Posts Tagged ‘Beach fishing’

The Lure of Sea Fishing

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

“That’s a grand looking lure Ger”, said I. Replying Ger iterated that it was a shallow diving plug with a particular action, “a cross between a surface and subsurface lure, watch”, and with a flick the lure was arcing through the air to land thirty meters out. On commencing the retrieve immediately a number of boiling swirls indicated fish, “get your spinner in the water Ash”. Fascinated by the offshore dance Ger’s words prompted yours truly back into life. Flicking out the silver Kilty, two turns of the handle and Bang fish on. Pulling and darting short runs commenced, an occasional flash of silver indicating where the fish was. Imagine the surprise when out of the calm sea emerged a garfish, an unusual catch for this neighbourhood.

Lure caught Garfish from a strand in Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

There was obviously a small shoal of them however no more were forthcoming. Proving an interesting end to another fine evening walking the strand while casting a line at various points along. This scribe has written at length about the damage wrought by unregulated whelk fishing and mussel dredging along the Co. Wicklow coastline, how an inshore aquarium was turned into a marine desert. Sadly one can also add the demise of North East Atlantic mackerel to this mix too. That said yesterday evening provided evidence that the sea possesses wonderful levels of endurance.

Fly fishing for bass, sea trout and mackerel off a Co. Wicklow strand.

Yesterday evening launce, a single small pollack and that garfish attacked my lure, a small shoal of about twenty grey mullet finned and filtered their way up tide parallel with the shoreline and a lone angler fly fished for sea trout, an odd fish announcing its presence, careening skywards then disappearing with a splash. A bass showed yesterday and Kit Dunne chartering out of Wicklow has contacted black bream, a mini revival? Time will tell, however to observe such marine life and behaviour along a much loved stretch of coastline after many barren years provides hope and that feels good……..

Bass from an Old Haunt

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

In 13 years I’ve only lure fished this once favourite mark twice, curiosity and nostalgia brought me back, will it still produce how has the workings of wind, wave and tide altered it? Not a lot really, a grey, calm, muggy first of September afternoon found me trudging up the beach to commence fishing on a neap high tide at a spot that pre 2001 delivered numerous bait and lure caught bass to 8.lb. With the ebb just commencing around 16.00 pm I cast my 32 gram silver kilty lure 70 meters out and slightly up tide, letting it swing round in the current and drop to a depth while counting to ten. Retrieving slowly with intermittent faster bursts a heaviness signaled interest.

Lure fishing set up, Kilcoole beach, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Greater sandeel or launce are common in this area and a good indicator that bass could be present, a foot long, green backed and silver sided, the first of three or four along with a small pollack attracted to the kilty lure as I worked my way slowly southwards to the car park. Water clarity was good, a sea trout jumped Polaris like and a fish, most likely a bass swirled in the back eddy up tide of the point. Dicentrachus remained aloof to my lure but no matter to be in an old haunt brought back memories and conversations with fellow anglers on the strand made for an interesting session.

A nice wee bass from Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

To Terry and Stephen, it was nice meeting and having a chat, your insight and sharing of information was much appreciated. As for Jeremy, well done on your first lure caught bass and thank you for sending the image. Over the years this beach has produced numerous bass up to specimen weight and it is nice to see that one or two fish are still about. With settled weather forecast for the next three days this soldier will definitely return for an early morning or evening session.

Ennereilly, August 2013, a Slow Death

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

In the early 1990′s this writer gave up beach casting as a waste of time due to the deterioration in size, quantity, and variety of fish stocks caused by over fishing at sea in conjunction with the annual visible destruction of the offshore environment off the Wicklow coastline inflicted by bottom mussel dredgers, subsequently felt onshore within a year or two of their moving on in the guise of a once burgeoning littoral zone now rendered lifeless.

Waiting for a bass, Ennereilly, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

By 2007 appalled at the extent of this decline made all too apparent after a first boat fishing trip off Greystones in nearly two decades, the idea for An Irish Anglers World was spawned, a website informed by regular sea angling trips and desk top research highlighting this inshore marine decline while also offering workable solutions. Dusting down the sea angling gear a first foray was made evening beach casting off Ennereilly on the 03/09/2007, a balmy Autumn evening characterised by slack winds and a calm sea.

