Looking back over the season with John Fleming

This year started out a bit late for us here @ Blue Shark Angling in Galway. With the boat in the yard longer than expected we missed basically all of our spring white fish season.

This part of the season usually kicks off around Valentine’s Day and ends around the end of March. This sometimes produces large shoals of  cod, coalie, pollock, ling and whiting in the bay and provides a great start to our season, but not this year unfortunately.

Fine Balkan eraser for Owen Trill

We finally got started in early May and had a nice run of spurdogs as well as dogs and plenty of huss in the mix.  We are lucky to get 2 runs of spurs usually from April to June and September to November.  Always a good chance of a specimen.  We also had some nice tope to add to it.  

Specimen spur for Owen Trill

June was a mixed bag with anglers taking their chances with the weather, plenty of gurnards, flats and wrasse taken on days like these and, to be honest, the mixed fishing has been very good this year.

Two nice cuckoo wrasse for Dan O’Kelly

At the end of June we turned our attention to our shark season.  Our first trip saw us get 2 porgies and 2 blues.  The porgies were a surprise to say the least as we only had 2 for the full season last year.  

Over the July bank holiday weekend we ended up with 4 decent porgies to about 100lb and 6 good blues to over 120lb.  This is a weekend I will never forget as it was to set the tone for a porbeagle bonanza.  I think in July we had a porgie on every trip.

Two days stand out in particular. I had a group of four anglers from Northern Ireland out in mid July and we set off as normal but what was to emerge that day was amazing.  

We had set up our drift and got the rubby dubby and rods out.   BANG, only five minutes into drifting we had our first fish on, a porgie, he dropped the hook minutes later.  Then BANG again, another porgie and another reel went screaming off, a double hook up.  Crew man Paddy (aka porbeagle guru) and I could not believe it.

Squid for crew man Sandy

The line crossed many times and we managed to land, tag and release one after 45 minutes of nail biting tension.  He was 100lb+.  We then had a second double hook ups of beagles and a third fish which was a nice blue.  Both these porgies seemed very heavy and after about a half an hour we saw the first one, A  MONSTER.  But unfortunately, he did a quick roll and severed the mainline with his tail.  The second fish was still holding deep and eventually we got him on board.  He was a fine porgie around 150lb and we had one very happy but sore angler.  We wound up getting another porgie, just a pup, which is a great sight for the future.  We had an amazing day with 3 porgies and a pup around 30lbs and a blue around 80lbs.

WHAT   A  DAY.

This season has been one to truly remember for my crew.  I have another porgie tale to tell though its not perhaps as exciting but still one worth telling.  I had a group from Dundalk for the 3 days of the August Bank Holiday.  Aboard they came gear in tow and we set out for the shark grounds.  We steamed for about an hour including a stop for bait.  

I chose a mark a little bit further inshore from our usual blue haunt because of weather conditions.  It was to be a very slow day, cold one too.  

All things seemed bleak until I had a reel make a gentle click and I looked at John Keogh, the angler in question, he stood up and next thing the reel started peeling off line and not to be stopped we managed to get all the gear  and dubby  in and set off chasing the fish.  

Paddy and I thought it may have been  tuna but we weren’t sure.  It was about 45 minutes before we caught a glimpse of what was to be a fish of a lifetime for John.  A huge lump of a porbeagle, he decided he didn’t like the look of us and stayed deep with constant pressure for another hour.  We finally managed to get the fish onboard, tagged and released.  A savage fish of 150/200lbs.  Truly a day to remember after such a slow start and a great feeling personally to have been involved to put John on his monster porgie.

All in all we have had a very good season for general mixed species and sharks alike but the amount of porbeagles around astonished us all.  We had well in excess of 20 on the boat with close to that many lost.  

This gives me great hope that  Galway might be coming back to being the porgie capital that it would have been when the shark competitions were held here in the 70’s and 80’s.  It would be great to see that buzz of overseas and local anglers coming to do battle with these fantastic predators.

The blues were a bit slower this year than other years but the average size was much better.  We have seen more fish over the 100lbs this year than any other.  We are  lucky to have good blue fishing into November weather permitting of course.  I could say there will be a better  chance of getting sharks into November than this summer with August and September being disastrous with so many cancellations due to bad weather.

120lb blue shark for David O’Malley

With regard to general angling its been a good year for us also with our species count going up and this is down to us doing so much searching for new ground and targeting new species although a Galway Bay skate is still eluding us.  Next year!!!

Mark Elders with a 13.5lb bull huss

Mark Heffernan with a thornback

If you wish to make a trip down to us at any stage do not hesistate to get in contact and we will do our best to accomadate you, we have great angling to offer in galway both shore and boat and if you need advise in any way give me a call, we can also provide accomadation in a lovely b&b in Spiddal village where there there is great pubs, restaraunts, and live music.
Tight lines

John

Blue Shark Angling Galway.

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Ernecast – guided fishing with Seamus Smith

IFD: Ernecast is a dedicated coarse and pike guiding service on the Erne system offering some of the best angling in Ireland. It was set up by Seamus Smith, a man born and reared in the area with an intimate knowledge of all the marks.

Earlier this year we were lucky enough to fish with Seamus and what a session it turned out to be with personal bests for all three of us combined with top quality bait and advice, so it’s a service we can’t recommend highly enough.

Joe White with his new pb bream

So whether you are brand new to fishing for bream and tench and looking to know where to start, or an experienced angler looking to catch good fish and plenty of them look no further. Ernecast has something to offer everyone and is a great service professionally run.

