Archive for May, 2012

Shore Fishing in Ireland, Hole Lotta Wrasse

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

West Cork is home to a range of quality shore fishing opportunities where specimen sized fish are not only a possibility but almost an expectation, ballan wrasse fall into this category. Powerful, muscular fighters dressed in a range of colours, these cracking sport fish provided a wonderful afternoons fishing during a recent foray to an isolated rock mark within Ireland’s rebel county.

A cracking ballan wrasse from an isolated West Cork, Ireland, rock mark.

Armed with locally collected hard back crab and Wexford ragworm a wrasse hole which had delivered in the past was targeted. On arrival conditions were perfect, overcast and warm due to a southerly breeze, the sea relatively flat with a light swell rising and falling in the gully creating a nice aerated environment so beloved of wrasse. Utilising the services of a 13′ Daiwa surf pole teamed with a Slosh 30 loaded with line, I rigged a single hook short snood paternoster weighted by a spark plug and set to work.

The perfect bait for ballan wrasse, hard backed green shore crab.

Baiting with ragworm, my friend Roger Ball on a fishing holiday from the UK opting for hard back crab, I cast twenty meters out into the foaming gully and let the rig slowly sink back in towards the rock face. Keeping a taught line an immediate hard double knock was simultaneously responded to by striking and reeling at the same time. Over went the rod into its fighting curve as the wrasse bored deep for sanctuary in the waving kelp below.

Fighting a large ballan wrasse fom a shore mark in West Cork, Ireland.

There is no finesse employed when fishing ballan wrasse, the rule of thumb being get in control by bullying the fish or it will bully you, make no mistake these fish are tough battlers and demand firm respect. At any time a large fish upwards of four or five pounds could hit the bait and a wrasse of this size takes some stopping, testing both tackle and angler with that first crash dive. Even when the initial surge is tamed wrasse continue to fight, twisting, turning, and diving until lifted clear of the water.

A tropical coloured ballan wrasse from West Cork, Ireland.

Wrasse never cease to amaze with their varying colour schemes, on this occasion mottled olive green to bright orange with blue and red marbled undersides in between. My friends and I took fish after fish averaging 2/3 lbs with the best running just under five pounds, quality shore fishing on what turned out to be a red letter day with pollack to close on ten pounds landed and some fine pound plus dabs, but hey that’s another story…..

For further reading, click on: Bruising Ballan’s.

Wicklow Sea Fishing, Ray Start to Show

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Sea fishing in May can be hit and miss on Ireland’s east coast as fish begin to return after their spawning migrations, the shallow banks off north Co. Wicklow being a classic case in point. Last Sunday Kit Dunne’s charter vessel Lisin 1 had a red letter day catching numerous tope, huss, smooth hound, and ray, seventy two hours later the fish play hard ball, but hey that’s fishing.

A homelyn or spotted ray for Wicklow based charter skipper Kit Dunne.

A warm southerly breeze flattened the sea as we cleared the pier head following coordinates to a mark that would see us drop mackerel and squid baited hooks into a flooding tide with a view to catching a few more early season animals. Very quickly it became apparent that a repeat of last Sunday’s performance was definitely not on the cards. Bites were slow with only a few doggies, small whiting and dabs coming aboard during the first two hours.

Myles Howell raising a thornback ray up from the deep.

As the flood eased doggies became more frequent and a heavy lean on my rod signaled something more interesting. Lifting into a resistance that certainly wasn’t dog like, shortly afterwards a welcome spotted ray came into view, quickly netted and photographed before being returned whence it came.

A nice thornback ray for Irish International angler Myles Howell.

A change of mark over slack water to catch the first of the ebb resulted in a nice thornback ray for Irish International angler Myles Howell. One swallow doesn’t make a summer though and as the ebb increased so the fishing tailed off except for an odd doggie. That’s May fishing for you, in another few weeks all will be different as smoothies, huss, tope, and ray become well established and the mackerel start to appear.

