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Dab, Limanda limanda

Irish Record Fish: 2 lbs 5.5 ozs 1.06 kilos
Caught: Cork Harbour 2002
Boat Specimen: 1.5 lbs .681 kilos
Shore Specimen: 1.0 lbs .454 kilos
Photo Credit:

Peter Atkins, Connemara, Galway. April 2004

Introduction: The Dab is a species all in its own right and the second smallest flatfish caught in Ireland, the topknot being the smallest and possibly the rarest.  Identifiable by the rough sandpaper like texture down all to its back, the Dab is caught in shallow water and  found in large numbers in estuaries and inshore from early in the year... although it can be a nuisance too when you are targetting something a bit bigger! It appears to move offshore in some area from June onwards only to return in the late autumn - this certainly is the case on many marks on the Irish Sea.  Some Dabs, notably on the west coast, will have the odd Plaice-like spot, altholugh this is more typically yellow rather than red or orange, but it can be confusing.  Anything over 454 grams (1 lb) is a fine fish, pretty much at the top end for a Dab; - they tend to get fatter rather than bigger, with 30 cms (12 inches) a very good size for most fish.

Boat tactics: These small flatfish will tackle any bait with small harbour ragworm offering you the best bet and small lugworm acting as a decent backup - you have to keep the hook size down to perhaps a set of 1s or 1/0s, and the terminal tackle can be the same as for most flatfish like Plaice, Flounder etc.  Dabs like Flounder will be taken over rough ground as well as sand, with a mix between the two offering the ideal habitat.  The lightest rod is more than sufficient for tackling these small flatfish and they offer good sport, apart from which large ones make a decent meal.  Dabs travel in shoals, often of similar size, so there is the chance you will catch more than one on each drop.  A three hook rig, two up and one down, with a few beads, sequins and even a flasher spoon will do the trick.  A watch lead helps stir up the sand using a stepped retrieve however if you are at anchor, better to use a light round lead to let the baits wander around in the current and tide.

Shore tactics: Shore tactics often revolve around trying to avoid them by using larger hooks and larger baits, often moving from worms to mackerel strips etc.  The one positive thing in the Dab's favour is that they are the first fish to arrive into our estuaries showing up in early February and so they help ease you back!  Messy dead lugworm, often left a few days to "mature" is an exceptional Dab bait, and they will happily feed on the legs and claws from peeler crabs which is ideally sized for fitting onto small hooks.  Fished close in, these baits also offer the possibility of a sole, especially down south. A three hook rig, two up and one down, with a few beads, sequins and even a flasher spoon is the ideal rig for flatfish.  A watch lead will stir up the sand using a stepped retrieve on cleaner marks, and given they move in shoals, if you get one hit and have a fish on, retrieve slowly for the first twenty metres and you might add to the count before you bring the trace in... it is not uncommon to take Dabs, Flounder and even the odd Plaice in the same session, particularly when fishin over sand.