The weekend saw the Tartan Spartan head south for a two-day adventure in search of the year’s first tope. Three weeks ago the Tartan Spartan had headed south but with only two runs and one lost fish in the bay Jason was keen to head back down to see if the reports that they had finally arrived were true.
The FBABR Boys had read the varied social media pages that were indicating two things, the tope were there but the mackerel weren’t. This wasn’t going to be a problem as three weeks ago it was wall-to-wall herring. They were so thick on the sounder that you could have practically walked on top of them.
Arrangements were made for Graham from the FBABR boys to crew on the Saturday and Statler and Waldorf (two muppets) to crew the Sunday. The dilemma was going to be where to launch and fish. The reports suggested Port William for the tope but Drummore for the bait. High water was circa 03:00 and it was going to be an early start whatever mark was chosen.
With the lack of fresh bait, no wind and a freezer full of herring from the previous trip the Saturday crew opted for an Ardwell launch.
At 04:00 the boat was off the trailer and into a mirror flat sea, what a change it is to launch from a slip with water, hassle free. If only there was a slip in the bay that could be used at all states of the tide. The visibility was low due to the mist and as the guys pushed out towards the bait mark the FBABR Boys saw that they had been beaten by a 165 who had similar ideas. The feathers were sent to the bottom and after 30 minutes the guys had three mackerel, two launce and a tub gurnard for their troubles.
A quick blast up to the ‘Drop Off’ would see them fill the bait bucket and the fishing begin in earnest. After 30 minutes the guys had failed to connect with a single herring or mackerel and with the sounder looking like a sheet of white paper they headed to a small reef. A few drifts over this saw the feathers pulling up strings of codling, pollack, coalies, launce and gurnard.
This is a great indication for anyone fishing the Mull of Galloway Festival but for intrepid tope anglers it was becoming heart breaking. The decision was made to head the nine miles over to Port William to catch the flood and fish with frozen bait.
By 07:30 the Tartan Spartan pulled out of the mist onto its chosen mark to find a 175 already sitting there. A quick word with the guys informed the crew that the yellow marker off Port William was wall to wall mackerel, sods law. A quick trip up saw a bucket full in 20 minutes.
Anchor Down For The FBABR Boys
Back down to the mark and with the pick down the fresh bait was sent the 30ft to the reef below. It wasn’t long before something showed a bit of interest and with an initial run the FBABR Boys were thinking tope, a few seconds later it petered out and it was obvious a huss had taken a fancy. A few minutes later a nice fat huss hit the deck and pulled the scales to bang on 15lb.
The next fish for the FBABR Boys was to be another huss smaller but was welcomed because after that it was dog after dog. A move out into deeper water saw the guys hit another mark where a number of boats had already set up camp. Wedging themselves into a space the pick was again sent to the bottom. The other boats were getting runs but were struggling to connect.
A double shot of huss saw the only action on this mark and by 15.00 it was time to head back to recover the boat while the slip still had water. It is a funny experience blasting along at 25knts in a flat calm sea relying on the GPS to take you home.
By 16.00 the boat was recovered with no tope to show for the 40+ miles that had been travelled during the day. In the end they guys ended up with 8 species for the day with a few nice huss.
Sunday At The Isle Of Whithorn
With no tope to show from the previous day the decision was made to fish from the Isle of Whithorn and arrangements were made for a 7am meet to catch the last of the ebb and some water on the slip. By 7.30 the boat was launched and Jason, Scott and Brian headed out among a number of other boats who seemed to either know something the guys didn’t or just had the same idea.
With plenty of bait still chilled in the Icey-Tek from the previous day the boat headed the 8 miles out to a wreck to catch the slack.
The lures were sent to the bottom as the tide and drift slackened giving the lures a chance to work. After a couple of drifts there was enough pollack for tea and the guys headed out onto the rough ground to catch the slack and wait for the flood.
On the mark the tide had died and Jason set the boat up for a drift. It wasn’t long before Scott’s rod buckled and as he wound in a nice bend was seen on the rod, was the tope duck off, 5 minutes later a grey torpedo silhouette came into view not a big fish but the duck was indeed off, as it hit the net the tell tale spikes give her away as a double figure spur hit the deck, the duck was still on.
The baits were set out again and it wasn’t long before Scott’s rod buckled again, by the screaming run, the bend on the rod and fight this was definitely a tope, and the duck was off, Scott was struggling to stop it and with the fish giving a good account of itself Scott put pressure on it to stop it going to the bottom for the umpteenth time. This was just too much and the fish was gone biting through his trace, duck still on.
Tope Duck Off, On and Finally Off
With the tide building the Tartan Spartan headed back in shore in search of what was now becoming the elusive tope. The pick was again sent down onto the mark but this time with fingers crossed. It didn’t take long for the reel to scream off with the sound of a tope heading for Gairleston, duck off, lifting in to set the circles it was tope off and duck back on.
This was to be the story for the next hour with countless runs and dropped baits, the tope were there, the guys knew they were there, in fact there were so many there that they were following hooked dogfish up to the boat trying to steal the bait, sometimes two at a time, it was only a matter of getting them to feed.
It is always hard to say what switches them on, certain tide times, lunch time who knows but when they decided to feed there was no stopping them, Scott was first to land a tope and the duck was off, Brian and Jason were also getting in on the action and for the next two hours the guys were landing fish after fish, double hook ups, treble hooks ups, tope following tope, tope following dogfish.
The fish were all the circa 20lb pack fish except for one that fell to Scott, a lovely big lean fish that was Scott’s biggest so far and a new personal best for him. After all that travelling, searching and hoping the tope were finally here. This carried on for a number of hours with the tally of tope boated lost in the high twenties.
After a while they became a nuisance and were even taking the crab bait intended for hounds, as the tide slackened and the duck well and truly off the guys decided to head up the bay and try for hounds out of the sight of pesky tope.
Smoothhound Time At Anchor
By 14:00 the pick was sent 15ft to the bottom and the fresh peeler sent uptide on the light spinning gear. Brian was first into a fish as something took off up tide. A few minutes later a grey torpedo hit the deck, not a hound of course but a pesky tope, and the smallest tope the guys have seen yet. Re-baited, the lines were launched again. It didn’t take long for the crab to work and the first of many hounds that day hit the deck of the Tartan Spartan.
As the guys pulled in hound after hound Scott’s rod took a slow pull as something headed out to sea, 5 minutes later a nice thornback hit the deck and pulled the scales round to just over 10lb, A very nice ray and a personal best for Scott, his second of the day.
By 17.00 it was time up and the guys headed back to recover the boat.
Key To Sucess
Back at the slip the guys waited on their turn to recover. Brian and Scott held the boat while Jason went for the FBABR Boys car. Up at the car, the doors were opened and the keys thrown into the seat as Jason pulled the winch strap out for the recovery, returning to the car he found the door had shut locking the ‘SMART KEY’ inside the car.
The recovery of the key is a long story but needless to say it was eventually recovered along with the boat. A long weekend in search of tope which saw a few miles travelled, a lot of laughs, two personal bests landed, a duck broken for 2018, a set of car keys lost and a nomination for the coveted FBABR boys ‘Cock up of the Year’ award.
A weekend of two halves indeed.