Prophet of Doom calls it right (almost) :-(

I’ve not clambered down the harbour wall at St Andrews for ages, and was looking forward to a bit of coddie bashing on what was quite a reasonable forecast. Perhaps I should’ve paid more attention to Cassandra, in the form of skipper Ian, when he pointed out that there had been a couple of days of north-easterly winds and the water still had some colour. And the tides were too small. Basically, the fishing was doomed…

An ominous sky near St Andrews
An ominous sky near St Andrews

Three hours later, with a combined catch of sod-all, things were not looking very good, and Ian’s power of prediction was looking vindicated. I was also running out of lead rapidly as I kissed goodbye to weight after weight, much to Ian’s amusement.

Very colourful, but where are the fish?
Very pretty, but where are the fish?

The flood tide saw an improvement and we picked up small codling, coalies and Pollack on several drifts, with a single mackerel for Ian. The best codling also went to Ian with a decent fish of around 4.5lbs, but most were far smaller. In terms of numbers we probably didn’t disgrace ourselves too much (I’m guessing around 40 fish between us, maybe half of which were codling) but it did feel rather slow by comparison to the usual standard for this time of year.

Just for a change, this one's actually a bit bigger than it looks
Just for a change, this one’s actually a bit bigger than it looks

Overall this must rank as one of the few days when I’ve left St Andrews carrying less weight than when I arrived – the ratio of leads lost to fillets gained was pretty poor (doubly so when most of the fillets weren’t even caught by me in the first place).

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A bucketful of codling

St Andrews can fish quite well in the autumn and early winter, if the weather behaves itself, so I was more than happy to take up Ian’s offer of a trip out even though it was mid-November. The day turned out better than expected with a fairly light SW wind and a bit of sun, so full on thermals and gloves were tucked away for another day, and we settled down to a bit of drift fishing a few miles down the coast.

St Andrews Harbour Entrance
St Andrews Harbour Entrance
A good day out from St Andrews in mid-November
A good day out from St Andrews in mid-November

Fishing inshore provided a few codling, but the numbers started to ratchet up once we headed out a little way. Nothing big, but mainly in the 2-3lb mark with the odd fish to over 5lb thrown in, and very few complete tiddlers. Ian knocked out a few Pollack on lures – no large ones, but fish to around 4lb and quite late in the year to still encounter them here in quite shallow water.

Modest but welcome pollack appearing amongst the codling
Modest but welcome pollack appearing amongst the codling

There were loads of little coalies at times, plus some tiny ling, but it was the consistent coddie fishing that ultimately made the day and we finished with around 80 between us, plus an assortment of Pollack, ling and coalie. All in all, an excellent day out and a good bit better than I’d hoped for.

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Hunting off St Andrews

I’d had a cold for the last couple of days and wasn’t expecting to be doing much over the weekend given the forecast wasn’t great either. However an email from Ian suggesting a Saturday trip was too good an offer to refuse, especially since the fishing off St Andrews and the east coast generally had been pretty good of late, so I duly turned up at the harbour around half-eleven in the morning.

A view of St Andrews harbour from Ian's Raider as we set off for an early October sea angling trip.
St Andrews Harbour from Ian’s Raider
View of St Andrews ancient stone built harbour wall from Ian's Raider 18
View of St Andrews harbour wall

After the usual messing about shipping loads of fishing clobber across a couple of boats to reach Ian Raider we got ourselves set up and headed out into the sunshine, with only a modest SW breeze chasing our tails. A few miles along the coast we stopped off to try for some mackerel only to find nothing was interested in our lures – the colour in the water from heavy seas earlier in the week probably had something to do with it, and the shoals are probably starting to break up now anyway. A move to a mark further along the coast produced a couple of codling for Ian and a coalie for me, but still no sign of mackerel despite the clearer water.

A strikingly coloured octopus caught from St Andrews
A strikingly coloured octopus caught from St Andrews
The view back into St Andrews harbour as we leave the entrance channel heading out to sea
St Andrews Harbour entrance

A shift out to slightly deeper water saw us start to pick up codling on the drift, together with the odd coalie and small pollack. No monsters but one or two decent concentrations of fish, and our tally increased at a reasonable pace until the tide slackened off and we decided to anchor up rather than drift fish in what was becoming a considerable breeze. This proved quite a good move and a large number of smallish coalies appeared, plus a few decent codling and a single mackerel – the only one caught all day. Ian added a very lively octopus to our tally, which managed to sprint around the deck quite nicely until we chucked it back after a photo or two.

