Craig Renwick pike angler

IFD: There are many famous names in big pike angling and one that needs to be added to the list is none other than Scottish big fish specialist Craig Renwick, recently we caught up with Craig to ask him about his fishing, so here’s how it went….

Craig ​can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I work full time for Mitsubishi and I’m a part time pike angler. I’m a mechanical engineer to trade, I work shifts and plan my fishing around it. I try squeeze in as much fishing as I can but I find it very hard to keep everyone happy at the same time.

I’ve two daughters (one I’ve adopted as my own) and my Mrs has recently given birth to my third. This time it’s a boy so there’s going to be some very exciting times ahead with him!

What was your first memory of fishing and was there any early capture that set you off chasing big pike?

It was in the summer of 1995, at the tender age of seven years old that I managed to hook my first fish by means of my own accord. The unfortunate victim was a small 6inch flounder from a stream that ran alongside the front of my house at the time. From that moment on I knew that I was the one that was hooked and my overwhelming love for fishing began. 

During the following years ahead I spent many days of my childhood fishing for trout, flounders and eels on it, building knowledge on my experiences and later moving on to a reservoir close to my home that would later become a very special place close to my heart.

I suppose the story that I am about to relate to you starts when I first ever fished the reservoir back in April 1999 when I managed to catch my first fish from the water, a rainbow trout of about a pound in weight, caught on a mepps spinner. I instantly fell in love with the place and it quickly became my new haunt, each year season tickets were bought and with each venture to the water my skills and knowledge grew together hand in hand to the point where during the up and coming years, I managed to win a number of junior trout fishing competitions, although my methods were employed to catch a completely different species of fish….

A young competition winner

It wasn’t until a year later from when I caught my first fish from the water; the summer of 2000 that I caught my first good sized pike from it; a fish of around 18lb, caught off the reservoirs dam wall on a four inch black and silver Shakespeare Big S plug.
As you can imagine, a twelve year old boy hooking into a fish of that size on 6lb mainline, using a light weight seven foot trout rod managed to gather quite a bit of a crowd. The commotion must have alerted one of the fishery’s bailiffs that someone was into a good fish and with it he too joined the crowd.  I fought the fish for what seemed like an age under the critical eyes of the onlookers. 

As time went by whist playing the fish I was starting to get nervous with the thought of losing this monster fish. After all the fish had me in a pickle; this fish was giving a good account of itself with long powerful runs and staying well deep in an attempt to break free. We all thought at the time it was one of the big wild brown trout which naturally inhabited the reservoir that was attached to my line. They were seen as the ultimate goal within the trout anglers and every angler on the water wanted to catch one, although they were rare one or two usually made an appearance each year.

Eventually the fish showed, coming up from the deep was the unmistakable profile of a pike with its iridescent olive green back and big yellow spots. The fish was eventually showing signs of being beaten; I had won my battle with the monster and looked on in anticipation as the bailiff slid the net under her. She was now out the water and onto the grass bank. I couldn’t believe what met my eyes, this fish was bigger than anything I had ever seen at the time, never mind caught!

The fish was then quickly unhooked by the bailiff and I was able to seize my first chance to hold this monster pike, staring at her beauty for a moment I slipped her back into the reservoir to fight another day and with it hopefully giving another angler the same joy to catch that she gave me. From that moment on I knew that I simply had to catch another one, trout were no longer what I was after and my obsession with pike began.

Mentieth

What advice would a keen pike angler like yourself offer to all the youngsters missing out on our glorious sport? Any extra pointers for parents?

What advice would I give to youngsters? Wow… now there’s a question I’ve never been asked before!

When I was a youngster I was a total idiot. I gave my family heart ache, I was always in trouble and I was the class clown at school. My teachers told me that I was a waster and that I wouldn’t amount to anything in life. 

I was in trouble all the time at school, be it through giving cheek to my teachers, not doing my work, causing an uproar in class or fighting with other pupils (and sometimes the teachers), I actually got expelled in the end!

I’m not ashamed to say that because nowadays I am a much better person, I have to be, I have a kids of my own now!
During my school and teenage rebel years fishing was my refuge, a place where I felt I could relax and be myself, a place that made me feel more at home than my home. The only advice that I can share to all the youngsters out there is to give fishing a go and see what it has to offer. My girls love it!

I think that it is important for parents to get their youngsters out and experiencing the joys that fishing and being out in the wild has to offer their children from a young age. Not only is it fun but it also teaches them to love and respect nature… something that I think a lot of today’s youngsters sadly lack.

Big water pike fishing

What types of waters do you mostly fish?

90% of my pike fishing is done on trout waters. Simply because thats the type of waters that I get most of a buzz out of fishing. After all there is no better place to catch a big pike than on a big trout water.

Trout waters like Chew are the types of venue I like to spend my time on

They are tricky to catch from and for that reason I don’t catch a lot of pike each year but the ones that I do catch are usually pretty special. That’s what drives my pike fishing, I do like fishing difficult venues. It gives me more of a buzz when I do catch one. 
The often difficult nature of these venues always keeps me on my toes and I’m always thinking of different ways I can catch them. I like to think of myself as a thinking angler. I’m not one for following guys or fishing the ‘GOING ’ venues. 

Fly fishing for pike

I like to find my own fishing, that way I have no one else to compete with and I can experiment with things and be a bit more leisurely in the way I go about it. Unlike most guys in Scotland I very rarely fish for pike during the warmer months. If I do it’s usually on the large wild waters with the lure or fly rod just to get my fix and to keep the buzz going. I much prefer fishing for perch or tench during this time of year.

Craig loves his summer perch fishing

When it comes to trying to tempt a larger pike, what methods have you found the most successful and what are your preferred baits?

As a general rule big pike are not any harder to catch than smaller pike it’s just that theres a lot less of them about on most waters. Interestingly though what I have found when targeting big pike is that they can be very fussy as to what they want and how they want it. Finding this out is IMO the key to fishing any water for BIG pike no matter the size of it.

No two waters are the same and each has to be treated differently so what I do when I first start fishing a water for the first time is I try gain as much information on it as I can that will help me. Success is never usually instant. Big pike are creatures of habit and for that reason I’m constantly trying different things until a pattern starts to emerge. All I try do is find out what they want and how they want it and without meaning to sound arrogant they are usually pretty easy once you find that. 

28lber

For example it could be something as simple as just fishing big baits, maybe its small baits, sometimes it may be a specific bait or even something as simple as just fishing one area where I’ve found to be better than anywhere else. Feeding patterns are something that I’m more interested in but maybe I will go in to that at a later date?

I think the most important thing when targeting BIG pike is to make sure your fishing a water with plenty of them in it and to keep an open mind about things. Nothing is set in concrete when it comes to fishing for big pike. 

QI never fancy my chances of catching an individual fish on a 100+ acre loch but providing there are other big pike about to keep me interested in them who knows, I may have a chance at catching it. That’s basically my thinking in a nutshell…

I wouldn’t say I have favourite all round bait but what I do have is favourite baits on individual waters. Like I said earlier, it’s all about finding patterns and giving them what they want and maybe more importantly….when they want it!

You have now caught a whopping twelve pike over 30lbs, can you tell us about your pb?

