Just a month ago I witnessed some of the best smoothound action I’ve ever seen. I was in Wicklow Town just south of Dublin in Ireland fishing aboard the “Lisin 1” with new skipper and top match angler Kit Dunne.
I’d been swapping e-mails with Kit over the previous months to get a feel for what we might be fishing for. He told me the smoothound fishing was spectacular, and I was already well aware of the shore smoothound that frequent the area. But due to work commitments I was coming in on what should technically be towards the end of the season and he was worried we might miss the best of it.
I got off the ferry in Rosslare, drove straight to Wicklow and was aboard the boat before 9am. We headed out to a mark southeast of Wicklow Head and were fishing before 09.45.
I tackled up with an MTI Offshore 15lb class rod matched to a prototype Penn 2-speed reel loaded with 30lb braid and a short Fluorocarbon shock leader. I kept my terminal tackle simple, just a Zip Slider boom running on the leader, with a bead and swivel, then 4-feet of 40lb Fluorocarbon off the swivel to a 4/0 hook. There is a fast tide run here, but most of the time I was getting away with no more than 10oz weights, but had to step up to a pound of lead briefly over the peak tide run.
Thanks to a friend from Kerry, Jerry O’Connor who would be fishing with us, we had a good supply of fresh peeler and hardback crab, which as in most areas, is “the” smoothound bait, though hermit crab is also good, if you can get it.
You peel the dead peeler crab, cut the body into two halves, and then bind these to the hook with bait elastic to secure them. This puts out lots of smell and is deadly. However we also caught fish on hardback crab with the hook passed through the belly towards the rear of the crab, and out through the top shell.
Straight away we were into smoothound. I was on the camera getting a few initial shots in the bag, and then paused to drop a bait over the side. Second drop down I hit a fish that proved to be an Irish specimen weighing 8lb 15.5ozs. I’m after my 10 specimen badge in Ireland and desperately wanted this fish, so was over the moon already and the day had only just begun!
From there on in it was a steady stream of smoothound, often with three or four fish being fought at once. My long-time friend and work colleague Norman Dunlop from Dublin was fishing with us, and I watched his familiar hunched over style that tells me he’s saying nothing but is in to a big fish. This beast did not want to leave the bottom, but patience paid off and Norm boated a 14lber, just 2.58lbs below the current Irish record. My guess is it will be the biggest of 2012!
Kit has a neat way of retaining up to four fish alive in a large plastic tank with the deck wash running through it to constantly aerate the water. My specimen and Norman’s went in the box. I was unsure and we kept checking the fish, for if they suffered any sign of stress we would have returned them there and then, but they were fine and it’s an impressive safe system if you want to officially record and release your specimen fish.
Also fishing with me was Mike Hennessey, a great friend and Angling Information Officer for the South West. He was hitting regular fish and took another specimen well over 8lbs. We were also releasing fish that were undoubted specimens judging by the size of them without checking, as we were conscious of their wellbeing and safe release. Josie Mahon and Des Chew of Inland Fisheries Ireland were also with us and were busy tag and releasing some of the bigger fish too, to gain information on the species for the future.
This first day produced over 60 smoothound and no less than 10 Irish specimen fish. In 2011 there were only six specimens recorded in the whole of Ireland, which puts our day into perspective.
This was not the end of it, having headed west for the next week, I was back aboard the “Lisin 1” with Kit on my last day to have another bash at the smoothound. Again, even on a really big spring tide, the fishing was spectacular. We had probably over 70 smoothound that second day, the best 10lb 7ozs. I got another specimen of 10lbs 2ozs, so again was really pleased, and Jerry O’Connor and Mike Hennessey weighed in with two more specimens each. As before there were other slightly smaller fish, still well over specimen weight that we returned immediately.
It’s all too easy to get off the ferry and head straight west for the Atlantic shores, but Wicklow on the east coast of Ireland for me is the capital of smoothound fishing given the sheer numbers of fish present. I doubt I’ll ever experience the sheer numbers of fish I did over those two days, and remember I was running around with the camera losing people valuable fishing time too!
What’s more it’s so close to the ferry, you can do as I did, leave the ferry and be fishing by 9.30am! And just for the record you can get great B&B accommodation for between 30 and 40 Euro’s, and I paid 4 Euro’s for a pint of Guinness, so prices are now pretty much comparable to what I’d pay here in Wales. A group of lads looking for a few days away will have a great time!
For those interested in popping over to Wicklow, then the smoothound season begins in May and just gets better running through until late July and early August. As well as the smoothound, there’s great tope fishing, big huss, thornbacks, plus other species, but I’ll write about these in due course.
Stena line travel to Dublin from Holyhead and its just 40-minutes then down to Wicklow. I travelled in from the south via Fishguard/Rosslare and it took me less than 70 minutes from the ferry. Contact Stena line at http://www.stenaline.co.uk