November 11, 2015 Last Updated 6:17 pm

* Cork Small Boats Festival 2015 – Report

The 2015 edition of the CSBF was another exciting edition of a great event.....

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Cork Small Boats Festival 2015

A week on the water

Every think of fishing a small boat festival? Cork could just be the venue you are looking for….

I was sitting at my computer on Thursday evening and I was staring with disbelief at the screen. I was looking at the tight knot of low pressure that could be sitting over the area for the next few days. We had already been on the receiving end of some brisk south easterlies that throw up some horrible seas. The only thing offering relief is the fact that we can fish inside Cork Harbour. However tough conditions are tough on anglers and equipment and we always hope for the best for the visiting anglers. I loaded up and headed for East Cork expecting the worst but ever hopeful.

The first chink of light was for a possibility that Tuesday would be a decent enough day. We make a call on the weather based on the forecasts we see on Saturday evening – The call was an easy one: we would fish on Sunday, break on Monday and then fish Tuesday, Wednesday and finish on Thursday. We knew what the first few days would bring, the rest would be a lottery.

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Match Day 1

We meet and brief on Saturday night. All talk was about the weather and the poor conditions up till now. Sunday’s forecast was not exactly pretty but it would be fishable. From before eight o’clock teams began arriving to the tennis court in Aghada and set about launching. It was a mixed day the wind rose and fell during the day. Boats could roam wherever they wished but it was not a day for “outside” so most stayed inside the harbour. Even in the harbour there was  a considerable swell  in the outer areas – I remember being like a drunk wandering around the boat while drifting the turbot bank!

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Quattro – Superb Blonde Ray day 1

Still, we got through it and there were some respectable scores returned: Sea Pigeon returned 13 as did Nauti Lass. The top ten was rounded out by most boats on 9 species. “All to play for” would be the common refrain in the Long Point Bar at the after match post mortem.

Aboard Skua:     The feeling aboard Skua was that we had returned a respectable score given the conditions. We had captured the majority of the micros and that as a good result. We had also had an early flounder which can also prove to be a difficult fish. Crew levels were always going to be an issue for us during the week so a good start was great.


Match Day 2

If Monday was a windy and wet day then Tuesday was the polar opposite. The wind had gone into the northerlies overnight and this had flattened the swell hugely. The sun was shining as we left the smooth waters at Aghada.

Offshore the conditions were beautiful. Most boats took the opportunity and headed towards the offshore reefs. The ling rocks were busy. The place was alive with dolphins chasing prey about the place. One wonders did they scare off the garfish?

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Get a feel for the conditions here:


Tuesday was always going to be a day of big scores as boats hoovered up the outside species and so it proved to be.  Most of the top ten went roaring into the twenties. Escapade holding station on 25 species. Goldielocks made a strong move adding 12 species to stand in second place on 24 species.



Onboard Skua: We hit the ling rocks and hoovered up well. We then adjourned to chase our red gurnard and haddock. We had the red in quick time and decided to head for megrim country. I was not too concerned with haddock, people had said that they were scarce. There were more than six weighed in, we should have waited a bit longer before trying for the megs. We did catch a megs though. If the morning was blistering the afternoon became a tougher prospect as we failed to rack up the target species… It gave us plenty to do for the last two days!

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Specimen Painted Ray (We released the fish….. so no certificate!)


Match Day 3

Day 3 of a 4 day hunt can be tricky. If the weather conditions are good then many of the “easier” species have already been caught. Many teams will concentrate on fish that they feel that they should catch but haven’t already. This can lead to frustrating days and tough fishing. It can be tough mentally. There have been many a silent crew in the pub after day 3.

Again the conditions belied the earlier forecast. While the winds were brisk enough the northerly element made it calm enough out to a few miles. The wind changed direction and eased before we retrieved at the north facing slipway of the tennis courts.

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Antwon from Nauti Lass shows off a nice mullet from a practice session.

There were no major leaps up the table after day three. Adding 5 species was good for many of the top boats.  Escapade still leads the way with 29 species. The chasing pack begins with 26, 3 behind. There was a time where you’d be thinking that the race was won but now there are plenty of boats capable of breaking 30 species. In fact the way the fishing was going and from a study of the score sheets one skipper remarked that the winning total should be at least 32 and possibly more should some team get a rub of the green.


Onboard Skua: Our crew woes compounded as another had to head home urgently. Luckily Donal D was able to step in and rescue the situation. We had a day of highs and lows as we tried to add to our count. We tipped away catching species we already had. A coalfish proved costly for time. We were happy enough knowing that we would have plenty to fish for on the final day!


