Posts Tagged ‘Cod’

Sea Fishing in Ireland, Reef Fishing off Kilmore Quay.

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Drifting east, pushed by an ever increasing tidal flow, a lazy swell lifting and rolling under charter vessel “Autumn Dream”, eighty feet below three black pollack  feathers worked their magic over the boulder fields and kelp beds close to the Conningmore rock, south west of the Saltee Islands. A lask of fresh mackerel adorned the bottom hook blood and juices wafting down tide, letting out line to remain in contact with the bottom, thump, thump, striking and reeling in unison a head shaking ferocity transmitted through the braid indicating a ling or maybe a good cod, I began the long retrieve.

A nice reef ling boated off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Pumping my catch towards the surface its dogged resistance never relenting, twenty feet below a long whitish shape comes into view, skipper Eamonn Hayes readies the net and does the honours swinging a reef ling topping eight pounds+ over the rail. “Good man Ash, bait that lower hook up and get it down again”. Turning his attention to all on board Eamon advises, “bait the bottom hook only with fresh mackerel, changing every drop down lads”, then further quips in his broad south Wexford accent, “and remember boys every time you get hung up in a rock and lose a rig you’re keeping a nice Asian girl in a job”. Autumn Dream is a happy boat and the party of Welsh anglers who kindly invited me out are having a ball.

Fighting a pollack up from below aboard Autumn Dream, off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Some of the party are regular visitors, although ten in the total contingent of twenty on this visit are first timers. They come for the variety and quality of species present and are certainly getting value for money over the Kilmore reefs today. Pollack, coalfish, cod, ling, ballan and cuckoo wrasse, pouting, mackerel, and launce continuously keep rods bending, smiling faces populate the deck, ribald jokes and laughs are a constant, the chaps are having fun. “We’ll be crossing kelp beds now lads, there might be a few cod” advises Eamonn, on cue over go a couple of rods. Straining to lift up from the depths, class rods in their fighting curve, codling up to 6.lbs a welcome sight.

A happy Welsh angler with a brace of codling boated off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

The group are divided equally between “Autumn Dream” and Kilmore Quay based charter vessel “Enterprise” skippered by Eamonn’s brother Dick Hayes. Both men offer a wealth of sea going experience stretching back over thirty years and know the inshore reefs, shoals, and banks off Kilmore Quay intimately. With unseasonal storms over recent days having dirtied the water and scattered fish, both Eamonn and Dick communicate returns throughout the day resulting in fine catches aboard both vessels. Pollack predominate with coalfish making an appearance now and again.

A Kilmore Quay coalfish for Welsh angler Alan Duthie.

Reef fishing off Kilmore Quay requires anglers to be vigilant, the ground is rough, boulder strewn and kelpy. With depths ranging from 30 – 100 foot plus (16 fathoms+), averaging 60 foot, allied to rolling seas and the need to keep hard on the bottom tackle losses are unavoidable. Bring lots of leads ranging in size from eight ounces to a pound and stock up on various hokai and feather rigs suitable for pollack, cod, and ling. I find black , white, and purple colours work well off Kilmore in hook sizes 3/0 and 4/0. Keeping in contact with your lead by not letting too much of an angle develop, maintaining more or less straight up and down reduces losses. Create a mental picture of the sea bed by touch, it requires concentration, lifting and dropping the lead, winding and releasing line to work the undersea troughs and rises, however the effort pays off in terms of fish and retained rigs.

Returning home after a day fishing the reefs, Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Lines up was signaled at 16.00pm, Eamonn pointed the bow north east towards Kilmore and accompanied by Enterprise we headed for harbour, a shower, pints, and dinner in that order. Lots of fish were caught with many released to fight another day, whatever fish retained being gutted and filleted as we motored back. Gulls followed, swooped, squawked, and fought for pieces of offal in that age old tradition associated with returning fishing boats, there is no doubt it was a great day. Thank you to Alan Duthie and the boys for inviting me, and to Eamonn for his professionalism, warmth and fun approach…..

