The alarm went off at 4.30 last Thursday, and after weeks of preparation it was finally time to load up and head for Cork, to fish the Martin O Brien memorial festival, from Lower Aghada.
We had a good trip down, towing Lady M, with Jay ( skipper ) at the wheel and me and Dan struggling to keep awake until 4pm when we pulled up outside the Long Point pub in Whitegate which was to be our base for the next 4 days.
We unpacked the tackle and our bags after our first Guinness of the trip, and made plans to go out of the harbour and fish for Mackeral on the Friday, and then back in to try for a Bass or 2. However, a trip up to the organizers house to book in, gave us the news that Mackeral were very thin on the ground either inside or outside the harbour, and the forecast for Friday and Saturday was South Westerly winds which had been causing large swells in the harbour approaches all week, which is the main reason for the lack of photos with this report as it was hard enough standing up!
We retreated to bed after our 11th or 12th pint of the black stuff ( i`d lost count by then ) and our plans to be up for 7 to go Macky bashing were also changed when we didn’t surface until 10am on the Friday, but brave souls that we are, we headed out of the sheltered waters of the harbour, and spent the next 4 hours in the approaches feathering, in swells of 12 to 15 feet, and all feeling very rough.
The local info was right, and after catching only 5 Mackeral and a couple of Launce we headed in to fish a mark with lures for a Bass. Sadly there was nothing doing there either, so it was back to base for hair of the dog and a good scrub, the off to meet up with some of the other competitors, who were meeting in the pub down the road to book in and catch up.
We devised a plan for Saturdays fishing, as the large swells were still forecast outside the harbour, we decided to stay inside and fish for the 20 plus species that can be caught from these more sheltered waters. We planned to head out on Sunday when the wind was forecast to turn North Westerly and should flatten the worst off the swell and make things a lot more comfortable.
We were early to bed on Friday, with our game faces on and up with the lark on Saturday. Loaded the boat and we were launched and tackling up a good 45 minutes before the start of the match. We had some good news when one of the competitors who had travelled down on the Friday had stopped on the way to catch a load of Mackeral which were sold in bags of 10, for a 2 euro donation to the local lifeboat station.
The morning was a struggle. Jay and Dan have both fished this area several times before, and so they were deciding the marks, and advising me on what to fish for and what would be the killer rigs, but it was four hours into the match and our third or fourth mark before we had a fish in the bucket, in the shape of a small Pollack, caught on the drift. As the tide eased, we set anchor and tried for a Conger, which are here in numbers and to a good size.
Dan was first in on the Conger rod, using mackerel head as bait, but the fish, which was putting a good bend in his rod, and pulling back hard managed to shed the hook half way up to the boat. Next up was me, with a typical tapping Conger bite on my little 7 foot 20lb class rod, and I picked it up and waited for another pull down before I lifted into the fish and it was game on! The fish was giving as good as it was getting, and as the boat went over the top of the 8 to 10 feet swells, the fish would take line before I could gain some back as we went down the other side, with my rod bending really well.
We all realised that it was a decent fish, and when it surfaced about 20 yards behind the boat cries of “ it’s a f****** monster” really didn’t do my weary arms and legs too good, as they had been hammered by holding myself upright for many of the last 24 hours on the water and in the bar!
The fish was over 6 feet long and had a good girth to it. It was writhing on the surface before disappearing over the top of the next swell and having a dive again but it was tiring. The local lads on Off Da Hook were a couple of hundred yards behind us and could also see what was going on as Dan reeled in some of the other rods to clear some space and Jay readied the net. I got the fish alongside the boat and Jay was positioning the net when it started spinning which proved just a bit too much for one of my knots and the rig gave way as Dan made a grab for it. The fish drifted slowly away as Jay made a lunge for it, but it was too late. It kicked away strongly and headed for the depths, while I sat down with a fag until I had stopped shaking.
We reckon it was well over 30lb, possibly 35lb, and as Dan had a 30 lb Conger from here a few years ago which was weighed, his estimate is good enough for me.
The lads aboard Off Da Hook were later to confirm they had witnessed the fish, and would verify it as the policy for Conger and all Rays in this match was to get another boat to witness the capture and each fish is awarded five kilograms at the weigh in and immediately returned.
We had another drop each, and Jay made sure with a smaller fish which was about 12 lb in weight, which we photographed and released before moving to the next spot, which you can see Dan reccying in the photo.
