Saturday, 6 December 2014

Some recent cod sessions - Winter 2014

This is the first post I have done in a long time. The summer fishing was so poor that it was hardly worth the effort of reporting. Most of my regular marks appeared to be devoid of fish, not just bass but the normally ever present small pollock at dusk were extremely rare. Fish were absent from a few deep water marks that I would normally expect to get some good pollock and wrasse over the summer and autumn. I spent a lot more time working in the garden this year, grew a lot of vegetables and had a good crop of potatoes plus lots of tomatoes and cucumbers from the new polytunnel that was erected the previous autumn. It felt a lot more productive to be in the garden than out on the coast fishing into a void. So with such poor fishing over the summer I was looking forward to the cod season and was hopeful that it would make up for the dreadful summer fishing and apparent total collapse of the bass stock.

Indeed it did, this year is proving to be one of the best cod seasons in a long time. There seems to be a multitude of cod about mostly in the 2 - 3.5 lb range with a few up to 4.25 lbs. So while fish are much more plentiful the better ones are smaller than those of the last few years. Last year I had a couple of 6.5 lb cod, several 5-6 lb fish and a number in the 4-5 lb range.

I had heard reports that the cod were already in for a week or so before I had my first session which was on the 24th October. I headed to a reliable mark and caught 8 cod all of which were keeper size (2 lbs or more) with the largest fish weighing 4.25 lbs.

Good fishing persisted; my next session was on the 28th October and produced 9 keepers including a few in the 4 - 4.25 lb range.

I returned the following day. The fishing was slow initially with a flounder and an eel caught before the cod showed up. I ended up with 7 keepers up to 4.25 lbs.

My next session was on 31st October and was a good one with a total of 25 cod. I kept 19 of those, most were in the range 2 - 4.25 lbs but also included a few smaller fish that were too deeply hooked to go back. There was a lot of seaweed as well that night and the following day my elbow was quite painful due to a combination of hauling in fish and large clumps of weed.

It took a while for my elbow to get back to normal so I didn’t do any fishing on the following weekend. Then we had some extremely heavy rain on 13th November and as a result there was a torrent of fresh water coming down the Blackwater which ruled out fishing for another four or five days until the flood subsided. My next session was on 18th November. The fish were back, although not in the numbers of my last session. I caught 13 cod, including 10 keepers.

I was back out again on 22nd November. It was a new moon with a bigger tide which made fishing more difficult. Shortly after setting up I had an eel but the fishing was slow after that with just a couple of small cod of a pound or so. However, when the tidal current began to ease off there was a dramatic improvement with another 9 cod, all of which were keeper size and included two of about 4 lbs.

I had five crabs remaining from the last session so headed out on 26th November to use them up on a short session. I arrived about 5.00 pm, it was quiet until about 6.00 pm then in the space of 50 minutes I had 7 good fish, all keepers in the 2.5 - 4.25 lb range. I put my last crab on, cast out and after a few minutes there was a strong tug. It felt a fine fish, at least as large as the 4.25 pounder if not bigger. I had it in close but then it dived into a snag. I couldn’t budge it so I left the line go slack for about 10 minutes before trying again. I pulled hard, thought I felt a bit of movement but then the line snapped at the shockleader knot. So that was the last of my bait and time to pack up.

My next session was on 29th November. The conditions were ideal; mild, calm night, slack tide, little or no weed and I had a bucket of 24 crabs so I reckoned it would be a good night. It was with a total of 30 cod of which 18 were keepers ranging from 2 - 3.75 lbs. There were plenty of fish in the 2 - 3 lb range but nothing above 3.75 lbs.

I had 10 crabs left over so I headed out again on the 1st December. It was not such a nice night, a fairly strong NNW/northerly wind with light rain was blowing down the channel. But that made little difference to the cod. I had 21 fish, kept 19 although I lost one of those to a fox that ambled along the shore, grabbed one and made off with it. That was fine, I had plenty of fish and didn’t mind sharing with a hungry animal. Close to packing up I had the largest fish of the night, just over 4.25 lbs and another 2 pounder a few minutes later.

For all sessions I was using 4/0 pennel pulley rigs (with upper 3/0 hooks) baited with whole fresh crab. I usually used two rods unless the weed was bad. When the fishing was hectic I would have one rod ready baited on the stand, haul in the fish on the other rod and then cast out the second. So I had one bait in the water at all times apart from the few seconds between changing over rods.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Easterly wind bass - 21st April 2014

Having got over the worst of a bad flu and chest infection I was eagar to get out fishing. However, the warm light southerly breezes of the past week were replaced by rather cold east/east southeast winds. One of my favourite marks for this time of year does not fish well if there is an easterly wind blowing so I made my way to an alternative venue. I got to the beach at about 8.30 pm which gave me 2.5 hours fishing to high tide, the optimum interval to fish this mark, although I would have preferred to fish it on a bigger tide. There was a weak to moderate surf with closely spaced waves breaking on the beach. So it looked promising. I set up my usual format for bass beach fishing, two rods with 4/0 pennel pulleys with large lug baits.

