Testing conditions for contestants at Hook Bass Festival in Wexford

 

ANGLING NOTES: THE INAUGURAL Hook Bass Angling Festival in south Wexford went ahead as planned last weekend albeit in conditions not conducive to bass angling. Renowned beaches of Sandeel Bay, Bannow Bay, St Patrick’s Bay and Duncannon were all tested throughout the catch-and-release competition.

Bitterly cold north-easterlies, dropping temperatures to below zero at night-time, kept the prized species at bay at one of the otherwise most productive locations for bass in the country. A sea otter and the presence of seals did not help the cause.

Sightings of “balls of sprat” corralled by fish shoals became a feature of the weekend, with a number of these tiny silver fish washed up on the beach. Their presence has become a tourism landmark at this time of year attracting the humpback whale to the area for feeding.

While there were plenty of flounder about, some big ones too, the bass were not co-operative. This was confirmed by the fisheries staff who visited almost every vantage point on the peninsula over the weekend. No bass to be found anywhere.

Those that did take part enjoyed their fishing and craic and vowed to return again next year. For my part, I opted for Sandeel Bay, ground fishing with lugworm, ragworm and mackerel, and spinning a hopper lure. In the event, flounder to 37cm dominated my efforts.

However, Mark Baker, from Stamullen in Co Meath, did manage a “schoolie” of about 1.5kg on Sandeel Bay on a lug and rag cocktail. It was his first time to fish the Hook (but not his last). He took home a five-day holiday in Grangecourt Holiday Homes and a day’s fishing with charter skipper Jim Foley.

Hook Tourism did a marvellous job in advertising the event in national and regional newspapers, angling magazines and internet, both in the UK and Ireland. “I received 50 to 60 enquiries and expected at least 30 anglers to turn up,” Cathy Howlin, said.

“A special word of gratitude must go to Inland Fisheries Ireland for its back up and support throughout the weekend. John Flynn and his team of three officers were always on hand to provide advice and support to the first-timers.

“Plans are already under way for next year and the do’s and don’ts of running such an event will be ironed out at our next meeting arranged for later this month.”

In his presentation entitled: An initiative worthy of success and celebration, Dr Ed Fahy expressed sympathy for the plight of commercial fishermen who are intent on gaining access to bass.

The history of the Irish bass fishery has demonstrated that it cannot sustain commercial fishing. The species is slow to replicate and it could be effectively removed from Irish waters, not to return for possibly several human generations.

Opening the fishery to commercial interests would result in possibly 500 tonnes captured within a single year. A far greater economic value is generated through angling tourism than by presenting dead fish to the market-place, he said.

In 2010 our tourist board commissioned Bauer to seek information on Ireland’s angling from its readers. Of the 3,560 respondents, sea angling topped the poll, with 69 per cent strongly aligned with bass angling.

“Bass is an ideal angling species, widely regarded for its sporting characteristics throughout western Europe,” he concluded. Let’s keep it that way.

New master angler

Brian Cooke from Raheny District Club is the new master angler shore champion for 2012 following his win in last weekend’s All-Ireland competition in Ulster. Pitted against 96 anglers, each champions of their respective club leagues, Brian will now go forward to captain the Irish team in next year’s FIPS-Mer World Championship in Spain.

angling@irishtimes.com

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