It looks like the summer has decided to finally join us and not a minute too soon either. As it was, last weekend the thought occurred to me that despite the longest day of the year being only a couple of weeks away there is still no sign yet of the summer rolling in. Apart from a spell that lasted almost a fortnight in April, there has been no let-up in inclement weather conditions; successive low pressure systems have been pushing across the Atlantic and ‘treating’ us to a prolonged, unsettled period of rain and wind. All this spells disaster for a kayak angler so I have spent a lot of time off the water recently.
It hasn’t been all bad though; a lot of time has been put into the organisation of an open kayak fishing event for Ireland. As kayak fishing grows in popularity across Europe the number of kayak fishing events are slowly but steadily increasing. England and Holland seem to be paving the way but surely there is space for an independent Irish event on the international kayak fishing calendar? The Irish Kayak Fishing Open 2015 will be held in Courtmacsherry on August 15th. The event will be open to participation for anybody that has a sea-worthy kayak and at least a low level of basic paddling skills. A species competition, it is hoped that Ireland can be put on the map when it comes to international competition and that the structure of an international event can be put in place with the hopes of growing it in following years. The event is an opportunity to showcase the sport in Ireland and there is a prize fund offered from some major brands in both kayaking and angling. More information on the event can be found at www.kayakfishermanireland.com
Organising an event like this is intensive in terms of both time and effort. It did cause me to miss a couple of the shorter ‘windows of opportunity’ that have presented themselves in the form of a break in the weather. If a couple of day’s fishing is the sacrifice for a successful event then so be it. Besides, any time that was suitable for fishing was usually greeted by strong winds and horrible conditions. After what seemed like weeks of westerly winds, I took an opportunity to get out fishing, albeit on a boat a shade larger than a kayak. Some of the team from Galway Atlantiquarium were going fishing for smoothhounds on the east coast with Wicklow Boat Charters and asked me if I would like to accompany them. How could I refuse? With a plan hatched and a date set we all started looking forward to the trip.
Meeting in Wicklow Town on a day that was forecasting near 30 knot winds (offshore) Kit Dunne knew that there would be a fair chance of encountering hounds on one of his marks that was not too far from the shore. Head too far out and the offshore wind would gradually build waves the further out we went so it was decided that the best option would be to stay within the sheltered areas hugging the shoreline. With of an array of baits including peeler crab, velvet crab, mackerel, squid, worms and sandeel we started fishing to be met immediately by dogfish. The Galway crew had not driven across the country for dogfish so there was a bit of excitement generated when the first hound came aboard to my rod. Only a pup but an indicator that there were fish around, the arrival of this first small fish encouraged all to get a fresh bait into the water to tempt something bigger, encouraged by Kit.
First blood in the form of something a little bigger came to Rory McAvinney’s rod. More at home fishing flies for trout on Lough Sheelin, Rory has started to develop an interest in salt species and his first smoothhound just happened to be a fine specimen, registering at 8lb even. The capture also happened to be his first specimen-sized fish capture. Not bad for a fly fisherman at heart but Rory’s enjoyment that he is finding from diversifying his angling habits is a classic example of how interesting and enjoyable new things can be if we are open and receptive enough towards them. Studying freshwater and marine biology in the same class as myself, Rory was also happy to see Kit attach a tag to the fish before it got returned. It is hoped that this tag may be recaptured and the subsequent data retrieval may teach us more about the life and habits of this fish.
It was a busy week for Kit; Rory’s specimen was the second to the boat that week and there was also the capture of a 19lb smoothhound, an immense fish and a worthy new Irish record holder. Well done to Gary Murphy for its capture. Our party fished on for the day and we did manage to get a few more hounds to the boat. Rory managed to finish with the biggest fish of the day with Matt Hawkins and Ian O’Grady fishing well and landing a few between them. The lads headed back to Galway Atlantiquarium happy with the days fishing considering the less than favourable conditions – a testament to the skills of the skipper on the day. I hope to get back out with them a few times over the coming summer. Top bait on the day proved to be peeler on 4/0 and 5/0 Cox & Rawle Uptide Hooks and for those wishing to try their luck for the first time would be well advised to secure a supply of peelers and contact Wicklow Boat Charters.