However, it was quite for the first hour and a half. Then at about 10 pm there was a sudden tug on the rod to my left and the line went slack. I rapidly reeled in the loose line. The fish had carried the bait in a long way, it must have been only 15 out from the shore by the time I  connected with it. It was a small bass of 2.5 lbs with a length of 46 cm.

After that there was more activity, but mostly small flounder plucking on the bait. The first flounder I landed was about 32 cm. This was followed ten minutes later by another bass. It fought a little stronger than the first and was a just under 3 lb with a length of 48 cm.

After another ten minutes I thought I had another bass. There was a strong knock on the rod, but as I was hauling it in the fight didn't feel like a bass, more like a flat fish. It was a flounder, but my largest of the year so far at 43 cm.

Then at the top of the tide I had a very strong tug on one of the rods. I immediately grabbed it and could feel a good fish on the end. This was putting up a much better struggle and fought hard all the way in. It was a 4.25 lb bass, 54 cm in length.

I had planned to fish for an hour on the dropping tide until midnight. But after the third bass it quitened down apart from the occasional flounder nibble. I decided to pack up at about 11.40 pm. I reeled in one of the rods, dismantle it and reached for the second rod. But as I began to retrieve I could feel some weight on the end and then the pull of a fish. It was another large flounder, just over 42 cm.

So with three bass up to 4.25 lbs and three flounder up to 43 cm it turned out to be a better session than I anticipated given the slack tides and easterly wind.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Couple of sessions from a few weeks ago

Early in the month I had a couple of beach sessions but didn't get a chance to post up a report as I was going on a week's holidays from 5th April and then on the flight home last week I was hit by a chest infection and bad dose of flu. I am just getting back to normal now.

Session 1
I got to a beach mark about 2.5 hours before high tide in the afternoon. There was a moderate surf and the water looked weed free. I set up the first rod and put a large lug bait on a 4/0 pennel pulley and cast out. Only a few minutes later, while I was still setting up the second rod I had a strong tug on the first then the line went slack. I grabbed the rod, reeled in the slack line and connected with a strong fish. It was pulling hard and fought strongly all the way in. It was a fine plump bass of about 4.25 lbs. That was a good start.

Less than 20 minutes later I had another tug on one of the rods. This felt to be another good fish and put up a similar fight. It was slightly smaller, just under 4 lbs.

A little later I had a third bass. This was a smaller fish with a weight of 2.5 lbs.

After that it got quite, apart from two flounder both of 40 cm. Not sure if it was the same fish I caught twice. On the photos they dont look the same but the light angle is different, the patterns on the second are much clearer than those on the first.

I also had a couple of small coalfish close to dusk.

Session 2
I had some lug left after the previous session so a couple of days later I finished work early and headed to the same mark, arriving about 2 hours before high tide. It was windier and there was a nuch bigger surf compared to the previous session. About half an hour after setting up I had the first bite, a 3 lb bass.

This was followed 15 minutes later by a second bass of 3.5 lbs. I noticed some subtle taps on the rod at first, I picked it up, held it until I felt a more substantial tug and then struck hooking into another strong fish. It surged to the right and put up a good struggle in the surf. When I eventually landed it I found that the lower hook of the pennel was embedded in the fishes gills. So thought it best to keep that one for dinner. It's egg sacks were exceedingly bloated so looks like it was very close to spawning time.

After about another 15 minutes I had a third bass, the smallest of the session at 2.75 lbs.

The bass appeared to move on after that. I was getting plenty of nibbles from small flounder which excelled at whipping the works off the hooks without been caught although I did manage to hook tow of them, both small fish under 20 cms in length. After dark I caught a small coalfish before packing up as the tide began to drop .

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Last week it came as a complete surprise that one of the guys behind the Ireland Fishing Diaries wanted to interview me.

I had previously noted that they had interviews with some eminent anglers such as Arthur Daly, Henry Gilbey, Graham Hill, Martin McGown and Terry Jackson among many others plus a bunch of Carp anglers who are probably equally famous in the realm of coarse fishing. So it was shock that they would want an interview from me. But I was happy to oblige.