Aidan Walsh with a summer codling caught on lugworm.

That evening using lugworm codling, flounder, gurnard, and dogfish were beached steadily throughout the session. Another trip added dab to that list and on the 14/10/2007 a fine bass of six pound and a seven pound smoothie brought the species count up to seven. Below is a diary entry for that day and an image of the bass which on being gutted proved to be stuffed with mussel.

Ennereilly, Co. Wicklow, 14/10/2007. Shore Angling, 15.30-19.30pm.

Tide: High Water Arklow @ 23.24 pm.

Weather: Southerly force 3-4. Overcast. Mild.

Sea conditions: Roll on sea, no white horses, single wave on beach, stirred up, no weed, no lateral tide run.

Bait: Lugworm, Ragworm, Frozen Mackerel.

Fish caught: Bass (6.00 lbs), Flounder x 2 (over 30 cms), Smooth Hound (7.00 lbs).

Trace: Two hook paternoster, 18 inch snoods, 2/0 Aberdeen hooks, no beads, 5. Oz grip lead.

All fish caught close in on Lugworm, close to rock forty meters out and to the right of my position. Bass and smoothy gave very light bite indication. Bass caught about 17.30 pm, smooth hound around dusk at 19.00 pm approx. Strong fight from each. Bass had mussel in its gut.

Fished north end of beach, band of weed about 15 meters out running from rocky spur to my left. Gap of about 50 meters to rocky weedy reef about forty meters out and to my right. Other than that sea bed clean. On previous
visit have caught Codling to a little over a pound here, also on Lugworm.

A fine shore caught six pound Irish bass.

Since Autumn 2007 according to diary entry records and file images 16 visits have been made to the same location. Dates and times have varied from May through to December with most sessions occuring between the period July to mid October. Up to Autumn 2010 fishing was consistant across the range of species listed above, with flounder particularly prevalent.

A typical Ennereilly flounder.

Since then it has declined considerably, year upon year getting worse. It is no coincidence that in late summer early autumn 2010 a mussel dredger was seen working in the area, most likely the same mussel dredger reported by the Independent on the 01/09/2010 which was escorted into Arklow harbour twice inside 24 hours for illegal mussel dredging. The skipper was quoted; “We are not fishermen, we are farmers. If we have no mussel seed we have no future.” Typically not a thought given to the wider public or the consequences of his actions.

Smooth hound, Ennereilly strand, Arklow, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

2011 saw a proliferation of smooth hound with waves of this hard fighting doggie foraging along the shoreline. It was not unusual if fishing two rods for the pair to buckle over simultaneously the result of hungry hounds exiting stage left. Flounder and other species were noticably fewer on the ground that year with fishing trips relying on hounds to make the day. Whereas before rod tips would nod throughout a session if one got the tide and conditions right providing a range of species, now the mark was becoming more an all or nothing job with even LSD’s becoming fewer, the result one assumes of being fished for locally and converted into whelk bait.

Bass off Ennereilly, Arklow, Co. Wicklow.

In 2012 yours truly fished the venue once catching a smoothie, however friend David Murphy fished it on a number of occasions landing mainly hounds with an odd doggie and a surprise ten pound thornie bringing the species count to eight while resurrecting memories of the venues illustrious past. Overall though the fall from grace was manifest and this has continued into 2013 culminating in a session yesterday where accompanied by marine scientist Ed Fahy targeting bass with razor and rag under ideal conditions we blanked. Ed commented, “our baits are coming in untouched, where are the crabs?”

Mirroring the previous Sunday’s experience off Toberpatrick, Ireland’s east coast inshore waters through man’s intervention have become a desert. Mussel dredging is the cause removing habitats once home to a host of interacting species. Now homeless and exposed, possibly also deprived of their natural food they move on, are predated upon or die off. The end result is baits coming in untouched a clear sign of organisms down the food chain disappearing. Without their presence fish, even if they are swimming offshore, won’t be attracted inshore to feed, quite simply “no food, no fish, a sad feature common to the inshore waters off Co. Wicklow where mussel dredging has been practiced for decades. Sea angling, an activity worth €127.5 million to the Irish economy in domestic and tourism receipts is being slowly strangled due to blind political expedience towards a few. This status quo has to change, it cannot be allowed to continue, the above narrative a testament to the truth……….

