IFD: Nick Dent must surely rank as one of the best charter skippers in the business. Nick has been charter fishing from Baltimore since the early seventies and he continues to put his guests over the fish year on year.
This interview is quite personal to myself and Aidan as it was Nick who really instilled in us a love of boat angling on our many trips over the years and without him we may not be boat angling today. A very patient skipper with an unrivaled knowledge of the areas he fishes, and that area happens to be one of the most productive in the country.
Nick is one of the very few skippers in the UK or Ireland who has had three species of shark to the boat, and has been sharking since the seventies. He was also one of the pioneers of tuna fishing in this country with his albacore catches. Add to all this excellent skate and wreck fishing and you can see why most of Nick’s customers are repeat bookings. So now over to Nick for the questions…
What was your introduction to fishing?
I guess it was river fishing. My family used to be big into sailing dinghies and they would go to the sailing club on the Thames at the weekend. I would go with them and when the evening came they would have a drink in the clubhouse and as I was too young to drink I would amuse myself by fishing at the side of the clubhouse. One of my brothers also liked a bit of fishing and my Dad did when he was young, but none of them were really that into it. So I just kind of learnt my own way I suppose.
How did you get involved in boat angling?
Well as I said most of the family were into boating so it was a natural thing for me to do. My Father was from North Wales and we used to go up there on holidays every year. There was a boat we had access to up there and that’s where I really started boat fishing just for common species like mackerel and pollack so that’s where I got my taste for it. From there I had a friend on the south coast of England who had a boat and I would fish with him. I didn’t actually own my own fishing boat until I came here to Ireland.
Why did you pick Baltimore?
I already knew this part of the world a little bit alright. I’d been on holiday to Castletownshend which is where I live now. I had a friend, well he still is my friend, and his parents bought a holiday house in Baltimore. It cost £1300 at the time which seems ridiculous now but was a quite a lot of money back then.
After a few years his parents didn’t come over so much and a group of us would head over. It was actually the house where Youen’s restaurant is now. It was cheap holiday for us and we loved coming over. This was probably around the early seventies and we would come two or three times a year so that’s how I got to know Baltimore and when it came to thinking of moving over it was the obvious place.
How has the fishing changed off Baltimore over the years?
While the fishing is not as good as it was when I came over in the seventies it is still excellent by most standards.
For a long time as technology was improving like Deca and GPS and also the angling techniques, it compensated for the fish stocks declining somewhat.
There was still red bream around when I arrived and they were a great species to catch.
Nowadays you don’t even hear of the odd one being caught they just seem to be gone. Back then if you talked to the old guys they would tell you how prolific they were at one stage.
Turbot is another one which today is hardly worth fishing for but we did have a few marks where you would always get a few up to double figures. They are still there to some extent but you will have to work very hard for them.
You must have been one of the first shark skippers over here?
I’m sure I was not the first but I may have been one of the earlier ones. There was a couple of guys already at it when I started. Over the years sharking has had its ebbs and it’s flows for me. When I came here first I was doing quite a lot of sharking it was around the time of the film Jaws which generated a fair bit of interest. In the early eighties it tapered off a bit for a while before I picking up again.
A lot of the crews back then were more preoccupied with the excellent wreck fishing.
The six gill wasn’t that much of a surprise as they had been caught before I think Colin Barnes had one or two. What was a surprise though was the area as I wasn’t expecting them in that particular spot.
You have excellent skate fishing in the area, what are the best times to try for the visiting angler?
They are here the whole year round. We have never tried in January but we have ad them in every other month. For the best chance you want a bit of good weather so the big groundswells can die down a bit. When the sea is heaving they don’t seem to take bait so well. I think as the water gets coloured their feeding habits change.
Around here you seem to get concentrations during breeding so for May, June and July and then there is a noticeable tail off after August where we still get them but not in such numbers. The most we have had in a day was 17 which was in July.
You were one of the pioneers of albacore fishing in Ireland, can you tell us about the albacore fishing?
I wouldn’t describe myself as a real pioneer it was really Derek Noble who was the first. I got a bit of advice from Derek and we talked quite a few times.
There was always talk of albacore because two or three boats from Baltimore were landing them commercially so we knew they were there.
We would see them being offloaded in the harbour so it seemed like a logical thing to do to try and catch one, but with all the charters it was hard getting a window to try for them myself so I needed crews that were willing to try even though we might fail.
So getting the right customers, the right weather to go offshore and everything else proved quite difficult.
There were days when it was flat calm but I just couldn’t convince people so it was frustrating at times.
There was a lot of luck too as it’s a big ocean out there and pinning them down can be tricky.
Our best day we had over twenty of them and we didn’t see another boat.
You have had the Irish record Stone basse aboard Rooster, and it’s a species I’ve had once with you can you tell us about the species?
Well they come up in the hot summers and often come under the boat while chumming for sharks or under floating debris. The year we had the record, we had another fish over the then record size. You could go a year or two without seeing one then have a bumper year.
They probably don’t like too much water going past the boat so if your fishing at anchor smaller tides are probably more likely to produce.
I saw one quite early this year just as we were steaming out, which was in May. That was very early but if the water temps are up you’re in with a chance.
We have had them up to October and then they probably head south. It’s always worth having a look at any debris in the a
What catches over the year have proved the most memorable?
It’s a very difficult question to answer as we have had some great days. It would probably have to be some of the days wrecking and the day with 17 skate was memorable too.
One day while wrecking I had a guy out who caught one specimen pollock, two specimen coalfish and five specimen ling. His name was Dave Ling which I thought was perfect.
When we caught a big Blue shark was the most memorable of the shark captures as the six gill although very rare was not a great sporting fish. It was a big male blue probably pushing on for 200lbs and it gave us the run around for 45 mins or so. It was by far the biggest male blue I have ever seen.
Have you any fishing ambitions left for Rooster?
I wish there was. Some things I would love to catch again only bigger. The thing that always keeps me going is finding new marks, I have always found that to be very satisfying.
Well Nick as always it’s a pleasure to talk fishing with you and we will see you during the year.
No problem Paddy I’ll see you soon