The count gradually climbed, with a respectable range of species but nothing of any size. Oddly enough there was no sign of LSDs at all – not that I’m complaining much.

A shift down the loch to Ardchattan for a couple of hours produced a flurry of small spurdog and a couple of small rays, but little of excitement. Overall it was pleasant enough, but nothing to write home about. Total for the day – 4 thornbacks, 14 spurs, plus codling, whiting, poor cod, pouting and gurnard.

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24th January 2010 – Oban

Weather: Light N/NE wind F1-2. Dry, cold with some sunny intervals
Sea Conditions: Slight – a little chop at times
Time Spent: 0945-17:00 – 7:15
Tides: 11:15 GMT – 3.1m

Taking advantage of a break in the winter weather Ian and I towed Alcatraz westwards to have a crack at Oban and the chance of a skate. The wind was light but it was bl**dy chilly, so much so that my eTec decided to issue a “no oil” warning after a few minutes running – a first for me, but known to be an occasional problem in cold weather. Sorted out by a quick restart, and we were soon dropping the hook down to the seabed 530 feet below.

Ian with 178lb skate
Ian with 178lb skate

We’d timed arrival for an hour or so before HW, but there was still a moderate tide running and a little hint of wind against tide. Nevertheless we got a pair of skate baits settled on the bottom and sorted out a welcome cup of soup. After an hour or so, and a little after HW, Ian’s rod had a nice run and he was soon into a good sized fish which was surfaced about 20 minutes later, after much huffing and puffing. The way the tide had been running the fish was actually lying in front of the boat, towards the anchor rope, which made playing it a bit more difficult. However, at 178lbs it was a good start for the year for both Ian and Alcatraz, and broke Ian’s long running duck at Oban.

Just as soon as Ian’s fish was returned I realised that there was another fish on my rod so it was a repeat performance,

A 203lb Oban skate
A 203lb Oban skate

apart from showing me to be even more out of condition – it took an age to get it off the bottom and my back was constantly reminding me why skate fishing is a really silly idea. Nevertheless line gradually filled the reel again and eventually Ian got the chance to sink a gaff into the wing of what looked to be a very good fish.

The fun started in earnest now because, try as we might, we couldn’t get the fish aboard. After a few attempts we gave up before we caused too much damage to ourselves or the fish and settled down to trying to measure it in the water. Length wasn’t too bad – after we got a rope around her tail we could hold her against the side of the boat and measure off against that. Width was much harder as we were measuring a rather slippery and curly underside but we got there in the end, despite almost joining the fish in the water a couple of times. Final result was a (reasonably conservative) 86″ x 69/70″, which I make to be around 203lbs or thereabouts and a lifetime personal best. Result!

After that excitement the rest of the day was (thankfully) fish free apart from a few doggies and a single spurdog to Ian. Sadly no black mouthed dogfish put in an appearance 🙁

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6th December 2009 – Loch Sunart

Third and last day of our sojourn to Sunart, and the weather pretty much killed it as the wind rose to a three quarters gale and the anchor eventually couldn’t hold us properly. Only a handful of fish to show for our efforts before we called it quits in the early afternoon.

Weather: S force 4 rising to a 6-7. Dry becoming heavy rain. Pretty horrible overall
Sea Conditions: Calm, becoming choppy later
Time Spent: 10:30-14:30 – 4 hours
Tides: HW approx 09:00

The weather looked OK to start with so we headed over to the marks opposite Salen and stuck the hook down. An hour here produced a single doggie, so we moved down to the fish farm half way down the loch towards Laga and tried again. Another hour produced a couple of doggies and small conger before the rising wind persuaded us to try and get shelter near the salmon farm opposite Laga.

Anchoring up in the same spot we’d picked up fish on Friday we initially held bottom and fished OK, but with little result apart from a couple more dogs. Dale had been across the other side of Laga but wasn’t able to hold anchor, so came back near us and tied up to a buoy on the farm. The wind continued to rise and our anchor finally dragged slowly through the soft mud on the bottom. The rain came on with a vengeance and spirits sank as nothing fishy like appeared, so we called it a day around half two, and headed back through a pretty strong wind.

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5th December 2009 – Loch Sunart

Day 2 of our Sunart trip, and Ian and I had a reasonable day with spurs and conger. Still not a patch on earlier years on the loch though 🙁 At least the Salen Hotel offers good food and friendly place to drown your sorrows!

Weather: Initially F2-3 S, later F3-5 SE. Dry and mild(ish). Overcast
Sea Conditions: Calm
Time Spent: 10:00-16:30 – 6.5 hours
Tides: Approx 08:00 Largish tide

After the slow fishing on Friday we decided to head down towards the mouth of the loch and kicked off at a spot just west of Carna. At 170 feet it was much shallower than other marks, but there were fish showing and we quickly got bites. Alas these proved to be small doggies and whiting and, after an hour of baits being stripped, we decided to move back into Laga Bay and give it a try opposite the fish farm area.

Ian with a nice Sunart conger eel
Ian with a nice conger

The first hour and a half was completely blank, with no sign of activity until Dale Robertson and Iona V appeared sometime after 12. They had tried a number of marks but had also failed to find fish in the morning, and ended up anchored a few hundred yards away from Alcatraz. Happily things picked up shortly after they arrived and both Ian and I hit into spurdogs of a decent size. We had perhaps 90 minutes of decent fishing with several spurdog and 3 congers as well as a few LSD, before things went very quiet again.

