Fishing in Ireland, sea angling

Inish Turk

Plans for this day afloat had changed so often that I had begun to suspect it would never happen. The original day was supposed to take place last month but a strong wind whipped up the sea and it was cancelled at the last minute, leaving us all huddled in the rain on the quay in Westport trying to balance disappointment we would not be fishing with relief we would not be thrown around the deck of a heaving boat all day.


Some of the intrepid anglers

Next up was a rearranged date and a switch to fishing from Roonagh. But the weather managed to upset even that idea with a strong southerly once again leading to a cancellation. The next idea was complex but just might work. Catch the ferry to Inish Turk and fish with the local lads in the lee of the island. Having never been that far out this idea appealed greatly to me. Happily, this one actually came to fruition.

The ferry tied up to the quay on Inish Turk island

I wake early, too early and so I try in vain to go back to sleep. I’d like to say this was due to excitement but in fact poor sleep patterns are just another sign of old age. It’s getting darker in the mornings now as the year wears on. Darker and cooler with the first hint that frosts are on the way. I read for a while before feeding the cat and make myself some breakfast. There is tackle to be sorted out before I can pack the car so I get dressed and commence the hunt for all the necessary tools of the trade. Some come easily to hand, others are lost to me for now and I leave without them.

my old Plano box is about due for retirement!

I always seem to be so disorganised when heading out on the high seas, too many boxes and bags with all the tackle and clothes muddled through each other. Because I have not been doing much sea fishing for many years now a lot of my gear needs to be replaced due to wear and tear or the inevitable blight of corrosion from the salt water. When I am old out on the boat once or twice a year it is hard to justify the expenditure on shiny new tackle or smart new waterproofs but some of my kit is falling apart so I plan to invest in some gear over the winter. Anyway, back to Saturday…………….

We finally found ourselves on the ferry to Inish Turk this Saturday, crossing the outer bay to link up with a local boat who would take us out to fish in the what we hoped would be relatively calm water behind the island for a few hours. We gathered on the deck of the ferry looking nervously at the weather, a big Atlantic swell was pounding the pier even as we sat tied up there. The forecast was for strong southerly winds all day meaning no let up for us. The trip out to Turk takes about an hour and the red ferry pitched and rolled as she climbed each wave and dove into the following trough, water cascading over the decks and anyone foolish enough to venture out there. I had found a nice dry spot for the journey but some of the unwary looked as if the had just rounded the Horn by the time we docked on the island.

Gear and bodies transferred from the ferry to our boat and we were soon heading back out to sea. The journey out had given us a taste of the conditions we were going to have to embrace and sure enough the impressive swell kept up for as long as we were out. The strong wind whipped us along at a fair old pace and the 20 foot swell rocked us endlessly. These were challenging conditions and it was hard work just to keep you feet, let alone fish properly. The scenery was majestic, tucked under the cliffs as we were with the waves crashing and foaming on the rocks sometimes only a few yards away.

I started feathering to try and catch some Mackerel for bait. The first couple of drifts were fruitless but on the next drift we hit a shoal and all the rods stated to catch. As soon as I could I switched to my favourite flying collar rig to search the seabed for Pollock and Cod. Over the years I have found this to be the most effective way to catch Pollack from a boat but on Saturday they were having none of it. Some of the other lads started to pick up Pollack on feathers so I had to swallow my pride and go back to feathers but I baited mine with long strips of fresh Mackerel. Shortly after setting up like this I had a viscous take and a very heavy fish bent the rod hard over. I had got the fish off the bottom and all seemed well only for the line to snap at the middle hook. I’ll never know how big that fish was but it felt like a really good one.

Drifts were short and brutal affairs, the swell throwing us around the deck like rag dolls. Sea sickness afflicted some of the gang and they took to the shelter of the cabin to recover. But gradually the box filled with fish, a mix of Mackerel and Pollock. Codling began to show up, smallish fish of 2-3 pounds. I managed a couple of them before another hefty take saw me boat a nice Pollock of about 8 pounds.

