Hovering on 69 species it was inevitable that I had to go in search of something a little special for number 70, so the planning began. After doing plenty of research and consulting with a few mates, we decided there was only one option, go big or go home, we were off to Oban to target the Skate! My good mate Scott sorted us a boat and some accommodation and I was left in charge of getting a few mates to join us on what had the potential to be a trip of a lifetime, two stepped up, Ad and Ed. With the 4 of us, the trip was a go and the dates were set to suit us all (20th and 21st December 2012), all that was left to do was hope for some favorable weather.
When the day came to make the long trip up North, the excitement from us all was clear, but after 7 hours in a car, I was drained and the others seemed a little shattered as well. Having switched our charter boat from the Thurs to the Friday due to a bad forecast, the first day was spent searching out a sheltered mark on Loch Etive. After first being blown off a mark in Aird's Bay, we found a spot the seaward side of Oban that was out of the wind. It was also a spot where Scott had been told was a good area to target thornback rays, a species he was dying to catch after watching me haul them in on our previous Etive visit. Anyway, all four of
us got the rods out with a variety of baits (macky fillet/heads, sandeel, bluey and squid) and the short wait began. I was the first into a fish, a thorny of course and I could see Scott was ready to throttle me, well that was until his rod buckled over just as I was landing my fish. Legging it to strike his rod it wasn't long until his fish was up on the surface and he had a thornback of his own, happy days! Then came the surge of the doggies, I think around 25 between us but during the onslaught Ed did manage a thorny of his own leaving just Ad to land a ray. Having had enough of the doggies I packed up the bait rods and switched to lure fishing and was quite happily pulling out a good number of small pollack to around the 1.75lb mark. Myself and Scott then decided to pack it in for the day and headed off for some chips leaving Ed and Ad to fish on. No sooner than we'd left though, my phone rang and it was Ed on the end to say Ad had landed a Cuckoo Ray, a species that is high on my list and I just knew I wouldn't hear the end of it :) It wasn't until the following morning after all the taunts from Ad, we'd find out that it was just a thornback with a very cool pattern, Ad was silenced.
|Ed bends into a Skate|
|Eds monster at 208lb|
|Ad bends into a Skate|
|150lb Skate caught by Ad|
|Scott feels the power of a Skate|
|Scott's 45th Species of the year!|
There was now just myself to hit into a Skate and I have to be honest, with just an hour left before we had to steam in, I was beginning to regret not taking one of the earlier runs. But after rebaiting all the rods again, this time with very large mackerel and salmon fillet baits I had a renewed sense of optimism. Luckily for me, I did get my chance and I was soon bent into a very powerful fish. I managed to winch her off the bottom fairly quickly but after gaining 10 metres or so, the fish dived straight back down to the bottom, ripping line from the spool and leaving me feeling rather powerless. But, I didn't want to let this fish get the better of me and again hauled it from the bottom shortly after. This time, it was just a constant pump and wind action, giving the fish no slack at all.
|Species 70 - A 181lb Common Skate|
The release - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGBaWCicznA
So 900 miles travelled and around £170 spent in total, I guess the question is, was it worth it?
Very simple answer - Hell Yes! So much so were already looking into booking a return trip in January.
A last big thankyou to Archie MacGilp who was an absolutely brilliant skipper, joining in with the banter and providing us with excellent advice as well as a cracking brew. I would recommend his services on board the MV North Star to anyone. This youtube video is what got us excited and I'm sure will excite you as well if your thinking about going up to Crinan for a go yourself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu6T6T4bszY
Thanks for reading and I hoped you enjoyed it,