Hit and Miss
Following Wednesday’s foray I returned to one of my favourite Wicklow stomping grounds for tope. I was accompanied by Anthony Byrne from the Irish Kayak Angling Club. The plan was to paddle out until our echo sounders were giving us return of what should be a reasonable depth of water to find tope lurking in. Timing could not have been better, either could conditions relative to fishing – the tidal run was just starting to gather momentum towards the North and the evening was mild and overcast.
We paddled out to our chosen mark and dropped anchor. Anthony was slightly faster to get going than I was and he had already found a fresh mackerel, literally in jig time! Things looked promising. My plan was to fish three small hooks on my lighter setup with the intention of snaring a couple of baitfish that I could use as a static tope bait on my heavier rod. Baits for the smaller hooks consisted of small sections of sandeel and small crab baits.
I did not have to wait long after my first drop before a rattle registered a bite through the rod and I struck into a small whiting. A single fresh bait had been located and now the evening’s fishing trip could really begin. Down went the unfortunate whiting attached to the stouter gear and I fished on with the smaller rod, more than aware that a solitary bait would not last the whole evening. As it happened, I need not have worried. A procession of small whiting eagerly obliged and before long I had secured enough bait to angle for marauding tope for at least a couple of hours.
I still fished on with the smaller rod, I had frozen bait still in my possessing and it seemed a shame to waste it. Besides, it was a bit of craic catching smaller fish and it whiled away the time that is the ‘waiting game’ that tope fishing can be. Sometimes the wait can be as little as five minutes, sometimes it can be five days plus and it is nice to have a distraction if the latter seems to be the case. I spent the evening striking into bites and reeling small whiting up to the surface. With enough of them already on board already, each subsequent capture was carefully returned to the water. Take only what you need, no need for greed.
The odd time the smaller bites were punctuated by a heavier pull and the lesser spotted dogfish were the culprits apart from one occasion where a tub gurnard was responsible. A mix up with my camera settings meant that I did not get a good shot of the gurnard but not to worry, I will connect with another one at some stage and I will then be able to show you this striking little fish.
The evening started to darken and turn to nightfall and it was at this stage that Anthony and I decided that it would be best to return to shore. Anthony’s evening had fared out quite the same as my own, the exception being that he did not catch a gurnard, his catch whiting being punctuated with the odd lesser spotted dogfish and a couple of greater spotted dogfish. As the name suggests it is a fish very similar to its lesser cousin in all but size and just a couple of very discreet distinguishing features.
The tope had eluded us, three strikes in a row for me but perseverance will pay off eventually. Five species is not a bad haul for a quick session that lasted not much longer than a couple of hours. Winds are forecast to pick up again next week but I have identified a couple of short periods where I should be able to get out and have another go…….the ‘waiting game’ has been a lengthy one so far this year!