I hope you enjoyed my latest fishing adventure.

When my dad is looking at the weather forecast, it’s only ever for the sole purpose of fishing. By now, he is almost an expert and, he recently spotted a window of settled weather for a boat trip. There were a few options of what we could do: There was Common Skate, Thornback Ray or Tope to choose from. With all these options given to me it had to be Tope. I’ve never caught a specimen Tope, they are a super hard fighting fish so it was an easy decision. The specimen weight is 40lb or a length of 155cm.

As we had the species chosen now, all we needed was the destination, so Dad then tossed a coin for Arklow or Wicklow and Wicklow won! The next job was to get the rods ready and make sure the reels were working properly and that the line had no marks, abrasions or nicks. The reason why we do this is because Tope fight very hard, especially the big ones. They will test any knots or weak line and the worst feeling in the world is losing a good fish because your line or knots let you down! When we had all that finished, we went through our Tope traces and as we were doing that my dad put in some Spurdog…just in case. 

If weighing proves challenging with a fish, a quick measure can be easier

With everything sorted, we did a once over on the engine, boat and trailer. Everything was looking good so we packed the gear and bait. It was getting late and it was going to be a long drive with a 4am start, so I went straight to bed and set my alarm for 3.30am. I was nearly too excited to sleep and it felt like I just closed my eyes when my alarm went off! I jumped out of bed with excitement, got dressed and had my breakfast ready as my dad was walking down the stairs. We did the final check of the list before heading off ready for an adventure.

As we were just past Youghal (an old seaside town on the Waterford /Cork border), the sun started to rise and my dad said if we were still in the bed, we would have missed this amazing sight and it really was breath-taking. With the long journey and a few strategic naps, I saw the sign saying welcome to Wicklow. I could feel the excitement building again!

An early start was needed, but it would all be worth it once the baits were in the water

Thankfully the harbour was quiet and we got the boat to the slip without delay. With everything on board my dad backed it into the water as I held the bow rope. He got the jeep parked out of the way and we got on board and headed to a mark we were given. This mark had the potential to produce large Tope and big Spurs too. It didn’t take long at all to get to, flying along at 26 knots. With the anchor firm on the sea bed and the boat settled, it was time to get the rods out, so the bait could hopefully start drawing fish in from miles away (fingers crossed).

After a few short minutes, I got my first tap on the rod, I could tell it was a Dogfish and before long all four rods were tapping. My dad told me that as we had no chum bag, they would help draw in larger fish as they tear the bait apart, resulting in the scent of small bits of mackerel flowing down becoming our chum trail. Unfortunately, in that instance all that happened is more dogs started to arrive! This meant we had to work hard for the first hour by checking and changing baits every 10 minutes. 

Nothing fancy is needed bait wise, but the fresher the better for oily fish baits

To combat the doggies, we decided to reel our bait off the bottom about ten turns of the handle, which will often slow or even stop the doggy bites. Within the first hour we had about 20 dogs and with every bait that we reeled off the bottom we were getting less and less dogs. Within the next 15 minutes all the rods were up between 6ft to 8ft. It seemed to get very quiet and I was missing catching the dogfish… said nobody ever! In a blink of an eye, I got a savage rod bending run. What a screamer! The rod bent in my hand and the line was melting off my reel and I must admit it was making me work hard to keep control of it.

The adrenaline was rushing through me. It made my legs and hands shake, what a feeling! As I got it to the boat, my dad grabbed its tail, then the dorsal fin and brought it on board because it was too big for the net. We knew it was close to specimen so we gave it a quick weigh and it went to 38lb. So close to specimen but just shy. It was, however, my new personal best Tope. We put it on the mat and it was just short of the specimen length too, still though, what a super fish! 

Result! It was finally worth sitting through all the dogfish!

My first tope of 2021 that was approx. 38lb, what a beauty. The job wasn’t finished though and we put all the rods back down. We only reeled 3 off the bottom so the dogs could do their job and disperse some scent. No need, it took about 2 minutes for the bottom bait to be hit. It was hit hard… then stopped tapping. My dad said there was something with bigger teeth down there. As I looked back at my rod it started to bend over, so I picked up the rod and I could feel the hard head shakes. As I set the hook, my dad commented that it could be a Spurdog. (A Spurdog specimen weight is 12lb and length is 105cm). 

