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West Donegal Donegal Bay Sligo & Leitrim Shore Index

Donegal is massive, in terms of both coastline and fishing... and the southern bay is a haven for excellent fishing especially off the charter boats.  The shore can produce excellent fishing too, usually better as you travel west.  You can not even begin to imagine the fishing that is available here, and the recent attention given to the Blue Fin Tuna fishery is only beginning to open the door to this fishing wonderland.  There is two types of Donegal weather; if you can't see the mountains it is raining, and if you can see them, then it is going to rain!  A red spot indicates a known mark with recent reports, whilst a yellow spot indicates a suspected mark without recent reports... so a pioneering spirit is needed!


The vast expanse of Donegal Bay offers deep water fishing for anyone fishing off a boat, but what is not always appreciated is the quality of the fishing available off the shore, in terms of quantity, variety and quality.  Three of us had 10 species fishing St. John's Point in an evening/night session with only feathers and the caught mackerel for bait - Pollack, Coalfish, Ballan Wrasse, Mackerel, Dabs, Conger, Bull Huss, Dogfish, a Gunard and several Whiting!  The Bay itself is reknowned for its fishing and for the fact that the water stays remarkably warm right through to as late as November and even December, with 19 degrees recorded for most of October during 2001 and 2002. The Blue Fin Tuna fishing season hits its peak in October and November each year so forget about chartering a boat for standard fishing in either month, unless you like very expensive seats!  

1 - Teelin Pier   Just off the road to Slieve League there is a famous deep water mark.  Species & Techniques: Teelin Pier is one of the few marks in Ireland that has produced specimen Conger. Most of the Flatfish alongside Dogfish are available too, with spinning offering Pollack and Mackerel, mainly at high tide. Codling and Whiting in particular can be added to the list in winter.

2 - White Strand   Known locally as Trabawn, this beach is a amazing flatfish mark. Species & Techniques: It will produce Flounder, Dabs, the occassional Plaice and Dogfish, with smaller Turbot falling to mackerel strips.

3 - Fintra Strand   Another beach, most popular than Trabawn, Fintra has an excellent reputation.  It hides two marks, one on the beach itself... the other on the river channel.  Species & Techniques: The channel will produce Flounder and Sea-trout in season, with the latter falling to small spinners or even to lugworm baits.  Ragworm works wonders on the west coast, if you can beg/borrow/steal any!  Fintra has produced Ray during the summer off the beach and Codling at night in the autumn / winter.  Dogfish are the ever present curse!

4 - Drumanoo Head   There are a variety of rock platforms available from Drumanoo Head however care is advised with all of them.  Donegal Bay is not in any way sheltered and all the headlands are extremely exposed / dangerous.  Species & Techniques: Legering over foul ground will produce Bull Huss and Conger, but most people prefer to float fish for Wrasse, Pollack, Coalfish, with Mackerel and Garfish in season.  Whiting also reported.

5 - Killybegs   If you are going to fish the harbour, pay attention as this is a very busy commercial harbour and the commercial fishermen have little time for sea anglers!  The harbour offer two marks off the west and east piers.  Species & Techniques: Fishing off the east pier will produce Mackerel, Pollack and Mullet.  The current record Mullet was caught here, possibly due to the fish factory output - if you can live with the smell, a new record could be yours!  The west pier is a known mark for Conger, especially at the elbow inside the pier.  Dogfish are a common catch also.  Watch out for the seals and they will end a fishing session quickly!

6 - Gunwell Head   This is a great mark, and for variety it is up there with St John's Point (see below). The fishing is mainly from rock platforms out over sand into the Killybegs channel. Species & Techniques: Fishing on the bottom over the sand will produce all the Flatfish, with Ray and Conger also encountered, especially at night.  Closer in, float fishing will produce Pollack, Wrasse and Mackerel in season.  Coalfish are also taken here, as are Bull Huss and Dogfish on the bottom presumably in between the sand and rock/weed.  Whiting reported.  Several local anglers have expressed the belief that this mark outfishes the more famous St John Point, see below.  You might want to search through the bulletin boards for their reports on these marks.

