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Artwork: Bass fishingBass fishing in Ireland

By Peter Green

The bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) is considered by many sea anglers to be one of the most exciting and sought after species caught on rod and line. This magnificent streamlined fish with its spiked dorsal fin and powerful forked tail commands the respect of shore and small boat anglers alike. Bass are often compared to salmon hence the local misnomer salmon/bass. This species can be located very close inshore and are caught from surf beaches, estuaries, rocky promontories and piers using a variety of methods and tackle.

Back in the Sixties bass were prolific around the Irish coastline especially in the southern half of the country from Wexford to Co. Clare. During the Seventies and Eighties, bass were targeted commercially. In a comparatively short period, stocks were reduced dramatically to such a low level that the powers to be on realising the consequences introduced a strategy of positive action. A conservation bye-law was implemeted which prohibited commercial fishing and a ban on the sale of bass. Anglers were allowed to fish with a bag limit and size control. Bass are an extremely slow growing fish and to give an example of this, an 11 lb female fish can be in the 16 to 18 age bracket. It takes many years to replenish exhausted stocks and experts feel that we will never see the halcyon days of the sixties ever again.

Please note

Anglers fishing for bass is Ireland are now bound by articles 10.5 and 10.6 of EU Regulation 2016/72. There is no longer a closed season. Further legislation has been drafted to implement the increased size limit from 42cm as per the EU Regulation to 50cm in line with the IFI Bass Policy.

  • Catch and release for bass between Jan 1 and June 30th
  • Bag limit of 1 fish per day from July 1st to December 31st
  • Size limit of 42cm

The specimen weight for bass is 10 lbs and the Irish record currently stands at 17 lbs 13 ozs.

How to fish for bass

Surf fishing

The more favoured rods by bass anglers are a medium-fast or even distinctly slow action 11-12 feet in light-weight glass fibre or better still, high modulus graphite capable of casting a 2-5oz weight. Your ordinary multiplier or fixed-spool reel should match up reasonably well. ABU 6500’s, Daiwa 6 Hms, Penn Levelmatics and DAM 800 B.S will all suffice without going to great expense. Main line should be 15 to 20 lb with a 25 lb shock leader. The terminal tackle can be a single hook paternoster or running ledger for the bigger fish. Two or three hooks rigs are suited to schoolie fishing. Hook sizes range from 1 to 4/0 depending on conditions. To complete the picture you will need breakaway leads 3 to 5oz. Best baits are sandeel, lugworm, peeler crab, ragworm, fish strip and razor fish.

Fishing in surf can make for challenging fishing

Plugging and spinning

At the very least, shore anglers should carry a sturdy spinning rod 9 ft to 10 ft. Fixed spools are more versatile and better to handle and line strength is normally 6 lb to 10 lbs capable of casting a 1 oz to 2 oz lead. Your tackle box should carry a variety of lures and spinners including Redgills, Toby, Rapala, Shads etc in sizes up to 15 - 20cm.

In warmer conditions in particular floating plugs and surface poppers produce exciting sport.

Think about tomorrow, release your fish today

Fly fishing

Fly fishing for bass and other marine species is a rapidly developing niche of sea angling. While many tackle manafacturers offer purpose built rods, reels and lines any angler can get started with a 7/8 rated 9' fly rod, a weight forward floating line and reel to match.

Fly choice can seem dauting but the basic rule in flyfishing of matching the hatch applies; so concentrate on patterns that are suggestive of sandeels and sprats. Standard patterns such a "Lefty's Deciever" in chartreuse and white are firm favourites of those in the know. Lightly tied 1 to 1/0 will be of most use. However, size of fly is down to how big you dare to cast, limited by what your gear can cope with. Leaders and tippets need not be overly fine and should be aimed at turning over the fly. 9' of 15lb straight through is acceptable.

A typical bass fly

For prospective first timers the emphasis should be getting out and building time on the water rather that waiting to have all the "right gear" before you try this exciting branch of bass fishing for yourself.

Where to fish for bass

The following are some of the better known shore marks where a combination of traditional and natural habitats result in a level of consistent catches. Also some references to the more successful and popular tackle and bait requirements.

