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Great Sandeel, Hyperoplus lanceolatus

Irish Record Fish: not recognised
Caught: not recognised
Boat Specimen: not recognised
Shore Specimen: not recognised
Photo Credit:

Rudolph Svenson

Introduction: The Great Sandeel or Launce can be found in and among Mackerel shoals in the summer months, but it is rarely sought after as a fish in its own right, although some people say it tastes extremely good!  You may catch them by foul hooking them searching for other fish but they and their smaller cousin, the Lesser Sand Eel make a great bait!  They can also be caught on Mackerel feathers but typically at night rather than during the day, and are reknowned along the western seaboard for the truly masive shoals they form as they move inshore to spawn.  In turn they are preyed upon by all manner of larger predators - fresh sandeels are a truly fabulous bait and frozen ones are not half bad either, even if fished "out of season" in the winter. IT has the added advantage of having particularly firm flesh which resists the disastrous effect home freezing has on other baits like mackerel.  For this reason they are a prized bait and would rarely be put back or retained for any other reason.

Boat tactics: The Great Sand Eel or can grow to a substantial size - it would have to if it were to run with Mackerel without expecting to be eaten!  They are typically caught on mackerel feathers, often being foul hooked during daylight, but if they are feeding on sprat etc, just about anything shiny and moving will get them to bite.

Shore tactics: Great Sand Eels are typically caught on small feathers, however Lesser Sand Eels can be dug from the sand at very low water in channels... provided you have very quick reflexes!  In Cornwall and south west England in general people use a small hand-held curved iron bar (a bit like a poker with a hook on the end) called a vingler for snagging sand eels.  I've never seen it done but am told it is a skillful ago-old practice. Locally I know of several people who use a push net, another English invention, which is a triangular net with a fine mesh and metal lip that is pushed along the sand catching anything disturbed in this fashion.  This has the added advantage of trapping small crabs, fish and even flatfish, all excellent baits in their own rights.