Wednesday, 19 September 2012

LRF : Dropshot eel!

On Sunday I headed back to East Lothian to corkwing corner with the aim of catching a possible record breaker. High tide was at 9.30 am but it was a very weak neap tide so I was unsure how the wrasse would react. It was however nice and calm with bright sunshine which is usually good conditions to catch wrasse. Drop shotting had been working well on my past visits, so I rigged up a 2 inch section of Gulp! Sandworm on a #8 offset hook and a 6g lead and began to fish the kelp below the gantry. The water was crystal clear and I could see my lure working among the kelp fronds below me. It was really interesting to see the lure reacting  to the current. Just holding it stationary amongst the kelp would have it swaying and randomly changing direction. Dropping the rod tip ever so slightly to give the lure some slack line would allow it to fall slowly into the weed, before giving a twitch back up to bounce it out the kelp and into a new resting place. I became almost hypnotised watching the lure and 45 minutes must have passed before I realised I wasn't getting any bites! I decided to walk down the gantry a bit and see if there was anything where Scott and I had caught mackerel on our previous visits. Earlier I had noticed large shoals of sandeels swimming past and as I walked down the gantry I saw swirls and rises as a shoal of fish worked the surface. I suspected mackerel so I made a cast beyond the shoal and began a quick retrieve to jig the lure back in the top 6 foot of water. As soon as the lure entered the shoal I felt the familiar rattly bites of coalfish and straight away one grabbed the lure.

Inevitably the first fish is a coalie!

I caught a couple more before the shoal moved on and then turned my attention back to the mackerel. I was working the lure deeper letting it hit the bottom before jigging it back when everything went solid and the rod arched over. At first I thought it was a pollock as it was diving and hooping the rod over, then as the fish began to kite away from me I felt the tail shaking of a mackerel. I landed it after a good fight and promptly dispatched it as I am very partial to fresh mackerel! Realising time was passing I decided to head back along to the corkwing spot to see if they had made an appearance. It was slow again but after about 20 minutes I felt a wrasse tapping at the lure before seizing it and trying to make off with it. I set the hook and was delighted to see a good size corkwing  rising out the kelp. I landed, weighed it and at 161g it was 14g off the record, so a good sized fish indeed!

This corkwing wrasse is just 14g below the Scottish record and beautifully marked.

I carried on for another hour but no further wrasse were showing. I decided to get another couple of mackerel for tea so made my way down on to the rocks below me. I swapped the LRF gear for my 9'6" Major Craft Crostage 15 to 42 g and 14g Hansen Pilgrim spoon and began whacking it as far as I could before jigging it slowly back. Pretty soon I had located the mackerel and had three in quick succession, these I dispatched before putting in a draining rock pool to keep cool. I fished on for another ten minutes and managed to pick up another mackerel which I released. I was enjoying casting and playing with the new rod and was pleasantly surprised at how it performed with the mackerel, even for a "heavier" rod it still went into a fighting curve and the mackerel could give a good account of themselves. I was casting and retrieving the lure when I happened to glance down. There one meter away from my foot lay the dark sinuous S shape of an eel!  I watched with disbelief as it swam slowly over the submerged part of the rock where the blood from the mackerel had drained out the pool. The eel was obviously attracted by the blood from the mackerel, so I quickly grabbed my LRF rod which was still set up with my drop shot rig. The eel had just disappeared back under the boulder when I returned so I dropped the sandworm down beside the rock. I got a couple of little bites straight away so I gave a flick of the wrist to set the hook. A greedy sea scorpion had nailed it before the eel could get anywhere near it. To make matters worse he had torn the lure off the hook. I quickly unhooked and released him before feverishly fumbling in my tackle bag for another lure. This time I chose a Gulp 1" Minnow and quickly rigged it up and dropped it along the edge of the huge boulder I was standing on. I dropped the rod tip to allow the lure to flutter down in front of the gap at the bottom of the rock. After a couple of minutes I felt some little bites, followed by a gentle tugging on the line. Yet another sea scorpion had got the lure before the eel! 

This is not the eel I was looking for...

I quickly unhooked it in a state of panic, as it had been 10 minutes since my sighting of the eel and I was worried it had moved on. In order to keep the eel interested I grabbed another mackerel and quickly gutted it, before washing the blood out at the edge of the boulder. I then threw a few small pieces of gut in besides the rock, re-rigged the lure and dropped it back down. Again I dropped the rod tip to allow the dropshot rigged minnow to sink in front of the gap. The lure lay there for a very short while before the tip slowly nodded down and the line went tight as something tried to drag the lure back under the rock! I struck and pulled the lure out of the fish's mouth losing my last drop shot lead in the process. Cursing my keenness I found an old 2.3g jighead that had a broken hook. I quickly tied this on, smeared the lure with blood from the gutted mackerel and dropped it down to lay with the pieces of gut. By this point I really thought I had blown my chances as I was sure the fish had felt the hook on its last attempt and I didn't think it would take again. I was wrong though, a couple of minutes later I saw the line tightening and moving away from the rock! It was slightly confusing as I had expected the fish to take the lure back under the rock. The rod tip nodded so I struck and out of the bladder wrack rose an extremely angry eel! I managed to hold the fish up above the weed as it went into reverse, its big mouth open as it shook its head. Before the fish knew what was going on I had it on the rock beside me, where upon chaos ensued! I had hold of the leader above the fish and it quickly balled up and started to spin, rapidly tangling the line. The fish was a good sized eel about 1.5/2lb but it was very feisty as it had not been played out. Eventually I managed to get it under control and get a couple of photos before turning my attention to unhooking it.

...this is though!
Not a conger but still capable of giving a good bite!

For the first time since I got them my hPa Minigrips had a job to do. I used the grips to grab the fish by the mouth keeping my fingers free of its powerful jaws. The fish bit down on the grips, muscles bulging on its head like a pit bull before relaxing and allowing me to search for the hook.

The hPa Mini grips came into their own for helping control the fish.

It was deeply hooked at the back of its throat and try as I might I could not get at the hook without damaging the fish. I now felt incredibly guilty for hesitating when the fish took as I had to cut the line above the hook and release it with the hook still in it. It was a very light wire  hook and will corrode very quickly but I hate the fact I couldn't unhook it cleanly before release. It was a strange mix of emotions triumph, excitement and sadness that I left the hook in the fish, but overall I was really pleased to catch it. Big eels were always the stuff of childhood legends for me and to get one on a lure, all be it with the help of blood and guts, was immensely satisfying. Last year I managed to catch a Moray on a lure whilst in Crete and wondered how I could top it, this comes pretty close!

Tight lines, Schogsky.