I was happy with that Pollock, the best one I have caught for a while. Soon after we encountered a shoal of Scad, good sized ones at that. Scad are pretty much inedible but the skipper asked us to keep some for the commercial fishermen on the island as they make good bait for their lobster pots. Half a box was filled in no time at all. Next up was a shoal of Mackerel which were high up in the water. Those lads using just feathers could not get down through them and were whipping them out with every drop over the side. I was using large pieces of Mackerel on my feathers and so got through the shoal unmolested. Under the Macks there were cod and Pollock who were happy to take my baited hooks and I had a productive spell with both species. A small ling then turned up, just a bootlace but welcome never the less.

The day passed quickly as is does when you are catching fish. Another good sized Pollock snaffled my baited feather and when it came aboard it turned out to be only slightly smaller than my earlier 8 pounder. By now the fish box was looking healthy.

Some more Scad and Mackerel came aboard and then I caught something unusual – an Octopus. The small pink fella was easily unhooked and returned to the sea. Not to be outdone, Paul landed two of them a few minutes later.

We called it a day and fought our way back to the harbour to hear the other boat had stopped much earlier and found their way up to the community centre on the island. We hitched a lift and found them all happily enjoying a few pints. The views from the community centre were awe inspiring and I am planning on visiting Inish Turk properly next year, maybe with an overnight stay.


In the end I went home with some fine Pollock, 4 codling and a host of Mackerel, some for eating and the smaller ones to be frozen down for bait. Not too shabby for a day of high winds and a huge swell. If we had been more fortunate with the weather I am sure we could have doubled our catch. Our leads were constantly being lifted meaning our baits were not on the bottom where the fish were. I’d like to go back there on a better day!

Tuesday: there is a twist to this tale! I was in Dublin on Monday so did not return to work until Tuesday morning. Toby called me first thing, wanting me to come and discuss a purchasing issue which I thought had been put to bed. Anyway, I stomped off in his direction and entered the large open plan office where he works. I could sense something wasn’t right and sure enough when I reached his desk there was a large silver cup sitting on it. Turns out I had caught the most fish and had won a trophy, the first in many, many years. Happy days!

Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Who let the dogs out?


Bank holiday weekend and the calm weather has continued here in the West, so I decided to try a new mark for me, Little Killary. With Google Earth consulted and the mountain of gear packed in the car the night before, all that remained was to sort out some food to take with me and I was off on the road South just after first light. I knew I was going to be too early but I wanted to get  look at the mark at low water. I need not have bothered as it is very straight forward, deep water to close in and a sandy bottom once you are past the kelp on the edge – period.


The Irish countryside is looking its best right now after the long settled spell. Roadside ferns turned lustrous copper, birches still clothed in golden olive leaves and mountain ashes heavy with vermilion berries. I crossed the Errif near Carrowkennedy, it’s so low I could have walked across it dry shod in places. On then through Leenaun and along the side of Killary before branching off on to the road past Culfin. Such a shame to see this fishery with those damnable cages plonked right in the middle of the lough. The roads narrowed appreciably as I got nearer to the diving centre and destination, the carpark at Glassillaune. Once I pulled up it was only a few minutes work to sort out layers of clothes and swing the heavy tackle box onto my back. Then a scramble along the shore to the mark itself, an open and exposed rock ledge but easy to fish on a windless day like today. The views across Little Killary were stunning.


As expected, it was approaching dead low as I tackled up so expectations were not high. A pendulum rig with Mackerel bait was tossed 70 yards out and left to its own devices while I got my bearings. Checking out the rocks to my left I found a couple of other platforms but none were as comfortable as the one I was already on so I made my self at home and had a coffee while tinkering with some rigs in the box. About an hour after I had started things began to get interesting. A good solid take and run failed to turn into a fish but the bait had gone when I reeled in. Re-baiting I cast into the same area, roughly 100 yards out and there was an immediate response from a fish. A rattle on the rod was followed by slack line and picking up I momentarily contacted something before everything went slack again. This was getting frustrating! More bait and a change to a larger hook seemed to be required.


