Situated on the North Antrim Coast, just below the busy sea-side town of Portrush, Portbalintrae is a typical, idyllic Ulster harbour. Personally I prefer these quiet, interesting harbours to the hustle and bustle of larger ports, and always lose myself in the laid back timeless atmosphere on offer.
Once launched, care must be taken when exiting the harbour, there are rocks and shallow reefs either side, so stay in the main channel. Also, a considerable sea swell can develop at the mouth of the natural harbour at times, bare this in mind, especially on approach at the end of the day.
Once out into open water, you are literally minutes away from clean ground angling over the Causeway Bank, which lies a couple of miles off-shore of the famous Giant’s Causeway. This series of dramatic banks offer decent plaice fishing, dabs, gurnards, whiting and codling, with dogfish and occasional blonde rays at anchor. On a fast tide, there are over-falls known locally as “the ripples” that can produce excellent angling as food is pushed along and over the banks.
Drifting, with spoon rigs is the favoured method to pick up a variety of species, especially flatfish, but selective anchoring will raise the odds of better quality species such as rays and possibly the odd turbot. Ragworm tipped with mackerel strip tempts most species, and a full fillet of mackerel or whole calamari squid will sort out the rays.
As with most clean-ground marks around the coast, commercial trawlers have taken a hefty toll leaving stragglers for the dinghy angler! However, there is still a fair chance of finding the odd gem amongst the smaller fish, with plaice of two-three pounds showing reasonably regular.
If preferred, and the weather allows, the day can be broken up for a bit of rough ground fishing. There are deep-water drop-offs lying just outside the Causeway Bank, falling into 500 feet of water offering pollack, conger, ling and god knows what else. I have heard rumours of porbeagle and halibut, but like most Irish inshore-angling, many exciting marks such as these are rarely targeted! Something for the future possibly?
Portbalintrae offers a wealth of small-boat angling amid beautiful surroundings over numerous banks and reefs. The harbour is quiet, and safe, with toilet facilities and only a short stroll to pubs and restaurants. It is well recommended and has personally produced some fabulous angling memories for me over the years.