By now a lot of you will already be familiar with the exceptional fishing in Tralee bay, located in South West Ireland. This famous bay is a hive of activity once the day time temperatures start to rise into the teens and the annual moult of peeler crabs begins. The bay itself is a shallow one with it only being 20ft deep for the majority. The shallow nature of the bay makes it an ideal birthing ground for various visiting species. In years gone by monkfish (angel sharks) were so prevalent here that it wasn’t uncommon to land 4 or 5 in a days fishing from Fenit pier. Sadly though, poor angling practices and inshore netting have lead to the decline of this magnificent species along with the white and flapper skate. In their place though, the stingray has thrived. They come annually to have their young and once that is achieved they eat voraciously.

Anything from ragworm, peeler crab, squid and mackerel will take them though local anglers prefer Mackerel and Crab for the most part. There are very few other areas in Ireland that produce these beautiful creatures and certainly very few you can actually set out to target one. They do, however, range from the Shannon estuary around to Cahersiveen and their sphere of influence seems to be expanding as time goes on. In fact, year on year, they seem to be more and more prevalent and it’s not unusual to see a dozen or more basking on the surface under the lights of the pier on a summers night as anglers try to tempt in the mackerel and herring shoals. The record for stingray in Ireland is held by Kerryman Mike Wall. A stalwart of the Tralee bay club for years there isn’t many parts of the bay that Mike couldn’t pull a  fish out of if he so wished. The record stands at 33.2kg or 73.19lbs. The majority of the visitors are females with very few males landed each year and a male of 20lb being considered a very good fish.

Tralee stingray are mainly females, all of a good size

After almost three years of various lockdowns, 2022 was greeted by anglers as a breath of fresh air. No restrictions on travel and no need to stress about how long you had been away from home for. This of course meant a lot of people with various itches to scratch and Tralee bay being chief among them saw wildly enthusiastic anglers arriving from mid February. Of course this was far too early for rays but the bass and returning flounder did their best to fill the void. The good weather in March saw an increase in peeler activity yet still no rays worth mentioning showed up. Indeed it was the beginning of April when the cold frosty mornings gave way to clear blue skies and an unmistakable heat began to linger longer each day. 

Darren Ryan and myself had some great undulate fishing but the stingers escaped us. Living nearby I am lucky enough to get to chat to a lot of visiting anglers and get to know them and share catch reports/ideas about the fishing. This little network generally means I get to hear about some of the magnificent catches before others. There are three lads that fish the area regularly and I can tell you aren’t afraid to put the effort in either. Two of these lads, Tony Morrissey and Ger Hennessey have not only been putting the hours in but reaping the rewards also. I caught up with them to see what goes into chasing these huge stingray. 

Thornback are likely bycatch

COS:  First off lads thanks for letting me share your stories. So how long have you lads been sea fishing. 

 

Tony: Up until 2020 I had done very little sea fishing. Some when I was younger alright, but I didn’t have a clue really. I still don’t, but I’m learning all the time and really enjoying it!

 

Ger: I fished an awful lot around locally as a teenager but like a lot I drifted away from it when chasing girls and work became more important. In total I was away from it for 27 years but with the pub forced shut through covid I gradually got back into it.

COS:  How long have you been targeting the stingers and are these the first specimens that you have landed? 

Ger: I actually set about trying to get a tope from the shore originally after seeing Chris get a huge one on YouTube. All I was managing was rays so I turned my attention to the stingers and after a glut of small ones to 15lb I managed a specimen of 45lb last June and a 91cm specimen in September along with the tope I had been chasing for months. 

Tony: This is actually my first year targeting them. Much of the last two years was tied up through the various lockdowns. During breaks in them a mate and I would try and get out as much as possible. Wrasse and pollack were the original targets off the rocks in Ventry, then onto bass and flounders on the Brandon beaches. From there it was after giltheads in West Cork with 2022 spent concentrating on the rays in Tralee bay. Thankfully I have had two huge ones already this year and it’s still very early.

Ger Hennessy with a lovely stingray

COS:  What brought about the dedication with chasing the stingers? That walk to the mark is daunting across the soft sand and most anglers don’t bother. 

 

Tony: Trout fishing on the fly was my bread and butter fishing for a long number of years. I found myself heading down the Spanish and Euro style nymph fishing. In a 4 or 5 hr session you could hit 100 trout on a good day. They would only be 8 or 9 inch fish though, so although good fun they hardly got the blood flowing. During lockdown then I started watching YouTube videos of the shore and was amazed at the sheer variety of species available around the shore. Naturally I made it along to stingers and thought I had to have a crack at them. 

Ger: I always knew the stingers were there as a youth but never actually targeted them. After the stress of forced closures at work I found the walk down good for the mental and physical health. Travelling light, it’s not all that bad, especially as you don’t know what could be caught. The stingers are the biggest shore species you can actually target from the shore in Ireland and are really quite a beautiful fish too. Plus the fight would have the adrenaline pumping for days after.

COS:  What’s your favourite rig/bait for them and what rod and reel are you lads using? 

 

Ger: For me its fresh mackerel or as freshly frozen as I can get. I use a trident tackle running up and over rig with a pennell. The hooks I favour are Varivas Big Mouth Extra 3/0. The rods I use are Anyfish Anywhere Grand Prix and Tournament paired with Penn Casting Special and/or a Penn Spinfisher 6 long cast. There is always the chance of a record fish so I try to fish accordingly. 

 

Tony: The bait I use now is frozen mackerel and squid in a cocktail on a non-bar rig with a 4 foot snood. I like to vary it with a two hook flapper with 2 foot snoods with size 4/0 Varivas Big Mouth hooks when things are slow to add more scent to the water. I use a Daiwa Tournament Masterise rod and Shimano Aero Technium fixed spool reel.

Tony with a lighter coloured stingray - many of the fish can be very dark

COS:  So lads, what are the targets for the rest of the year? 

 

Tony: I had really exceptional flounder fishing on the Brandon beaches last December and start of January with lots of fish up to 42cm. So I would really like to catch a specimen flounder. Also, I will definitely target gilthead bream in West Cork this year. I caught a few last year after spending a lot of time traveling to catch one. I will definitely try a lot more this year to catch some of those. They are a really nice species to catch and really put up a tremendous fight on the lighter gear. 

 

Ger: I’m really looking forward to trying for a hatrick of specimen stingers, plus it won’t be long until the tope arrive. I also have a few days sharking booked during the summer so hopefully they will be good days out.

COS:  Any advice for anglers looking to target a big Stinger this year. 

Tony: The key I have found is perseverance. The more you try for them the luckier you will get, you just need to put the time in on them and make note of the good days but equally make note of the miserable days. 

 

Ger: Learn the best tide conditions and listen to local anglers. Of course your local tackle shop is a great centre for information too, plus check if there’s any lads local to your area with a YouTube channel, as all are very helpful and educational. Mostly though, put in the effort! You will not catch them sitting at home talking to the lads on Facebook about them. 

 

Massive thanks to the lads for taking the time to answer a few questions and best of luck with the rest of the years fishing. No doubt we will be seeing more of them in the future.

The depth on these fish is incredible
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