You can read the interview here:

Monday, 3 March 2014

Daytime bass - 1st & 2nd March 2014

A few weeks ago I did a reconnaissance of some beaches to see how they had been affected by the winter storms. I had a look at one beach in East Cork which I had never fished before. In the past this was flat and featureless and I dismissed it as a potential mark. However, after the storms there was a lot more structure on the beach. A large amount of sand had been stripped off to the left exposing a broad area of rubble. The beach close to this now had many shallow depressions and small gulleys. It looked far more interesting and I decided I would definitely try it when the conditions and tides were suitable. It was still very flat so I thought it best to fish it over the last couple of hours up to high tide.

The weekend looked to be fairly decent, breezy and showery but not blowing a gale, with big tides so I reckoned this was an opportunity to try that beach.

Saturday 1st March
I dug a bunch of lug at low tide. High tide was a 5.30 pm so I was going to be mostly fishing in daylight and I wasn't too hopefully of getting anything until at least dusk. I got to the mark at about 3.15 pm. There was a nice surf breaking on the beach, not too big, although the water was still highly coloured after all the windy weather. I found a likely looking spot and set up two rods one with a 4/0 pennel pulley baited with lug, the second with a two hook flapper baited with lug and razor.

After about 20 minutes the rod with the pennel pulley suddenly buckled over. I grabbed it and felt a strong tug from a fish. As I retrieved the fish broke the surface about 40 m out and trashed about violently as I reeled it in. A few minutes later I hauled a nice plump 3 lb bass out of the surf. That was a good start, far better than I had expected.

About 20 minutes later I spotted some lighter knocks on the rod. It felt to be a smaller fish. I could feel it twisting about and thought it was probably I coalfish, but I was wrong, it was a fairly large eel - another surprise!

A little later I had a very strong tug on the rod with the pennel pulley. I grabbed it but the line had gone slack and I could feel no resistance. I retrieved and found a tiny coalfish on the end. The lower hook of the pennel was in its mouth and had come out though the top of its head. I think I must have hooked the fish earlier but as it was so small I didn't realize it was on. A bigger fish, most likely a bass, probably grabbed it, driving the hook through its skull, but unfortunately was not hooked itself.

Ten minutes later I had a small flounder, followed by a couple of small coalfish taken in close on the rod with the two hook flapper. Then at about 5.30 pm at the top of the tide I had a strong tug on the other rod. This was another bass, again a well fed fish, a little larger than the first with a weight of 3.25 lbs.

A few minutes after landing the bass I had a coalfish double on the two hook flapper, rapidly followed by two more.

Then at about 5.55 pm I had the third bass of the session. This was taken in close on razor on the two hook flapper.

The coalfish became a pest as the light began to fade. They were attacking the bait as soon as it was in the water. As the tide began to drop more rapidly the bites slackened off. I fished on until about 7.15 and decided to pack up after the thirteenth coalfish.

It was a far better session than I had dared hope for with 3 bass taken in daylight, 13 coalfish and a flounder. It was well worth taking the chance with a new mark in daylight.

Sunday 2nd March
After the success of the previous session I had to make a return visit to the same mark. I got there about 4 pm. The wind direction has changed and there was a much weaker surf. It also felt a lot colder. I set up in the same place but this time had 4/0 pennel pulleys on both rods. About 15 minutes after I casted the second rod there was a sharp tug on the first. It felt a good fish and fought strongly all the way in. It was a stocky 3.5 lb bass, another fish that had been feeding well over the winter.

However, after that it got very quite. I changed the pennel on one of the rods for a two hook flapper with smaller hooks and cast in close in the hope of picking up another fish. It was not until about 6 pm before I had the next bite, a 37 cm flounder, taken on the rod in close.

The coalfish did not show up this time until it was almost dark but even when they did there were not feeding as ferociously as the previous evening. The last fish of the session was a five bearded rockling. I packed up after that as the tide began to drop more rapidly.

So while not as good as session as the day before I was happy with a bass in daylight at this time of year as well as 6 coalfish, a flounder and a five bearded rockling.

There's silver under the rainbow

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Finally - a window of opportunity

After the most prolonged period of wet and windy weather that I can remember we finally had a calm day yesterday (Tuesday 25th) so I took advantage of the window of opportunity and headed to a beach that I reckoned would be fishable. February is almost over and this was my first time to get out fishing this month apart from a brief 20 minute session a couple of weeks ago which I abandoned due to gale force winds and heavy horizontal rain on what had been forecast to be a dry calm night. Although I still managed to get a small codling on the first and only cast of that night.

