The Common Skate—the Raia batis of naturalists, blue skate of Scotland, and grey skate of England—is common round the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland. It grows to an enormous size. There is one in the British Museum which is six and a half feet long, and five and a half feet across from wing to wing. One is recorded from the Faroes which weighed 423 lbs. Skate are immensely strong, and have a way of digging their noses into the bottom, or somehow or other taking grip of a rock, remaining apparently immovable. Like all flat fish, as long as they keep their normal horizontal position they offer great resistance. The one chance with a big skate is to pull at his head as obliquely as possible (effected by letting out much line) and in varying directions, until he gives way, when the rest, except with very large fish, is easy. It is important to keep a heavy strain on him all the time.
Some time ago the ' Field ' recorded the capture, by an amateur fisherman, of a skate weighing considerably over 100 lbs. It was taken off Aberystwith.
One of the most certain means of ascertaining the best bait is to hold an autopsy, and discover on what a fish has been feeding. Couch, who tried this experiment, found in a large skate, two big plaice, two mackerel, a lobster, a ray about eighteen inches long, and half a salmon. This finding certainly indicates a considerable and remarkable range in our choice of baits.
Mr. Dunn, of Mevagissey, discovered inside one of these fish a stone weighing about a pound. As a matter of fact, the skate is not particular ; place a small whiting, a haddock, a herring, a pilchard, or any kind of fish on a large hook, and he will be pleased to take it. Very often he will hook himself by the wing or fin as he flaps along the bottom. Large numbers are caught in trawls, and not a few on long lines.
Young Skate are termed maids. The largest British fish of this kind is the white skate (Rata alba). Couch named it the Burton skate or bordered ray, and it is also called May skate, the doctor, friar skate, and sharp-nosed ray. One of nearly 500 lbs. has been recorded. Other varieties are the long-nosed skate (Raia oxyrhynchus) and the shagreen ray (Raia fullonica).