The day was Thursday the 10th December 2009. I arrived at the waters edge at first light and the mist was slowly rising off the flat calm sheet of water that was in front of me, the conditions looked fairy tale like and expectations of a fish were high.

Each one of my three rods were casted out into known features in the loch. My first, baited with a lovely fresh sardine was accurately placed thirty yards out, straight in front of me into a deep hole that was twelve foot deep and was surrounded by eight feet of water. 

The second, a popped up herring was cast to my left about twenty yards out from the bank, just shy of a weed bed in seven feet of water. My third and last rod was baited with an eel section and cast off to my right hand side onto a gradual drop off that went from four feet down into nine feet of water again about twenty yards from the bank.

The morning went by slowly just like the previous six had where I had not encountered even a sniff from a pike on any of my baits. At just minutes past 10am I was standing next to my closest rod, the one that was out in the twelve foot hole. I was admiring the morning sun as it was just starting to burn a hole through mist that was lit a lovely bright orange when thoughts were running riot through my mind, why are they not having it? Are the pike in the deeper water? Should I have pre baited an area? etc when suddenly my drop off slammed against the rear bank stick, I don’t know whether it was the adrenaline that was pumping or that I simply never heard the sounder box going but I grabbed the rod from off the bank sticks as quickly as I could, wound down and stuck. It was my first run in over thirty eight hours of fishing I wasn’t going to let the fish drop the bait before I had a chance to set the hooks!

What met my strike was a solid resistance. My 3.25lb test rod was bent double just trying to lift this thing off bottom when suddenly without warning I get a vigorous side to side sweeping head shake which confirmed it was a fish, and a big fish at that. Now, I had previous caught more than a good handful of thirty pound plus pike before this but none of which previously had even come close to the power this fish had.

Eventually I started gaining line on here inch by inch as she just kept plugging bottom with solid thumps of her tail. I quickly grabbed the net that was down at my feet and placed it in the water as she edged ever so closer to me. Just as I done this I get my first look at her, she bobs up out on top of the water just 5 feet out from the bank. I seized my chance and got her over and into the net first time then onto the mat. She was very lightly hooked with just the bottom treble stuck in her scissors. This was quickly turned out and then I stood up and looked at her. I simply couldn’t believe what I had just caught! 

37lb 12oz and a new pb

After a few quick photographs she was popped onto the scales which read out a mighty 37lb 12oz, I was simply in awe! She was then carefully slipped her back into the loch where within seconds she shot off into the depths. I stood back up, wiped my face and looked at the time, it was 10.15am, time to leave for work!

Which was the most hard won of your 30’s?

Probably my most recent one…

Without going into too much detail – I had been fishing a loch that I knew held the stamp of pike that I was after but it is notoriously difficult to catch them from. Myself and my mate managed to secure the fishing rights to it and I had a great first season on it catching eleven 20s, seven were over 25lb and two of them were different 29lbers. I had five over 20lb in one day off it that year!

The following season I caught very little from it as did my mate and between ourselves we began to write it off. Fish were showing up here and there but nothing like they did on the first season, what we did catch proved to be a few repeat captures from the previous season. It wasn’t until a cold February morning at the back end of that season that I managed to catch a 35.2 from it. I had been blanking the previous trips and the few hours leading up to the capture of the 35. What I had been getting was runs from trout…they love a sardine! I fished a rod in close trying for one and when the inevitable happened and I got another run, I struck into it, I expected it to be a trout – nope it was a 35.2 pike.

35.2lb

That’s trout water pike fishing for you, it’s never plain sailing and that’s what I love!

I will go into more detail about this in a future feature possibly…

You have set yourself out to predominately catch big pike, how difficult is it to achieve?

Like I said earlier, the hardest thing is finding waters that hold them Paddy then it’s all really just down to time you can spend fishing for them I suppose. BIG pike always eventually slip up, you don’t need to be a somebody to catch stacks of big pike all you need to do is spend the time on the right waters. That’s exactly what I’ve tried to do over the years and I certainly don’t class myself as a ‘somebody’. All I do is fish the right waters. I don’t waste my time fishing waters where the average fish is 12lb, I want to catch much bigger ones than that. 

I don’t get a lot of time on the bank so when I do get out I want to maximise my chances of catching a biggie as much as I can. Each year I set myself out to try catch at least ten 20lbers a season. I usually achieve it. I try to focus on fishing for 30s and find that the 20s usually take care of themselves. 

That’s what I enjoy, that’s what I love, its hard going and often soul destroying at the same time but when one slips over the draw cords it’s a different buzz altogether.

Luckily I have access to a few really good waters but I’m never really content with my fishing, I get bored easily around the same surroundings and I’m always on the lookout for somewhere different.

29lb the best of five twenties in a day

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A Winter’s piking by Danny O’ Callaghan

I started this years pike campaign with high hopes and plans to get out as often as I could and to do alot of overnighters, as last season I only managed 7 or 8 sessions (due to a nagging ex girlfriend) with fish to 18lb to show for it. So this year i aimed to beat my PB and that i did!

My PB stood at a 21.02 river pike for the past 3 years.

On the 25th October 2016, I set off down the river around 9:00am on a very mild and calm October morning and decided to work my way up the river rather than go to the furthest spot I usually have success on, as my lift wasnt collecting me until 6:30pm. 

I tried 2 spots, one in the main flow and one further down where the river widened out and had alot of features with slack areas and overhanging trees. It was soon 12:30 and without a bite on the deadbaits I got the lure rod out but with not much luck. 

I switched one deadbait rod to a paternoster rig and the other to a popped up smelt and sat this swim out a little longer while having my lunch hoping that something would show up. it didnt… now 2pm i set off for my favourite stretch of the river feeling somewhat hopefull that a big girl could show as “when the jacks are away the big girls come out to play” and this stretch is also where i had claimed my previous PB.

I switched back to my usual tactics which worked here in the past , hard on the bottom in a deep silty area on the inside of a bend of the river. Baits chosen were a large smelt and a full lamprey around 14″ long. I waited and waited with not a beep or a sign it had been weirdly calm and quiet all day, I began to pack up some of my gear around 5:30 as light was fading fast when my right hand rod with the lamprey on went into meltdown. 

I could see the line in the water tearing off into the middle where there was still lots of weed from the summer so i wasted no time with striking hard into the fish with the drag up tight to steer the fish clear and once in control I could loosen up and play the fish, she went on two good runs under the rod tip when the net was slid out but third time lucky she was in the bag. 

I knew it was a decent fish but couldnt get a good look in the dark until I got her on the mat and quickly grabbed my headtorch. Once I had a look I smiled to myself and was rushing to weigh her thinking she would hit the magic 20.

I knew she a good fish, when I went to unhook her the trebles had come out in the net and she had bent out a size 4 hook that shall not be named but will never be used again.

I wet the sling, zeroed the scales and slid the fish into the sling, she came in at 22.02. I had broken my PB by a pound exactly and I was over the moon, what a great start to the season. I popped the fish into my floatation sling and left her to wollow in the margins as I rang my Da to hurry up and bring his camera, another  scales, and a torch that he needs to come down and take some pics. I had no tripod and nobody nearby to ask to take a pic in the pitch black. 

