Posts Tagged ‘Surf casting’

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…….

Ashley’s Mad About Fish Too, But Where Are They?

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Leaving the house at 08.00 am on a beautiful frosty Sunday morning with a view to catching a few flounder and latterly codling, yours truly spent twenty euro on bait, at least twenty five euro on petrol, ten euro on a bowl of chowder and a pint of stout, ingested loads of healthy fresh air, absorbed plenty of sunshine, and conducted a reasonable amount of sociable interaction over a twelve hour period, all of which resulted in one two pound school bass. Sea angling is a great pass time however, when four competent anglers fishing two rods each more or less blank on what are excellent tides while fishing normally productive venues, one can only deduce that somethings not right.

Sea fishing in Ireland for estuary flounder.

Initially fishing an estuary location known to deliver specimen size flounder, fresh lugworm and peeler crab baits were cast into the channel just as the tide was making, based on form a perfect time. Three hours later, not a nibble, with bait being reeled in untouched, extraordinary for that mark. Later casting into a lovely sea as dusk fell the twin surf poles should have been hopping, instead what transpired was a repeat of the mornings exercise, saved only by a late smash and grab schoolie.

Evening surf casting in south Wexford, Ireland.

Having returned to regular sea fishing in the late summer of 2007 I can categorically state that shore fishing within counties Wicklow and Wexford  has deteriorated year on year to date, with 2011/2012 being particularly bad. Yes there was a run of codling last winter, the result of a good year class in 2008 or 2009. Not surprisingly our illustrious fisheries Minister Coveney caved in to industry pressure and increased the Celtic Sea cod quota by 77% on what was a barely recovering stock, result bye bye codling.

To rub salt in the wound RTE broadcast their Nationwide programme, Friday 16th November (see RTE player), within which they extolled the virtues of buying fresh fish from a market stall in Galway city and the success of innovative value added fish products recently launched by a significant south east fish wholesaler. Now this writer loves eating fish and both recognises and values the commercial fishing sector. A major gripe though is that our national broadcaster constantly airs programmes such as the one mentioned above and also the popular Martin’ s Mad About Fish which give the impression of a rich bountiful ocean, unfortunately a far cry from the modern reality as witnessed last Sunday. A bit of balance RTE please……….

Sea Fishing in Ireland, Hit and Run Bass

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Fishing like life has its routines, many of them centering around tides and weather. Successful bass fishing requires top quality fresh bait, and if your chosen location is a south Wexford strand located somewhere between Carnsore point west to Cullenstown then don’t hit the beach without procuring lugworm. 11.00am on a glorious frosty Saturday morning found yours truly digging away on a favourite strand. Lugworm were plentiful, however a blinding glare from the sun, fast nearing its winter low, made spotting the worms difficult.

Sea fishing in Ireland, digging lugworm on a sheltered strand.

Fresh black lug and south Wexford bass go together like strawberries and cream, Clive Gammon in his fabulous book Salt Water Fishing in Ireland, first published in 1966, endorsed this view and the bass have not changed their dietary habits since. Equally, although they will take a bait during daylight hours, especially if there is a sea running, far better to commence a session as dusk is drawing in, fishing on into the dark. With ample juicy lugworms now in the bucket why spoil a good routine, off to the Strand Bar for a lunchtime reviver, gourmet cheese burger with chunky fries washed down with a pint of uncle Arthur’s, mmmmm.

Sea fishing in Ireland, a bucket of lugworm.

Neap tides, a bright blue cloudless sky, and a light north west breeze create far from ideal surf casting conditions in south Wexford. Faced with a lifeless sea devoid of the fizz generated by a big tide combined with a south westerly, twin lug baited paternosters were cast fifty meters into the gutter as dusk fell. Bites initially were slow, a dogfish and a small plaice all that showed within the first hour.

Sea fishing in Ireland, Surf casting in Co. Wexford.

It was good to see groups of anglers on the strand, bass fishing of late has been steady, lots of schoolies with a smattering of larger fish to make it interesting. Frosty weather attracts cod though, and for sure a plump Gadus or two wouldn’t go amiss tonight, the calm sea and small tide unfortunately dictating otherwise. Now dark and with headlight trained on reflective rod tips, one jags down and bounces back up. Surf pole instantly in hand, reeling and stepping back to tighten any slack line, a thump registers through the carbon, leaning hard, a solid resistance, fish on.

Sea fishing in Ireland, School bass.

Funny how in the dark a fishes initial surge creates a false impression of weight, bass though are doughty, speedy fighters so even a small one, especially in the surf line feels bigger than it is. Running 1.5 – 2.0 pounds, between 18.30- 20.00pm seven schoolies hit the rods, all lip hooked and returned they are tomorrows lunkers if protected. Plump and in great nick, bristly and indignant while being unhooked, they skitter off through the back wash on release giving a seemingly two fingered gesture with their tails. Bass, a fish with attitude……….

Click on: For further information on beach fishing in South Wexford, Ireland.

Bass Fishing in Ireland, School Days

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

When a rising four meter tide combines with settled weather in October the resultant fishing experience can exceed expectations. Summer and winter merge on an autumn playing field, the sea appears alive, fish oblige, one meets and chats with interesting people,  midday shirt sleeves eventually require topping up with jumpers, scarfs, and woolly hats as daylight turns to dusk, a damp chill envelopes, and a million stars look down from a frost bearing sky. To venture out on such a day is special, it’s why I go fishing.

