Donegal Bay, 7th and 8th September 2023

Sun Sep 10, 2023 4:59 pm

This summer’s weather has been like my childhood behaviour; rarely good for two days in a row! Nonetheless Chuckaroo and myself had been studying the forecast and spotted two possible boat days approaching.
Thursday 7th September. Chuckaroo managed to swing the days off work and having decided to try for shark, I gathered all the “stuff” needed for such an expedition, bran, vegetable oil, dry sand, I even had some fish oil this time, onion bags and a large tub. Shark traces, floats, heavier duty rods and reels were assembled and checked. How could we go wrong, after all we only needed a few dozen mackerel……..
Well, first of all I was 30 miles down the road when a major traffic diversion threw me off course, to further complicate matters; there were major roadworks on the diversion route with 30 and 40 mph speed limits in force for stretches. Made it eventually and got the boat loaded, launched and tied up while I got the car parked conveniently. A phone call from Chuckaroo; he was being diverted too but eventually arrived, by which time all he had to do was step aboard. I suspect he parked up the road, watched through binoculars until he could see all the donkey work was done and then arrived! I don’t know why I bring him! Anyhow, we got under way.
We spent perhaps an hour and a half searching for mackerel with nothing to show but one pin whiting, 3 small grey gurnard and the tiniest mackerel I have ever caught. A small ballan wrasse didn’t really help either. After trying several different depths and spots we struck lucky, just as I was about to move again, a shoal appeared on the sounder. We dropped the feathers and were soon hauling full houses of mackerel, filling the bait box in a couple of minutes; just how mackerel fishing used to be. The shoal moved off just as we reached our “quota” to be replaced by another big shoal of tightly packed fish, these turned out to be scad as I suspected. Now shark fishing was possible so Chuckaroo had a snack as he kindly left me to clean up the blood spatter from the mackerel bashing. I don’t know why I bring him!
We headed out at “Flank Speed” to the shark grounds but on the way, we encountered a pod of dolphins giving a baitball of small fish a hard time. I cut the engine and “free-wheeled” into the melee to get a few photos and video clips. On then to the shark fishing and the rubby-dubby was prepared by cutting up fish, adding bran, sand, vegetable oil and fish oil, all tramped into oblivion by Chuckaroo’s size 14 clod-hoppers. Into the onion bag, over the side and as a trail started slowly spreading we got tackled up. We also intended trying for garfish which are allegedly attracted to rubby-dubby slicks, Chuckaroo soon had a float rig trailing out the back. I opted to go deep as last time we had some decent whiting on the bottom. No gars showed, the bottom yielded one tub gurnard and two small, 6”, dabs to me, hardly worth reeling up from 240 feet down. We stuck at it for close to 5 hours with no sign of a shark. The only excitement was when some tuna started feeding a few hundred yards from the boat. Dolphins stuffing themselves, tuna gorging themselves, surely there must be a few sharks around? It was tempting to motor over for a closer look but we didn’t want to break our slick. It turned out it was broken ; somehow the onion bag had slipped through Chuckaroo’s knot. I don’t know why I bring him! But we soon had a replacement in the water and the slick was very close to continuous. It made no difference and it was soon time to head in, with about 45 mins of steaming ahead, we wanted to be sure of getting something to eat ourselves. And of course there is always tomorrow…..
Friday 8th September. If yesterday took a long time to produce mackerel, today was a disaster. We were afloat earlier and searched high and low, far and wide but after a couple of hours we had only a pin pollack to show. Having decided to just sit and drift and hope for the fish to find us, Chuckaroo hooked a single mackerel which shed the hook as he was swinging it aboard. Of course you can guess which side of the gunnel it landed. Eventually we scraped 3-4 mackerel together, not enough for shark hookbait let alone rubby-dubby, time was also running out so we made an executive decision to try for rays and whatever over the sand. Chuckaroo was soon into a couple of dogfish, I had a couple as well but three thornback rays ranging from 3.5 to 6.5 lbs were much more welcome. A few dabs around the 8” size snaffled my baits and Chuckaroo managed his first thorny. Things went quiet and we tried a couple of other spots of various depths. Chuckaroo managed another couple of thornies while I added to my dab tally, then we both started catching mackerel on the bottom rigs, too late! We were visited by a small group of dolphins and that was about it for the day.
After the amount of effort, time and expense invested, the difficulty in getting enough mackerel quickly enough was very frustrating. We all know that old adage about “a bad day fishing beats a good day at the office”, (I actually have the T-shirt), I’m not so sure. Back in harbour we got the boat winched onto the trailer, with the water being very shallow, it was virtually a dry lift. As I unloaded the boat and secured all the straps, lighting board etc Chuckaroo calls down from the quay “Alright if I head on Paddy, I’ve a two and a half hour drive home?” “Yeah, sure” I answered, while thinking to myself “Ye fecker, I have a THREE hour drive hauling a trailer!” I don’t know why I bring him!
Returning to the job in hand, I had to re-arrange some gear in the boot of the car and as I moved a life-jacket------ what’s that? A bottle containing a golden liquid, definitely not fish oil as that isn't normally triple distilled, minimum 5 years old the label says, the label also says something else which translates as “Uisce Beatha”. Three hours? Might do it in 2.5 tonight to get home for a taste before my house bar closes. My education in this particular field continues under the expert tutelage of Chuckaroo. Now that’s why I bring him! And to be fair, he stood me an excellent burger and chip the night before. Yeah, you can come again.
Frustrating, disappointing, we probably would only have caught small sharks anyway, Fishing isn’t all about catching fish, sometimes you gotta eat some sour grapes!
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Re: Donegal Bay, 7th and 8th September 2023

Sun Sep 10, 2023 5:04 pm

More pics;
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Re: Donegal Bay, 7th and 8th September 2023

Mon Sep 11, 2023 8:01 am

Disappointing all right, JW, but you still made an entertaining read out it! More Power(s) to you...

Re: Donegal Bay, 7th and 8th September 2023

Wed Sep 13, 2023 10:26 pm

great read, well done on the effort!
must remember the sour grapes - seems to be all im catching