I packed away all my gear and left one rod out in the hope of another. Half an hour past by and soon I could see a light bobbing towards me so I went to retrieve my catch from the sling. Out on to the mat with her and my Da gave me the approval with a “yeah thats defo a 20+ son well done” , we weighed her on his scales to confirm and then a few quick pictures and back she went!

I was delighted with a good start and felt confident to go on and hopefully do better on a few other waters.

Next up me and a mate tried a lake not too far from us for a few hours the following weekend , I had one fish of 15lb that gave a great account for itself. We returned early the following Sunday and I managed two fish of 13 and 14lb. 

A few days later with a day off work during the week I was thinking of doing an overnighter here or another lake which was fishing well and was producing some good fish. I chose the second lake and what a great decision that turned out to be.

Tuesday evening my Da dropped me off and helped me over with my gear. The lake was busy and wasnt sure of a spot so might have had to wait it out. Luckily enough 2 guys fishing the swim I had wanted to fish were leaving shortly so I got my rods set up and had a chat with the lads. 

Soon enough the rods were out and I was chilling in the bivvy trying to watch the floats through the fog and listening for any signs on the alarms. 3 hours passed with nothing and a mate fishing further down had packed up and came over for a chat so I stuck the kettle on as the fog was finally beginning to clear. 

We had just been talking about the chances of a run tonight and it could throw up a big fish under the windy conditions and the low pressure that was creeping in and with that my alarm was screeming and line was being tore off my reel. 

I was on the rod like Usain bolt and waited for the fish to end its run then wound down quick and struck into the fish with a massive headshake straight away, jerking the rod tip towards the lake. I quickly loosened off the drag a bit and slowly played the fish towrds me as I knew it was a big one and didnt want her wiping out the lines next to me or worst of all losing the fish. 

She really did fight hard and was an epic battle in the dark waiting to see a glimpse of her under the head torch and when she finally did show and seen two headtorches shining at her she went on another run, at this stage my heart was in my mouth but soon had her under the rod tip again and with good netting skills on hand, a lump was in my net and when I peered over the edge to have a look I couldnt believe my eyes.

She rattled the scales at 26.08 and I had well an truely smashed my PB! Absolutely buzzing! after a few pics she rested in the sling for a few minutes before releasing her into the depths leaving me one happy man on the bank.

Leaving just the second rod out i was relaxing with a cup of tea and a smoke as my mate left and the second rod went off resulting in a fine 20lb 2oz pike.  Delighted with a brace of 20s I didnt get much sleep. The next day I had a low double and an 18lber that evening with some other anglers going on to catch some great fish too that night.

That weekend I was on the beer celebrating and gave the fishing a miss. The following weekend myself and three mates set off down the river Inny at 7 am, but with very little rain over the past few weeks the water levels were very low so we tried various stretches of the river but couldnt find any fish or a deeper area to fish so we called it a day and went home that afternoon.

I managed to get my da out after some 3 or 4 years of no piking for him due to becomming a workaholic! We went to two different lakes he used to fish in the 90s that had done a few 30s over the years so I couldnt wait for it. It wasnt to be though and drew another blank but we had great craic and he instantly got the bug back planning our next trip on the way home.

Myself and my good friend darragh decided to do two nights where I had had the 26 a few weeks prior and it turned out to be a great weekend with plenty of action for both os us and a few high doubles to 18 and 19lb. although the second night was a bit rough with tempretaures dropping to -4 and all the gear freezing over but the good fishing made up for it all.

​Next session out with my da I managed a fatty of a trout at 7lb 10oz on a small popped up roach and a 17lb pike just after dark and straight after he lost a good pike so we sat it out another hour but it went dead and we called it a day.

​​With that fish playing on my Da’s mind we set off back to the spot a few days later after work with one rod each and a few bits to try and get him a lump and back into the swing of things. He managed a beaut at 22.02 and we were both delighted a great moment to share and a great first fish of 2017 for him.


2 weeks later me and a good pal Ambrose went for a few hours after work on a friday as we were both busy that weekend and it turned out to be another busy night and we jus couldnt leave as we were getting takes every 15 – 20 mins. 

Ambrose broke his PB with a cracking 20lber and a few doubles , I had an 18 a 19 and a few low doubles and lost 2 good fish so i was also determined to get a 20 and kept at it until finally at 3a.m I was rewarded with a lump at 24lb 8oz and soon after that we set off home both happy with a 20lber each and into work at 9 wrecked but buzzing , its always well worth it. 

​I decided then to fish a new lake but with 2 blanks there and signs of spawning on most places i left it be for a few weeks and let nature take its course. im planning a few lure sessions now over the coming weeks and then ill be full on fishing for carp , tench and bream for the summer , im hoping and planning on breaking some more PBs so if its anything like my pike season i should hopefully be in for a treat!

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Henry Gilbey fishing in Ireland

IFD: Henry Gilbey needs no introduction, not only a gifted angler but a world class photographer and journalist, Henry is well known for his love of Irish fishing.

Henry was one of the first people to give us an interview when we started Ireland Fishing Diaries three years ago, so we decided to catch up again to ask him about his experiences of fishing in Ireland.

All pics are copyright of Henry Gilbey

Henry you have been coming to Ireland for many years now, how did your first trip come about and how did it go?

Many moons ago I was starting to hear more and more about Irish shore fishing in particular, and I then got involved in a big book project for a worldwide publishing house and I had to start researching specific chapters to write and photograph. The perfect excuse to visit Ireland and see if the stories I had been hearing were true! 

I got six Plymouth based anglers together and we headed for the south Clare coastline so we’d have access to the open coast and then the vast expanse of the Shannon estuary in case of dodgy weather, and we caught so many fish that it’s affected me ever since. My love affair with your fabulous country started there and then.

You have fished widely around the coast here, what counties have you visited and is there anywhere still on the list?

Give me more time and there are countless areas I’d love to fish and visit. I have spend a fair amount of time now around Wexford, Waterford, west Cork, Kerry and Clare, but I’d love to head further north and lose myself in areas such as Galway and Donegal. The further off the beaten track the better for me, and I just love the idea of a spinning rod in hand and wandering a deserted coastline on the hunt for say pollack and wrasse. I also have a serious urge to fish some of your islands that just sound so utterly romantic and wild.

You must have your favourites so could you tell us about these?

I’m a sucker for “big” scenery areas such as the Beara peninsular and Kerry, but my favourite area to go bass fishing is around the Copper Coast area on the south coast. I have spent a lot of time around there now and when the bass fishing fires I find it hard to look elsewhere.

What is your preferred time of year to visit?

Depends very much on what I am doing, but for a purely bass fishing based visit? I do like the new moon tides in September and then October if the weather is behaving, but there’s so much more to it than that as you well know. 

Although you are best known nowadays for lure fishing for bass, do you ever still reach for the bait rods?

I keep telling myself to dust down the bait rods, but to be honest I haven’t done so for quite a while now. I find lure fishing and all that it entails so utterly absorbing that I am struggling to see a need to pick up the bait rods for the time being. As much as I love my bass fishing though, give me a lonely rock edge and the deep blue Atlantic and I’ll just as happily chase your pollack population. 

Over the many trips you have made over the Irish sea, you have made many friends along the way, has this added to the experience?

