February 13, 2017 Last Updated 3:01 pm

* Making a Kayak Angler – 2

Irish Kayak Angling (IKA) Club Member, Tim O’Herlihy is getting to grips with his kayak and his angling. In part 1 Tim set the scene. In part 2 Tim starts experimenting and catching.

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Love that YAK!

Love that YAK!

Irish Kayak Angling (IKA) Club Member, Tim O’Herlihy is getting to grips with his kayak and his angling. In part 1 Tim set the scene. In part 2 Tim starts experimenting and catching.

Kayak Length

They say that it’s all about the length! Most IKA members recommend 13ft+ dedicated fishing kayaks for sea angling for a number of safety reasons, an important one being efficiency.  Darren Stock of Darren’s Kayaks has explained it far more eloquently than I can, you can find his recommendations on the forum at Irish Kayak Angling.  I should have tried one of Darren’s mini Kayak Angling trips before I started.

With this in mind & being bigger than your average angler I bought a real angling kayak the Ocean Kayak Prowler Ultra 4.7 from IKA member Paudy Mac & from another, Dave O’Donovan, a fishing Personal Floatation Device (PFD).  The PFD had pockets & eyes to tie & hold my Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) VHF, camera, strobe, knife, compass etc.

Over fishing trips and some family trips (the Ultra is also a great family kayak), the learning continued.  In June while filleting the pollock that Joe had donated to me I was lamenting the fact that I had only caught 2 fish while the lads had racked up 9 species between them. Pat had even given me some ragworm to supplement my bait which made my catch rate seem poor in comparison.  Checking the rigs I was using , Pat suggested getting some SabikisThat was the single best piece of fishing advice I got all year.

Part 2-3

Sabikis & Fishing Simply

So what are Sabikis?  They’re sets of small-hook traces manufactured by a many of brands including Irish company Shamrock Tackle.


I paid a visit to some local tackle shops and Noel Kavanagh at Watercourse Angling & Dan Lynch at Halfway Angling agreed with Pats advice.  Both suggested trying the Shamrock Tackle New Euro Champ Rig.  While I have landed more than one of most species using various different rigs, having hooked 14 out of 17 species on the New Euro Champ rig, it is now my firm favourite.


Small sized hooks...

Small sized hooks…

Don’t get me wrong, bigger hooks have their place, but if you’re starting out & want to enjoy your angling Sabikisof some form or other should be your go to rig.  Grab some from your local tackle shop, tip with squid or mackerel, you’re ready to go.


From my point of view (as a novice angler) there are 2 kayak angling legends in Ireland. The first, Graham Smith (Donegal Kayak Angler), is mostly known for catching Tope, Blue Shark, Skate & Porbeagle Shark off the coast of Donegal. He’s also an accomplished competition angler & species hunter. 11 of the 13 species he caught on the way to winning the 2016 IKA Kerry Meet were on the Shamrock Tackle Bleeding Gloworm sabiki rig. Graham proved to be a great source of information for a novice angler.

Rigged up - Paternoster

Rigged up – Paternoster

The other, Ian Burton (Fishing with Mack), is the king of species hunting.  He landed 51 (not a typo) in 2014.  As with Graham, Ian was also a great source of information.  One piece of advice Ian gave that I am planning to practice in 2017 was “fish simply”.  Simple rigs, simple baits, don’t over complicate things.

The Sabikis worked well on their first outing at Helvick Head, Waterford catching gurnard & mackerel.

Rigged below the weight - Leger style

Rigged below the weight – Leger style

IKA Kerry Meet

I was now ready for my first Irish Kayak Angling – All Ireland Championships Meet – so I headed west to Ballinskelligs, Kerry. Arriving at the launch site, it was great to be able to put faces to profiles & meet some of the people I’d only ever conversed with on the IKA forum.  There was a party like atmosphere as we launched but there was serious business at hand.


Marius in his Hobie under sail

Marius in his Hobie under sail

Suffering a bit from competition nerves & desperate to get lines in the water I hooked the Sabikis to the grab line at the side of the kayak.  Thinking back to Grahams advice I cut them off, I could sort them out on shore.

Marius paddled by and swung past & we compared notes.  In the background on the radio I could hear people slagging “The wrasse are loving that rag you gave me Pat!” while telling Graham that the best flatfish mark was 3km away!


Sea conditions were getting a little uncomfortable in some of the gusts as the day wore on.  I knew if I went inshore I had no hope of a ling, one of the target species for the day.  Over the VHF the newbies were being checked in on,Pat called several times to confirm I was OK. I persevered.  I felt a bite. I struck. I played my fish firmly but gingerly,  I was delighted when the ling broke the surface. Delighted to catch and delighted that I could now head inside the island to calmer conditions.


