Little by little, Eire’s working harbours and inshore waters were discovered by foreign anglers. Sporting potential was developed with care and enthusiasm; now it is world-renowned.
Irish sea angling is bountiful – both in terms of statistics and of variety. The Irish coastline covers 3,000 miles, not all of which is fishable, but which offers a mixture of vast beaches, offshore waters and bays, and rugged stretches leading to wrecks such as the Lusitania (sunk in 1915) 10-12 miles off the Cork coast, and others off Donegal and Mayo. Standain warm tributaries of the maiP Gulf Stream, its southern waters attract warm water species such as mullet and bass. There is no shortage, however, of the cold water species – coalfish, cod and herring. Prevailing westerly and south-westerly winds, however, can suddenly enliven an angler’s boating with the wildest of storms.
Statistics demonstrate Ireland’s undisputed angling wealth at sea. In Leinster, for example, there are 60 clubs. And in 1982, 239 sea fishing festivals and competitions are plan-ned. The Irish Marine Record fish include a halibut of 156 lb, a cod of 42 lb, a 37 lb thornback and a 66£lb tope. In 1980 new records were set for black sole (4£lb), monkfish (73 lb), turbot (32£lb) twaite shade (2 lb Hoz) and painted ray (14 lb 7oz).
Greystones, 20 miles south of Dublin, is the prime eastern venue, with three or four clubs and a membership of 500 or more. There is an abundance of fishing from steep shelving beaches north and south of the town – approximately eight miles in all – and pier fishing for codling, bass, pouting, .dogfish and some gurnard. Rock fishing at_the -Flat Rock and Carrigedery accounts for codling, pollack and a few bass. All along this section the tide rip near the shore is strong at peak tides. Ballygannon Strand, two miles south of Greystones along the railway line, is a favourite location. There are many boats available at Greystones, and the boat fishing is located half a mile to a mile out, parallel to the coast, towards the Moulditch Buoy and the Ridge. The area is full of local marks. In winter, big cod are caught in north-flowing water, and all year round the area is noted for codling (especially in autumn), and for pouting, plaice, thornback, conger, pollack and some skate, tope and wrasse.
Visitors to the area can obtain help and information from a number of contacts and clubs. In the Dun-dalk to Kilmore stretch, one should make a point of contacting the Greystones Ridge Club in Ranelagh, Co Dublin, the Knights of the Silver Hook in Sutton, Co Dublin, the Bray Sea Angling Club, or the East Coast Ladies in Dublin.
The inquisitive shore angler who has a car will find many isolated locations between Greystones and Wexford, notably at Kilcoole ‘Breaches’, Kilmichael and Courtown, where mullet in the tiny harbour are excep- tionally catchable. The tidal stretches of the River Slaney at Wexford also offer good opportunities. Bass fishing at night can be good on both bridges of the town at Wexford, while numerous quay stands are excellent and there is a variety of beach fishing within three miles of the town. Two deep-sea clubs are active there and at adjacent Rosslare, leading to Tuskar Rock five miles out. Splaugh Rock, a vast undersea platform, was once fine for bass, but was overfished, though it still remains some fine cod, pollack, and conger.
Off Kilmore Quay there is plentiful angling all around the Saltee Islands, four miles out. The warmer water becomes evident here, and fishing for tope and pollack is excellent, especially when drifting along the Burrow beach near Kilmore Harbour. There is beach fishing everywhere here.
For more information about this area you should contact the Saltee
Sea Angling Club or one of the numerous sea angling clubs in Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford.
The mobile angler will find unlimited shore fishing at Dunmore East, a considerable fishing port, and along Bannow Bay, west of Kilmore, while all shore anglers would do well to explore the swift deep channel on the western side of Bannow Island for bass and flounder. Further information can be obtained from the Dunmore East Sea Angling Club in Waterford City.
Dungarvan has had ups and downs in deep sea angling lately, mostly because of boat troubles, but has no shortage of good water. There is the four-mile estuary, fished from Cun-nigar on shore, with a four-mile strand at Clonea and then a vast crescent-shaped bay leading beyond the Helvic Head. In Dungarvan Town, above and below the railway bridge and along the quay, there is spinning, driftlining and bottom fishing for bass. Mullet fishermen should float fish the outlet pipe between early ebb tide and low water. Reports tell of estuary pollution or disturbance, but Dungarvan’s offshore waters are a fine venue for tope and blue shark in summer.
Youghal has good general angling in reputable blue shark waters. But the shark have been so heavily sought that future stocks are at risk. The codling are about in autumn. Shore fishing includes some surf fishing at such places as Goat Island, Mangan’s Cove, Caliso Bay and Youghal Strand. Conger can be caught at night from the pier head. Bally cotton nearby was once a popular Irish angling haven. Fifty years ago, pioneers of sea angling in England went there, trained their boatmen, and set up a sort of angling dynasty. Later, when there were troubles in Ireland, the pioneers left and Bally cotton went off the angling map, but there is some excellent deep sea angling for cod, ling, pollack, skate and blue shark, with boats available.
