Finding the Fish

After a disappointing exit from the Euros yesterday, the only thing for the post Bleu blues was to get out and chuck a few lures. The wind had been brisk all day, and the northerly element added a bit of a sting in the tail. In the hope that the wind would drop as darkness fell, I headed to an open-water mark to try for some bass.

The dreaded floating sea lettuce greeted me on arrival (aka floating green shite), and was present in abundance. I got into the rhythm of the old chuck a lure, enjoy 5 meters of clear water and then haul in a fist sized lump of goo for the remainder of the retrieve for a time. Eventually I moved east and tried some other nearby water (with the same result). It was time to wade out to some rocks – in the hope that the water beyond would be clearer – thankfully it was. The wind seemed to pick up to what felt like a force 4/5, and I cowered behind a boulder out of the line of its bite, using it to help me gain some extra distance on casting to the south east.

After a time and a smoke, and when the sun was properly down, I finally felt a rattle of a fish which immediately threw the lure. Cursing my luck, the same thing happened shortly after – but it was nice to know there were a few fish around. The wind finally started to drop and the first fish came, taken in close and around the 52cm mark.

Bass #1 @ 52cm

Bass #1 @ 52cm

With dropping wind and tide, I accessed some other rocks giving a better casting area, and 3 casts later had a subtle hit, followed by some ferocious line stripping. A good bass had been sitting just inside a finger of rock which ran in front of me and on taking the lure took off like a rocket to the left. Thankfully the drag was loose enough and I let her take line before she started to turn. She took another couple of runs on the way in, and just as the fish was landed the leader snapped an inch above the lure clip knot. A wave washed in and it has heart in the mouth moment but phew the fish was still ashore. I lifted her and carried to a safer spot and measured a nice 68cm fish, going 1cm better than my previous best of 2016.

Some blurry photos and a quick video later, she recovered in a calm water area and swam away strong.

Bass #2 @ 68cm

Bass #2 @ 68cm

I fished on for another 30 minutes and had one more schoolie, which took the lure when it had been left totally stationary for about 10 seconds. It was the smallest fish of the night but a nice way to wrap up the session.

Bass #3 @ 46cm

Bass #3 @ 46cm

The 68cm fish:

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Silver Scrappers

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Taking a break on an early season bassing session

After what was a fairly dismal return in bass fishing last year, the old fishing confidence took a bit of a battering, and I was very slow to start with lures this year.   Productive fishing seemed more likely through boat trips, so I went out on my friend’s Alaska 500 in Cork harbour and beyond over the past few months. We found the usual suspects including cod, ling, pollock, whiting, mackerel, gurnard amongst others.  Nothing massive was caught, but it has been nice to get decent action off the boat for a change from all the fruitless hours spent on the shore in search of bass last season.

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Plenty of 1-2lb cod such as this lovely fish around Cork harbour

I started trying for bass on lures again 4 weeks ago, with just 3 sessions so far this year.  The conditions in the past few weeks especially have seemed very promising with warmer air and sea temperatures starting to take hold, and good water clarity on the open coast in many places. I have been waiting for the past 2 weeks for the right conditions (high water coming into darkness) at a favourite night time mark, and finally got out last night with a buddy.  We were greeted with a gentle chop and swell on the clear water, with cloudy skies overhead.  Out went a Feed Shallow in sardine colour and on just the second cast, I had a nice hit at distance and it was fish on!  A small bit of line was stripped on the retrieve, but it was hard to tell what stamp of a fish was on – until she came close in and I saw a nice bulky fish head-banging at the surface. With the help of my buddy we beached the fish and I was delighted to find her hitting the 67cm mark, matching the best fish I’ve had before at this mark about 2 years before.

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First bass of 2016, a lovely fish of just over 6.5lb at 67cm

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Well fed and in prime condition

My buddy, fired out a Feed Shallow 90 in mullet colour, and minutes later had a nice lively schoolie of around 2.5lb.  There was obviously a few fish around and we fished the same spot for another hour or so, with my buddy landing one more schoolie, and some time after another schoolie for myself.

