October 4, 2016 Last Updated 5:39 pm

* Cork Small Boats Festival 2016 – Super Fishing in the South

A fleet of small boats catches 43 species of fish in September.... It can only be the Cork Small Boats Festival!

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The fleet getting ready for the off!

Cork Small Boats Festival 2016

We slipped Skua off the trailer at Aghada tennis court on a wet Sunday morning. It was quiet. There were no other gobshites going to launch at this time! The rain mixed with the wind was horrible. We needed to launch for the final shakedown before the beginning of the match. You know, that last check to see everything is in its place that the rods and gear are just right. We decided also that we would catch a few mackerel for backup. We really should have stayed in bed. It was a different story on the slipway yesterday, Saturday. Most of the fleet was launched. Other teams were having the last shakedown too. It was a beautiful day. The sea was calm and the sun was shining.


The only dry bit of Sunday!

The call on the match start is taken on Saturday afternoon. If Sunday looks worse than any of the next five days then we will not fish. Forecasts can change so we take our chance. Based on what we were out in it was a great decision. You would not put the dog out on Sunday. Horrible.


Match Day One

It was some difference on Monday morning as I stood on the patio in Guileen and surveyed the vista. Calm, sunny spells and even a hint at heat. It was perfect Small Boats weather. Like most, I was awake at the dawn going over things in my head, making sure we had everything to make our first day run smoothly. At 0830hrs the entire fleet was on the water getting ready and waiting. It always does the heart good to see the fleet heading off at full tilt. The majority of boats headed for sea, conditions were hard to resist. Conditions stayed perfect for the day. The wind was light and it meant that boats could cruise between marks at full tilt. Sometimes the spin is as good as the fishing…nearly.


Alan Taylor among the bass!

Despite the super conditions the fishing was slow enough. It did not stop Highlander bringing in a savage total of nineteen species. Screaming Reels (with a new crew) were the best of the rest with fourteen and the chasing bunch were hitting twelve species. With a decent forecast in prospect on match day 2 there was a good chance of teams topping up more before the forecast poor weather moved in. There were some cracking fish caught. Wimps had a close to specimen Megrim at 1.7lb Highlander had an Angler Fish at 8.3lb. This is the first time an Angler Fish was weighed in at the event. Escapade had a rare turbot and Solway Venture rounded out a decent day with a specimen red gurnard. Not too shabby!


Lewis Brownson with his PB Blonde Ray

Match Day 2

What a morning! Better than the forecast. It was practically flat calm out there. At the start you could see that teams had all sorts of plans as boats sped off to all points on the compass to chase species. On Skua we had largely collected our “outside” species so we spent some time chasing an elusive garfish before hitting the anchor for a conger eel. We could see plenty of boats working  outside the harbour. Teams were panicking too. The forecast was poor so it meant that the possibilities for fishing tomorrow were going downhill rapidly.  All boats added to their totals but Escapade streaked into a lead of Twenty Six species. All with two days fishing to go! Again there were some fine fish caught. Escapade’s rare duo of a Brill and a Cuckoo Ray would prove to be really important fish. The general consensus was that many boats were finding the fishing tough going. Species were there but quick fish were in short supply.


Bit suspicious about the location, but a nice brace for Bob on Bass Hunter


Team Goldilocks

Match Day 3

We were jolted from the summer feeling on day 3. The morning was grey and had a distinctly autumnal feel to it. You could feel that the rain was not too far away. The wind was fairly howling and from our base in Guileen we could see that there was a heavy sea running outside the harbour. Soon the tide would be ebbing and so we limited boats to the inner harbour until a review closer to lunchtime. The strategy was simple for many boats – head into the back harbour marks and chalk down some micros and minis until the front blew through. On Skua we headed across the harbour in testing conditions and soon had to head back towards the mini ground in East Ferry. There was a few boats still fishing for Blennys, gobies and goldsinny wrasse. There was a few boats fishing for the elusive mullet too. Mid-morning the rain moved in and it was fairly horrendous for a time. The sheltered option of East Ferry gave some break. Teams had to tough it out until the front passed through.


The micro species hunt!

True to forecast the wind eased allowing boats access to the outer harbour. The lack of blonde rays was strange. They are very much a feature of the event. It could be down to the conditions however there were a good few boat fishing for them on day 2 as well. I reckon many boats tired for bass on day 3 but in truth the conditions were horrible when exposed to the wind and rain. These conditions really test the resolve of the small boats species hunters. Escapade managed to reach thirty with Highlander and Screaming reels  still hot on their heels. All to play for on day 4. A few boats had seven species on the day with many coming in between five and seven. You can see that most crews are well able to catch the micros at the 120mm size limit.