How did you decide to start up Ernecast?

Well I grew up in the Killeshandra area and have been fishing and hunting since I was a lad, it’s a way of life up here and you are surrounded by some of the richest waters in the country so it comes just comes naturally you can’t avoid it!

Damien McCann showing off part of a huge haul of bream

When I was younger there used to be lots of visiting anglers every year from the UK and further afield. Sadly we dont get the numbers of anglers we used to and some have said the fishing isn’t a patch on what it used to be, whereas I think it’s all still there you just need to know where to look and when.

So Ernecast was started to show what the area has to offer and hopefully get the Bed and breakfasts and pubs some business as well.

Damien Kenny with a fine bream

What kind of waters do you mostly fish?

Cavan has more water than land so there is an abundance of places to fish. Everything from the river Erne to the many back waters and lakes so we have plenty to choose from.

Sunset Cavan style

What services can you provide for anglers?

Whether your an experienced angler just looking for prebaiting or a visiting angler looking for a week’s fishing with gear provided we can do the whole lot. 

Lloyd Lynch with a 9lb 10oz bream

I’m based very close to http://www.irishbaitandtackle.com which is the top bait provider in the country so I can have the best quality bait fresh and ready to go and that in itself has been a massive help in getting quality catches.

Tackle and accommodation can all be organised for visiting anglers and even airport pickups can be arranged if necessary. Just let us know your requirements and we can take it from there.

How much work goes in behind the scenes?

It’s pretty full on with getting up in the middle of the night carrying kilos and kilos of bait to sometimes far off swims and that’s even before the raking and balling in begins! 

I’m very luck that my daughter Saoirse has been an immense help. She will help me by passing the balls of groundbait to me to save me bending down as I fire in hundreds of groundbait balls. She keeps me company and I’m blessed to have her.

Daddy’s girl

You have some of the best pike fishing in the country on your doorstep, can you tell us about piking in the area and the guiding service you provide?

Well the Erne is a prolific pike fishing system. We can fish anywhere from Belturbet to Enniskillen and It has countless doubles with many many twenties and even thirties are not out of the question, my own PB is over 34lb. 

Lenny with an Erne Pike

Again we can provide everything from start to finish or anglers are welcome to bring their own gear. 

The boat is a 17ft Dory with high sides and a 60hp four stroke electric fuel injected engine so it can get us to where we need to be quite quickly. 

the ‘Wet Dream’ ready for the off

Lunch is provided and the style of fishing I prefer is float fishing as we can seek out larger areas of water. All dead baits provided and of top quality.

Dylan Condron with another fine fish

What has been the highlights so far since you started Ernecast?

I suppose it has to be seeing people really looking forward to there session and then seeing the smile on their face when they get their target fish. It also has rekindled my love for some out of the way waters I hadn’t fished in a long time, and to get the best out of these locations. When I was a lad the fish I have seen come out of these waters was phenomenal and we never even used to stop to weigh a fish!

Dylan with another cracking tench

So there you have it, if your looking for some top quality coarse and pike fishing with one of the top fishing guides in the country give Seamus at Ernecast a shout….. 

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Marlin trip to La Gomera by Alastair Wilson

Last year i was lucky enough to win two days marlin fishing on Andrej Dolinsek’s boat The Right Hook on the island of La Gomera. Andrej runs a very smart Bertram 31 fully rigged for big game fishing and along with his wife Suzanne they also run a cafe / bar called Ambigu just a few minutes walk from the boat. 

After a chat with Andrej I called up my two fishing buddies Maurice and Trevor and we hatched a plan. We booked the boat for 3 days in mid August. We flew out of Dublin airport to Tenerife south then got a taxi ride of about 20 minutes to Los Cristianos ferry terminal and then the ferry to San Sebastian, La Gomera. 

Andrej had already arranged for us to stay at Hotel Torre del Conde a nice hotel with air conditioned rooms and quite possibly the cheapest mini bar I‘ve ever came across, and only 5 minutes walk from the marina.

When we arrived, unfortunately Andrej’s boat had engine trouble, but Andrej being a man of his word, a rare trait these days, arranged for us to fish on another boat, Oberon a 1250 Rodman run by John Keggie. John originally from Scotland, a seasoned skipper of the shetland islands who’s opted for sunnier climes and the chance to play with some of the biggest and fastest fish the atlantic has to offer. 

We were delighted to have a 1250 at our disposal for the three days, a home a way from home. We knew how good a fishing platform the 1250 was, after all, the three of us many years ago got a harsh introduction into the world of shark and tuna fishng back home in Ireland by a good friend. 

Looking around the boat we knew these guys were serious, the fighting chair, the carbon out riggers, star and international rods filling the holders matched with big shimano 80’s and 130’s Everywhere I looked there where black bart ‘ big breakfast ‘ and ‘puerto rico prowlers’ all rigged proper with needle sharp hooks. It was fantastic.

Two days flew by without seeing a Marlin, Andrej at he helm on the flybridge constantly scanning the water and John on the deck watching the lures, trading fishy tales and talking tackle with us. Now and again we’d come across the odd piece of floating debris, Andrej would circle the boat around and we’d deploy smaller lures for dorado but to no avail. Being seasoned small boat anglers we were well prepared for blank days it happens a lot when you search for that one special fish. 

outriggers waiting to pop

Anyway, on the third and final day around 13.00 one of the 80’s let rip. Maurice got in the chair and all the other rods where cleared. After some fine acrobatics by a 700lb blue marlin a 40 minute fight ensued.