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Match Day 4

There is always a huge sense of anticipation on the last morning of competition, especially when the weather is as good as it is. Literally boats can go wherever they need to in order to top up a few species. You could see it from the start in the morning as boats scattered to all points on the compass.  Realistically any of a number of boats can win the event on the last day. However when you study the score cards of the various boats you can see that Escapade has plenty of species to fish for on the last day. The chasing pack of Goldielocks, Nauti Lass, Skua, Sea Pigeon and Sandra Anne not to mention a few more below are all capable teams and are likely to add to their totals.

The sunshine was warm for most of the day and it was late into the evening when a few showers crossed the harbour in spectacular fashion as if to tell anglers “it’s time to head for the slip”.  At ten minutes to five you get that annual feeling in the pit of your stomach – it’s over for another year!

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You do not have too much time to dwell on this as you speed at full throttle in order to be on time on the return. Lateness is not acceptable! The slipway is a hive of activity as competitors retrieve for the last time this year. Crews set about sorting gear and cleaning as well as sorting fish to be taken to the weigh-in. Certain fish are weighed in and more are “verified” by other boats.

Onboard Skua: I always reckon you must watch the boats below you rather than the boats above you! We were happy that we needed to add more than five species in order to defend our fourth position. There are five boats within a species of us so we have much to do. As it transpires we add 5 species and run out if time as we chase some other fish that we would consider a normal capture. We are satisfied that we have done our best and can only wait for the weigh-in to be complete.

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The weigh-in is carried out by competing anglers so the process begins when the anglers are off the water as soon as the computer and weigh station are set up. Boats present their efforts in a box. Many teams will have kept fish alive in tanks all day and are anxious to get the fish released back to the water. These teams are given priority.

The weigh master ID’s the fish and checks measurement where necessary. The weigh master’s job is to get the fish to count, not to rule the fish out. If a fish is under size it is normal for the team to rule it out rather than the weigh master. The fish are weighed and the weight is entered directly onto the match scoring system. After weighing the team are asked to confirm their score before they leave the weigh-in area.

The systems is great in that as soon as the last boat has weighed-in the results are only a minute away. The weigh team print off the completed score sheets and these are displayed in the pub. Not on the last evening though!
























The Results Breakdown

The final results make for interesting study! Escapade are champions for the second year in succession, no mean feat. They added 3 species on the final day to have a 32 species total. 32 species is a new match record.

Team Quattro were tied on species (32) but had less weight; 1.8 pounds less to be exact. A small margin. The Quattros were holding seventh place after day three. The addition of 8 species on the final day is a superb display of angling. It just goes to show how any boat in the top ten can win on the last day! The Quattros also recorded a cuckoo ray, a first for the event and they also hit the scales with a specimen dab.

Team Skua were placed third on 30 Species. Given their crew changes and such like they can be happy with their placing. They managed the only megrim in the fleet this year.

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A quick weigh before release for this specimen conger eel of +40lbs for Team Wavecrest.

Irish boat Sandra Anne showed once again that they are going to be a team to be reckoned with. At some stage things will come together for them and a victory is assured. They managed to add 3 species to their day 3 total to finish on 28. They also managed to jump a couple of places on the leader board on the final day.

Liverpool regulars Wimps managed to add three on the last day and moved up the table a couple of places to sixth with 27 species.

Goldielocks , Sea Pigeon and Nauti Lass must be wondering what they have to do in Cork! These experienced teams must have struggled on the last day despite having plenty to fish for. Stalwarts Highlander held onto their 9th spot and Irish boat Bones completed a top ten that began on 25 species.  When you think that Escapade failed to register a scad, mullet, megrim or garfish so you can see there is room for improvement on a 32 species total if things went well for a crew.

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Each year there is a fish that surprises. This year rays were a strong feature of the event.  Incredibly in 2007 there were only 3 thornback rays caught by the fleet. Thornbacks were the most common ray in the harbour at that time but it looked bleak for them. In 2015 the majority of the fleet caught (& released) thornback rays. Spotted (Homlyn) ray were always going to feature during the event. Local boats have been catching them regularly but they never featured in the event proper. This year spotted, painted (small eyed), blonde, thornback and cuckoo rays were caught. An incredible tally of rays.

Each year there are fish that confound. Garfish were rare. Megrim were difficult. Mullet are not as common as they once were. Plaice were not as numerous nor big as usual. It can mean a trade off between time an effort when chasing species.

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All told there were 42 species caught to size during the event. This is a huge total of fish and highlights the diversity to be found in the waters around the harbour and beyond. The beauty of the species hunt is that it stretches the imagination and the boundaries of our angling.

Our presentation of prizes was held in Trabolgan on Thursday evening. As usual organisers paid thanks to our sponsors and supporters. Next year’s Small Boats Festival will be held during the week 16-23 September.  UK boats should contact Stephen in Angler’s World Holidays

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Here’s the Hannah Lou and Dragons (Bella Vista self-Drive) video of their CSBF 2015



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