Bass fishing in Co. Wexford, Ireland.

A big thank you to Joe Carley of South East Bait Supplies for giving me a heads up on a productive location, meeting on a favoured lugworm patch we briefly talked fishing, Joe in a hurry to supply eager customers while I had six dozen black lug to dig before a fast making tide. Having excavated the required amount, energy levels were restored in the Strand Bar, Duncannon, liver and crispy bacon, fried onions, mash, gravy, and mixed veg washed down with a pint of stout, top quality fare and all for under fifteen euro, you can’t go wrong.

A coastal view of Co. Wexford, Ireland.

South county Wexford looked stunning, bathed in brilliant October sunshine. On arrival at my chosen mark a steady south west breeze created a lovely swell, clear blue and weed free, ozone filled the air as a single wave turned over and broke in a continuous creamy line stretching miles into the distance. A steep to beach with deep water close in, terns dipped, an odd sea trout jumped, shingle rattled as the heavy wave receded, bass had to be present and they were. Casting twin black lug baited paternosters forty meters into the gutter, having barely settled rod number one double knocked before slack lining, grabbing while running backwards in unison contact was made with a spirited two pound schoolie, beached and returned.

Bass fishing in Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Three more followed up to high tide then as often happens along this strand a temporary lull ensued before proceedings kicked off again an hour into the drop. Relentless explains the next two hours, as dusk closed in bites became frantic and constant as schools of bass patrolled the shoreline. Short gaps of  inactivity being replaced every ten to fifteen minutes with a burst of rod thumps and slack liners. Fishing two rods, I cut back to one and still ended up landing 19 bass, admittedly schoolies in the 1.5 – 3.5 lb bracket, all lip hooked and returned bar one for the pot, good fun though and a positive future sign if nurtured and protected.

Bass fishing in Co. Wexford, Ireland.

At 20.30 pm half way into the ebb I called it a night, what a perfect day it had been, one couldn’t have planned it better. On leaving I counted at least twelve headlamps betraying the presence of anglers along a three mile section of strand, here’s hoping that they were experiencing the same quality of fishing. Surf casting for autumn bass in Wexford on the open beaches when all key factors come together really shines, space and solitude abound, and the bass although on average not as big as their rough ground counterparts, do provide consistent sport with a six pounder or bigger always on the cards. As I write reports of codling  are filtering through, role on the next set of springs………

Click On: For Further Information on Irish Bass Fishing.

South Wexford Bass Abound

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Sometimes you just make a wrong call, having dug fresh black lugworm a decision was made to hit an estuary mark that produces bass and big flounder. Four hours later as evening turned into night my companion David Murphy’s rod doubled over in its stand, a typical smash and grab bite from a marauding bass. Instantly striking while the rod was still locked over I thought David had connected, but no our only bite of the session swam down the channel to freedom. Never mind, we soldiered on for a while before packing up with the channel now showing its bones. Meanwhile out in the bays and on the open beaches…..

Casting lug baits after bass on an estuary mark.

Bass were chasing mackerel close to shore evident by the fresh run 4/5 pound fish caught lure fishing by small boat anglers who landed on the quay adjacent to us at high water. Not to be outdone Gerry Mitchell and a few friends fishing a night session on a strand east of David and I beached 11 bass to 56 cms along with some nice flounder. Sprat were being washed in and left high and dry, a clear sign of mackerel working up and down the tide line. Great to hear that fish are running the beaches again, makes up for picking the short straw……..

Sea Fishing in Ireland, Hound Dogs and Shifting Baselines

Friday, July 6th, 2012

They’re taking shy tonight, dogfish tend to do that in very calm conditions, just playing with the bait, signaled by a trembling of the rod top with an occasional slight nod. For the umpteenth time I pick up the rod, immediately as this bite ain’t going to develop, no more struggling with a deep hooked LSD wrapping its sandpaper hide around my hand. Leaning into the fish all hell breaks loose, zzzzz goes the drag, rod butt into the groin, rod tip in a hoop, instant transformation, smooth hound and a good one.

Surprise smooth hound from a Co. Wicklow strand, tempted by lugworm.

This lad really had a go, trademark lateral runs supplemented with head shaking and a last ditch run for the hills. Yes, the hound actually took off back out to sea which is very unusual, mostly they fight in a zig zag fashion parallel with the shore. Giving line eventually the fish was beached whence the hook promptly fell out, quick photo and away, excitement over, re cast and it’s back to dogfish central with a few small dab thrown in for good measure.

Waiting for that hound to bite, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

I remember catching my first hound off Tinnebearna back in 1985, in those days we targeted them through May and early June along the east Wexford beaches. Smooth hound were the new kids on the block and everybody wanted to catch one, now they appear to be ten a penny as most definitely they’re range has extended, probably filling the void created by over fishing of other key species, unfortunately a sad fact of modern marine life. Not to put a damper on it but the beach that I fished last night reflects the theory of shifting marine baselines very clearly. It’s not a question of glass half full, the trajectory is downwards. In 2007 the mark would produce mixed bags of flounder, dab, codling, gurnard, bass, dogfish, and smooth hound. Today the clean fish have markedly reduced in size and numbers or just plain disappeared. Sad but true……..