Luke Astons boat the Clare Dragoon entered the Irish shark fishing record books when he caught a series of massive six-gilled sharks off Loop head. Originally fishing for skate Luke found they were bitten of several times and went back with heavier and heavier gear until he found out what leviathan had been snatching the baits. These fish are too big to be brought in the boat to be measured properly so we can only estimate there true size. One angler brought his in to be weighed and the only scales big enough was at a local quarry. The fish weighed 1059lb. Thats not the only record Irish fish to have been taken on the Clare Dragoon, the John dory record was also aboard. So over to Luke now….
Me: Luke how did fishing begin for you?
LA: I was a commercial fisherman and I wanted to go into charter angling as it was more suitable to family life. I started fishng and found I really enjoyed it. I’ve since fished in Africa, Australia a few other places, fishing in the heat is always welcome!
Me: The biggest fish caught on rod and line in Europe have been on your boat the Clare Dragoon, the six-gilled shark. Can you tell us about the six-gilled?
LA: The ones we had were the biggest in Europe outside of the Azores where they have been caught to 1500/1600lbs. I had caught them previously on the commercial boats as a by-catch, and then as an anger I got interested in them and found they are the most widely distributed shark in the world, they can go to great depths and are mostly scavengers. It’s unusual to catch them as shallow as we catch them. They are big and heavy and very strong.
Me: How long does the typical fight last?
LA: The typical fight is slow to start, you might not even notice the take until the line starts moving off slowly at first, then as you put a bit of pressure on it will stay on the bottom moving very strongly. You have to stop it going away from the boat and then turned back towards the boat, getting it off the bottom is the next job! They can make freight train runs but not fast like other sharks just slow deliberate runs. The average fight lasts usually an hour.
Me: What time of year are they caught?
LA: I have had them right through my season Ive had them from April up to October but it is possible they are there all year.
Me: Loop head and the Clare coastline are a beautiful backdrop to the fishing, can you tell us about the fishing generally in the area?
LA: We are based on the south side of Loop head, we fish in the Shannon estuary for tope, ray and bull huss and as you get towards the open sea at Loop head you have the whitefish, some nice sized ling and pollock and even some skate. Then on the north side of the head along the cliffs is great for wrasse and conger. As you go further west to deeper water it’s pollock, cod and ling and blue shark.
Me: Do you get to do much fishing yourself these days?
LA: I wouldn’t say much, but I try to get out a few days a year with friends and sometimes I fish with the customers if they are having any difficulty catching.
Me: Besides six-gilled, have you had any other big surprises?
LA: Having fished commercially for so long I would have to say no, when your on the commercials you have seen most species before so there are no great surprises.
Me: You offer the complete fishing package can you tell us about that?
LA: We have accomadation with four bed rooms, a games room with pool and darts and a beer fridge and tea/coffee. There is a recreation room with tv and a patio for the good weather. It’s set up as a fishing lodge and we do breakfasts, packed lunches and evening meals. We do day charters and three night stay, two days charter packages. We also do longer trips for a week also.
Me: Do you ever miss commercial fishing?
LA: I do, there is a certain camarardary that I miss and it’s hard to replicate on other boats, but it’s mismanaged and has been abused.
Me: What are the plans for 2014?
LA: At the moment it’s putting the finishing touches on the boat, to be back in the water in 2/3 weeks and I’ll go from there…
Me: Well Luke thanks for talking to us and hopefully see you soon.
LA: Anytime Lads talk soon