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Wicklow Dublin Meath & Louth Shore Index

If you want to talk about heavy angling pressure, perhaps even equal to scenes on the hotspots in the UK, go looks at the rocks in Balscadden Bay on Howth Head on a fine summer's evening.  I have counted over a hundred people seeking Mackerel off the rocks there in the past and the brother has said that not much has changed this summer. Perhaps it is a surprise that Dublin offers any real fishing at all, but it is there if you know where and how to get to it... the harder the access so the better the fishing.  A red spot indicates a known mark with recent reports available, whereas a yellow spot indicates a known or suspected mark with no recent data but where you can get lucky!

Introduction :

Based on the cluster of red marks, you'd know I was from the Northside, evidently the better fishing side too! All the marks, bar one on Howth Head that requires death defying agility and a superb head for heights, are well known and consequently heavily fished.  The best option is to contact one of the many SACs and see what they have organised... most are friendly local clubs, welcoming any new sea anglers into their sport.  For those of with your own boat (or a friend with one!) there are plenty of free access slip-ways in most of the harbours and yacht clubs, with lots of  offshore marks outside most of the harbours.  There are too many charter boats to list... best to contact your local sea angling club. Let them organise it.

1 - Killiney Beach A relatively steep shingle and sand beach, sheltered and in a very fashionable resort, simply forget about it during the summer except at night.  If the sun worshippers don't get you, the jet-ski merchants will!  Species & Techniques: If there is a surf you can try fishing into it for Bass and Flatfish.  Bottom fishing will find Flatfish, Dogfish, and rumours of Codling in the winter.  Mackerel, Garfish and Greater Sandeels will fall to feathers even off the beach in the summer, and some of the rock marks in the area might be used for spinning for Bass or possibly even float fishing for Wrasse.

2 - Dun Laoghaire, East Pier   The only pier worth fishing is the West Pier, the less used walking route for thousands of residents and their children who usually select the longer East Pier  Species & Techniques: The West Pier offers Conger, Dabs, Bass and Plaice, with Codling and Whiting in the autumn from the point itself, usually on mixed and sandy patches.  Spinning and feathers to the seaward side off the East Pier gives up Pollack and Mackerel in season, but over very foul ground.  Wrasse on the float are a possibility.

3 - The River Liffey   You will often see large shoals of big Mullet swimming lazily around the river Liffey, especially on an incoming tide.  Species & Techniques: The two best marks for Mullet fishing on the Liffey are directly behind the main train station at Hueston, using bread on the float (ground baiting essential), and right at the other end, the hot water outflow from Poolbeg Power Station. Bottom fishing here also produces the odd Flounder and some surprisingly big Bass, especially on big peeler crab baits for the patient amongst you!

4 - Dollymount Strand   Vast, largely featureless, thronged with people during the summer especially at weekends and deserted at all other times, Dollymount is one of Dublin's least fished and yet quietly productive marks.  It has this remarkable knack for consistently producing double digit Bass each year.  Never venture into the network of narrow channels (lots of Mullet in the summer) at the back of Dollymount as the mud is particularly deep, smells appallingly, and is dangerous.  Species & Techniques: Bottom fishing and surf fishing when there is a surf (!) on an incoming tide ideally at night, will produce big Bass, but it mostly offers Dogfish, Flounder and the very odd Plaice.  Big baits including razorfish (lug and rag can be dug from off the main road on the inner channel) are effective.  The beach at the Sutton end will flood quickly with a dangerous current.

5 - Red Rock / Sutton   There is a wonderful hike around Howth Head and it starts at Red Rock.  At the Marine Hotel in Sutton, turn right - and right again onto another small road along the seafront.  Parking can be difficult.  A gate marks the entrance.  The marks are down a precarious but well worn path, past a small artificial swimming hole and ruins (an old lifeboat station).  Much further on, and accessible by road from the top of Howth Head, you come to the Bailly Lighthouse.  Although fished extensively in the past, and to some extent still today, the lighthouse is owned and run by the Commissioners of Irish Lights ( "There is a private residence and a private road to the Lighthouse. Access to the steps is only via this private road, owned by the Commissioners of Irish Lights.  I'm more concerned that individuals will pass the no trespassing and no fishing signs ... not because we are anti fishing but because the steps and access are quite dangerous".  My thanks to Kevin O'Higgins from the CIL for this clarification.  May 2004 Species & Techniques: At Red Rock, bottom fishing onto foul and mixed ground offers Conger especially at night, Dabs, lots of Dogfish, Pollack, Coalfish and Wrasse on the float.  It is rarely fished and bring lots of tackle, including rotten bottoms and 'junk' leads.  Autumn and winter Codling are a possibility.