The fishing activity dwindled over time, as often happens, and we eventually up-anchored and headed a little closer inshore to see whether any pollack wanted to play. Fishing was fairly slow, although there were a few smallish pollack to around 4lbs as well as more codling and a few more coalies. Ian added several small ling to our total as well – in fact more than doubling his personal total for the year.

Dodging lobster pot buoys near St Andrews
Dodging lobster pot buoys near St Andrews

By now it was well after five, and we needed to head back before getting caught out in the falling tide, so it was time to head back to harbour in the autumn sunshine – very pleasant from the shelter of the cabin although a little chilly when you stuck your head over the parapet. I took a few pics of the lobster pot minefield on the way into the harbour – there are a huge number of the things sitting waiting to trap an unwary propellor, and you do need to be very careful approaching the harbour entrance at night!

I sort of lost count during the day, but I’d have had have 15-20 codling to around 6lbs, maybe 30 smallish coalfish, 1 mackerel and 3 or 4 pollack. Ian had more codling, pollack and ling, but only a few coalfish, so somewhere between 80 and 100 fish between us – not at all bad for mid-Autumn fishing on the east coast. Most of the fish came to lures or smallish mackerel baits.

 

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Summer 2013

What with holidays and family commitments I rarely get the chance to do that much fishing in July and August, and that was true for this year too. The inflatable got wet a couple of times off Skateraw as I headed out in the early morning for a few mackerel and codling, and I met up with Ian for a trip out of St Andrews in early August, but Alcatraz saw no action at all.
To be fair, the second trip on the the little SIB was on a beautiful calm morning and I had a couple of hours on the River Garry wreck which produced a nice ling of 9.5lbs plus some decent codling and pollack, so there were certainly fish about for the taking.

St. Andrews was slow at times, with a lot of small pollack and codling showing, although Ian showed his customary expertise with the spinning rod and knocked out several decent pollack as we sat at anchor.

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25 June – More East Coast Coddie Bashing

Weather: Variable WNW wind, everything from force 1 to 4. Sun and scattered showers. Mild
Sea: Slight wave action, but a fairly unpleasant wind against tide chop in evening.
Time: Roughly 3.30 – 9.00 p.m. – 5.5 hours
Tides: HW approx 6.00 p.m., and a moderate tide

Today had a sort of will we, won’t we feel to it as the forecast edged towards the iffy side, but the afternoon actually looked OK with a stiff NW breeze blowing and more sunshine than showers on the go. We left harbour without drama and safely negotiated the small fleet of sailng dinghies that was adding to the hazards posed by dozens of pot buoys in the area just to seaward.

Stopping at a mark a few miles along the coast we quickly found we were drifting quickly – over 2.5 mph – and I hit into a pot rope within a minute or two and promptly lost my end gear. Lesson learnt we headed along to find some less pot festooned ground and tried another drift. This produced a few coalies and undersized pollack, but no cod, and we decided to anchor for a while and see how things went.

We didn’t last too long before the anchor broke out and had to be reset, but it was definitely an easier time than drifting so we stuck with it and picked up smallish numbers of smallish codling, plus some decent coalies and a couple of mackerel. Ian had had a fish of about 4.5lbs but the rest were pretty small when my baited hokkai rig bent over hard and I felt a better fish on. This fish gave a decent account of itself but it wasn’t too long before it was carefully lifted aboard the Raider. It was obviously a nice codling, but I was surprised when the scales went round to 9lbs (a weight confirmed later in the harbour), as that made it my biggest for several years.

We carried on at anchor for another hour or so before things went completely quiet and we headed off for a final set of drifts on a fresh mark. This produced instant results in the shape of strings of small codling with a few coalfish and mackerel thrown in. Although we had only 2 or 3 drifts before heading in this certainly bumped the numbers up and I ended the day with 41 codling and a good number of coalfish. Ian more than doubled these numbers, with slightly fewer codling but more coalies, although some of the coalie we caught were bigger than the codling.

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1 June – Coddie Bashing at St Andrews

Weather: Dry, with a mix of scattered clouds and sunshine. Light ENE wind
Sea: 2-3 foot NE swell, but fairly clear water
Tides: HW approx 1230. Smallish tide
Time: Roughly 0930-1430 – 5 hours

First shot on Ian Raider out of St Andrews this year, and I was reasonably hopeful after a successful trip from Dunbar the week before. The weather had been pretty iffy during the week, but looked OK for the Friday, so the day off work was arranged and the gear sorted out.