A real darkly marked Blonde on Skua


A 2.6lb plaice is always a nice catch… This one was released after the weigh-in by Glyn from Sea Pigeon

Match Day 4

The final day presented an organisers headache! The winds had been forecast to rise from early morning and therefore a limit to Roche’s Point would be prudent. From our vantage point overlooking the areas we could see that the expected wind had not materialised yet. It was close to still at 0700hrs. We decided to allow boats outside as far as “The Smiths” until 1300hrs with the proviso that we may have to be in sooner if the expected wind arrived sooner. It is one of those decisions that have to be made. We think that we should give anglers the benefit of whatever breaks in the weather we can. The wind did rise and boats headed to the harbour before 1200hrs. The last opportunity to “stretch our legs” for 2016 was a welcome one. Most teams needed to chase fish in the harbour at that stage. Teams try to defend their leaderboard position on the last day. Defending your position is the objective and sometimes a good defence will help a crew to move up the leaderboard.


The stylish Levant 600 made an impressive Small Boats debut

Solway Venture posted a great score to leap over Sea Pigeon into fifth spot on 25 species (by weight). Team Skua managed to hold off the chasing pack to retain fourth place on 26 species. Screaming Reels added three on the last day to defend third. Highlander worked hard all week and managed to also add three on the last day to reach the magic 30 species mark. Escapade had lots to fish for based on previous years scorecards and the addition of a single species on the last day was enough to ensure a incredible three-in-a-row of victories.



All snot and slime!


Champions 2016 – Maurice and Stephen on Escapade


The presentation of prizes took place in Cotter’s Bar, Trabolgan. Competitors and guests enjoyed a lovely buffet in between the presentation of awards by Malcom Nield or the organising committee.

There was special mention of sponsors –  Bellavista Hotel, Trabolgan holiday centre, Gerrys of Morcambe, Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Appreciation was shown for the organisational team, the weigh-in crew including Miranda Braal (The smoked fish and the Dutch soup was very well received).

The camaraderie between competitors really makes the Cork Small Boats Festival a special event!


Weighmaster Dan cuts a fine figure at the weigh-in

The Festival

As a competitor it is a huge relief to safely arrive in East Cork. The journey is after all a culmination of much planning, organisation and implementation. The objective is to get to the team to Cork, compete close to as planned and get the team back to home base in one piece after the event. You can imagine that the arrival on site is just one of the milestones on the Small Boats Festival journey.

Even for an Irish-based boat the trials and tribulation are there. Getting the team to East Cork is a challenge. Every team has the same aims – Get in place, get the gear organised get the bait stored and get a trip on the water under your belts. Once that is achieved it is a matter of waiting for the competition proper to start, to get fishing.


Arrival at Launch Control Aghada!

In the week leading up to the event most skippers start the head wrecking that is following the weather. When you are following something so closely you can see what an inexact science is weather forecasting. Most are all over the synaptic chart on sites like Wetterzentrale and the ECMWF as these give the furthest look out of the “real” weather sites. He cycle of delight and apprehension begins as the forecast changes each day. One really should not bother to look until the Thursday before the match, if that was possible or likely!

Lots of planning and work has gone on for months and everything is hopefully in place for a smooth well run event. Weather is the area that the organisers cannot control. While anglers always say “we get what we get” and “it will be the same for us all” you cannot but feel for guys that have worked and planned so hard to get to this day and the lure of decent fishing and a good event is what brings these guys to Cork time and time again. We are incredibly lucky in terms of our base in East Cork. We can fish in the harbour in condition that would blow-off most other venues around the UK. We still retain the ability to catch most of the species we target within the harbour. All but the deeper water species can be found inside Roche’s Point.


The lads aboard Solway Venture had a cracking week

When it comes to weather, the rules are simple: If the smallest boat cannot go then neither can the largest. The pitch must be kept as level as possible. Of course this can cause some headaches for the organisers but in fairness, they get it right more times than getting it wrong.

Post Mortem

Small Boats 2016 was an great event. As usual it tests teams on so many levels! There was an incredible array of species caught. There were 43 different species of fish caught (to size) during the event – A fantastic tally by any standards.

We had four days competition angling and most competitors had a few days practice and bait gathering before the event got under way. Plenty fishing!

Cork Harbour showed itself to be critical to the success of the event. Teams can operate in relative safety here with winds of +20mph. There are few if any other venues that would allow such access to water and species.

The organising committee would like to thank the following supporters of the event:

Bella Vista Hotel –Cobh www.bellavistahotel.ie

Gerrys of Morcambe – http://www.gerrysfishing.com/sea-fishing.irc

Trabolgan Holiday Centre –

Inland Fisheries ireland

The Long Point Bar

You can see the results and the score cards at the Cork Small Boats Facebook page… You might have to ask to join if you are not already a member…Worth a look! https://www.facebook.com/groups/corksmallboats/






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