Kerry Ling!

Kerry Ling!


I retreated to inside Horse Island & tied up to a mooring buoy in search of my final target, a flatfish of any description.  Doing my porcupine impression, with 4 lines in the water, shoals of fish started appearing on the finder, mackerel & scad.

I was delighted to get the scad but ignored a lesson from another outing.  “If mackerel are about, more than one line in the water is a disaster.”  The mackerel & scad hit all my lines at once, even the lug.  I ended up with everything tangled, unhooked the offenders, cut all the lines & then I promptly gave up fishing for that session.

Back at the pier I listened to the banter on the radio while unloading the kayak, delighted with my best day ever.  8 species, Cuckoo Wrasse, Dog, Ling, Mackerel, Pollock, Poor Cod, Pouting & Scad put me 6th of 23 anglers.

It was getting late & close to the kids bedtime so I couldn’t hang around for the family barbecue.  The next day was spent exploring the islands near Valentia with the Ultra back in family mode.

Part 2-9


While all the serious anglers headed to the IKA Donegal Meet. The Donegal meet has a mythical quality as the possibilities of a big fish are very real.

I had volunteered as kayak support for the Annual RNLI swim at Helvick Head on Sunday 14th August.  There for the weekend, I was determined to get fishing on Saturday.

I’d been changing the way I fished the more I learned through fishing meets with the club.  It used to be heavy line & horse the fish in, I’d never used the drag on the reel.  As I released the 3rd dogfish, I heard a noise I’d never heard before:  Line was stripping off thereel on a rod setup for flatfish.

“Hang on a minute, I’m not drifting! That’s a fish!” That was a big fish.  The rod bent in a U I’d gain a few feet, then have the line stripped again.  With one hand I reeled in the other lines while keeping whatever I had hooked off the bottom.  A long battle (for a novice) ensued.  Worried I’d break the rod I was relieved when I could see something moving underwater.  The way the colour kept changing I knew it was a ray, my first in 15 years.


Ray! Welcome back....

Ray! Welcome back….

It’s not all about the Fish…

Sunday saw a huge variety of kayaks launched to support the swim.  The kayakers stayed close to the swimmers with RIBs standing off ready to assist.  The job was mainly herding really.  If someone swam off course, paddle up to the side they were breathing from, get their attention, & get them back on track.


As the last third of the swimmers had 600m to go, one needed to get out of the water & the huge capacity of the Ultra came into play.  Within seconds one of the sea kayak lads had rafted up, reached across behind my back, & hauled the swimmer into the stern well.  I checked up on him ashore as the last swimmer landed, he was still shivering but fine.  The best decision he’d ever made was to say he needed to get out.

IKA Cork Meet

Finally, my home meet (Cork) came around.  The IKA Ccommittee had to postpone it twice due to weather.  I was on a beach both dates; the Ccommittee were spot on in deferring. Safety is always the first priority.


A tough launch!

A tough launch!

With an emergency tackle stop at Halfway Angling (the meet sponsor) along the way to west Cork, on my arrival I found some of the lads already rigging up.  Some I’d met at Kerry: Pat, Kevin, Brian, Ian, Dave Lordan, John Griffin, Sean O’Carroll, others I hadn’t: Niall aka Neptune, Tom aka Yakyak, & Michal.  After the usual banter& finding out that I was up against not one local expert (Ian), but two (Dave), we launched about 11 & scattered all over the bay to where we thought we’d strike lucky.


At each meet there is a set “challenge” – A number of local species to be caught.

By 12.30 Ianhad finished the challenge & I still hadn’t found a dogfish, one of our targets for the day.  The sincerity of congratulations passed over the VHF can only be compared to what one would imagine happened when Hilary Clinton called Donald Trump!

My brother Paddy joined me at about 1, paddling my old Perception & caught some mackerel while tied onto the back of the Ultra.  “I’ve done a Ballinskelligs!” “What’s that?” “All the lines are in a ball under the kayak!” The mackerel had struck again…

Moving to Galley Head I soon had my first dogfish & was hauling in multiple pollock on sabikis.  Once I’d announced the dogfish over the radio Sean O’C joined us in time to see me land a second (2 of the 4 caught that day).  By the time Kevin arrived Sean was swearing at me & my brother wasn’t far off:   3 kayaks from 6 to 50m from me & I was the only one catching fish!

It took a long time to pack up as most of us had left our brains at sea but soon enough Paddy & I joined the rest of the gang at the campsite for prize giving & more banter.

