I started September with a few trips just local onto the rocks near Kilcrohane, mostly spinning for pollack. The wind had been set in the east for a good while so I wasn't expecting much, but in practice there were plenty about.
Many of the bites came from what seems to be a healthy year-class of fish about ten or twelve ounces, a good sign for future sport but not much more than nuisance value at the moment. Among them, a good few fish around 2lbs.
Occasionally the redgill would be stopped in its tracks by bigger pollack. These two were just either side of 4lbs caught on the 1st ...
I kept a couple of the bigger pollack for eating, and to my surprise they were stuffed with small crabs - not normal green shore crabs, I presume some deeper water species.
I don't know if there's been a plague of the things in the bay the pollack have cashed in on or if a change of diet has been forced by a lack of bait fish. From the continuing scarcity of mackerel I rather suspect the latter. The mackerel fishing has picked up a little since the east wind finally relented, but numbers remain well down on normal. I've only once seen any meaningful gannet activity this summer and that was at least a mile out.
On the 2nd I visited a mark I've only fished rarely. It points out straight out of the bay into the Atlantic and usually if there's any amount of westerly swell running they roll up the sloping ledges and threaten to spoil your day. After ten days of east wind however, safe enough.
I took the big rods with me and put two baits out into the depths.
I'd no idea what the bottom was like so the spark plug weights came out again, and I did lose a few. As usual round the rocks I popped the baits up off the bottom by whipping on a small chunk of polystyrene.
There wasn't a lot of action on the baits, a few pulls on mackerel heads came to nothing but a couple of better runs on prawn/ mackerel cocktails produced a decent bull huss about 8 - 9lbs and a reasonable strap conger probably about the same.
I'd rather suspected the bottom fishing would be slow, so I took the pollack gear too. I had a few fish casting out the front but these were all small. I moved out onto the point and cast out along the line of the gully that runs behind which I felt may carry on underwater. It was shallower in that direction and I was catching bottom as soon as I started winding. I wound a bit quicker and after a few yards the rod bucked over in my hands. It was immediately obvious it was a good fish so I got the rod tip up as high as possible and wound line back as quickly as the pollack would allow ... and my luck must have been in as it didn't go to ground and I kept it moving towards me. It had a last dive under the rod tip then a massive bronze flank appeared. I manoeuvred the fish round the point and slid it up the sloping rock. It was a wonderful new PB pollack of 8.5lbs ...
The 3rd was Mike's last day fishing before taking his trailer home back to UK for a month of barbel fishing on the River Severn.
We fished at the pontoon where we'd caught earlier in the week and both had a mullet within a few minutes of starting. Surprisingly the fishing then seemed to die on us, although we'd occasionally hear a mullet sploshing beneath our feet under the pontoon.
After a couple of hours without another bite we decided to relocate to another pontoon higher up the estuary. This one is quite unusual in that the mullet don't seem to hang around under the pontoon itself, but it makes a good platform for trotting a float through the pool. We could see a few mullet moving and although they never really fed consistently we had bites occasionally. I finished with two mullet and Mike one, all fish around the 3lbs mark.
On the 6th I visited Rosscarbery. It could have been a great day's mulleting but turned into a session of frustration, only partly salvaged near the end.
I fished from the grass across the road from the hotel. There was another angler already set up to my left who seemed to have a lot of mullet topping in front of him but he wasn't catching any. I was only getting occasional stragglers from this shoal showing in front of me, but nevertheless I was getting action on my tips almost from the off.
The first mullet I hooked, on my left hand rod, felt reasonable but came in fairly readily then came unhooked about twenty yards out. Soon after I hooked another on the same rod that may have been a bit bigger. It chugged off a few yards of line then came off too. 2 - 0 to the mullet.
After a brief lull my right hand rod folded over and a much bigger mullet stormed out running parallel to the wall on my right. Two anglers fishing half way along must have seen the bow wave coming as I saw them hastily getting their lines out of the way.