Postscript, Wednesday 21st August 2013: Talking to an Arklow based angler who I know well, for certain at least one local whelk boat is not only netting LSD’s for bait but is also using smooth hound and bull huss too. Well that explains the reduction in size and numbers of smoothies caught off Ennereilly lately. As stated the whelk fishing sector is unregulated, they just do as they please.

Toberpatrick, August Evening, 2013

Monday, August 19th, 2013

A lovely roll on the sea generated by a warm south/south west breeze created a single crumping wave which dissapated with a thump swoosh of sand and shingle along Toberpatrick strand, north Co. Wexford. A six thirty pm 3:1 meter high tide on a rising cycle towards full moon in tandem with the sea conditions screamed fish. Due to it being an impromptu trip and having only ragworm as against an array of bait which normally would have included peeler, lug, and mackerel didn’t deter, the rag, fresh, red and large would definitely appeal to a smoothie, flounder, bass, or dogfish.

Evening fishing on Toberpatrick strand, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Three biteless hours later with night closing in, after placing baits from the gutter to well over 100 meters out, using fixed and rolling rigs yours truly didn’t wait for full on dark, the untouched ragworm telling their own story. Normally shrimps, prawns, crabs, small fish, something would nibble at the hook presented offerings over the standard ten minutes they are left to fish before rebaiting time. Other than being washed out the rag came in as they went out.

Normally as dusk closes in flatties come on the feed, doggies become more active and hounds make their presence felt. Being just a stones throw from both Kilmichael point to the north and Clone strand south of Castletown bass are a real possibility too. Back in the day Toberpatrick threw up ray, doggies, dab, flounder, bass, hounds, and certainly would have delivered a few decent fish in the conditions presented yesterday evening as light faded. Unfortunately nothing stirred, I could have been casting into a desert.

Yes it was a nice evening going through the motions and chatting to passing beach walkers about the great summer weather Ireland has enjoyed and how dogs love to cock a leg over your tackle box, however, and at this stage one feels like a broken record. When your youngest daughters fishing mad boyfriend at 23 years of age starts to question this shore fishing lark having spent a small fortune on the best of gear you begin to wonder.

Ireland has a wonderful but savagely abused marine resource, sea angling at €127.5 million is the third largest marine fisheries product category after pelagic at €213 million and shellfish at €148.1 million. With 71,000 sea anglers in the country, and 150,000 specialist sea anglers residing in the UK who like to travel to fish staying for up to eight bed night per annum, what are we doing. Ireland has a socio economic goldmine on its hands and we have all but frittered it away because politically we cannot prioritise management policies that engage all stakeholders as against the few usual suspects.

Quickly researching both the Sea Angling Ireland and East Coast Raiders SAC websites told me all that I needed to know, “the beach fishes slow”. In the past it most certainly didn’t,  we need to get our collective act together once and for all, this marine malaise has gone far enough……..

Ennereilly, August 2013

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

As the sun dipped down behind the low mud cliffs we cast our rag and mackerel baited twin hook paternosters to points ranging from 30 out to 100 meters. Instantly my Daiwa surf pole dipped the line dropping slack, rod in hand running backwards while reeling to connect, tap, tap, slack, a flattie for certain. Half a minute later a fat flounder knocking a pound flaps up the sand and shingle bank, nice start.

Evening fishing off Ennereilly, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Lip hooked and returned within jig time my second rod registers interest, leaning to disengage the gripper a dull weight heralds a possible doggie double. Out of the surf pops a juvenile tope about the size of an average dogfish plus a pup hound. Now that’s a first, I’ve caught pup tope the length of your palm but not this size weighing between 1.5 – 2.0 lb, strange.

David Murphy Senior with an average smooth hound.

Next in was fishing companion David Murphy with an average hound for the area giving the usual heave ho bite and customary run around. After that fishing settled down to a slow dogfish with occasional pup hound or tope double until between 11.00pm and midnight everything went quite. Casting out a mackerel bait produced nothing, time to go home. Yes the evening was nice, a warm southerly breeze creating a fishy roll on the sea, good company and a few fish beached. Smooth hound, flounder, dogfish, TOPE? Sounds good but you have to read between the lines………and I’m a glass half full person, believe me.

