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Specimen Fishing Opportunities in South East Ireland

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

The annual report of the Irish Specimen Fish Committee is eagerly awaited by pleasure anglers and dedicated specimen hunters alike. Representative of game, coarse, and sea species the report is a true and accurate record of fish caught on rod and line from Irish waters that have grown above a high average threshold weight. Of great benefit to angling tourism both at home and abroad, the annual presentation of awards for fish ratified in 2013 will be held on Saturday 15th of February 2014, from 14.30 pm at the Bewley’s Airport Hotel, Swords, Co. Dublin.

Irish Specimen Fish Committee report 2013

Living in south east Ireland it is interesting to note that a respectable 132 specimens or 22% of the total 595 specimen fish ratified nationally in 2013 were caught within the counties of Wicklow, Wexford, and Carlow. Ranged across 10 species to include bass, lesser spotted dogfish, bull huss, flounder, thick lipped mullet, twaite shad, smooth hound, tope, ballan wrasse, and cuckoo wrasse, a dedicated thinking angler could very well keep themselves busy specimen hunting in south east Ireland from May until November.

Three species dominate returns for south east Ireland with east coast anglers returning 65 smooth hound, predominantly caught off Wicklow, and 22 tope a large proportion of which were caught off Greystones. The late spring run of twaite shad, although down on previous years, still returned 24 specimens above the 1.1 kg (2.426 lbs) threshold weight. To these one could add a single mighty bass of 11.75 lbs, one each of LSD, bull huss, ballan wrasse, and cuckoo wrasse, along with 7 x thick lipped mullet and 8 x flounder. At this point credit has to be given to specialist angler Ian Mulligan, who not only landed the specimen 11.75 lb bass but also on the same day, 20/11/2013, beached a specimen 1.39 kg (3.06 lb) Wexford flounder.

A specimen Greystones tope, unhooked and just about to be released.

Specimen fish do not turn up every outing, however it is possible to increase ones chances of connecting with a potential leviathan by just getting out there and wetting a line. Making use of the data available within the ISFC report an angler can plot quite easily the optimum time and place where large fish of a particular species may well be encountered. The most important step then is to put oneself beside or on the water, luck, knowledge, and a degree of skill will do the rest.

A downside of the specimen report is that venues can get hammered especially post the advent of social media. That said Irish waters relatively speaking are very lightly fished, and if one travels and fishes mid week even the hottest of hot spots will probably be devoid of or only populated by a few anglers.

A cracking Wexford flounder for Ashley Hayden

Of the featured species above flounder and thick lipped mullet  most certainly have the ability to increase their share of specimens returned from south east venues, especially given the availability of quality estuary and harbour marks. Bass too could be added to this list although there are worrying signs that south east stocks, taking into account their supposed protective legislation, are being commercially targeted somewhere. How else can one explain after 24 years of protection the dearth of large adult fish along the Wexford/Wicklow coast line.

Assessing the ISFC data relating to south east Ireland in its entirety though, planning a trip to the region in search of large fish is well worth the effort.  Smooth hound (June – August), twaite shad (May), and Tope (July – October) are certain targets along with flounder (October – November), thick lipped mullet (June – September), and bass (June – November).

Available species that may not reach specimen size but most definitely run close are bream, roach/bream hybrid, tench, carp, river pike, and sea trout. Next door to Dublin and only a three hour ferry ride from the UK, counties Wicklow, Wexford, and Carlow punch their weight when it comes to targeted specimen hunting, a 22% share of the ISFC report testament to that statement.

See also: Floundering around in Co. Wexford.

See also: Tope alley.

See also: Estuary mullet fishing.

Time Out for a Masters Degree

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Undertaking an MSc Masters in Business, Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship through Waterford Institute of Technology, for the next twelve months angling will take a back seat with only an occasional foray out. The blog in effect will temporarily cease although a monthly article will continue to be posted.

On the tiller.

