Posts Tagged ‘Beara Peninsula’

Paradise Lost or How to Wreck a Fishery within Five Years

Friday, June 28th, 2019

I first cast a line on the Beara peninsula in May 2005, close to the Dursey cable car, a 32 gram silver Kilty catcher and at a count of forty seconds, yes Dursey sound is that deep, I hit mackerel. Since then I have traveled down annually, sometimes bi-annually, on one fateful trip meeting and chatting with Roger Ball on the rocks at Garnish. Born out of that conversation developed a friendship centered around sea fishing, soccer and a love of the bountiful marine paradise which the rich coastal waters off Beara are, or should I say were, because they are under attack, from within.

Roger and his longtime friend Dave Hoskins have been traveling across from the United Kingdom and down to Beara for years, Roger came first in 1997. Both Cornishmen, they talk about how good the fishing was in the 1970′s around Plymouth where they grew up and how it was destroyed by over fishing. When Roger by accident found the Beara in 1997 while driving around Ireland he thought that he had landed in heaven, for there before his eyes were vast shoals of open sea mullet, his favourite fish to catch. From then on he returned most every year to walk the dogs along coastal paths with his wife and to fish.

Between Roger, Dave and I we have 22 years of knowledge built up about the shore fishing from Dunboy in Castletownberehaven around to Urhan close to Eyeries. In that time shore fishing mainly from rock platforms we have caught 19 species of fish ranging from bass to wrasse. What amazed us about the fishing was how many of the resident species such as conger, wrasse, pollack, bull huss, mullet, plaice and dab grew to their full potential size and also the numbers of fish available which in this day and age of over fishing at sea was staggering.

Well it was too good to last, year on year when we returned the fishing was as good if not better than the time before. Yes one could add that our improved catches were predicated on a build up of acquired knowledge, however the quality of fish and fishing never changed, for seventeen years it remained constant. Then in 2014 we noticed a change, the mullet were not as plentiful and the average size of pollack and wrasse on the marks that we fished began to shrink noticeably. Then, the clean ground marks which were paved with large dab up to specimen size began to produce less fish. Could all this be our collective imaginations running wild, were we losing our touch or getting paranoid. No, a trip planned for June 2019 unfortunately revealed everything that we had suspected.

On Saturday 22nd June 2019 we arrived at our holiday cottage all geared up for a weeks fishing. On the way we had supped Guinness in McCarthy’s Bar, Castletownbere, devoured bowls of Adrienne’s lovely chowder with brown bread and dug fleshy lugworms for a well looked forward to ground fishing session. The weather was not great, strong south to south east winds and rain but we persevered, lure fishing with spinners to catch a few medium size pollack but no mackerel on the first evening.

Sunday was a washout however things improved on Monday enough to seek out mullet and shore fish locally again for pollack and the hoped for mackerel which along with the mullet again were marked absent. A couple from northern Ireland who were fishing on a favoured mark near our cottage mentioned how they had been traveling down to fish for years but that on the last number of visits a perceptible decline in the fishing had set in. Might it just be an aberration said I, no it’s the gill netters they categorically said. My heart sank, as this is what Roger, Dave and I had always suspected but could not prove. The evidence was there, smaller fish sizes, dearth of mullet and flatfish, but we had never seen them, that is until the next morning Tuesday 25th June 2019.

With full tide around 11.30 am and a pet day ahead of us we hiked out onto the headland to a favourite mark which traditionally produces plenty of large pollack and wrasse. The form of this mark without fail is rods on the first cast doubling over to quality pollack hitting jelly worms. Numerous casts later we were fish less before a couple of juvenile pollack hit our lures, something was dreadfully amiss. Roger decided to wrasse fish and yes he had bites to hardback crab from the get go, but not from the mothers that we used to catch, instead their half pound offspring made up the offering. We were mystified but deep down knew, then we were informed.

The half decker tootled across the bay eventually lining up about eighty meters offshore commencing to shoot its net right across our casting line. It had taken us an hour to walk out and now we could not fish as this obvious gill net ( we could see it slipping over the stern of the boat) was well within our casting range. To add insult to injury a crew member lifted up a good size pollack and taunted us with it smiling as he motored by.

