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: The Clonakilty Bass Guide, Peter Aspinwall with a chunky Autumn Bass taken on a surface lure
The mornings are getting colder, the nights are drawing in and it seems like only last month I started this column. It’s hard to believe the 2015 season is really about to draw to a close, but on a positive note, the winter fishing around West Cork can be pretty good if you’re prepared to brave the elements…but more about winter fishing in a moment.
The first of the big Autumn depressions passed up through the Atlantic earlier in October, which is a good sign things are about to change, but despite one blowy week it’s been a good October, especially for Bass! When tides and conditions have been right, there has been no shortage of Bass caught from Cork to Kenmare, and some big ones to boot! The Bass fishing this past month has been how it should be, rather than the hit and miss summer fishing we’ve had until now. This time of year sees Bass feeding more frequently from rock marks and storm beaches and spending less time feeding in our estuaries. For those looking to catch a big Autumn Bass, your best bet is to go big or go home! Lure fishing – I like big plugs and big shads; bait fishing – I would fish whole calamari or launce, or a multiple peeler crab bait. A mackerel head with entrails is also a highly under-rated bait for big Bass around harbours and shallow rock marks.
Over the past month there’s been some big Bass reported from the Kenmare Bay side of the Beara Peninsula and rumours of good Bass fishing from the Bantry coast. Pollack and Huss fishing is still on fine form around the Coastline – if you can get shelter from the swell. If we get cold winds from a Northerly direction during November, it can be a great time to get out shore conger fishing, and again, the rock marks of Sheep’s Head, Bantry Bay and the Beara, offer the best chance of a big specimen Eel.
Moving east, Clonakilty Bay is proving this month why it’s probably the county’s number one area for Bass fishing. Local Bass guide Peter Aspinwall has been lapping it up with up to 30 Bass in a session, with many between the magic 60-70cm length – big chunky Autumn fish – with most falling to surface presented lures. Surface lure fishing is very visual and it’s probably the most exciting way to fish for bass. Fish are often seen chasing after the lure and takes are explosive! It’s not hard to see why Clon Bay lends itself well to this style of fishing. The area is a maze of clear, shallow estuary creaks, bays and sandbars. Check Peter out on facebook by searching Clonakilty Bass Angling Guide.
Sticking with Bass fishing, it’s been nice to have some time off myself this past month. As the summer charter season draws to a close, on days off, I’ve managed to get out on the open coast Bass fishing half a dozen or so times. While I can’t report that I’ve had any big Bass, the sheer size of some of the shoals of Bass I have seen between Dunworley and Garretstown has been faith-restoring after the topsy-turvey summer Bass fishing we’ve had this year. I’m hoping for a mild settled November with no dramatic drops in temperature to squeeze a few more sessions out before I hang up my lure rod and switch to bait.
From the Boat this month, things have started to slow down. Autumn storms cause cancelled trips and days at sea become fewer, and also many boat anglers naturally hang up their wellies, as the days become shorter and colder. One of the best ways to get afloat over the colder months is to call your regular skipper, leave him your contact details, and ask him to call you if the weather is good and he has availability. Expect good cod and general reef fishing up to Christmas, and good offshore wreck fishing in early spring.
In brief this month, Blue Shark fishing has all but finished for this year. I hear there are still a few small sharks to be caught but the remainder of our shark population have migrated south for their winter holidays. Let’s hope 2016 is as good as 2015 was. On the upside, inshore reef fishing is fast and furious at the moment, and there is a healthy amount of Cod starting to show. Whereas lures are very successful for cod over the summer, from now until Christmas, bait will account for more and bigger winter Cod.
And lastly this month some awesome news! Last month I mentioned Bluefin Tuna had been sighted along the West Cork Coast – around Cork and then Baltimore. As soon as local skipper and Tuna expert Mike Dennehy of Kinsale Charters heard this, he quickly raised a team of friends, put the throttle forwards and headed straight for Baltimore. At 7pm that evening, angler Joe Devito hooked into a monster Bluefin on a deep diving plug. Five hours and fifteen minutes later at 12.15am he landed a huge Bluefin, which was estimated at 200Kg before release, which I believe is a first for the West Cork coast! A huge congratulations to Mike and his boat Silver Dawn! Let’s hope the Bluefins return in 2016… and bring their friends with them!
To end this month, West Cork Fish Of The Month has come to an end for 2015! A big thanks to those who sent photos and a big congratulations to those who won rods. I’m currently in discussions and I hope to run a West Cork Fish of the year, with several species categories, over the whole of 2016. Watch this space!
Tight Lines until next month!