5 a - The Lions Head on Howth Head. A big thank you to Kevin Conlan for information on this little known mark... The Lions Head is on the city side of the Bailey Lighthouse.  The only problem is access... down a steep slippery slope to the point and if you slip you are in trouble. Don't bring kids. It fishes at all stages of the tide but especially two hours either side of high water.  Species & Techniques: It is the best spot in Kevin's opinions for spinning for Pollack, up to 6lbs. There are plenty of Wrasse using organic baits and he has seen Conger here while snorkeling - definitely an option fishing at dusk. Bring lots of lures - it is a snaggy mark.
5 b - The Telegraph Pole on Howth Head. Yet another big thank you to Kevin Conlan for information on this little used mark... Driving from the Summit to Sutton Cross there is a left turn into a cul-de sac about half a mile down the road from the summit. Park at the end of this and walk down to the cliff walk and turn left. About 15 minutes later and after passing above the little swimming pool down below you will see an old Timber pole with a diamond shaped board on the top that says Telegraph Cable. Fish below this pole. Species & Techniques: It offers innumerable Dogfish with Codling and Coalfish available if the Dogfish do not get your bait first!  Try offering really massive baits for the Codling.

6 - Balscadden Bay, the Cat Rock and the Split Rock, on Howth Head   Probably the best known and most heavily fished mark in all of Dublin, the rocks at Balscadden Bay, just past Howth Harbour, will fill to bursting point with people seeking Mackerel in the summer.  The Split Rock, near the Nose of Howth is found from off the path at the end of the road.  Take the first turn to the left, down steeply towards the sea off the path.  You can now go left down steps to a deep hole popular with scuba divers, or skitter right along the cliff edge on a tiny wet and slippery path (a head for heights is essential), down the sheer rock face and out onto a big rock with a split in the middle seaward face. If you fall, you will die on the rocks below - no joke. The Cat Rock is accessed before you reach the low rocks at Blascadden, just look for a sign stating "No Admittance" and steps down to an ancient concrete swimming pool.  Species & Techniques: Balscadden is so busy serious anglers will probably want to avoid it.  It is also fished out bar the Mackerel on late summer evenings with an incoming tide and scavenging Dogfish at low water.  The Split Rock is better. Cast slightly to the right off the rock onto and ideally past an underwater reef for Pollack and Mackerel, or into broken ground to the east for Dogfish and Dabs, and for distance casters there were a few specimen Wrasse under the rock pinnacles beneath the bird colony. The crack itself at high tide often offers Coalfish, and out there somewhere you can bet there are big Conger waiting to feed, but you will have to overnight for him! April 2004.

7 - Howth Harbour   Bizarrely there are four marks in or around Howth Harbour.  Just as you drive up the steep hill at the eastern end of Howth heading for Balscadden there are steps down to a small shingle beach that will give the odd Bass and some Flounder, especially near the rocky margins on both sides.  Behind the far pier, there is a small strand with dangerous currents but it is also a known Bass mark.  Species & Techniques: The Harbour itself is another matter.  The East Pier fishes similar to the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire, with rough ground to the seaward side, leading to sandy patches for distance casters, whereas the West Pier is less popular, but offers similar fishing.  The sand between the piers is the best mark for Flatfish.  Mackerel and Garfish will fall to feathers during the summer and Mullet feed on offal off the big commercial fleet.  Dabs are taken, with the odd Plaice.  The east pier has a resident 50 lbs + conger.