Fish On!

The colours on that big fish fired up were amazing, the neon blue and navy and that big beautiful bill, they really are the pinnacle of sport fishing, to see that beast tail walking yards from the boat is a sight to behold. 

All lit up and not playing games!

Andrej played an absoulate blinder behind the wheel, he was on point. John didnt mess about either on the wire, it takes balls and skill to deal with a fish that size. A first class effort by everyone. The fish was released in less that 40 minutes,  (now I understand why they back down on them.)

I had my chance a couple of hours later, a 130 lit up and by the time I got my ass in the chair the fish had emptied 200 yards. I got tight on the fish but after a short period it threw the hook. To be honest I was that busy laughing at how fast the fish was running I wasnt really bothered about loosing it, we had got to see that big impressive marlin earlier. The guys estimated my fish around 300lb.

Mission accomplished

An excellent three days with my best mates and guided by two VERY knowledgeable skippers, in fact two of the best I‘ve ever fished with. We all agreed that they worked so hard to get us the fish and their hospitality was first class. 

I particularly enjoyed the lazy mornings and evenings at Andrej’s bar having a cold beer and chatting to other captains on the island about their days fishing. It was a cool place to hang out and talk fishing. 

There’s some amazing fishing to be had in La Gomera , they get a run of big bluefin tuna in spring, marlin through the summer and wahoo in winter not to mention big eye, albacore and yellow fin tuna and of course dorado. 

There’s shark too, hammer head and mako, although sharks are frowned upon as a nuisance on one trip a guy had a small tuna cut in two by a 500lb mako at the boat, an interesting prospect for the shark anglers out there. Its probably some of the best big game fishing available and only a 4 hour plane ride from Ireland. 

Flights and accommodation are reasonabley priced as is the food and drink. the fishing grounds are close by also, just out of the marina, being a volcanic island La Gomera shelters you from the trade winds, most of the fishing is done on the south side of the island in the lee of the land, in calm water. 

the lads say farewell before it’s time to go home

All this in glorious sunshine combine that with Andrej or John as your skipper it has the making of a great fishing holiday.

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Coalfish off Kinsale

I got a call from Mick Dennehy saying we’re going out for the coalies are you coming? As they say in Jerry McGuire…. You had me at…. alright langer!

I made my way down to Kinsale where Pedro was already on the boat. Also making up the crew that day were some of the most experienced boat anglers in the country. Albie O’ Sullivan the Irish Ling record holder with a lifetime of experience, top charter skipper and good friend Kit Dunne, then Phil Barry and Paul Ross so I was feeling a little out of place to say the least.

We made our way out as everyone made last adjustments and superstitious tweaks to their gear. When we arrived Mick positioned us perfectly for the big tide and bit of wind and soon we were dropping down.

Before I could even get to the bottom I seen Paul and Albie were already into fish. Before my shad could get to the bottom it was inhaled on the way down…. fish on.

Phil Barry with a spec black Jack

With the guys getting their fish to the surface and netted it was two specimen coalies for the first two to drops. I got my fish to the surface and again it was over the specimen weight. 

Paul Ross caught the most species on the day

Phil and Kit were also getting the action but it was all a bit of a blur as we concentrated on our own fishing. Albie then brings up the best so far a clonker of a fish making us all the more eager to get the gear back down to the wreck.

Kit Dunne with a specimen coalfish

Irish Ling record holder Albie O’ Sullivan was into action all day

Next up I’m on again to a decent fish and this turns out to be the best of the day I was absolutely delighted. We were mostly changing between different sized shads and Paul Ross was doing some damage with a tiny sidewinder clocking up quite a few species including megrin.

Myself with a coalie complete with my fly open

Soon it was time for lines up, we had watched sharks attack baits at the surface, sunfish and some whales and to top it off the fishing was top class with ling, pollack, cod, megrim and coalfish. 

A megrim for Paul

Till the next time lads another great trip… 

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Mako shark by Henry Kelly

IFD: On the fifteenth of July this year I got a call from Pedro Walsh, from the sounds in the background I thought he was in the pub but it turned out that Henry Kelly had just caught and released an extremely rare fish in Irish waters, the Shortfin Mako Shark and now I understood the shouting.

Henry was fishing aboard the Silver Dawn, http://www.kinsalecharters.com with gifted skippers Mick Dennehy and Pedro Walsh who had just added another new species to their already impressive tally of achievements.

This was only the second mako in Irish waters in recent years and only the fourth ever. The other records were; a 79kg from Kinsale in July 1965, a 45kg from Kinsale in August 1965, then again on Tom Collins boat from Union hall in 2013.

These spectacular fish were recorded with fair regularity off Cornwall from the 1950’s through to the 1970’s, although never numerous with just a few records each year, with the vast majority taken by the famous Vinnicombe brothers.  There was a long wait until the next British capture in 2013 with Andy Griffiths fish taken on Whitewater skippered by the one and only Andrew Alsop. 

It is very interesting to note that the fish tagged on Tom Collins boat was recaptured the following June, 80km NW of Lisbon, Portugal having travelled a distance on 1460km.

It is also interesting to note that three of the four Irish records on rod and line have come from Kinsale with one further unconfirmed report in August 1990 also from Kinsale.

Sources quoted  “Quigley, D.T.G., Hannon, G. and Collins, T. (2015) Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus
Rafinesque) in Irish waters. Irish Naturalists’ Journal 34(2): 146-148.”

