Archive for July, 2011

Boat Fishing off Greystones, Tope Quest, A Result.

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Exhilaration and frustration amid the mayhem, is how I would describe the roller coaster of emotions that encompassed the last hour of what proved to be a very eventful outing off Greystones. Although tope were the prime target, Gary and I also included four score of lugworm with a view to test fishing recognised marks on the Moulditch ridge and Kilcoole bank for codling, pollack, coalfish, plaice, and dab.

Gerry Mitchell with an absolute monster tope, certainly 60.lbs+, off Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Leaving the slip underneath a cloudless steel blue sky, mill pond conditions lay before us as we rounded the pier head and pointed Jean Anne south towards the Moulditch buoy. With high water at 10.00am our plan was to fish a number of marks inside the ridge and on the Kilcoole bank down to low water slack, before heading out to the deep channel and gearing up for tope. Anchoring first on the inside of the ridge, our lugworm baited hooks dropped to the kelp covered rocks below, the light southerly run a resultant of the current set of neaps making fishing easy.

Preparing the Jean Anne on the new slip at Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

The next few hours hammered home the truth, the once prolific cod shoals of the Moulditch have been replaced by dogfish. Not even a coalfish or small pollack found our baits, with the same result repeated on two locations over the Kilcoole bank. The once great fishing grounds “are devoid“, and that is official, of cod, plaice, and a host of demersal white fish species, reflecting the damaged ecosystem which is the Irish Sea. What we did find when fishing lug baits in the deep channel were small dab and lots of gurnard, not big, but fun to catch on a light rod with their rattling darting bites. Sadly though, the heady days of quality mixed species catches are for the present a distant memory.

Small grey gurnard, Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Having anchored up east of the red buoy shortly after 14.00pm, to catch the start of the north run, Gary and I fished two rods each, one for tope and the other with worm baits. What transpired is the reason people go fishing, when it all clicks and nature combines with sport to generate vivid memories which will last a lifetime. The experience also drove home the short sighted policies which have decimated Ireland’s inshore waters, and equally highlighted what could be if the fishing grounds were restored, with recreational angling on an equal footing to commercial interests.

The Mitchell brothers, Dermot and Gerry, in tope heaven off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

A more expanded piece will give the full story, however as the north run eased yesterday evening tope filled the channel east of the Moulditch hitting baits with abandon, in particular those fished by Dermot and Gerry Mitchell, who arrived out shortly after lunch and anchored uptide of ourselves. I got hit by two fish, one on lugworm which initially I thought was the mother of all smooth hounds until after about four minutes the line was bitten through. Then another followed my whole mackerel sixty foot to the surface only to take the bait in full view 10 foot short of the stern. This tope in the thirty pound bracket took off like a scalded cat only to find a weakness in my trace and also was lost after a short fight.

Dermot Mitchell displays a fine Greystones tope, one of ten caught and released from his boat on a red letter day.

The Mitchell’s on the other hand couldn’t put a foot wrong and ended up boating 10 tope, experiencing numerous dropped runs, and like myself witnessed two tope follow a bait to the surface before one decided “this is mine”. A red letter day which no one who was there will ever forget, topped by a tope that Gerry caught on free lined whole mackerel which was estimated at well over At six foot long and as fat as a pig, it could have been more. All released to fight another day, these occasions are what sport fishing is all about, sharing a great day with good friends, generating timeless memories.

Click on: Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Sea Fishing Information.

Touchwood Rock Becky’s 18th.

Monday, July 25th, 2011

The Ali’s know how to party and with Becky reaching a young milestone who better then to perform on her special night but Touchwood fronted by her brother Sam. Fresh from their storming set on the new bands stage at OXEGEN, Touchwood filled the air around Ballythomas with their own mix of haunting tunes and progressive rock. Harking back to early Simple Minds with a hint of Coldplay, Touchwoods music is fresh and vibrant. It was a joy to be there, the surrounding forests and fields reverberating to real quality, international music industry take note, “these guys mean business”.

Belting them out, Touchwood at Ballythomas, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

The night however was about the birthday girl and the following images say it all, a great night which lasted well into the next day. Happy 18th Becky and many more of them.

Becky Ali and the relations, now there's a good name for a band.

Letting rip, Touchwood on stage at Ballythomas.

A Keith Moon moment.

Power chords at Ballythomas.

Keeping that rhythm.

Becky and Sam after the gig, Ballythomas, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

A great night judging by the smiling faces.


Boat Fishing off Greystones, July 24th, 2011.

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Greystones traditionally was a clean fish venue, the off shore mussel banks and the marly, kelpy ridge being home to a wealth of edible species with cod and plaice predominating. Fixated with boating our first tope of the season Gary and I set out for the third time ignoring the possibilities, however remote, that the fruits of yesteryear have returned to the old marks laid bare by over fishing, mussel dredging, and unregulated whelking. Instead we motored out towards Bray Head with mackerel in mind as bait for our toothy quarry.

