IFD: Declan Kilgannon is the skipper of the Kiwi Girl, based out of Mullaghmore in Sligo. Declan is one of Ireland’s top skippers, with a vast experience of scuba diving Declan has come to have an intimate knowledge of what goes on beneath the waves.
The Kiwi girl has had some leviathan bluefin tuna aboard and that coupled with the excellent blue shark and skate fishing make it one of the most attractive fishing charters in NW Europe. Declan will continue to be at the forefront of Irish fishing, as he attempts to be the first Irish charter boat to catch a swordfish and no better man to do it.
To make a booking with Declan you can find his website here http://www.offshore.ie/
So now over to Declan for his interview….
What was your earliest memories of fishing?
My Grandparents lived very close to the banks of the River Finn in Co.
Donegal, I suppose i was about
8 maybe 9 when i got my first fishing rod…… i spent a lot of time during
my childhood on that river bank
spinning for trout…. being a famous Salmon river especially back in the
day big fish was always part of any
discussion and my young head was full of buzz words “doubles”, “trebles”,
twenty this and thirty that..
i remember seeing some fish, i thought they were monsters and spent a lot of
years dreaming about catching one…..
How did boat fishing start for you?
Scuba Diving Got me into boat fishing, I was diving at every single
opportunity I got. I spent time in Egypt and Spain (Canaries) working in
dive centers and when I wasnt diving I was out Fishing. Learning the reef
systems from underwater seemed to give me an edge and my fishing was always
I started a dive school in Mullaghmore about 15 years ago and the first
boats were Ribs which allowed us do a certain amount of fishing , as the
numbers of divers grew so did the need for a bigger boat,
I got my first Charter boat in 05/06 and now my two favourate things became
Can you tell us about the MV Kiwi Girl?
Kiwi Girl is a Kingfisher FastCatch, powered by a Caterpillar 420hp and can
get us out fishing at up to
25 knots….. she is a fast, comfortable modern boat with plent of deck
space and was built with one target fish in mind “Giant Tuna”
I remember the first day i seen her come into Mullaghmore, Tuna Fishing in
Ireland was enjoying massive success in the early 00’s but we didnt have a
boat or the equipment needed to catch one……
when Kiwi appeared on the Horizen my first thought was ” Now we have a
You enjoy good blue shark fishing can you tell us a bit about it?
Yes Paddy we certainly love our Shark fishing here in Donegal Bay, It keeps
getting better and better….
the reason for this is simple ” the more time and effort I put in the
greater the Rewards”, the more days we
spend targeting shark allows us to fine tune every aspect, it allows us to
experiment and the evidence speaks
for itself..in 2012 we had no blank day, in 2013 we had our first 200lb +
Blue Shark, in 2014 we had a record 20
shark boated in one trip up to 165lb including a 120lb fish taken on the Fly
This year you have had great success with common skate, how did that go?
2014 will always be remembered as the year of the Skate….whlie Skate were
always a target fish for the
Kiwi Girl I freely admit we never put in the effort. Donegal Bay never did
have a name for skate althought throughtout the years there were incidental
catches. During the winter of 2013/14 i set out to research these fish in
the Bay, studying old photos,taking to anyone I could to make some sence of
incidental catches and gathering info from the commercial lads……Success
came on our first attempt in April 2014 and while we went on to land many
more Skate last year including Billys monster (225lb) I feel the real
achievement was that there were was only one Blank trip !!!
In 2013 you had two bluefin tuna, can you tell us about that ?
Having essentially missed Irelands Tuna Hey Day back in the late ninetys and
early 00,s I suppose I always felt that I missed my chance at one of these
Giants…..Abuse of Tuna quotas led to a massive decline in numbers untill
2009 when a reduction in quota and tighter regulations ment tuna numbers had
the potential to grow ….
With the absence of Fish for so many years the interest in the fishery was
non existant, However it is my belief that there was never NO fish. Bad
weather, no money and a lack of interest all played a part in the decline of
Ireands Tuna Fishing.
Every year we would dust off the gear and set up the boat and give it a “go”
I even offered experimental charters for Tuna over the years to try and
cover expences and maybe give ourselves move days and more of a chance !!!
The 23.09.13 was no different, we had picked our day and the evening before
I was preparing the boat when the phone rang !! there had been the odd
unconfirmed sighting but this call made my heart Stop !!!
Myself and Michal were on board at 5am ( Michal needed a lot of convincing)
and for the first time for so long I was going Tuna fishing armed with
optimism, There were fish, lots of them and our first hook up was around
noon, we got busted but so what ? We had connected with a giant Tuna and
after checking every single piece of gear, every crimp and swivel we started
troling again. Shortly after 3pm the ourigger snapped off and a reel started
screaming, FISH ON !! The battle that followed can only be desribed as
Epic… We made mistakes, lots of them and having been almost spooled the
task of grinding back over a thousand yards of line was immense, Ireland’s
first tuna for over 8 years was hooked, now we just had to try and not lose
I will never forget the sight of that fish breaking the surface. The
decision to bring the fish in was not an easy one, but this was the proof,
The Tuna were Back !!!
The 301KG (670lb) Bluefin Tuna caused quite a stirr…
The regulations were
unclear and having never been dealt with by the authorities they stated
issuing random, unsubstanciated statements….
However 2 days later we were back out Tuna fishing and after our crash
course we succesfully caught,tagged and released a 400lb plus bluefin…
A catch and release Tuna fishery is a reality for Ireland but needs the
support of the angling community to achieve this….It is a massive resource
that can put Ireland on the world stage in Big Game Fishing….
What was your set up that you landed the tuna on?
I was using IGFA 130lb class gear, 4 x penn IGFA 80/130 class rods with
Everol 14/0 2 speed reels spooled up with 130lb Momoi Diamond mono
What are the Irish bluefin stocks like as you have witnessed them?
There are Tuna in Ireland, in fact there could possibly be more than ever
before…. And now is the time to
“Open” a recreational fishery for Tuna on a catch and release basis.
ICCAT have increased the European Quota for 2015 by 20% and will increase
this quota by 20% year on year for the next 3 years. Ireland have not asked
for even a small part of this quota !!!
In 2014 the recreational fishery for Bluefin was closed on basis that
Ireland does not have a quota!!
It is my belief that the issue of quota is irrelevant as all fish should be
The Irish autorities should be more proactive in supporting a catch and
release based bluefin tuna recreational fishery in Ireland and should Lobby
both the EU and ICCAT to ensure that happens …
Where else in the world would you like to fish and for what species?
Ascension Island in the south Atlantic fishing for 1000lb+ Marlin would be
top of the list but also Costa Rica or Panama for Sailfish and Marlin.
What are your hopes for 2015?
A recreational fishery for Tuna in Ireland would be the big hope for 2015
but also to further develop what Kiwi Girl and Donegal bay have to offer,
Planning is under way to target Billfish and im hoping to capture a rod and
line Swordfish in the next year or 2. There are many large speies that could
be targeted from Donegal Bay and sooner or later a Thresher or Mako will
fall to rod and reel…. I can only Hope to be the one cranking the
Well Declan it was a pleasure talking to you and hope to see you soon
No problem Paddy anytime…