Without a doubt the Irish are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people anywhere on earth, and yes, I am lucky enough to call a number of them my friends now. Yes, very much so, I look forward to seeing my friends when I come over. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of a few individuals taking “exception” to what I do with my working life, but you’re going to get that anywhere you go and do what I tend to do in fishing, and 99% of my Ireland anglers experiences have been resolutely positive.

What have been your most memorable trips for good or bad reasons?

Too many to mention, indeed each and every trip gives me additions to the memory bank. I remember nearly driving off the road when I saw parts of Kerry and the Beara for the first time, the beauty and scale really got to me. I can think of certain fish that I have caught or seen caught of course, but that’s too easy. One thing that always gets to me is the incredible feelings of anticipation and excitement I feel every single time when I am on the ferry and about to disembark onto Irish soil again………..

You have taken some amazing photographs on your travels over here, is there any particular image that stands out for you?

As with the memories, I can’t think of one standout image for me when I have got so many photos here on file from fishing in Ireland that make me really proud. When the light and conditions come good for photography, I would put some of the places I have visited in Ireland up against anywhere on this earth that I have been lucky enough to visit so far. 

How would you describe the Irish fishing experience to fellow UK anglers contemplating a visit?

Quite simply as something that any keen sea angler has to experience in their lifetime. Sure, it can be about plenty of fish when everything comes together, but in truth it’s far, far more than that. I love the mix of fish, fishing, people, landscape, wilderness, far less people than in the UK, and the simple fact that there is so much coastline that I believe simply isn’t seriously fished. What more does an angler want?

Have you any trips planned to come over this year?

Yes! A couple of Kerry based co-guiding trips for starters, and then three bass fishing/photographed based trips in the diary so far, with other visits planned to try and coincide with tides and conditions. In my dream world I’d love to mooch around the west coast in a campervan for say six months. How cool would that be?

http://www.henry-gilbey.com 

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Lumps everywhere by Dylan Condron

Sunday February 12th. myself and Lenny decided it was time our new boat was taken out for her maiden voyage. Some pike fishing on the river was an ideal opportunity to try her out. 

We were joined by our good friends, Lloyd and Chucky and my cousin Séanie, who only found the joys of fishing a couple of months ago. Lenny, Séanie and myself on our boat, with Chucky and Lloyd on theirs. We had no idea what the day had in store for us. 

Things couldn’t have started any better. We three arrived a bit later than usual, having towed the boat from Wexford. On arrival we could see Lloyd and Chucky had a couple of rods out while waiting for us. 

Although it was still dark, we noticed the two lads grinning from ear to ear. We’ve already had 2 said Chucky, a low double for me, then he looked at Lloyd smiling again. 

Lloyd said, have a look in the sling in the river there lads. As I walked over my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I could see the frame of a huge fish resting in the sling in the shallows. 

That’s some lump boys, I said, thinking it could be close to his pb of 25.5lb, did you weigh her pal? I did, said Lloyd, a new pb, 26lb on the nose. 

Amazingly, his 11th pike of 20lb+ this season. He took her out of the sling and held her lovingly. What an absolute cracker she was. After a few snaps, she was quickly released. This amazing rodman’s 20th fish over 20lb.

Another pb this season for Lloyd Lynch at 26lb on the nose

We quickly set up our rods and got the boat launched, buzzing with the excitement of seeing such a monster so early.
It wasn’t long before I was in to my first fish, doesn’t feel that big, says I. As she came close, she must have spotted the boat because, off she went on a rod bending run. A couple more runs and Lenny had her netted for me. What were you talking about, not that big Says Lenny, she’s another bleedin’ cracker!

When I had a good look, I thought she was another 20, surprisingly she topped out at 19lb 6oz. Still a very healthy lump, with a massive spawn filled belly. I unhooked her carefully, put her gently in the sling to catch her breath and after a few snaps, she was quickly released.

A beautifully conditioned fish for Dylan

During the next couple of hours, everyone but Séanie had a few more jacks. Needless to say, he was getting a fair bit of stick for this. Listen boys, said Séanie, I’ve never blanked, not once on any of my previous trips.

The weather took a turn for the worse. Bit of a gale started blowing, then a few showers of hail, rain and snow. Chucky and Lloyd decided to head in for a spot of bank fishing in a quiet sheltered little bay, they had spotted from their boat.

We three bravehearts decided to persevere, just moving around from one spot to another. We had a quiet couple of hours, but the banksmen were still getting plenty of action.

Lovely fish for Matthew Chucky Doyle

About 3 o’clock, that all changed. First Lenny with a brace of nice doubles, 11 and 13lb and a few jacks for myself. Séanie’s rod, baited with a mackerel tail, took off. I knew it was a good fish when I saw the bend in his rod. 

The fight went on for about 7 long minutes before Lenny managed to get the net under her. Séanie turned to me and said, that’s a 20 cuz isn’t it? It most definitely is, said I. 

I told you I never blank, he said, with a grin spread all over his face. 23lb. 8oz., what a fish and the man only fishing for a couple of months. 2 new personal bests in one day, we phoned the lads to tell them and to see how they were getting on.

Seanie with his new pb

They said they couldn’t keep their rods in the water all day it was that good. Chucky with a couple of lovely doubles, topping out at 15lb. with plenty of jacks and Lloyd doing what he’s best at. Fish after fish topping out at 16.5lb., the best since they left us.

I can honestly say it was the best days fishing I’ve had in many a year. A day none of us will forget in a hurry. 9 fish for our boat and 25 for Lloyd and Chucky. 15 of them doubles, with 2 in the 20+ bracket.

A smiling Lenny with another quality fish

It’s days like this that make all the freezing toes & fingers and all the blanks worthwhile. What a great way to christen the new boat. There’s not much of the season left, but rest assured we’ll be out there trying to get a 30 pounder and if it’s not this season, there are plenty more to come.

All the best and tight lines till next time.

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Peter Dowling 

​IFD: Peter Dowling has been around the Irish carping scene since a young age. At fifteen he set two lake records and went on to win the Abbey anglers, carp angler of the year. 

Here we catch up with Peter to talk about Irish carping….

When you started fishing, your father took you carping on Maynooth, what was your first impressions of the scene and the experience in general? 

Well I suppose I didn’t really know what to expect  as I never had any interest in fishing. For years dad tried to get me to go with him but I was having none of it until one day I said I’ll go as he worked all week and it was a great way to spend time together and see what his big passion for carp was all about. I then went on to have a 18.10 mirror and from then on I was hooked!

It’s funny how something simple as catching a fish can change your whole view on things and drive you to go out and better yourself with experience  and watercraft which I came to know a bit about over the past few years and has helped me to catch a lot of fish over the last few seasons. 

The long mirror at 27.04 from Maynooth

It’s not all about catching fish for me and in someways I’m lucky, I guess that I catch on most sessions thanks to dad that is for getting  me into it at a young age.

The pineapple at 19lb 8oz

From Maynooth you then went on to start fishing Decoy in Tipperary, how did you have to adapt to the new lake?

I was about 14 at the time and like any other lake, I just sit back and take it all in. I watched how my father done things and learned from there as it was more about finding spots with the boat there. 

