A Dog Day Afternoon
The recent winds that were a feature of the East coast have died down again, giving me the opportunity to get back out and try and catch some fish. And try was exactly what I intended to do!
I arrived at a local beach to find the sea was almost as flat as a sheet of glass. It is not every day that we get a sea like this in Ireland and it could not make for more pleasant paddling conditions. I met a crew of guys on the beach who had seen some of my tope captures from last year and were interested in capturing some of the action on film with the hope of turning it into an angling related documentary. With high hopes the kayak and crew boat were loaded up and we hit the water, me paddling to a mark.
I had decided to fish a couple of rods today; one for tope and a rod out with smaller baits in the hopes of adding a bit of variety and hopefully to give the lads something else to look at and snaring something fresh that could be used as a suitable tope bait. For the last few years mackerel have been my ‘go-to’ bait for targeting tope but a steady decline in their numbers due to commercial overfishing has made their presence almost non-existent this summer. This trend is incredibly worrying and in the space of less than a decade I have witnessed the collapse of an over abundant species. If the stock of this vital part of the food chain collapses completely it is going to have disastrous effects on European marine life. I can finish this paragraph by declaring that not a single Mackerel was taken on the day.
Slightly disheartened but undeterred, I soldiered on. The smaller baits, sandeel and crab, were picking off lesser spotted dogfish, more commonly known as ‘dogfish’. These fish are essentially small, rough skinned sharks. Not growing much bigger than a couple of feet and being pack hunters and scavengers, catching one usually leads to a procession of its brethren and that is exactly what happened on this occasion, the dogfish preferring the sandeel baits over the crab.
After catching a few dogfish in a row, the rod rattled and I struck into something that felt a bit different. Sure enough a plaice appeared at the surface. With a lack of mackerel it was decided that the small flatfish could make an acceptable offering for a tope, small flatfish being a staple part of their diet. It was worth a try and as I lowered this offering down to the bottom I hoped it would produce the goods. It did not! Not before the crew had to leave. The smaller baits continued to pick up more dogfish and the occasional plaice but as luck would have it, the tope decided not to put in an appearance.
The story does not end there though. I decided to wait it out for another hour after the boat left me and sure enough I hit a tope with my last bait. The fish ran with the bait, I struck into it, I felt it on for a couple of seconds and then the line went slack. It felt like a small to medium sized fish and when I retrieved my line everything was intact. A poor hook hold allowed the shark to escape with my last bait. Beaten, I headed for home with a return trip arranged for this Friday evening with a fellow kayak angler and minus the camera crew. I bet we hit loads of tope then…….!