Posts Tagged ‘Razor Clam’

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…….

Deep Sea Fishing off Kinsale, Cod and Bonny Haddock from a Rolling Sea

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Picturesque, historic, beautiful Kinsale, situated on the Bandon river estuary eighteen miles south of Cork city, more noted today for gastronomic excellence, has a tourism sea angling tradition which predates its modern culinary fame. Back in 1964 after returning from working in the USA and Canada, native Irishman Gary Culhane decided to create a tourist sea angling centre modeled on the hunting and fishing lodges he had experienced while on his travels. A visionary, Gary not only earmarked good fishing as a requirement, but also extra curricular activities and amenities suitable not just for all male angling parties but families too. The peaceful coastal haven of Kinsale giving access to both the incredibly fish rich and diverse Ling Rocks grounds and the wreck of the Lusitania lying eleven miles south west of the Old Head of Kinsale fitted the bill admirably.

A grand reef ling for Rob Porter caught on Sundance Kid out of Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Gary had two boats commissioned and built for offshore work and also hired dinghies and outboards for those customers who preferred to go it alone and fish the inner harbour and estuary. He constructed a wooden chalet and also provided space for caravans on the site which is now the Trident Hotel. Working in conjunction with Des Brennan of the Inland Fisheries Trust he invited journalists such as Clive Gammon to sample and write about what Kinsale had to offer tourist sea anglers, with the result that they came in their droves, in particular from Holland and the UK.

Back then common skate could be caught in the outer harbour and also turbot which swam and fed in the race off the Old Head. The Ling Rocks gave access to superb mixed fishing for a vast range of species to include big cod, pollack, whiting, coalfish, ling, gurnard, conger, and blue shark. Presently they still hold the rod and line record for thornback ray of thirty seven pounds, caught by M.J Fitzgerald on the 28/05/1961, a weight which will probably never be beaten. Traveling on out to the Lusitania initial forays produced big catches of specimen ling. This incredible marine diversity linked in with Kinsale and the surrounding hinterlands natural beauty, charm, and ambiance became the catalyst for a sea angling tourist product that at its height maintained a fleet of six deep sea charter boats.

Butch Roberts, skipper of Sundance Kid, displays a specimen red gurnard.

Unfortunately today, like many sea angling centers around the Irish coastline, Kinsale trades on its past. As a teenager in the seventies I was drawn to the town, initially on a youth hosteling trip with the school, then captivated by its location, how it resembled a Cornish fishing village, and of course its famous pubs such as The Spaniard, Bullman, and Hole in the Wall, on most bank holidays from then until the early 1980′s yours truly would be found resident. Camping around Charles Fort, a wonderful star shaped 17th century structure now preserved by the OPW, fishing other than for mackerel was secondary to girls, drink, and craic. That said, if one took a late afternoon stroll up to the Trident Hotel of an August bank holiday a regular sight would be large blue sharks strung up on a gantry. A sad legacy to ignorance, but it has to be said, we didn’t know any better then.

So full circle and a call last week to Mike Hennessy, Inland Fisheries Ireland’s sea angling maestro. In conversation Mike told me about the fabulous haddock fishing he experienced the previous weekend out with skipper Butch Roberts off Kinsale. Letting Mike know that I had never fished out of the venue, “in fifty two years a major personal oversight“, he said “leave it with me”, hung up and two minutes later rang back saying a party was heading out with Butch next Saturday and I was welcome to join them. Three days later at 08.30am on a cold, grey, dismal morning I hopped aboard Butch Roberts 38 foot Aquastar named Sundance Kid and made my introductions to both him and the anglers present.

A brace of codling for sea angler John Young aboard Sundance Kid out of Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland.

A mixed party, immediately I felt welcome, there was Dubliner Nick Ward, two knowledgeable anglers from the Cork City based Carrigaline Sea Angling Club Rob Porter and John Dennehy, and John “forever” Young, a Scotsman who sailed his yacht into Kinsale over a dozen years ago and never left. Preparing tackle as Butch guided Sundance Kid clear of the Castle Park Marina before steaming up the estuary past the twin bastions of Charles and James forts, our skipper then set a south easterly course out into the open ocean to a mark where hopefully the haddock would still be present.

Six miles south east of the Old Head of Kinsale charter boat Sundance Kid pitched and rolled under a dirty grey sky. The sea, still heaving after Thursdays gale, had thankfully settled enough for the 38 foot Aquastar to leave harbour, force eight south easterlies being replaced by a steady north east breeze pushing occasional wintry squalls ahead of it. Blowing at a slight angle off the land its effect was to flatten the sea somewhat, although in reality a short chop now became superimposed on a heavy swell, safe but uncomfortable. Baiting up with frozen razor clam and slivers of mackerel we lowered our rigs 100 feet towards a clean bottom of shale.

