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Common Skate, Raja batis
Introduction: By law all fish must be returned alive. Fish close to 200 lbs (90 kgs) have been caught again recently, particularly in Clew Bay, once world famous as the best Common Skate fishery. The Common Skate is on the IUCN list of endangered fish species, so tagging and catch & release is mandatory, and lets hope we see these magnificant creatures survive and repopulate our coastal waters. Very recent reports of tagged fish being caught in successive years in locations like Clew Bay points to progress in re-establishing or at least stabilising what is still a heavily depleted species. A fish estimate at > 220 lbs was taken in Clew Bay in 2002.
Boat tactics: For something this size, you have to be working at the 30 lbs or 60 lbs standard given these Skate get up to enormous sizes. They are typically encountered when fishing in shallow waters over sand, which is why most of the big shallow western bays are such good marks. A wire trace is essential and baits needs to be big - nothing less than a whole mackerel or dogfish attached to forged 6/0 to 10/0 hooks will work. Pumping a big skate up off the sea bed in a flowing tide has to be the most arduous angling a body can do, but what a result to see these fabulous creatures! Take a photograph for posterity and let it back again.
Shore tactics: There are a few places in Clew Bay and similar known marks where it is possible to encounter Skate. The most famous was off Fenit Pier where a local angler took four and a half hours to subdue a 109 lb specimen on a beachcaster loaded with 19 lb line! This feat dates before their decline from heavy over-fishing.