The really sad part is that they did not even have the whit to consider that it was tourists from another country they were mocking. Tourists that are long term friends and admirers of the Beara, tourists who sing its praises and encourage others to consider visiting, tourists who come twice a year, tourists who spend good money on accommodation, in O’Neills of Allihies, McCarthy’s Bar, Supervalu, the local petrol station, etc.

Now we knew the source of decline and it created a sick feeling in the stomach, a feeling of helplessness because Roger, Dave, Rob and I all knew the final outcome of the action we were observing, total annihilation of the fishery. These individuals were doing nothing wrong according to Irish law, they could carry on regardless and will, we all knew that nobody was going to stop this violation, this rape of a pristine marine biosphere, a diamond in the rough. I couldn’t continue fishing and said to the lads I’m heading back, they hung on for a while but eventually succumbed also as their heart was not in it.

For years we had respected this place, catch and release, an odd fish for the pot, our angling was a conduit, a way to connect with nature and give something back in return, the stories of basking sharks, dolphins playing tag, gannets diving, the sea alive with flashing fish, the few bob left in various local businesses, on Tuesday 22nd June 2019 modern life caught up with paradise and chewed it up.

As stated earlier in this piece, from 1997 until 2014 the shore fishing we encountered between Crow Head and Cod’s Head to include Dursey never changed, it was totally consistent and always surprising us in the affirmative. To witness the mullet shoals was in itself incredible, when they merged with mackerel and sprat as we saw on occasions the spectacle was blue planet stuff. This will happen no more as within five years, 2014 to date, gill netting using in this instance a net approximately 500 meters long (a legal practice) which did not occur in this area to the scale that we witnessed before 2014, first took out the vast resident mullet shoals and is now having a right go at the pollack, flatfish and whatever else swims into their indiscriminate invisible plastic meshes.To cap it all the boat was targeting prime wrasse to be used as pot bait, what an ignominious end for a wonderful sport fish.

This writer comes from a family with coastal fishing in its bones, was taught how to dig bait, long line, trammel net, lay pots, tie knots, row boats and understand the sea by my father, grandfather and uncles. I was taught to respect the sea and respect the creatures within it. I was taught how to maintain a fishery by leaving some for tomorrow, never to be greedy. If this plunder continues which it will unless there is Government or EU intervention there will be no adult fish left and the dynamic of a wonderful local unique to Ireland marine ecosystem will be altered forever.

It would make you weep, in just five short years the fishing has been severely damaged, not as yet mortally, but if it is not curtailed the future for the coastal bays off Dursey Island and Allihies Bay is stark and I should know, I saw the incredible mixed fishery off Greystones Co. Wicklow disappear before my eyes within ten years once the mussel dredging commenced. However the future for Dursey could be different as there is still time, again it just needs people to be informed and not be afraid to speak out.

No one is saying for one moment that local people in rural areas should not earn a contribution to their living from fishing, quite the opposite in fact, community managed sustainable artisan inshore coastal fisheries are part of the solution to marine over fishing. However, in that context no individual has the right to say that a shared resource is theirs alone, which is exactly what is happening on the Beara peninsula and other such places around the Irish coastline and the state has to recognise this fact and be the catalyst for social change by introducing radical inclusive legislation acknowledging that all citizens have a stake in the marine and not just those who choose to commercially fish.

A way forward would be for the state to Firstly, ban monofilament gill and tangle nets forthwith as they are lethal indiscriminate fishing engines, continue to fish as “ghost nets” if lost in storms and these same lost nets become major contributors to micro plastic pollution as they eventually rot and break up. Instead artisan line fishing should be promoted and encouraged as an inshore fishing methodology which is more environmentally friendly being less indiscriminate and also delivers a higher quality end product for market.

Secondly, the targeting of ballan wrasse for pot bait should be banned immediately and instead fishermen/women should be encouraged to obtain carcasses and fish heads from fish processing operations for pot bait instead.

Thirdly, community managed marine protected zones should be established in key areas such as the Beara around the country to protect and preserve wild places, nursery areas, habitats and local ecosystems which are the foundation stones for the wider marine biosphere. These zones would not necessarily be no take but most certainly would be net free, with creeling (potting) allowed inside under a management plan, commercial line fishing outside along the perimeter where the over spill of prime fish would occur, and sea angling would be catch and release using barbless hooks.

