This has been one of the quieter fishing spells I've had over the last few seasons. The poor spring weather spilled from April into May then mid-month summer arrived but with a protracted spell of east winds. Also mid-May my exam work kicked off, back to pre-pandemic levels with a vengeance but even more so because of the numbers of experienced markers who've moved on in the past two and three years. My last bundle of scripts despatched back to UK this morning but the weather has turned wet and windy so I'm still stuck indoors, at least with this chance to update the blog.
Throughout I've been carrying a nagging knee injury that has only really improved over the last few days. Hopefully it's the start of a permanent recovery, but I'm still waiting for an MRI scan so we'll see what that throws up.
The knee has more-or-less kept me off the rocks but against my better judgement I did do one last trip up to Kerry early in May to try for a late spurdog. It proved a wasted effort, in fact a complete blank and I had plenty of time hobbling back up through the forestry and on the drive home to muse on what had been a disappointing spur season.
Talking of disappointments, this gilthead season has pretty much passed me by with not much to show.
Shoals of small coalies had plagued trips earlier in the spring but these were gone by the time I returned on 15th May.
This session was actually quite promising. I watched a guy fishing just down the channel landing a decent gilt which looked 3 - 4lbs. Soon after he packed up and brought his surplus lugworm up to me - thanks Evan - and confirmed his gilt had been just over specimen size. Soon after that, as the tide and weed was picking up, I had one myself but smaller, just nudging 2lbs.
Sadly though this was the best of it. I was back
two days later with Evan's lug and although I had plenty of bites these were all from small schoolies.
I had another similar session at the end of the month and a visit mid-June yielded a total blank.
The big gilts are always hit-or-miss but the last couple of seasons I've been getting two or three smaller fish most sessions and it's slightly worrying they've not been present this year in the same numbers.
Maybe I've just not been there on the right days, I've not fished as much as I'd have liked because the lug digging has given me protracted grief from the knee after the days I've been. Hopefully I'll get a couple more goes in when the weather settles.
The airstrip strand at Bantry hasn't really shone yet this year either. A session over low water on 2nd May just turned up a few dogfish. A return visit on the 8th produced fewer bites but a couple of half-decent rays at least, one on mackerel, one on bluey ...
Then into June, on the 6th a couple more rays on mackerel and prawn and a long but very lean bullhuss...
Probably my most enjoyable session with the big rods was on a new mark on 13th May.
It's a spot I've looked at many times, a nice flat rock platform literally only a minute to scramble down from the car parking ... in short, ideal for the dodgy knee.
I'd heard tell of some decent congers from the spot recently. First interest was indeed from a conger, on squid ... but it was only a strap about 5lbs.
After that I had a dogfish then a quiet spell then a tentative pull on a mackerel head fished closer in ... the pulls persisted and I lifted into a heavy fish that turned out to be a huss of 10lbs on the nail.
After another quiet spell I had a good take on squid again, fished further out, and another huss this time 11bs ...
Mulletwise - also quieter than usual but I've tried to keep things ticking over, mostly with sessions in the company of my friend Mike who's been touring West Cork in his motorhome.
I did a couple of sessions at Rosscarbery in early May, legering from the grass below the N71 while Mike was mostly struggling to find mullet at that stage in the lagoon across the road. He's done better in there recently with good numbers and some good individual fish up to his departure for Wales a few days ago.
1st May was a slow session apart from a brief interlude when I had a 2:11 and then a smart 3:11 just after Mike turned up to take the photo.
9th May was busier. This time I lost a decent fish almost at the net while Mike was with me, then had a string of bites after he'd headed across to the Lagoon. They yielded fish of 4:06 and a 5:04 which was well-pleasing for the time of year...
I finished with a smaller fish of 3:00 that looked pristine in the net till I turned it over and found this horrific wound.
I'd say from the size and shape that it was very possibly made by a cymothoid parasite, though it could also be from a lamprey. Cymothoids are isopods that look like huge woodlice typically over an inch long so you can't really miss them if you catch a fish with one on. They are commonest as you'd expect on bottom-dwelling fish like wrasse and rays, but they do also afflict free swimming fish like mullet and even garfish.
There are some cymothoid pics on the link below, and I'm sure the scientist studying them in UK, Tammy, would be just as happy to collect photos and ideally specimens from Ireland as decribed in the article. https://www.thenationalmulletclub.org/isopods.htm
I fished a couple of sessions with Mike on a pontoon mark further east from Ross. The mullet were sparse on our first visit on 29th May but were there in good numbers by the time we went back on 12th June. We caught both sessions but only got among the smaller fish around 2lbs.
On bigger tides, since the mullet arrived mid-May, Mike spent a lot of time on my low water spot in Bantry Bay, averaging about three mullet a trip, mostly 2lbs and 3lbs class fish but a smattering over 4lbs. Oddly enough the mark didn't really shine on the couple of days I was able to join him but we did catch a few mullet and some serious pollack bycatch...