I soon got the hang of things and had a few fish along the way but it wasn’t always a nice lake to me. After I had the lake record, it put me to the test for a long time. But I never give up and after a long few months I did manage to get a 24.12 when no one else had a thing as the fish where covered in arglice and not in any mood to feed but I stuck it out and went on to have a 27.14 a few weeks later.

You had two lake records in two weeks back in 2005 can you tell us about each of those captures?

Well it all began on Decoy at the start of May 2005. I went down with dad for two nights and I found a spot and the 3rd rod I decided  to cast as far as I could and said to dad that will do and he just laughed at me.

About 3 in the morning  that rod ripped off and I thought the old fox sx alarm was gonna blow it took it with that  much power. On hitting  the rod I thought my arms where gonna be pulled off and after about  20 minutes, I had the fish close in and had to give dad the rod for a few seconds as the fish was gonna wipe his rods out but once under control I soon was in battle again and dad netted the fish and said it’s a right lump. 

We proceed  to weigh her and she went 29.10 and put her in the sack till morning after looking at the rig and realising I had not remembered to put on the 14mm pop ups! I thought how did I even get a run on it but guess luck was on my side.

Vinnie Byrne came round to take some pics on his camera while I struggled  as you can see by the picture.

A new lake record for Decoy in 2005, the ruddy mirror at 29lb 10oz

Another Saturday morning came and off up the road to  Maynooth with dad I went. As soon as we got there the place was packed with only two swims left, so I decided  to go in peg 2 and dad got set up in 3 and put the rods out.

Half an hour later the rod close  to the island  on dynamite baits spicy  shrimp and prawn bottom bait was away and and within seconds  the fish was in the net. 

Another lake record for Peter in May 2005, big hole from Maynooth

Big hole isn’t really known for a scrap but in all we got her out and dad lifts her up and says 32.02 and another lake record, to say I was blown away was an understatement to have to lake records  in 2 weeks at 15 was something  no teenager has done and still hasn’t to this day so am privileged to have done it especially  since I was only carp fishing 3 years.

From there you started to fish closer to home on new lakes, how did the learning curve have to adapt again?

I suppose  it didn’t really have to adapt  in any way as in rigs or bait just more so water craft and trying to do it my way and not copy every other angler on the lake but I was lucky once again. 1st time fishing Brothers I had 3 fish and one known as Broken rib at 14.01 

I then went on to another  down the road with depths of 18 to 20 foot in places. I knew I had to be on the look out for bubbling and vortexs in the margins on walks round the lake, often doing 20 laps a day looking for any opportunities I can take advantage  of which has payed off for me on that lake as I haven’t blanked since September 2012.

Another stunner for Peter

You went back to Maynooth for another campaign so how did that go?

I went back in the hopes of catching one particular fish I seen dad catch a few years back and after a few weeks of blanking I finally had a run and to my surprise  it was that very fish. It was 6 days before Christmas on a standard blow back rigs on a cell bottom bait and a piece of white plastic corn. That fish went 27.14

The next day came round and at about the same time of around half 3, the right hand rod was away which took me a while to get in, trying to wipe all out as I was playing that fish, dad said I’ll reel this middle  rod in, the fish has it f**ked. Little  did he realise there was  a fish on that rod as well. 

I landed the first fish which turned out to be the big grey at 30.04 and had also been my first ever 20 back in 2004 at 24,06 

The big grey at 30.04

I then went on to play the other fish which was only 13.12, but to have had 3 fish 5 days before Christmas in the freezing cold was unbelievable. I went on to have 7 more fish that winter dad cleaned up with 17 fish with big hole being the biggest at 38.10 and a new pb for him.

It was -4 and the wheel had frozen on my alarm when I noticed the bobbin smacking into the rod!

I then went back in October 2015 with the intention of catching  a new pb and it wasn’t until the 18th of November around half 2 in the morning  I had a funny take, I hit into what I thought was only a small fish as it didn’t do much, but to my surprise in looking in the net there was big hole. I’ve had her a few times but to catch her 10 years on was something special and at 35.08 a new pb.

My pb, big hole at 35lb 8oz, ten years after i first caught her

That was me happy but little did I know the next night came and around 4am the same rod was away. I smashed the bivvy table up it took with that much power and woke me out of deep sleep. 

With a long battle i I finally got my prize with her was the half lin at 27.07 simple cell bottom bait and yellow plastic done the trick same old blow back rigs again I went on to have a 23.11 on a chod rig and that was the end of my time there.

The half lin at 27lb 7oz

You like to keep things simple in your fishing so what are your go-to rigs?

Most the lakes I fish are very silty but I still use my ever faithful blow back rigs with an 18mm boillie  and 12mm pop up to make it sink slow onto the silt which catches me the most fish in my local area. Another  favourite of mine is the multi rig witch I had great success on over the last 2 years any one can tie it up as all it is two loops in your chosen material and push one loop threw the eye of the hook and put on your rig ring and strip a bit back for the putty so it sinks slow as you want it to. I’ve recently got into the hinge stiff rig witch has landed me 5 fish on my last session.

How does your baiting up strategy change during the year if it does at all?

It doesn’t really change as such as I like to keep it going in to try and keep them active in the colder months if I can but I’d normally fish for a bite at a time putting in 30 baits round each rod if you find ur getting  quick  bites then I’ll bait up 

You were recently on the Lough again in county Cork how did that trip go?

I first fished the lough in 2014 with a good friend of mine David Byrne not really knowing how it would  plan out. I stuck to my normal way of fishing and it paid off as between us we must of had over 60 runs in 6 nights between  us. 

I had had the biggest  fish a 20.04 common and dave had a lovely chunky 18.12 common on a chod rig funny how one rig got him most of his fish and I had no luck with it.

The last session  I done was in October  with dad but this time I had to move 3 times to get on fish and in the end I had 9 fish to 17.03 all on odyssey xxx

Going forward what fishing ambitions would you like to achieve?

Am not really to sure to be honest  but suppose do as much as fishing as I can and catch a few along the way on the new bait am testing for Carp Baits NI Dave has done a great job and am sure I’ll catch plenty of fish on it as I’ve had 10 fish all ready in two sessions so things are looking good for the year ahead.

Caught using the new baits from Carp Baits NI

Well Peter thanks for talking to us

No problem lads anytime

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The one that didn’t get away by Alan Walsh

January 4th 2017

I finished work at 1pm and was looking forward to my first fishing session of the new year! I had a decision to make; go to the canal, or the river. After perch, or roach and hybrids, I was very undecided. 

The weather was very mild and good for either species, but I really wanted to catch my first perch of the year. The canal had been very clear of late and the perch which were still shoaling with the roach were spooking very easily. Anyway, I headed off down the Naas Rd. and it would be a toss of a coin if I turned off for the canal or went straight on towards the Barrow. Fate dictated I would carry on (good or lucky choice number one). 

I carried on towards the river and decided to fish a back water that had produced good bags of roach and good numbers of perch the previous weekend. I had plans to trot a stick float for roach and hybrids (if present) and introduce some chopped worm and casters throughout the session and try for perch later in the day. On arrival, I found about a dozen anglers in my chosen location so that put an end to that plan. 

I would have to fish a different section of the river (good or lucky choice number two). I headed back up the river towards a spot I had done really well on earlier in the year, catching lots of perch up to about a lb and a half and to eighty or so in a session. Mostly on dropshot, lures and worms. But also on small plugs and jogs when the weather was warm.

