Archive for January, 2012

EFSA Ireland, Winter Shore Angling Festival 2012, Co. Wexford.

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

The 24th Winter Shore Angling Festival was held on the east facing beaches of Co. Wexford over three days, from Thursday the 26th to Saturday the 28th January 2012. Organised by EFSA Ireland this event annually attracts the cream of sea match anglers from both the UK and Ireland, and with many thousands of euro in prize money up for grabs divided between individual, team, zone, and optional pools, competition is keen.

Top Irish match angler Ian Knight sports a Clone strand flounder.

Southerly gales battered the Wexford coastline right into the early hours of Wednesday morning resulting in some competitors being stranded in Pembrokeshire, South Wales due to the ferry not sailing. As luck would have it the prevailing winds abated and swung around to the west resulting in ideal conditions over the three match days. The lucky Welshmen boarded a later ferry, and although lacking in sleep pushed the numbers competing to sixty plus when the whistle blew for the opening joust.

Clone strand, day 2 of the EFSA Winter Festival 2012.

Sea match fishing drives shore angling technology and methods, of that there is no doubt. Specialist rods up to 16 feet in length, matched to fixed spool reels enable seriously long traces with snoods averaging 2.5 feet to be cast effectively. Strong forgiving tips both allow for bite detection and the casting of delicate soft baits, of which on this occasion lug wraps and maddies reigned supreme. Cast into the gutter or channels between banks on rigs constructed with micro beads, size 8 swivels, size 8 fine wire hooks, and weighted with plain leads the matchmen hunted for their fish, speed and accuracy being of the essence.

Courtown Angling Centers Joe Byrne who came second in the event.

Day one was fished on Ballinoulart, with Clone pencilled in for day two, and Ballinesker the beach which staged the memorable opening scene from “Saving Private Ryan” marked down for day three. The sun shone and competitors scratched, mainly flounder with a few dab, whiting, rockling, and school bass thrown in for good measure. At lines up on Saturday the winning result couldn’t have been tighter. Dave Roe won the overall event for the second year in succession, with Courtowns Joe Byrne taking second (one place better than last year), and Ballybracks Ian Knight in third.

Welsh angler Shane Tucker casting on Ballinoulart strand, Co. Wexford.

It would appear that the English dominance of this event has for now been broken. To put icing on the cake both Dave and Joe won the two man team prize and also were members of the winning four man team. A feature of the results which reflects our depleted oceans is the respective size of the longest round and flat fish, a school bass of 37 cms and a flounder of 36 cms. That said the competition was well run, and other than the north end zone on Clone strand (day 2), fish appeared to be evenly spread along the various match stretches over the three days. EFSA Ireland’s Warren Doyle and his team deserve a pat on the back for their organisation, as do the weather Gods for the light winds and blue skies. Roll on next year….

For further reading click on: EFSA Irish Winter Shore Angling Festival 2011.

Mixed Bag from the Waterford Estuary.

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Codling have been ever present this winter and of a good stamp, most fish that I have encountered in the 35 – 40 cm bracket or bigger. With a four meter high tide at 18.00pm I headed for the Waterford estuary to fish a new mark that held promise. After digging bait at Duncannon and a much needed pit stop in the Strand Bar, nothing beats a toastie and a pint of plain, it was off to the venue for a 14.00pm start.

Pier fishing on the Waterford estuary, Ireland.

On arrival the flood had been pushing for two hours, a scarf of tide about 80 meters out marked the line of the shipping channel. A local fisherman tending to his nets informed me that I would be casting into 4/5 fathoms of water and that my baits would be landing on a mussel bed. Happy days, depth and feed, would fish be in residence. Casting two hook flappers baited with fresh black lug into the channel, no sooner had the grips settled in then the tips started nodding.

Waterford estuary codling.

Breaking out was difficult I assume due to the mussel bank, but an even pressure released the grips and I could feel the fish. First cast a double header, codling and dab, followed by a codling, big whiting, then a flounder/codling double. What a start fish every cast, and that is how it went for the first two hours. I copped that my rig was settling down the side of the channel (where the fish were), but my main line was resting on the lip. This had the effect of masking bites and also was probably responsible for the difficulty in breaking out. That said, I wasn’t complaining and over the course of the session only lost two rigs.

Large Waterford estuary whiting.