The above is a loose template but has merit for further discussion as within its frame resides inclusivity which is key to successful long term management of Ireland’s coastal resources. The present modal is predicated on take while giving nothing back as this story shows and that path as is abundantly clear has led Ireland’s and the worlds marine fisheries to where they are today, broken and or severely strained.

Meanwhile those who make a living or contribution to their income from fishing complain of lack of fish, or reduced access to fish when in actual fact there are reduced numbers of fish relative to what there was because of the methodologies and approach that the industry they are part of employs. In effect the industry is shooting itself in the foot while those who work within the sector point the finger at everybody but themselves as to why they cannot catch or access whatever fish are left. This race to the bottom breeds a mentality of take what you can while it is still there before someone else gets it.

In this day and age of climate change, biodiversity loss and musings on the value of natural capital how we interact with resources is vital and obviously changes in approach are essential. Sadly, when it comes to what is left of sea fishing in rural areas trying to introduce change is akin to sucking blood out of a stone as the same old cliches will be trotted out with vehemence even when the fishing as it used to be has died. Its our resource, we looked after it, its what we have always done. Compromise, which is the way forward, where everybody benefits will be a dirty word but that is where we must go.

So if anyone has read this piece and been moved by it, please send a letter or email to the Minister for fisheries, Minister for Tourism, Environmental NGO’s, Inland Fisheries Ireland, the CEO of Failte ireland and anybody else you can think of who might make a difference at a national decision making level, calling for protection of our wild marine places, the adoption of environmentally friendly fishing methodologies and practices and recognition of all stakeholders when it comes to resource use management. Your efforts could just make a difference. Thank you………..

PS: The images used in this piece are from previous trips, not the one described above.

Ashley Hayden © June 2019

Return to Beara: Pollack Five Ways

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Driving into Glengarriff around lunchtime I pulled up adjacent to the tidal pool in front of the hotel just in time to see David netting a nice thick lipped grey mullet for Roger, what is it about Cornishmen and their love affair with these fish? Quickly hopping out of the car I ran across and between handshakes and welcomes (it had been three years since we had last met) photographed the fish subsequently returning it to the water. Species number one and our fishing trip to Beara was kick started in style.

A nice Glengarriff thick lipped for Roger.

Over many previous visits to the fish rich waters that surround Beara my friends and I have landed 19 species of fish overall with a haul of ten the best in any single trip. It was our intention to surpass the single trip species catch this time, so with that goal in mind we bade farewell to Glengarriff stopping off in that famous watering hole “McCarthy’s Bar” in Castletownbere for creamy pints, chowder and brown soda bread (sure you have to), before high tailing the last 24 kilometres out to our self catering cottage base.

A nice shore caught Beara Peninsula pollack tempted by a 32 gram kilty lure.

The amount of tackle and sundry items one brings on these expeditions never ceases to amaze me, however two hundred miles from home out on the Wild Atlantic Way is not the place to be missing something vital, cue Roger’s home brew stash of cider and ales plus Henry Gilbey DVD’s (funny and entertaining) to while away the evenings. Having unpacked the cars there was only one thing to do, go fishing.

September/October are months associated with gales and the legacy of three back to back Atlantic hurricanes made sea/weather conditions off Beara challenging to say the least. Rain, north westerlie winds and large swells born far out in the Atlantic limited our fishing to certain rock marks relative to the prevailing daily conditions, however undeterred we set forth. What an evenings fishing, deciding to feather and lure fish for bait, pleasure and food in that order we landed mackerel, launce, coalfish and some quality pollack, day one and our species hunt had reached five.

A double header of Beara coalfish for tourist sea angler Roger Ball.

The rolling sea was alive not only in its visual and aural majesty but below the surface too evidenced throughout our stay by gannets constantly wheeling and dive bombing disappearing below the waves in a welter of spray and bait fish, while a pod of a dozen or so dolphins patrolled the bay and grey seals bobbed their heads watching us with apparent curiosity.

Tourist sea angler David Hoskins lands a nice Beara Peninsula dab.

Days two and three were windy/rainy washouts rendering most marks unfishable however persevering we added to our species tally knocking out lesser spotted dogfish, bull huss and dab off a couple of sheltered locations to leeward. Catching evening mackerel on DOD pier the wind finally died providing a 24 hour window of opportunity which we gladly availed of the following day hiking out onto a favoured headland rock mark.