Here Henry takes up the story of his momumental capture…

I was having a bad start to the year, I came out one morning to find my van had been wrote off by a hit and run driver which meant I had to cancel most of my fishing trips.

I thought I was going to have to cancel this one as well only Dan O’Kelly came to the rescue and offered to pick me up which I’m grateful for. So we were soon  heading back down to Kinsale to fish with Mick Dennehy and Pedro Walsh of www.kinsalecharters.com

Also joining us on the trip was Mark and his brother Jay. I was hoping for a porbeagle or blues as it’s always a good days sharking with the lads.

Mark and Jay with a blue shark

With the chum sacks in the water we were soon getting some blue sharks. The wind was with the tide that day so we were drifting along at a fairly swift rate.

Dan O’Kelly with another blue

After a while things went quiet until I got a run on my rod that looked a bit more interesting and I hoped it was a porbeagle. Just as I was thinking what  is this?…. The shark came airborne out of the water by about ten feet then somersaulted back in!

We were all gobsmacked, we were just looking at each other thinking it couldn’t be???….. could it? At this point Dan mentioned this might be a mako Henry, but I just wanted to get it in whatever it was!

At first it came up quite easy and Mick soon had the leader in his hand when he confirmed it’s a mako! The shark on seeing the boat had other ideas and just took off making a blistering run.

This time it took me around the boat and I had to manoeuvre past one of the lads who was into a blue. It was going under the boat and I had to hold the rod out to get it back out.

The angry end of a mako shark

After Mick had called it as a mako the adrenaline was flowing and I was just concentrating that it wouldn’t get off.

Henry gets up close and personal

We eventually got a rope around the tail and brought her aboard. As she was safely aboard a big cheer went around the boat with everyone celebrating. I couldn’t believe it I was still in shock.

We took great care with the shark and after a few quick photos and measurements to confirm it was 84lb she was put back and swam off strongly. We were all shaking hands and back slapping it was a magic moment and I was glad to be part of Irish shark history with only the fourth mako caught on rod and line in Irish waters.

Mick Dennehy, Henry Kelly and James ‘Pedro’ Walsh

Me and  the lads usually have a tenner on the best shark of the day, we have done so since I first met Dan while sharking with Kit Dunne. I had come close a few times but never won it. It was a year to the day since I had lost my nephew who was like a brother to me so that just made the capture so special, it looks like I had finally won it and I couldn’t help but think he had played a part in it somehow. 

The drive home I was just on cloud nine, a fishing day I will never forget…..

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Recent trips

For the first part of this year I had barely been fishing, so it felt good to have some boat sessions to look forward to.

The first of which was to be an evening session with Kit Dunne of http://www.wicklowboatchsrters.com

Aidan Cox, Dan O’Kelly, Mark and myself met up for a late start through the Dublin traffic in a smoothie session where we had several specimen sized fish. Kit as always used his expertise to locate the fish and keep us on them for the whole session.  

The next trip saw us heading back down to fish off Kinsale with our good friends Mick Dennehy and Pedro Walsh of http://www.kinsalecharters.com

This time we were after blue shark and the day wasn’t to disappoint with many sharks coming to the boat it was great action but no biggies as Mick put us on fish after fish.

Myself, Rob, Dan and Mark had plenty of sharks, the best of which going to Dan and I had a similar sized fish that we unhooked at the side of the boat as one was already on the deck.

The following weekend Kinsale charters was booked out for Mick so Rob offered me a seat on his boat to go sharking again. I met Rob early and soon we were heading out with Hugh Cronin and his son Luke. 

We feathered up plenty of mackerel and soon we were getting a few blues. We had about fifteen between us with Rob at the helm. Rob decided to try for a porbeagle from an area that served him well last year so we upped sticks and moved to another area where after seeing a good fish come up to the dubby bag Rob got a run on the far rod resulting in this fish.

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Bluefin in the Adriatic by Rob Millard

The process of choosing a family holiday destination in our house is always contentious. My suggestions of Islamorada, Cape Verde or The Azores, are seen for what they are, shameless attempts to visit some of the sport fishing capitals of the world. This year we settled on Croatia, and I set about finding out how I could squeeze a day’s sport in during our 2 week holiday.
While searching through the many fishing charter operators on the Dalmatian
coast, I came across ‘Predator Big Game Fishing’ in Jezera. Their website &
Facebook pages had extensive galleries of photos & videos of bent rods and fish on
the deck, which gave me confidence. Their contact details can be found on their website http://www.predator-game-fishing.com

I emailed them with the dates of my travel, and Željko emailed back explaining that the bluefin only move back inshore during July and that I should take a day in the second week of my holiday to give myself the best chance. On his advice I picked a date, and transferred a deposit.

On the day of the fishing, I arrived at Jezera to blue sky and hardly a breath of wind. I met the skipper Vladimir on the pier just before 9am, and as soon as I stepped on his smart 27ft boat, I realised he was running a serious sportfishing operation, and not fishing trips for tourists & day trippers. 

The gear bore names synonymous with game fishing throughout the world, Stella, Tiagra & Alutecnos, and at the business end were flourocarbon leaders and Owner Mutu hooks.

Once we were outside the confines of the harbour, Vladimir opened the throttle,
and our steam out to the fishing grounds, southwest of the famous Kornati Islands,
took about 45 minutes cruising at 18 knots.

