March Report

Before we start this month, I'd like to ask my blog readers to please take a few minutes to respond to the Irish Government consultation on trawling within six nautical miles of the shore which can be found here.

 

Responses can be emailed to TrawlingConsultation@agriculture.gov.ie and must be received by 1300 hours on 12th April 2024.

 

If like me you believe all inshore trawling should be stopped, please respond and say just that. As a fall-back position I shall also be indicating my support for two of the possible options presented. Option 2: All sea-fishing boats excluded from pair trawling inside the six nautical mile zone; and Option 4: All sea-fishing boats over 15m in length overall excluded from trawling inside the six nautical mile zone. Adoption of these two measures would remove the most damaging large trawlers from the inshore environment and also stop the winter pair trawling which has done so much harm to stocks of sprat and everything up the food-chain that depends on sprat, including larger fish, sea birds and marine mammals such as dolphins and whales.

The weather through March was mostly bleak but at least the 1st started a pleasant day with broken cloud and a light, if chilly, breeze.

 

I headed down onto the Mizen hoping to find plenty of mullet showing in the estuary. My heart sank on arrival, nothing at all moving on the surface despite the near-ideal conditions. Only the scales left scattered by the otters hinted that there could be some mullet present.

 

I set my float to fish the flake bait well down, and was getting bites almost immediately. They were timid and I missed a few, but I soon connected with a 2lb class mullet.

I was delighted with that fish as it brought my monthly run to 36 ... three full years since the last covid lockdown with mullet caught in every month. Unfortunately, it seemed it may have been the only mullet present as when I got back to fishing, the bites had dried up completely.

A couple of hours later I started seeing mullet moving in the shallow margins of the pool off to my right. I moved across and dropped my float on the fringe of the shoal, keeping myself low and well back from the edge.

 

I was straight back in to bites, though frustratingly missed several that looked really positive before finally hooking up. The mullet first ran to the right through the shallows then left into deeper water where it bored for the bottom and stayed deep for ages. Steady pressure took its toll and eventually the fish surfaced then it was soon in the net. At 4:14 it was my best of the year so far.

 

Not surprisingly, the disturbance had dispersed the shoal of fish. It was well into the dusk anyway by now and starting to drizzle, so I called time.

 

I was back on the 11th, a marginally less unpleasant day after a particularly miserable spell of weather.  To my surprise, there were loads of mullet showing  and I knew straight away a big bag might be on the cards. It was indeed a remarkable session, with bites coming almost every cast and far longer spent playing and returning mullet than actually sat fishing.

I finished after three hours as the new tide poured through the bridge arches and moved the shoal of fish on.

 

In the meantime I'd caught sixteen, equalling my best bag of mullet from the venue (or anywhere else.) 

 

Mostly the mullet were 2lb and 3lb class fish, the best of the day was the eleventh landed, a chunky 4:02.

 

My next mullet session was at Rosscarbery on the 15th, where I'd be unlikely to match the numbers of mullet but I was hoping for some bigger fish.

I arrived late morning soon after high water and had a good look round, and the only mullet I could see were a few in the corner by the hotel.

 

I set up with two leger rods on the grass. As the water gradually fell away more fish were evident, but it was an hour or so before I had a definite take.

 

That fish came off after a few seconds but I hooked two more in the feeding spell which lasted, appropriately enough, over lunchtime and I landed chunky 4lbers of 4:04 and 4:06.

With more and more fish showing I was confident of getting another but as has been fairly common at Ross this winter, I spent the afternoon with substantial numbers of mullet swimming all round my baits ... and not a further take.

I was back down on the Mizen on the 22nd.

 

Today, hardly any mullet showed on the surface but good numbers of fish had to be present judging by the number of bites I was getting fishing three or four feet down.

 

I'd amassed a total of nine by the time the new tide started pushing through but I thought I might eke a tenth out as the tide was fairly neap and the flow not too strong yet.