The fish was fighting hard but getting closer to the surface and by now we could see it was indeed a spur. I had my fingers crossed it would be a specimen… We got the fish on the measure mat and it measured 104cm, just shy again! We gave it a weigh and it was 11lb, so another personal best but not quite a specimen. With the pictures taken we put it back unharmed. A new pb Tope and a pb Spurdog, what a cracking fishing session so far! The weather and the sea settled beautifully, it was one of them days that you could forget the past year we’ve all had.

The day couldn't get much better, with a pb spur to follow the pb tope!

I sat back in my seat and closed my eyes and, with the sun bright on my face, I could feel myself starting to fall asleep. I soon came to when one of my reels started to scream off, then just as fast as it had started the fish had dropped it. I tightened the drag on the reel so I could take up the slack line and get the bait off the bottom, when suddenly I got a sharp pull, in fact the rod nearly got pulled out of my hands! I was lucky that I hadn’t tightened the drag all the way. 

I was now holding on for dear life, so my dad eased the drag to help me and I was able to stand properly and lean into the fish. The fish dived and ran away from the boat, then ran towards us until finally dad managed to tail it. Another superb Tope landed and with the fight over it was another one just shy of specimen size, as was my habit today. It was definitely time to get the rods out and have lunch and a rest. 

I couldn't believe it when I caught another!

After lunch the next few Tope fell to my dad and the largest was 36lb. Then one after another our rods started getting hard pulls but no hook-ups. My dad suggested that I reel up one of my rods for a change of tactics and, as I did, he got out the Spurdog trace that had a luminous muppet and a size 4/0 hook. With the trace swapped over and a nice section of mackerel elasticated on I dropped it down. We then set about re-baiting the rest of the Tope rods in the hope that they would come back.

It didn’t take long before my Tope rod got the same bang as before then my Spurdog rod got hit too. This time though it was hooked! After another nice rod bending fight, we got it on board. This time it was finally a specimen! I jumped so high I could nearly see France… It was 110cm and as we had only about one hour before heading in, we decided to put it into the tank and put on the aerator pump so we could weigh it on land. (To claim a weight specimen caught on board a boat, you have to weigh the fish on land… However, the most important thing is always fish safety, so if you are not 100% sure they will survive, forget the specimen claims and put them straight back). My length-based specimen of 110cm went all the way to 14lb 8oz after we weighed it on land at the end of the day. 

I was so hapy to finally get my specimen spur!

Back to the fishing in hand, double quick my dad changed his trace over to Spurs so we had one each for Spurs and the same for Tope. With the tide having recently turned there was a nice run to help the scent of Mackerel to draw fish to us. My dad struck first with a 107.5cm spurs that took the Tope bait, then he had another on the Spurdog trace that was 109cm, or 13lb 8oz, making the Spur his second specimen of the day!

It was nearly time to head in and we started to put what fishing gear we were not using into the cabin so we could wash down the deck. With the deck brush in my hand, I was just starting to scrub when my rod bent over and then started to bounce. I needed little encouragement to swap the brush for my rod! We thought it was a Spur, until I lifted the rod out of the holder. It was then it realised it was hooked and screamed off using the tide to its advantage.

My dad, Sydney, got in on the specimen spurs too

It had to be a tope! What a fight! Though when we got it on board, I knew it wasn’t as heavy as my 38lb one, but it looked longer, so on to the measuring mat and to my delight it was the specimen length of 1.55m. So, with the pictures taken and the fish put back we lifted anchor and headed in to weigh the Spurs and head home.

What a day! we had my first length based specimen tope of 1.55m and the 110cm Spurdog was well over 14lb. I was so tired after the days fishing that I slept like a log but I can’t wait for the next adventure. 

It was an incredible day’s fishing and we even managed to get some of the action on video for my Youtube channel called ‘Amy’s Fishing adventures for kids’. You can see this video below. 

Safety Tips 

1) Make sure you always have your life jacket on. 

2) Kids when fishing for fish with big teeth keep them on the deck and hold their tail tight for the pictures.

 3) Keep the deck of the boat as tidy as possible to avoid any trip hazard and it’s easier to control a large fish.

 4) Keep putting buckets of water over the fish to keep it alive.

Fishing gear 

1) A large landing net.

 2) 30lb to 50lb class rods and reels loaded with 50lb braid.

3) Hooks between 4/0 to 8/0.

 4) Rubbing leader line from 100lb to 200lb.

 5) Steel wire from 60lb to 150lb.

 6) Gloves snips and a long nose pliers. 

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