When we reached the chosen mark, we
did a drift across it with sabikis, and soon had a dozen or so Mackerel & Scad in the
livebait tank, more than enough to get started with. Vladimir repositioned the boat, dropped anchor, and set out 2 live baits on balloons. 

Seeing first hand how the gear is
set up, and baits are rigged, you pick up tricks and nuances that you just don’t get by reading articles and forums. I was carefully watching each detail, and the amount of questions I asked was bordering on interrogation, but a lot of the appeal of fishing abroad is learning new things, and I wanted to make the most of it.

Now trolling for big game fish can be spectacular, but the hours, sometimes days
in between strikes can be mind numbingly boring, as the angler has nothing to do but
watch a spread of lures. 

As we were anchored in 70m of water, and fishing live baits however, it was possible to fish the bottom with 2 hook rigs baited with mackerel strips while we waited for a Tuna. This brought a steady stream of fish, the only one of which I recognised was black bream, but there were 3 other species that kept making an appearance, one of which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a tropical aquarium. John Dory are also regularly caught here, although small live baits prove more effective apparently. 

This fishing certainly kept me busy, and helped keep the live bait tank topped up, as I would often pick up a mackerel or scad on the way up with the spare hook.

A short time after lunch the furthest balloon went down, and started heading
towards us at a rate of knots. I quickly wound down on the fish, and as everything
came tight, the 50lb class rod arched over, and the reel began to sing that beautiful
song. 

As the fish headed off on it’s first run, we cleared the other lines, and cast off
the anchor. I moved to the front of the boat from where I fought the fish, and after a
couple of typically powerful runs, some big head shakes, and a couple of pin wheels,
the fish was at the side of the boat. Vladimir sunk in the gaf and tied the fish off on a stern cleat. 

After motoring back to the anchor and tying off again, we got some
celebratory cold beers from the fridge in the wheelhouse, and wasted little time in
rigging some more live baits, as by now, we were marking tunas under the boat every
minute or so. 

Despite fishing on until after 6pm, we didn’t manage to get another bite,
although I was pleased to have got one, given it was still early in the season. 

Vladimir explained to me that his bluefin season runs from July right through to the 31st December when the fishery is then closed, with the Autumn & Winter months being particularly good. 

By the end of the month of July, you could expect rather than hope to catch a fish every day, with multiple fish days common enough. “But we have giants in Ireland” I hear you say, “why would I go to Croatia?” but I believe this provides a different angling experience to the traditional trolling with large squid bars fishery that we have in Ireland. 

Indeed there are times during the season when Vladimir gets to target bluefin with spinning gear and topwater lures such as poppers & stickbaits. And don’t think for a minute that there’s no giants here too, Vladimir catches 300 – 400lbs fish every year, and on the last day of my holiday he reported
losing a fish he reckoned was 230kg (500lbs) after a lengthy fight. 

His fishing doesn’t stop when the fishery closes on New Year’s day either, for he has some spectacular deep jigging for Amberjacks through the winter and spring. These range from 25 –100lbs and days with 15 – 20 fish a real possibility. 

With Ryanair running flights into
Zadar for much of the year, and with very reasonable rates for the fishing, anyone
looking to get away and try something different, without having to rob a bank, should take a look at Croatia!

Just a final word on sustainability. Vladimir buys several tonnes of Bluefin quota at the start of every year, and so the fish that he lands make up part of Croatia’s national commercial quota. 

Following ICCAT drastically cutting the eastern Atlantic & Mediterranean quota for Bluefin several years ago, we witnessed an amazing return of these fish to our waters here in Ireland, and indeed last year several fish were caught in southwest England and Wales, areas not previously regarded as Bluefin hotspots. Vladimir too has seen a significant improvement in the Adriatic. 

We must hope that the stock continues to be managed correctly, so that anglers all across Europe can continue to enjoy catching one of the world’s most revered game fish and the mightiest tuna of them all the Atlantic Bluefin.

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Spring trip to France by Dan O’Kelly

IFD: Dan O’Kelly recounts a recent trip to France fishing huge public waters with Davey Phelan. Dan is one of Ireland’s top carp anglers with immense experience fishing in France and this time he fills us in on a trip that didn’t go to plan. All real anglers can appreciate this and it’s a refreshing account of genuine fishing….

Well this year rather than do an Autumn session like I normally do I decided to do a spring session on a big public water in France. 

While in France the previous year I found out that a lake I used to fish had, had a night zone reopen. Originally it had been closed due to some clown’s lighting fire’s which made the farmer very nervous, understandable so with the hot summers they get over there and with live stock on the land not to mention the valuable trees, the night zone was closed. 

I was delighted to find out it was open again. But there were a few conditions and a local bailiff that would be around to check if we were respecting the area and so forth. Not a problem for us as we never light fire’s and all cooking is done inside the bivvy and we never litter.

One of the other condition’s was that it would be closed after the 31st of July to facilitate the Hunters. So a autumn session was out of the question either way. Anyway myself and Edgey Dave set about getting our selfelves sorted for the session. 

In fairness there was not a lot to organise as we’ve done this many times and all we really needed to do was book the ferry and organise the bait. A quick call to Derek in Main Irish Angling and the bait was ordered. 

We decided to go with Trigga from Nutra Baits with the flavour been the Blue Oyster also from Nutra Baits also. Then it was just a case of counting down the days to the off. 