To book a day out on Lisin 1 contact Kit Dunne by ringing +353 (0)87 6832179 or email through the Wicklow Boat Charters website,

Sea Fishing off County Wicklow, A Tope Day

Monday, May 21st, 2012

The inshore grounds off Wicklow Head are renowned for their ability to deliver consistent animal fishing. Tope, bull huss, thornback ray, and smooth hound start to appear in May and inhabit the shallow banks and deeper channels well into October. One such person well capable of putting anglers on to these fish is International angler/skipper Kit Dunne who runs the charter vessel Lisin 1, a 35′ offshore 105, out of Wicklow Harbour, which is located 25 miles south of Dublin.

A thornback ray caught off Wicklow Head aboard skipper Kit Dunnes charter boat Lisin 1.

With the seemingly interminable north east winds finally easing and shifting south so producing a mild day allied to the strengthening tides heading towards 4 meters, Lisin 1 anchored and squid/mackerel baited rigs were dropped into the flooding tide where very quickly dogfish began to show along with an odd smooth hound and ray. Over slack water at the top of the tide fishing slowed only to really pick up as the ebb commenced.

A fine bull huss from the inshore grounds off Wicklow Head, Ireland.

Myles Howell was first in with a nice tope followed by a couple of cracking huss, these pug nosed doggies mightn’t put up much of a resistance but their size and tenacity always makes for a welcome sight when they break surface. Down tiding using single hook flowing traces was the main method employed although Kit Dunne up tided at the peak of the flow landing a nice smooth hound. In fact given the relatively shallow depths fished ranging from 5 – 10 fathoms allied to the strong tides encountered in these parts fishing up tide is a useful skill to learn and employ.

A nice Wicklow Bay, Ireland, tope.

In the last hour and a half the doggies eased off, a sure sign of bigger fish in the vicinity and a number of tope were caught supplemented by a huss or two. At days end the party had landed 7 tope, 6 bull huss, 3 hounds, 2 ray, and over 100 dogs, and it only mid May, on this form the summer season looks very promising.

For a day out on Lisin 1 contact skipper Kit Dunne through his website or phone mobile +353 (0)87 6832179, a full days charter costs €400.00.

Shore Fishing in South West Donegal

Friday, May 18th, 2012

South West Donegal in the vicinity of Glencolumbcille and Ardara is a rocky indented coastline jutting out into the Atlantic with what would appear to be great shore fishing potential. Characterised by sheer cliffs to the south punctuated by Glen Bay and the beautiful Silver Strand (Trabane), merging into Loughros Bay containing breathtaking Maghera Strand to the north, this most definitely is an area worth exploring.

Slieve League, Co. Donegal, at 1,972 feet they are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland.

Close to the village of Carrick are the cliffs of Bunglass where the amazing Slieve League can be viewed. A mountain cut in half rising sheer to 1,972 feet above sea level, the vision really is awe inspiring. Not for the feint hearted is a walk  up to the summit along a narrow ridge called “one mans path”, which can be a bit dodgy I believe on a windy day.

Loughros Bay looking south west towards Maghera strand.

Sparsely populated outside of the main towns of Ardara and Killybegs, the landscape is mountainous moorland bisected by glaciated valleys such as Glengesh and Glencolumbcille which sweeps down to the sea. Visiting relatives I only did a bit of exploring supplemented by observation and a few well placed questions as to the quality of shore fishing available. Loughros Bay is tidal and the sea strips to reveal pristine sand flats pock marked with extensive lugworm beds, evidence of flounders burying themselves in the sand indicated a large population. Sea trout run the estuary so straight away there are two species worth targeting I would say with crab, sandeel, lugworm, or mackerel strips.

Glengesh looking north towards Ardara, Co. Donegal, Ireland.

