Small boat fishing Cahore by Rob Millard
Despite being from Dublin, I’ve always considered Cahore in north Wexford my ‘home patch’ when it comes to boat fishing.
In the eighties we joined a group known by the locals as ‘the bathers’, Dublin people with holiday homes in Wexford. Our holiday home was within walking distance of Old Bawn beach, and it was there that I’d spend most of my time, catching Bass, Flounders, Smoothounds, Dabs and Plaice (remember them?) in the summer, and Codling and Whiting in the winter.
I knew the men that boat fished from Cahore caught considerably bigger fish than I was catching from the beach, and naturally I wanted a piece of that action, so for my 12th birthday I got a 20lb boat rod and Mitchell 624 reel, and a book that would serve as my bible for the next few years, “The Guinness book of sea Fishing” by Brian Harris. My first trip out was early May that year on Ian Bottomley’s boat. In a couple of hours I’d caught 4 thornback Ray to 14.5lbs and a Tope of about 25lbs. My father, realising my enthusiasm, bought me a 12ft open Darragh type boat with a 4hp Yamaha later that month, and it was in this modest little tub, that I spent my teens catching the Tope, Huss, Smoothound, Rays, and Bass that Cahore is known for. I’ve traded up a few times since that little boat, but our exploits during that time proved 2 things, that teenage boys are fearless and foolhardy, and that quality boat fishing at Cahore is easily accessible.
Situated just an hour’s drive from the M50, Cahore has long been considered one of the premier east coast locations for small boat fishing. The slip there is not too steep, and never dries out and there is adequate free parking for cars and trailers on all but the busiest weekends of the summer.
It should be noted that there is no shelter at the slip from any wind from the north to east quarter, and even a modest breeze from this direction will make launch and retrieve difficult, if not dangerous. There is also some rocks off Glascarrig point known as “The Patches” or “Nell’s Patch”, on which many boats have run aground. They lie about 300 mtrs North of the end of the pier, so after you launch, remember to motor due east for a few hundred yards before heading North, if that is the direction you intend to fish.
All the best marks are within a couple of miles of the slipway. Try to avoid the bigger spring tides, not only is the fishing less productive, but having to use 24oz + of lead takes some of the sport out of it.
For many people, the star of the show at Cahore is the Tope. They normally arrive towards the end of April, certainly by May bank holiday they’ll be there, even after a cold winter. Most of the fish are in the 20lbs – 30lbs bracket, although we also encounter quite a few small fish down to very small pups, and enough big fish up to 55lbs to keep the specimen hunters interested. Over the years I have caught Tope on pretty much any bait you care to mention, squid, sandeel, crab, even ragworm & lugworm, but for me the top bait is mackerel. You’ll have to bring your own, because at no stage during the season can you reliably catch them here. Murphy’s law states that if you bring some with you, you’ll probably catch a few, but if you travel without, you’ll endure a frustrating day.
Mackerel heads seem to outfish fillets, as well as being a bit more doggy proof. Huss & thornback ray will be happy to take them too. There seems to be a common opinion that you should let a Tope complete it’s first run before attempting to set the hook. When we use a lip hooked head or side fillets, we engage strike as soon as the Tope sets off on it’s first run. By hitting them early, we seldom miss bites, and nearly all our fish are lip hooked, or hooked in the scissors, whether we use J hooks or circles. We normally fish with 20lbs boat gear, more to handle the leads required than any fish we’re likely to encounter, but we’ll scale down to 12lbs gear during neap tides, and around slackwater, or even spinning gear if we’re in the mood for a laugh.
You’ve a good chance of encountering Tope once you’re anchored in 45-55ft water (which is the depth over most of the ground to the east and northeast of Cahore), but the Rusk channel to the south, and the Glassgorman banks to the north are well known hot spots, where you can expect to catch good numbers. When the season is in full swing, a crew of 2 could reasonably expect to catch 15 – 20 Tope in a 6 hour session.
Smoothound will begin to show in May, and although you will pick up the odd one or two on squid or ragworm, peeler crab is a necessity for a really successful session. The typical stamp of fish is 2lbs – 5lbs, but specimen sized fish are there if you persevere. The grounds North of Cahore, off Glascarrig, Donaghmore and Roney point are the most productive. You’ll encounter them from quite close to the shore right out to the 60ft mark.
There are days when they’re in literally plague proportions, and you can get through a bucket of peelers pretty quickly. I prefer to target them during the smaller tides, so I can scale down the gear and make the most of the sport. A 5lber will give you a good old rattle on a light spinning rod.
Although I seldom specifically target them, Bull Huss and Thornback Ray are regularly a welcome bycatch when Tope fishing. The Huss average 7-8lbs with double figure fish common enough. The Thornbacks average 6-7lbs, with the occasional double, but they have suffered a pretty serious decline since I first started fishing here, so I would encourage everybody to practise catch and release. You will catch both in the Rusk Channel when targeting Tope, but the grounds to the north, out from Glasscarrig & Roney, seem to be more productive. Due to the sandy muddy seabed around here, and the relatively shallow water in which they are caught, most of the Huss caught are a lovely light colour, with very attractive markings, not unlike Leopard sharks.
When weather, wind and tide conditions are right, there’s some great sport to be had on the banks south of Cahore point, targeting Bass on soft plastics. It makes a welcome change from anchoring up, and dropping baits down on lumps of lead. Although the biggest I’ve had stands at a respectable 9lbs 2oz, most of the fish are in the 1lbs – 4lbs bracket with the occasional 5lbs +. They can come on the feed at the flick of a switch, and turn off just as quick, but when you get it just right, the action can be frantic. As is the case with most bass fishing, springs fish best. Of course the pressure that our bass stocks are under are well documented, and if you’re fortunate enough to hit these banks at ‘the right time’, I would encourage you to practise catch and release.
Scratching with small fish & worm baits can be a bit hit and miss. There are days when you’ll catch nothing but a steady stream of doggies and whiting, but on other days you could quite easily rack up a decent species count with Dabs, Grey & Tub Gurnards, Codling and Homelyn Ray. When I started out fishing here we could reasonably expect to catch a few Plaice every summer, but sadly I haven’t seen one in several years, I would love to see them come back.
If you haven’t fished Cahore before, I suggest you give it a try. There’s no great secret to it, choose your weather and tides, bring your bait, motor out and anchor up. If a 12 year old boy in a 12ft Darragh can do it, you can too!