Dale left for home first, and we gave him a few minutes to clear the slip before heading back ourselves. Back at the hotel we met up again at dinner and had a couple of drinks in the evening, mainly bemoaning the weather and general state of fish stocks…

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4th December 2009 – Loch Sunart

Ian and I decided on a three day trip across to Sunart in search of spurdog and skate, the latest in a long line of weekends spent across there. Day 1 proved to be fairly slow, although I did winch up a skate from over 400 feet of water on a spinning rod – pity it was only 10lbs or so in weight!

Weather: F2 SE to start with, rising to F4-5 SE later. Dry and overcast
Sea Conditions: Calm until late in the day, with a chop developing
Time Spent: 10:00-16:30 – 6.5 hours
Tides: Approx 07:00 – Largish tide

Ian L and myself headed up to Sunart for a long weekend starting on the Friday, aiming to bag a spur or two.

A very small Sunart skate
Tiny skate!

We hit the water around 10 a.m. and nipped across the loch to a favourite spot close to Salen. This proved a slow burn to say the least, with only 1 spur and a handful of doggies showing in an hour and a half so we moved a few miles down the loch and set up shop again. There were more signs of life here and, after dealing with a few more doggies, we picked up two congers, to just under 15lbs and a couple more spurs. Just to complete the doubles I picked up a pair of mini-skate (total weight about 18lbs!) within minutes of each other – one of them christening a new spinning rod.

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8th November 2009 – Loch Etive

Weather: Cold;some long sunny intervals; light or no wind
Sea Conditions: Calm
Time Spent: 0915-1815 – 9 hours
Tides: 11:00 GMT

Etive was looking at its best yesterday morning – clear skies, bright sunshine reflecting off the snow on the mountains, and a virtually calm sea loch. Just to balance things a little, it was pretty frigid getting Alcatraz ready for launch!

Despite the scenery I resisted the temptation to head up the loch and instead trundled on down towards Ardchattan. Ninety minutes here produced a reasonable mix of small spurs, thornbacks and whiting, but eventually tailed off. I shifted a couple of miles and tried a pair of marks near the Priory, with similar results.

By now it was well after 3 and the sun was heading down towards the horizon, so I decided to give it one more shift before dark. I’ve been gathering seabed mapping data for Etive for a couple of years (using the DrDepth software), and still have a few gaps to fill in, so I steered a couple of doglegs on the way back up to collect some more info, and then dropped anchor just off the stream at Inveresregan. Deep water in here meant anchoring in 200 feet less than 200 yards from shore, in light that was fading fast.

The loch was completely calm and the boat was sitting comfortably in a slight surface current so I was happy enough to sit back and watch the stars come out. However the fish wanted to play too, with a rapid succession of spurries mixed in with a few thornbacks, pouting, poor cod and whiting. Nothing big, but pretty much non-stop for the last hour or so. I was tempted to stay longer, but had only one torch with me (having looked out my headlamp and then left it behind in the lounge), so decided not to chance my arm too much and called it a day a little after five.

Final totals – 30 spurdog, 9 thornbacks and a good sprinkling of other fish. Nothing huge, biggest around 4.5 lbs, but a cracking day to be out on the water.

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4th October 2009

Weather: Generally good, with a fair bit of sunshine. Initially no wind, later a F2-3
Sea Conditions: Calm, lot of fresh water on surface (esp near head of loch)
Time Spent: 0830-1830 – 10 hours
Tides: 0743 GMT – 1.9m

Loch Etive
Loch Etive
calm day on Loch Etive
Mirror calm

Started off at Ardchattan, using a small groundbait block alongside the anchor. This produced immediate results, with 4 thornbacks and several spurs, plus LSD and whiting. When this tailed off I moved down to near the Priory for a while, but this produced only a couple of spurs. A more substantial move all the way p the loch produced some tiny spurs and whiting. Stopped off at an old pier for a wee exploration before having a couple of hours off Kinglass in 270 feet – caught a plague of tiny spurs plus a couple of decent poor cod, a couple of thornbacks and a very manky looking codling that was covered in little red worms.

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18th March 2009 – Loch Sunart

Weather: Calm or light W/NW wind. Dry and mainly sunny. Lovely day
Sea Conditions: Calm
Time Spent: 0750-1830 – 11 hours
Tides: HW 0930 – small tide

Launched at Strontian and set creels before starting to fish.

I tried 5 marks during the day but the results were very poor, with only doggies and a lonely poor cod – no sign of spurs at all. I did hook a small skate on a spur bait, but it eventually threw the hook about 100 feet above the bottom. The fish farm at Laga Bay was being harvested by a large boat making a lot of noise, which didn’t help either.

The sonar was also performing very badly for much of the day, losing bottom lock far too easily (subsequently fixed by adjusting the transducer position on the transom a little – obviously got knocked during a launch/retrieval).

My creels produced 3 squat lobster (tiny but very sweet and tasty meat) and several hermit crabs, plus masses of brittle star in one particular creel. However it probably has to rank as my worst day on the loch, without a single spur at all.

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