IFD: Most Dublin sea anglers have at some stage taken a self drive boat out of Bullock or Coliemore harbour, and have enjoyed good mackeral and pollock fishing. With the absence of a charter boat in Dublin, that might be the extent of it unless you take the plunge and buy your own boat. John Hughes has been fishing in Dublin all his life. From his love of shore fishing, he soon developed a keen interest in boat fishing in the Dublin area and now is out as often as possible on his boat Imelda. So we talk to John about his experiences fishing Dublin and a few more spots besides. Over to John with the questions…
What were your earliest memories of fishing?
My earliest memories of fishing were from about aged four onwards. I would be getting brought by my father to gather bait (single digging lug with a spade is the way he used to do it), rag with a fork and spearing razor – that’s the way I learnt. After getting bait it used to be fishing trips down to Dunlaoghaire harbour. In those days it was the long walk down the east pier that sticks out in my mind. Normally, we would be rewarded with a few fish.
Can you tell us about your shore fishing in the early years and where were your usual spots?
With living so close to Dunlaoghaire harbour, it became my local haunt and I got to know it quite well. I spent a huge amount of my spare time down here, catching anything from codling to congers and pollack to plaice and anything in between. As I became old enough, I used to venture a bit further. With a rod strapped to the bike, I would often fish from Bug Rock and the rocks at the 40ft in Sandycove. Colimore harbour and Killiney beach were also frequented. Usually it was the direction the wind was blowing from, that would be the deciding factor of where I would fish.
How did you get into boat fishing?
My introduction to boat fishing began when I was 8 years old. This was the age that I was allowed to join the angling club that my father was a member of. They had a mixture of shore and boat competitions – enough to keep me very interested. Those were the days when you could actually catch what you could call proper cod in Dublin bay. The place was alive with them and all you needed was a load of lug and mussel and you were sorted. It was from here that I acquired my addiction to boat fishing, jumping on any chance I got to be out on one. It took me a while to get one but, eventually I got my first boat a good number of years ago. Ever since then, I go out any chance I get throughout the whole year (weather permitting). My current boat is a predator 160 named IMELDA after my late mother. During the winter months, I will fish into darkness just to make the most of the time I get afloat. I have even fished on a Christmas Eve night in the boat chasing the years last species! It’s not always better fishing in the dark, most times it’s the opposite, although it can produce an odd bonus fish.
You have fished extensively around Dublin bay down to Greystones what are your favourite species and marks?
Species fishing around Dublin is what I have become obsessed with over the last number of years. The days of going out and looking for quality table fish are long gone, so a change of tactics and looking for new marks and species is what keeps the interest going for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are still some nice fish to be had but not so easy to find. I am happy catching a large tope and just as happy catching a tompot blenny. They are all fish at the end of the day!
What is described as animal fishing is what I am very happy doing. This involves going to some of the offshore banks and holes that we have and targeting mainly ray, tope, smooth hounds, bullhuss, dogs and on occasion an elusive spurdog.
Spurs tend to like some deep, fast water. This in itself makes fishing for them very difficult at times, with the distances you have to travel and short windows of fishing time on slacker parts of tide not really worth all the effort. Running costs are a big issue for most people these days. With this in mind, I tend to stay more local to port, mainly fishing out to about 6 miles offshore. This is enough to keep me in touch with most of the animals and sand dwelling species and also keep me in range of a couple of wrecks.
Staying inshore, there is fairly good mixed ground / reef fishing to be had. Pollack and various wrasse would be the main targets, with an odd ling and codling also showing up. In addition, there is a vast array of smaller species to fish for. Out of all of the reef species I fish for, I must say that pollack is one of my favorites to target.
Can you talk us through Dublin boat fishing through the seasons?