After this run the fish came in quite easily, kiting slightly left. I netted it without trouble and as you can see it was a pristine fish. Unfortunately it was hooked in the bony ridge across the top of its eye-socket, happily the eye itself wasn't damaged but it was foul-hooked in my book and not one to count. I weighed it out of interest, 5lb 10oz, but 3 - 0 to the mullet at this stage.
Almost immediately I was into another fish on my left hand rod. This one dropped off about ten yards out just as I was reaching for the net! It felt fairly modest but I'd have taken it. Instead, 4 - 0 down.
The angler to my left packed up - it was Terry Jackson whose Angling Ireland website many will know. He'd got a call to go bass fishing and kindly left me his leftover bread. I decided to move over a bit towards his swim as the main shoal of mullet was still there.
Soon after moving I was in again as my left-hand rod yanked over. The mullet was already screaming line off the drag when I got the rod up and it carried on. And on. And on. There was an inevitability in the outcome as it headed into the old oyster pens across the pool. Instead of snagging as expected it cut the trace on something sharp so at least I got most of my rig back, but 5 - 0 for heaven's sake and worse, this last one had been a very big fish indeed.
After that the shoal moved on as the new tide pushed into the pool and bites dried up. The water rose steadily and the left-to-right flow brought a lot of floating weed with it. I found myself fishing closer and closer in to dodge the worst of it. As high water neared I was dropping the baits only a couple of yards past the rocks into probably two feet depth.
I started getting knocks but nothing that connected, till eventually a slamming take and the reel screaming again. This fish proved much more manageable than the last one though, probably it was a good bit smaller to be fair. My Facebook friend Craig Murphy from Dublin popped up behind me as I was playing it, netted the mullet for me and took the photo. It weighed 5:03 and few minutes later I had a two pounder to bring the score back to 5 - 2 to the mullet. It was a better end to the day but I still left wondering what might have been.
On the 8th I did a visit to the airstrip for (probably) a last go at the rays there this year.
I started about 90 minutes before low water. First fish out was a pin-whiting to remind that the season was changing but I soon had a little ray about 3lbs on mackerel bait.
About five minutes before low I had a better bite from what was obviously a much bigger ray. It kept digging itself into the bottom on the way in and took some shifting each time. I had hopes of a new Irish PB but in the event the scales barely went past 7lbs. Still, I was happy with that. I was hopeful of getting more, but the airstrip dogfish had other ideas and demolished every bait in short order for the first hour or so of the flood tide before bites dried up completely. Later on a mackerel grabbed what was left of a bait as I was winding in. I put some Sabikis on and briefly got excited when I hooked another second chuck, but it came off and that was that.
Next up, a couple more mullet trips that didn't really go to script.
On the 9th I visited my low water rock mark in Bantry Bay. It was a real job getting past the small pollack that were there in almost plague numbers, but they relented just long enough for a mullet under 2lbs to get at my bait almost dead on low water.
Next morning I was up before dawn to catch the early morning high tide down on the Mizen. It was a massive tide that I hoped would bring some big mullet up the shallow estuary but as it turned out I only had two takes and both the fish were small.
The east wind had abated for a few days but it was back with a vengeance for my next trip to Rosscarbery on the 12th. It was also raining steadily when I arrived. There were some mullet enjoying the flow into the lagoon so I had a go on the float for them while that lasted, getting wet and catching just one of the fish, another small one.
The rest of the morning I huddled under my brolly legering and not expecting too much. Bites were indeed few and far between but I had a couple of good takes either side of lunch. In contrast to the shambles last time here, both these fish hung on and I landed a brace of fish both 5lb 5oz.
The first was a really good fight, the second less so. It occurred to me it might have been the same fish twice, but examining the photos the second has a couple of small, part-healed splits in its tail that the first doesn't.
Much later on I had another good take, shortly after I'd seen a big fish bow-waving about just over to the right of my baits. The fish motored off across the pool but this time stopped short of the snags and I was able to bring it slowly back. I knew it was going to be bigger than the other two, in fact it was exactly a pound heavier at 6:05, my third six-pounder this season.
