Hook head by James Brennan

​The Hook Peninsula begins at Grange strand on the eastern side of the peninsula and at Duncannon on the western side of the peninsula.The various types of marks that can be fished around the peninsula is astonishing, from fishing for small flatfish around Booley Bay to double figure Bull Huss and Congers in Slade.

The majority of the fishing marks around the peninsula are rough ground for larger species such as Ballan wrasse, Conger, Bull Huss, Bass and Pollack  but there is plenty of mini species available too such as Rock Goby, Black Goby, Scorpion Fish (both long spine and short spine) a few marks around Slade even hold the rare Rock Cook Wrasse in good numbers.
The great thing about the Hook Peninsula is when the wind is an easterly you can fish the west side and vice versa. 

If you are prepared to put in the hours learning tides , moon stages , wind direction , atmospheric pressure and so on and so forth the Bass Fishing can be exceptional.

One thing I thoroughly recommend is keeping tackle really simple. The ground here is boulders and kelp and is extremely tackle hungry to any unsuspecting angler. 

Being a rock fishing area safety is of the utmost importance during periods of wind the ground swell here can be huge and extremely dangerous as it pushes up the rocks with frightening power.
During the summer months the place is swarmed with “Mackerel Bashers” while this happens I tend not to fish between Slade and Hook Head.

The marks simply get much too crowded and dangerous. I have witnessed people using 6 hooked feathers with a 6oz lead but not using a shock leader as a result of this numerous people have been injured. Another big issue is the tangled hooks been left on the rocks which is an accident waiting to happen. 

With all these cracked off rigs the area becomes littered with thousands of snags and until the next big storm to move these snags the only realistic options are to float fish for the Wrasse and Pollack or simply fish another mark.

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Tackle – The tackle used around the Hook Peninsula is nothing technical or out of the norm, simplistic rigs with the bare minimum of terminal tackle used is best. 

If you are after larger species such as Bull Huss, Conger, Ballan Wrasse and Bass a simple one hook flapper is more than suffice.

When I am targeting the Bull Huss and Conger I tend to fish heavy with 100 pound mono rig bodies with 80 pound mono snoods I understand this might seem like over kill but trying to pull a double figure fish with sharp teeth and powerful jaws through rocks, reefs and kelp I personally would rather be safe than sorry. 

On these particular rigs there is no need for the trapped beads and swivel a simple dropper loop with a 2 foot 100 pound mono with a 5/0 hook tied with a grinner knot.

For the rig body a simple barrel swivel on the top of the rig and a rotten bottom on the end of the rig and that’s the rig for Bull Huss and Congers. You can fish all manner of techniques around these marks my most productive techniques have been fishing with heavy Century and Zziplex shore rods matched with 10,000 size Shimano Ultegras loaded with 60 pound power pro with a Suffix 80 pound shock leader. 

I found the large fixed spools loaded with heavy braid much better for fishing rough ground marks the large retrieve of the fixed spools combined with the no stretch of braid much better and faster for retrieval over the rough ground.

When I want to retrieve I keep the rod tip up high give a big strike and reel as fast as I can to skim my rig along the surface. Multipliers will do just fine but they lack the retrieval rate of a big fixed spool and also casting a 6 ounce lead will not work with a multiplier loaded with braid. If you are targeting Wrasse or Pollack float fishing is the way to go.

Any large float will do I like big pike floats just because they sit well in the water and are easy to see. Rag Worm will catch the Wrasse and Pollack and a Sand Eel will catch the pollack without having to deal with Wrasse attacking the bait. This picture here is a lure caught Wrasse.

Baits –  The baits that are needed around the Hook Peninsula could not be any more simplistic than they are Rag Worm, Mackerel , Crab (peelers or Small Hard backs) and Sand Eels. 

There is no need to go all out with other baits quite simply because what I listed is perfect and easily available.

Rag Worm can be dug on the mussel beds in Passage east in great numbers but the tides are crucial to keeping safe! At the bottom end of Duncannon beach lugworm can be found in decent numbers and the tide stays out for a long time giving you more than enough time to collect lugworm if you really want it but the Rag Worm  will work a lot better on the rock marks.

Peeler crabs can be found amongst the weed in Bally Hack but the tides and currents hear are dangerous I would not recommend bait collecting here on your own.  

During the summer months the Mackerel shoals arrive and 20 minutes of slinging feathers will yield more than enough for bait and maybe a few for the pan.