Hiking towards a favourite rock mark on the Beara Peninsula, County Cork, Ireland.

A pet day, we always get at least one, evolved into a pollack fest. Employing standard jelly worm tactics (two ounce barrel lead, bead, swivel, five feet of line, 2/0 round bend kamazan 496B, jelly worm), first cast in on a rising tide, count of 26 seconds to bottom then reel, three or four winds of the handle and WALLOP pollack on, cue multiple power dives, head shaking zig zaggy runs and joyful sea angler whoops.

Tourist sea angler Roger Ball with a fine Beara Peninsula, Ireland, pollack.

The action never stopped, at one stage all three of us were simultaneously into fish, averaging 3 – 5 lbs on odd pollack leaning towards 6 plus with on two occasions real mothers parting company after savage fights had given clues as to their possible mega size. Having collected a few hard back crab earlier that morning we took a successful wrassing break to up the species tally further which at close of play was increased to ten when yours truly extracted a soft biting, hard pulling angry conger.

A soft biting, hard pulling Beara Peninsula conger eel.

The weather closed in again limiting fishing until the last morning which dawned bright and although breezy was from a more favourable quarter. Needing that elusive eleventh species to set a new “single trip” record Roger and David decided to bottom fish some clean ground for flatties while I set about fly fishing with a possible scad in mind. Pollack to three pound made for a fun session which was capped by David landing a flounder to whoops and handshakes, we had broken our record, a job well done.

Beara flounder to a happy sea angler.

Postscript:

The Beara Peninsula, West Cork, is an area of outstanding natural beauty along south west Ireland’s section of the Wild Atlantic Way. In terms of tourism sea angling it stands head and shoulders above most shore angling destinations within the British Isles and Ireland, the Beara Peninsula really is a jewel in the crown. Roger, David and I travel the long distance, they from Sussex and Cornwall respectively while I make the round trip from Wexford because due to commercial over fishing, undersea habitat destruction and generally bad sea fisheries management our local waters have been rendered deserts.

The Beara is one of the last bastions of  rich marine biodiversity within Ireland’s coastal waters, out where we fish it is pristine and teeming with life. However this underwater aquarium is under threat due to a Government licence granted to an Irish company enabling them to clear fell an initial 2000 acres of underwater kelp forests, the very habitat which underpins the wonderful fishing described above. Referring to just one of the species mentioned within this narrative, juvenile pollack spend their formative years growing up within such kelp forests before as grown adults migrating offshore, remove the kelp and you say goodbye to pollack, it’s that simple.

Anybody who has enjoyed reading this article and who cares about the marine environment should write to the Irish Government asking them to rescind the Bantry Bay kelp harvesting licence before another rich habitat is rendered as useless as the once rich fishing grounds that abounded along Ireland’s east coast but which today due to undersea habitat destruction (in this instance bottom mussel dredging) lie denuded and degraded.

Yours sincerely,

Ashley Hayden

October 2017

Double Top on the Beara

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Twin paternosters baited with freshly dug lugworm settled on the clean sea bed one hundred meters offshore, a flooding spring tide and a setting sun heralding the promise of fish, I was not to be disappointed. Within two minutes a rod top nodded, first tap tap before a strong downward pull then slack line as the fish swam inshore. Picking up rod number one while reeling to make contact a heavy gliding weight signaled flatfish. Having cast off a rock platform into relatively deep water as the fish came closer dives and a circular motion of the mainline confirmed my assumption, double flounder a great start.

Evening sea fishing on the Beara Peninsula, West Cork, Ireland.

Thump, thump, slack, “what is this no time to think“, having barely had time to unhook my initial catch away goes rig number two. In hand and winding fast to maintain contact over goes the rod into a nice curve, now pumping the fish to clear an inshore kelp bed the white underbellies of two nice codling become visible through the crystal clear water. Ensuring a few turns of shock leader are wound around the reel spool I point my rod down towards the brace and lift them up and onto my fishing station, running a pound and a half plus each they will make a nice tea.

Double flounder on the Beara Peninsula, West Cork, Ireland.