I was back on the 15th for another go. We'd finally lost the east wind but the north-westerly that replaced it was blustery and chilly. It turned into another slow day punctuated by just a couple of bites and two more good-sized mullet of 4:14 and 5:01 ...
On Monday 20th I had to head up to Kerry Airport, Cork being closed for rebuilding the runway, to collect my old friend Steve Smith who was coming over from England for a week of mainly mullet fishing.
Steve's flight wasn't in till 1710 so I decided to make a day of it and cast my lines for the first time into the sheltered waters of Tralee Bay.
I chose a mark under the road out from Tralee towards Fenit which I know produces undulate rays and stingrays, though in fairness the best of that fishing would have been a month or more ago so this was a bit of a punt.
I'd really like to catch an undulate, having missed out on what's been a boom in their numbers in the English Channel after they were given protected status shortly before we relocated to Ireland.
I'd even brought some fresh mackerel that I managed to catch the evening before, and some frozen sandeels, but the Tralee crab population munched its way through my baits in double-quick time.
Perhaps when the rays are about they suppress the crab activity. If not I'd think the bait shop in Tralee does roaring trade ... in the event a solitary Kerry dogfish was the only thing with fins that came my way. Still, a worthwhile exploration and the drive up didn't seem to take anything like as long as I'd thought so I'll definitely be back next summer.
I picked Steve up and we were straight into mulleting action on Tuesday morning. The Bantry Bay pollack were out in force again but we persisted and Steve had a small mullet on low water and a nice one of 3lbs 5oz as the tide flooded back in.
Steve also had a couple of chunky mackerel interlopers, while I was pollacked out.
An evening venture down onto the Mizen disappointed (again) then Wednesday it was down to Rosscarbery. We started off legering from the grass.
Bites had been hard to come by at Ross recently and today continued the trend, but after a quiet morning Steve had a couple of takes over lunchtime.
The first was a good pull. What looked to be a big fish swirled over his bait but unfortunately it was gone by the time he could pick up the rod.
A few minutes later, a rattly sort of bite and Steve played in a mullet about 2:08. It was some consolation at least.
Any hope these bites might mark the start of a feeding spree soon faded, and we sat another couple of hours without a knock. Then a big fish bow-waved through our swim left to right without stopping. I decided to go for a walk to investigate where it had gone and could see a number of mullet just off the wall to our right, apparently browsing over the bottom. We had about an hour left to fish and decided to move over and fish from the wall.
Steve was feeling under the weather and when we got back to the car (parked along the wall) he said he was going to take a nap while I fished. Although I could still see mullet moving from time to time, the hour was nearly up when my left-hand rod pulled hard over.
The mullet ran out well but came back quite easily, kiting left well clear of my other line. At this stage I was thinking it was a good fish but not exceptional, but it really dug in in the shallow corner of the pool there, hugging the bottom and its tail bringing up great plumes of silt. This went on for ages but eventually the fish tired and I had it at the base of the wall. It looked colossal. I'd come well along the wall so I couldn't rouse Steve and had to net it myself. I could barely reach the water with my 3m net handle, the net head was almost vertical, half in the water and half out. Somehow I managed to bundle the fish in and lift it up.
I thought it might be my first Irish seven pounder but on my scales it went 6:15. I dug my spare scales out of the bottom of my bag and on them it went .... 6:15 again. It is still my Irish PB by an ounce, and I'm happy enough with that.
Thursday morning Steve was still feeling rough so we decided to take it easy and just venture out onto the pier locally later that evening.
I fished Sabikis till my arms were falling off but only had one mackerel. Steve fished sandeel under a float and added another mackerel, a succession of small pollack and finally, in the dusk, a better one just over 3lbs. It gave him a good scrap on the light rod he was using and made for a nice fish n' chips supper for the three of us next evening.
Friday morning we were back on the Bantry Bay rocks for a low water session. The fishing was made difficult by a freshening westerly cross wind and fair lop on the water.
