An Irish Anglers World

Kilmore Quay, You’ve Got To Be Codding.

Ten fathoms below the twelve ounce weight hit bottom bumping against rock. Lifting immediately kelp fronds grabbed at the terminal tackle, in this instance Shamrock Tackle’s “Munster Mawlers”, a three hook jig combination in black, red and chartreuse, the bottom hook baited, as is tradition, with fish strip. Releasing a half fathom of line to compensate for boat drift and tidal flow, the rig bumped bottom again. Lifting to keep in touch, while again releasing another half fathom of line, instantaneously as the weight touched bottom, thump thump strike, over bucks the rod tip. A dogged heavy jag, jagging amplified by the direct contact braided line gives indicated a good codling. Sure enough after a couple of minutes pumping a large white bellied, mottled brown sided beauty was netted and lifted over the gunnel. A codling in the five to six pound bracket, above average for the day, most other codling boated ranging one to two pound, a very welcome catch indeed.

A fine Kilmore Quay codling and one happy Welshman.

Re-baiting the bottom hook, with sandeel strip, down went the rig again. Repeating the lifting/line release exercise, bang, bang over went the rod, braid reluctantly peeling off the spool as fish and reel drag fought it out. Eventually reaching equilibrium as the initial power surge waned, pumping and lifting commenced interspersed with one or two more occasional dives for the bottom. Eventually two green backed copper sided pollack slipped into the landing net. Running three to four pounds, the brace, slightly above average weight for today’s run of Kilmore Quay pollack, took the un-baited red and black lures, the previous codling having snaffled the baited bottom hook.

The above description typifies general reef fishing techniques off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, whether dropping a rig from one of the many charter boats which ply their trade from the picturesque commercial fishing port situated adjacent to the Saltee Islands, or ones own small boat trailed and launched from the fine slip within the harbour. Famous for quality inshore sea angling, this writer first became aware of the venue through the “Angling News” articles penned by Len O’Driscoll in the 1980’s, thirty years later the fishing experience still compares favourably with the pictures painted by Len, an accomplished sea angler and scribe.

A colourful cuckoo wrasse from Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Two articles written by Len, published in the old “Angling News” back in 1984, describe fishing off Kilmore Quay that year. The first details a trip over the Easter weekend in April, the second, a Leinster open boat competition in July. Len talks about using baited feathers to lure pollack, coalfish, cod, ling and plenty of wrasse from the boulder strewn, kelp covered reefs which characterise, in tandem with the strong tides and depths ranging from 10 to 20 fathoms, the fishing grounds east and west of the Saltee Islands. Len advocates baiting the bottom hook, ideally with mackerel strip aimed at ling and cod, leaving the top two feathers work freely to attract resident pollack and coalfish.

Today feathers in principal have been superseded by pre-tied shop purchased rigs from the likes of Shamrock Tackle. Available in many designs and variations, on the June 2014 trip which prompted this article a trio of Shamrock Tackle Munster Mawlers: red, black and chartreuse tied on 3/0 hooks were used to great effect. Deadly attractors of fish, the company might consider modifying the rig design using 4/0 hooks to slightly heavier 40 lb nylon and tying in bigger wider loops at each end so as one can hitch a lead on directly.

A small pollack taken lure fishing off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

A guest aboard Dermot Mitchell’s small boat aptly named Fishion Impossible, what a session was had in the company of Dermot and his brother Gerry drifting across marks close to the Brandies and west of the Conningmore rock. Pollack hit our lures steadily throughout the day, which began with a 06.00 am departure from the harbour, catches embellished by some nice codling, an odd small ling and pouting to the sandeel baited hooks.

That morning Dermot was adamant, the hooks did not need to be baited and he drove the point home landing a succession of pollack, the largest going eight pound. However, in keeping with the experience of Len O’Driscoll, a baited lower hook should add variety to ones catch in the form of ballan wrasse, cuckoo wrasse and pouting, while also in this writer’s opinion tempting a larger cod, ling or pollack. So respecting Dermot’s wisdom, yours truly continued to adorn the bottom hook with strips of sandeel and surprise, fared no worse or better, such is fishing.

Into a good fish off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Applying catch and release whenever possible, winching fish up from 15 fathoms does have an adverse effect, blowing the swim bladders of species like wrasse and ling. Thankfully cod, pollack and coalfish fare better, so other than a few plump table fish, most of our catch went back. Lines up at three bells preceded an exhilarating boat ride back to harbour, Dermot gunning Fishion Impossible to thirty knots. Settled weather, blue skies and familiar sights, such as the tide rolling over St Patrick’s bridge, and Kilmore Quay church, standing sentinel above the harbour. It’s moments like this that keep bringing this soldier back down to south Wexford, and of course the fishing followed by creamy seafood laden chowder and a pint in the Wooden House.

The very next day yours truly was down in Kilmore Quay again, this time a guest of the Welsh Pleasure Anglers and Kayakers Association. An early start enabled a catching up breakfast with Alan Duthie and the boys from Llanethli/Swansea in their preferred accommodation provider, the Quay House B/B. Boarding charter boat Autumn Dream skippered by Eamonn Hayes, in this instance not to fish but to record the day with photographic images, at 08.30 am Autumn Dream vacated the marina and headed east towards a rough ground mark which had delivered for Eamonn the day before.

A nice reef pollack taken lure fishing off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

On arrival a stiff north easterly breeze had picked up creating a wind across tide situation. Autumn dream crabbed across the tidal flow making drift fishing awkward, increasing the potential for line tangles given the crew of eleven anglers. Eamonn worked his socks off, adjusting Autumn Dream’s drift regularly, to allow all on board a chance of fishing away from the boat as against under. Advising the crew to keep their lines straight up and down rather than streaming out, tackle losses and tangles were minimised while more fish were contacted.

From the get go a steady stream of codling came aboard, a grand sight given the species history of commercial exploitation, averaging one to two pound, a few bumped the six pound mark. According to the Department of the Marine Celtic Sea cod stocks are in good shape, a first glance at the Welsh lads catch on that beautiful June 2014 Monday morning endorsing that fact. However, given the age range of one to three years displayed, cod in the Celtic Sea while obviously improving in numbers have a long way to go, the presence of large mature adults the only true sign of a healthy fishery. Given that cod can grow to 100 lb plus, the Celtic Sea cod stock requires further conservation effort before it can truly be classed as healthy again.

Welsh sea anglers keep coming back to Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Amongst the codling swam pollack and the odd coalfish, while those anglers baiting the bottom hook with ragworm contacted some nice ballan and colourful cuckoo wrasse. Fishing a species and numbers caught competition on a catch and release basis, at lines up the boys on average boated 35 fish per man, not a bad return in this day and age for five hours sea fishing. Catches of ballan and cuckoo wrasse, coalfish, pollack, pouting, poor cod, small ling and of course those codling made for a wonderful days angling. “It’s why we come back every year”, iterated Alan Duthie organiser of the annual trip. “Variety of species, great hospitality and that view minus the wind turbines please, install them at sea not on land, you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water”, a comment repeated and endorsed by many of the Welsh party.

With the Saltee Islands guarding our passage on the port side Eamonn turned to starboard, pointing Autumn Dream towards the pier heads a half mile distant. Gulls hovered in timeless fashion behind the boat, again the tide rolled over St Patrick’s bridge and the Wooden House beckoned. Two days off Kilmore Quay had revitalised friendships made distant by time, while providing quality sea angling and Irish hospitality. The average size of species such as pollack could be bigger; however the presence of numerous codling was a step in the right direction. South Wexford, on form you cannot beat it…….

Ashley Hayden © July 2014