Bites diminished as full tide approached however they did not stop. Normally I let a cast fish for 10 minutes before reeling in to re bait, invariably a fish would signal its presence within that time span. I lost count of the fish landed and the time just flew. Calling it a day at six bells there is no doubt, “it was a belter of a session“. Six species, codling, whiting, pouting, dab, flounder, and eel, all of a good size. The estuary has been good to me this year, and it seems that every time I head down I meet somebody new. “Hi Jim O’Brien, we had a good chat, hope you enjoy those codling“.

See also: Estuary Codling.

See also: Christmas Coalies.

Seafood and Eat It. Creamy Fish Pie.

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Having a supply of fresh codling available this winter has created a nice problem in the kitchen, what will we have for dinner today? How about a creamy fish pie, easy to prepare and real comfort food on these cold grey January evenings.

Creamy fish pie made with codling fillets and cooked shrimp.


Codling fillets (boneless), Cooked and peeled shrimp, Potatoes (enough for four people), Leek, Celery (2 sticks), Spring onion x 4, Cherry tomatoes x 8, Milk (200ml), Cream (200ml), White wine (glass), Fish stock or vegetable bouillon, Vegetable oil, Butter , Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, Flour (dessertspoon), Salt, Pepper.


Wash and peel potatoes, place in salted water and boil for twenty minutes. Drain, season with salt and pepper and mash incorporating butter, milk, and cream until consistency is smooth enough to pipe.

Slice celery into small chunks, quarter leek along its length and dice, dice spring onion. Heat oil and melt a knob of butter in large pot, throw in veg, season with salt and pepper then sweat off. Add wine and bring to boil, reduce down so removing alcohol. Add flour and cook out, then stir in milk and cream. Cook away stirring occasionally until mix thickens to a white sauce consistency, add in cooked shrimp, halved cherry tomatoes, and bouillon. Stir then pour mix into an oven proof baking dish.

Skin and remove any rib or pin bones from codling fillets, season with salt and pepper then place on top of mix in oven proof dish.

Spoon potato mash into piping bag and pipe a three quarter inch layer over the pie filling. Place in pre heated oven (180 degrees Celsius) for fifteen minutes. Remove using a dry towel or oven glove, grate mature cheddar and Parmesan cheese over the top and return to oven for twenty minutes or until cheese is nicely gratinated (golden brown colour).

Remove from oven and leave to rest for five minutes. Spoon and serve on warm plates with peas or broccoli as an accompaniment and a glass of chilled white wine. YUMMY!

Click on article: Seafood and eat it.

Cavan Pike.

Friday, January 13th, 2012

A pike fishing trip to Co. Cavan with Gary and Dave bore testament to the old saying, “It’s not about catching but being there that counts”, or words to that effect. Rising at 06.00am to partake in the first of a number of planned “hopefully weekly” sessions after Esox lucius, we pointed the car northwards for the 130 mile journey to our chosen water. Equipped to both lure and bait fish the weather could not have been more clement, with the air temperature registering 10 degrees, blue sky and fluffy clouds, a marked contrast to the icy cold of January last.

Gary Robinson displays a hungry Co. Cavan jack pike.

Arriving at our chosen destination we quickly set up dead bait rigs and cast out to varying distances ranging from about 15 to 40 meters. Gary offered ledgered mackerel and a popped up roach, while Davy and I plumped for whole fresh rainbow trout.  Fishing into a hole which dropped off to 30 plus feet the venue had been good to us last year with pike into double figures. Setting up a lure rig and leaving the dead bait to fish away I walked towards a likely corner and cast a rubber Storm roach towards some reeds. The lure hit bottom after about seven seconds and I commenced to sink and draw. Fanning my casts, on about the tenth attempt my jerk rod arched over. A hungry jack skittered across the surface, how he engulfed the bait I’ll never know, but what colouring, a beautiful fish.

Storm roach lure and Shimano reel.

By 14.30pm and with no more pike forthcoming we decided on a move to an adjacent lake. Shallower but with the water temperature registering 7.2 degrees we reckoned that fish might move in close. Casting a range of dead bait rigs up to fifty meters out into about eight to ten foot of water we waited for developments. Again fishing was slow, but as dusk closed in my bait runner started giving line. Gently lifting the rod I counted to five then leaned into the fish. My ten foot rod curved into a light resistance, shortly after another jack pike hit the bank.

A Co. Cavan Jack pike, what beautiful colouration.

