I arrived at our campsite on Luce Bay near Stranraer. The weather was great, nice and clear and very still. My Friend had a caravan there all summer as he fished the bay a lot. once we settled down with some beers the stories started to flow and anticipation was building, i couldn't wait to get stuck in.
I awoke to an amazing morning with a great view out across the bay, it looked perfect!
As we motored out into the bay the fish finder was turned on and the constant beeping alerted us to the huge shoals of Mackerel that our quarry, the Tope would be feeding on. We shut off the engine hand got out the Mackerel rods, after a few minutes we managed to fill a couple of 20 Litre buckets, enough for a good amount of 'Rubby Dubby' and plenty of baits. We continued to motor out across the bay towards the distant headland to a spot my mate assured me was a likely place to pick up larger females as opposed to the large numbers of smaller males that they had encountered closer inshore on the shallower reefs.
My mate got on with mixing up some rancid 'Rubby Dubby', this was the most foul smelling concoction i had ever smelt. this was dropped down to the sea bed to put out a nice scent for the tope to follow up to our baits. After tackling up i baited my rig with a whole Mackerel and dropped the heavy lead down to the drop off. There was a good flow over this drop off and i was told the large tope would sit below the ridge and ambush the shoals of fish as the tide pushed them over the top.
After about 45 minutes of nothing other than a couple of nuisance dogfish i heard my real giving out line, at first it was quite slow, all eyes were on my reel. The clicking started to speed up to more of a fast run, i picked up the rod and waited for the fish to take hold of the bait properly before setting the hooks. The run stopped and i could feel the fish letting go. I kept hold of the rod and after about 30 seconds felt another thud, line started zinging off the reel then the fish let go again. This time it didn't come back. I reeled in and the bait showed the tell tale signs of the razor edged teeth.
I baited up with a fresh bait and dropped my rig back into the depths. After only 5 minutes or the my bait was picked up again, followed by a quick run and then being dropped again as before, this was getting frustrating. i picked up the rod and felt the fish pick up the bait again. This time it ran a lot faster, line was zinging off the reel fast, then it slowed right down. Apparently this was the fish turning to swallow the bait, then Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, line was flying off the reel like I'd never imagined, "wait......... wait..... wait...HIT IT!" shouted my mate, i flicked the ratchet off and felt the sheer power of the fish. The fish powered off tearing line off the reel, My mate was laughing as i looked increasing concerned as the spool emptied rapidly. after what seemed like an eternity the run slowed and it was time to try and regain some line. This was hard work as we were fishing light tackle and i was fighting a big fish against a strong tide.
Once I'd regained a fair amount of line the fish took off again, thankfully this time it only took about half as much line. After i managed to get back in control i managed to get the fish up close to the surface and with the clarity of the water we could see it coming up, it was a big fish and looked in great condition. My Mate tried to grab the fish by the dorsal and tail to bring it on board (he was a carter boat Skipper here so knows what he's doing) Unfortunately the fish had other ideas and took off once more.
I eventually managed to get the fish back up to the surface and this time we got it on the boat ready to measure and tag and have a couple of quick pictures before returning her.
In order to continue my good track record i managed a 60lb fish a few days later, you can see the tag on this fish just by my right hand. Over the rest of the week we caught, tagged and released various species and had a brilliant time. I decided i like to lead by example and vowed to do this again, all in a days work!!!!
Skate fishing in Oban
I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in some Skate tagging off Oban a couple of years ago and was thoroughly excited at the chance of connecting with these massive fish. I though that they were very few and far between but was assured that on the right day several fish could be landed on one boat. As the project was to take place in February i was a little apprehensive about the weather conditions and packed accordingly. Typically, i arrived to be greeted with no wind and lovely bright sunny conditions.
We checked in at the hotel and settled down in the bar for a few beers and a few more Whiskeys. I woke up with a sore head but full of hope as it was a beautiful morning. We met the skipper at the Quayside and got on board ready to motor out to our spot.
It was a classic day and hopes were high.
After much puffing and panting we managed to haul the fish onto the deck to un-hook, measure and tag before we could photograph and release her. I was relieved that the tussle was over and looked in awe at the strange looking fish, it was estimated at 190lb and was the biggest of the trip - mission accomplished.