Cheap Inflatable Kayaks
With the rolling in of better weather, attention starts to turn towards getting afloat. As has been the case for a few years running, well known European food retailers are once again hawking crude inflatable kayaks and boats at very low prices. This year I have already seen warnings issued against the use of these types of craft from the Irish Kayak Angling Club, Inland Fisheries Ireland, the RNLI and the Irish Coastguard. They can’t all be wrong and I very much agree with the message that they are trying to spread; these craft are not fit for purpose and if you must by them then at least spare some cash for lifejackets too. I would be very much of the opinion that the inflatable craft such as those being offered (hawked) are suitable for not much more than a large puddle and are certainly not sea-worthy. A flat calm sea on a slack tide may make boats like these appear somewhat usable but any bit of wind or wave is going to make these cheap alternatives very hard to push through the water and will potentially create dangerous situations for those using them on open water. My advice would be to steer well clear.
Kayak fishing has grown rapidly as a sport in Ireland and Europe. I would be one of the first to encourage people to take up the sport but as with any sport there is going to be an initial outlay. The kayak is your vessel to keep you safe while you are on the water. I would not entrust this task to a piece of plastic that costs less than fifty Euros. If you do plan on starting then you and your loved ones will be a lot more assured by buying a reputable brand kayak and getting started with that. Confidence on the water comes in part from confidence in your gear. I would never feel comfortable on an inflatable kayak and my fishing would suffer as a result. The nerves would interfere with my concentration when fishing and would not make for an enjoyable session. Starting off with the right gear will very much stand to you in the long run. If you really are interested in getting started take a look at the forum at www.irishkayakangling.com for advice and an opportunity to attend an open meet where you may be able to try kayaks and get good, honest feedback from users who have tested a range of gear on the water.
One real benefit of taking the right approach, aside from the obvious safety issues, should see less call outs for rescue services. It is inevitable that on occasion the coastguards need to be called out but by arming yourself with the right advice and information before starting kayak fishing, you will also be making the jobs of our coastguards a little bit easier and free up more of their time so they can attend to real emergency situations. The amount of time and revenue wasted on call outs to attend the results of bad preparation are costly and maybe it is about time that these services started introducing fines for those that waste their time. I would applaud such a move and think that it would be well warranted.
All this talk of fishing and getting afloat coupled with the sun breaking through the clearing cloud has given me an urge to get out and see what’s about. Fishing has not featured in any regularity for the last few weeks but the forecast settled spell will soon fix that. Hopefully a settled spell will be the trigger that is needed to really switch things on and the fishing will get right into full swing. I have been working on an anchoring system for the kayak which will enable me to anchor the kayak from both ends simultaneously. I am hoping that this anchoring technique will hold me steady and enable me to fish for tench over the next couple of weeks. I have never targeted tench from the kayak so I am eager to see how they respond and whether or not I can tempt one to the side of the boat. Time will tell….
Just as I was about to send this piece to the Irish Angler’s Digest a news item caught my attention. Annual weed clearance from the Grand Canal has been underway. It would appear that the clearance of these weeds has coincided with cyprinid and waterfowl spawning and breeding times. The weed cutting boat firstly removes excellent spawning sites for the cyprinid fish species. The removed potential spawning sites are then dumped on the bank, in some cases covering nests and newly hatched chicks of water fowl. One would think that Waterways Ireland should have the good sense to curtail these activities until after fish have spawned and chicks have fledged. There is a law governing when hedgerows can be cut due to the potential destruction of spawning sites. Perhaps it is time similar legislation be put in place regarding the management of other fowl and fish spawning sites?
Video credit – Underwater Ireland