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.
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.
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.
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.
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…