This time I choose a mark facing away from the wind so there was not a monstrous surf pounding the beach. In the past this has fished well early on the rising tide with the fishing slackening off closer to high tide. I arrived about 8.30 pm, just after low tide. It was a clear dark moonless night and a good surf was breaking on the beach. The first thing I noticed was that a rock floored depression which I used to fish beside was now infilled with sand removed from the beach farther along the shore. That was not a good omen as I think that the depression served to concentrate the fish. But as it was the only low water mark close by I decided to give it a go regardless.

I didn't have time to dig lug and with the slack tides I probably would not have been able to get crab so I just used razor which has been a good bait for this beach in the past. I set up two rods; one with a 4/0 pennel pulley baited with a full razor, the other a single hook flapper with a 1/0 circle hook with a small piece of razor. I cast the latter in close and the pennel pulley farther out into the surf.

There was not much happening, the rod tips remained motionless. Normally at this time of year coalfish would be pestering the bait within minutes of it hitting the water but this time the baits were coming back untouched. After a couple of hours I finally noticed some very light taps on the rod with the pennel pulley. I lifted the rod and could feel very subtle tugs from a small fish. I lifted into it and began to retrieve. I couldn't feel anything on the end and thought the fish was not hooked but as I lifted the bait out of the water there it was, the smallest flounder I have every caught not much more than 5 cm in length. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera.

After that I thought that maybe the fishing would pick up. But again there was a long period of inactivity, apart from one bite that I lost when the line snapped. It wasn't a big fish, probably a flounder, and I wasn't snagged but the line broke as I was lifting the rod. It was line I had been using over the winter when fishing the Blackwater estuary for cod so it had probably been damaged. Time to change the line!!!

A little later I had a stronger tug on the rod with the pennel pulley. I stuck fairly gently in case the line on this rod snapped too and slowly retrieved. The fish was putting up a bit of a fight but didn't feel to be big, either a small bass or a dogfish. As I got it in close I could see a glint of silver - a bass!!!  It was a small fish, about 42 cm.

I fished on for about another hour but there was no more activity. So I packed up at 12.30 am. It had been a slow session; the wet stormy weather over the last few months seems to have pushed the fish farther out to sea. But at least I did get one bass so it was not a total disaster.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A late cod run

After the storms and heavy rain between Christmas and the New Year I wasn't too hopeful of the cod sticking around. Even before Christmas they were getting scarce and smaller. A torrent of fresh water coming down the Blackwater pushed the fish well out into the bay by the beginning of January. Early in the month there were reports of the occasional good cod been taken in the Youghal area but in general the fishing seemed to be poor. However, last weekend after a week of relatively dry weather I thought I would take a chance and see if the cod had returned.

18th January
I had intended to fish a small gravelly cove in the outer harbour area but when I got there another angler had already set up in the middle of the small bay. There wasn't much space to fish comfortably without getting crossed lines especially if there was a bit of a tidal current so I decided to move to a different mark.

I arrived at the second location to find it free so I could set up on my favourite spot. I set up two rods both with 4/0 pennel pulleys baited with fresh crab. It was quite until after dark, then at about 6.25pm I had a bite, it was a small codling of less than a pound. But at least that indicated that there were still some cod around. Ten minutes later I had another small fish. Shortly afterwards I had a stronger tug on one of the rods and hauled in a better fish of about 3.25 lbs.

That was better, some bigger fish were starting to show up with the rising tide. Then quarter of an hour later close to high tide there was a sharp tug on the rod to my left. I grabbed it, struck and could feel a very strong fish on the end. It was fighting strongly as it attempted to dig into the side of the channel. As I got it in close I could see it thrashing about in the shallows and it looked a good plump fish. I eased it onto the shore and could see that it was a fine fat cod weighing 6.5 lbs - my best of the 2013/14 season.

This was quickly followed by a fish of about 3 lb. There was then a lull for about 30 minutes.  The tide was beginning to drop and I was thinking packing up when there was another good knock on one of the rods. It was a 4.25 lb cod which still had the remnants of a net around it which was cutting into it just below the head.

I had a couple more small fish after that before I packed up. So with a total of 10 cod, including 4 keepers above 3 lbs I was very pleased with that session.

19th January
Following the success of the previous night I headed to the same mark. However, there was a lot more fresh water coming down the Blackwater this time. Although it had been dry near the coast for the previous few days there must have been some heavy rain farther north in the river catchment which had now made its way downstream. This was reflected in the fishing. I had a few small codling of a pound or less over a couple of hours up to high tide at around 7.30 pm. It was not looking good, then close to 8 pm I finally had a good bite. It felt a strong fish and put up a good struggle all the way in. It was a 4.25 lb fish.

