Shore Rockling
Shore Rockling Dorsal
Shore Rockling is a new lure-caught species for me. This Shore Rockling takes me to 51 UK saltwater species caught on lures.

Whilst my UK Axillary Seabream rightfully took all the limelight, I was gifted another special capture in the same week with this beautiful (I think), Shore Rockling. I don’t believe they are necessarily a hard species to catch on a lure, but if you want one and you don’t necessarily know where they hang out, it can be frustrating. As these were for me.

I think I had preconceptions of Shore Rockling from my bait fishing days. I’d always catch rockling when the water visibility was at its worst. You only have to look at the barbels each rockling has on its face and you could easily come to the conclusion that rockling are a fish species that slowly feel their way through life as a scavenger. Certainly, I thought that was all they did.

However, on this particularly night, doing some sight fishing at low water, I was first drawn to the presence of the rockling by quite a commotion on the surface. I didn’t see the head of the fish by the time my headtorch found it, but a brown, eel-like fish was highly active hunting something in the bladderwrack. Whatever it was after wasn’t stationary!

I missed that first encounter but it heightened my senses that there may be a chance to add something new. And then finally, while targeting Rock Goby at the bottom of a wall, something previously unseen shot out and nailed a small section of Isome fished on a tiny, sub-1g jighead. In itself, competing and beating Rock Goby is not something I expected from the Shore Rockling. Always nice to correct my perception of a fish through first-hand observation.

It was a cool, damp night and I had a small pool of sea-water near me, so it gave me the opportunity to examine the fish without stressing it too much. Apart from the general, hidden beauty of this brown fish, one feature stuck out. Something I had never noticed before in the many Shore Rockling I’d hauled in with surfcasting gear. When the fish was in water, it vibrated its leading dorsal fin. Which on a Shore Rockling is basically missing, leaving almost short hairs. It was fascinating to watch. Clearly some kind of communication or possibly a defence mechanism. I wish I’d got a video.

So there we go. 51 species and a nice encounter. What’s next?!