The change up to a 3/0 Aberdeen did the trick and I struck the next bite hard, putting a nice bend in the beachcaster. Not much of a fight though and it soon became clear the doggies were out to play.


The next hour or so brought more Lesser Spots, all safely returned of course. The mark simply screamed Thornbacks to me but there was no sign of any rays, just dogs. As quickly as they appeared the dogs moved on and everything went quiet again. Time for another cuppa.


I set up the spinning rod while having my coffee and commenced operations with it only to find the 20grm lure was taking too long to get down deep. I switched to a 30 gram Dexter Wedge and that helped me to get down much more easily. By now the wind had picked up and I changed the plain lead on the beachcaster for a gripper to help me to hold the bottom.



Annoying rattles indicated that the crabs had woken up and were robbing my bait almost as soon as it hit the sand. I normally counter these pesky critters by enveloping my mackerel in squid which is much tougher but I had forgotten to bring any with me in my rush to get out of the house in the morning.


Before the crab attacks


After the crabs have had a go!

Eventually a mackerel grabbed one of my feathers and was kept for the freezer. A gap of maybe an hour then ensued before three mackerel in three consecutive casts brightened up the day. One of them was the skinniest mackerel I have ever seen!



The east wind swung through 180 degrees in the space of a few minutes and a fresh westerly started to blow into the bay. The tide was making rapidly too and some bites produced another dog and a smallish pollock to the bait rod.









High tide was late in the afternoon so I decided to call it a day rather than wait for the ebb and the onset of darkness. It would probably have been the best part of the day but I was getting tired and had no lights with me. The way back to the car was not very hard but I had to cross a number of old ‘lazy beds’. Chances are these had been abandoned during the famine in the 1840’s.20161030_1551101

From the car park I looked out on Glassillaun Bay, reportedly a good winter mark. It looks worth a throw on a night tide when the Whiting are in.



Tired and hungry, I swung the wheel and backed out on to the narrow road. While I had not broken any records or landed anything huge or interesting it was still a great day to be out and about on the shore. It is definitely a mark which is worth another visit this autumn and I mulled  over the possibilities as the the westering sun sank behind the reek.



Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Pining for the fjord

Those if you of a certain age will recall the famous Monty Python dead parrot sketch. Like the Norwegian Blue, I had been pining for a fjord. But this fjord is in Ireland – Killary harbour. Killary is a long, narrow and deep salt water inlet which forms part of the border between counties Mayo and Galway. These days it is intensively fished for farmed mussels, the long neat rows of buoys marking the ropes on which the shell fish are grown. Despite this human encroachment it is a great place for shore fishing and I wanted to try for a few Mackerel this evening.


Rain had been threatening all day and by the time I set off in the evening cloudbursts were drenching the county. Silver rivulets ran down the slopes of the mountains as I drove along the serpentine road to Leenaun. The full moon meant big tides this week and there was no shortage of water when I reached my favourite spot. However the big tides also brought a familiar menace – drifting weed. Every cast brought that slow heavy drag and another few minutes wasted clearing wrack from the hooks.  I moved to a spot further down the harbour to see if I could find some clear water but the problem persisted. At last something fishy grabbed the lure but instead of the hoped for mackerel it was a small Pollock. Half-a-dozen of these chaps gave me some small measure of fun before I beat a retreat, defeated by the weed. I needed a plan ‘B’.




