IFD: Adrian Molloy is one of the true legends of Irish fishing. Adrian pioneered the fishing for giant bluefin tuna off the North West coast of Ireland catching many of these leviathans and went on to catch the biggest bluefin ever caught on rod and line in Europe, a fish of 968lb. Adrian has put Ireland firmly on the big game map in the process.
So now over to Adrian to talk about his fishing….
Adrian how did you start off fishing?
I started off fishing when I was about eleven I think, fishing off the rocks for mackeral, pollock and anything else that came along. When I was thirteen I started going out on a boat with an older guy I knew who used to drift net for salmon. I would go out with him after he had finished fishing for salmon and we would fish for pollock with lines which would then be salted and dried.
How old were you when you got your first boat?
I was about twenty when I got my first boat and I started fishing for salmon commercially while still doing a lot of angling. Back in those days, there was no licensing for charters so I started bringing people out who had already asked me to. We used to do a lot of shark fishing and reef fishing for whitefish whatever the group wanted really.
How did the tuna fishing start off?
With having my own commercial boat, I would sometimes see tuna being brought in by the pelagic boats. That was back in the 80’s and I remember asking these guys where they getting them. I always thought it must be thirty or forty miles offshore but I didn’t realise they were in so close. It was in about 1986/87 that I had a group from Derry out on a shark fishing trip that we started hearing dolphins in the distance. It was a flat calm August day without a breath of wind. We could actually hear these “dolphins” getting closer and soon we started seeing them. I thought to myself there was something funny about these dolphins…… their tails were on the wrong way round! At the time I didn’t say anything because back then you might have been laughed at. I didn’t see them again till the 90’s and in 1997 I started running into groups of them. I set out to catch one but no matter what I tried it wasn’t working and I couldn’t get a take for the life of me. Back then the internet was only starting and advice was hard come by, so I started to talk to a few people and all the advice I got turned out to be completely wrong. And then Alan Granville came up in 1999 to fish for them on another boat and on his first day he got one! I was in shock, I had been trying all this time and Alan got one on his first day so it was Alan who started it off really.
From there you started catching plenty, can you tell us how the next few years were to go?
There was a lot of fish around in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and we were getting quite a few. From 2004 the fishing just dipped then went off a cliff. Up until 2008 the European quota was 23, 000 tonnes, in the region of 40,000 tonnes were being caught by vessels supplying the tuna fattening farms. In 2007 EU officials noticed there was more fish coming from the farms than the official quota could possibly create, however it wasn’t till 2009 that the catch European quota was reduced to 11,500 tonnes. It took till 2011 till the numbers had come back up again.
Is it hard to go back to normal fishing after catching many bluefin?
Paddy nothing else comes close. To be honest I’d say in some ways it will ruin your life as fishing will never seem the same again, it is such an adrenalin rush.
The BBC were out with you to make a programme that went on to win an award that year in their sports category how did that go?
The BBC were out a couple of times, They done an episode with me for a show called the big six and on the day we got a fish live for the cameras which went down well. I also done a programme for BBC called “Inside Out” which was on after the news highlighting the fishing in the area.
Where else in the World would you like to fish?
I’d love to go over to Glouceter or North Carolina anywhere like that, just to see the different techniques of catching Bluefin, I would go incognito say nothing about Irish fishing and just take it all in. Other than that a blue or a black marlin would be a dream catch somewhere too.
You also have excellent sharking up in Donegal can you tell us about that?
I used to do a lot of sharking in the late eighties and nineties. There were many days that produced twenty or even thirty fish. It was really good till the mid nineties and then the advent of drift netting for albacore made numbers dip considerably. Once they stopped the drift netting the numbers started to come back up and now we have a lot of fish again.
Can you tell us about the day you caught the Irish record fish, which was the biggest fish ever caught on rod and line in Europe at the time?
I was out with Michael Callaghan on his boat and we were trolling. There wasn’t much to be seen that day to be honest. It was in the afternoon when we saw a couple of fish breaking close to the shore off Rossan point. We trolled towards where they were showing and it wasn’t long before one came up at the lures. It grabbed at it maybe four times before taking the hook. I knew it was big, but I had no idea how big it was. I normally have a fish up to the boat within one hour but it was almost two hours before I had it up. We were five miles from where we first hooked it. It took almost as long again to get it into the boat, and when we did you could feel the boat dip down. After that it was all a euphoric blur! I remember a boat coming up alongside as we were heading in and I will always remember the faces when they looked in on the deck… priceless!
What are your hope for 2015?
My hopes for 2015, is that they would allow recreational catch and release stance for bluefin, and that they reopen the fishery. That is my dream for 2015 and it would be a great boost for the local economy.
Well many thanks for giving us some of your time Adrian
No problem Paddy anytime