To be honest, I find that this a very difficult question to answer. It might be because Dublin and its surrounds is a very unpredictable venue and at the best of times a very hard nut to crack. I can only break it down to my observations. In my opinion, seasons don’t count, it’s the water temperature that counts. We could call it two seasons – a warm season and a cold season. The cold season for me is from about December to March, where we are looking at a water temperature below 10C. This is when I find that the fishing is much slower with whiting, codling, coalies, herring, dabs and flounders making up most of what you could possibly catch on a very good day. When the water temperature rises above 10C around March/April, I would be hoping for a few more species to start appearing in the catches – dogs, rays, wrasse, pollack and a mixture of mini stuff (not forgetting to mention some super gurnards appear mainly tubs and greys). As the water warms, crabs molt and the hounds are not far behind. Mackerel should be starting to appear, bringing with them some bigger fish (mainly tope, huss, odd spurs and big rays) into double figures. Thornbacks are the common ones, with a few homelyn and the rare cuckoo and blonde turning up about every ten years or so. That’s the two seasons of Dublin bay how I see them anyway.
You have fished a lot from Kilmore quay, how have you found the fishing down there?
I have fished out of Kilmore on a good number of occasions. I used to think that there was nothing like it for variety or quantities of fish – but I was wrong!
A good few years back, three of us in a boat had 17 species between us on a very long day down there. We thought it was unreal and a great achievement (which it was!). One of the local skippers met us at the slip that evening and asked us how we did. He couldn’t believe what we had caught and congratulated us on the great results. At around this time, I was getting more and more into species fishing on my own patch. Ten or twelve species was becoming the norm on my boat between two people. Then one day, when I was out on my own, I managed 15 species in just under 7 hours from DublinBay. This, in my opinion, was unheard of and it was pretty good species fishing in my books. So I set my boat a target of 20 species in a single day. I have had plenty of good counts since, but the best I have done was the year before last. I had 18, with lots of easy ones letting me down. Last year I had a yearly total of 37 species from Dublin. This year I am not too far behind. So in answering your question, Kilmore used to be great, but I have it all on my own door step up here. There’s no real need to travel the long winding road.
That said, I still tow down a couple of times a year for old times sake.
This year you fished Cork harbour. Can you tell us how the trip went?
Cork is becoming one of my favourite places to fish out of. I have fished it a few times over the years but I wouldn’t claim to know it very well. The last few times I have fished there, I took the self drive hire boat route. For me, this just takes the hassle and worry out of towing a boat down there. This year I had booked the trip to coincide with a BAI fishing meet. I had two friends with me for this one. Normally, I prefer just two in my boat but this was going to be a trip looking for mine and the crews first blue shark so an extra pair of hands would have came in handy. Well, that would have been the case had a shark been caught. (Hopefully, next years trip produces the goods.) There was only one shark caught out of the group that weekend. We still had a brilliant couple of days fishing with some super fish on the boat between the three of us. Over the two days, we managed 23 species – seventeen on the first day and we added six more to the tally on the second day – not bad going for a boat with a skipper that doesn’t know the place very well! Some of my fish worth mentioning were a new PB Blonde ray, a nice 30lb conger and the best ling of the weekend which was 10lb. There were also a couple of stone bass caught in the group and I’m happy to say one was landed on my boat. No, not by me, but nonetheless it was a fantastic fish to see and to see it returned was even better. I’m so looking forward to a trip down here next year, I can’t wait.
What would be your dream Irish catch from the shore or the boat?
From the boat, I would love to connect up with a large turbot – 10lbs plus would be nice.
From the shore, my choice would be a 15lbs plus smooth hound. I know I’m not asking for much, but I might as well dream here.
Where else in the world would you like to fish?
I’m not really one for traveling for fishing. I turned down an offer to go toNorway boat fishing a few years ago. The lads that did go didn’t do great, so I was happy enough with my decision at the time not to go. I can honestly say, if I was asked tomorrow to choose between a free week-long trip to Norwayor to Cork, I would be very happy to pick Cork.
What are your fishing hopes for 2015?
My hopes are that I have my health to continue fishing and hopefully get my 20 species day in Dublin. And hopefully my turbot and hound dream comes true.