Well August got off to a very wet start and it continued for most of the month, I took a run down to try and get my winter mackerel bait supplies done but unfortunately they fish decided that there was far to much fresh water flooding into the Clyde system and the mackerel seemed to have been pushed out of casting range into deeper water, I managed only 7 mackerel on the day and headed home disappointed at the lack of fish but every trip can’t be a red letter day. Strangely as I wrapped the mackerel individual in cling film before I freeze them I noticed something hanging from one of the fishes mouth, a gentle pull and a good sized sandeel was laying on the ground, well think I know why tinsel feathers work so well, must be a rough life as a sandeel as everything that swims eats them!
I had arranged a trip out with Nathan as he managed to get a little time off from his job for a mid week trip to target hopefully his first spurdog. Due to the almost constant heavy rainfalls I had a quick think as to where to try for the target fish and decided on a mark that I have never fished before, I picked the mark as it was in open water hopefully unaffected the influx of fresh water, the mark was quite deep and not to far away from a mark that I had fished before with some success. It also crossed my mind that common skate maybe present. We arrived at the mark to be greeted with a nasty blustery cross wind and yes you guessed it constant steady rain. I got the T1000/6500 up and out with my favourite loop rig baited with sandeel/mackerel and squid cocktail baits, hook my favourite Manta extras in 1/0 with 6″ of AFW 7*7 surflon wire biting section to tip off my hook snoods, spurdog have teeth and can bite clean through the toughest of nylon hook link material. I got the brolly set up and I promptly got under it and hid from the rain. Nathan had got both his Kompressor SS and his T900 out with single hook rigs baited with fish baits presented on Top Gun hooks that proved very effective with smoothies and crab baits. For the first two hours or so the baits were coming back stripped bare only with a little bait elastic left on the hooks. I tried a few pulls with the N-Sure and feathers as the rain slackened off but no mackerel were interested. The baits were then starting to come back the same as they went out, strange no crabs, prawns, fish or what ever having a go at our baits, kind of got me thinking. The rain eased a little and I said to Nathan I wonder if it would be worth putting a big bait out for a common skate, reply came back well we are here and you may as well get a bait out, so I got the 9000C strapped to the TT-R and sorted out the rig that John had his skate on the week before and got it baited up with a whole mackerel and sent the bait to sea, just a waiting game now. I cannot stress important enough that the reel drag is smooth and gives line without snatching as a sudden surge from the fish could see you end up taking a swim with the fish, carbontex drag washers fit the bill perfectly giving line without snatching.
The weather continued to clear but still not a lot happening, baits were changed regularly but still coming back more or less as they went out. The skate rod was rebaited as it looked like the crabs enjoyed the free meal with only the head left hanging from the 12/0 hook. The sun started to set and my T1000 gave a slight nod and the slack lined I tightened down and slack lined again, fish on so I wounded down onto the fish as it hugged the bottom for a good thirty or so yards, a couple of good pumps and the fish lifted from the bottom but was fighting hard to return back to the bottom, the fight was very similar to a good sized spurdog, hopefully it was. The fish continue to rise in the water as started to pull left quickly but not a fast as I would expect a spurdog, I was correct it was a good sized thornback ray about 5lb. Well that was the blank off anyway, photo taken the fish was quickly returned safe and sound. With the sun starting to fade away I got the feathers out and sure enough second cast I found a few mackerel three in fact so fresh bait if we needed it, I still cannot get over how hard the mackerel hit a set of feathers and the fight so well on lighter gear, just wish they grew to twenty pounds or so.
As the light started to fade I rebaited the skate rod and got it back out and fishing just as the headlights were starting to get put on, the wind finally dropped away to almost zero and our little friendly midges came out to play, a quick spray of smidge seemed to keep them at bay. I as chatted to Nathan about the lack of action on the rods the skate rod nodded slightly twice and I commented to Nathan that’s the crabs were enjoying the big bait, I left the TT-R out another twenty minutes or so no point spoiling the crabs evening meal, well that’s what I thought until I went to change the bait. The reel is fished on the ratchet and loose reel clutch, I disengaged the ratchet tightened down the star drag a little and pulled up on the rod…….the rod hopped over and didn’t move, sticker errrr no I pulled again and off went the reel, fish on big fish on, I handed Nathan the rod told him that he wanted to catch a shore skate. The fish tore line of the reel at a rate of knots, I’m not sure what was going through Nathan’s mind as he watched line peel off the reel but his face was a mixture of wonderment and panic at the shear power and speed of the fish. The fish slowed and eventually stopped I think it took at least 30m if not 50m of line on that first run.
We managed to get Nathan into a seated position on the rocks with the butt of the TT-R jammed into a solid base so it was time to get some line back, with a little coaching from myself Nathan started the pump and wind allowing the TT-R to straighten up and drag the fish toward us allowing us to get some line back. Slowly slowly Nathan gained line, the fish powered up again and it took 10m of line back off the reel then stopped, once again Nathan pumped and wound using the power of the rod to fight the fish without burning him out as you cannot predict how long the fight will last. By this time Nathan had a good sweat on and the fish was giving a real good account of its self but with the constant pressure from the rod the fish was getting tired and we were starting to get close. I grabbed the long handled gaff as the 150lb leader appeared from the dark water, Nathan was tiring nearly as fast as the fish but with a little encouragement from yours truly Nathan kept on apply pressure and we could see a vey large fish with a white belly roll about 10m out and 2m deep, it a sight that will be with both Nathan and myself for a very very long time. The fish surfaced and with one last pull the fish was within gaffing range, I popped the gaff into the fish and got the fish secured as the steep rock platform we were fishing from didn’t really offer anywhere to land a fish of this size and boy was it a good size. The fish was measured as 77″ from tip of the nose to tip of the tail and 62″ from wing tip to wing tip, new chart weight was 162lb. The 12/0 de barbed hook was popped out of the fishes mouth without any trouble and with few photos taken it was time to make sure the fish was rested and ready to be released, Nathan steered the fish toward the sea and slid the gaff out of the fish and it slid away back into the depths from where it came from.
Nathan with his prize his first shore common skate one happy bunny
The fight was approximately 15 minutes and it was at times brutal truly man against beast, but with a little technique and the right tools for the job it just goes to show how quickly a fish of this size can be tamed and unforgettable memories made.
After the fish was release Nathan had a couple of doggies and even I managed one as well but after an hour or so it went quite again, cue jaws music however another big fish didn’t show. We packed up around 1 o’clock in the morning and headed for home happy but worn out both physically and mentally. Truly an evening to remember.
One big fish 162lb of female skate nearly ready to return back into the depths
There is something profound that happens to you once you have had the privilege to be close to such a fish as this, it’s almost as if you have to re calibrate yourself to general fishing again. It takes me a little time to come to terms with the capture of such specimen, it is an overwhelming experience and a humbling one, I’m glad to have helped Nathan to achieve what to me was a life changing experience, the capture of my first common skate from the shore. It’s also quite a sobering thought that these huge fish are present no more than 40 or 50m from the shore quietly going about their business growing to enormous sizes and very few people realise that they are present and even fewer get to capture such a creature, I count my self very lucky to have the luck to be witness to a number of captures of these magnificent fish, and with luck I will again run into another shore Skate.
It worth having a real good look at your gear on a regular basis as we were very lucky with the skate, the first guide on the TT-R tip was chipped and the was a little red dust from the braid evident on the guide frame. Didn’t take long to replace the guide and five or six hours on the drier and the rod was back into full working order.