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Plaice, Pleuronectes platessa

Irish Record Fish: 8.25 lbs 3.75 kgs
Caught: Ballycotton Pier 1982
Boat Specimen: 4 lbs  1.81 kgs
Shore Specimen: 3 lbs  1.36 kgs
Photo Credit:

Jim Clohessy's 1.8 kilo plaice, Cork Harbour

Introduction: Plaice can reach 15 lbs (7 kgs) in weight, although anything over 4 lbs (1.7 kgs) is a fine fish.  Most commonly associated with shore fishing and estuaries the larger plaice tend to be caught off boats and in particular over mussel beds, so for a new record, Tralee Bay would be a good starting point.  The fish itself is readily identified by the bright orange (occassionally red) spots synonymous with the species.  Big Plaice are strong and powerful predators and quite often people use hooks that are too small and baits that are equally inadequate.  Like all flatfish they have a preference for brackish water and are often caught alongside Flounder and Dabs.  All estuaries harbour Plaice, but mussel beds are undoubtedly the best marks for bigger fish. They also like habours, in particular the sandy stretches between the arms and equally underneath ships hulls.  The old lightship in Dun Laoghaire is said to hold Plaice the size of "dustbin lids"!

Boat tactics: A fine strapping flatfish, the Plaice will tackle any bait with plain ragworm offering you the best bet with lugworm a decent backup - you have to keep the hook size down to perhaps a set of 1/0 or 2/0 in a pennel rig for shore fishing but boat fishing can let up bump the hook size and bait size up a notch.  Plaice are inquisitive fish thus the addition of coloured beads, sequins and flasher spoons to rigs, typically on the final snood trailing behind the lead.  As this is retrieved the watch lead stirs up mud and sand, and the flasher attracts the fish.  Large fish will take small fish baits like mackerel strip, with sandeels also an effective bait.  All this said, those mussel beds seem to be particularly attractive to Plaice.

Shore tactics: An estuary rather than a beach and a decent beachcaster and reel, loaded with worm baits on 1/0 or 2/0 hooks on a two up and one down rig is ideal.  This does not mean you will not catch them over sand however think about food sources when confronting a long strand.  A series of coloured beads certainly works on Plaice - that rig will outfish a standard plain bait regularly.  Plaice are oftentaken alongside other flatfish like Flounder and also Bass on Irish storm beaches, with a small stream or river adding to a mark's attractiveness.  The river or stream must not be in spate or emptying loads of dirty weater into the sea - this will put all flatfish off their food.  Plaice hunt by eyesight, so calm clear water is important.  If you encounter dirty or discoloured water, cast outside this to find the fish.  Young fish can spend their initial year upstream.  Sadly commercial fishing has made large Plaice an increasingly rare catch.  You will find that sunlight, a calm day and a flooding tide will bring the fish either into the estuaries or onto sandy beaches, especially where gullies and other features bring bait items, shrimps and small fish together.  Smaller fish (up to 25 cms) can munch down a bait without barely a rattle, so unless you like becoming a surgeon, watch that rod tip carefully, and the bait is always too small!  The bigger fish are remarkably strong and offer an excellent fight on light tackle.  Try a 3 metre spinning rod to make the most of these impressive fighters.  They are rather tasty too!