I would like at this juncture to thank all vistors to the site both regular and new and look forward to getting up and running again properly sometime around May 2014.

Tight lines,


Back to the Future. “A campaign to restore Ireland’s and the World’s Lost Marine Biodiversity.”

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Today on World Oceans Day, June 8th 2011, Minister Simon Coveney will address an Oceans 2012 event whose primary message, aimed at those who are reforming the EU Common Fisheries Policy, is “We want our marine biodiversity back“. It will be interesting to hear his contribution.

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney addressing the Oceans 2012 event at Trinity College on World Oceans Day June 8th 2011.

The historical and present tradition is that the marine commercial fishing industry, politicians, and eurocrats decide how Ireland’s inshore and oceanic waters are managed. Their record is appalling, and banner headlines on page two of last Saturday’s Irish Times dated June 4th 2011 do not inspire confidence that Minister Coveney is going to tread anything but the same well worn and disastrous path. How can the Minister forecast the creation of 158 seafood sector jobs when upwards of 50% of the 56 already commercially targeted fish in Irish waters are dangerously overexploited with the status of many others uncertain.

Until such time as the brief is widened to include all interested parties around the table and the marine is looked at from a position whose terms are based on restoration, strict management which may have to include entry restrictions to the industry, and a wider socio economic input to include recreational angling and other tourism interests, then unfortunately Ireland is going to further squander and destroy the one resource that really can turn around our ailing economy.

It is possible for recreational sea angling  and commercial sea fishing to co-exist, they did in the recent past before we sold our territorial waters to the then Common Market. When one considers just one statistic it puts a lot in perspective. The pelagic fleet is the flagship of Ireland’s commercial sea fishing sector probably responsible for most onshore processing jobs. In 2009 the Irish pelagic catch (predominantly herring, mackerel, blue whiting) was 155,000 tonnes worth approximately €112million. In 2010 the volume landed was marginally up but the value stayed the same. It is reasonable to assume that the margins were down and the costs were up in 2010.

155,000 tonnes is an extraordinary figure for one nation to remove from the sea. Contrary to what the industry says mackerel as a resource are being hammered, the dramatically reduced shoals off north Co. Wicklow compared to 20 years ago and the preponderance of joeys within the catch prove this. Also when one considers that blue whiting end up as fish food for the aquaculture industry at a weight conversion ratio of 4:1( four kilos of blue whiting makes one kilo of farmed salmon) the whole excercise just does not make economic or environmental sense.

John Daly (Skipper), John Quinlan (Irish Bass), and Johnny Woodlock (SFAG) at the Oceans 2012 event.

Contrast those figures with recreational sea angling whose understated contribution to the economy is €33million. This is a totally underdeveloped industry reliant on a decimated resource which hinders its growth just as it does for the commercial sector. If restoration policies were implemented Ireland could develop a destination sea angling market the envy of Europe and the web of benefits filtering out into the accommodation, restaurant, pub, general leisure industry, and artisan fishmongers from what is accepted as a sustainable industry has to date not even been quantified.

This evening the Minister has a real opportunity to show that he has guts and vision, time will tell….

Postscript: The Ministers address was passionate, his family does hold a strong connection with the sea, and he did show an awareness and understanding of the current situation regarding overfishing and its future implications with respect to biodiversity and the seas as a primary food source for humanity world wide.

That said, even though his spoken wish that his grand children would be able to experience a vibrant and bountiful ocean (not his exact words) was sincere, his line followed the usual industry/EU/political form referencing aquaculture, job creation in rural coastal areas, value added seafood products, exports, etc. He discussed conservation measures as being important to underpin the industry on going but stopped short of laying down the law.

Overshadowing and influencing his whole speech was the EU and Ireland’s commercial industry line. Unfortunately there was no door opened to representation from wider interest groups on the future of how Ireland manages its territorial waters. The status quo continues with still a minority maintaining full controling influence on Ireland’s primary natural resource, a pity given the day that was in it….