It strange how life throws up coincidences! As you’ve read in a previous blog, I’d recently been in the west of Ireland in Belmullet and caught a 35lb tope in awful weather conditions. I then travelled back to Wicklow on the east coast to fish with Kit Dunne aboard the “Lisin 1” out of Wicklow town. Loading my gear on to the boat I enquired what the target was. Kit fired back, “Tope!”
The tope fishing in the southeast of Ireland can be exceptional, but it is still somewhat in its infancy over the banks off Wicklow town, though Kit is rapidly putting that right with consistent catches of good tope.
Due to the fast tides found of this coast, the fishing is done at anchor with the scent from the collective baits streaming off downtide and filtering through and over the numerous sandbanks to lure in the fish. Kit also puts down some mashed up fish and chunks to increase the scent value.
The tackle required, even with the fast tides, does not need to be overly heavy. I chose a prototype Penn 2-speed reel loaded with 30lb braid matched to an MTI 20/40 braid rod.
I watched the lads aboard who had fished here before bait up with whole mackerel on 8/0 hooks, but my personal experience is that even for big tope, a whole mackerel can be too much. This fish will pick up the bait run with it, then drop it. I prefer a half or third of mackerel body and use a 6/0 hook positioned with the hook stitched down the length of the bait to leave the hook well exposed.
I also fish a 50lb wire trace about 15-inches long. Other anglers and skippers use 150 to 200lb mono, but fish get lost when they bite through this, hence the wire.
Eight baits went over the side. It was about 40 minutes before we had the first run, but this was a pick up, short fast run, then the fish dropped it. I re baited to make sure my bait was oozing fresh scent, then waited.
Some 10 minutes later, I saw my rod tip slightly pull over and spring back. I picked up the rod, had the reel in free spool with my thumb on it. I felt pressure come on the line and let the line gently spill off the spool as the fish picked up the bait and ran with it. I let it run for only 25-yards or so, then flipped the reel in to gear and let the rod pull over to the weight of the fish and set the hook.
In this tide the fish powered off downtide ripping line off the reel. It paused briefly, then went again. It sulked now, head down in the tide. It turned and ran again, then started to swim uptide with me frantically retrieving line to keep in touch. It turned back and sulked deep down behind the stern of the boat. Steady pressure started to tell though, and it slowly came up suddenly breaking surface about 30-yards away. It fought to the last, but was eventually lifted aboard by Kit. I mentioned coincidence, and guess what, this fish also weighed 35lbs when weighed in the sling!
There were three other tope between 20lbs and 30lbs for William Walsh, Gerry O’Connor and Mike Hennessey, plus a few lost tope that picked up the bait and dropped it. But while all this was going on we had some real excitement at the cabin end of the boat too.
Skipper Kit is a very experienced and successful boat match angler. Because he had experienced anglers on board he was able to put a rod out himself. This was a 12’ boat match rod with a supple tip used with a fixed spool reel. He was casting his bait uptide.
His rod tip hammered over and the reel started to whine as line ripped off the spool. He really had to hammer the hook in with this soft rod, but the fish was on and bored off down tide on a long searing run. This was a long fight, the tope taking line and hugging bottom, with Kit pumping the rod hard to get line back and pressurise the fish. It was stalemate for a while in the running tide, but gradually he gained on the fish. It broke surface right at the side of the boat and was lifted in for photos, recording and release. We weighed the fish aboard in a safety sling at about 37lbs! Though elated, Kit has been working hard trying to get an Irish specimen tope aboard his boat this past season, the specimen weight being 40lbs or by length a fish off 1.6-metres. So close, but still a great fish! However, everything comes to those that wait!
A couple of months later and right at the end of the tope season, Kit got that specimen fish, a tope measured at a little over 160cms in length and with a big girth, so without doubt well over 40lbs, and to cap it all it was caught by his father. Having measured the fish, and concerned for its safety, the fish was returned to the sea immediately without official weighing, so we’ll never know the actual weight.
If you’re in the area next summer and would like to sample the excellent tope fish off Wicklow you can contact Kit Dunne on the following….