All at sea
All at sea
Throughout 2023, I managed to get the Fast Fisher out on the water a handful of times. Back in May, my old mucker Michael Mcgympsey joined me for a two-day stint. A rare weekend break in the weather happened to fall just right, with light off-shore breezes and medium strength tides. Suffice to say, chances such as these are few and far between, and you have to strike whilst the irons hot, or miss the opportunity.
It also gave me a chance to try out the recently fitted Lowrance Plotter. My old Garmin finally packed up after twenty years service. As with most electronics, as soon as you purchase a new model, it is outdated it seems, in reality, my old Garmin was not worth repairing. Thankfully, all my logged marks were also backed up on an old reliable Furuno Plotter, so no important information was lost.
Day one, we would play about over the off-shore reefs, just looking for species on light gear. This is always great fun, with Wrasse, Codling and Pollock usually quite obliging. If the weather holds, and with tides being slightly more favourable, day two will be carried out at anchor in the deep water.
We had to rely on frozen Mackerel for now, shrink-wrapped left-over's from last year's supply. This seasons Mackerel shoals hadn't hit our coast yet, or were in such small numbers they were too difficult to source. The new plotter with upgraded card is impressive though. So much so that it was showing reefs I didn't realise existed! These were definitely worth a look. With the sea flat calm, and medium strength tides, just about anywhere is accessible, within reason.
Great sport on light gear
Michael uses his Shakespeare 12lb class for this type of fishing, and it is a fabulous wee rod, I should know, it used to be mine! I now use a Penn Rampage 6-12lb class, which is also perfect for the small species, but useful if a decent Pollock decides to have a go. This type of reef fishing is gentle and enjoyable and it is always interesting to see what may be hiding among the crevices and kelp beds below.
The new reef turned out to be full of mixed species, typical of the area and great to see good numbers, especially this early in the season. Cuckoo Wrasse were abundant, with Michael picking up a bonus Male Irish Specimen. That's his trip to Dublin booked already! All I could find were smaller females, but it bodes very well for another try later in the year. The larger of the species tend to be more abundant from August onwards.
Smaller female Cuckoo Wrasse for me
Mike picks out an Irish Specimen Male
A handful of small Codling hung back just off the reef, and plenty of small Pollock just over the top of the reef and down over the drop off. Nothing huge, but great entertainment on balanced gear. Interestingly, Michael's catch rate was as good if not better without bait, just using the Shakespeare Salt rig range. I always prefer a strip of Mackerel tipped on each hook to "hedge my bets" but maybe the frozen stuff wasn't giving me the edge I hoped for. Saying that, I did manage to sort out a Tub Gurnard, my first ever on this venue.
We fished well into the afternoon, and very enjoyable it was, but made the decision to head back to shore for grub, a couple of cans of beer, and to organise the new roof tent. It only takes a couple of minutes to set up, really handy kit for travelling anglers, and great to crash out comfortably, a good nights kip is always beneficial before another day on the water.
Day two, fuelled with bacon and egg sandwiches, and tea, we were ready for the off. No need to stop for fresh bait, as we had a few Coalfish and Pollock kept chilled from the previous day. This avoids any messing about, straight to the deep-water mark, throw the anchor and see what it has in store for us.
Bait...1.5lb Coalfish plus the head of a 3lb Pollock. Too big?
Nah, never too big
Conditions were fabulous. We probably should have ventured further afield, but the decision had been made, a relaxing day at anchor, and hopefully find a couple of big flat ones! Michael uses Shimano gear, cant for the life of me remember what make and model, but perfectly suitable for this type of heavy hauling. Me on the other hand, I'm a Penn man and love the Ally rods and twin speed Internationals. Reliable, rugged and a pleasure rather than an annoyance when it comes to winching big beasts up from the depths. Clipped on to a back harness allows you to take a breather and take your hands off the rod should you need to.
Penn Big Game gear, un-beatable
Once the tide had settled into its steady flood, the rods started knocking. Mine first, something "lumpy" but not the leviathans we are used to. Easily winched through the tide to the surface, a cracking little female Common Skate that we could actually lift over the gunnels by hand. The smaller juveniles aren't that common and I love to see them. It gives me a little encouragement that maybe some of our stocks are holding on against the continuous commercial onslaught.
Interesting to see these Isopods all over the dead-baits
Mike loving it!
A two metre long Specimen
Michael was next, the Shimano buckled over but obviously something more substantial to hang on to. We both really enjoy this type of angling. Don't get me wrong, wouldn't like to do it every weekend, but a half a dozen times a year, while I still have the energy is enough to satiate the appetite. Eventually to the boat, this was a good size female, just over the two metre length on the measure mat, and easily an Irish Specimen. That's two specimen claims he has this weekend, looks like I'm playing catch-up....again!
Here we go again
The rest of the day was extremely slow, apart from a few nuisance Dogfish plucking at the over-sized baits. Finally, as often is the case with me in the dying moments of the day, a bit of action on one of the Penn Ally rods. A couple of nods and rattles, a gentle pull over, followed by the tell-tale deep bend that only a large Common Skate can do to the Penn 50-100 class. A lovely end to the day if it doesn't shake the hook! Time to "harness up", rod in position and lean into the fish, another proper one and some fun and games in the tug of war battle.
About half an hour later, another fine female on the boat, this big girl well over the two meter mark at 210cms. "Well, if you're going to Dublin for your Specimen award mate, I'm going with ya!". Using up the last of my old Jumbo Tags (Inland Fisheries have issued me with the new dart tag system), if my sums are correct, she was number 887 of the Skate, Ray and Shark species I have tagged for IFI over the years. Not bad going if I say so myself.
My 887'th tag issued
That was enough for us, it was the top of the tide, soon to turn for the Ebb, and I hadn't the energy to sit through another tide run, so the call was made. Pack up and head for harbour. Such a pleasant day with warm air, flat seas and great angling, why can't all our trips be like this!