What a start and it did not stop there, six species to include dab, flounder, codling, pollack, coalfish and wrasse over a three hour session to dusk high water. How many fish were caught I do not know it became a blur of double codlings, double dab and any combination of the species list in between. The best fish was a pollack about four pound in weight which hit a trailing bait as I was reeling in a coalfish, what a session on a much loved mark quite obviously back to form. A muggy mid October evening belied the time of year, having made the decision to travel at short notice based on a weather window, one could not have planned it better.

Sea fishing on the Beara Peninsula, West Cork, Ireland.

In todays’ world of diminished marine fish stocks the Beara is a sea angling destination worth visiting and getting to know, traveling down for a decade now this angler has only scratched the surface. Yes I’ve seen changes, while numbers of fish encountered remains high mackerel are both scarce and small, while the average size of pollack on certain regular marks that I fish appears to have halved in weight. That said, a fish a chuck in the 2.lb bracket with at any moment a possible lunker ready to snaffle your jelly worm, then heaving your rod over as it dives for the kelp always making the journey worthwhile.

Sea fishing tackle check.

On this visit over two and a half days yours truly landed nine species, the six already mentioned plus scad, dogfish and conger eels to 15.lbs. Sea food chowder with slabs of buttered brown bread, pints of stout, the full Irish breakfast, traditional music of an evening, a nice welcome wherever you went and of course the scenery, what more could one ask for? It’s why I keep returning……..

Beara Bruiser

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

There are a few shore marks in Ireland where one can cast a line with a real possibility of landing a fish of a lifetime, most of them located on the Beara Peninsula. Sea anglers unfamiliar with the area will have their work cut out trying to find them, however that is part of the fun. Traveling down since 2005 and knowing through experience that certain rock marks give access to depths ranging down to 100 feet or 16 fathoms, a double figure ling has always been a possibility. Well done then to regular UK visitor Chris Blewett who landed an 18.lb 3.0z ling from a secret location.

An 18.lb 3.oz ling for UK visitor Chris Blewett.

Having over the years met two local people, one a schoolboy, who have landed shore caught Beara ling into double figures, Chris’s is the largest caught that I am aware of, roll on the twenty pounder. Thanks must go to Paul and Anne Harris of Dromagowlane House, where Chris was staying, for use of the image. Chris’s second stand out fish, his first being a rare specimen plaice, landed from this remote sea angling outpost.

Fishy Rambles in Deepest West Cork

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

South west Ireland besides being wild and rugged delivers some of the best mixed species shore fishing this country has to offer. Pollack, wrasse, conger, and in season mackerel are the mainstay, however for the intrepid sea angler prepared to put in a little planning coupled with a fair amount of effort bull huss, codling, dab, plaice, coalfish, ray (thornback and spotted), mullet (thick and golden grey), scad, garfish, bass, and trigger fish could also have your rod tip nodding. No LRF here, although if you want to practice this new branch of the sport by all means. My advice though is, leave the light rods at home because the four rocky peninsulas jutting out into the Atlantic give access to adult fish, most of which due to the nature of the rough ground habitat they reside in still can reach their full potential size, you have been warned, as this soldier found out the hard way.

A nice Beara pollack tempted by mackerel fillet.

Having never set foot on the Sheeps Head peninsula, and wanting to suss it out, yours truly took a left turn off the Cork ring road onto the N.71 passing through Bandon, then cut across rolling country taking in Enniskean, Dunmanway and Drimoleague before rejoining the N.71 south of Bantry. A short hop and another left turn pointed me towards the village of Durrus, then on out towards Ahakista a beautiful harbour community centrally located on the south side of Sheeps Head.

Ahakista harbour, Sheeps Head, West Cork, Ireland.

Quality self catering accommodation with two pubs close by, one serving great sea food, you couldn’t ask for more. A quirk of the local language which became apparant is the use of north, south, east, and west when discussing where people are traveling on the peninsula, for example one drives west from Ahakista to Kilcrohan, east to Durrus, and north if heading over to Bantry. Concentrating on the fishing, on this my first occasion down I generally just mooched, driving along lanes getting my bearings casting an odd line here and there, mainly for pollack, while conversing with people that I’d meet. What became clear is that very little shore angling is practiced, especially ground fishing, so who knows what could turn up.