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Weather/Conditions – The weather and conditions are crucial for these marks with the possibility of treacherous conditions knowing when is safe and when its not safe is key. 

When there is a ground swell I would not venture onto these marks quite simply because it is too dangerous , slippery rocks covered in sea weed and large breaking waves is a recipe for disaster.

When the weather is calm and settled is much more appropriate and also is better for fishing. The tides here are straight forward 2 hours up to high water and 2 hours down has always produced the best fishing for me. 

A sudden change in winds can equal good fishing too for example a dreaded easterly changing to a south – westerly can often trigger the fish to feed. 

If one side of the peninsula is too rough or windy to fish generally speaking the other side of the peninsula is safe and wind free. Having options like this can be the difference between a great session and a blank.

Ballyhack pier:

Strictly speaking this mark is not part of the peninsula but when the weather makes a turn for the worst this mark can be fished in any conditions. Most people know this mark as the ferry crossing to Passage East but just above the slipway that leads on to the ferry is a small pier. 

This pier albeit small can have some insanely good fishing for a huge variety of species from specimen Whiting to Black Sole.

With access to deep water and strong currents you never really know what your next cast is going to bring. I have personally fished this mark for years simply because the fishing is good and its easily accessible. 

This mark is strange technically speaking it is an estuary but it holds species such as Dog Fish, Coal Fish and other species you would associate with the open sea.

During the past few years Smooth Hounds have started to show in good numbers and a good few specimen fish have been landed. Short casts under 40 yards generally throw up the best results you can try further if needs be but it is very hard to hold bottom even with a 7 ounce grip lead.
I will warn you this mark has a healthy population of crab during the summer months and baits can be shredded in seconds when this is happening stick to Peeler Crab baits it will slow down the bait being stolen by Crabs. 

From this mark I have landed whiting to 48 centimetres, Cod to 5 pound , Smooth Hounds to 8 pounds , Dabs to 38 centimetres (Specimen Fish) , Bass to 4 Pound, and even a 4.5 Pound Sea Trout taken on White Rag Worm. 

The water hear is incredibly murky and in parts very snaggy so keep your rigs simple a 3 hook flapper with all hooks above the lead , 12 inch snoods of 20 pound Amnesia finished in a size 4 Kamasan B940 hook. I tend to fish 18 pound mainline to reduce the risk of loosing rigs and fish finished with 25 feet of 50 pound greased weasel shock leader. 

All manner of baits will work here but to give yourself the best chance Peeler Crab and Black Wraps (Frozen Black Lug) will generally be more than perfect.

I will advise you to bring plenty of rigs as this mark has a prolific population of Crab hungry Eels who will not think twice about turning your perfectly tied rigs into an unsalvageable ball of knots.

James with a sea trout caught on white rag

Duncannon pier:
Duncannon is a small fishing harbour  that a few fishing trawlers chose to berth up in during times of bad weather or to offload fish. This is a small pier that you can literally fish out of your car if you want to. This is a few miles up the estuary from Bally Hack pier but a lot more sheltered and easier to fish.

The main fodder of this mark is Flounders and they are present in great numbers through out the year. I wouldn’t bring any other bait to this mark other than Peeler Crab as the prolific crab population loves nothing more than tucking into perfectly presented Fish and Worm baits. 

I almost always fish this mark halfway along the railings that are on the inside of the harbour and you don’t even have to bring a tripod as the railings will work for that.

Standard 3 hook flappers with 2 hooks above the lead and one below the lead are perfect and if you want ultimate sport a lighter rod and reel will be fine because you don’t need to cast the small  leads over 30 yards. 

Being a quiet area it is the perfect place to relax while fishing without the need to trudge along sand carrying a couple of stone of gear and being pestered with question such as “Are the Mackerel in” (Despite it being December).

The very odd other species shows up like a rogue Bass  Eel or maybe a Dab but strictly speaking its flounders galore. The fish here are standard 25-35 centimetre Flounders but the odd 40-45 centimetre Flounder can make an appearance so be prepared. 

This mark generally fishes best from low water up to high water being its peak time and it can be fished in pretty much any conditions because it is sheltered by a big wall behind you.

Towards the end of the pier there is a small stone wall casting from here will put you into deeper water and different species such as Codling , Bass , Whiting , Coalfish and Dabs the tactics are much the same so no need to change.

Booley/Dollar Bay:
Heading  along the road from Rams Grange towards Hook Head you will see signposts on your right entitling Dollar Bay or Booley Bay turning off here and driving down a small lane will bring you to these marks small sandy beaches with the odd patch of rock are the main ground types but at either end the area is weedy and rocky. 