7 a & b - Claremont Beach and Sutton Golf Club     Claremont Strand, heading from Howth Harbour towards Malahide is a beach with very dangerous currents.  Wading is not recommended however it has produced Flatfish, Dogfish and the odd Bass (especially on the rocks behind the pier).  Again our thanks to Kevin Conlan for the following information: - a safer and more promising mark is the beach behind Sutton Golf Club leading to the channel towards Baldoyle. Species & Techniques: Fishing from low water as the tide starts to rise produced some big Flounder if you can avoid the crabs. Moving a Flounder spoon worked with fish over 2 lbs recorded.  Schoolie Bass were also caught - check they are above the legal limit of 40 cms - and Kevin reports seeing Sea Trout always jumping in the channel, mostly small ones though.  A new report is sought. Warning:  Steve O'Hanlon had a close escape from the tide flooding the beach and stranding himself and a companion on a sand bank nearing darkness.  The beach is well signposted with regard to this danger - read steve's account in the fourm if you think you should take them lightly!

8 - Velvet Strand, Portmarnock   What is it about Golf Courses and beach angling!  The velvet strand in Portmarnock is a popular mark but mostly at night after the walkers and sunbathers have disappeared. Species & Techniques: Bottom fishing will produce Flounder, Plaice and Dabs, particularly behind the Golf Course (a bit of a walk from the public car park at the promenade) and near the Rocks.  Bass have been taken here as well, and distance casters will take Codling, Whiting, Pollack, Coalfish and Dogfish.

9 - Donabate  Heading further north, into the countryside (well almost), the first of several "village" marks is Donabate.  The area below the Martello Tower (now the site of a Romaneque settlement excavation, the only one in Ireland!) is said to be the best hotspot. Species & Techniques: Surf and bottom fishing is for Flatfish, Bass, the odd Dogfish, with Codling in the winter and autumn.  Specimen Flounder and Bass were taken in the mouth of the Malahide estuary but the mosquitoes (protected by law) will eat you alive!

10 - Rogerstown Estuary   This estuary is known as a remarkable big Bass mark.  Species & Techniques: Freelining sandeels on an incoming tide is the key technique for Bass. Spinning can be effective on a flooding tide, with possibly an odd Sea-trout. Bass and Flounder are taken off the beach in strong surf conditions.

11 - Skerries   Home of the Stoop Inn, Skerries offers two types of fishing, spinning off the pier and bottom fishing for flatties. Species & Techniques: The pier offers small Pollack, Coalfish and Mackerel in season to spinning gear, with bottom fishing onto the sand offering Dabs and Flounder. Mullet are often taken on the float, mainly using fish or offal baits.  Wrap the offal (a Mackerel's liver is the best) in a single bit of muslin and whip it onto pennel rigged freshwater roach hooks with shirring elastic.  Ground baiting helps.

12 - Balbriggan   Further north again, and thanks to the bypass, we come to the quiet village cum suburb of Balbriggan.  Species & Techniques: If you want to catch Mullet, the small harbour here has some reputation for them, mainly on the float or even freelined, and by using small fish or offal baits. The fishing there has diminished in line with the commercial fleet as the Mullet were conditioned to feeding off the boats as they cleaned their catch! A more like scenario therefore is Flounder on bottom fishing from the back of the pier onto sand, with Whiting and Codling also reportedly caught during the winter.


I have not included the marks at Gormanstown, Laytown and Bettystown, all beach cum estuary marks best fished at night on an incoming tide.   Bass and Flatfish are the main species taken, but I have no recent reports on any of them.  All of them need a good surf.  If seals are a problem, as they can be on several Dublin marks and certainly around Howth, tie a Mackerel at both ends - loosely on long loops - to a plastic drinks bottle with heavy mono, secure the lid and ensure there are no holes to let water in... A seal will take the Mackerel and dive, try to eat the Mackerel and find it swims back to the surface under the bottle...  The seal will swim up, take the Mackerel and dive... and you can fish in relative peace, and you do not have to resort to throwing stones which is ineffective and stupid.  Make sure to pick up the bottle and any other litter after the seal has gone off utterly frustrated and muttering on about nasty humans playing tricks on hungry fellow mammals.