Pat: “You’re all disqualified.  The only ones in before 6 were Ian & I. He’s disqualified too!”


Kevin/Sean/Paddy: “Tim was sitting there hauling in fish & nobody else was catching anything!”


Me: “I was sitting there catching fish & the lads were constantly yelling “The rod behind you! No! The other rod behind you!””


Kevin's Favourite photo: "Tim has another fish on!"

Kevin’s Favourite photo: “Tim has another fish on!”

I’d missed the prize giving in Kerry so, considering it was a free entry competition, it was a surprise when the prizes were displayed.  Added to the gear Halfway Angling had donated wereC-Tug Sandtrakz Trolley , Daiwa Rod & Reel, Railblaza Mounts & Rod Holders , Cobra VHF Radio, Lures, Clothing, Hats, Gloves, torches…  The organisers had been very busy working with sponsors.

Desperately Seeking Species

It was now getting late in the year and opportunities to fish were reducing as the weather deteriorated.  In an attempt to push up my species numbers I had a number of solo trips with the best being a return to Oysterhaven. A much improved result, I landed dogfish, mackerel, whiting, pollock, coalfish, & bull huss. I managed a strap Conger at Bullens Bay to bring me to 15 species for the year.

It was November now so I took advantage of calm weather to meet with other IKA members joining Pat, Joe, Tom & Edgar at Roche’s Point.

My favourite rig, the New Euro Champ, was in constant action.  While I caught fish on the other rigs I was using, I caught all 8 species, my joint best day yet, on that rig.  At the Harbour Rock I landed a nice pollock, then a coalfish, the ballan wrasse I’d been looking for all year, & loads of small pollack, coalfish & whiting with a couple of mackerel for variety.

Treble of codling!

Treble of codling!

Drifting outside the harbour I hooked a triple of cod on a light rod.  It was a great buzz & added to the wrasse brought me to 17 species.  Dropping anchor on sand in about 7m of water in White Bay dabs, whiting & mackerel were interrupted by my second thornback of the year (size 3 hook), & shortly after (“Pat! I’ve caught something big!”) another ray on the Euro Champ rig.  I think I upset Pat & Joe by catching ray on their patch!

Once I landed I went to text Aoife that I was off the water, as would be standard operating procedure.  I still had a lanyard around my neck but the pouch with the phone was gone.  A lesson there for others, if you lose your phone, it gets wet, or the battery goes flat, how are you going to contact emergency services? I also carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) & VHF.

Joe, as always, added to my catch & helped to feed not only my family, but our neighbours too, sending me home with pollock & cod.

I really wanted to break the 20 species mark for the year so I fished Roche’s Point Saturday 26th November.  After a slow start, fishing picked up just before my 13.30 deadline to move spots, I was on a good one.  The Euro Champ tipped with squid did well again, landing 7 of 8 species, including dabs and a grey gurnard.

A great days fishing, I think anyone would be delighted to get 8 species on a neap tide in the end of November.

Cork in November

Cork in November

Year End

So that was it for my first year, 17 species total, 20 fishing trips, a number of family trips, a lot learned.  The most important things are to stay safe and remember kayak angling is not all about species hunting. Enjoy your fishing and don’t come off the water having landed loads of fish disappointed that you didn’t catch something new.  My friend Joe Stenning is taking a year off species hunting to concentrate on enjoying catching whatever he can, whenever he can, wherever he can.  I may do the same next year.

The Sabikis were the key angling lesson of 2016, fishing small hooks & baits.  At a fundraiser in December for the Irish Boat Team my son Sean (9) landed the biggest whiting of over 50 anglers on, you’ve guessed it, the New Euro Champ rig.  While he was understandably proud, Graham made his day. “Graham Smith said well done!” “Which one is he?”  “He’s the one who catches all the sharks!”

I’m still learning!  7 species (on Sabikis) for my first outing of 2017 is a promising start.  This year I intend concentrating on fishing simply & reducing the gear I bring out.

Please read Part 3 as that contains the most important elements to help you have a safe Kayak Angling experience.




Part 1-14 IKA Logo


To learn more about Kayak Angling visit Irish Kayak Angling and register on the forum.  Membership is free!


Follow the Irish Kayak Angling Club on Twitter @irishkayak and on Facebook for details of the 6 FREE meets (Galway, Wexford, Donegal, Kerry, Cork and Monaghan) that make up the All Ireland Kayak Angling Championship 2017.

(Free Kayak Demonstrations at all Venues, provided by Darren’sKayak).

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