Loughros Point is definitely worth a pop with pollack, wrasse, and conger in mind, and Maghera strand which if it was in Kerry would scream bass, must on the form of similar Donegal beaches be home to flats and sea trout. Other marks which I intend to visit later in the summer would be Glen Bay beach (Glencolumbcille) and the nearby Silver Strand. What to expect, well I’m going to find out but certainly mackerel, pollack, and various flats, with possible ray, dogfish, coalfish, and codling. Essential baits and lures would be lugworm, crab, sandeel, mackerel, feathers, jelly worms, and spinners. A sea fly rod would be worth packing too, along with a five weight game fishing set up for sea trout which run the many spate rivers in the area.

Off the Hook

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Hook Head is in equal parts an interesting yet frustrating angling location, a long narrow low lying peninsular with a remote and ancient personality, comprised of three types of sedimentary rock, slate and shale to the north, old red sandstone across the center, and fossil rich carboniferous limestone creating a stepped landscape in the vicinity of the lighthouse, I have no doubt of its fishing potential but to date it continues to allude me.

Hook lighthouse viewed from the east.

Smallish pollack and wrasse (relative to the west of Ireland) are caught in the vicinity of the lighthouse, especially on the eastern (deeper) side, I’ve caught a few and seen images, but are there bigger? Mackerel visit mid to late summer especially in the vicinity of Slade harbour, while bass and mullet frequent the shallow rocky bays which punctuate both the east and west side of the peninsula. Rock platforms from the lighthouse back towards Slade are numbered for competitions, so ground fishing is obviously practiced, what is the level of success though?

Jelly worming close to the Hook lighthouse, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Living in north county Wexford the Hook still represents a 120+ mile round trip for me, with diesel costing €1.55+ a litre the decision to travel down is not taken lightly. Yes it is fun to explore but how far can you take that concept, at some point there has to be an end result. Does the Hook look fishy or is it? I know there are whopper bass available I’ve caught one or two, but it’s hard work when your fishing window is tight and you have that distance to travel. Weather also plays a part with on occasions floating mats of weed a problem in some bays, yesterday being a case in point.

Jelly worming rig suitable for pollack.

Saturday May 12th is early in the season and a month of cold north easterlies has possibly added a delay factor regarding species getting into gear, but to jelly worm for two hours over high water in various locations (regularly changing type and colour) and not get a touch. That said, I learned about the underwater topography along the eastern side close to the lighthouse, shallow (a count of twelve reaches bottom), with a stepped gradient. Maybe fishing will improve as the summer progresses, will I be out there? Diesel and distance limits, any advice gratefully accepted.

Surf Casting in Co. Wexford, Southern Comfort

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Finally after weeks of north easterlies the wind shifted and blew southerly, air temperatures rose, creamy white capped waves rolled up the strand, and the air so filled with ozone that you could taste it. A low four meter tide had me on the beach at 13.00pm, my task to dig six dozen large, fleshy, black lug, before meeting up with Joe Carley of South East Bait Supplies to purchase a dozen peelers, when targeting surf bass you need top grade fresh bait. As it turned out Joe kindly drove my order to me, his traps being placed nearby, now that is service and much appreciated, thanks Joe. As is the form we talked fishing and again thumbs up to Joe re little nuggets offered which helped in deciding my final choice of venue.

Stormy evening, surf casting for bass in south Wexford, Ireland.

Having time to spare after digging bait, it not high water until 20.00pm, I drove around and sussed out a number of venues. Low tide is a great time to carry out this exercise as numerous tell tale features are exposed which help in deducing how a particular mark may fish. Today one thing was clear, a big tide combined with a strong southerly breeze has the potential to push weed close in, this factor ultimately deciding my fishing destination. On arrival, with a good rolling sea pushing a single wave up the incline and terns and gannets dipping and diving about 60 meters out my casting distance was decided. A low grey, menacing sky promised rain as I made my first cast, sea fishing season 2012 had begun.

A lone Co. Wexford, Ireland smooth hound, the first of 2012.