By the time I had gotten to my new swim and set up the dropshot rod with perch in mind it was after 3pm and the day was getting away from me! There was one other angler present and he was pike fishing with some wonderful handmade fly lures. 

I had a good chat with him and discovered that he was a good friend of a good friend of mine (lucky incident number three). His name is Dawid Kopczynski, he informed me that he had been up and down through my preferred perch holes a few times and had had two jack pikes. But that there was no sign of any roach or perch and no fish topping whatsoever. 

We fished away for forty-five minutes or so, deep in conversation and I struggled to catch seven or eight small perch and one decent one of about a lb. none were in the same spot, which was not normal for the area and the reason was to reveal itself about 3.50pm. 

My companion had just said his goodbyes and was just leaving when I hit something just under the rod tip. At first it felt like a snag, but then it started to move slowly with the current and then against the current. I then shouted to Dawid that I might have something decent on and he came back (lucky episode number four).
At this stage I should tell you I was using a 7’6” 0.5-7g dropshot rod, 8lb braid mainline, 6lb drennan supplex fluoro hooklength and a size 6 drennan dropshot perch hook and 3g dropshot weight. Fine for perch and the odd jack pike! I also had a net that would be fine for perch, tench, bream, etc. with a nice long handle but no use for what I was about to encounter. Fortunately, Dawid had a collapsible salmon net with a deep mesh (lucky again).

Anyways, it wasn’t long before we realised I had a decent pike on (quite possibly a double) but it was hard to get a good look at her for a while. For the first five minutes or so, I never thought I’d land her, she would either bite the line or get snagged in the dense bankside vegetation! But as the battle went on I knew the hook must have had a good hold away from her myriad of teeth and also that she wasn’t only a double but possibly much bigger! 

After what seemed like an eternity with many runs, dives, swirls and rolls I had her close to the bank. Dawid got in position down the steep bank and had the net at the ready, I honestly thought we would only get one chance and when I drew what then looked like a crocodile over the net I was worried. 

Dawid did a brilliant job and placed the net downstream of the fish in a vertical position and I guided the pike head first into it. The only trouble was there was more of her outside the net than in! My now best friend, did a miraculous circling motion with the net and managed to get the pike’s body to follow the circumference of the frame and lifted her out onto the bank, putting her down onto some thick soft grass. We both gasped and voiced some expletives and shook hands many times! 

It was a great moment. Dawid quickly measured her, 108cm, definitely a twenty, while I readied the scales! 22lb 4oz! A truly fabulous pike on such light gear, I must thank my new friend for his excellent gillying skills. I would never have landed her on my own, what a start to 2017’s fishing adventures. It was great to see her swimming away strongly, to spawn in a couple of months and hopefully give someone else the same pleasure in the future. 

22lb 4oz pike on dropshotting gear for Alan

So there you have it, the one that didn’t get away! Was it luck, destiny, fate, the fishing gods smiling on me? In truth, probably a bit of them all. 

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In search on an Irish grander by Mike Sherwood

A few miles out past the breath taking cliffs of Loop Head in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland holds some of the world’s largest sharks. Sharks that can regularly pass the magical 1000lb barrier and have been recorded at over 16 feet/4.9 meters long.
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Angling  for these giants has been pioneered by one man alone, Luke Aston from Carrigaholt Sea Angling aboard the Clare Dragoon, his stunning 37ft Lochin 366 that was built to withstand the heavy conditions that is often faced in the open Atlantic. Luke comes from a commercial fishing background and has an incredible knowledge of the Shannon estuary and the ground beyond, offering fish and stay packages in his very well set up family farm house B&B and fishing for everything from flatties through to tope in the estuary and offshore shark and reef trips where you can fish for the massive sixgill shark, porbeagle shark, blue shark, common skate and all your usual reef fish like conger, cod, pollock, ling, bull huss, wrasse, etc.

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A fine bull huss for Mike

Our first trip chasing sixgills with Luke was in early June 2015, we had double figure huss and conger but no sixgills…you can’t expect monsters every day!

Our next go was in May 2016, we steamed out past Loop Head on a beautiful spring morning and anchored on the mark, the heavy rods were baited up and dropped to the deck hoping this was the time.

About mid day my left hand rod nodded a few times and line slowly but steadily reeled off the reel. I lifted the rod from the rod holder and the run stopped, a quick lift of the lead let me know the fish had dropped the bait. Immediately the bait was lowered back into position and after a couple of minutes the fish returned and picked up the bait again and slowly ticked line off the reel. This time the hook was firmly set, there was a fair weight on the end this time but I knew straight away that it wasn’t the beast we were after. After a sub ten minute fight a good sized common skate was at the side of the boat ready for lifting in. After a quick measure and photo it was returned to fight another day. Measuring in at 120lb on the charts it was huge for a male skate.

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Not what I was after but a very welcome skate

Unfortunately the sixgill eluded us again this time but we’d learnt more off Luke and would be better prepared for the next run.

Luke was fully booked throughout the summer, we spoke a few times and he kindly agreed to pencil me in for the end of the autumn once all his pre booked fish and stay customers were  catered for, if we got a weather and swell window.

Around tea time on Saturday  9th of October I received the phone call, Sunday and Monday the boat had a cancellation and the weather was perfect. The van was quickly loaded and I made the 350 mile journey through the night. Arriving in Carrigaholt around 2am, I got a few hours kip in the back of the van.

Bright and early the following morning we heading out past Loop Head to drop anchor and try for these huge sharks once again. Not long after getting the two rods set out we had an amazing display of bluefin tuna feeding on surface all around the boat. Huge shoal of massive fish I’d estimate between 200lb and 500lb smashing through tightly balled up shoals of tiny 1” sprats known locally as needle eyes, less than 20 yards off the boat at times. Truly an amazing sight that can been seen nearly all around Ireland now from mid August through to December or so depending on the weather. Another mission of mine is to catch one of these on a popper, normally I carry my popping gear on every boat trip during tuna season but in the rush packing id left it out. This was the perfect opportunity wasted and a valuable lesson learnt!

We had a few knocks and plucks on the sixgill rods but only one conger to show for our efforts that day.

Luke very kindly offered me a bed for the night in his B&B, was great to have a a proper nights sleep and a tasty cooked breakfast in the morning from Mary, certainly beats another lonely cold night in the van!

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Sixgill tackle

The following morning we set off again, on the mark and baits lowered to the bottom. Less than an hour passed and the ratchet on the left hand that rod burst into song, not a fast run but steady and very welcome! I quickly put the harness on and lifted the rod from the rod holder and set the hook, there was a bit of weight on the end but didn’t feel too heavy. Initially I thought another conger, could feel it thumping away and got a good five to ten pumps on the rod quite easily without the harness hooked into reel lugs, then it got a fair bit heavier and I said skate as i hooked into the harness into the reel and upped the drag. Again it wasn’t massively heavy and i got it probably close to half way up the 60m depth without much hassle and then it got really heavy, peeling all that line back off with ease! By this stage im in low gear and at strike on the reel, under real heavy drag and still cant gain any line.

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This is it!