After Bally cotton, enterprising promoters found Kinsale, west of Cork Harbour, with greater shelter and amenities. It is a highly organized, sophisticated angling boat station today, though expensive. For those who like modest outgoings on holiday, however, some of the finest garfish and bass angling from small boats is to be found in the estuary of the River Bandon, running through Kinsale. The Kinsale Sea Angling Club in Kinsale, Co Cork, will help with information about the area.
Centres such as Courtmacsherry, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery, Glandore, and Baltimore in West Cork are noted for their shore fishing, but are rather expensive. Great sea loughs cut into the Cork and Kerry coasts, with angling spots such as Ban try Bay, Kenmare River and Valentia Island. Boat fishing is not readily available, though the angler has never far to look for action on shore. Cahersiveen on the Kerry has boats suitable for truly big skate, but these, unfortunately, are becoming scarce in Ireland.
In fact, the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers has become extremely conservation-conscious of late. Bass of less than 43cm, for example, should be returned according to its book of Sea Angler’s Rules. Projects to chart the migratory and reproductive habitats of shark, skate, ray, tope and monkfish have resulted in a great deal of tagging work. It stands to reason that tagged fish should be returned – and since it is not easy to spot a tag during the fight to boat or beach fish, the use of the gaff is strongly discouraged.
Warm west coast
Next, working up the west coast, the Dingle peninsula, jutting into the warm Atlantic, has wonderful shore fishing with long strands noted for bass. Brandon Bay has a 14-mile strand perfect for bass fishing and it is only one beach out of dozens in the peninsula. Castlegregory also has plenty of good shore fishing for bass and flatfish.
At Fenit, in Tralee Bay, there is exciting fishing from the long pier with skate and ray coming regularly, while out in the bay specimen un-dulate ray are found in great numbers in June and July. Further information about fishing in the area can be obtained at the Old Bridge House in Fenit, Co Kerry.
The first porbeagle shark caught from the rocky shore at Liscannor, Co Clare weighed 145 lb and was taken by Jack Shine – but his is cer-tainly not a game for timid anglers. There are, however, 60 miles of rocky eminences from which to practise, all the way up to Galway Bay, which is well served by angling boats. They go along the Clare coast, into the path of north-going porbeagles and blues, and out to the Aran Islands. There is much bottom fishing. Bass fishing in the tidal lagoon west of Galway is available and at the mouths of the Knock and Spiddal rivers. There is also mullet fishing in the harbour.
Clifden in Connemara is popular for blue shark fishing and has been discovered by Dutch anglers who have made it their holiday home. While there is little shore fishing, most fishing is done from serviceable catamarans in the three rugged bays – Streamstown, Clifden and Mannin – for pollack, conger, wrasse, mackerel, ray and flatfish. Streamstown is only worth fishing in slack water conditions for conger. Nearby Killary Harbour is so deep and sheer-sided that pollack, mackerel, ray and whiting can be caught close inshore.
Moving into Co Mayo, Westport was a pioneer in sea angling, and is still a fine centre. It has the advan- tage of lying in the vast, sheltered, island strewn Clew Bay and its fishing suffers few interruptions from the storms outside. It is a maze of eyots and peninsulas offering shore and some rock fishing and is well established as a resort, with its clubhouse on the quayside, boats on call, frequent competitions and a comradely atmosphere. For years monkfish kept Westport in the news: they were being caught even from the end of the pier. But there are fewer to be had now, and the inroads made by fishing on other species has resulted in club members being urged to return all of their catches alive.
Achill Island has yet to be explored by shore fishermen. Bulls-mouth, however, has shown promise with ground fishing in the fierce tidal sweep. The Irish tub gurnard record still stands with a 12 lb 3ioz Achill fish. Purteen has boats for pollack fishing under the giant cliffs.
Belmullet, on the north Mayo coast, has splendid venues – Por-turlin, Portacloy and Bally glass. It is a wild area, though, and it takes organized parties to procure boats in advance. There is spectacular fishing for cod, bream, conger and skate off Erris Head, and the finest turbot are found in the water off Ballyglass. Belmullet gave a record turbot of 32ilb in 1980.
Killala Bay, served by Killala and Inishcrone, has plenty of boats and an abundance of fish. Recent specimens caught at Killala include a red gurnard of 2 lb 9f oz, a tub gurnard of 8 lb 5oz, a blonde ray of 26 lb, and a pollack of 12 lb 8oz.
Although the rock fishing at St John’s Point is good, Killybegs, in Donegal, has apparently fallen back in organized boat angling, principally because of commercial sea fishing. Along the high Donegal coast, however, places such as Dun-fanaghy, Downings and Rathmullan, all with boats, have much mixed bottom fishing, and Lough Swilly was always famous for hordes of tope, although they are now much thinned. Moville, in neighbouring lough Foyle, is noted for large numbers of gurnard as well as cod, dogfish, pollack, coalies, ray, ling, tope and haddock, and holds a week-long fishing festival, usually in August.
Sea fishing in Ireland is organized by the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers. Member clubs pay a Federation charge, but individuals may join for a £5 fee which entitles them to a copy of the Federation periodical, Gaff, and the Sea Angler’s Rule book. A free copy of Gaff can be obtained by writing to Mr Hugh O’Rorke, Secretary of the IFSA, 67 Windsor Drive, Monkstown, Co Dublin.