Fishing in Ireland, sea angling

Jimmy Burke cup

The middle portion of Clew Bay is ‘dogfish central’, home to packs of Lesser Spotted Dogfish, Bull Huss and a few rays. For this reason it is a popular mark for competition anglers who can bag up on LSD if there is nothing else biting. Saturday past saw me gently bobbing at anchor slap bang in the middle of the bay in the company of some like-minded souls. I was fishing the annual Jimmy Burke memorial cup.

boats at the quay ready for the off

Strong winds and heavy rain have battered the west coast for weeks now but the day in question dawned fine and calm. My old 30 pound boat rod with the 10000 on it was lobbed into the car with all my other gear. Would I remember everything this time? More by luck than good judgement I brought all the necessities along.

it’s all in there somewhere!

Thursday had been windy and wet, Friday the same. But for one the weather Gods smiled upon us and Saturday dawned wet but with only light winds. The forecast was for showers and that is exactly how the day panned out with occasional heavy burst of rain in between long fine spells. A day of rainbows.

Just one of the spectacular rainbows we saw

This particular competition had a rule that you could only use one hook, so the night before I tied up some single hook ledger traces. I used some size 2 hooks, smaller than most anglers use for dogfish but they have relatively small mouths and I like the smaller hooks to match this. As it turns out, my mate Paul handed me a trace to try and I clipped it on and left my own ones in the box for the duration of the day. I have not seen too much written about traces for dogfish in the mainstream angling press bur small changes to traces can make a huge difference to your catch rate. I’ll write a short post soon about this topic.

I was drawn on the Restoric with Tom the skipper. My mate Paul was also drawn on the same boat. Tom knows the marks in the bay like the back of his hand so we were confident he would find us fish. All anglers were given a smart black shirt when they signed in.

Bait consisted of the ubiquitous Mackerel strips, held on to the hook by some shirring elastic. I had a few in the freezer from my last trip out on the boat. While rummaging around amongst the peas and potato waffles I unearthed a bag of sardines so I brought them along as well. Someone had a couple of squid so I pinched some scraps of that too.

bag of frozen bait

note the small size of the chopped bait, it does not need to be big when targeting doggies

Lines went over the side at 10.15am precisely and we were into fish pretty much right from the start. Within minutes I had a heavy thump on the line then it all went quiet so I waited for the bite to develop. Sure enough, after a few minutes the rod began to nod and I lifted into a fish which turned out to be a small Thornback Ray. A doggie soon followed and then a second ray, this time a little bit bigger. My good start was amply rewarded by a white envelope containing €20, the prize for the first person to get three fish in the boat.

Sully lifts up a Thorny

Next to me Sally was hauling in dogfish to beat the band and she continued like this the whole day. Cries of ‘another dog for Sally’ being the soundtrack to the afternoon. Mary started slowly but picked up a few as the day wore on. She then boated a large spider crab which was safely returned (as were all our fish as this is a C&R competition). Paul, seemed to be slow out of the traps too but he made some changes to his traces and after lunchtime he went into overdrive.

Mary’s crab

I was catching steadily with a LSD every 15 minutes or so. These fish hunt by a combination of sight and scent and it takes them a little time to find your bait when it is lowered to the bottom. It is easy to be distracted by the scenery when fishing the bay, especially on a day like Saturday with the vistas constantly changing.

 

3.15pm was lines up and it was time for the reckoning. Somehow Paul had caught Sally with a tiny ray on his last drop. Each species attracted a different number of points with the humble doggie giving 5 points but a ray adding 15 points to your score. I came in a respectable third for the boat but with 50 anglers spread over 5 boats I was well off the prizes. Ah well, there is always next year.

The Westport boats will be lifted out of the water next week, signalling the end of another season’s fishing in Clew Bay. Winter is coming…………….

steaming home through the Bertra gap with Clare island on the horizon

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Fishing in Ireland

Last casts

Last Saturday was earmarked for a sea angling session but other commitments got in the way and instead I ventured out with the beachcasters on Sunday. The weather forecast was for a fine day but the wind was due to strengthen from the east overnight. It didn’t look too bad when I left town in brilliant sunshine but after an idyllic drive down to Killery it became obvious the situation had changed en route. A gale was blowing in Connemara.

The mark I had selected was exposed and so I decided to go to the end of the rock point and fish with the wind behind me. That was grand except the wind was so strong I was literally blown down the rock shelf as I headed for the water’s edge. My big black tackle box was acting like a sail, making it hard for me to balance (bear in mind I suffer from very poor balance due to vertigo). It was tough going just to get to the mark!

I set both beachcasters and punched the baits out a fair distance thanks to the wind behind me. The wind was blowing dead offshore, so at least the waves were small. Bites were hard to register as the gusts of wind were tossing the rods around but I hooked a couple of fish which came off when they buried themselves in the kelp. At the top of the tide all action stopped. The wind had picked up if anything by now, making the smallest task seem like the labours of Hercules.

Each cast resulted in a trial of strength as the foul bottom clung to my gear. Snap-offs were the norm and I was losing a lot of tackle for no return. Time to have a coffee and rethink my options.

The ground I was fishing was extremely rough and with the tide starting to fall the current would add to my difficulties. Maybe another mark over in Clew bay could be a better option? I packed up and hiked back to the car into the teeth of the wind.

Cocooned in the motor I quickly recovered from the tossing and battering of the gale and I made good time pushing back up the winding road to Westport and then out along the southern edge of the bay to the fine concrete pier at Lecanvey.

The tide was high and just starting to drop but the sun shone in a cloudless sky, not ideal when fishing shallow water marks like this one. I was using a new bait to me, sardines. The smell off them was pungent but the flesh is very soft and it requires a lot of elastic to keep the bait on the hooks. Even still the crabs were able to nick the bait at every cast, so after a couple of hours I gave it up as a bad job and dismantled the rods for the last time this year.

It is going to be back to the vice for the any free time I might have for the next couple of months. My fly boxes have some glaring gaps to fill and I’ve got some ideas for flies to try out. I will keep you all updated with the new patterns!

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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low cloud over the inner bay

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

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