Nearly a full string, mackerel off Bray Head, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Overcast, humid, and grey, light variable winds was the forecast, instead a fresh breeze blew from the north/north west creating a rolling sea. Plan B was now in action due to the deep channel off the moulditch being out of bounds, wind against tide known to generate steep short waves along the drop off east of the famous red buoy. Jean Anne, a hybrid lake boat, although wider in the beam and across the stern giving greater stability, is a plank too low on the free board so caution prevails.

Tidying the gear off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Again the mackerel were scarce, ones in the main being the order of the day, although on a couple of occasions the feathers were filled. Joeys again punctuated the catch along with a welcome codling, returned to grow bigger. A sign of better times? Fingers crossed. Having secured our bait we headed south to the kelp beds off the second river, tope have been caught from the shore here in the Autumn, so it was worth a try. No runs occurred but I can put to bed the theory that kelp does not now grow on the ridge and that this is the reason fish are absent, our anchor came up with a heap of brown weed attached, case closed.

A welcome codling off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

By now, 15.00pm, the breeze had shifted to the south and weakened, the sea had eased so we upped anchor and motored north east of the moulditch. Fishing whole and flapper mackerel we caught dogfish and small huss but again no tope. The tide, a neap, it has to be said was very slow with little flow and I am sure this was a factor. That said, three times out doing all the right things on the correct marks, with fresh bait, just the luck of the draw? We’ll persevere.

Heading for home, boat fishing off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

A decision was agreed on the way back to harbour, next time Gary and I will bring a bucket of lugworm and fish the leading edge of the ridge for codling, and try the Kilcoole bank for plaice, along with our tope quest. In that way we can not only achieve our predatory goal, but also increase our understanding of the present health of this once great fishery. Until then…

Beara Peninsula Blues.

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

I love the blues, from the Delta to Chicago, Son House, Muddy Waters, and Buddy Guy, the music that gave us modern rock and roll. The swimming variety equally has its place, even more so if they exceed 100.lbs in weight and can be caught on a cloudless, windless, scorcher of a day miles out in the Atlantic off West Cork, such is the case presently as the annual migration of blue shark follow the Gulf Stream into Ireland’s warmed up coastal waters. Chasing shoals of mackerel blue shark although recorded all around the coast of Ireland are most plentiful along the southern, south west, and western sea boards.

A specimen blue shark caught 12 miles off the Beara Peninsula, West Cork by Adrian Sparrow.

A pelagic species averaging 50 – 60 lbs weight in Irish waters, any blue over 100.lbs is considered a specimen, while the current rod and line record is a fish caught off Achill Island in 1959. Lovers of deep water, they prefer depths in excess of 15 fathoms, blue shark first begin to appear in June/July if the weather is warm usually 10 – 20 miles offshore, moving to within 5 miles of the coast by August/ September before departing as our inshore waters cool down into October.

Feeding on mid water shoals of mackerel, sprat, and pilchard, they will venture to the bottom in search of food and are quite common in areas where whiting frequent. Sleek, steel blue in colour with a large streamlined head, pectoral fins like wings, and an angular tail, they are a indeed a handsome fish and a worthy quarry.

A 14.oz Whiting for John Angles, skipper of charter vessel Tigger II out from Castletownbere, West Cork, Ireland.

John Angles is the skipper of charter vessel Tigger II working the fish rich waters off Castletownbere on the Beara peninsula, West Cork. When conditions allow he will take out groups of up to five angler’s blue shark fishing, charging €440.00 per charter which is very good value. On his first trip after blues this season an hour into the first drift Adrian Sparrow hit the jackpot with a spectacular specimen. Two further blue sharks of and were boated also on what was a red letter day.

John along with his wife Maree runs Inches House and Boat Angling Centre, offering B/B and self catering accommodation close to the village of Eyeries on the Beara peninsula. They can be contacted through their website, or by phone at, +353 (0)27 74494. Why not combine a shore and boat angling safari to this beautiful corner of Ireland, John knows plenty of first rate shore marks and can advise on a range of species from pollack and wrasse, to conger, ray, bull huss, flatfish, codling, and bass. While offshore, besides the blues, he can put you over quality mixed ground fishing for haddock, cod, whiting, pollack, and coalfish, before hitting the rough for large conger and ling.

Boat Fishing off Greystones, Tope Quest (Part 2).