7 - St John's Point   Truly awful roads but the best mark in Donegal and possibly the best road-accessible shore fishing mark in Ireland.  Be careful of parking too close to the fields as the cattle like to scratch themselves on the car door mirrors with disastrous consequences!  The lighthouse, as with all lighthouses in Ireland, is private.  They are often a family home so please respect this - how would you like it if someone invaded your garden!  Species & Techniques: Spinning takes Mackerel and Garfish in season, with a plentiful supply of Coalfish and Pollack in reserve.  Float fishing worm baits will keep you in Wrasse all day, some of them to ove rthe specimen weight c. 5 lbs (2.2 kgs).  Bottom fishing will take Wrasse and also Conger, Bull Huss and Dogfish.  Clearly there are sandy patches which account for the Gurnard and Dabs.  The Whiting were a nice odd bonus and I have no doubt Codling and Cod will be present in the autumn / winter.  Bring loads of bait!

8 - Mountcharles Pier   Just outside Donegal town on the road west, the small fishing village of Mountcharles is now bypassed, so don't miss it!  Species & Techniques: The pier offers access to deeper water and will produce Ray, Bull Huss, Dogfish and Tope for distance casters who can access the deep water channel on the incoming tide.  You can fish for Flatfish closer in (Sole reported) and packs of dogfish will always put in an appearance in the slacker water periods.

11 - Rossnowlagh Beach   Our thanks to Mick and Dingbat off the forum for their help.  Just seven kilometres north of the Erne estuary marks, this beach can be accessed from beside the hotel in the town itself or from steps leading down from a famous tavern-cum-restuarant on the sea cliffs to the south... This is probably the best hotspot on this large shallow beach if it were not for the competing attraction of the pub!  Species & Techniques: The beach will produce good flounder and some decent bass particularly in bigger surf conditions, with the occassional sea-trout in season, the latter on small spinners or even on the lugworm baits.  There are also reports of small turbot falling to mackerel sliver baits.  Sand eels will pick up dogfish especially after sunset.  Lugworm, ragworm, mackerel and peeler crab are all used on this pupular competition venue.  November 2004.
10 - Wardstown Beach   Our thanks to Mick for the details on this new mark.  Another of the many Erne estuary marks, this beach can be accessed from the burnt our remains of Wardstown House.  Alternatively turn off the road to Rossnowlagh for Kildoney, park at the end of the road and walk over the hill.  Species & Techniques: The beach will produce rafts of Flounder and occassionally Sea-trout in season, the latter on small spinners or even on the lugworm baits.  In September 2004, a Donegal SAC competition was won with fourteen (14) flounder! Most baits will work with mackerel and lugworm being perectly acceptable.

9 - The Erne Estuary  With thanks to Dingbat off the forums for his assistance.   Just outside Ballyshannon on the road to Bundoran, there is a vast expance of sand dunes, owned by the Irish Army (Finner Army Camp). Trespassers will be arrested however you can access the beach along the shore from just outside the town - there are well worn paths although it is a long hike and not without its obstacles...  You can also collect bait in the rockpools closer the town.  Species & Techniques: The beach will produce flounder and occassionally sea-trout in season, either on small spinners or even on the lugworm baits. People do not fish here for bass prefering the more readily accessed marks on the northern side of the Erne estuary. Although it is rarely fished,  one might expect to find ray during the summer and autumn, with the chance of a bass in the dogfish. November 2004.


The eastern end of Donegal Bay is full of mudflats and sandy beaches just waiting for an intrepid beachcaster with patience and a keen eye on the tides and currents.  The further west you go the deeper the water and the more difficult the access.  Donegal is remarkably heavily populated for such a rural county - I have always found the people extermely pleasant, quiet and unassuming and always happy to lend a helping hand - just ask!  Kilcar is home to Adrian Molloy of Tuna fame and his boat is often found, a speck fishing the marks under Slieve League.