Welcome back to my latest fishing adventure.
This adventure I would be fishing with Terry Jackson. For anyone that doesn’t know Terry he is one of Ireland’s top all round anglers. He has two Irish record fish to his name and a huge array of specimens from Cuckoo Wrasse to Common Skate and everything in between, in other words if it swims he will catch it.
We were planning to fish for Rays, Spurdog and Smoothhound in Brandon and Fenit in county Kerry. As Terry lives in Northern Ireland we had organised a trip of around three days and settled weather would be needed to make it worth a seven hour drive for him. We are all big into specimen hunting and Terry still didn’t have a specimen Stingray for his collection so that would be his main target.
I had my finger’s crossed every day hoping I would get the opportunity to do the three day fishing session with my dad and Terry. It took almost two weeks before my dad said we have a green light for the trip.
Like the last time, we sorted everything and hitched the boat very early. We had to be in Fenit for 8am to catch the high tide so we could launch the boat a bit easier. Terry decided to travel the evening before so he could get a good night’s sleep before we arrived.
As we approached the slip Terry was stepping out of his tent and when he saw us a big smile appeared on his face.
With the greetings out of the way, We launched the boat and headed for a mark outside Brandon Bay. It’s twenty kilometers from Fenit to Brandon head alone so a good spin to the outer banks. My dad said this mark can only be fished in settled weather and if the weather changes out there it can be dangerous, so we always had the radio on listening to the latest forecast.
Luckily, as we arrived on the mark the sea was like glass, we anchored and got our mackerel flapper baits to the bottom. With the sea so calm we were able to fish two rods each. It didn’t take long before we were getting hits off the dreaded dogfish! As our baits were big, the dogs were only able to take the soft flesh that still left the head of the mackerel on the hook. I think that suited us! plenty of scent flowing in the light tide and there was no panic in changing our baits. I think we only landed a few dogs before we got our first specimen spurdog that fell to Terry. It was exciting to know the big Spurdog were here.
Terry and my dad landed another few before it went quiet. It was like that every few hours… a run of dogs then Spurs. At this point Terry and my dad had three specimens each and I was yet to get on the board! As I had one specimen from my last trip in Wicklow I only needed two more spurs for the max of three that can be put into the Irish specimen book. As time was pushing on my dad said we would only have about fifteen minutes left before we had to head in to catch the turn of the tide.
We had to make the decision to head into the Monk hole to try to get Terry his first specimen stinger, or stay here to get my spurs. So I said Terry travelled a long way, so monk hole it is. I still had fifteen minutes and I was begging my rods to bend while Terry and my dad started to tidy up.
The fish gods must have heard me, as my rod started to bend over and as I lifted the rod I knew I was into a nice fish.
With my specimen spur on the mat my other rod started to do an Irish jig. I already had my first spur in the recovery bin and after another nice fight in the deep water was over I was delighted it was another specimen spurdog! I was totally thrilled that I got my first brace of specimen spurdog photo taken and my third one for the specimen book. We lifted the anchor and headed for the Monk hole in Tralee Bay with eight specimens between us.
As we arrived at the Monk hole, we were delighted that there wasn’t anyone else there. This can be a very busy mark and it isn’t uncommon to see the shore lined with anglers and the channel packed with small boats. We got the anchor down just as the tide was starting to push in, the wind had also started to pick up. This made the boat swing sideways across the tide. To counteract this my dad put out the drogue to see if it would straighten the boat with the light run of the tide. It only took a few minutes for it to work and with the boat straight we dropped down our baits.
With the baits on the bottom we were getting little taps on the rod tips immediately. Terry reeled up a rod and his hooks were shining, not a piece of bait on them! We checked all the rods and the same thing. We started to put on bigger baits and wrapped them to death with elastic. After an hour we realised why there was no one out here fishing. We had to work hard and change the bait every few minutes. I was the first to get a bite. I lifted the rod until I felt the fish.
It then realised there was something wrong and it took off! As I was fighting the fish the net was ready to land whatever it was I had hooked. As the fish came through the murky water I could see it was a Stingray. After some more runs I finally got it to the net and as it entered the net my dad lifted it and said it would be close to the specimen size of 90cm. With the fish on the mat, it hit the 90cm bench mark and added another specimen to the days list!
We then decided to move closer to the shore and use some peeler crab in the hope of avoiding the spider crab and hopefully catching more fish. We got our crab and mackerel baits ready for a fish to sniff them out and it only took a few minutes before my dad had a double shot of undulate and one of them looked big! With the fish unhooked and the largest one on the mat, it passed the length based specimen mark that is 85cm. That ended our days fishing on a high… A cracking specimen Undulate that took peeler crab, which is rare for them. We were still being plagued with crabs and only had a dogfish before we decided to head in for food and sleep.
It was another early start and with breakfast in our bellies we were on our way to a mark in the inner bay. With our peeler baits on the bottom we were hoping that the fish would find them before the Spider crab. It took a few blank drops before my dad’s rod screamed off and, after some strong runs, the fish broke the surface and it was a smoothhound. These aren’t very common in Tralee but as my dad fought the hound over bent my rod.
Another good hound was up early for breakfast too. It’s nice to get a picture with my dad, even more so with some nice fish. A super start to the day. My dad and I with two 7.5lb hounds that Terry tagged. Terry was next to catch a hound and then a few undulates and a small thornback arrived that took a cocktail of crab and mackerel.
The tide slowed and we were starting to be plagued with crabs again. There had to be thousands of them? I dropped my baits down and they were on them in seconds. We had to move again and again and the crabs were everywhere. My dad was trying his best to get Terry his specimen stinger but it seemed like the crabs were going to win.
When the tide turned and started flowing hard the crabs backed off a bit and then Terry’s rod nearly got pulled out of the boat as a nice stinger jumped clean out of the shallow water! Was this going to be the day he gets it? Suddenly the fish stopped running and came to the surface. It was badly wrapped up and with the weight of the fish and the pull of the tide the line kept leaving the reel.
The fish was getting further and further from the boat. With that my dad jumped up to the anchor rope and untied it, as he left the rope off the boat headed back towards the fish. Terry was then able to get line back on his reel. It took around 300 feet of anchor rope to be left off before we were able to net it and thankfully after all that it was a specimen! Terry was delighted and relieved to have caught a specimen stinger that he was after since 2010.
We had another few small rays and loads of crabs before heading in for the day. The following morning we got up at 8am, it was nice to get a sleep in. Tired from the first two sessions we decided only to give it a few hours of the strongest part of the run of the tide to avoid the crabs. With the boat in position it only took a few minutes of fishing when Terry was into another specimen size Stingray! This was a much better fish and it brought him all over the boat with a cracking fight.
The net was soon in position and the best fish of the weekend was landed, the fish measuring over a meter in length was well over specimen. Terry sat back and declared ‘this trip has made the year for me’. After we put the fish back We all agreed it was a cracking three days and after eleven years trying two specimen Stingray arrived in two days.
I made a video which you can watch below. I hope you enjoyed my adventure, until next time, tight lines.