IFD: Tony Tait is one of Ireland’s top boat anglers. Originally from Yorkshire in the UK, Tony and his wife Sue enjoyed the Irish fishing so much that they moved over here and have become prolific in the Irish small boat fishing scene. Between Tony and Sue, they have managed to catch not just one but two Irish record species each and continue to enjoy their angling.
Here is Tony’s interview….
What were your earliest memories of fishing?
I’d say I was about seven or eight years old, fishing in Scotland. I was actually born in Scotland and my father was Scottish, and we used to go back there on holidays every year visiting family. It was mainly pier fishing that we started off with and sea fishing is all I have ever been interested in ever since!
Did you do much shore fishing before you got into boat fishing?
I fished alot in Scotland, I’ve fished many marks in Wales and all over the UK. I did quite a few local competitions around the UK’s east coast. Then I progressed into charter fishing which I enjoyed fishing from a boat, though I was sometimes disillusioned with the skippers commitment!
My brother got his own boat and we used to go out on that once or twice a week. Then I went and bought my own boat and it has gone from there really.
What was your first boat?
It was a little 14′ Mayland, you would only use it for inshore fishing. I was fishing out of the east coast, mostly Whitby, which is a renowned port for cod fishing.
The coast there is literally carpeted with wrecks and there was close to 200 wrecks available to fish. Then eventually I bought a Hardy 17′ and I had that for quite a few years. After that I bought a Warrior 195, that was fifteen years ago and I’m still using it today.
How did you start coming to Ireland?
I came over here back in 1995 and fished the very first Cork small boats festival. I was just blown away by the hospitality and the friendliness of the people and the fishing was just out of this world. You were catching fish we could only dream of back home. We were pulling in plaice off the Turbot bank that were four and five pound! in those days there were only about six pleasure boats moored at Agahda while now there must be fifty.
You are well known for your species hunting, can you tell us about fishing for Bluemouth?
I got an invitation from Ken Hegarty, a well known Cork angler, to go out with Hugh Mcguire and a couple of lads. I’d read a little bit about them and knew they were a deep water fish. It was a case of bring every rig and bait that I knew of.
I tried everything but it didn’t matter what you put in front of them they were taking it! You could even catch them on a set of hokkais, it was just locating the fish and once you located them trying to get through the small fish to the bigger ones.
We were catching them on reefs in about 350ft of water. They tend to be found from half way up the face of the rock and close to the pinnacle.
How did the fishing begin for the gilthead bream?
I started catching them here in Cork harbour in 2005. Back then they weren’t even on the specimen list so you couldn’t claim one. There was me and Donie O’ Mahony, a buddy and we used to go out and It was a nice two or three hours pleasure fishing. You’d throw the anchor out and you were fishing in nice shallow water. It was lovely on a nice sunny day, pulling in a few bream using really light tackle. Originally we weren’t actually targeting them but flounder, eels and bass. We fished around the hot water outflow of the power station and it was just thick with fish, plenty of mullet and lots of golden greys.
All the giltheads were falling to shrimp which is what they were coming in feeding on. They would come in each year and stay from may till sometimes October if the weather was ok, before heading south again. At the time we told nobody cause there was only a small school of them coming in there. Then they became eligible and I banged one in and managed to claim the then Irish record. Also one year I went out and it was the first trip of the season and I had never checked my rod. First cast, the bait hit the water and I was just about to put the rod in the rod holder when it was fish on. The Rod bent double and I though I was gonna snap the light rod, the drag had seized up on the reel. It snapped me off but I’d say that fish was easily seven or eight pound. My own fault for not checking the reel….. lesson learned.
Do you do much blue shark fishing?
I do a bit, I will always give it at least one day each year, it depends on the weather how much time we give it. We get a good run of blues here, outside the harbour. You don’t even have to go too far out. We get quite a few over 100 lb.
When species fishing, what tactics would you recommend?
It’s just a learning curve and a case of you know what your trying to target, so scale down, fish as light as possible and if you get broken off, step up the tackle a small bit and go from there. Look at the salmon anglers and look at the size of the small hooks they are using to land big hard fighting fish, there is a lesson there for Sea anglers. A big bait doesn’t always equate to a big fish.
Your have fished in America, Africa, Thailand, Mexico among other places, what was your favourite?
I’d probably have to say Mexico. We fished off the west coast at Porta Vallarta. We had an unforgettable day catching yellowfin tuna, pulling them out like mackerel they were everywhere! we were in 50ft of water, fishing with 30lb class gear and they were hitting us like steam trains. They would scream off and you just had to hang on and wait for them to tire a bit, then get them back to the boat. We had a mad half hour of that and you couldn’t handle anymore, it was unbelievable sport. Everytime we dropped a bait in the water they would hit it, the place was just thick with them.
we went out to blue water, I was hoping for a marlin, we didn’t have any but we did have 18 dolphin fish, the best of which was close to 70lb. That trip to Mexico was one of my best fishing memories although I have also enjoyed great fishing in The Gambia as well.
Tony over the years, what has been your happiest catch?
That’s a tough one! probably I’d say my specimen red mullet, I was delighted when I caught it. What happened was, we were to fish the Rosslare small boats competition. We had a week off so we went down to do some reconnaissance. We had good weather and great fishing and I managed to get one off one of the reefs. I normally keep a list of the specimen weight aboard, but didn’t realise until I got home that it was an Irish record!
So the competition came and we went out and we couldn’t physically get back on the reef because there were already boats anchored up on it. So we moved off and found another reef. We passed over it a few times and found the pinnacle and dropped the anchor. Sue dropped down and first drop got one that blew my red mullet to pieces! The chances of it were unbelievable, so I never actually got to claim the record. She now has two Irish record fish to her name, the bluemouth and red mullet. If she had not of caught it and I made to November to the closing of specimen submission for that year, I would have been home and dry lol.
What are your hopes for 2015?
I hope to try a few new marks this year and it would be nice to get a few more specimen species. I’ll be going after the mullet as I’ve never actually claimed a specimen of any species so I’ll target the grey and golden grey and put that one to bed.
I’ve been targeting flounder for three or four years and yet to get a specimen. I’ve been very close and hit the cross bar a number of times but that one still eludes me.
Well Tony, thanks for talking to us and hope you have a great year…
No problem anytime