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Keeping It Local – Part two

Part two of the ‘Keeping it Local’  sees me hit the high seas, well the local beach to be more precise, doing some light lure fishing. I picked up a light drop shot recently to target perch and because of its size, I have kept it in the car, ready to use at the drop of a hat.

Living in Sligo, I have so much outdoors to explore and much to the annoyance of the family, our family walks tend to revolve around water of some description. During the summer months we like to get down to the beach as often as possible to do the sand castle thing and collect shells with my daughter Pippa.

Having the rod in the car – set up – means if we do come across a beach that looks like it might be worth a cast I can make my excuses and grab the gear from the car and have a few casts to see if anything is doing.

It is through these excursions I have come across some real gems that rarely see anyone fishing. It is not uncommon to be in the middle of digging some sort of trench with the bucket and spade and hearing a splash not ten yards away from a high flying sea trout and me scrambling up the beach to the rod.

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A recent trip saw us head to a new beach we hadn’t ventured to before as it is slightly off road to say the least. The girls told me to go and have a wander with the rod while they explored some rock pools. The sea here is half estuary, half proper beach, in a sense that if you were to look to the far bank it would be a good five miles across.

The water is shallow and the terrain ranges vastly with the tide. At high water, it looks just like the ocean, but once it gets under half way, the sand bars reveal themselves and an influx of channels and back pools form, not unlike a delta. Looking at the ordinance survey map you can see which way the main river channel travels and this I think is key to finding where the fish move at different times of day.

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From reading my previous blog on fishing for sea trout, you will have seen the lures I tend to use, all with various levels of success. This year I have added some new ones to the arsenal and found one or two that really stand out.

After buying a 3-10gram drop-shot rod, I wanted to try a technique that revolved around that method but with some sand eel imitations.  My thought process here was to use it on the dropping tide at an area where the water moves between a couple of sandbars, causing a tide rush. The sand eel imitation could be bounced around in the tide where hopefully some bait fish and other feed would be washed through, and the sea trout would in theory be looking to ambush some food.

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With a few fish showing themselves I felt confident that this method could work and on my fifth cast I was proved right when a small but acrobatic sea trout of 10ozs took the sand eel just at the end of the ‘run’.  The method worked, but was not without its shortcomings. It was very hard to keep the line from snagging up on floating and underwater weed. However after a while I was able to gage where was the safest area to cast and let the bait drift through a snag free area.

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These fish do feed incredibly close in sometimes, and like to come in and around the rocky and weedy shoreline. It was not 10 feet from the shore that I had my next take and straight away I knew I had hooked into a completely different beast to the usual 1lbers. The fish stayed deep and didn’t jump like they usually do. The runs were slow and ponderous but the hairy part was the fish seemed to want to keep in close to where every snag was. My line was getting caught in kelp and around rocks but somehow I was able to keep in contact with the fish.

I had my long match landing net with me and I went into the water to try and get a better angle on the fish to net it. Each time it came close, it would then head off through another kelpy snag. Just when I thought I was close enough to net it, and waist deep in water my net snapped at the joint. The spoon net sank but the carbon pole was starting to drift out into the current.

The only thing was to go out into the water to try and grab both the fish and pole before it headed out to Greenland. After a couple of minutes of cat and mouse I was able to chuck the pole up the bank and grab the fish on its flank and cradle it in my arms.

I quickly got the fish onto terra firma and lay it on some soft sea weed to get a proper look at it. It had some lovely big dark spots and a golden flank and wouldn’t have looked out of place coming from one of the western trout lakes.  The girls had seen the commotion from a distance and by the time I had landed the fish, were on hand to take some quick snaps. I popped the fish in a sling and on the scales it went 4lb 8ozs which was a new personal best sea trout for me.

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It was only when I got home and shared the picture with some friends that the prospect of it not being a sea trout came up.  The colour of the fish didn’t match it being a true sea trout and the general consensus was that it was an estuarine trout more commonly known as the unflattering ‘slob’ trout.

I did some research into this as I wasn’t quite sure. I had always envisaged a slob trout to be a fish that lived in dank dark polluted estuaries, and have the appearance of a dark fat not very appealing creature. The fact that I was fishing in the cleanest of waters in a vast expansive bay also didn’t add up.

After a bit of reading I learned that the term slob trout had originally come from fish caught in the brackish waters of the Wexford Slobs many years ago. Indeed some slob trout do have a dark appearance and do frequent the not so nice surroundings of river mouths, but can also be found in the many inlets and creeks found around our coasts.

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They grow large because of the abundant rich food that can be found in these areas and are a highly sought after fish by certain anglers. Looking at the specimen reports, they are rarely claimed and have a much higher specimen weight of 10lbs in contrast to a sea trout which is 6lb.

They apparently don’t venture out to the open sea to feed but stay in the close to the shore and estuaries where they have ample food to eat. It is a subject that I will look further into over the winter as I find it fascinating how in essence, the same strain of fish vary so much due their surroundings and take completely different journeys during their lives.

After my initial success at this new found spot I decided to make a few more trips out there before the season closed on October 1st. I decided to try a bit more spinning and found this method to be even more productive than the drop-shotting and I managed to get some good catches of fish on fairly short sessions. The best times to fish seemed to be in and around low tide.  Getting there two hours before low meant I could fish the dropping tide and intercept fish that may have gone up as far as the river mouth but were coming back out to sea as the tide receded having decided not to run upstream.

