Exploring another new reef
During a recent late summer boat-angling adventure, and on return to the harbour, I passed over an interesting looking reef. It showed up on the newly fitted-plotter. Yet another feature that my old plotter had failed to reveal over previous seasons. It is remarkable how technology continually evolves, unlocking these secrets of the deep. The Lowrance was really starting to earn it's keep!
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A weather opportunity presented itself some weeks later, which gave me the green light to drop the Fast Fisher into the Irish Sea and investigate this newly discovered feature.
Michael and the Penn Squadron 12lb class
I have a handful of reliable boat buddies, a small circle of dedicated anglers from both sides of the Irish border, and we gel well when we get together. This is important for an enjoyable day afloat. No hassles, friction or tantrums, just good banter, and usually, great fishing. Glenn and Michael are two regulars that fall into this category, and the three of us ventured out to spend a full tidal run on the new mark. The way we usually operate on virgin marks such as this, is if it appears fishless after a couple of hours, we move on to another venue. If it shows promise....we give it our full attention.
Coalfish, Codling and Cuckoo Wrasse, species hunting has just become easy!
The three of us really enjoy this type of angling. Basically "scratching" for species rather than sitting at anchor waiting for the monsters to arrive. Don't get me wrong, I get a big kick out of Skate angling, but it's also extremely addictive just "bouncing" over and down the sides of reefs and drop-offs, searching for different fish varieties, never 100% certain what will show up.
Launce, Grey Gurnard and Whiting, on one rig.
Light tackle angling is easy on the body (for us old fellas) and can be extremely exhilarating at times. On these occasions, we usually have a friendly species competition, the winner has the honour of buying the ice-creams on the way home....I know, rock n roll lifestyle isn't it!
Mackerel, the life-blood of our seas
During these late Summer months, Mackerel aren't usually too difficult to find, and we managed to fill a cooler box with fresh bait, enough to keep three anglers stocked up for a full day. The warmer temperatures at this time of year turn typically barren "desserts" into areas teaming with life. Simple Mackerel feathers on light gear also produced Coalfish, Gurnard, Launce, Whiting and Haddock, and we hadn't even got to the reef yet!
Pollock, always great fun on light gear
The obvious species to be found on off-shore reefs are Wrasse and Pollock, this we expected, or at least hoped for. With the tide approaching high slack-water, we would have three-quarters of an hour of "easy" fishing, basically sitting still, followed by six hours or so of reasonably fast drifting. This can be hard on tackle over rough ground, but also quite productive if Pollock are about and on the hunt. They prefer a bit of tidal movement. A "weak-link" mono attached to the sacrificial sinker, around 20lb b/s will help to salvage rigs on most occasions.
Ling at the lower depths of the reef, over slack water
Making the most of the slack tide, and dropping just over the ledge into deeper water, our freshly baited Mackerel rigs sorted out some new species for the day. Michael tempted a "strap" Conger, and we both found Ling, Spur dog and Bull Huss. Nothing huge, but entertaining on the 12lb class gear, and all adding to the species tally.
As the tide turned to the ebb, and began to move a tad, we were now drifting. The change in movement, or perhaps simply revealing new and un-explored territory, this new drift brought with it some decent Codling, Pollock and the ever-present, almost tropical looking Cuckoo Wrasse.
Glenn sorts out a specimen Cuckoo Wrasse
And one for the skipper
Ballan Wrasse this time
Michael then hooked into something obviously larger and packing a bit of power, skilfully coaxing it to the surface on a light rod and Mackerel rig. A sleek Tope around the twenty five pound size, unfortunately biting through the short hook-length just as I reached to tail it. This would have been Michael's first ever Tope, had we had a bit of luck behind us, but never mind. It showed us exactly what is about down there. One of my goals for 2024 is to put Michael over some decent Tope fishing for a trophy shot, and scratch that particular itch that he has!
At this stage, I was still in Pollock-Cuckoo Wrasse mode, fixated on chasing down an Irish Specimen of either, but Glenn made the correct choice and instantly switched to a Tope rig, great call. Simple running ledger, twenty inches of wire biting trace, 8/0 bronze O'Shaughnessy Hook, and juicy Mackerel "Flapper" to tempt them. Over the course of the ebb tide, he managed to hook and land five, one over the statutory Specimen size of 1.55 metres in length.
Data tag and careful return
Michael and I persevered with targeting the smaller stuff. I'm not exactly sure why we didn't chase the Tope. Either laziness (speaking for myself) or simply happy to stay with what we were doing I guess. Cuckoo Wrasse were present in good numbers, with the occasional Specimen turning up, (I think we ended the session with four or five specimens). With intermittent, hard-hitting Pollock also hammering the baits on light gear, it was difficult to switch. The opportunity of adding to the Specimen tally can be addictive at times, and I would say we were probably having way too much fun to change tactics.
Always pleasing to see a Bull Huss or two
Having said that, dropping small baited hooks down amongst predatory Tope will always be a risky affair, and you guessed it, Jacko connected with a particularly feisty torpedo. Superb sport on the 12lb class Penn Rampage, and thankfully our luck held out this time, nursing a thirty pounder to the side of the boat. Not bad on a light "Kestrel" rig. Trophy shot and dart tag attached, he was soon back down to the depths at lightning speed.
Shakespeare "Salt" rigs strike again
The day, as always, came to an end all too soon. We made for harbour, chatting about the good fishing, great weather, with around fifteen species landed, sixteen if you include the Octopus, and most from one single reef. Just how sea angling should be. Possibly, Michael edged ahead on species, but from memory, I think we let Glenn and his five Tope buy the ice-creams! I can hardly wait until next Summer to investigate new reefs and data tag a few more of those sleek, grey missiles!
Other than Glenn wisely switching to Tope gear, all our fish came to the Shakespeare "Salt" range. If you prefer not to tie your own rigs, you can't go wrong with these. A rig for all occasions if you choose sensibly. Top choices on the day were "Lumiflash" for the Mackerel, Launce and Gurnard. "Kestrels" for Whiting, Codling and Cuckoo Wrasse. "Flat Jacks" for just about everything, with "Silver Dream" and "Pink Goblins" for the Ling and Conger. The latter designs are constructed with heavier mono and stronger gauged hooks for larger species. All tipped off with fresh Mackerel-strip of course.
Glenn is a Shimano man by and large, although, and rightly so, he's a sucker for Penn Fathom reels. Michael spent the entire day with a Penn Squadron 12lb class, Penn Fathom reel. I was on the Penn Rampage 12lb class and also a Penn Fathom reel. All reels were filled out with Berkley Whiplash Braid. At this stage of our lives, we have done tackle "to death" more or less.
Irish Specimen Tope for Glenn, persistance pays off!
It pays to have rugged, reliable gear that does the job. Over the years, you chop and change, and fine-tune the gear to a point of trust and comfort, happy to say we are all there now. Having said that, we are all still tempted by the latest piece of sexy kit that appears on the market each new season!
Thanks for reading, Tight Lines, Tel.