 

My float moved up with the stream then caught in a big eddy, moved closer to the bank then back towards where it had started. It bobbed, resurfaced and then buried, and I struck into a very powerful mullet. The fight seemed to go on for ever in the strengthening flow, but in reality it was probably eight or nine minutes before I could get the net under a lovely thicklip of 5:01.

 

By the time I'd returned the mullet, the tide was motoring through the pool and it was impossible to fish on in any sensible way.

 

Fishing for other species was proving hard-going at the moment (see below!) so it wasn't too difficult a decision to make on the 28th to head back to the Mizen for another go at the mullet while it was fishing well. 

 

There were good numbers present today, though not feeding as avidly as they sometimes do, perhaps because of the bright sunlight and/or a perishing cold NW breeze. As is often the way when they are being picky, I hooked and lost mullet today that were probably lightly hooked round the edge of the mouth. Four fish came adrift, three of them well into the fight. It's frustrating but all part of mullet fishing and anyway, I landed eight. They were a proper mix of sizes from 1:12 up to a pair each 4:01, very enjoyable fishing.

The big mullet shoals will be dispersing soon, leaving much leaner pickings, but it has been a remarkable winter season. I've landed over seventy already, despite having to be very selective over the days to fish because of the mostly awful weather.

 

In other news, I did two very dour trips up to Kerry on the 10th and 25th, not only blanking on the spurdogs but no meaningful bycatch either - just one doggie each day to stave off the blank.

 

Between times on the 20th I headed that way again to join my friend Stephen on a new mark. Thanks Donal if you're reading this for putting us onto the spot. Ironically on the neapest of neap tides and with a touch of east in the breeze, it fished well. No spurs again, but the huss were in the mood and we contacted about a dozen between us. A couple of mine dropped off, Stephen's hung on better to his Pennell rig and among his haul he had the biggest of the day at 11lb 2oz (not the one in the photo.)

Anticipating the spurs might not materialise, I'd taken along some heavier tackle than usual specifically to drop a bait for huss about 20 yards out, hopefully at the edge of the graunch along the foot of the rocks. It worked well enough, though in fairness the huss seemed pretty well distributed at all ranges anyway. Late in the afternoon and well down the tide I had a stronger take than the huss had been giving. I flicked the reel into gear, felt the rod pulling over and lifted into the fish. From the power of the run that developed I knew immediately I'd hooked another skate, remarkably only weeks after my last encounter. 

 

The good news was that it was on tackle that, although still short of ideal, I felt gave me a better chance this time. I was using my heaviest beachcaster, an old Shimano, Daiwa SL30SH reel and 30lb line, a strong circle hook. The bad news was that being hooked close in, the skate was already down around a load of potential snags and it was running off to the left, more parallel to the shore than out to sea, so this situation wasn't really improving.

 

Anyway, to cut a long story short, despite my best efforts with the beefier tackle, the skate went to ground at the end of its first slow but awesome run. I managed to get it moving again several times but each time it went back down, and on the last couple of times it moved I could feel the line grating through a snag. Eventually the line parted, the last few feet frayed badly. Very disappointing ... and this time I have the video that Stephen took to remind me! I'm thinking more seriously about a proper heavy duty rock fishing rod now...

 

My last outing of the month was on the 30th. There was a southerly breeze blowing but there was a westerly swell nearly 3m left over from the rough spell earlier in the week. I decided not to chance driving up to Kerry and finding it unfishable, and stopped at Bantry airstrip instead. To cut a long story short ... five hours, two dogfish, a couple of missed rattles probably also dogfish. It wasn't the greatest tide but I thought I'd do better. All seems a bit out of sorts ... the colour of the water isn't too bad but I do wonder about the amount of fresh water in the bays following this unusually wet winter and spring and whether it's affecting the fishing.

 

 

There's a nice puff for the Mullet Club, and this blog, appeared in IFI's Sea Angling Update. Always good to get some recognition.

 

My friend and NMC colleague, Steve Smith, is coming over for a few days from 2nd April so hopefully next month's update will start with us dodging the worst of the rain and catching a few mullet.

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