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I had set myself a target to get a 5lb fish but never quite managed it, although I did see fish jump that were far in excess of that weight. The fish did vary in colour and it was hard to tell what were slobs and what were sea trout. The general stamp was around the 1lb mark, with plenty of 2-3lb fish. I don’t know how big they grow here but I have heard reports of double figure fish.

The winners on the lure front were ones called magic minnows that a mate Ollie had put me onto. I also had great success on a variation of the silver toby. The fish as far as I could figure out, were feeding on a variety of baby herring, baby Pollock and sand eel, along with the various shrimps and prawns that lived around the rocks and weed.

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It is great to see such a healthy population of fish around the coast, which really benefit from the lack of Salmon farms in the area.  However a lot of the smaller sea trout did have large numbers of sea lice on them, and not being an expert, I am not sure if the levels are something to worry about.

With the season closed now, I will go back to the fresh water and concentrate on the perch and pike. In my last part of keeping it local you can read a bit about the parch fishing I have been doing in the local lakes and rivers. Thanks for reading.

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Urban Warfare

I am mainly a coarse angler, however over the years I have done quite a bit of both game and sea angling and really enjoyed a lot of it. I have had some wonderful outings on some really out of the way lakes and rivers in deepest Connemara fishing for salmon and sea trout along with days afloat on the great trout loughs of the midlands and west. When I lived in Dublin I used to do quite a bit of flyfishing on my localish rivers Avonmore and Dargle for small wild brownies and the odd sea trout.

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Also living on the east coast we used to rent boats quite regularly from Bullock Harbour in Dalkey and catch a huge array of sea species in the summer months from cod to wrasse, spurdog, pollock, whiting and lots of mackeral. I have dabbled in some deep sea fishing on the Kish bank in the Irish Sea and also out of Westport fishing off Clare Island with mixed results.

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My current location of Sligo also see’s me living on the coast and surrounded by some magnificent game fisheries that to be honest I really should visit more. One of the handiest and probably most unlikely venues for good fishing is in Sligo town itself. This is where the river Garavogue enters the Atlantic Sea and the estuary provides some cracking sport for sea trout and mullet (more about them in another post).

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This type of fishing is a far cry from what I am used to when filling up the car and heading to one of my coarse lakes with a mountain of gear. When I hit the ‘town’ all I bring is a small bag containing a box of lures, leaders and other essentials along with a rod and reel. Job done. Tackled up like this I can walk fair distances and cover quite a bit of water and fish!

The rod I use for this fishing is a reasonably priced Abu Garcia Vendetta 10ft spinning rod coupled with a 4000 sized Spro Red Arc reel spooled up with some 11kg Nanofil line. 24lb you may hark, what you fishing for shark ? However this line which is a mix between mono and braid in this strength has a diameter of mono that would be around 4-5lb. This enables me to cast small lures and spinners a fair distance along with getting back 99% of my lures when they get caught in kelp etc. There is zero stretch in this stuff much like braid which magnifies takes from delicate biting fish all the better.

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One thing I have to tell you here is that I am by no means an expert at this type of fishing and when I do get a fish or two I get quite a lot of satisfaction. I say this because they are quite visual, and you will see them leaping into the air letting you know they are there in numbers without getting many takes. I also get a bit disheartened with my skills after hearing stories of the locals coming back from their bagging-up sessions with reports of 20 and 30 fish a time.

The estuary where I fish runs from Sligo town centre for about 3 miles west out to the entry of Sligo bay where the Atlantic meets Rosses Point on the northern side and Strandhill to the south. The tide race can be quick in areas and there are numerous flat shallows coupled with deep gullies which give you somewhere to fish at every stage of the tide.

Rosses point

Rosses point

The numbers of trout that inhabit the bay are very good thus feeding must be good for them as the Garavogue river itself is not noted as a sea trout river. This means that shoals of fish enter the bay solely to feed before they head back to their natural spawning streams from other areas. Another factor that helps matters is that we are lucky that there are no salmon farms in the area. Indeed the coast north to Ballyshannon and Donegal, and south west to Killala Bay all benefit from a lack of these farms that have caused so much destruction to sea trout populations in other parts of the country due to sea lice.

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Fishing is far from easy, but you are always in with a chance and always spurred on with each leap, swirl or follow from a trout. They go big here too and a 4-5lb fish is not that uncommon but average size I would reckon is around the 1lb mark.

I mainly fish for them with an assortment of spinners and plugs but have dabbled on the fly and with sandeels and had success with both. On the spinning front my preferred baits are small Tazmanian Devils, Toby’s and a variety of other small spoons and spinners. The smaller the better as far as I am concerned for more bites and blues and greens seem to be the top colours.

As I mentioned earlier there are spots that fish at various states of the tide but the main spots i head too seem to be best a couple of hours before low tide and an hour or so after.

a seatrout, they are plentiful up here in the north-west.

Although fishing from the shore gives you a great chance of some fish a boat is king as you can easily head to various spots on a whim and cover far more water on the various drifts. As with sea trout fishing in rivers, a state licence is required to fish for sea trout at sea. The same regulations apply and although I find them better eating than salmon I only occasionally take one for the pot. If you have a go and get amongst them, please be sensible with what you take home and when releasing always handle with care.