Fishing is a funny old game. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, nothing goes right. On another day, you just happen to be in the right place, at the right time. When the latter happens, you need to be ready to take full advantage and make the most of any slice of luck that comes your way. This was exactly the case for me back in the summer during a trip to southern Ireland.
I was out with Tom Collins who runs the “Loch An Lasc”, a 36’ Fastworker out of Union Hall in west Cork. It was beautiful, flat calm and boiling hot day, not a cloud in the sky. The Atlantic was flat with barely a swell showing. It was as calm as I’ve ever seen her.
I was fishing with Dubliners Paul Kavanagh and Kamran Shah, and Sea Fishing Information Officer Mike Hennessy of Inland Fisheries Ireland. Our target was blue sharks, with a little bottom fishing in mind to try for a hake.
We pushed out some 24 miles and set up a drift with two big bags of rubby dubby pouring scent in to the tide to pull the sharks in. We didn’t have to wait long.
20 minutes after the balloons and baits went out we had the first run. This was a blue about 70lbs for Kamran, then, while Kamran was re baiting, Paul’s reel screamed out and he was in. This turned out to be a bigger fish that looked about 90lbs. A good start!
I had my bait out the furthest, and also deeper than the other guys at 60-feet. I just felt, that with the sun and clear sky, the sharks may be deeper. However, having seen the first two sharks come shallow, I re set my bait at just 35-feet. As soon as the balloon reached position it skittered across the surface, bobbed, then pulled under. I let the shark take the bait, then pushed the drag up on my lever drag reel and let the rod pull over to the weight of the fish to set the hook.
This fish bored down deep consistently taking line off the reel. It went deeper, stopped, then went deeper again. I could feel the weight of the fish and it felt heavy. It started a methodical path clockwise and eventually I had to jump up on to the bow and follow it down the starboard side of the boat, back around the stern to where we started. I pumped the fish up a few yards, but it took it all back and started going clockwise again.
It took me up on the bow and around the boat one more time, then tired a little and I was able to gain line. It came close enough to the surface to get a look at it, then went deep again dragging line off the reel. It was a case of patience and pumping the fish back. This time it was tired and once on the surface we were able to gently lift it board, length, girth and tag it, a quick photo and it was slipped gently over the side and swam away. By length and girth it weighed about 120lbs.
I baited up and like to add a single fillet of mackerel below a whole mackerel when baiting up. The fillet bounces in tune with the balloon and gives some life to another wise uninteresting bait. I dropped the bait over the side and it went down to about 4-feet and start to drift away as I put the balloon in. As it did so I watched, open mouthed, as a big brown shape shot from underneath the boat, took a swipe at the fillet, missed, then turned back at speed and disappeared under the boat. It took a second or two for my brain to register what I’d just seen, but realized it must be a Stone Basse, sometimes called a Wreckfish, but I’d never seen one before.
I very nearly said something to the other lads, but figured the fish might be long gone and I still wasn’t sure what I’d seen. For a second I’d thought about tackling up with another lighter rod I had nearby, but decided any action needed to be swift, so replaced the fillet on the shark rod, which was only a light 20lb class anyway, and dropped the bait back over the side, let it sink, then gently moved the rod tip up and down to move the bait.
In a flash of brown and white, dorsal fin flaring, the stone basse shot from under the boat and grabbed the bait turning back under the hull ripping line off the reel. It was all I could do to hold the fish, plus I was concerned the line may rub on the hull or rudder, so had the rod tip virtually vertical in the water.
For a few moments it was stalemate, me trying to hold the fish, the fish trying to drag me over the side. I won and I felt the fish capitulate and give a little. By now the other lads were aware something was going on, and Mike was quick to realize that it was a stone basse, and that I needed this for my all-time species count. The net was readied.
The basse came in and out from under the boat two or three times, before we were able to net it. What an amazing looking fish! Grey/brown with white blotches, an armoured head, and spikey, bristling dorsal fin. They make very good eating, so for once, the fish was kept. Mike felt it might be an Irish specimen and it needed to weigh heavier than 8lbs to qualify. Back ashore it weighed 9lbs exactly and was not only an official specimen, but also my 108th species in UK and Irish waters. What an hours fishing that was!
The rest of the day saw us with 17 blue sharks caught overall, and three more dropped runs. We missed out on the hake though. Like I said, if luck smiles at you, you need to grab it with both hands and make the most of it, and for once I did just that!
Tom Collins – Reen Pier, Union Hall
Boat: “Loch An Lasc” – A spacious 36’ Fastworker with twin 350hp caterpillar engines.
Tel: 00 353 87 2792983