“Wild Swan” is a 42′ fully licensed, insured, and equipped charter vessel working out of Ballyhack on the Wexford side of the Waterford Estuary. Skippered by Jim Foley, “Wild Swan” is powered by a 600 HP Caterpillar engine giving her a top speed of 28 knots, enabling Jim to put anglers on the offshore fishing grounds quickly and safely. Specialising in reef fishing off the Hook, deep water wrecks, and drifting for blue shark, “Wild Swan” provides a wealth of offshore sea angling opportunities, and if the wind blows there is always the estuary to explore.
A Friday evening call from Pat Cullen found me standing on the quay at Ballyhack, Co. Wexford, at the appointed hour of 09.30am the following morning. Having fished the Waterford estuary on board “Wild Swan” last year catching plenty of flounder, codling, and bass, I was glad of the call and the opportunity it presented to fish the rough ground off Hook Head. Jim Foley junior was skippering the vessel today. Stowing my gear and introducing myself to the group, most of whom I knew through the Rathdrum Anglers, we set sail at ten bells on what was a warm, greyish day, with a fresh north westerly blowing.
First stop we fished a scarf of tide inside Hook Head for mackerel. As has been the form this summer they were scarce, it took various drifts over a two hour period to amass just about enough for bait. Luckily there was plenty of ragworm on board, and these along with a number of launce provided enough bait for the days reef fishing. Using feathers and hokais during this period drops to the bottom also resulted in some nice codling, pollack, and coalfish, in the two/three pound bracket.
Next stop saw our group drifting over a pinnacle rock feature which rose sharply from the seabed to within four/five fathoms of the surface. Jim advised gilling which I did to some effect, taking pollack which although not large provided great sport on the light gear with their initial crash dive. Other species landed over this mark included pouting and codling. Anchoring and fishing large baits into the base of this feature would surely produce conger and ling given the amount of pouting present, some of which came up two at a time.
A move to general reef fishing saw our group drifting an area of mixed ground, rock interspersed with gravel patches, which produced a variety of species to include gurnard, wrasse, ling, pollack, and codling. A feature of the day was the number of codling landed, many returned to grow bigger. Not large, averaging a pound and a half, there is a future if the powers that be get their act together and manage the stock correctly. It was interesting to hear Jim, an experienced commercial skipper back in the day, talk about investment in large vessels and how in hindsight the policy was short sighted, given the present obvious damage to fish stocks.
At days end our group had returned thirteen species to include mackerel, codling, coalfish, pollack, ling, pouting, poor cod, red gurnard, grey gurnard, ballan wrasse, cuckoo wrasse, launce, and dogfish, not a bad return for a fun day out. The fishing on occasions was slow, but Jim kept working to put our group over fish, and you cannot ask for more then that. The species haul shows the potential of the area, and although a lot of fish were returned, some prime codling, pollack, mackerel, and ling were filleted for home consumption as we steamed for Ballyhack.
Skipper Jim Foley trades as Mermaid Angling and can be contacted by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone: 00353 (0)51 389225, mobile: 00353 (0)87 678 1245. The “Wild Swan” is a comfortable, beamy vessel with plenty of space for a group of eight anglers. The day was well worth my €50.00 contribution. Big thanks to Pat for giving me the call and skipper Jim Foley for what proved to be a fun day afloat in good company.
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