Nick Ward displays a nice haddock.

Instantly John Dennehy’s rod signaled bites which resulted in a brace of plump whiting, a false dawn as things went quite after that. Skipper Butch instructed lines up and we motored to another mark close by where he dropped anchor just as the tide was beginning to push west. To the north east I could make out Roche’s Point, while to the north west obscured by a sleety squall one could just make out the Old Head of Kinsale. Every so often we would dip into a trough and land would disappear, that’s the kind of day it was. Butch, Captain Ahab like with his beard, oozing sea going experience from South Africa, his native land, to Australia, was a constant source of reassurance. He’s been fishing these waters since he first came to Kinsale in 1984. What attracted him, “a woman of course”.

For an hour as the tidal flow increased bites came slowly but steadily, haddock made an appearance with Nick landing a grand four pound fish while John Young boated a brace of nice codling. Top rod for the day was Rob Porter, employing a two up one down rig laced with beads he regularly contacted haddock and large whiting, with his fish of the day being a ling in the eight to ten pound bracket. Best fish of the trip turned out to be a specimen red gurnard of 2.2 lbs caught by a rightly chuffed John Young, and I was delighted to see a number of big whiting landed, Kinsale at one stage home to the Irish record.

Rob Porter plays a good ling aboard charter boat Sundance Kid out of Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland.

At days end motoring back in conversation with John Dennehy about the quality of sea fishing off the Cork coast, what he described gave hope. Yes, based on historic catches sea fishing has diminished with species overall smaller in size and less common. That said he and his friends fishing regularly throughout the year catch not only a range of species but fish to a good weight also. What I witnessed aboard Sundance Kid at the tail end of the season on a rough, cold day, backed up John’s narrative. Not a lot of fish were boated, that most definitely being down to the conditions, however codling to four pounds, whiting close to if not over two pounds, haddock averaging a pound and a half, a couple of good ling and a specimen gurnard in this day and age represents quality fishing. What might be achieved in the high season with good weather I intend to find out, roll on next summer.

John Dennehy with a nice plump winter whiting.

Fact file: Charter boat, Sundance Kid. Skipper, Butch Roberts. Telephone: +353 (0)21 4778054. Email: Website:

Bass Fishing in Ireland, Seasons Opener.

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

A chance phone call from marine scientist Ed Fahy was the precursor to an enjoyable days bass fishing in Ireland’s showery south east. “I have a mountain of bait and nobody to share it with”, enough said “I’ll meet you in Gorey” and with that a sort of plan was laid. Strong southerly winds had backed around to the south west and decreased 4 – 5 making the beaches north of Carnsore point worth a pop as the big offshore swell would create a nice surf. There was no point in trying the south Wexford strands as these would have been blanketed with weed and so it proved.

A nice early 2011 season bass from a south Wicklow strand.

First port of call was Ballytrent strand, as expected a nice surf was running and initial evidence pointed to a weed free zone. Ominously though weed was evident about a quarter of a mile up the beach to our left. Unfortunately on casting our lines got snagged up with wrack and smaller pieces of weed. After half an hour we called it quits deciding to move further north and fish in the vicinity of Blackwater.

Ed Fahy surf casting on Ballinesker strand, Co. Wexford.

The weather God’s were kind, although hit with showers all day in between it was warm and sunny the wind staying in the west. A move to Ballinesker north of Curracloe, the stage for the awesome opening scene from “Saving Private Ryan” looked promising but again our hopes were dashed. A crumping surf hid a myriad of broken half rotten weed, a bi-product of the recent south easterlies. This time we persevered for an hour but again fishing was impossible. “Third time lucky” says I, “we’ll find a beach out of the main tidal current”.

Awaiting that bite, beach fishing in Co. Wicklow.

On arrival a nice rolling wave promised bass. Having never blanked on this beach I was confident that it would deliver. Baiting up with double fresh razor clam and popping the rig sixty meters out, the rod was barely in its rest before a lively pull down signaled our first fish, a schoolie promptly returned. From then on things were slow, not unusual for this mark for it has an all or nothing nature, but as stated it always delivers. So it proved an hour in when a good heave on the rod followed by a slack line resulted in a spirited fight with a three pound plus bass. Not the biggest from this venue but welcome nonetheless.

A school bass from a Wicklow beach for marine scientist Ed Fahy.

I was delighted for Ed, as the full time whistle sounded on his last cast he landed a small bass with which to christen his new surf pole. He will catch bigger this year but importantly the fish provided scale samples from which Ed will be able to continue his fine work in trying to understand the biology of this wonderful species. On packing up I thanked Ed for his morning call, we both agreed it was a fine day out and certainly will plan a repeat performance or two before the summer is out.

