February 6, 2019 Last Updated 10:56 am

* Kingdom Come! Fishing in Kerry – Valentia Island – Pt1

The waters off the south west coast of Ireland can be wild and unforgiving, but when the weather is good there is no finer place to be. Last summer we towed SKUA to Kerry.


Kingdom Come!



There is something about small boat anglers and road trips. There is nothing like towing your boat into an area that you do not normally fish. But of course it’s not like you drive to a port and jump on a charter boat, no you must get your team and your craft to and from the area in safety and as trouble free as you can.

Ready for the launch at Knightstown

During the summer just gone we headed for Kerry. Kerry takes on mythical proportions and anglers can get that wistful look in their eyes when speaking about “fishing the kingdom”. We watched our forecasts carefully and we spotted a weather window that would allow us to take advantage of what Kerry has to offer.

Over the years we have towed to Kerry many times. Every time stores up memories of good times and great fishing. Kerry is not immune to stocks being depleted but there are still some areas where the fishing is top class. We fished many years out of Brandon. Such a fabulous place is Brandon. The fishing has quietened off in recent years but it still can have an attraction. It has been some time since I was back towards Caherciveen and Valentia Island. It is an area of tremendous possibilities. The beauty of the area is that it offers sheltered fishing and different launch sites should the weather not be as good as forecast.

Getting on the Road

Towing you boat is always a daunting prospect. In your local area there is the comfort of being close to home should you have difficulty. Towing over longer distances necessitates some preparation before you hit the road. It is important to check out the condition of your wheel bearings. Jack up your trailer and spin your wheels. You are listening for silence! Hearing a rough hum at this stage will not fill you with confidence. Next you check the bearing for play, or rock. When you rock the wheel on the hub you should not feel any play. A little moment is acceptable but a pronounced rock could spell trouble. It makes sense to grease your hubs before you check for play as grease will take up a little slack ion your hub. You need to be sure that the hubs are well filled with grease in any case.

You may as well grease all points on the trailer at that stage. The hitch will need some and you may as well give the nipples on your engine a pump too. Hitch up your lights and check that they are all functioning correctly. Check you ratchet straps and make sure that they are tight for the spin ahead.

Finally, you should ensure that you have enough tools to change a bearing at the side of the road if required. I like to keep a couple of spare sets of bearings in my tool kit – just in case, you know the score.

Before you head for new areas you should make enquiries about the fuelling situation in the area. Lately I tend to fill a few jerry cans and take these with me in the boat. It gives more choices in terms of filling fuel. Of course, with an inboard tank it’s good to know how much fuel you are burning.

Super conditions in the Portmagee channel

We hit the road to Kerry early on a very hot summers morning. Our plan is to get to Valentia Island early so as to have a good day fishing. We have a trouble free drive to Kerry. The slipway we will use on the island is the slipway used by the ferry. We don’t reckon it’s a public slipway but we are well practiced enough to know that we will be launched and away from the slipway before the ferry returns from the mainland. There is another slipway near the RNLI station that could be used as well.

We have booked ourselves into the Royal Hotel. It is a fine spot situated at the water’s edge in Knightstown, the main village on the island. We could have stayed in Caherciveen. We could have stayed in Portmagee there are plenty choices in the area. The fact that I can see Skua from the bedroom window is nice. Valentia has a fine breakwater. There is no marina proper but boats tie to the breakwater pontoon. If the weather is calm you can also tie to the outer side of the pontoon. The locals are a welcoming bunch and the staff in the hotel likewise. They couldn’t be more helpful. We need to store some jerry cans as the midday heat will be ferocious. They let us put the cans in a shaded shed. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff.

Our launch is smooth and we are soon pushing away from the pontoon and are heading towards open water. Open water off the south west coast is into the wild Atlantic Ocean, next stop west is America!

Why would you trail your boat to Kerry? Kerry offers wide and varied fishing. One look at the map and you can see the peninsulas and large bays and you can see that the chances for some shelter are good. You can also see that anything happening from the west is going to lead to tough conditions. The area around Valentia offers some fabulous choices. The area around Knightstown offers typical inner harbour style fishing with rays and huss about. There is also bass to be had. As you get closer to the sea, out either channel around the island you will come across varied fishing and triggers can be found while fishing for wrasse. Once you head offshore you are looking for the big reefs in search of Pollack and usual reef dwellers. The species that draws boat anglers offshore towards the Skellig Rocks is the humble bluemouth. You really need nice conditions to fish these areas as the swells from the west can be huge. Heading out from Knightstown from the opposite channel from Portmagee will lead towards Dingle bay. Again there is mixed and varied fishing in the bay, it is a huge bay. At the landward side of the bay there is an impressive spit of beach that is Inch beach. There are lots of fish to be caught here but for us tope will draw us more than 20 miles inshore from our launch point.