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Schoolie #1

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Schoolie #2

With the tide starting to drop, we moved on a little to where some slightly deeper water was accessible and took up different sides of a rocky outcrop.  My friend was into another bass of 2-3lb shortly after, and then things went quiet for some time. I switched over to soft plastics and had just one hit after a while but the fish dropped the lure.

With the midnight hour approaching I waded over to another area and fished out into open water where the light swell was running in over shallow rocks and forming small crashing waves – 2 or 3 casts later with a white Feed Shallow and it was fish on again, but this time she threw the hook after a couple of runs and had me cursing and blinding. I fished on and 10 minutes later had another bass, this time putting up the best fight of the night with 5 or 6 good runs on the way in with me encouraging her with a few Yeehoooo’s :). The fish was tearing off to the right, close to a shallow rocky outcrop full of braid breaking barnacles but thankfully turned back and was safely landed.  It was smaller than my first of the session, coming in at 56cm, but easily the best scrapper of the night.

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The Scrapper

We packed it in at that point, knowing there were still some fish about, but more than happy at having landed 6 fish and opened the account for 2016.  All fish swam away strongly when released 🙂

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Roll on 2016!

First Lure Caught Silver

A buddy invited me out beach-casting yesterday evening so after picking up some lug and crab we ventured out to a mark for a 10pm start. When we arrived the surf was fairly flat so I quickly decided to give the lures a go, and waded over to some rocky outcrops at the side of the beach.

Within 3 casts I was into my first lure caught bass of the year, she put up a feisty battle before being landed, photograph’ed and released. So finally off the mark on lures this year – hopefully onwards and upwards from here on out… The bass was caught on a pearl Feed Shallow 155, it was my first time trying out the shallow diver and it certainly has a nice feel to it, it seems very similar to the Feed Shallow 128 version but with the bit of extra weight and distance it may give an edge at certain marks where the fish are holding that bit further out.

First Lure Caught Bass 2015: 56cm

First Lure Caught Bass 2015: 56cm

First Lure Caught Bass of 2015

First Lure Caught Bass of 2015

… Later in the night I switched to the beach-casting and found one more small schoolie of around 42cm.

The Pollock Play Hardball

The mothballs have been rolling about this blog for a long time now, but now with Summer starting to finally kick in, the mothballs in my head are beginning to clear away and it is high time to start fishing proper. Before the bass closed season, in early May, a friend and I landed a few nice bass and flounder while beach-casting in east Cork with lug-worm, and I also dabbled in some cod and harbour fishing over the winter and spring months with mixed success (aka s.f.a.). However this is the time of the year I love most – just as the bass closed season is coming to an end and you just know (or hope!) that the fish will be there in numbers from June 16th when the season opens again.

NOTE: the photo below is from late April! (it is currently closed season for bass angling).

Early May 5lb Bass - Pre-closed season!

Late April 5lb Bass – Pre-closed season!!

Renovations...

Renovations…

The other thing which has been keeping me away from the fishing is the small matter of renovating a house that my partner and I purchased at the end of 2014. With a lot of pre-planning done, works finally began on the 1930’s house just a couple of weeks ago, and it will keep us on our toes until its completion at the end of the summer.  Just this past week however, I escaped the madness and trekked over with my family to the utopian getaway of Inis Oirr, off the Galway / Clare coast.

Inis Oirr has always been kind to me on the fishing front, with hugely consistent pollock fishing on it’s south-eastern coast.  This year however the fishing outings were scarce (just 3 sessions) and the conditions every single day bar one presented north-westerly, northerly or north-easterly breezes. Despite this we had lovely sunny days and we all managed to achieve lobster-like wind-burn.  The fish were playing a schnakey game this year, although I am convinced it was a combination of cooler than normal water temperatures and the northerly based winds which kept the numbers low. Baitfish were present in some areas, but notably absent at the deeper marks.

