Jim O’Donnell is a charter skipper and fishing guide based in Courtmacsherry. Jim also works as a freelance fishing journalist and photographer. He has authored several books for the Royal Yachting Association and has been a regular contributor to monthly sea fishing magazines for many years. To send Jim your fishing news and photographs you can contact him on 087 338 8626.
Above: Jim and his clients with a big blue shark. 2016 is looking promising for West Cork shark fishing.
As they say “it was good while it lasted!” and as I type, the second of this year’s named storms ‘Barney’ is raging outside. Sadly it looks like the 2015 sea fishing season is well and truly at its end. On a positive note, the weather remained mild right into November and with only a few weeks to go until the shortest day, it won’t be long before spring comes around.
Over the past month I’ve had very few reports, which is to be expected really for this time of year. The constant swells of the have kept charter boats throughout the county tied up in harbour and shore fishing has been particularly hard with coloured water inshore and very few places accessible on the open coast.
There are reports of good Cod fishing to the east of Cork with a few starting to show in Cork harbour and it will only be a matter of time before these start to filter further west. General shore fishing is still good if you can find somewhere to tuck out of the wind. November and December are normally great months for shore conger fishing. Flounder are another great species to beat the winter blues, if there hasn’t been too much rainfall or freshwater into our estuaries. And finally Bass are still a viable target right up until late January. Between blows, for those that dare venture out, the Bass fishing around the county has still been very good due to the mild conditions. Although I haven’t heard of any big Bass being caught, they are still present in large numbers, especially around Clonakilty. I managed to venture out a few times myself this month and I was rewarded with plenty of mid sized Bass averaging around 3-5lb, and remarkably quite a few Garfish – a species that’s not usually associated with November. On my last trip I also managed to catch my first West Cork Grand Slam – a Pollack, a Wrasse and a Bass in the same session, all caught on lure. A personal highlight of my year! On that note, now is the perfect time to round up this season, the highlights and the low points.
Throughout 2015, the general shore fishing was exceptionally consistent, especially if you like to target Bull Huss and Thornback Ray, both of which have fished well especially in the far west. Bass were late to show this year after the Bass season opened in June but the latter part of the season redeemed itself, however there were fewer specimen Bass caught this year and a concerning lack of small school Bass. Mullet are another species that in my opinion were not present in their usual numbers or size. Possibly a coincidence but they favour the same places as Bass! Mackerel and Garfish were two other species that also misbehaved this past season, preferring to shoal up on the open coast and offshore, with very few inshore around our piers, as you’d expect during summer. In complete contrast, fishing the counties headlands for rock species like Pollack and Wrasse was nothing less than excellent all summer. My personal best session with clients this year produced over 60 big Wrasse and Pollack in just over two hours.
The pattern of disrupted fishing this year appears to me centred around more fragile inshore harbour and estuary areas which are more effected by rainfall/fresh water and temperature, so I can only conclude (and hope) that this was just a one-off blip caused by the appalling weather we had up until the end of July!
Unlike the ups and downs of shore fishing, boat fishing this past season was on top form. Mackerel, although late arriving, were plentiful when the season got underway; and the general inshore reef fishing throughout the county has been good all year with tons of big Pollack and some great cod fishing, with the average cod being larger than in recent years. When conditions allowed, offshore wreck fishing for big Ling was also nothing short of excellent but by far the best fishing this year from boat was for sharks. A few years back shark fishing, especially for Blue sharks, gave cause for concern with dropping numbers of fish, but this season saw the counties visiting blue sharks arrive earlier, and in greater numbers! If this season was anything to go by, 2016 should be an excellent year for West Cork shark fishing!
The last and probably most exciting thing to happen though this season was to hear that huge shoals of Bluefin Tuna have returned to the West Cork coast after many years of absence. Granted it’s great to see these big fish, which grow to over 500lbs and even better to catch one, and they could be a great resource for local angling tourism, but the best thing about these big Bluefin returning is that they are a sign that the waters around our coast are generally healthy and flourishing and long may that continue!
Have a safe and happy Christmas! Tight Lines until next month