Leaving St Andrews the chop was mild with little underlying swell, and better weather than forecast, so we headed well to the east. Our first few drifts close in produced relatively little, so we headed out a little way where we started picking up decent numbers of codling, working our way up to around 40 or so over the next couple of hours. As the tide turned the fish went off the feed and Ian took us back inshore again for another drift, with a view to anchoring up after a couple of runs across the mark.

However fish hit almost instantly and we rapidly changed our minds about anchoring as there were clearly large numbers of respectable codling about. In the next 90 minutes another 60 codling came aboard, with the best hitting 6.5 lbs and the average a very respectable size for inshore cod in the early summer. They were taking all combinations of lures and baits, including a few more to my pink redgill.

Final total – 51 cod to me and 49 to Ian, although he scored extra for the ling and coalies. First time we’ve broken the 100 mark in several years.

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20 Nov 2011 – St. Andrews

Weather: Mainly overcast with a little sun, light SSW wind. Chilly
Sea: Fairly clear water, with a small 2 foot E swell.
Time: Roughly 11-4.30 p.m.
Tides: Small tides, LW around 3 p.m.

After a discussion around Etive v St Andrews, we opted for a late season east coast coddie session, despite the awkwardness of the tides and the need to come back in the dark. Ian’s outboard wasn’t cooperating and refused to rev high enough to get us on the plane, so it was a slow chug along the coast, broken by a couple of unproductive inshore drifts, until we got to our preferred marks.

Although we’d only a fairly short session actually fishing here, there were decent numbers of codling about – all in the 2-5lb range and I totalled 14, with Ian about the same. 3 ling also came to the boat, all of a reasonable size compared to St Andrews rather low average for ling. The tide was a very small one but the drift speed was actually faster than normal, and still held at 1-1.2 knots even when the wind stopped altogether, so this was probably a factor.

All to soon the light faded as the sun set and we plodded our way back home in the dark, dodging most (but not all!) the lobster pots that litter the last mile of the approach back to harbour.

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3 July 2011 – St Andrews

Weather: Light E wind, dry and sunny
Sea Conditions: A moderate (4 foot or so) swell from the NE, but water was clear
Time: 1330-1900 – 5.5 hours
Tides: LW approx 1040, largish tide

Fished with Ian and Tim on Ian’s Raider, taking advantage of our rare tee-shirt weather. Mackerel were a bit elusive to start with but we managed a couple for bait and started drift fishing for codling. Although light, the wind was running against tide so the rate of drift was pretty slow and the fishing was steady rather than rapid fire. Best illustration of this was me catching 3 scorpian fish, more than I normally catch in a year, as we crawled across the bottom. There were good numbers of smallish codling about and I ended up with 26, so the boat total must have been respectable – certainly more than 60, which isn’t to be sneezed at.

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May 29 Inshore codling at St Andrews and Dunbar

A couple of quick reports on St Andrews and Dunbar at the end of May/early June. First off was a trip in Ian’s Raider a few miles along the coast from St Andrews. This proved to be a fairly typical trip – i.e. plenty of codling – and we picked up around 30 each, plus a good number of small coalies. No mackerel, although the sonar and other boats suggested they were about in decent numbers.

A few days later I took my inflatable out for 2 or 3 hours from Skateraw beach near Dunbar – this time the coddies were slow to put in an appearance but there were plenty of mackerel. Coalies around in numbers too, plus a little pollack and a short spined sea scorpian to round off the species count.

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1st August – St. Andrews

A good species day – 9 in all – from Ian’s Raider, with some respectable sized codling although not in huge numbers.

Weather: A few very heavy showers about, but calm and mild.

Sea Conditions: Almost calm, with very little drift most of the day

Time: 15:00-21:00 – 6 hours

Tides: HW approx 18:00, fairly small tide.

My first angling therapy for some weeks due to the summer holidays taking place a couple of hundred miles from the seaside, so I was glad of the opportunity for an afternoon out with Ian and Tim, aboard Ian’s Raider.

Things started slowly as we struggled initially to get mackerel for bait, with a few fish coming up one at a time rather than the full houses you get to expect at this time of year. However it wasn’t too long before we were drifting one of the inshore reefs and picking up modest numbers of very fit summer codling. No biggies, but none of the tiddlers that can plague you at times, with most of the fish around the 3lb mark.

Our drift gradually fell away and so did the fishing, and we spent the last few hours picking away for small patches of codling, with a mix of ling, and small coalies thrown in. I picked up a pouting, sea scorpian and an LSD (my first ever from the east coast), whilst Tim contributed a ballan wrasse and several pollack so we turned in a good day on the species front – 9 in all, which is good going round here. Only about 40 cod between us though, which is below average.

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