Year of the Bass

Posted on: 4th April, 2016

Category: Sport & Fitness

Contributor: Jim O'Donnell

Jim O’Donnell is a fishing guide based in Courtmacsherry. You can send your fishing news and photographs to Jim by text or by email to 087 3388626 jim@jimodonnell.ie To find out more about Jim’s guided fishing trips check out www.jimodonnell.ie.

This past month has seen much improved weather. The ground is drier, the rivers are running clear again, the winter birds are leaving the counties estuaries and it won’t be long before the local fishing starts to kick into action again. As far as reports go over the past month, they are still few and far between which is to be expected for March, but some good news…things are looking up for the year ahead!

Last year, Mackerel were a cause for concern. Throughout the season Mackerel were fewer than normal, and there was no great influx of them inshore around our piers and headlands, as you would normally expect during the summer months. Well the good news is that this year the mackerel are already in! They’re in early and there also seems to be no shortage of them for this time of year too!

For the past two weeks I have seen steady reports on social media of anglers catching half a dozen or so mackerel by freak chance, right along the south coast and, I even managed to get in on the action myself. On a recent session, trying to catch an early season bass, I was shocked when I caught nine mackerel one after the other, from a small West Cork cove. Mackerel are an important link of the food chain, so I can’t explain how positive it is to see this many of them, this early in the season, after last year’s shortages!

In other news this month: a few spring Salmon have started to show on the Bandon Angling Associations’ waters over the past few weeks – this will hopefully improve throughout April; and a few local charter boats have been venturing out on the calmer days between the winds. It’s still early days for our inshore reefs, which come into their own from late April onwards, but this time of year can offer great wreck fishing for both Pollack and Cod. The best catches I’ve seen so far this year have been aboard Mike Dennehy’s Kinsale-based Silver Dawn, who’s been finding no shortage of big Pollack, on wrecks south of the Old Head!

Around now is also a good time to dust off the Bass tackle. As far as Bass go, I haven’t heard of any Bass being caught west of Cork Harbour yet but that’s not to say there hasn’t been any, as Bass fishing can be a game of secrecy, but by usual patterns, the Bass fishing usually picks up in East Cork a few weeks before it picks up here in the West and, there are no solid reports coming from East Cork just yet. Watch this space!

Still on the subject of Bass, until now, I haven’t mentioned the new Emergency EU Bass regulations, which were passed in December 2015 and have been brought in for this year. In a nutshell, all Irish anglers now have to release all Bass caught between January 1 and June 31. Anglers may keep one pass over 42cm per person, per day, between July and December. This is until a full management plan for the species is introduced later this year. This is great news for Catch and Release Bass Guides like myself.

Not all will share this view, especially those who like to keep a Bass or two for the table, but I leave you with this to think over. Over the decade of so that I have been fishing for Bass in Cork and Kerry, without doubt, however big or small, I have noticed a decline in this species – in size and in quantity. So with Zero commercial fishing for Bass in Ireland, and Irish anglers now releasing all fish for half of the year, if we do not see an improvement to our Bass stocks because of these new measures, it’s pretty clear that any damage to Ireland’s Bass stocks is clearly being done by commercial fishing outside of Irish waters, and not inside them.

Apart from having Irish family, the main reason I repatriated to Ireland was for its great Bass fishing due to protection measures that long preceded these new EU regulations; so this year my own personal plans include developing my own Bass Guiding more, around this great opportunity. Granted, fish taste great, including Bass, but fishing is all about the catching and Catch and Release Bass fishing’s challenges are about as extreme as they come. If you’ve never tried Bass fishing, under these new measures, 2016 is a great year to give it a try!

Tight Lines until next month!

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