We planned to go in the first two weeks of April. The thinking was that the fish might not have moved towards the spawning areas that early and we might have a chance of connecting with a few of them before romance was in the water. The other reason was that the pike anglers, who can be a royal pain in the arse when fishing the public’s are not allowed fish til the 1st of May. They have no respect for carp anglers and have no problem dropping anchor right on your H-block and fishing away. 

Some areas in France are better and this behaviour is minimal but on this lake it was rife. So the thought’s of fishing unhindered by these Neanderthals made me smile inside and book the ferry. 

On the way down through France we dropped into and old friend Fred who was working on a lake in the north of France and it was not to far out of our way. Due to the ferry times early and late in the season it’s nearly impossible to get fishing the first night as it would be well into the night before you arrived and even later before you got settled. 

So it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with Fred. After about a three and a half hour drive we found Fred’s place. We had a few beers and a good chat before hitting the sack as we had an early start in the morning as did Fred. We were back on the road by 9am with probably 4 more hours to go. Four long hours when you have the Edgey fella beside you, going are we there yet, are we there yet…

Finally we arrived on the lake and to our delight the swims we wanted were open. There were a few others carpers on the night zone but it is a very big zone 4kms in total so sharing was not an issue. Launching the boat was, but I knew a spot we could slip the boat in. Getting it out again would not have been possible in this spot. 

The main harbour would have to be used for that job, which could be worried about at a later date. Right now the main concern was sticking our flag in our intended swim. Once that was done and all the gear was unloaded, taking two trips in the boat. We had the dreaded coin flip for sides, always and area of concern for the eager angler. 

Personally I like to let the coin decide, that way I’m not left at the end of the holiday kicking myself for picking the wrong side. I can just put it down to bad luck. Well that’s what I tell myself anyway. In this instance the coin flip when my way and i got the side I fancied. 

Not that it really mattered as i had fished this swim before on my own and had equal amounts of fish from both sides. There was a sand bar out about 300 yards and we placed the bivvy spots to fish either side of it and had agreed to fish left and right of it and fan the other rods back to the drop off 60 yards out in front of us. 

This way we could try to work out the distance the fish (if any) were passing by at. The lake itself was 10000 acres so it was impossible to predict which way the fish would come. 

After a few hours messing around with boats,h-blocks and fish finders we were settled in and all we needed for the party to get started was a fish. At 7 am the next morning my second furthest rod out rattled off. I jumped out of bed and hit it, class I thought to myself first morning and I’m into a fish, here we go. 

I was not long into the fight before i began to think I was into a cat. The strong runs with the tail flapping against the main line is a dead give away, but one can never be sure unless it’s a massive cat. It’s the cats in the 20lbs to 40lbs odd range that can catch you out sometimes. But i was fairly sure this was a cat. 

I fought it from the bank as long as I could before it got caught in the weed that was on the top of the drop off in front of us. The rod was dropped out at 270 yards and the drop off was about 60 yards out. I’ve found in the past getting into the boat to early with a cat can see you been pulled around the lake like a bubble float for a few hours. 

Standing with your feet on Terra Firma gives you a lot more control than been pulled around in the boat. The bigger the boat the better, you will tire the fish out quicker but you are left with the problem of netting it and as I’ve found out in the past to my dismay. 

Carp landing nets are not for cats. The clue is in the name really and until your looking at a cat that’s 1.8 meters long and pointing upwards towards the boat (as i have in the past ) you realise this just is not going to work. 

The only way is to fight them is from the bank. Not to mention 12 foot carp rods are not great for fighting fish from a boat particularly fish that are bigger than the rod is rated for, theres a good chance of breaking the rod. Anyway I’ll get back to the fish. 

As it was snagged up the was no other option but to get into the boat and go after it. Davey skipper the boat out as I kept the line tight. We were soon over the fish, who was buried in the weed and although the water was gin clear we could not see it. 

I pulled the line either way as you do to try and free it from all angles until i conceded to grab the line and do the nervous slow pull hoping for a happy ending. Hoping to feel some movement on the other end and not an uncompromising solid snag. 

As i put pressure on the line a few bubbles started to emerge where the line was pointed and thankfully a few others away from the line. Then there was movement a few bits of weed snapped and floated up and a cat around 60lbs emerged from the weed. Although not our intended target I still like catching them and to see it swimming around in the clear water is assume. 

We were able to successfully steer it into the net as it was not a monster and quickly ferried it back to the bank. With a few quick photos and a weighting of the fish, it was back in the water. It was 60lbs,by no means a big cat but i appreciated it all the same. 

After that we were licking our lips, thinking that this was a great sign of what was to come. That night we were full of anticipation, hoping for an early morning run. The morning came and went and nothing happened. OK two nights in and no carp, well that’s normal on the public’s. Usually it’s the third night in before anything happens.

On the morning of the third night I awoke to hear the frantic call of the Edgey fella. This particular high pitched sound is unmistakable, easily distinguishable from any other critter in the surrounding area and can usually be heard shortly after his alarms have indicated a run. It goes like ……DAN…DAN…DAN….I’M IN……I’M IN…. GET THE BOAT….GET THE BOAT !!!!! and that was the end of my lie in!

By the time i got up to Davey the fish had found a snag but not on the sand bar in front of us, it was a good way out.We had placed the boat in the middle of the two swims with the net and mat already in the boat so that we could assist each other in the event of a run. It was my turn to skipper the boat. 

The rod had been placed 300 yards out and not much line had been retrieved so it was a long row for me. But i was happy to do it. On the row out Davey was getting nervous that it had got off. It had not moved in a while and was rock solid. When we got over the fish it seemed to be stuck in weed. 

