On the 1st I headed up to my favourite mark in Kerry, arriving on the morning low water. The gentle southerly breeze when I arrived soon turned and freshened into a full-on easterly blowing down the bay.
By half tide I was biteless and fearing the worst when my right-hand rod pulled over. It was a decent fish and seemed to get heavier and heavier as it came closer to the rocks, in true huss fashion. Under the rod tip, also in true huss fashion, it shook its head and spat out the bait!
Losing the fish was a bit frustrating after such a long wait but while I was baiting that rod up again I had a rattle on the other tip. Nothing came of that but I left the bait out there and after a few minutes the rattle repeated and this time I hooked the fish.
It didn't feel big but it seemed a bit livelier than your average LSD and I was pleased to swing out a small spurdog. It really was a small one though, barely a couple of pounds.
A massive pack of spurs must have moved in because it was literally a bite a cast for the next
three hours till turning off like a tap at high water, sometimes with the rod tip nodding as soon as I tightened down after the cast. I missed loads and landed five of the more ambitious ones that managed to get their jaws round my 4/0 hooks - I kept the big baits going out in the hope of selecting a bigger spur from the shoal, but unfortunately they were all similar size except for one that may have made 4lbs at a push.
Amid the baby spur frenzy, other fish decided to feed too. I had a whopping LSD I probably should have put on the scales (but didn't) and two very decent bullhuss of 10lbs and 12lbs, both unusually pale leopard-effect individuals for this mark.
I was hopeful this session might herald the arrival of some bigger spurs into the bay, but in this respect the rest of March was a disappointment. Sylvi came with me on the 4th but it was a very slow session with the only captures an LSD and a tiny conger ...
... with an even bigger disaster on the 14th when I fished all the way up the tide and half the tide back with not even a bite. I went back on the 18th with Sylvi for an almost repeat performance, but this time a little nodding bite on a squid/mackerel cocktail just before high water turned into a proper pull down. The fish put up a good scrap, repeatedly diving for the bottom as it neared the edge. It was a smart male thornback just over 7lbs - it's remarkable what a lively fight they give trying to bring them up through the water as opposed to sliding them out onto a beach.
That day marked the start of an extended period of east winds that carried on to the end of the month, so I was expecting another slow day when I returned on the 30th. It was indeed slow, with just two bites. They were good fish though, first a huss dead on 10lbs about half-tide on squid/herring and then another thornback, a 9lbs female this time, just after high water on mackerel.
My only other outing with the big rods was onto a local rock mark on Sheep's Head on the 28th. The new slate memorial to J G Farrell, replacing the battered old brass plaque someone had used for air gunnery practice, was a salutory reminder and it didn't take me long to judge I wasn't going to get out onto my first-choice mark across the bay. The swells were still surging up the rocks far too high despite more than a week of easterlies and a hopelessly optimistic 0.7m swell prediction on Windfinder.
I stopped on the rocks near the carpark. There's deep water in front and the mark can produce good sport, but the bottom fishing often gets off to a slow start here in spring and it definitely wasn't going to be helped by the bright sunshine and chilly east breeze.
I had several knocks on mackerel head baits fished close in, but nothing that hung on ... they'd take the soft bits of gut and then leave the bait. I rather suspected small strap congers might be the culprits and eventually I picked up a couple on smaller baits fished further out that were otherwise untouched.
It was a disappointing session all round but there'll be better to come for sure.
Moving onto to mulleting, my first outing was on the 6th down at Rosscarbery. It was a mostly grey day and a perishing cold south-east wind was running up the estuary. I fished down the west bank in the lee of the car, in reasonable shelter but even so I was soon feeling the cold.
There's not many days I don't enjoy mullet fishing but today was one such, and it was a relief when one of the leger rods pulled over and I landed a thicklip of 3:06.
I'd fished a couple of hours and didn't give it a lot longer, I'd got a mullet for March so mission accomplished in that respect ... back up to twelve months consecutive now since the 5km travel restriction was lifted last April.
I was back at Rosscarbery on the 16th, a much nicer day, the slight breeze in my face barely noticeable in the sunshine as I set up the leger rods on the grass across from the hotel.
There were a good few fish showing in front of me and I was soon getting trembles and isolated knocks on the tips. The mullet seemed reluctant to take properly, not that unusual in winter, but in the afternoon I had some better bites and landed three fish, all 3lb class which is typical of the winter mullet at Ross.
The mullet moved on with the first of the new tide flooding through the pool but I had a walk down the west bank before leaving and found a group of mullet feeding close in in water about a foot deep.
I had a slightly frustrating hour with fish swimming all round my float and sometimes even bumping it. Not a hint of a proper bite then just as I was on the verge of giving up, one took my flake bait and pulled the rod round in my hands! It jumped all over the place, briefly causing me to wonder if it was a sea trout, but it was another nice thicklip mullet this time just under 3lbs.
I was back at Ross on the 21st. The east wind was set in by now but fortunately not blowing too cold. I could see quite a lot of fish moving in various parts of the pool, but the best prospect for fishing seemed to be straight into the wind from the west bank, rather than an awkward cross-wind elsewhere.
These swans were a pain, to and fro in front of me all day, sometimes a melee as the resident pair setting up for nesting tried to chase them off.
However the mullet were feeding well, I missed a good take and had three out before lunch, stopped for a good hour when the white menaces found my groundbait further out, then had another three mullet on the bank in the afternoon. Four of the fish were the typical winter 3lbers again, but among them I had a chunky 5:03 and an even chunkier 5:06, very nice for the time of year.
Many of the winter mullet are scale-perfect specimens. It's always lovely to see a pristine fish, but equally it's interesting to see some of the injuries they survive and to wonder about their back story.
The 5:03 had the lower tip of its tail missing, something I'm fairly sure is caused by otters nipping at them trying to get a hold (or maybe just playing.) The 5:06 had some sort of well-healed puncture wound in its flank, I wonder if caused by a lamprey or large isopod parasite since shed off ...
The third pic is of a 3lber caught the same day, it has three vertical scars to its dorsal region, they run down both flanks. It's quite common to see mullet with one such scar, I think caused when the fish is grabbed crossways by a cormorant but manages to wriggle free, probably leaving the bird with a beak full of scales. Occasionally you see a cormorant bring up a mullet that's really too big for it and have multiple goes at getting a hold ... I'd think this fish has done well to survive such an assault.
Fancying a change, on the 23rd I headed out onto the Mizen. The wind had turned to SE and was verging on warm, especially in the sunshine.
The estuary pool was stuffed with mullet, literally hundreds of them. I float-fished a foot or so deep and bagged up with a total of nine fish from three different swims.
Some of the mullet I saw looked well over 5lbs but I couldn't get past the middleweight fish. These are the two biggest I landed, just either side of 4lbs...
It was a great afternoon's sport and I couldn't resist the temptation to go back for more a couple of days later. Unfortunately the wind had changed to full east and had a distinctly chill edge on it. Most of the mullet seemed to have evacuated the pool and most of the few remaining seemed to be sheltering in the lee of the mudbank, inaccessible across the far side. I did get one though, and Sylvi who came with me managed to get a video of most of the fight on her new camera ...
Sorry for all the wind-noise! The mullet was only 3:06 but was special in the sense this was my 13th mullet trip of 2022 and, remarkably for the time of year, I've not yet had to chalk up a blank.