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, sea angling

Clare Island

On the ferry out to Clare Island

On the ferry out to Clare Island

Saturday was a beautiful day in the West of Ireland with light winds and high clouds breaking up the sunshine occasionally. The ferry leaves from the busy little pier in Roonagh and we lugged the tackle down the steps and on to the bulky ship full of anticipation. Twenty minutes later we jumped off and took the very short stroll to the end of the pier. Targets for today would be Pollack and maybe some rays or flats on the sandy bottom. This was very easy fishing, no long walks or scary descents to slippery rock ledges. Just drop the lines over the side and see what was down there.

Fishing off the end of the pier

Fishing off the end of the pier

As we were expecting pollack to be living close in to the weeds we all set up with spinning rods and small lures with tiny feathers on a trace. Gentle jigging of this type of arrangement is usually effective, as are the newer weighted shads. A couple of small Pollack were soon hoisted up from the depths.

A smallish Pollack for Kirsten

A smallish Pollack for Kirsten

Chris’s rod gave a kick and bent into something a bit more substancial which turned out to be a female Ballan Wrasse. Not long after Kirsten did the same and over the day we landed 4 or 5 of these lovely fish,

Ballan Wrasse

Ballan Wrasse

By 1pm the tide was slack and the fishing slowed to a halt. Time to take a wander around for a pint and a bite to eat. We sat outside admiring the view back to the mainland and generally putting the world to rights.

A fellow angler had kindly given us some spare bait so I set up a bottom rod when we got back tot he pier around 2.30pm. The squid bait was lobbed out to the sand and left to attract whatever was lurking on or near the bottom. I like squid very much, it is tough (so it doesn’t fly off the hook when casting) and has a powerful scent which I think is good for attracting fish. Some light taps came to nothing and I was just thinking about reeling in to check if the baits were still there when a much more definite bite developed. I held off striking until the fish had taken the bait properly, then lifted the rod. The fish was obviously not big and soon the shape of a small ray appeared below the surface.

Small Thornback Ray just about to go back

Small Thornback Ray just about to go back

He was quickly unhooked and released. New baits were soon on the bottom again and soon after a positive knock on the rod indicated more action. This time it was another of our old friends the Lesser Spotted Dogfish. I find it hard to dislike these wee pests, on some days they are the only fish willing to bite.

A steady stream of small Pollack and Wrasse kept us busy during the afternoon. While it was far from hectic sufficient fish grabbed the lures and baits to keep us happy and the views around us of the bustling harbour and the distant mainland were a constant distraction. all too soon it was time to pack up and trot back along the pier to the ferry.

There are numerous rock marks around the island for those who want to explore further, so why not make the journey west and try out Clare Island? You may not catch any record fish but you will have a day to remember.

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Me with a wrasse

One of the ferries

One of the ferries

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