We did not even know the weed was there. But again after some nervous pulling and dragging the fish came loose from the weed and the fight began, much to Daveys delight. It was putting up a good fight so again we were undecided on what species Davey was connected to. A good ten minutes later and we seen colour and it was brown. 

We were dealing with our intended species a “carp” and a mirror carp at that. Although I prefer to fight fish from the bank, there is nothing like watching a carp swimming around the boat in clear water during the day. A short while later Davey had steered it into the waiting net and we headed for the shore. Then the weighting and photo shoot ensued. It weighted in at 31.8lbs and we had it back in the water shortly after. 

Confidence levels were brimming now and we thought we had cracked it. But sadly that was the end of the action and morning after morning passed fishless. There are many fisherman’s excuses as to why a session doesn’t turn out the way you wanted or expected it to. 

On this occasion I’m going to blame the Northwest wind that was blowing for a few weeks and the fact that the fish were also going into spawning mode and prespawning is always a difficult time particularly on a 10000 acre water that you are restricted to fishing one or two night zones. So after 6 nights we had to make a decision on wither to move or stay as we had 7 nights left to fish and we both weren’t feeling it.

Anyway the decision was made to move and we packed up and left and headed to another lake a bit smaller at a 1000 acres. But with a move you get a refreshed sense of optimism. I’d like to say we made the right decision and hauled, but we didn’t and apart from one dropped run for Davey that was it for the session. 

We came home with our tails between our legs, no open top bus, no bunting and no cheering crowds awaited us at Rosslare. It was a bad session but I will say we’ve had worse. Carp fishing is hard at the best of times but big public water french carping can be painfully hard and very unrewarding sometimes. But it’s like they say it’s not every throw a coconut.

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Bream and tench with Seamus Smith by Paddy Keogh

We hadn’t managed to get in a tench session so far this year so Aidan Cox, Joe White and myself decided that we would bait somewhere for a couple of days. The plan was to travel up a few evenings after work and bait up with the bic boat.

I called our good friend Dylan Condron to ask how was the fishing lately and tell him our plan. Dylan suggested we get in touch with a friend of his Seamus Smith who provides an excellent prebaiting and pike guiding service. 

We were only too happy to not have to drive up the few evenings beforehand so this seemed the perfect solution. I got in touch with Seamus and we hatched a plan to meet at 3.30 am on Saturday morning.

After meeting Seamus we were soon heading out along twisting narrow roads just as the sky was starting to lighten up. Arriving at our destination we wasted no time in getting the gear down to the swim.

Seamus had prebaited the previous couple of nights and we were all gunning to go. The service Seamus provides is second to none and he also had our bait waiting for us all in top condition. For anglers who travel from around the country or further afield it is a perfect solution.

We ended up with each of us having a pb tench and Joe also getting his pb bream so it exceeded all expectations and we will definitely be getting Seamus to help us again. My best tench was 6lb 2oz, Aidan had his best at 6lb 10oz and Joe had a tench of 6lb 2oz and a bream of 7lb 2oz 

That even Dylan and Damien McCann came up and joined us. It was some craic that night and a pleasure to see the lads in action as they brought in fish after fish and we picked up a few tips.

To contact Seamus please get in touch on his Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Ernecast-1308069715907255/ as we couldn’t recommend it highly enough and thanks to Dylan and Damien.

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The search for a porgie by Dan O’Kelly

After been chasing blue sharks around the country for the last few years, myself and a few friends decided we wanted to go after a Porgie. We anglers are never happy with what we are catching and just want bigger and better all the time and this is the case in this instance. 

We had seen the pictures of porgies knocking about on Facebook and these sharks looked formidable and just down right dangerous. After doing some research and after a good few chats with Paddy on the subject it was clear that it was not going to be easy. 

They seem to be far more unpredictable that the blues and some blanking was going to be on the cards as working out their movements around the coast of Ireland was not going to happen on the first trip. 

Our first attempt was on Kit Dunne’s boat of Wicklow charters out of Kilmore quay at the time.We travelled out 30 miles into the Irish sea and gave it a go. We did not get any that day but had some nice blues which were the first sharks on Kit’s boat so there was a great atmosphere on the boat and I was glad to be part of that day. The second attempt was again on Kit’s boat this time out of Wicklow again we went miles out but this time a Spurdog and a Tope was all we could tempt into the slick and onto our baits. 

Then we tried Galway bay on John Fleming’s boat. The first time in fairness was mainly for Blues and we had some nice ones, well Rory did the rest of us blanked. The second time we tried a different spot closer to the shore, but sadly nothing came of it.

Rory Long and John Fleming

Earlier this year we tried a mark with Kinsale Charters that had produced Porgies for Mike and Pedro last year on their first attempt at them. So we thought it would be a good place to start again they eluded us. We will be back to give that spot another go.

 It was becoming very clear that this project was not going to be easy. We needed some schooling on these creatures. Further chats with Paddy on the subject lead me to contact Andrew Alsop of White Waters in Milford haven. Not an easy man to get a booking with due to his reputation and long history of catching all manner of sharks that are available in ours waters. 

Thankfully he had two mid week days open in late may of this year. So we booked our ferry and started counting the sleeps til our departure from Rosslare. 
Finally the day arrived and we headed off to Rosslare to get the ferry to Fishguard. We travelled with Stenaline to Fishguard as the times of the Irish Ferries to Pembroke sailings did not suit us. Pembroke was a shorter drive to Milford but the drive from Fishguard was only 30 mins or so, so it was not an issue. 

