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Black Sole, Solea solea

Irish Record Fish: 6.31 lbs 2.86 kgs
Caught: Ballycotton 1986
Boat Specimen: 2 lbs  0.91 kgs
Shore Specimen: 2 lbs  0.91 kgs
Photo Credit:

  Robert Patzner

Introduction: The Black Sole aka Dover Sole is clearly recognizable by the oval shape to the body and the colouration. It also feels quite "slimy" - a feature that sets it apart from all the other flatfish.  Prized for its flesh, it is a fairly rare encounter in Ireland, and anything over 1 lb (450 grams) is considered a decent fish. Dover Sole are usually encountered during the summer and autumn (after the spawning period from March to June) as the water temperature heats up and the same problems in catching them emerge with the far rarer Lemon Sole, namely their tiny mouths!  Juveniles will often move into nursery and inshore areas after March.

Boat tactics: Standard flatfish tackle including ragworm offered on a set of 1/0 or smaller hooks in a pennel rig is the ideal option.  Sole have very small mouths relative to their size.  If you find you are getting bites but no takes, reduce the hook size and bait and see what happens... they may not be Dabs or Poor Cod after all!  These are relatively small flatfish and tend to be caught inshore over sand and mud banks. A watch lead and all the typical flatfish bells and whistles may help, but small hooks are essential kit. That said, they fight real hard!

Shore tactics: Best bet would be some of the southern marks later in the summer or autumn... ideally on the Wexford, Waterford or southern Cork coastlines and on an evening tide.  NB: you need not cast that far...  Black sole are solitary predators and the obvious difficulty this presents in catching commercial quantities of them is reflected in the open market price.  The other point is that short mis-casts will often take black sole.