Posts Tagged ‘Whiting’

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:

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……….

Sea Fishing in Ireland, Fog Bound off Greystones

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Slipping out of Greystones harbour under cover of a pea soup fog bank Jean Anne with a bearing from Gary’s iPhone compass app’ headed towards the mackerel grounds off the cable rock under Bray Head. Hot and humid with light winds to blow 4 later from a southerly direction, Gary Robinson, David Murphy, and I set off to ultimately fish the last two hours of the flood for tope, fresh mackerel being a prerequisite.

Fog bound off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Motoring for ten minutes across a glassy sea the sun a barely visible yellow orb I cut the motor to listen. Fog enshrouded, we couldn’t see fifty meters, sound enveloped us, waves on the beach, hooting dart whistles, distant cars, another out board motor, but where? Using the suns position I gunned the engine and headed gingerly towards the shore, which after five minutes appeared out of the murk. Not bad, within two hundred meters of the cable, we took a compass bearing then eased out into the north running tide.

Jigging for mackerel off a foggy Bray Head, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Cutting the engine every few minutes we jigged feathers to little effect, an odd mackerel here a couple there. Eventually around mid day the fog began to burn off, now land marks could come into play in our hunt for Scomber scombrus, unfortunately they still remained elusive. Considering that when this writer first started fishing in the early 1970′s mackerel were so numerous searching for them did not enter the equation, the present state of play is totally unacceptable. Motor two humps off Bray Head and drop your feathers, in those days 6 on a hand line, immediate contact or at worst a short troll behind the boat until the shoal was found being the usual form.

Playing a small huss off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Today on August 9th 2012 three competent anglers jigging hard in 2.5 hours amassed 12 mackerel and three whiting before calling it a day and heading for the tope grounds. What has humanity done, the north east Atlantic mackerel stock has been mined (for that is the word) supposedly sustainably if that is possible, the truth is our experience off Greystones, Co. Wicklow yesterday, the EU, successive Irish Governments, politicians, and public servants have failed us. Our, and I repeat our summer mackerel, because everybody owns the resource not just the commercial fishing sector, are not swimming elsewhere they are gone converted into fish meal, canned, or sold block frozen to Asian, Russian, and African markets so that a few people can become very rich. The environmental repercussions of removing this stock will be severe unless current exploitation policies are reversed.

A small huss for Gary Robinson boated off Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Surpressing our anger, we were it has to be said out for a days pleasure fishing, Gary, Dave, and I pointed Jean Anne south and motored towards a favoured tope mark. On this occasion the toothy ones did not show however a succession of greedy juvenile bull huss kept our rods nodding, how they manage to engulf whole mackerel on an 8/0 hook beats me. At 16.00 bells we weighed anchor a date with destiny awaiting us in the Beach House, Greystones. Breaking records on the slip to get Jean Anne on the trailer and our gear stowed we legged it to the pub in time for the fourth and decisive round. Well done Katie Taylor on winning gold in London, you did yourself, your family, and the nation proud.

Mixed Bag from the Waterford Estuary.

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Codling have been ever present this winter and of a good stamp, most fish that I have encountered in the 35 – 40 cm bracket or bigger. With a four meter high tide at 18.00pm I headed for the Waterford estuary to fish a new mark that held promise. After digging bait at Duncannon and a much needed pit stop in the Strand Bar, nothing beats a toastie and a pint of plain, it was off to the venue for a 14.00pm start.

Pier fishing on the Waterford estuary, Ireland.

On arrival the flood had been pushing for two hours, a scarf of tide about 80 meters out marked the line of the shipping channel. A local fisherman tending to his nets informed me that I would be casting into 4/5 fathoms of water and that my baits would be landing on a mussel bed. Happy days, depth and feed, would fish be in residence. Casting two hook flappers baited with fresh black lug into the channel, no sooner had the grips settled in then the tips started nodding.

Waterford estuary codling.

Breaking out was difficult I assume due to the mussel bank, but an even pressure released the grips and I could feel the fish. First cast a double header, codling and dab, followed by a codling, big whiting, then a flounder/codling double. What a start fish every cast, and that is how it went for the first two hours. I copped that my rig was settling down the side of the channel (where the fish were), but my main line was resting on the lip. This had the effect of masking bites and also was probably responsible for the difficulty in breaking out. That said, I wasn’t complaining and over the course of the session only lost two rigs.

Large Waterford estuary whiting.

Bites diminished as full tide approached however they did not stop. Normally I let a cast fish for 10 minutes before reeling in to re bait, invariably a fish would signal its presence within that time span. I lost count of the fish landed and the time just flew. Calling it a day at six bells there is no doubt, “it was a belter of a session“. Six species, codling, whiting, pouting, dab, flounder, and eel, all of a good size. The estuary has been good to me this year, and it seems that every time I head down I meet somebody new. “Hi Jim O’Brien, we had a good chat, hope you enjoy those codling“.

See also: Estuary Codling.

See also: Christmas Coalies.

Beara Peninsula Blues.

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

I love the blues, from the Delta to Chicago, Son House, Muddy Waters, and Buddy Guy, the music that gave us modern rock and roll. The swimming variety equally has its place, even more so if they exceed 100.lbs in weight and can be caught on a cloudless, windless, scorcher of a day miles out in the Atlantic off West Cork, such is the case presently as the annual migration of blue shark follow the Gulf Stream into Ireland’s warmed up coastal waters. Chasing shoals of mackerel blue shark although recorded all around the coast of Ireland are most plentiful along the southern, south west, and western sea boards.

A specimen blue shark caught 12 miles off the Beara Peninsula, West Cork by Adrian Sparrow.

A pelagic species averaging 50 – 60 lbs weight in Irish waters, any blue over 100.lbs is considered a specimen, while the current rod and line record is a fish caught off Achill Island in 1959. Lovers of deep water, they prefer depths in excess of 15 fathoms, blue shark first begin to appear in June/July if the weather is warm usually 10 – 20 miles offshore, moving to within 5 miles of the coast by August/ September before departing as our inshore waters cool down into October.

Feeding on mid water shoals of mackerel, sprat, and pilchard, they will venture to the bottom in search of food and are quite common in areas where whiting frequent. Sleek, steel blue in colour with a large streamlined head, pectoral fins like wings, and an angular tail, they are a indeed a handsome fish and a worthy quarry.

A 14.oz Whiting for John Angles, skipper of charter vessel Tigger II out from Castletownbere, West Cork, Ireland.

John Angles is the skipper of charter vessel Tigger II working the fish rich waters off Castletownbere on the Beara peninsula, West Cork. When conditions allow he will take out groups of up to five angler’s blue shark fishing, charging €440.00 per charter which is very good value. On his first trip after blues this season an hour into the first drift Adrian Sparrow hit the jackpot with a spectacular specimen. Two further blue sharks of and were boated also on what was a red letter day.

John along with his wife Maree runs Inches House and Boat Angling Centre, offering B/B and self catering accommodation close to the village of Eyeries on the Beara peninsula. They can be contacted through their website, or by phone at, +353 (0)27 74494. Why not combine a shore and boat angling safari to this beautiful corner of Ireland, John knows plenty of first rate shore marks and can advise on a range of species from pollack and wrasse, to conger, ray, bull huss, flatfish, codling, and bass. While offshore, besides the blues, he can put you over quality mixed ground fishing for haddock, cod, whiting, pollack, and coalfish, before hitting the rough for large conger and ling.