I personally think this area has great potential for Lure Bass fishing if the area was fished more.

I have never had any substantial sized fish from this beach with the majority being Flounders, Bass , Eels , Dog Fish and a prominent population of Lesser Weavers. 

Hook head bass for Paddy Keogh

The tactics I would employ for this mark is a simple 3 hook flapper with medium length snoods roughly 15 inches and finished in a size 4 aberdeen hook. As for bait Lugworm or Rag Worm tipped with a thumb nail sized piece of mackerel is more than good enough for any species you are likely to encounter here. 
In the winter this mark sees a flurry of Coal Fish , Whiting and Rockling these fish really seem to switch on to feeding after dusk and a small glowing bead on your snood can make such a huge difference to your catch rates.

These fish are not in the least bit fussy and mackerel strips are perfect to catch them. One method I would advise is keep snoods short while fishing in the darkness of winter as Whiting are renowned for turning your rigs into a ball of tangles. 

Short casts seem to work best hear I would say in the 20 to 70 yard area is the sweet spot and in darkness 10-30 yards is perfect due to the fish feeding much more confidently under the cover of darkness.If possible I tend to fish Pyramid or Cannon Ball leads which allows the leads to move your rig around and find fish holding features.

Hook lighthouse to Slade:

Hook lighthouse is the oldest working lighthouse in the world which is an amazing view  to have while fishing from the rocks. The ground from Hook Lighthouse around to Slade doesn’t seem to change very much it is still rough rocky ground and kelp forests. 

The fishing from these areas can be amazing with numerous specimen fish inhabiting this area. The tackle needed here needs to be kept basic because no matter how hard you try you are going to lose gear.

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 Ballan wrasse

The rig that has produced time and time again for me is the a pulley rig with a short snood and hook sizes ranging from 1 to 5/0. 

The components do need to stepped up with the use of 70 pound rig bodies and 40 pound snoods or for the congers and Bull Huss a 100 pound body and 80 pound snood finished off in a 4/0 or 5/0 hook.

The bait here is not anything fancy Rag Worm and Mackerel with maybe the addition of Peeler Crab to help pick out the bigger Ballan Wrasse. 

I would not fish this area without the addition of some Cigar floats in my Seat box as the putting a Rag Worm under a float can be very productive for Wrasse Coal Fish and Pollack. 

If you are targeting Wrasse there is no need to cast very far as most of these fish are literally under your rod tip hiding in their kelp filled lairs.

Sandeel Bay:
Located on the eastern side of the peninsula Sand Eel bay is yet another rock mark which is definitely worth fishing. 

It has some clean ground on the left hand side which can produce bass in a surf and dabs, dogfish etc. This area has some amazing examples of fossilised plants and animals scattered all over the rocks. 

The main quarry here is Pollack, Wrasse, Bass and other rock dwelling species. The parking here is very limited but is enough for 5 to 10 cars. 

When I fish this mark it is generally with lures for predatory species such as Bass, Wrasse and Pollack that love to stalk their prey under cover. 

I would not bother fishing this mark without a good pair of walking boots preferably studded with ankle support as is it extremely easy to hurt your ankle on the rocks.

The tackle is no different from the end of my summary on Hook Head to Slade, Short lure rods, Small fixed spool reels, braid, leader, cone leads, weedless hooks, and soft plastic lures in a Ayu or Sand eel pattern. This mark generally fishes better on over cast days with little or no wind from the North. 

There can be some truly amazing fish caught from this area and due to the shallow water they fight so hard they cannot swim up or down very far so generally once hooked they charge out to sea and its this point where you find out how good your knots really are.

Conclusion:

I hope you have enjoyed this article about fishing in and around the Hook Peninsula with such beautiful scenery its hard to understand why more anglers don’t fish around here.

This is a prime area for Whale watching so why not take a pair of Binoculars with you and maybe you could see a sight of a lifetime. With access to deep water close to shore you never know what is going to take your bait next ! 

One thing I will advise is the aspect of safety on rock marks basic common sense prevails such as making sure someone knows where you are going and what time you will be home. 

Many thanks for having a read of this article James Brennan.
 

About paddykeogh20

We are three anglers who enjoy all aspects of fishing. Whether we are blanking or catching were happiest on the bank or shore. If you like your fishing join us by watching our many trips and as we interview some top anglers along the way.....
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