As we sped away, the regret that I didn’t get a photo of the beast was replaced by relief that we didn’t get it into the boat, in those big swells as it could have ended in tears with broken tackle and or limbs. In the end we agreed that it getting away was probably the best outcome as we all got a great view of it at arms length without the danger of having it aboard.
We were unlucky with the next fish, which was a Plaice at 29cm which was just under the 30cm size limit, although I had a Mackeral and we added a Dab here, before a Doggie and a Whiting took us up to 6 for the day and things weren’t looking too bad after a poor start.
The next trick up our sleeve would guarantee us a few more species as we went on a mini species hunt and managed to add Goldsinney, Tompot, Poor Cod and a bonus Ballan before we had to head back to the weigh in at 5.30., then over to the pub to await the results.
It turned out that everyone had struggled with only 1 local boat ( Screaming Reels ) coming back from their days fishing reporting 15 species which took them into a good lead. We were in third place with our 10 species, tied with second place but with less weight, and several boats still in the chase with 9 species each.
The forecast was still good for the Sunday and with our plan set, we managed to catch a Mullet within the first ten minutes of the days fishing before holding on tight and heading out to Ling Rock, which is about 16 miles from the slipway.
The swell had dropped considerably, but was still enough to make the boat rock, and me have to grab hold of something every so often to save myself from falling on my arse, but it was fishable, so we had several hours drifting in various locations, managing to add Ling and Cuckoo Wrasse to our species list as well as improving the weight of our Pollack and Whiting.
I was struggling with losing rigs, and Jay and Dan both had Cuckoo Wrasse while I was tackling up again, and then did the same with Haddock, after I had lost yet another rig! Very infuriating as I need both of these for the species hunt and I wont have another chance to go for a Haddock but we were looking at the bigger picture this weekend and we decided to go and drift another mark where we added Grey and Red Gurnard to our tally before starting to make our way back towards the harbour.
We fished for Plaice again and we had another Dab and I had a Weever which was exempt from the match, before Dan had a nice Plaice of 0.62 Kgs
And it was anchor up and away to the next mark.
We had wasted Saturday morning fishing here, but a different state of the tide, and having seen Screaming Reels fishing here at the same stage of the tide on the previous day, we were targeting Huss and Thornies, with the chance off a Bass and a Flounder, and were confident of at least the first 2 species.
This confidence was well founded as within minutes Dan had a Huss of about 5 and a half pounds and I had a Thornie which was witnessed and released.
Dan managed another in size Plaice before we decided to have one last move and try feathering for maybe a Scad or a Launce. Sadly, this was not successful, and we headed back to the weigh in having had 12 species on day 2, adding nine to our final tally. We didn’t think we had done enough to overturn Sreaming Reels lead but we were hopeful of second place, as Atlantic Warrior, who we were tied with after day 1, had lost 3 hours fishing time, towing another boat which had broken down back into the harbour.
At the presentation, Screaming Reels were the match winners, having added another 11 species to their tally on day 2 giving them a total of 26 species in 2 days! This is very good going when you consider that the fishing was hard, and when Dan and Adam won the Cork Small Boats festival there last September, they only had 25 species in 4 days!
Another local boat pipped us for second, also with 19 species but with just 1.4 Kgs more weight than us. It was the organisers Tony and Sue on Preadator II and they had a Ling of 3.29 Kgs while ours was only 1.10 Kgs so in the end it was down to 1 fish.
We were third and picked up 100 euros for that, with an extra 100 euros for Dans Plaice which was the heaviest flatfish of the event so that was nice!
A couple of boats tied on 18 species, so we were quite happy to have managed third place especially considering it was locals who beat us and how hard the fishing was.
The full results can be viewed on Rosies Sea Angling Club website here
The lads are back there in 5 or 6 weeks for this years small boats festival, and with a few new marks and some valuable information gained from this weekend, they are full of confidence and im gutted im not going with them.
The people, the place and the match were fantastic. The fishing was hard but was still a nice change and im going to start banging in the overtime so I can maybe do both matches next year.
Most importantly, a massive thanks to Roger for letting us borrow his boat for the weekend. Very kind
I would love to have had the weather and more time there, to have been able to have tried for the Megrim and even the Blue Sharks that they catch there regularly, as well as the many species that we didn’t manage to find this weekend. I added 4 to my species hunt which was a little disappointing but with next week off work again, ill be up the island a coule of times looking to hit at least the 30 mark.
Heres my other photos from the trip.
Dont really capture the swell.
Having a mooch around Cobh.