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Another scorcher, reaching 22 degrees with clear blue skies and light variable winds greeted Jean Anne as she motored away from the slip to catch the start of the ebb off Greystones, Co. Wicklow. An early 08.00 am start would give Gary and I enough time to secure some mackerel off Bray Head before heading south towards our chosen mark off the Moulditch reef. With high water at 11.00am we intended to fish down to low water slack, if there are any tope about we should know by then.

A view north towards Bray Head, off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Other then a potting boat we had the sea to ourselves and it was glorious. Off the cable rock, unlike last week, we hit mackerel almost first drop. Of a larger stamp they still were not numerous, but drifting down tide and motoring back to repeat the exercise over a small shoal gave us enough bait for the day within half an hour. With that we gunned the engine, and in company with a coastguard helicopter and an air corps coastal patrol plane, we anchored up north east of the Moulditch just as the south run was picking up.

The ubiquitous lesser spotted dogfish or LSD for short.

Setting up six foot flowing ledger rigs using 8/0 Kamasans and wire traces below a running boom, a pound of lead was more then enough to hold bottom at peak tidal flow. Using whole mackerel flapper as bait both Gary and I got savaged with LSD’s from the off. A conversation with a boat crew who anchored close to us, also targeting tope, gave us the solution to reduced dogfish interference, USE WHOLE MACKEREL, AS THEY CANNOT GET THEIR MOUTHS AROUND IT. As they say, staring you in the face, “thanks guy’s”.

A welcome thornback ray caught boat fishing off Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Accompanying the dog’s were some fine huss. These fish have a habit of holding onto the bait without getting hooked. Gary had a beauty, easily ten pounds plus at the side of the boat only for yours truly to lose it. Grabbing the trace instead of the tail first, the fish proceeded to open it’s mouth so letting go of the bait. Frustratingly it hung in the tide below the boat for about ten seconds before swimming away. Easily four foot long with its big pug face and sandy coloured rough skin punctuated with big black blotches and spots, quite a handsome specimen. To make amends a while later a knock on my rod resulted in a small thornback ray, not a patch on the twenty pounders that used to swim here, but welcome none the less. From small acorns and all that. Again no tope, but a great day out for Gary and I, third time lucky?

Click on: Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Sea Fishing Information.

Sea Fishing in Wicklow, Hound Fest.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Entries in my fishing diary place July as the month when smooth hound hit the local beaches in earnest. A smash and grab raider fond of crustaceans and worm baits, they average 4 – 5 lb weight off the north Wicklow coastline, however many are landed above the Irish specimen weight of seven pounds every season. A tip off from David Murphy that they were in had me picking up some rag and lug from Joe Byrne in the Courtown Angling Centre, before meeting up with David and heading for a favourite mark.

A specimen Wicklow smooth hound for David Murphy.

We commenced fishing at eight pm to coincide with high water. A warm evening under a low grey sky was punctuated by an occasional light north east breeze, which ruffled the calm sea creating a single small wave on the beach. Conditions were ideal for smooth hound and dogfish too as we were to find out. An hour in with light fading the first tentative knocks to our rag and lug baited hooks resulted in small dogfish being hauled ashore, more often than not two at a time. Painful fishing in my book, “I hate dogfish“, but you have to put up with it.

An average Wicklow smooth hound.

Then everything went quite, it was now dark and our rods were silhouetted against the night sky. Boom, my rod arched over as the hound grabbed the bait and ran stage right. It’s always the case, when dogfish stop biting there is something worthwhile in the vicinity. After the usual left/right running battle the fish thrashed in the surf where David grabbed the leader and hauled it ashore. A quick photo and away. Not a moment too soon as David’s rod nearly bounced out of the stand.

Greyhounds of the sea, a male smooth hound from a north Wicklow strand.

Quite obviously a good fish which when eventually subdued easily broke the seven pound barrier, a Wicklow specimen. The excitement lasted ten minutes then they were gone, typical of smooth hounds who tend to travel in packs. Fishing on for an hour the dogfish returned which was our call to leave. A nice evening on the beach with a successful outcome.

River Slaney, Evening Sea Trout.

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Fished the Slaney yesterday evening for sea trout below Scarawalsh old bridge accompanied by visiting angler David Balsdon. A native of Devon who fishes the famous River Torridge, David was looking forward to casting a line on this equally famous Irish river. Conditions were not great, with a cool south easterly wind blowing upstream driving a constant mist of rain before it. Perseverance though did pay off, with David netting a three quarter pound sea trout tempted by a Kill Devil Spider as dusk closed in.

David Balsdon with a hard won River Slaney sea trout tempted by a Kill Devil Spider.

In good condition, fat and beautifully spotted, the sea trout took with a bang giving a good account of itself before being netted, photographed, and returned. David fished on until close to mid night catching parr and small brownies, along with a few tentative plucks from their migratory cousins, however the brace alluded him. Conditions were tough it has to be said, the upstream wind in particular making life difficult, but hey that’s fishing. David appreciated the experience, and if the opportunity arises would most definitely make a return visit.