Wexford

Rosslare Strand fishes well on the flooding tide especially in moderate surf conditions and the better results are during the hours of darkness. The most popular stretch of this beach is from the village car park to the track crossing the Rosslare Golf Course. Best baits are crab and lugworm using standard beach casting equipment. Specimen bass have been recorded here. In calm weather conditions, anglers should try spinning or plugging at Rosslare Point. The most productive time is an evening flood tide using a variety of plugs and artificial lures.

To the south of Rosslare Harbour lies a long shallow underwater reef know as the Splaugh Rock. This area is popular with small boat anglers as they troll for bass using red gill and shads and many a fish was taken on the german sprat. Special care is essential as these reefs can be dangerous in strong tides and rough weather conditions. The stretch of beach from Greenore Point to St. Helens Harbour offers a long sandy foreshore interspersed with rocky outcrops. Best fished on the flooding tide to high water using crab, lugworm, and sandeel. Spinning and plugging can be carried out off the rocky ledges at Greenore Point. Specimen bass recorded here.

A good surf will produce the goods

Cork

The outer reaches of Cork Harbour provide a selection of small sandy beaches facing in a south westerly direction and all offer a good opportunity of some bass ranging from 2 to 8 lbs. Beaches worth a try are White Bay, Trabolgan, Inch and Ballybrannigan and all have recorded specimen bass exceeding ten pounds. The flooding tide is the most productive stage using sandeel, crab and lugworm and some of the larger fish are taken during darkness hours. Many of the rocky headlands in the same area provide access to deeper water where anglers can spin or plug or even try some fly fishing with a bonus of pollack and mackerel as well. The most popular hotspots are Ram Point on the western side of the harbour, the rocks on the northern side of White Bay, and the rocky channels in the Roches Point area. The eastern shoreline at Inch Beach is also a productive area using a variety of plugs, spinners and artificial lures. Fly fishing is a comparatively new concept for bass angling and is proving very successful.

West Cork

It is great to see the bass back in places such as Courtmacsherry again. The most successful and popular choice here is the small boat fishing and boats can be hired locally at the pier from Mark and Patricia Gannon - Tel 023 46427. Trolling is the usual method on the half flood to high water using redgills, shads, german sprats etc. The shore line on both sides of the estuary sees action fishing the secondary channels for flounder and bass. Best on the early flood using peeler crab.

Moving west to Clonakilty, the open surf beach at Inchadoney looks and is an exciting prospect. At the Bar Rock end, bass to 16¼ lb have been taken. At Ring Pier, anglers can cover bass and flounder using peeler crab on the flooding tide and specimen fish have been recorded here. The beach past Virgin Mary’s Point provides some quality surf fishing for bass. On the western side of this beach near the channel under Dunmore House Hotel is a hotspot for bass anglers. Fishing a single hook rig with a 3 oz lead using sandeel give the best results. The most productive time to fish here is early flood to highwater and spring tides produce the rewarding results especially in September. Sandeel can be dug on the nearby sandbanks at low water and during spring tides and are plentiful. A short distance to the west is Rosscarbery Estuary and Warren Strand on the left hand side is the more popular venue. There is a good opportunity to spin for bass here on the flooding tide in the main channel on the right hand side of the beach.

Don't be afraid to try new methods

Ring of Kerry

About two miles north of Waterville. the River Inny flows into the sea through the middle of a long curved beach which stretches from Ballinskelligs to Waterville. This surf beach has provided bass anglers with some excellent sport. It fishes best on the flooding tide using lugworm and sandeel on an evening tide fishing into darkness. Specimen bass recorded here. Bass and sea trout are caught on the spinner in the mouth of the River Inny.

Just west of Glenbeigh a long narrow spit of sand dunes called Rossbeigh runs straight north for 3 miles. The western side of this peninsula is one of the finest beaches in Kerry and bass and flatfish are caught here in moderate surf conditions. Both ends of the beach are the hotspots and the first half of the flood using sandeel and lugworm is the most productive.

