Match of the month
The 28th Irish Winter Beach Championships.
Irish shore international angler Harry McKee junior proved that consistency pays off in multi-day events by taking a trio of second places to win the Irish Winter Shore Angling Festival. With up to 107 anglers spread over four zones of 27 pegs every day, the highly-rated angler, from Belfast, collected 26 points for each of his runner-up placings to record an impressive, match-winning 78 points.
He saw off the challenge of visitor Thomas Hughes, of Holyhead, North Wales, who scored 75 points. Hughes started with a zone win and was second on the next day to head the field going into the final match. However, a sixth in the last event meant that it was a victory for the hosts.
Former England international and Sea Angler contributor Chris Clark, of Sway, Hampshire, secured third place after finishing on 74 points (sixth, third and first in zone), the same as Irishman Ronnie McWilliams, but edged it on fish points by 2,100 to 2,044. Chris had finished third two years ago too.
Sponsored by Tronixpro, more than €18,000 was paid out in prize money in this annual open competition, which attracts many of the finest anglers from the UK and Ireland. In fact, it was the biggest entry for many years.
Based at the Sean Og’s complex in Kilmuckeridge, it comprises three daylight matches in late January on the productive east coast strands. Fishing is over clean ground, with short-range, three-hook flappers the mainstay for the predominant flounders. Other species usually include dabs, codling, bass, lesser-spotted dogfish and rockling.
The scoring system is based on a minimum size of 18cm. All fish are measured except dogfish, which are given 45cm. All eligible fish get five fish points plus measurement points, so an angler catching 20 fish gets 100 fish points, and if those 20 fish measured 480cm, the angler would get an extra 480 points making a total of 580 points.
This year’s well-run event began on January 28 at Ballinoulart, with a noon start for five hours, with fishing on a strong ebb tide during gusting winds that made fishing tough. The best roundfish was a 31cm codling, and the best flatfish a 33cm flounder.
The second day’s event, fished noon to 5pm on an ebb tide, was in brighter conditions at Clones and Courtown. It produced better fishing, particularly for flounders. England international Saul Page caught 20 fish in the first two hours thanks to consistent treble shots. Thomas Hughes moved into first place, closely followed by Dave Roe and Harry McKee jnr. Best flatfish was a 36cm flounder for Shay O’Neill, while the best roundfish was Gary Wood’s 63cm bull huss.
The final match was fished from 11am-4pm, again on an ebb tide, at Ballinesker. Undersized fish made it a slow start, while weed proved a problem for distance casting. The best fishing was on the end pegs at the northern end of venue. Harry McKee jnr moved from third place to top spot with his third runner-up placing of the event.
Harry McKee junior on his way to victory with a brace of flatfish taken on Day 2