FISH YOUR SOCKS OFF!

A shark trip takes a bizarre twist as a new bait is given an air­ing…

Sea Angler (UK) - - BOAT ANGLER | SHARK FISHING - To fish with John Flem­ing on Brazen Hussy 2, tel: 00 353 (0)87 7571320. www.blue­sharkan­gling.ie

Happy with my whole mack­erel baits, plus a fil­let of mack­erel added to give some ex­tra move­ment, I was amused to see our crew­man fill­ing an old sock with the re­main­ing con­tents of the rub­by­dubby bar­rel, stick­ing a size 10/0 hook in it, and drop­ping it over the side.

Paddy O’Farrell, who has been a com­mer­cial fish­er­man all his life, is also a life­long an­gler. Now, at 68, he brings all that knowl­edge with him, as an as­sis­tant to young skip­per John Flem­ing, but, even so, the sock trick was new to me.

John is rapidly mak­ing a name for him­self just as blue shark fish­ing is un­der­go­ing a re­nais­sance through­out the Bri­tish Isles. Though some way off his 30th birth­day, the young Ir­ish skip­per, based in Ros­saveal, County Gal­way, car­ries a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in his lo­cal wa­ters, helped by his ob­ses­sive in­ter­est in all things angling.

His lo­ca­tion also puts him firmly on hand to cap­i­talise on the best the open At­lantic has to of­fer re­gard­ing blue and por­bea­gle sharks, but also the ground fish­ing that can be some of the most var­ied in Europe.

John runs the Brazen Hussy II, an Off­shore 105 with a 430hp mo­tor, that is fully equipped with up-to-date elec­tron­ics, and I no­ticed she’s looked af­ter im­pec­ca­bly. Fish­ing with me was Kevin Crow­ley, a fish­eries in­spec­tor with In­land Fish­eries Ire­land.

As we pushed out past the Aran Is­lands, there was a good sea run­ning. I like some sea run­ning for sharks be­cause it makes the baits lift and drop in the water col­umn and adds the il­lu­sion of life.

In 2016, John’s blue shark sea­son started on June 29 with an 84lb blue. In fact, they had a dou­ble hook-up at the time, but the sec­ond shark threw the hook dur­ing the fight. June, off Gal­way, is early for blues, and he’d usu­ally ex­pect them to show around midJuly, but then they can stay right through un­til Novem­ber in mild years if the sea tem­per­a­ture stays fairly con­sis­tent.

His best one-day haul saw 26 blue sharks to the boat, and his big­gest fish so far is a crack­ing fish of 109lb.

There’s a good chance of por­bea­gles around April, per­haps an oc­ca­sional one in sum­mer, but the peak sea­son be­gins with Septem­ber, and Oc­to­ber is likely to be a prime month.

John has seen mako sharks, and Paddy told me there are thresh­ers in late sum­mer and au­tumn off the Arans.

SE­CRE­TIVE

Once on the mark, I set up two shark rods. One fished shal­low with the bait at 30ft, the other deeper and fur­ther out at 60ft. To make sure the baits stayed deep, I added small 3oz sac­ri­fi­cial leads to the wire trace about 6ft above the baits with a twist or two of tele­phone wire.

The tide was ebbing and I had a feel­ing we might have to wait un­til low water and the new flood for the sharks to feel hun­gry.

On the jour­ney out, Paddy had been se­cre­tive about his shark bait, but soon the sock trick was re­vealed. His the­ory was that his bait should rep­re­sent the rubby-dubby and be ooz­ing scent. STRONG DIVE We were ap­proach­ing low water, and 20 min­utes later I watched the mid­dle bal­loon shud­der, move a few feet across the sur­face, then dis­ap­pear. I only let the shark run a few yards and set the hook.

The fish took off when near the sur­face for a few sec­onds, then dived. It lacked the weight, but fought hard and made sev­eral de­cent runs be­fore it came to the gun­nel. We lifted it aboard and guessed it was some­where around 30lb. It was mea­sured and tagged, and sent on its way.

The sea state was wors­en­ing now as the tide flooded and the wind picked up strength. It was fine to fish, though, and I de­cided to shal­low off the fur­thest bait to fish 40ft down. Half-an-hour later the fur­thest bal­loon zig-zagged across the water and dis­ap­peared.

I set the hook and felt this fish had more weight. It took a strong dive and then lifted a lit­tle be­fore go­ing deep again. I

kept heavy pres­sure on and slowly forced it up in the water col­umn. The shark showed on the sur­face, dived down about 30ft, be­fore I got it to the boat. This was a bet­ter fish be­tween 60 and 70lb.

Just the two sharks, and I could see John was dis­ap­pointed, but that’s shark­ing, and the next day you could put 20 on the deck. Sea con­di­tions were not the best, nor the quar­ter­ing wind, but we had caught, and you have to al­ways be happy with that.

GROUND FISH­ING

The plan for the next day was to tar­get the ground fish­ing off­shore, but the wind was gale-force and I thought we’d be shore bound. John and Paddy, though, knew we’d get some fish­ing in in­side the lee of the Aran Is­lands, and it was com­fort­able fish­ing in there.

We tried for pollack, first pick­ing up plenty of smaller fish to 5lb on lures, but couldn’t find a big­ger one, al­though John has had pollack to Ir­ish spec­i­men size above 12lb over the same ground.

We switched to fresh mack­erel baits and went on the drift. The lads started bag­ging gurnards, all three in fact, tubs, reds and greys, while I added bal­lan wrasse, codling, dabs, whit­ing, inevitably dog­fish, and some of the pret­ti­est cuckoo wrasse you’ll ever see.

What’s im­por­tant to know here is that we had pretty tough weather con­di­tions, but the odds are that if you’re here for a week or a day and hit iffy weather, the like­li­hood is that you’ll still get out in the lee of the is­lands. That’s im­por­tant to me when I book trips be­cause I’d rather be fish­ing than sit­ting kick­ing my heels.

May is when the ground fish­ing re­ally gets go­ing, as you’d ex­pect, with the mack­erel ar­riv­ing. There are ling well in to dou­ble fig­ures in­shore, with big­ger fish off­shore. There are some good codling, and big­ger cod to 15lb in the au­tumn, also good coal­fish, es­pe­cially early and late in the year, and a heavy run of early and late spur­dogs that can reach well past the Ir­ish spec­i­men weight of 12lb. Thorn­backs to 14lb are found in good num­bers here, while mixed in are the oc­ca­sional blonde and spot­ted rays.

Paddy told me there are grounds here for brill and tur­bot, and I have a feel­ing that there could be a plaice or two if more peo­ple fished for them.

Be­ing so close to Clew Bay, I asked about the pos­si­bil­ity of com­mon skate. As yet, they are still on John’s to-do list, but they are there and are likely to be present through­out the year, but es­pe­cially from Au­gust through to Novem­ber.

As for the sock…well noth­ing came of that on the first day, al­though Paddy seems con­fi­dent it will, and I’m sure he’s right.

Paddy O’Farrell with his sock full of rubby-dubby

Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by Mike Thrus­sell

Fish­ing in the At­lantic can be some of the most var­ied in Europe

Kevin Crow­ley with a nice bal­lan wrasse

A good sup­ply of fresh mack­erel for bait

This blue was es­ti­mated some­where around 30lb

A cuckoo wrasse for the skip­per

The Brazen Hussy II

This pollack took a lure

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