Evening Bass and Smooth Hound Fishing, Co. Wexford.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Anti cyclones and reasonably big tides produce great conditions for smooth hound fishing off my local Wicklow/Wexford beaches. Although they will take during the day, evenings into the night are best. Armed with freshly dug black and yellow tail lugworm I headed towards a favourite south Wexford strand. The evening was glorious, almost clear blue skies and a light variable breeze, a far cry from the constant strong southerlies of recent weeks. With high water at 19.00pm fish could show at any time.

Bass caught surf casting, south County Wexford, Ireland.

I beach fish with matching Diawa surf poles and 7HT’s, capable of putting a twin paternoster baited with lug out beyond a hundred meters, that is far enough to catch anything that swims along these strands. Today though distance was a problem due again to floating weed carried by the current, not as bad as a fortnight ago but still a pain. Casting short to avoid the worst of it a tap tap tap on the rod tip signaled a flattie, sitting on my hands to let the bite develop a yank down followed by a jump back indicated a slightly larger suspect. In a second I was backing up the beach rod in hand winding hard to connect with the fish. Kicks down the line and a silver tail in the wash, bass with a flounder chaser, a good start.

Evening beach fishing in south Wexford, Ireland.

Gerry and Billy arrived setting up to my right. The lads were fishing crab and lugworm with a view to bass and smoothies. Certainly on this strand lugworm will cover both, it’s good to play the percentages though. Weed was a problem until around 10.30pm when it fell away as the tide run eased up to slack water. Bites would surely occur now, livening up what other than the early promise had been a pedestrian session. Slow leans on both Gerry’s and my rod heralded a pair of dogfish, returned.

Surf casting in Co. Wexford, Ireland.

A movement to my right, Gerry is winding hard his rod curved, a thrashing in the wave wash is illuminated by Ger’s head lamp, a decent hound raises the spirits. A couple of photos and I walk back to my stand, as I near the far rod pulls down hard, grabbing the butt while striking in unison the hound takes off. First left and then right a spirited struggle ensues before I eventually grab the heavy leader and drag my prize clear of the water. A fine male smooth hound caps a successful outing.

Gerry Mitchell with a good south Wexford smooth hound.

Fishing on a further bite less half hour I decide to call it a day. Two target species have been accounted for so I will head for home while the going is good. Saying my good byes to Ger and Billy I trudge through the sand dunes towards the car and a welcome cup of tea back at the ranch.

Boat Fishing off Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

A two day weather window enabled the Jean Anne to have her maiden sea voyage out off Greystones, Co. Wicklow. With settled anti cyclonic conditions, variable light winds, a biggish tide full at midday, Gary and I arranged to meet on the new slip at 08.30am. The new harbour, a monument to all that was wrong with the Celtic Tiger, looked impressive and even might have potential, if only they would finish it. For the moment at least though you can launch and retrieve a boat at low tide, I still believe however that silting will be a problem just like before.

Motoring north along the south beach, Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Having planned a tope session fresh mackerel were a priority, at two humps off Bray Head we started trolling. An hour and a solitary mackerel later we were getting anxious, then off the cable rock we scored, mostly joeys with a few half decent fish, enough for bait though. With that we motored a mile or so to catch the start of the ebb at the back of the moulditch bank. Fishing into ten fathoms of water as the south run picked up a succession of doggies savaged our mackerel flappers along with one small huss.

Preparing to fish off the Moulditch, Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Greystones fishing is an anti climax, it’s great to be out but you know what lies beneath and the evidence is all around you. Off Bray Head and southwards beyond the Moulditch strings of whelk pots litter the sea bed their presence indicated by makeshift plastic marker bouys. Three boats worked the area, one having steamed from Wicklow another from towards Dalkey/Dunlaoghaire. It’s called fishing down the food chain, these once prolific grounds in the recent past were fished by men with skill using traditional methods such as trammel and seine nets, long lines, and pots for large plaice, cod, sole, ray, salmon, sea trout, lobster and crab. Today these unregulated pirates in their smelly whelk boats take what is left after everything else has been removed, and to cap it all use edible crab for bait!

The new harbour entrance, Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

The tope, a ray of light amongst the desolation, did not show, still a little early perhaps. A few small boats were out though and it was nice to help on the slip and swap stories of the day, some traditions never change. Mackerel were scarce for everybody and any clean fish caught were small. Gary and I boated undersized gurnard, whiting, coalfish, and codling while jigging, and we heard reports of decent smooth hounds off the head to crab, squid, and worm baits. We will be back shortly for the tope and bigger huss which still run the deep channel, as for the rest? Forever the optimist….