With the lever pushed to maximum i start to get it moving, it was a tough 30 minutes with slow and steady but very much unstoppable runs and a couple of tense moments were it must be shaking its head or rolling and you get yards of instant slack needing cranked up fast, it was boatside. Luke had a very hard job holding it on the leader, we got a few quick photos and a bit of video before releasing it unharmed. At over 4m long Luke said it was longer and fatter than the 1056lb fish he had weighed previously and its safe to say it definitely over 1100lb!

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Est. 1100lb sixgill shark

 

My first sixgill shark and my first grander!

Massive thank you to Luke and Mary from Carrigaholt Sea Angling.

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Tackle used

Rod – Shimano TLD 50/80lb stand up rod

Reel – Avet EXW30

Line – 130lb Jerry Brown hollowcore to a 5m 200lb mono topshot

Leader – 5m, 400lb mono

Bite trace  – 2m, 800lb 49 strand wire

Hook – 18/0 Mustad J

Bait – Salmon head lip hooked with 2 chopped up mackerel fed up the hook shank.

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Bass fishing patterns 2016 by Sean Martin

IFD: We asked our good friend Sean Martin, Irish bass fishing expert and all round gentleman, about the patterns of his bass catches of 2016 here’s what he had to say….

2016 was just like every other year as in it was different to the year previous in terms of catch patterns. A few new marks fished and a few different lures used.

A settled spell mid March kicked off a return to half decent water clarity so the lure rod was dusted off and a few dawn sessions resulted in my 1st few bass of the year. Small paddle tail eels worked slowly doing the trick . I also was aware of some lads having whopping great sessions on bait so the bass were “there and hungry”.

A bit of a rough spell of weather put the lures away but a clearance late april into May in prime time and with no bass ban in place it lived up to expectations with some nice catches once again paddletail eels and grubs taking the majority of fish.

Once June came, I changed my fishing and started to fish dusks a bit more and if the weathers good I tend to fish into darkness with plugs either floating or sinking.

It helps to see sandeels all over the beach marks with even small cod being taken on plugs close in. I lost a few good fish on these marks in darkness this year with the fish hitting the lures like a train and just ripping off the hook hold, I also landed a few decent bass no giants but electric night fishing.

Just a week before the lure festival I had a few hectic sessions at dusk with 2 decent bass memorable for different reasons. 

The 1st fish took the plug over a fairly lunar landscape felt really decent and in an instant I had a loose ball of braid floating above the bail arm as the spool went into freespool “damn reels”. 

The obviously decent bass picked the largerock in the breaking waves to hide behind while I had multiple heart attacks regaining and untangling the braid “afro” on the reel.

Somehow it came good and as I tightened on the fish as if scripted it came out from behind the big rock still attached to Mr. shambles rod and after a few minutes had it directly in front of me tired and ready.

My good fishing buddy Declan Halpin was beside me and the 2 of us gasped in awe in the darkness as my headlight lite her up, a cracking fish just under the 10lb but amazed to actually land it after the shenanigans. A few casts later on the same spot bang…… and zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Never had a fish tore off like that, it just kept going and going the drag singing all the way and the rod U shaped. In my head though thoughts of 12lb-14lb were floating about. This thing was going bloody mental and felt twice the fish of the previous 9.5lber.

Finally after many zzzzs and praying I got her in front of me, I  slid her up the beach and a fish of about 7lb greeted me and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. What a scrap, best ever fight but I was expecting a silver cavity block.

Afterwards I was delighted as sense kicked in. I wouldnt turn down 7lb anyday or 1lb for that matter.

The lure festival came and went, conditions were more or less ideal a nice chop on the water with decent clarity. It was great to see the usual suspects out and about lets hope it happens again in 2017. 

I kicked off into a fish just under 70cm after an hour, but another schoolie was all after that, but its about much more than the fishing and it was great to catch up with gang with lads coming out of the woodwork to fish it.

After that the summer drifted by fairly fast with some good night sessions and blanks too. Autumn appeared on the horizon and there was some cracking fish being caught in Dungarvan bay with doubles galore.

Hopefully I would get my crack at the double cherry so after a slow September with moving house etc. the pathway cleared and proper autumn fishing began and yes I got the cherry about 3 times in fact.

What’s funny for me when I look back at said 3 fish is that they were on very different lures at very different locations so you would wonder was the whole coast just alive with big fish or was it say that big fish that had maybe been in Dungarvan bay were now moving down the coast.

There was a couple of lads over on holidays from the UK and were having dream bass fishing, but they worked so hard for their fish that they deserved every one as they had taken a chance on the trip also.

I was hitting fish wherever I went and when the fishing’s that good I get into my own personal full lure nut mode and squeeze as much fishing in as possible especially with Winter approaching.

A couple of dawn sessions with Darren results in a nice brace of 7-8lb fish horseing their way downtide with bucktails hanging from their gobs.

My best fish came as I least expected it. Despite all the theories and lures etc. It was so simple and shouldn’t of happened so I’m burning the theories I’ve amassed over the years.

With the kids on midterm break the 1st week of November the waters were 90% clear coupled with bright sunshine.

My son was showing signs of boredom so a quick offer of fishing with Dad is accepted straight away and off we go. Simply trotting fiiish minnows into the tide and letting the flow do the work.

Two small bass in and we are both beaming when the rod is as close to pulled from my hands as ever before.

A slow steady fight ensued and after much panic a stunning bass about 12lb is landed, almost carp-like in physique, a few photos taken and the old girl put back where she belonged. 

I just hope my son dosnt expect 12lbers every time ,it took me 10 years to catch my first double….. till next time…….

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Wee county Tope by Mark Heffernan

Wee county Tope 

In a part of the coast ravaged by decades of constant Prawn trawling and where in recent decades some species have become almost extinct, against all odds the Tope continues to thrive and provide top class sport off the coasts of this county steeped in myth, legend and just the odd fishy tale.

 

It’s fair to say that Tope are at the top of the food chain for roughly six months of the year off these mainly sandy shores. They are found mainly at depths from 12 to 70 feet, but indeed often feed in even shallower water especially under the cover of darkness.

Some local seatrout anglers have been heard to shout “Shark” whilst wading at dawn or dusk.

Tope run big around these parts, looking through my records for the past dozen or so years I have found the average Tope I have caught to be in the region of 34lbs. 40lbers are commonplace with numbers  of 50 and 60 pounders caught each year. 70+ pounders have been caught and an 80 is in my opinion a realistic target to aim for.

Some private boat owners target Tope exclusively off the Louth coast. While I don’t fall into that category I do spend quite a large proportion of my fishing year in pursuit of the grey Torpedoes.

Here I’m going to go into some detail describing the fishery and how I go about catching them from a small boat.

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Tope Tackle.

Rods.

With the water being shallow off the Louth coast and the tidal currents not being especially strong heavy rods are not required. While a 12lb class boat rod will suffice as 12/20 is a better option. I don’t like a rod that is too soft to control a feisty Tope at close quarters. Over the past few years I have switched over to uptide rods, the reasons being that some marks require casting, better control over Tope during the fight and I find the extra rod length makes using the longer traces I prefer much easier. Some marks here are very shallow, and tope will often jump clear of the water and wrap themselves up in your trace.

Reels.

These can be saltwater resistant Baitrunner type reels, lever drag or star drag multipliers of a “7000” size or similar.

