Friday 8th June. I was feeling “Spent” after targeting the mayfly trout in Lough Erne recently and with light winds and strong sunshine forecast, a trip to the seaside seemed in order. An early start saw me on the road west and the boat was soon bobbing nicely at the edge of the slip. My fishing was disrupted last year so I hadn’t been to this spot for 2 years, in fact I ended up heading to the wrong favourite mackerel mark ; how quickly you get out of practice! However, first drop down with the feathers produced a single mackerel, second drop down produced another and third drop saw a 2lb pollack. I had been tempted to try Donal Domeney’s tactic of fishing a string of 8 but when I couldn’t fill 5, there didn’t seem much point. Two mackerel would get me started and I could feather while doing some real fishing (no offence to the Mackie-bashers!). I set up the boom, spoon and bait rig to drift over the sand in hope of a few rays and hopefully break in my new toy, a small lever drag reel with a high speed retrieve. It wasn’t too long before the rod started nodding out of synch with the lead bouncing along the bottom and sure enough I tightened into a nice 5lb thorny. Another two thornies at 5lb and 4lb followed soon after along with the first of two doggies, this one was foul hooked in the stomach, he may have been attacking the muppet I had fitted up the trace as an attractant. Then what I thought was a really good ray, a big thorny or even a painted ray, took the bait, it put up a good scrap and when I reached for the net, I realised “we’re gonna need a bigger net!” I set down the net and rod and lifted the fish aboard with two hands, a small skate! It measured just over 102 cm nose to tail, my first ever skate. After a few quick pics and a measure (another piece of kit being used for the first time), back it went. The new reel was well christened. The other rod was now nodding again and I tightened into …….another small skate, two in 5 mins. Again, a couple of pics and back it went. This one was a bit smaller than the first. I had intended having a try at skate last year having got as far as acquiring a stouter rod and reel outfit to do so but instead of heavy gear in fairly deep water, these two came on a 20lb rod and 25 feet of water. I have fished this mark a lot over the last few years with no sign of skate so I don’t think I’ll regard it as a skate mark, just a lucky day out. I was so pleased I spent the next hour grinning, in fact I think my teeth got sunburnt. Another 5 thornies came to the boat ranging from 3-7lb and things went quiet apart from a surprise 37cm whiting. I headed out to a deep water mark for the last hour, this produced a coalie af 2lb 8oz and several pollack to 3lb, not big but fun on the light rod.
Saturday 9th June. Different marks today with the mackerel coming a bit faster, 3 drops and I had plenty for the day. First drift was very slow, in fact the whole day was slow. One small spotty was all I had. This mark normally throws up good numbers of decent flatties, dabs to over 1lb being regular, but they seem to be very scarce, not one today. I moved to a second mark where I anchored for some relaxing fishing and a spot of lunch. Not a bite except those I took out of my sandwich. A move closer inshore to drift produced 4 dogfish, some of which were covered with small white spots, some kind of parasite? A dead weight on one rod turned out to be an octopus, a fair sized one. I shouldn’t have been surprised as I got 4 in one day from this spot previously. Another drift further out produced a couple of small spotty rays and another dogfish but it was very slow. I decided to try a change of tactics and dropped a baited muppet onto some rocky deep water marks but only one 4lb pollack showed any interest. Fish were showing on the sounder but didn’t seem interested. One last drift on the way back to the slip threw up another doggie and a small thornback for variety, but no more skate. Can’t be lucky every day. I feathered a few more fresh mackerel for the freezer on the way back, they seem fairly plentiful at the moment.
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