A good pollack from the Sheeps Head peninsula, West Cork, Ireland.

The south side of Sheeps Head has some nice pollack marks, evening fishing at two locations producing copper sided beauties to 5.lbs. Mackerel were running during my stay and mullet showed their presence in quiet backwaters. People that I met talked about “Connors” which is a local name for wrasse, so they are present as I’m sure are conger. The airport mark near Bantry is a 15 minute drive from Ahakista so include thornbacks, bull huss, and dogfish, the latter of which I caught when fishing a morning tide at the venue.

Beara mullet from the pond.

After a couple of days sussing out and sight seeing accompanied on occasions by Victor Daly (a great host) whom I rented the cottage off, it was off to meet UK based friends Roger and Dave making their annual Beara fishing trip. A species hunt, after 24 hours we had nailed six, by day two the marker was up to nine to include mullet, pollack, wrasse, dogfish, conger, mackerel, codling, flounder, and dab. This for me being just a flying visit we only hit established marks, that said the pollack and wrasse were there in force albeit smaller than usual and it was nice to see mackerel in reasonable numbers.

A strap conger caught shore fishing on the Beara peninsula.

The high light though was fishing a rough ground mark for conger. Using very simple end rigs baited with fresh mackerel we caught three straps to about 8 – 10 lbs before my rod registered a gentle pull, pull. Now in hand I felt the fish surge forward prompting me to lift and wind my Daiwa slosh simultaneously. Rod heeling over hard I knew the fish was clear of the bottom by the strong free movement registering through rod and line. After a couple of minutes pumping the conger surfaced, dark blue with a white under belly, a big solid head very thick set. Twenty pound plus for sure, I’ll never know the exact weight as a down swell caught it just as one of the lads was about to grab my leader. Thirty pound main line snapped like cotton, well that’s fishing West Cork style…………..

See also: Beara Peninsula Magic.

Conger Capers on the Beara

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Conger eels have both reputation and attitude most of it I believe misplaced, in my experience having caught conger up to thirty pound they are not fearsome or difficult to catch but are just awkward when hooked. Yes, one has to be careful of their powerful jaws, and they corkscrew and thrash on the surface if one is indecisive during the landing phase, but once aboard or on land a wet sack thrown over the head so covering their eyes calms them down. Shore fishing piers or rock marks tends to produce straps up to 10.lbs with an odd bigger fish, nothing to be sniffed at and well worth the effort. An excellent area to target conger is the Beara Peninsula, West Cork, and David “conger king” Murphy didn’t let the opportunity go astray last weekend.

Pier caught conger from the Beara Peninsula, West Cork, Ireland.

Fishing a rising evening tide from a small pier David used a twenty pound class boat rod matched with an ABU 7000. Ledgering a pennell rigged whole mackerel scored along the belly a few times to release juices his first run produced a very greedy 5.lb bull huss. Re baiting, shortly afterwards a more purposeful bite developed, gently at first as they do, just a light knocking on the rod top, then the staccato zzzzz, zzzzz, zzzzz to which David engaged his reel leaning and lifting all in one go, cue brute force and ignorance.

Fighting a pier hooked Beara Peninsula conger.

Immediately on hooking it is essential to get the upper hand and lift the eel away from the bottom and any possible obstruction or crevice that the fish can get its tail around or body into, should either of those situations occur the fight invariably is over. On this occasion luck prevailed and David after a short fight lifted an angry conger onto the quay.

Rock mark conger, Beara Peninsula, West Cork, Ireland.

Conger fishing in daylight works well on the Beara also due mainly to the depth of water close in, most rock marks giving access to 40 – 60 foot of water, some going 80 foot plus so its dusk all day. Again you could hit a monster it really is the luck of the draw. An annoying feature of this fishing though is the amount of developing bites which on striking go solid resulting eventually in a lost trace and no fish. In these instances the bait has landed beside an eel which is still in its lair, subsequently it just reaches out and grabs the bait while saying “thanks very much you won’t catch me“. Persevere though utilising rotten bottom rigs and spark plugs for weights, one doesn’t need to cast far, and a free swimming conger could be yours……….

See also: Conger off the Pier.