Winter Beach fishing, South Wexford.

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Not having shore fished since mid November due to the arctic conditions it was great to once again feel the crunch of shingle underfoot, wind up the surf casting pole, and send a five ounce lead fizzing towards the horizon. A planned session after codling along the south Wexford beaches delivered a pleasing result yielding four species and a few fish for the pot.

Winter beach fishing south county Wexford, Ireland.

Fresh/frozen razor fish from a previous session were supplemented with lugworm and clam dug from the back strand at Rosslare. A couple of fellow bait collectors hinted at the prospect of fish and information was traded as to the current hot spots between bouts of digging. Lugworm is the top bait at this time of year but don’t rule out mussel and razor fish or combinations of all three. Coalies love mussel and razor can be very good for flounder especially when fished in the gutter after a blow.Bait digging on the burrow shore, Rosslare, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

A quick spot of lunch then off to the beach. Winter codling fishing has become increasingly hit and miss due to commercial overfishing, however large numbers of one-two pound codling have been present along the south coast since the summer hinting at a bumper winter beach season. East Cork, in particular the Youghal estuary, has produced good bags of fish to five pounds+, so I was hopeful that the Wexford beaches would not disappoint.

Daiwa 7HT's and Paul Kerry combinations.

Night tides in early January can throw up codling to weight  along the south Wexford beaches west of Carnsore point. Few and far between in recent years I was confident that fish would show. Setting up twin rigs, a single hook clipped down and a two hook flapper, the former was fired out while the latter was lobbed to about 60 meters. An oily swell was running creating a single wave on the beach and there was little or no floating weed. With high tide at five pm approx, I commenced fishing around half past three. As the light faded fish came on.

Winter sunset in south Wexford, Ireland.

Initially bites were tentative then a full blooded rap led to a slack line. Backing up while winding I felt the weight of a reasonable fish which turned out to be a codling of close to 40.cms. The action was fairly constant for an hour or so over the top of the tide. A few bites were missed which might have been down to coalfish and the fact that I was using long snoods. That said codling, dab, flounder, and rockling were landed, with the highlight being a fine flounder tempted by razor at distance.

Winter beach fishing fare, south Wexford, Ireland.

A brace of codling coupled with a nice dab and flounder made the trip worth while. January will see the best of it after which the beach rods will be moth balled until May. If the weather holds up another session or two is definitely on the cards. Let’s hope the codling are still obliging.

South Wexford Bass and Mackerel

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

A planned trip to fish bass in south Wexford with marine scientist Ed Fahy finally came to pass. Recently retired, it is a pity that there are not more people in the service with his passion, intellect, and desire to do the right thing instead of pandering to vested interests, our inshore waters would be in a far better state if there were. I digress, Ed and I arranged to meet in Gorey before driving on to dig lugworm at Rosslare. Through contacts Ed had a supply of fresh razor clam, along with the lug and a few bonus gaper clam collected while digging we hit the chosen beach and were fishing by noon.

A plump four pounder from a south Wexford shore.

A force 5/6 westerly wind created a nice rolling sea, the water was clear and there was no floating weed. Grey and chilly we were in no doubt that winter was not far a way, however once wrapped up we never noticed the elements on the windswept strand. High tide was around four pm, our chosen beach fishes well during the middle stages of the rise and two casts in to the session a slack line signaled positive interest. Grabbing the rod while striding up the beach contact was made, its fighting curve and the thump thump resistance screamed bass. A run to the left, into the breakers a spiky fin, silver thrashing and that big eye, moving forward in unison with the receding wave, beached on the following a grand bass of four pounds.

Waiting for the bite, south Wexford.

Taken on razor at forty metres two casts later in a repeat performance bass number two hit the beach this time on lug. Recasting with razor on the bottom and lug on the top no sooner had the rig settled on the bottom then bang bang in again. This time a spirited but lesser tussle signaled a good schoolie touching two pounds returned to fight another day. Shortly after that a flounder flapped up the strand and with that everything went quite. Not unusual for this particular beach, it is all or nothing. In saying that the strand is very consistent and I have never not caught fish on it and the quality is usually good.

A late season mackerel for Ed Fahy.

With the lull Ed broke out the spinning gear prompted by a mackerel that grabbed my lug baited hook on the retrieve. In summer mackerel run this strand particularly in August, but October, we were surprised. Soon after another hit the shoreline contributing a welcome brace and a nice supper to look forward to. Ed and I fished on until six pm before calling it a day. Chewing the fat and landing a few fish a productive and enjoyable day had passed quickly. We promised to repeat the exercise before too long.