A Shoal of Oban Skate

I managed my first fishing since the beginning of December last weekend, trailing my Longliner over to Oban for a crack at skate with Ian – and it proved a stonker of a session!

We launched in chilly, calm, sunshine at Ganavan and headed down the west coast of Kerrera. After dropping anchor in 370 feet, quite close inshore, we sorted out the usual skate gear and a couple of lighter rods targetting spurs or conger.

Instant Action

My coalfish bait was barely down 5 minutes when the Avet’s ratchet abused my eardrums as a skate grabbed breakfast. Yee-hah!! – my first fish for 5 months! Two minutes later the Torium screeched as my light rod doubled over and I was left playing 2 skate. Then Ian’s reel went as well and and we were left scrabbling for butt pads and shoulder harnesses to deal with a triple hook up.

Skate aboard my dinghy

I made relatively short work of my skate as it wasn’t very big and levered off the bottom OK. I was still relieved to see it surface alongside the boat though! Ian’s fish had ignored his “proper” skate gear and taken a conger bait, so was still welded to the mud, and he kindly helped get my fish over the gunwhales.

Playing a common skate, Oban, 2021
Ian with a skate on light gear

One fish down, and Ian returned to the hard work of skate fishing with light gear. It took a while but a very similar size of fish eventually popped up and was brought aboard.

Common skate
Ian with skate

By now the sun was blazing down, or at least it felt like that to us. I returned to my other skate, which had wandered around quite a bit as we dealt with the other fish. My rod doubled over as I edged the fish along the sea bed, but it refused to move any further.

Ian was now into another skate so I left mine where it was and helped him boat his fish.

Small male skate alongside the boat
Small male skate alongside the boat

Job done, I turned back to my long attached fish and another fruitless tug of war followed. Clearly the skate on my “little” rod had no plans to move! Abandoning it for the time being I decided to put my proper skate rod back into action. 2lbs of lead and a coalie duly dropped down to the mud…

An Ugly Demise…

Another fish for Ian and then my skate rod bent over as one snaffled a 10/0 O’Shaughnessy. I hooked it no bother and started prising it loose from the ooze far below until… a loud crack signalled the demise of my 50lb Ugly Stik. Unbreakable my a**e! It was under less pressure that it had been with the first skate, so I’m not sure what happened.

Rod broken by a common skate

Recovering from the shock I tried to play the fish broomstick style, using the one remaining ring. This worked quite well at first and I winched it up perhaps 100 feet from the bottom before the hook pulled out and I lost it. I guess the pole-like remnants of the rod coupled with the no-stretch braid allowed the fish to work free.

A common skate hooked off Kerrera, Oban, 2021

I gave the small rod another 20 minutes of effort before deciding to pull for a break as it was obviously stuck solid. Line wound round the gaff handle and I did my best – but couldn’t break the 40lb Daiwa J-braid. All that happened was that I painfully shifted the boat uptide against the anchor, inch by inch, and couldn’t get enough pressure to break the line.

Another break to help Ian (the score was 5-1 by this point) and then it was back to my own skate. It pulled around a little as we dealt with Ian’s fish and now I could get it to move slightly. It felt free of the snag at least! Painfully levered off the bottom, it became much easier to deal with and I slowly pumped it up to the surface to get my number two for the day. That fish (not a big one) took almost 4 hours from start to finish!! 

A long battle with a skate that hit my light rod
Playing a skate

The Drubbing Continues

One coffee and a bacon roll later I watched Ian deal with skate number six, also on a light rod and reel. I swapped my skate reel onto the 20/30lb rod and dropped a bait down too. I reckoned the rod could handle whilst the better reel (2-speed) improved my odds.

It didn’t take too long for another run to appear and I hooked yet another skate. Alas the line parted 10 minutes later, perhaps a hundred feet below the boat. Perhaps it was nicked by the damaged rod as it had handled the earlier fish OK, but it kind of summed my day up! At least the fish should able to lose the trace fairly quickly, as it was a barbless setup.

Common skate aboard my dinghy
Ian and friend

My consolation prize appeared as Ian played a seventh fish on his light rod. His proper skate gear had a run and I don’t think Ian could face any more! This one became mine and we both hauled away together to bring the total to 10 skate.

Final Score

Ian cemented his day with another skate just before we lifted anchor and headed back north. Eleven skate between us, with eight to Ian and three to me. We had at least 18, maybe 20 runs, and the score must have been higher if I hadn’t been out of action for half the day. There were no really big fish, with the best being low three figures I’d say and the majority under 100lb. Most were released alongside the boat but, even so, I’ve acquired a few more scratches to the gunwhales and plenty of smelly slime in the bilge!

Sunset at Ganavan Sands, Oban
Sunset at Ganavan

I was going to title this post “The Old Man and the Skate” but that’s probably too mean, even for me! Few anglers have caught 8 skate in a day (or would want to, especially on lighter gear) so it was a superb performance on Ian’s part. Even if he could barely move afterwards 🙂

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  1. Sounds like a properly hectic session Doug. Good to see you back out again, was wondering when you were next gonna be putting a report up! I was up from north east England shore fishing/camping last week once Nicola gave the go ahead for cross border travel. Manage 1 female in 4 days – 178lb. Not quite as productive as you guys but my first over 100lb from the shore so happy with that.

    1. Hi Liam,
      It was a really good session, despite me doing my best to screw it up! There do seem to be a lot more skate around these days, although many of them are smaller fish. It suggests that more juveniles are surviving longer, and hopefully the average size increases with time. I’m not sure I’d want to catch a 178lb skate from the shore though, as they’re pretty hard work even from a boat! Bet that serious lump of fish flesh had you sweating despite the cold weather recently 🙂

      1. Indeed – I landed it it 3am on Tuesday morning after a 1 hour 20 minute tug of war and still feeling the result nearly a week later – was definitely sweaty work!
        Good to see you out again, looking forward to the next report/videos.

  2. good report – still dont think i’m tempted yet 😉
    will see you down the SW soon i suspect. l will look out for you as i want to nosey in the boat seen as i have just bought one. the warrior was getting too big and heavy for soft sand launches

    1. Hi Dale,
      I don’t think I’ll ever become an avid skate fisherman, but it beats lockdown by a country mile! Galloway is certainly on the cards, although hopefully things warm up a little beforehand. I hope the new boat works out for you as I’ve generally been very pleased with mine – with boats it all comes down to which compromises you want to make, I think. Happy to compare notes as I don’t think I’ve actually met anyone else sea fishing with one, although mine’s nearly 4 years old now.

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