See also: Fishing marks, Ennereilly.

 

An Educational Evening at Cullenstown

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Spent a lazy but informative Saturday evening on Cullenstown strand, Co. Wexford. Earlier while digging black lug at Duncannon I was regularly approached by interested observers eager to see what “that bloke is doing” burrowing away on the beach with his fork and bucket on a hot and sunny afternoon when every other sane person is paddling, playing with the kids, or just sunning themselves. Happy to give the spontaneous marine biology lesson, to a man, woman, and child the people were genuinely fascinated at the size of the worms, their life cycle, and how they engage within their sandy, tidal environment.

Digging black lugworm on Duncannon strand, Co. Wexford.

After a post getting the breath back meal and pint in the Strand Bar plan A was put into operation and the car was pointed towards Cullenstown, if plan B had been followed a 9.5 lb bass could have been mine, well done to a certain Frank Flanagan. As it transpired the primary decision paid off in spades due to the people I met, the varied conversations, shared information, and of particular interest a third party perspective on the current state of Irish sea angling both locally and nationally.

Paddy Barnwell of the Kilmore SAC with a typical South Wexford smooth hound.

On a practical level the main entrance to Cullenstown estuary has moved a few hundred yards east of the parking area creating an open ended lagoon off the main flow which still utilises the old entrance, an evening rising tide pushing in quite strongly. Ground fishing the entrance was hard work due to floating weed, however moving onto the beach west of the bar resulted in a few hounds being caught to crab and lug baits as night drew in. To bass lure fisherman Anthony and match angler Paddy Barnwell, nice to meet and spend time with you the discussions across a range of sea angling and marine issues were interesting and informative. Until we meet again tight lines………..

 

Bass Fishing, Surf Schoolies

Monday, May 13th, 2013

There are a few bass about down Wexford way, at least for surf enthusiasts, lure fishing to date being curtailed by coloured seas thrown up by our still unsettled weather patterns. Digging five dozen large black lugworm with a south Wexford beach mark in mind, on arrival although a lovely surf was creaming in with little evidence of floating weed, one cast was enough. In an instant, main line festooned with wrack, plan B was put into action, hit an east facing strand.

Waiting for a bite, bass fishing in South Wexford, Ireland.

That’s more like it, an hour before high water, again a nice surf allied to a bit of depth in close and no weed, happy days. Popping twin 4/0 kamazan paternosters at thirty and sixty yards respectively, second cast a decent haul over bite connects. Typical of a schoolie, announcing its presence in adult fashion, only to be found out when the much anticipated bullish head shaking is replaced by a light swimming sensation. A pound and a half of albeit solid muscle is no match for a thirteen foot beach caster.

Wexford surf schoolie.

That said, at least small bass are present in numbers and have been for a number of years now, a good sign for the future, however where are their parents? Definitely in the right place on numerous occasions when surf bass fishing over the five years this blog has been running, schoolies have noticeably become the predominant catch. Back in 2008, when I started back sea fishing in earnest, surf bass of four – six pound featured in my catches from south Wicklow around to Kilmore Quay. Post 2009/2010 the average size relative to my diaries has definitely got smaller. I’m fishing the same venues at the same times yet the catch returns have altered, lots of juveniles but fewer adults……….What, if anything, has changed?

 

 

Bass fishing in Ireland, Invasion of the Spider Crabs

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Prevailing south westerlies over the last week coupled with a rise in temperature up to 16/17 degrees have at last encouraged bass to move inshore. Reports of bass, predominantly schoolies it has to be said, have been posted from Wexford right around to Kerry, with this writer having seen photo’s of a six pounder (Wexford) and a fine eight pounder from a Waterford strand.

A Wexford schoolie for Darren O'Connor.

Planning an evening trip down to a favoured south Wexford beach, a four meter five pm tide linking nicely with a rolling southerly sea, or so I thought. On arrival the wind had turned around north west flattening the sea creating conditions more suited to flounder then bass. Being single minded it was bass or bust, commencing fishing at six bells, an hour after high water, twin 4/0 paternoster traces were baited with lugworm and razor then lobbed sixty meters into the gutter.