The Die-Hard Plassey

The Die-Hard Plassey

I was given a gift of a fly rod over year ago, and only recently decided to finally start to learn the basic cast, and ultimately try some salt water fly fishing for pollock and eventually bass.  It was on this recent trip to Inis Oirr that I first wet the fly line in the search of a first fly caught pollock.  Being a total novice, casting the fly in cross-winds was a struggle and it was hard not to fall back on spinning with the soft plastics.  I met up with a very generous and proficient swff angler (thanks again Peter!) who helped me with some casting pointers, and he was also extremely kind in gifting me a number of self-tied pollock flies.  After a few patchy sessions of casting some loops I still have to find my first fly caught fish, but I intend to persist and I’m full sure it will come in it’s own good time.

Some of the beautiful hand tied flies generously given to me.

Some of the beautiful hand tied flies generously given to me.

Fly vs Soft Plastic

Fly vs Soft Plastic

Fly and spinning reels

Fly and spinning reels

It was of course the soft plastics which found the fish for me, but they were very scarce.  In past years the island used to produce evening sessions where 10-15 pollock over a 2 hours was fairly common-place, with fish of 3-4lb and up to 5lb were encountered.  This year I caught a total of 9 pollock in 3 sessions, with the largest at 3.5lb.  Even so, it was hugely enjoyable as ever to be on such a special island and I found a couple of new marks to try on the next trip.

Most fish around this size - 1.5lb Pollock

Most fish were around this size – 1.5lb Pollock

3.5lb Pollock

3.5lb Pollock

3.5lb Pollock

3.5lb Pollock

Now back in Cork, and with just 2 days to go until the bass season re-opens, it is all systems go and I am itching to get back out on the coast with just a few lures and an open stretch of shallow rocky shoreline. Roll on Tuesday!

Red sky at night..

Red sky at night..

Solitary Fish

I was in two minds about going out the door last night with a breezy enough westerly blowing, but with the kids in bed at around 9pm I finally gave myself a good mental kick-up-the-arse to get out the door.  With low tide at 1am it was off to a mark to fish the ebb tide, and a ‘supermoon’ the previous night meant a strong set of spring tides was in effect.

I started fishing half-way through the dropping tide and there was a very strong run of current, flying along in the same direction as the westerly breeze. For 45 minutes or so I fired out a few plugs up wind, but found it hard fishing them as they were flying back in the current – any retrieval which was going to get them sub-surface felt like too fast a retrieve in the darkness.

It just felt it wasn’t a night for the plugs so I put on a Slug-go and began casting upstream and allowing it to come back to me in the fast current, again though it was difficult to get any ‘feel’ on the lure or maintain any contact as it flew past me from right to left. I had been wanting to give a floated soft plastic rig a try again, a technique I knew had worked well for others at the mark. So the Slug-go (Alewife) went onto a 3-4 foot length of fluoro below the float rig. It’s probably hard to fully see in this picture the setup but should give some idea:

Floated SP Rig

Floated SP Rig

I began casting the floated Slug-go rig upstream and retrieving line slowly as it floated past me in the current, until it swung around past me each time – and then retrieving it back against the current with pauses every few metres. About ten minutes in I felt some subtle resistance while retrieving the rig against the current. What I initially thought was weed then felt a bit heavier and pulled a bit of line off the reel … yahoooooo fish on! The fish put up very little resistance – I had the drag very loose and there was a few small runs but until I landed the fish I really thought it was a small fish. Then I saw it was a much better fish than it had felt and it went to 67cm on the ruler – a new best fish of the year for me. Bass never cease to amaze me, sometimes it is the bigger fish that give the smallest fight.

67cm Bass

67cm Bass

The fish went back in the water very well and recovered much quicker than I had expected – it is usually so much easier unhooking a fish caught on a weedless soft plastic than on a plug.  I fished on for just another half hour, the wind dropped, and the current slowed down a lot and it just felt like the window had passed so I decided to pack it in.  Just the one fish but as ever I was happy out to have found one, and a new best of the season for me.

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