When the fish come out to play

Posted on: 10th September, 2015

Category: News

Contributor: Jim O'Donnell

Above: Ronan O'Sullivan 5.2lb bass Jim O’Donnell is a renowned 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. www.jimodonnell.ie. Don’t forget to send your catch reports and photographs in, to be in with a chance of winning a brand new Tronix Lure Fishing rod in our West Cork ‘Fish of the Month’ competition, sponsored by TronixPro UK. To enter you can simply post your fishing pictures and catch reports on the West Cork Fishing News FaceBook page, or you can text them to Jim directly on 087 338 8626.

What a difference a month makes! While August certainly wasn’t the hottest on record, it certainly was a reprieve from the rain and winds of July! Fishing is greatly affected by the weather too and just like us — with the exception of a few species — when the weather is mild and settled they come out to play! And with more sunnier and calmer days over August, reports of excellent fishing, especially for Bass, have been frequently coming in from around the county. The Bass fishing over August has been very good, with more and more fish arriving when the weather has been kind, but June and July produced some of the poorest Bass fishing on record — not surprising given the amount of rainfall.

Freshwater from rainfall plays havoc with inshore fisheries. Run-off from a small stream into a small cove or twenty plus miles of river meeting the sea at an estuary, brings with it coloured water from the soil on the land around. For whatever reason, whatever gets washed into the sea with heavy rainfall makes life difficult for fish to stay and feed in inshore areas, driving them out into clearer, better oxygenated waters — and even more so the baitfish they feed on. It goes without saying that larger estuaries fed by longer rivers and the nearby coastline are greater affected than smaller bodies of water.

Another problem that comes with rainfall is increased ‘cabbage’ (or lettuce) weed! Lettuce weed grows naturally in sandy estuarine areas along our coastline and is always problematic for anglers and boat owners — it collects on anything on its path, as it drifts downstream. It makes fishing impossible; it clogs up boat engine filters, and sometimes can form a blanket that can make boat navigation impossible, and sometimes dangerous.

Local commercial fishermen are well aware that during summers with high rainfall, lettuce weed grows quicker and grows more in plaque proportions — it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why! Whether a little or a lot, the increase in lettuce weed is without doubt caused by an increase in farming fertilisers being washed through the land and out to sea, as they would naturally, but fertilising our estuarine lettuce weed on route! And I have to say that the poor lettuce weed is extremely receptive to whatever is being used to fertilise land, up river!

Over the past month I have had to clean my engine water filter (to stop the engine from overheating) up to five times in one day (several times in a narrow channel and near rocks!). I have also had to cancel the majority of my bass guiding with lures, as you just can’t retrieve a lure through the water without it getting engulfed in weed. I have seen Courtmacsherry Harbour so choked with weed that it has almost prevented boats leaving harbour, for whole tides.

On a different note, IFI (Inland Fisheries Ireland) is recommencing its Bass ‘Satellite’ Tagging programme this autumn, which is great stuff and good news for the future of Irish Bass fishing, but I leave you with this to ponder — when it rains, lettuce weed grows fiercer, but when it rains heavy, it drives Sand Eel, Mullet and Bass further out to sea for days!

Whilst studying how many Bass return each year, I ask you this, should we also be looking into what effects farm fertilisers and nutrients have on our Bass stocks and fragile estuarine/inshore areas, not to mention what impact it has on small coastal towns and their commercial fishing economies?

On to fishing and these past two weeks (with less rainfall) has been excellent for local Bass fishing. Bass are now thick along the coast and it’s shaping up to look like it’s going to be a great autumn (if it doesn’t rain too much).

In the past month tons of big Bass have been caught from around the county with a good 50/50 mix of fish falling to both lure and live bait. I’ve heard of no double-figure Bass yet but several have been landed to 9lbs.

In the far west, guests of Paul Harris’s ‘Dromagowlane’ guest house, which specialises in shore fishing around the Beara Peninsula, have been experiencing good bass fishing on topwater lures, on Bass marks to the north of the Beara; while Bantry Bay in the south is providing some of the Best Bull Huss sport in many years. This is true across the county and even here, from Courtmac, we’re also finding it a bumper year for big Bull Huss on offshore rough ground marks.

Moving along the coast, Nick Dent, skipper of the charter boat  ‘Rooster’ from Baltimore, is still finding excellent shark fishing, with the odd shark topping the 100lb mark. Sharks become fewer over the next month but the chance of a biggie is always on the cards in late September. Nick also reports excellent reef fishing for Pollack and Cod, with the odd fishing into double figures (over 10lb). Unfortunately I have no report from Union Hall this month.

Moving East along the coast to Clonakilty, Graham O’Donnell of ‘Clon Tackle and Leisure’ reports that Bass fishing in the Bay has been good over the past month, on both lure and bait, with fish showing in the Ring area and on the Inchydoney surf beaches; with bigger fish falling to lures fished on the Dunmore side of the bay, at night. Graham also reports that local Gilthead Bream is a bit hit and miss, with only a few being caught recently but local mullet fishing for Golden Greys and Thick Lips, is on top form with all the usual haunts, from Rosscarberry to Ring, fishing well.

On the boat side of things, David Edwards and his boat Tigger, fishing Clon Bay from Ring are having their best year Cod fishing, with lots of Cod up to double figures on recent trips. Like many other boats, David is still finding plenty of good blue shark action – Tigger’s biggest this month pushes the scales to 110lb. A nice fish and one happy angler!

From Courtmacsherry this month, both the Lady Louise, skippered by Mark Gannon, and the Lady Patricia, skippered by myself, have had a busy month, fishing reef, wrecks, sharks and some skate thrown in to boot!

Currently the wrecks south of Courtmacsherry are still producing excellent sport with huge ling, up to specimen size and a few big cod thrown in for good measure. Whilst still offshore, shark fishing has calmed down a little since last month, back to normal standards, with both boats averaging five to eight sharks per day. The biggest this month was caught by Mark Gannon’s Lady Louise and measured 220cm.

Reef fishing off Seven Heads and the Old Head of Kinsale is still on great form, with big Pollack and double figure Cod on the drift and good Ling, Conger and Huss fishing at anchor. The Giant Skate bite has also been very good this year, with lots of big skate lost at the boat. The biggest landed over the past month again went to Gannon’s ‘Lady Louise’ for returning a Skate of 174lbs! Inshore, Bass fishing on livebaits can only be described as ‘on fire’. With less rainfall, the past two weeks have seen schools of bass arrive inshore around Courtmacsherry. On my last session, we landed six Bass to 8lb and lost a further six, for Paul Fenech from Sea Angler magazine in the UK. All fell to livebaits! Keep your eye out for that article in Sea Angler over the coming months!

And lastly onto West Cork FOTM (Fish Of The Month) sponsored by TronixPro UK — this month has been a Bass bonanza!

This month’s rod winners are: Cork’s Andrew Davis, who on an all night session on a secret West Cork Bass mark, managed a beautiful Bass of 76cm, amongst others! Lovely fish Andrew!

West Cork Junior Angler of the Month this month goes to young rod Ronan O’Sullivan from Courtmacsherry, for his Bass of 5lb 2oz! Well done Ronan! Please contact me to collect your prizes guys!

Don’t forget to send your catch reports and photographs in, to be in with a chance of winning September’s West Cork FOTM prizes!

Tight Lines until next month!



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