The Quay House Bed and Breakfast, Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Footnote: We stayed at The Quay House Bed and Breakfast, Phone, +353 (0)53 91 29988, located on the left as you drive down the main street of Kilmore Quay, just up from Kehoe’s public house. A fine establishment well run by husband and wife team Pat and Siobhan McDonnell, the Quay House caters for anglers providing equipment storage, bait refrigeration, and catch freezing facilities. Full Irish breakfasts set up the day, hot showers are ready on return, and bait can be ordered in advance and during your stay through Joe Carley of South East Bait Supplies, phone +353 (0)87 944 0945. Fresh mackerel is the top bait off Kilmore with ragworm necessary if targeting wrasse.

For Further Reading Click On: Sun, Sea, it’s Kilmore Quay.

New Year Codling.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Saturday the 7th of January 2012 dawned dull and mild. With winds to pick up from the south west by late evening I had planned the first trip of the year to coincide with a dusk high tide. Arranging to meet Frank Flanagan from the Menapia SAC on the beach at 16.00pm, I headed off initially to dig some lug. With six dozen yellow tail in the bucket and time to spare I decided to hit an estuary mark for a couple of hours in search of flounder.

Waiting for a knock, estuary flounder fishing, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Today they were not forth coming, two heavy leans gave an indication that fish were present but unfortunately no hook ups. At 15.30 pm I upped sticks and headed to meet Frank. The location we planned to fish had produced some fine codling over Christmas so hopes were high. A full tide mark, form showed that if fish were present they would take from high water to 1.5 hours down, and be very close in following the line of a gully. The venue had been good to Frank over Christmas delivering codling up to five pounds in weight.

Frank Flanagan of the Menapia SAC, Wexford, with a nice plump beach caught codling.

Casting two hook flappers out thirty meters as light faded, immediately rapid fire bites signaled coalfish which ranged in size from half to one and a half pounds. Good fun, they kept us busy but their barbuled chinned cousins were noticeable by their absence, just the night that was in it. Further up the coast at a venue not four miles away a couple of friends beached two codling amongst the coalfish, the best going five pounds. Now that’s fishing….


Taking Stock of a Missed Opportunity.

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

If I had invested my life’s work and hard earned money in the Irish commercial fishing sector as it exists today, I would at the least be worried and possibly leaning towards anger. Correspondingly, if I were leaving school or college in 2012 with aspirations of building a sea fishing based career or business I would feel sorely let down.

Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD returned home from Brussels mid December after the annual EU fisheries negotiations declaring that he was “delighted with the outcome of these negotiations which delivered my key priorities and will allow the Irish fishing fleet look forward to 2012 with optimism”.

The Stock Book.

The stock book is the annual review of sea fish stocks and management advice delivered to the Minister by the Fisheries Science Services section of the Marine Institute. This important document forms the basis of commercial fisheries negotiations, and once you break through the jargon makes for interesting reading, especially when backed up by practical knowledge and experience on the ground.

As highlighted in recent columns the south coast has experienced an influx of large codling this winter. These fish first became apparent offshore in early 2010 as one year old juveniles 30 – 35 centimetres long. Today going into 2012 after feeding hard these codling are in the three – four pound bracket, becoming sexually mature, and spawning most likely for the first time. They represent visual evidence that 2009 delivered a good year class for Celtic Sea cod, a fact which the scientists agree with.

ICES commercial fishing divisions around the Irish coast.

The last strong Celtic Sea cod year class was in 2000, an injection which helped sustain an already depleted and hard hit stock through the last decade. Science has gauged the present day spawning stock of Celtic Sea cod to be in the region of 10,000 tonnes with a mean average age between 2 – 5 years. These fish are not big by cod standards probably averaging 10.lbs weight or less, the species is capable of growing to well over 100 lbs left to its own devices, and are young cod only maturing around their forth year.

Minister Coveney accompanied by industry lobbyists secured a 77% increase on Celtic Sea cod landings for Irish vessels in 2012, raising Ireland’s quota share to approximately 1500 tonnes, it’s not a lot but for hard pressed owner/skippers it certainly helps relieve the pressure. For the youthful aspirant dreaming of a marine based career however things do not look so hot, short term expedience again trumping long term gain.

Stock book figures highlighting 2012 cod quotas for the Celtic Sea.