Top Wexford bass baits, razor clam and lugworm.

Fishing is a constant learning curve, joined on the beach by Gerry Mitchell and two of his friends Darren and Billy, the lads set up a couple of hundred meters to my right. Other than a couple of schoolies for Darren and an odd flounder things were quite. Regularly putting out big fresh baits, coming on dark around 21.30pm I pulled in a small flounder followed by a biggish spider crab. From then on traces started to come in with an odd hook nipped off, signalling that the spiders had arrived in force.

Spider crab.

Running out of bait about 22.10pm yours truly departed, subsequently as I learned that’s when it all kicked off. Yes the spider crabs had been waging war on the boys traces too, however come 22.30pm Gerry started hitting bass with Billy and Darren making a dent on the flounder population. For two hours the lads were kept busy, funnily enough Gerry in the central position caught a dozen bass up to 55 cms with the boys only beaching flatties, such are the vagaries of fishing.

Gerry Mitchell surf casting on a south Wexford strand.

The above experience rubber stamps a trend which has become very apparent over the last couple of years, backed up also by the writing of Clive Gammon describing Wexford beach fishing in the mid nineteen sixties. Do not venture out surf casting with bait in Wexford until at the earliest dusk, and ideally black dark if you want to be certain of connecting with bass. Yes there will be exceptions, however as a rule of thumb and with a view to better catches this season and beyond, it’s advice that I will be sticking to from now on…….

Sea Fishing in Ireland, Winter Whiting

Friday, November 30th, 2012

A full moon coupled with a settled high pressure system in November/December equates to calm seas, frosty nights, and whiting, usually those pesky razor toothed six inch fellas that strip your bait in seconds or incredibly hang themselves on a 4/0 hook, but not on this occasion. Word on the bush telegraph from a very reliable source told of jumbo whiting knocking two pounds running a local beach mark. Without further ado an order for lugworm was placed and a date set for a 17.30pm start. With high water at six bells, retrospectively commencing an hour earlier would have been a better option.

Quality beach caught whiting from a south Wexford location.

On arrival Gerry, his son Robert, and friend Darren were in situe and already reeling in double and treble shots of fish, mainly whiting with an odd flounder and coalfish adding variety. Casting twin paternosters baited with lugworm/mackerel combinations into the gutter and seventy meters respectively it became apparent that fish were evenly spread out, both rods registering quick fire bites. From the off single fish and double headers greeted every cast prompting a decision to continue fishing with only one rod.

Reeling in a catch of winter whiting.

Bites came thick and fast over high water slowing down considerably an hour and a half into the ebb. Noticeably the bigger whiting were partial to a big fresh lugworm only offering, a smattering of pound plus fish hitting the shingle amongst their more common six/eight ounce brethren. It’s great to go fishing and bring something worthwhile home for tea, beer battered whiting fillets and chips a definite starter for ten. This time last year cod up to eight pound weight were showing in force, presently although conditions are favourable they are marked absent. Of course Minister Coveney increasing the Celtic Sea cod quota by 77% last December has absolutely nothing to do with their non show. Thankful for small mercies we’ll take the whiting, at least the rods are nodding, for now……….

A Red Letter Evening

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Frank Flanagan, a Wexford based angler, loves his shore fishing and really puts the time in. With a range of angling venues close to his doorstep Frank can pick and choose his tides or grab a weather window, so giving himself a realistic chance of finding fish. Yes he is successful, having in recent years beached winter cod running close to if not over ten pounds and of course some prime bass. But those results were achieved by putting the time in, the hard yards as they say in rugby. This season has been no different, and like many of us Frank has struggled of late to find quality fish, however that all changed last night.

Wexford shore angler Frank Flanagan with a brace of quality bass to peeler crab.

Choosing a rising tide with high water around 19.30 – 20.00 pm, the evening was cold with frost forecast and the sea calm but coloured. Baiting pulley rigs with peeler to 4/0 hooks Frank belted out his rigs. No sooner had they settled then the action began with decent bass running four – six pounds slamming into the baits. Beaching seven fish while retaining two for the pot Frank is living proof that fishing is all about being in the right place at the right time. I’d go a little further though and add dedication, commitment, and experience to the mix as well. Good man Frank, well done…….