Ex­pe­ri­ence the arm-wrench­ing power of a mas­sive skate, or the weird green eyes of the spur­dog

Sea Angler (UK) - - SEA ANGLER | CONTENTS -

Sam­ple the sea lochs of Scot­land.

From the mas­sive com­mon skate to the tiny black goby, many species that are un­com­mon around the rest of Bri­tain’s shore­line can be real­is­ti­cally tar­geted in the sea lochs of the Western High­lands of Scot­land. The fish­ing is in some of the most scenic land­scapes in Bri­tain, where there are around 80 sea lochs that are all well served by the huge tides.

Most of the angling on th­ese huge ex­panses of wa­ter in­volves fish­ing from boats, but for shore an­glers, the lochs of­fer in­stant ac­cess to se­ri­ously deep wa­ter. The beauty of shore fish­ing in Scot­land’s sea lochs is that it can pro­vide sport all year round. Some stay away from the area from June to Septem­ber to avoid the con­stant at­tacks of the midges. How­ever, in my ex­pe­ri­ence th­ese lit­tle beast­ies will al­ways find a way to ir­ri­tate you. The spring fish­ing can be pro­lific at times, with the fish feed­ing hard after the long win­ter.


Tides are ex­tremely im­por­tant when choos­ing a mark to fish. Due to the se­ri­ous depths, and some­times nar­row bot­tle­necks within the lochs, some ar­eas can be­come un­fish­able on big­ger tides. On some marks, the spells ei­ther side of slack wa­ter al­low you to po­si­tion bait where the fish are feed­ing.

Due to the vast va­ri­ety of species, the choice of rig must be matched to the in­tended quarry. Heavy-duty snoods of thick mono or wire traces should be added to rigs where you are likely to en­counter a spur­dog.

Many an­glers adorn their rigs with lu­mi­nous beads that act as at­trac­tants in the deep, peaty wa­ter. Hooks should be strong enough to cope with de­mands of pulling a large fish through un­der­wa­ter ledges and patches of blad­der­wrack and kelp. Thicker-gauge hooks in size 4/0-6/0 should be suf­fi­cient to land al­most all the species avail­able.

Some an­glers opt for a rot­ten-bot­tom pulley rig with an added wire bit­ing piece. There is no need for a Pen­nell rig for spur­dogs – de­spite their ap­pear­ance, they can be a del­i­cate fish and should be han­dled with re­spect.

Pow­er­ful rods and larger reels that can hold sig­nif­i­cant amounts of line are es­sen­tial when tar­get­ing deep-wa­ter species. Braid or heavy mono, it’s a mat­ter of per­sonal choice, but braid helps with bite de­tec­tion when fish­ing the deep marks. A cor­rectly-set ratchet will in­di­cate a bite/run, and rods should never be left unat­tended.


The spur­dogs can be found in most of the deeper waters around the west coast and fre­quently reach dou­ble fig­ures. They pos­sess a ra­zor-sharp row of teeth that can make short work of any baits that are not sup­ported by ex­tra strong mono or wire.

The com­mon skate is per­haps the big­gest shore fish that can be real­is­ti­cally tar­geted from the shore in our waters. As deep as a breeze block with a wing­span dwarf­ing even the big­gest of our other rays, the skate is as pow­er­ful as any­thing that we can ex­pect to en­counter from the shore.

The thorn­back ray can thrive in th­ese deep waters. On cer­tain marks they can be plen­ti­ful, although of­ten they are smaller fish. There is a wide va­ri­ety of other species in­clud­ing con­ger eels, ling, pol­lack, coal­fish, whit­ing and cod.


Loch Etive is per­haps the most pop­u­lar loch to fish on the west coast. Ap­prox­i­mately 20 miles long, and in parts al­most 500ft deep, a Google search will throw up a wide va­ri­ety of marks for the vis­it­ing an­gler.

Due to its depth, it is not un­usual to make a de­cent cast only to find your line drop­ping di­rectly be­low the tip of the rod, sim­i­lar to if you were fish­ing in Nor­way.

Loch Etive is per­haps best known for its all-year-round spur­dog fish­ing. Bag­ging a dou­ble-fig­ure fish is a strong pos­si­bil­ity. An av­er­age size for the area is per­haps 2-4lb.

Loch Etive also holds thorn­back rays, es­pe­cially in the shal­lower ar­eas, while the ever-present dog­fish of­ten sport darker colours than their south­ern cousins.

Skate are present, with boat an­glers of­ten catch­ing them, but they seem to be less nu­mer­ous from the shore.

Loch Leven is ex­tremely deep in parts, but ap­prox­i­mately half the length of Etive. Sur­pris­ingly nar­row in parts (250 me­tres), it pro­duces some sub­stan­tial con­ger eels.

This loch has nu­mer­ous ar­eas to fish, and some marks that in­volve very lit­tle walk­ing. Sur­pris­ingly, there seem to be very few spur­dogs, but skate are present, although not as nu­mer­ous as in the other sea lochs. The main targets are thorn­back rays and dog­fish.

While the re­mote­ness of th­ese lochs may de­ter some vis­it­ing an­glers, the re­wards can be as­tound­ing for those will­ing to travel.

Loch Etive is per­haps the most pop­u­lar loch to fish

A com­mon skate for Paddy Dil­lon

Paddy with a 20lb-plus spur­dog

Be­low: Joe Gal­lacher with a 200lb-plus com­mon skate

Spring time on Loch Leven

A typ­i­cal skate bait

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