Increasing the catch quota on a depleted fishery based on the first decent spawning year in a decade just does not make sense when we are looking to maximise our resources into the future. The Minister for all the fanfare has secured only a pyrrhic victory, helping neither skipper or student plan their future with any degree of certainty. Sadly another missed opportunity for the Government who promised real change less than 12 months ago….

First published People Newspapers, Tuesday 3rd January, 2012.

The Humble Cod has a Colourful History

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

To most people the humble cod is the primary ingredient of Birds Eye Fish Fingers, or comes battered as a constituent of the “one and one” that they have just purchased from the local chipper on the way home from the pub. Little do they know that this big headed, barbuled chinned, coloured a mottled olive green/brown/red, white bellied, much loved fish has most definitely played a major role in the historical development of western society both in Europe and America.

COD, by Mark Kurlansky, a must read for all those who are interested in the marine environment.

Cod was one of, if not the main source of protein for most western and central European nations from the middle ages right into the 19th century. In the Middle Ages dried cod or stock fish as it was known underwrote economies, it predated the gold standard. Basque fishermen from northern Spain crossed the Atlantic to their “secret fishing grounds” off Newfoundland long before Christopher Columbus claimed he had found the New World, and returned with their holds filled with dried and salt cod.

Cod enriched the Pilgrim Fathers who settled on the eastern shores of that mighty continent we now call the USA, to the point where they no longer needed support from their mother nation England. Cod enabled them to become financially independent with the potential to outstrip the burgeoning economy of their home country. Tied to a set of ground rules, one of which was that they could only trade with England, the first settlers sought independence which was refused so kick starting the American Revolution.

All these little gems and more are expanded upon in a wonderful book simply titled “COD” by Mark Kurlansky, first published in 1997 the author charts in vivid style how prolific the species was and sadly after 600 plus years of human exploitation how humanity has mined the North Atlantic cod to economic extinction. No longer do they swim in vast shoals across the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and closer to home reside, coloured red due to the kelp and diet of crab, on the Moulditch bank off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, mans ignorance and greed has seen to that.

Today however, due to some minor miracle or quirk of the EU Common Fisheries Policy, certainly in my opinion not a result of  good fisheries management, cod are swimming again in reasonable numbers off Ireland’s south coast. Averaging 2/3 lbs in weight, on certain tides they are coming within casting range of shore anglers fishing beaches, piers, estuaries, and headlands from Wexford to Cork. Fishing into the dark using lugworm or peeler crab for bait, rod tops have been nodding and for the lucky few who are putting the time in some fine catches have been made. Yours truly has made a number of trips to various locations since early November, enjoying some excellent results in the process, culminating in the freshest battered cod and chips that I have had in years. On form the cod will stay around until January, get out and cast a line while the going is good….

Big Cod in the Surf.

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Frank Flanagan, a member of the Menapia SAC in County Wexford, kindly sent me a photo of a super cod that he landed during a recent beach session. Weighing eight pounds the cracking fish took Frank’s bait just behind the surf line. Southerly winds which had been blowing for the previous couple of days had obviously pushed feed inshore and the hungry cod followed.

Frank Flanagan of the Menapia SAC, Wexford, Ireland holds up a cracking beach caught cod.

Having enjoyed a productive session which included a nice plunp codling just a few days previous, and aware of similar catches there is no doubt that cod are running the shore in reasonable numbers this winter. They will most certainly be around until mid to late January, so get out there and enjoy what appears to be the best winter cod season along the southern Irish coast in years.

Fish Fight

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

The Irish Sea has lost 90% of its cod stock due primarily to commercial overfishing and the wasteful practice of discards. The worst offenders regarding discards are “Dublin Bay Prawn” Nephrops trawlers where the percentage of discarded marine life can top 50%+ of the overall catch.

Trawlers in harbour, Castletownbere, Co. Cork, Ireland.

BIM will say that there is a ban on cod fishing in the Irish Sea, however immature codling, whiting, slip sole, plaice, and a host of other key species are being hoovered up and dumped on a daily basis due to the wasteful practice of discarding, so limiting further necessary recruitment of juvenile stock.

A campaign to lobby against the practice of discards at sea has been set in train by River Cottage main man Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. To register your vote please log on to Fish Fight and further the cause for sustainable fishing and a rejuvenated and bio-diverse marine environment.

Click on: Marine Conservation