 

Rays of Sunshine in Deepest West Cork

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Weather is the final arbiter when choosing a fishing mark on Beara, the sun might be splitting the stones but if a force 5 or 6 wind is blowing in tandem then many potential rock angling locations could be ruled out for safety reasons, Atlantic swells are not to be messed with. However there are a number of fail safe venues on this rocky peninsula which are fishable under most conditions, fair or foul, the inner harbour of Berehaven home to a clutch of them. Yes, they have a tendency to be all or nothing but when they’re on the fishing can be top draw.

Dutch tourist sea angler Martin with a close on 9.00lb shore caught Beara Peninsula thornback ray.

Visiting Ireland on a fishing vacation for the third time since 2010 Dutch sea anglers Tony and Martin were targeting ray off a well known sheltered deep water rock mark west of Castletownbere. Cloudless blue skies, a baking sun, and a one o’clock neap full tide are not traditionally the best conditions to chase shore ray, however casting 100 meters out into 8 fathoms does improve your chances. There is though the problem of negotiating a steep sub surface rock wall which juts out some 20/30 meters in front of the casting platform, utilising a fast retrieve fixed spool or heavy casting multiplier such as a Daiwa Slosh or ABU 7000 deals admirably with that issue.

Pumping up a shore ray from a rock mark in West Cork, Ireland.

Tony and Martin were well kitted out and fishing ledgered mackerel proceeded to land a small spotted ray and a fine thornback running close on 9.00lb. I can still hear Martin repeating “Holy shit” as he pumped his first shore caught ray to the surface. Kiting through crystal clear water the fish could be seen meters below the surface which was a great sight to behold, and even more special as she glided back into the depths on release.

Dutch sea angler Tony with a cracking 2.7 kilo specimen ballan wrasse.

A feature of this location is the range of species that can be accessed to include pollack, wrasse, conger, thornback ray, spotted ray, tub gurnard, dogfish, and mackerel. Tony while fishing down the rock wall with crab connected with a great fish which tested his tackle to the limit. Once safely in his landing net he couldn’t contain his joy as a very colourful 2.7 kilo Irish specimen wrasse now had his name on it. Weighed on certified scales and returned it’s special fish like this that bring Tony and his friends back year after year.

A fine shore caught West Cork spotted ray.

Trying my luck the next day under similar conditions using fresh mackerel caught by friend Gary Robinson jigging from his kayak right in front of my fishing platform, I managed to land a nice spotted ray which again looked special as it glided through the crystal clear water on retrieve, not quite a David Attenborough moment but memorable all the same…….

Further reading: Beara Baskers.

Beara Baskers, Burgeoning Biomass, and Guinness of Course.

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Ten meters off the point a large shoal of grey mullet finned and opened their collective mouths in unison, sieving plankton and other microscopic organisms from the rich productive waters of a special West Cork bay which over the last eight years has become very close to this writers heart. Loose feeding bread flake after about 10 minutes a number of the multitude proceeded to suck in Mr Brennan’s best, time to introduce my quill floated, 2BB shotted, size 10 round bend, bread flake carrying terminal tackle.

A nice Beara Peninsula grey mullet caught on bread flake.

No sooner had the float settled in the water when a large white shape resembling a bin liner appeared about 5 meters outside the mullet shoal. Becoming closer and larger suddenly white plastic transforms into a cavernous mouth, gill rakers and an extended bulbous nose, a whopping great basking shark not ten feet from my stance attracted by the same plankton rich waters loved by the mullet, who by their body language couldn’t care less about this 20 foot long interloper now entering their parlour. As if to prove this point down goes my float, a turn of the wrist, an explosion of spray and the drag sings on my Mitchell fixed spool. Where would you get it, playing an angry mullet in close proximity to a marine Goliath, awesome.

United Kingdom visitor Keith Kendall sports a grand jelly worm tempted pollack.

Such is fishing on the Beara, marine surprises piled on top of quality sea angling, they don’t happen every day but not a trip goes by without at least one David Attenborough moment. Certainly it’s not just the fishing that encourages tourists like Keith Kendall from the United Kingdom to undertake a marathon 36 hour round trip by boat and car to this far flung outpost of Ireland, but it helps. Inviting Keith to spend a day pollack and wrassing with us we had a great time encompassing bracing headland walks, rock hopping, a smattering of prime fish, all topped off with a few pints and a nice evening meal in O’Neill’s of Allihies.