We had booked into a B&B in Milford run by Gareth and Trish Hopkins as advised by Andrew. I always find it better to book with someone the skipper advises as they will normally be understanding if you have to cancel due to bad weather. 

Gareth been an avid an experienced angler himself is well versed in what the sea can do and won’t hold you accountable if you have to cancel. It’s also great to be able to sit down and have a good auld fishing chat with someone that understands your madness. Needless to say the apartment we had was spot on and only a few minutes from the dock and the Hopkins were great hosts. 

After a comfortable nights sleep and a quick breakfast we did the short drive to the dock to meet Andrew and load up our gear. Andrew supplies all the gear you need but we did bring our own rods and reels. Shortly after we were heading down through the haven, (which is basically a 10 mile long fjord ) at a rate of knots and when I say a rate of knots I mean a rate of knots. 

The White Water two is a impressive vessel to be reckoned with. The boat is less than a year old, its a catamaran powered by two 300 hp 2 stroke outboards, yes you read that right 2 strokes. These new 2 ST engines are more powerful than 4 ST, cleaner and more efficient. I thought 2 ST were taking off the market, how wrong was I. 

Blowing down the haven with Iron maiden blasting from the wheel house is something I won’t forget anytime soon. 
In total we travelled 50 miles out and it only took 2 hours. As we got close to the mark that Andrew wanted to fish we slowed down and started to make the chum. Andrew had all the fish we needed for both the hook baits and the chum. 

Gourmet chum

Not long after the chum bucket was in the water and our slick had started, so we set about getting the rods ready. Although we had our own traces with us we decided to use the traces that Andrew supplied as A. He has far more experience at this that we had and B . He doesn’t charge for them. Plus I just wanted to see his ones so we could see where we had gone wrong with oursit. 

It’s all a learning curve at the end of the day and we have a lot to learn about fishing for Porgies. Needless to say over the coarse of the next two days many question’s were asked and answered. 

We had decided to fish our own rods til one of us caught a fish then that person would sit down and let the other fish on all the rods til he caught one then we would go back to just fishing our own rods. 

My second rod was only in the water and the balloon was no more than 10ft from the boat when i noticed the balloon slightly tip then again,  then it move against the tide only a few inch’s but enough to let me know that it was a fish plucking at the bait. I had heard that Porgies are fussy takers , not like blues. 

I was unsure what way or time to strike the fish so i quickly conferred with Andrew, who stepped me through it. basically I didn’t know to hit it or just push the lever drag forward. The fish started taking line so I pushed the lever forward as instructed and then I felt contact and the fight began. 

Now this is what I had been waiting for, I had been told that the fight is completely different than blues so I was not sure what to expect. In no time the fish was heading around the boat maybe in an attempt to get me under the props so Mark and Andrew started lifting rods so I could pass underneath, then the fish turned around and when back the way she came. Then a massive nose dive and she headed straight for the bottom. 

Although I was quite sure it was a Porgie we couldn’t rule out a blue at this stage and there was some debate/uncertainty about what species of Shark it was. I knew it wasn’t massive but I did not care as long as it was my first Porgie, size was not important in this instance. 

Ain’t beat yet

A few more long deep runs and I got some line back on the reel and we started to see some colour, then she came into sight and it was a Porgie, not a monster but a Porgie at last. This was the first time for me to see one let alone catch one so I was well happy. She made one more run and she was beat. A few nervous moments after the leader was grabbed, the fish was lassoed  quite expertly by Andrew and then pulled on board by himself and Mark. 

Although I was very confident that Andrew could boat the fish I always feel a few moments of helplessness when I’m standing there holding the rod just in case the fish bolts again. Thankfully my momentary feeling of nervousness and helplessness abated quickly when my prize was safely on board. 

All that was left to do was get some photos and get her back in the water, so after some quick schooling on how to hold them we got a few shots and released her. Mission accomplished !!!

A well deserved fish for Dan

I forgot to measure her in the whole drama of the situation. But I know the girth was around 35 inch’s. How I know this is, during the fight Andrew had noticed that the fish had a box strap wrapped around its neck. He said that it was about the fifth Porgie that he had seen like this, but never seen a blue shark with one. 

I can only imagine that they are probably more inquisitive and curious than blues and end up swimming into them. Which would suggest they are far more intelligent than blues and would part explain why they are far harder to get a hook up from. Anyway we removed the strap, which had become embedded in the fish’s skin and flesh. 

Later after realising that I had not measured her I had the brain wave to measure the strap and it was 33 inch and maybe allowing 2 inch for the depth it was cut into the flesh of the Shark. Either way Andrew estimated that it was around 80lbs. Not a monster by Porgie standards but I’m happy to start with that and the fact that is was the first shark on the White Water 2 of 2017 and the first shark of Andrews twentieth year in Chartering for sharks I was honoured. 

Unfortunately that was all the action we had for the rest of that day and the next day apart from one of the baits having bite marks on it the first day. 

So the time was spent talking about all things Sharky and trying to get that perfect photo of a dolphin jumping which always eludes me, as was the case this time as well. 

A minke comes in for a closer look

We did have a Minke Whale circle the boat for a while which was interesting. All in all I think a lot of patience is required for Porgie fishing, But the rewards are there and I can’t wait til my next encounter with one. 

With skipper Andrew Alsop

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