Dingle

One of the most comforting features concerning beach fishing on the Dingle Peninsula is that no matter what weather conditions prevail, anglers can always find a beach to fish as there are beaches on this peninsula which face in almost any direction. Inch Strand is 3½ miles long and faces west. There is a car park at the northern end and it is possible to drive on the beach but be careful as there are patches of soft sand. Both ends of this beach yield bass and flatfish. The best time to fish is with a moderate surf at any stage of the flood tide and a couple of hours into the ebb. Bass, flounder and small turbot are all taken here on a variety of baits such as sandeel, lugworm and peeler crab. The main hotspot is just below the car park but weed may be a problem here and you will have to move until you get a clean stretch. Inch is an ideal location for night fishing.

Brandon Bay is a continuous sandy beach stretching for seven miles and is probably the most famous surf beach in Europe. Here anglers are spoilt for choice as they have access to surf, estuary (Cloghane), pier and rock marks and all are capable of producing some quality bass fishing. The individual stretches of beaches in Brandon Bay such as Fermoyle, Kilcummin and Stradbally all fish well at low water and the early flood.

Co. Clare

The picturesque sandy beach at White Strand (Killard) is situated 1.5miles west of Doonbeg. This north facing beach will only fish well in moderate to good surf conditions for bass and flounder. Fishing into darkness with sandeel and lug worm yield the best results. Angling pressure is very light here, so you are likely to have the entire beach to yourself. Specimen bass recorded here. The Irish Record bass, a fish of 17 lbs 13 ozs was caught near here at Doughmore in October, 2000. A short drive of 1½ miles south west of Quilty brings you to Seafield Beach. This surf beach just south of Lurba Point is the hot spot for local anglers. In calm conditions, anglers can spin and plug from the rocky outcrops at Lurga Point which produces consistent bass catches especially in the autumn.

A fine bass ready to go back

Bass Fishing Guides

SEAi (South East Angling Ireland)
Address: Jim Hendrick, 8 St Johns Road, Wexford, Ireland..
Telephone: +353 53 23351
E-mail: sportfishing@eircom.net Web: jimhendrick.com/

Bass Fishing Wexford
Address: Sean Jordan, Belgrove Cross, Duncormick, Co. Wexford, Ireland.
Telephone:
+353 (0)51 563132 or +353 (0)86 2611436
Email: info@bassfishingwexford.com Web: www.bassfishingwexford.com

Bellavista Hotel & Self Catering Suites
Bishop's Road, Spy Hill, Cobh. Co. Cork, Ireland.
Telephone: +353 21 481 2450
email: info@bellavistahotel.ie
Website: http://www.bellavistahotel.ie

Eire Bass - Richie Ryan
Cobh, Co. Cork.
Web: www.corkbass.com E-mail: info@corkbass.com
Tel: +353 (0)86 1940744

William Kavanagh
Address: William Kavanagh, 5 School place, Cathedral Road, Cork, Ireland.
Telephone: +353 87 649 7442
E-mail: w.kavanagh1@gmail.com Website: www.flyfishireland.ie

KB Fishing Ireland
Address: Kevin Brain, Waterville, Co. Kerry.
Telephone: +353 66 9474942
E-mail: info@kbfishingireld.com Website: www.kbfishingireland.com

Guy Buxton
Address: Unkybuck's Angling Adventures, Leith West, Tralee, Co Kerry.
Telephone: +353 (0)87 2519764
Email: guy@unkybucks.com

Val & Roger Baker
Address: Cloghvoola Fishing Lodge, Cloghvoola, Waterville, Co. Kerry
Telephone: +353 66 9478009 Fax: +353 66 9678009
E-mail: info@cloghvoola.com Web: www.cloghvoola.com

John Quinlan
Address: Thatch Cottage, Kenneigh West, Cahersiveen, Co Kerry.
Telephone: +353 (0)66 9474721
Website: www.thatchcottageireland.co.uk Email: info@thatchcottageireland.co.uk

Stevie Kennedy
Address: Pikestone Cottage, 40 Scaddy Road, Downpatrick, BT309BP, Co Down
Telephone: 028 44828346 or +44 7740 609 669
E-mail: strangfordguidingco@btinternet.com