Looking across to Mayo

Rod dismantled, I sat in the car for a few minutes to think over my options. In the end I decided to give Roonagh one more try so I headed up past the falls and on through the narrow defile which opens out as you near Louisburgh. More thundery rain chased me along the road but it dried up as I neared the pier. Disappointment awaited me though as the pier was deserted, a sure sign the fish are not around. Sure enough, cast after cast was unmolested but there was little weed here so it was pleasant just being out in the warm evening. I was probably day dreaming when the fish came along, that sudden jagged pull on the line, unmistakably a mackerel. It was to present a solitary figure by the end of the night.


Not the biggest Mackerel I have ever seen but very welcome never the less.

A couple of locals came down to give it a try but I had just been lucky to bump into what seemed to be the only fish in the bay. We three fished stoically on as sun slowly set, turning the sky pink and amber. A perfect early Autumn evening to be out in the open, all it needed was a few more of the stripy fellows but it wasn’t to be. A velvet darkness descended as I drove home through the quiet of the Louisburg and the revelry of Westport. There is time yet for the shoals of mackerel to show up, some years they can be very late indeed. Somehow I sense they are just in short supply though.


low cloud over the inner bay


The car park is full, it must be busy on the islands


Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

The end of the strand


Sunday presented a small window of opportunity to fish, but the timing was not going to be exactly as I would have liked. With few salmon around and the trout loughs in the doldrums decided that a couple of hours sea fishing was going to be the best option but the tides were a bit tricky. The low water marks around here generally fish for Huss and Thornies, but both of those species feed much more avidly in the dark. I was free between 6 and 9, meaning the fishing should just be getting going as I was packing up. So instead I opted for a short session feathering for mackerel off the point of Bertra.


My faithful old Daiwa reel

Truth be told, I had little expectations of sport. Reports suggested the Mackerel were holding in deeper water beyond casting range from the shore. My plan was to ambush some of them as they passed through the narrow gap at the end of Bertra beach. This has worked for me before but the fishing could never be described as hectic, just the odd stray fish now and again. I roped Ben on this scheme and we headed west into the setting sun soon after 6pm.

A new car park has been built at Bertra, a welcome addition as this is a very popular spot for tourists. The crowds were thinning out as we landed and trudged off up the strand in glorious weather.With hardly a breath of wind Clew Bay stretched out before us, shimmering in the heat.


The inner bay with Westport in the distance

The water rushes through the gap between the point of the strand and an island. Extremely strong currents mean entering the water is an absolute no no. I much prefer to fish here either side of high water, but there are usually a few fish hanging around at any state of the tide. We fished for a while with out success but the views more than made up for the lack of action.


Croagh Patrick



Sunset over Clare island

We had rigged up with feathers and were casting across the channel. The flow of water swept the terminal gear around rapidly, meaning there was a lot of casting going on. I lost two sets of gear on the bottom and floating weed was a constant pain. Eventually though Ben gave a shout and he reeled in a small Mackerel. Some 20 minutes later he repeated the exercise, this time with a larger fish. We fished on but no more bites were forthcoming. I took a few photos before we packed up a headed off.

Bertra is an interesting place to fish but I believe it is over rated in the angling guides. I have read about Skate and Monkfish being accessible from the shore at the back of the beach but nobody I know can verify these fish have ever been landed here.The beach itself is open, gently shelving and looks to be pretty sterile to me. I regard Bertra as a reliable mark for a few mackerel during the summer but there are many better marks around here. Having said that, the views are stunning and if you are a visitor to the area it is well worth  visit if you have family.

It was starting to get dark by the time we regained the tarred road heading for the car park. we had both worked up a considerable thirst so a short stop in McBride’s pub in Westport was called for. Hard to beat a pint of Guinness after a walk along the beach.



Well that has sorted out dinner tomorrow at any rate!

Ben kindly donated both Mackerel to a good cause (me) and I quickly filleted them and popped them into the ‘fridge when I got home. OK, so we didn’t catch a huge bag of fish, but it was 3 hour well spent in good company and in gorgeous surroundings. I’ll leave you with some more photos from the evening…………….