Perfect in every way, Gary carefully unhooked the fish before slipping it back gently into the water. By now a glorious sunset was closing off the day, windless and still it was a joy to be out, the lake reflecting its surroundings, a beautiful setting. Only two jacks punctuated this trip, but hey they could easily have been doubles and at least we caught. The sky filled with purple, pink, and blue as the sun set behind the drumlins. Ireland maybe deep in recession but days and evenings like this help relieve the gloom. Fishing, you can’t beat it…..

Winter sunset in Co. Cavan, Ireland.

For further reading click on: Pike Hatrick in Co. Cavan.

For further reading click on: Piking Afloat.

For further reading click on: Dave’s First Pike.

New Year Codling.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Saturday the 7th of January 2012 dawned dull and mild. With winds to pick up from the south west by late evening I had planned the first trip of the year to coincide with a dusk high tide. Arranging to meet Frank Flanagan from the Menapia SAC on the beach at 16.00pm, I headed off initially to dig some lug. With six dozen yellow tail in the bucket and time to spare I decided to hit an estuary mark for a couple of hours in search of flounder.

Waiting for a knock, estuary flounder fishing, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Today they were not forth coming, two heavy leans gave an indication that fish were present but unfortunately no hook ups. At 15.30 pm I upped sticks and headed to meet Frank. The location we planned to fish had produced some fine codling over Christmas so hopes were high. A full tide mark, form showed that if fish were present they would take from high water to 1.5 hours down, and be very close in following the line of a gully. The venue had been good to Frank over Christmas delivering codling up to five pounds in weight.

Frank Flanagan of the Menapia SAC, Wexford, with a nice plump beach caught codling.

Casting two hook flappers out thirty meters as light faded, immediately rapid fire bites signaled coalfish which ranged in size from half to one and a half pounds. Good fun, they kept us busy but their barbuled chinned cousins were noticeable by their absence, just the night that was in it. Further up the coast at a venue not four miles away a couple of friends beached two codling amongst the coalfish, the best going five pounds. Now that’s fishing….


Taking Stock of a Missed Opportunity.

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

If I had invested my life’s work and hard earned money in the Irish commercial fishing sector as it exists today, I would at the least be worried and possibly leaning towards anger. Correspondingly, if I were leaving school or college in 2012 with aspirations of building a sea fishing based career or business I would feel sorely let down.

Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD returned home from Brussels mid December after the annual EU fisheries negotiations declaring that he was “delighted with the outcome of these negotiations which delivered my key priorities and will allow the Irish fishing fleet look forward to 2012 with optimism”.

The Stock Book.

The stock book is the annual review of sea fish stocks and management advice delivered to the Minister by the Fisheries Science Services section of the Marine Institute. This important document forms the basis of commercial fisheries negotiations, and once you break through the jargon makes for interesting reading, especially when backed up by practical knowledge and experience on the ground.

As highlighted in recent columns the south coast has experienced an influx of large codling this winter. These fish first became apparent offshore in early 2010 as one year old juveniles 30 – 35 centimetres long. Today going into 2012 after feeding hard these codling are in the three – four pound bracket, becoming sexually mature, and spawning most likely for the first time. They represent visual evidence that 2009 delivered a good year class for Celtic Sea cod, a fact which the scientists agree with.

ICES commercial fishing divisions around the Irish coast.

The last strong Celtic Sea cod year class was in 2000, an injection which helped sustain an already depleted and hard hit stock through the last decade. Science has gauged the present day spawning stock of Celtic Sea cod to be in the region of 10,000 tonnes with a mean average age between 2 – 5 years. These fish are not big by cod standards probably averaging 10.lbs weight or less, the species is capable of growing to well over 100 lbs left to its own devices, and are young cod only maturing around their forth year.

Minister Coveney accompanied by industry lobbyists secured a 77% increase on Celtic Sea cod landings for Irish vessels in 2012, raising Ireland’s quota share to approximately 1500 tonnes, it’s not a lot but for hard pressed owner/skippers it certainly helps relieve the pressure. For the youthful aspirant dreaming of a marine based career however things do not look so hot, short term expedience again trumping long term gain.

Stock book figures highlighting 2012 cod quotas for the Celtic Sea.

Increasing the catch quota on a depleted fishery based on the first decent spawning year in a decade just does not make sense when we are looking to maximise our resources into the future. The Minister for all the fanfare has secured only a pyrrhic victory, helping neither skipper or student plan their future with any degree of certainty. Sadly another missed opportunity for the Government who promised real change less than 12 months ago….

First published People Newspapers, Tuesday 3rd January, 2012.