Reilly’s Ridge south of Greystones was a premier large plaice mark until the mussel dredgers got at it. Back in the day specimen 4.lb plus plaice were a regular feature from this tide swept mussel bank along with good sized codling. Only interested in the “clean” fish then we never targeted tope, based on yesterday’s experience why did we leave it so long? A weather window allowed Jean Anne, my 19′ lake boat the opportunity to take Gary and I out on another tope hunt. With light variable winds forecast another session in the deep channel was on the cards.
A four meter tide full in at 13.00pm meant for a strong south run. Timing our arrival on the tope grounds for the turn of the tide, about 11.00am, Gary and I initially made for Bray Head and a supply of mackerel for bait. Drifting off the cable we hit fish from the first drop, mainly two’s and three’s of a good stamp. In jig time the bait bucket was full and firing up the motor I pointed the bow south to a mark on the inside of the Moulditch, a strong north west breeze necessitating a change in plan, safety being paramount. Not the ideal location, but with conditions to improve through the day it would be a good jumping off point.
Anchoring up on slack water I used whole mackerel, with the tail cut off to prevent spinning, while Gary presented a mackerel flapper. Our traces were 6 foot running ledgers incorporating 18 inches of wire to 7/0 Sakuma hooks connected to five foot of 150.lb b/s mono rubbing leaders. Attracting LSD’s every drop Gary switched over to whole mackerel very quickly. The day started Grey, however within half an hour of anchoring what could only have been a weak front passed over us and suddenly we were bathed in blue skies, and with the prevailing north west breeze dying away we decided to steam south and try a mark where Gary had caught a tope while kayaking the previous week.
Dropping the hook at our chosen spot, I remarked to Gary that below us was Reilly’s Ridge, once a great plaice mark which had seen better days. By now the south run was well picking up and our traces were having to be cleaned of floating wrack every five minutes. Half an hour in and hungry I decided to prompt a fish by eating a ham roll. It always works, noticing my rod top dip, then dip again, suddenly the ratchet is screaming, FISH AWAY!! Thump thump thump I feel the powerful tail sweep from side to side as the tope heads towards Wicklow. Doubling back now I reel to regain line, then off again to port before sulking. A quick dip is transmitted through the rod and then nothing. B####r that the hook has fallen out, so I reel in re bait and try again. Almost immediately a repeat, this time the fight lasts ten minutes before freedom. I can only assume that the strong current is putting pressure on the hook hold, any slack and the hook is shaken free.
An hour passes, the tide is really racing now, out of nowhere my ratchet sings again, this time there is going to be no mistake. Keeping pressure while the tope bombs southwards, Gary simultaneously weighs anchor. Negating the tide run we are now drifting towards the fish and the cards are stacked towards a successful conclusion. Spirited though the tope is she is soon alongside and swung aboard. Hooked in the lip, pliers, quick photo and away. Motoring up tide we re anchor and within minutes Gary is off, with the tide easing quickly this fish is manageable however on seeing the boat she took off like a bat out of hell. Eventually boated after a spirited ten minute fight, she too is released unharmed to swim away having also been lip hooked.
On slack water around 17.00pm another flurry of runs occur resulting in the biggest tope of the day pushing close to if not over forty pounds. This sister really gave a good account, running left and right, sulking before coming to life and rocketing off again, a real power house. All told Gary and I experienced eight runs with five hook ups and three fish boated. The two fish lost in play came off the hook leaving traces in tact and the tope free of impediment, which was nice to know. A red letter session on our fifth attempt, so achieving my goal of boating a tope in the Jean Anne before the end of August. Mission accomplished two happy anglers headed for home and a celebratory pint in the Beach House, sure hadn’t we earned it.