Painted Ray (Raja microcellata)
Irish Record 17.21lb taken on 29.08.1994 by Edmund Cull at Garryvoe.
Specimen 10lb, or 4.536 kilo
Also known as Small-Eyed Ray, and indeed, its eyes are smaller than the other ray species. It is diamond shaped with a short, pointed snout. The under-side is white, the top side is normally sand coloured and covered with small white spots, darker beige spots and wonderful light coloured lines that weave over the body, normally parallel to the wing edges.
Where to catch
Painted Ray are quite localized in Ireland, with the south-east and south-west coast giving the only realistic chance of targeting this sought-after species. A few fish are taken down the east coast below Cahore, Kilmore and on the south-west coast venues of Tralee, Brandon Bay, Fenit and Fermoyle, but Garryvoe beach and also Youghal in Cork offer the best angling for Painted Ray, particularly from the shore. Look for reasonably calm surf during the hours of darkness, usually light northerlies produce the flat surf on these venues. Fishing the tide down to low water and perhaps the first two hours of the flood can produce excellent results. As with all venues throughout Ireland, some local knowledge will go a long way towards producing a great result.
A male Painted Ray (left) and a female right
When to catch
The end of August through to December seems to produce the larger specimens, although Painted Ray are present in varying numbers throughout most of the year, especially when targeted from a boat.
A nice double-shot of female Painted Ray
Painted Ray will take worm baits but fish baits such as Mackerel, Herring and in particular, large Sand eel are preferred. As with most shore angling on these venues, peeler crab also works extremely well, especially when used with any of the above baits as a cocktail.
Sandeel-peeler crab cocktail or just Sandeel are top baits for Painted Ray
A decent cast from the shore is usually required but not necessarily on all venues. Using a one or two hook Paternoster rig with hooks clipped will help find the distances required to hit the ray hot spots. Hook sizes will depend on bait sizes, but strong wire Aberdeen versions from size 1/0 to 4/0 are ideal. I prefer a single paternoster rig, clipped down for distance, should it be required, but tied as a Pennell rig. This gives a hook at either end of a large sand eel for a greater chance of hook-ups. From a boat, a standard flowing trace with one or two hooks will suffice.