The tide was dropping at that stage so it was time to pack up. So while a disappointing session compared to the previous evening with 5 small codling it ended well with one nice fish .

22nd January
The conditions looked good for a cod session, no rain of any significance over the last few days, slack tides and a cold clear night. I had ordered 2 dozen crabs the day before so I was well prepared. I got to the mark at about 7 pm. No sooner had I cast out the first bait when I had a bite but the fish came off after a few turns of the reel. I recast and set up the second rod. Not long afterwards I had another bite, this time it stayed on but it was only a small codling of a pound and a half. As I was releasing it there was knock on the second rod, this was a better fish of 3.25 lbs.

Ten minutes later I had another 3 lb fish. I was getting plenty of gentle tugs as well, presumably small fish pulling on the bait. Then at about 8.15 pm there was a hefty tug on one of the rods. This was a very strong fish which did its best to try to dig in to the channel sides all the way in. It was a plump 5.5 lb cod - the best fish of the session.

This was rapidly followed by a succession of fish some of the order of a pound or so but several keepers as well including cod of 3.25, 4.5, 5 and 4 lbs.

It was my best session of the 2013/14 season with a total of 13 cod, including 7 keepers above 3 lbs.

23rd January
I had plenty of crab left so returned to the same mark the following evening. It was a mild dark  overcast night with a light southerly breeze. I was hoping for a repeat of the previous session. There were plenty of fish there, I was getting a series of bites in rapid succession but they were all small fish, between 0.5-1.5 lbs. I had ten of them over the space of two hours. They were too small to keep although three were deeply hooked and floated when I tried to release them so I retrieved those.

I had to wait until close high tide before I had the first decent bite. It felt a good fish and I almost had it in, the shockleader was winding on to the reel when it dug its head into the side of the channel and as I tried to pull it out the fish got off. However, it was a sign that some bigger fish were finally moving in. Shortly afterwards I had a 2 lb cod followed 20 minutes later by a 4 lb fish.

Then I had another sharp tug on one of the rods. It was another strong fish which put up a good struggle all the way in. It was a 5.25 lb cod.

With that I decided to pack up. What had started as a slow session with just small fish and improved dramatically in the last half hour.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

First bass of 2014

We finally had a bit of calm weather last Tuesday after been hit by one storm after another since Christmas. It was my first opportunity to get out fishing since the beginning of the year. I decided to try a new mark that I had investigated the previous Saturday afternoon. It was a flat beach which steepened up over the last 30 m or so. I reckoned that the break in slope would be a place where bass would swim along while searching for food from about mid-way into the rising tide. It would also be sheltered from the southwesterly winds so would be a comfortable place to fish.

I got to a likely looking spot along the shore about 2.5 hours after low tide and set up two rods, one with a 4/0 pennel pulley baited with crab and the second with a two hook flapper with size 1 and 1/0 circle hooks; the lower hook baited with crab and the other with razor fish. It was a clear night, with a bright half moon and just a light breeze. There was a fairly small surf since the area was sheltered from the open sea. The more open local beaches such as Whiting Bay and Ballybrannigan were still too rough to fish after after the stormy weather. The scent of the bait would be lost within the churning surf.

Not long after setting up I had a good tug on the rod with the pennel pulley. At first I thought it was a small bass but as I got the fish in close I realized it was a dogfish. No sooner had I released it when there was a bite on the second rod; another dogfish. Fifteen minutes later I had another dogfish, this time it was what must have been the smallest one I have ever caught, followed shortly but a fourth dogfish.

It then got quite. I had a couple of missed bites but caught nothing more for nearly the next two hours. Then over high tide I returned to the rod stand after taking a stroll along the shore to find the line had gone slack on the rod with the pennel pulley. I retrieved the slack and then connected with a fish which put up a better fight compared to the dogfish and as I eased it into the shallow water I could see a glint of silver in the moonlight - it was a bass!!! Not a big fish, with a weight of about 2 lbs and a length of 43 cm, but nevertheless it was my first bass of 2014.

I had been thinking of packing up at high tide, but getting the bass gave me some encouragement to stay on longer. About half an hour later I had another dogfish. This was followed by the sixth dogfish of the night about 40 minutes afterwards.

At that stage I decided to pack up and save my remaining crabs for the next session. So while it was not a great session I was happy with getting my fist bass of the year. That was a better start to the year than 2013 when it was well into April before I got the first bass of the year. So let's hope 2014 proves to be a better year than last year for bass fishing.