Tightening up against the gripper I stood up to prepare my second rig when bang the rod tip thumped forward hard just once. A characteristic schoolie bite and so it transpired, other than an hour long period over high water shoals of juvenile bass averaging a kilo marauded up and down the surf line, I lost count of how many that I caught but it was easily a dozen, all scissor hooked and returned. At least I was busy and in any other circumstances a two pound fish would be well appreciated, so lets get real “the session was fun and productive“. As light closed in my rod hooped to a smoothie which tore off parallel with the strand, allied to a large plump flounder beached earlier my first sea outing of the year most definitely set a bench mark for the season ahead, a double figure haul with some quality fish and it’s not even mid May, bring it on…..

A New Sea Fishing Season Beckons

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Living in south east Ireland traditionally I do not start back sea angling until May, some might say that bass are back in residence through late March and April especially if the weather is warm, and that the bigger sea trout start to migrate along certain shores and estuaries which is true and are very prone to taking a light pirken type lure or fly, however by sea fishing I mean surf casting and inshore boat fishing and relative to my neck of the woods May and if the truth be known mid May is the earliest worth really setting out. By then the crab moult is in full swing, weather has warmed and settled down, and most importantly a range of species are moving in after spawning, hungry and lean due to their exertions and ready to take a bait.

Inside my sea fishing tackle box.

Plans to hit the beach this weekend with bass in mind were curtailed by my getting hit for six by gastric flu. With absolutely no energy and surprisingly for me no interest in food I summoned what ever reserves to at least get my tackle box ready for the fray. May is going to be a busy fishing month what with a bass trip or two before the close, smoothies, shad (their already in), and a trip to the Beara pencilled in for the last week, things would want to be in order. Having made a list and during the previous week purchased necessary items from the tackle shop to include new line, shock leader, and trace making gear, I got stuck in yesterday afternoon.

Matching Daiwa 7HT's for distance surf casting.

I have used matching Daiwa surf casting gear for years, initially modifying the original Millionaire for long distance casting, teaming it with a Paul Kerry rod and more or less have never felt the need to change, only upgrading an odd surf pole since and stepping up to the 7HT when they came on the scene around 1989/90. Come to think of it, the 7HT reel in the foreground above was purchased in 1990 and has never had a new part fitted, quality you cannot beat it. In my opinion keep things simple, forget about magnets, just regularly rinse in fresh water, apply the right grade oil and insert the correct size break block(s) for your style of casting (mine is a half pendulum) and you’re ready for action. Today I fitted my 7HT’s with 16.9 lb Sufix main line fronted by 18′ of 60 lb shock leader to a size 1 rolling swivel. They are now ready to cope with most clean and semi rough ground shore situations.

Jelly worming for pollack using a 10 foot Shimano spinning rod matched with a Shimano Exage 4000 reel.

Attention was also given to my lure fishing clobber especially with that Beara trip in mind. I use a Shimano Exage 4000 with interchangeable spools, one loaded with braid the other filled with 12 lb mono. Coupled with a 10 foot pike or stiff lure rod depending on the target species, jig heads, 30 and 60 gram barrel leads, 2 ounce bombs, shads, jelly worms, feathers, hokais, and spinners, I’m ready for anything.

Shore rig, end connection.

Shore rig, snood connection.

Finally I set about making some shore rigs, to be quite honest one type, it covers 90% of my shore fishing and really is a catch all trace. Roughly six/seven foot long, built around mono and comprising a swivel/oval split ring connection at either end, and two snood connections linked by 18 inches of Amnesia to two 2/0 kamasan B940′s, both positioned 18 inches from the top and bottom, couldn’t be simpler. Oh, it’s the two hook flapper I hear you say. Yes, why make fishing complicated, the rig works on clean/mixed ground everywhere and depending on the bait will catch most fish going. If something toothy is about or am fishing very rough ground I beef up the line/use wire (if necessary), employ spark plugs as weights occasionally and set up a running paternoster with a short snood. Pulley rigs? Forget it, again too complicated, keep it simple.

A fine evenings catch of codling and dabs.

With those jobs done and a final list made of the one or two essential items that I still need to get the gear was packed away and I retired knowing that when I shake this bug a haul such as that pictured above is most definitely achievable. Tight lines…..