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European Sea Bass, Dicentrarchus labrax

Irish Record Fish: 17.87 lbs 8.11 kgs
Caught: Doonbeg, Co. Clare 2002
Boat Specimen: 10 lbs  4.54 kgs
Shore Specimen: 10 lbs  4.54 kgs
Photo Credit: M Beats with one from Dollymount in Dublin

Introduction: The European Sea Bass to give it its full name, is a splendid fish, usually associated with shore fishing on western storm / surf beaches, but it is caught off boats.  It is a slow growing fish and is now protected; - there is no fishing from 15th May to 15th June to allow the fish hazard free spawning.  Equally there is a minimum size of 40 cms (just over 1 foot) from snout to tail. Furthermore there is a bag limit of two fish per angler per day.  Bass are at their northernmost limit around Ireland and they do diminish rapidly in population density the further north and east travelled. Bass attract fanatical support from most shore anglers. Given their slow growth and relative rarity, try using catch & release for all Bass, regardless of the existing size limits.  It would be a tragedy to lose them. Best marks are on the south and south west coasts.

Boat tactics: Again, similar to Cod, in Ireland we do not have the same "bassing" hot spots as they have in the UK estuaries and sand banks.  "Bassing" is not a common sport from boats.  Typically Bass are caught more often from the shore than from a boat.  They are strong active fish, at home in the Atlantic surf on windswept storm beaches, but they can show up offshore on sand banks and similar marks.  Bass are often caught on sandeel and peeler crabs baits, with a light boat rod or spinning rod and 15 lbs line more than enough.  Hook sizes should be around 2/0 upwards, with the pennel rig a must for the crab bait.  Bass, as active predators, will also hungrily attack suitable flashing lures, including the specially made bass bullets and even flying Cs! 

Shore tactics: Bass feature in every beach angler's best dreams and the good news is that lots of double digit specimens are still being caught, perhaps proof that the new laws aimed at their protection are having a positive impact.  The most famous marks like Inch Strand in Co. Kerry are still producing fish but smaller almost inaccessible coves along the south coast (Co. Waterford in particular) seem to be harbouring relatively untouched stocks of mature bass. Bass can be caught from the shore using lures usually fished at high speed on the top of the water to imitate sand eels and more recently on the fly - a new sport in Ireland that has seen great responses from those trying it for the first time.  Almost all fish are and must continue to be returned alive.  Standard worm baits on paternoster aimed for flatfish also work well - but the key is not to cast too far - the last breaking wave on a storm beach is the mark, as this is where they hunt for food.  A bad cast often catches a bass!  Since Bass hunt in amongst flooded rock pools, a relatively short lob cast of a hefty bait on any kind of tide will take the big fish.  The bigger bass seem to show up in an outflowing ebb tide rather than an incoming flood.  Peeler crabs (more than one!) and half a mackerel are perfectly acceptable Bass baits, in fact most people fish with baits that are probably far too small relative to the target species.