We slip away from pontoon and head for open water via the Portmagee channel. Conditions are as perfect as they can be in Kerry. There is the slightest of rolling swell but there is no wind and the seas are calm. Kerry, like everywhere else has been suffering with a late arrival of mackerel, so we have a dip around the area hoping to catch a few fresh mackerel but we only manage a few. We have brought some frozen “just in case” although we did not expect to be using the frozen stuff. We then set the goto on the GPS for an area offshore, beyond the Skelligs known as the 10-mile bank.

We arrive to the bank and while the temptation would be to fish big lures over the peaks we bait up simple paternoster traces and we drop down the 300 feet to the bottom: we are hunting for bluemouth. There are plenty of them around but they are not the big ones we are hoping for. Still, it’s nice to hit the target species. In between bluemouth we also contact Pollack and Ling as we drift through the peaks and gullies. Remember, you can always anchor up and fish and of course sharks are also plentiful at this time of year.

Little Bluemouth!

Of course we have to take in the Skellig Rocks when in the area. While Skellig Michael is the most famous the Little Skellig is more interesting to us as it is home to one of the biggest gannet colonies in Europe. While we are heading to another reef we stop off to take in the sights, sounds and smell of the colony, it is something to behold.

We spend the rest of our first day chasing some great hard diving Pollack from the reefs. To be fair the reefs do not seem to have the same head of Pollack that they had a few years back but there is plenty fish close to double figures, plenty to keep the interest. We fish on into the late evening and it is only hunger that makes us head for home port.

We decided to take a quick trip to Portmagee for our grub and we were lucky to get served as most pubs finish food service around nine o’clock. We watched the sun set while hatching our plans for the morning.


SKUA, Snug for the night!

Day 2 – Dingle Bay Tope

We got going early in the morning and after a hearty breakfast we took the small stroll to the pontoon where Skua was tied up for the night. I had been speaking with local boatman and one-time charter skipper Nealie Lyne about mackerel, or really about the lack thereof. He did have a nugget of information that a friend had caught some mackerel near Kells Bay. Kells is on our route to Inch so we are hopeful of catching some fresh bait.

Today we would largely be fishing marks that We would not have fished in years. There is some trepidation as to whether our marks would fish. We need not have worried too much. While waiting for tide we made our first stop off Coonanna, we fished the outer part of the inlet and drifted the sand and picked up dabs, doggies and rays. The diversion was welcome before we steamed inland for Kells Bay.

Dabs Galore!

After a few drifts we did hit some mackerel. We were delighted as without doubt fresh would out fish frozen. They were not giving themselves up but we managed enough that we would not be worrying. We stowed our gear and headed for our first mark.

Off Inch strand there are numerous sandbanks and bars. Some dry out. Some lurk just under the surface at low water. Today there is a light breeze blowing so the banks and bars are easily spotted. If you are fishing the area don’t rely on your GPS as the banks change from season to season. Just be wary!

We dropped anchor and no sooner than we were held fast tope traces were flicked out from the boat. We tried some smaller gear in case we might hit some rays. Would our gamble pay off? We didn’t have long to wait when my reel screamed as the tope picked and ran off with my fresh mackerel bait. Welcome back to Kerry!

A stunning location… Dingle Bay

It is hard to beat a tope fought on balanced tackle. We are using a mix of 12lb class rods and uptiders and each is light enough to let the tope give a great account of itself. We have had big tope here in the past, specimen sized fish were not uncommon. Today they are mid-pack fish that were are delighted to be catching. Rob and Gavin are somewhat expert tope anglers and I literally just stepped back and left them handle the tope. They are so used to it it’s a pleasure watching them get the tope into the boat, measured, photo’ed and released at pace.


The conditions are just unbelievable. The temperature is rising and there is not a cloud in the sky and the fish are biting. We have to move anchor from time to time to get out of the fastest run of the building tide. We were not getting much action on the smaller gear but we weren’t expecting much we would need to move further out the bay but we were too busy catching tope and were happy doing so. There are few locations in for tope fishing that are as picturesque. Eventually we did decide to move off and we decided to make most of the summers evening and have a go at some wrasse. We’ll deal with that in part two ——- More Kerry!  Click here for part 2:       PART2 

Is tagging tope in their dorsal fin the best idea? This one would suggest not. We couldn’t read the tag so we removed it.

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