The pollack were still about, not quite in the same numbers but still clearly outnumbering the mullet many to one. This time it was my turn to win the lottery with a two pounder mullet about low tide and a three pounder last knockings as the swells started breaking over the mark.
My friend Jim Murray had travelled down from Dublin to stay at Rosscarbery with his friend Anne-Marie. We had just missed their arrival on Wednesday evening.
The fishing had been slow on Thursday, just one small mullet on float, then was slow again on Friday till finally the fish came on the feed during their evening session. Jim had a mullet of 4:10 then thirty minutes later an astonishing new PB of 7:13. It's one of the very biggest caught at Rosscarbery - and makes me wonder even more about one or two of the mullet I've hooked and lost. The pics below are Jim with his fantastic PB, and with Steve after we'd arrived to fish the Saturday...
The recent general slow tempo of things at Rosscarbery carried on for the day. Steve had a little one out on the float where he was fishing there by the bridge, I had one bite all day on leger, a 4:05 from the grass. We finished off all legering from the wall where Anne-Marie had the only bite, a smashing PB of 5:09 (I think.) Then we enjoyed a get-together in a restaurant up in the village along with Sylvi who'd driven down to join us for the afternoon and evening.
On Sunday, for Steve's last fishing day, we headed east again. We stopped for a quick go in Rosscarbery Lagoon. There was a blustery southwest wind putting a good chop on the water and colouring it up, and it was raining quite heavily, so far from ideal conditions. We saw one fish whelm close in and I had a couple of maybe-bites on float, but after an hour we moved on.
We were soon set up and fishing on "Mike's Pontoon" for a longer session over the low water slack, on the float again. I had a bit of a 'mare, losing one mullet, snapping my hooklength on another on the strike, and missing about thirty bites, several of which looked completely unmissable. Meanwhile Steve did much better, hooking and landing first a 4:02 then a 3:15 which we both thought was the bigger of the two but somehow wasn't.
I drove Steve back to the airport on Monday, and had an easy day on Tuesday. On Wednesday I was out on a mullet mission, failing as it turned out though I had a fun enough time.
The Mullet Club's Venue Top Ten competition is based on the aggregate weight of best ten specimens over the year but a maximum of four can be counted from any one venue. My total this year so far is a healthy 51:01 largely due to four six pounders from Rosscarbery. I still have two three pounders on the list from other venues that I'd like to displace because, well, because it looks better. So I set off aiming to catch a brace of fours from anywhere other than Ross...
First stop was a shingle spit that juts into a creek somewhere south of Skibbereen; I've not fished the mark much but there are usually a few nice fish moving in the shallows on the north-facing side of the spit. Disappointingly, not today though. I walked right to the end then back along the south side. Surprisingly, despite a fresh breeze pushing a strong ripple onto this shore, I found several groups of mullet dotted along. They didn't look particularly big fish but I thought there might be some better ones among them, so hurried back to the car to don my waders and break out the float rod.
It's a nice spot, as you can see, and it was nice fishing wading out and trotting a float through. I had two mullet in 45 minutes or so before they moved on towards high water, but no real size to them, the best about 2:04.
Next stop was a spot between Union Hall and Glandore. I stayed a couple of hours but it was earlier in the ebb tide than ideal for this mark. I had one bite out of the blue, and another mullet maybe 2:08. I wanted to get away for what I expected would be the main event on the pontoon where I'd fished with Steve on Sunday and the mullet had been there in force. What a contrast though ... after 90 minutes, the one and only bite. At least I didn't miss it, but I can't really say it was worth the wait, a thicklip barely a pound.
It was getting late so I packed up. A charter boat had landed a while ago, the anglers had taken their pick of the catch and departed, leaving the skipper and his mate filleting what was left near the top of the gangway off the pontoon. I stopped for a look, it was mostly ling including one monster they said had been 33lb before gutting. Very generously they offered me a couple, so I ended up a day when I'd returned four mullet for barely 7lbs with about 20lbs of ling to take home and fillet for the freezer. Got to love Ireland.