Line, trace material, hooks.

Trace material is your personal preference, I tend to use nylon coated wire of 120 to 150lb. In my experience Nylon is too easily bitten through if there is a delay during the fight, for example, if the mainline gets snagged under a rock of if say another Angler’s lines tangle in your own. For mainline I prefer 50 to 65lb braid to 10 meters of 50lb mono rubbing trace.

I use circle hooks for all my Tope fishing. Size 8/0 is a good size to start with. I use VMC tournament circles, other good brands  are Owner, Eagle Claw and Sakuma.

Gaffs are a big no, no. A tailer or looped rope are better options for lifting a fish inboard for measuring, photo’s etc. I tend to lean over the gunnel and grab the Tope by the Pectoral and dorsal fins simultaneously but high freeboard on your boat may prevent that.

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Rigs and Methods

I’m a simple man who likes to keep it simple. For 80% of my Tope fishing I use a simple running ledger incorporating a zip slider running on my 10 meter 50lb mono rubbing trace which is tied to a 150 to 200lb clip swivel of your choice, I like Berkley McMahon crosslock swivels. I like to use lone 8 to 9 foot traces as Tope like their bigger cousins in the Shark family love to roll up on a trace. I either fish this down tide  or across the tide with just enough weight to hold bottom . If I cast across the tide I often Iike to fish a plain lead and let the rig trundle and search its way round in the Tide to the back of the boat

If there is a really strong tide running I sometimes like to fix the lead and nail everything to the sea bed.  Fixed Grip and breakaway leads are seldom necessary but I always carry a few onboard  if I need to fish well uptide or across the tide in a strong flow.

Free lining is often possible and productive over slacker tides. Use Mackerel flappers.

Float fishing indeed can be very useful when fishing very shallow clear water where the Tope may be spooked by the presence of the boat. I like to keep my baits in the bottom 5 feet of water, the exceptions to this can be at dead slack water and dawn and Dusk when our Tope are more likely to feed well of the bottom.

Due to the snaggy undulating sea bed in many local marks floatfishing is a good way to present your baits while fishing on the drift. Finally Sending a floatfished Mackerel way downtide from an anchored boat can be a good tactic for avoiding tangles on a crowded boat as well as putting a bait right in the path of the fishy flavours seeping out from the other anglers baits.

Live baiting  works ok. Personally I very rarely if ever resort to it. Over slack water or when Tope are dropping all sizes of dead baits as soon as they pick them up are occasions when using this method can pay off.

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The Tope Season.

Off the Louth coast we’re are talking roughly late May to late October. This overlaps roughly with when the mackerel move inshore and back offshore here. While Tope migration is not dependant on the prevalence of our stripy little friends they definitely harvest them in numbers. Tope appear to arrive first of all in late May in the waters off Dunany Point, but within a week or two some will be feeding up at the marks at the mouth of Carlingford Lough. These early fish will be a combination of both pregnant and non-pregnant females up to about 60lbs and smaller lean males in the 20 to 40lb category. This is the only time of year I have caught female Tope that looked like they were about to give birth any minute. Finicky feeding as in dropped runs and lost fish due to them being barley hooked can be an early season problem as there does not seem to be the numbers of fish to create competition for the anglers baits and thus more positive takes. June and early to mid-July are a really good time to be out fishing for Tope.

Mid-season from late July until the end of August can be a hit or miss affair with Tope appearing to be either absent or off the feed. There is normally of plenty of bait and settled weather and of course good catches are still possible but the angler should not be afraid to keep trying different marks until he finds the fish.

Late season from early September to late October is my favourite time to be Tope fishing here. By the 2nd week in October Tope numbers appear to be down as they start their migration, but some Big Females will remain until the end of the month. Fishing through the late season improves the Angler’s odds off catching a “Biggie”.

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Location

In common with other fish our Tope along here like structure and are especially fond of travelling along the base of reefs where stone meets sand or especially through Channels. One of my favourite places to anchor up tide of the base of a drop off., placing baits at the bottom of the drop off and along it.

At Dunany and other marks in Dundalk bay, it is not necessary to anchor close to a feature, but I find even if I do anchor over flat ground I prefer to have a gully leading onto it or a bank or rocky area close by.

As we know structure and tidal movement attract prey fish, the Tope will often not be far away. They follow definite paths between feeding and resting areas and after catching one it often pays to cast to the same area, it’s almost like they swim head to tail through some channels.

In summary, try to anchor at the base of banks, especially those with a tide running towards them. I.e. Anchor up tide of reefs, drop offs and other features. Sometimes the down tide side of structure can yield Tope, it’s always worth a try. Gullys and drop offs with the tide running along them can also be good, these seem to be used as highways for prey fish and Tope. Finally don’t neglect open ground, these areas are best fished on the drift and anchored on when Tope are found to be in residence.

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Bait.

Nothing beats freshly caught mackerel off the Louth Coast. I have never found Tope to ignore fresh Mackerel in favour of other baits. Even Herring which our Tope harvest with gusto in late season don’t come close. Other baits such as whiting, Scad, Flounder and Coalie do produce runs but personally they don’t fill me with confidence.  Our Tope normally arrive before our Mackerel start to proliferate. So it is often necessary to use frozen baits or Mackerel from the Supermarket fish counter (I find frozen better than these). This is not a problem though as Tope will readily take these especially if they are injected with fish oil or WD40.

Yes I’m totally convinced that WD40 enhances frozen or stale baits. Our local club’s competition results go a long way to prove this. The top Topeman over the past 20 years always drowns his baits in the stuff.

However once Mackerel start to show in fair numbers, usually in June the frozen baits start to lose their effectiveness and find themselves almost ignored.

I tend to use small Mackerel whole and half larger ones. The head half will usually outscore the tail cones but not always

As mentioned fresh Herring would be my 2nd favourite bait. I’m convinced large Tope stay around into late autumn to feast on the silver darlings.

Some guys do ok with Lamprey, Eels and Blueys. I have not used them often enough to pass on judgement.


To Dubby or Not to Dubby

Some years back I came to the conclusion that it’s not necessary to deploy rubby dubby on most the marks off the Louth coast.

My reasons are, the increased scent flow often attracts hoards of bait munching Crabs. Seal’s are also attracted from far down tide and will hang around the boat for longer when you have Dubby down. Indeed they will often rip the dubby bag to shreds to get at the goodies inside.

However I will on occasions deploy dubby when fishing a new mark and also to attract mackerel to the boat and on occasion at slack water.

I have a 3lb weight on a thin 20 metre rope to which I attach to onion sack type bags containing squashed up mackerel chunks( no need to go for anything more elaborate). When the tide is flowing I drop this to the bottom and the raise it up a foot or two so it bounces on the sea bed.

Over slack water I tend to raise the dubby sack up to midwater or even to the surface to increase scent dispersal.


Finally.

Get Tagging! I tag all my Tope for Inland Fisheries ireland. At a minimum it adds an additional layer of interest when you tag, release and log your capture and wonder someday will you or your fiends recapture this fish or will the fish be caught off southern Europe and end up on a fishmongers slab or indeed like many will it simply disappear into the vast ocean to live out the rest of its life to its natural conclusion.

 

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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.
 

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