Rock Hopping for Pollack and Bull Huss.

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

For the last session of our weekend on the Beara David and I chose a rough ground venue much favoured by Paul Harris of Dromagowlane House. On the morning in question Paul kindly offered to show us the way down to the mark, as it is down a maze of twisty lanes and thus difficult to find. On arrival Paul gave us a heads up of the location, species present, and the best fishing spots. Thanking him we said our goodbyes before sorting out our equipment and packing what we needed into rucksacks, then made our way out onto a low headland. The morning was dull and windless and the sea flat calm ideal for a spot of rock hopping. David was mad keen to catch a conger, while I was hoping for a bull huss.

David Murphy with a nicely coloured Beara Peninsula pollack.

Finding our first fishing location, a steep cliff giving access to deep water, the rock formation thankfully was stepped and so quite easy to climb down. Choosing a rock platform high enough above the lazy swell to act as a base, we decided to warm up with a spot of jelly worming for pollack.  Using a ten foot spinning rod with matching reel, I rigged up a trace comprising a 60 gram barrel lead above a bead and swivel to which was attached by five foot of 9.kg amnesia a 2/0 kamazan 496b. Threading on red jelly worms David (using similar tackle) and I commenced fishing, casting 70 meters then letting the lead touch bottom before slowly retrieving. The pollack initially were not obliging but after about an hour things picked up with takes occurring regularly. Pollack up to 4.lbs hooped our rods over crash diving towards the kelp, it was great fun, they are a true sport fish.

Jelly worming for pollack on the Beara Peninsula, West Cork, Ireland.

Replacing the jelly worm with a set of hokais I commenced fishing for mackerel to no avail, with only one frozen mackerel between us conger king David took control. Setting up a rotten bottom ledger rig he cast out our sole predator bait about 40 meters tightened up and waited. Within five minutes the rod top nodded then heeled over, lifting into the fish his Zziplex beachcaster took on a mean curve. A tug of war fight with occasional strong dives  ensued, after a couple of minutes the fish showed in the clear water below. Occasional flashes of a white belly and a dark back initially had me thinking conger, but on reaching the surface Dave and I were delighted to see that it was a fine huss.

A mean Beara bull huss for David Murphy.

In fact a very big bull huss, well over the 10.lb mark and mean to boot vomiting it’s stomach contents up as we attempted to extract the hook, edible crab and fish bones comprising a lot of the contents. Pitch black with characteristic blotches on it’s tail we took a few quick snaps and returned it to Davy Jones locker, where upon he swam away none the worst for wear. Dave was shaking and absolutely delighted, as was I, our species count was now up to a creditable eight and we had broken two Beara ducks thanks to a cracking bull huss and the quality bass fishing from the evening before.

See also: Beara bass.

Beara Bass.

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

The Beara Peninsula is not known for its bass fishing, in fact on the Richter scale of Irish bass angling the area probably doesn’t even register. However there are one or two locations which do produce consistent catches of Dicentrachus Labrax and it is with great thanks that I salute Paul Harris (Dromagowlane House B/B), John Angles, and Mike Hennessy for their collective advice and direction which resulted in a fine evenings fishing for both David Murphy and I.

David Murphy with one of three Beara bass caught on an evening tide.

Sustained for an evening session after bass with a bowl of hearty vegetable soup, brown bread, and a pint of plain courtesy of O’Neills bar in Allihies, David and I headed towards a noted low water bass mark. Having fished the location on numerous occasions with poor results, yours truly was a tad sceptical. Mike, Paul, and John all concurred though that from November through to January bass would show, some to specimen weight.

Waiting for a bite, November sunset on the Beara.

Fish close to the stream and you won’t go wrong“, and so it transpired. On casting my peeler and lug baited trace forty meters into the lazy swell, no sooner had it hit the bottom then bang and a slack line indicated bass. Instinctively running backwards I connected with the fish, a spirited schoolie of about 2.5 lbs which took crab. Dave was next in landing a carbon copy before on his next cast landing a fine bass close to 4.lbs. By session end amongst a few doggies we had landed five bass between us, my scepticism melting with each fish. The mark had delivered and upped the species tally for our November trip to a respectable six.

See also: Dab Hand on the Beara.