July 4, 2014 Last Updated 2:50 pm

* Ray! Painted Beauties

Tactics for painted rays will also do for thornbacks and many other summer species say Martin McGowan of the Kerry Fishing Guides...


Painted ray ia


Ray! All types, you got to love them, with their big powerful wings as they soar around the ocean floor.

I guess I am quite lucky where I live, because over the course of any given year, I get to target, from the shore, four species of ray. Among them would be the painted ray, otherwise known as the small eyed ray.

The painted ray keeps me active and fishing away over the winter months. After the extremely nice summer we where blessed with last year and a mild September, the painted ray where late to show up. I would generally start targeting them from September onwards as they start to show up inshore along the beaches. Last year I had to wait till October (not complaining).

my ray

The Painted Ray also known as the Small Eyed Ray (Raja microcellata), is a short snouted ray with sharp disc corners forming approximately right angles. The spines on the middle line of the back and tail have narrow points bent at right angles, thus lying almost flat along the body. The spines are closely packed and small, as are the single series each side of the tail. Colour; greyish to light brown with large white spots and lines (sometimes feint) which run almost parallel to the margins of the disc. Underside is white. It can be identified by its conspicuously small eyes, and spectacular striped markings along its topside. Keeping in mind, the spines, on the lower edges of the tail, and wings particularly in adult females which can, and do, catch out anglers when handling. So watch out for them! You don’t want it ruining you fishing trip. The painted ray is one of the medium sized rays which can grow to a weight of 20 lbs, but expect to catch a lot of fish in the 5lbs range.

Painted ray can be fished for rather simply, you don’t need the heavy gear you would need, if fishing for the powerful stingray. Main reason been, you tend not to be fishing over any rough ground. The painted ray favour sandy bottoms, they like shallow inshore waters with a tidal surf where food is churned up in abundance.

Frozen sandeel ia

Targeting painted ray can be immense sport; the set up I use is straightforward. The rig that I have had great success with, would be the old dependable, 2up 1 down. They say (experts) “that ray are seldom very near the shore, so a single clipped-down paternoster is needed and the most competent rig”. This is not so much the case; I catch painted ray in my locality without the aid of any clipped down rigs what so ever.

Set Up:

Trace: 2 Up 1 Down
Main Line:
18lb Mono
Rig Body: 50lb
Snoods:  20lb
Hooks: Size 2 or Size 1 long-shank easier to remove. You don’t need the big 2/0 3/0 at all.
Bait:  Frozen Sandeel, Squid with Mackerel will do the trick.


That’s it; along with your trusty beach caster and fixed spool or multiplier you’re sorted. Also believe it or not, lugworm will get you the small painted ray.

So with all that said I decided to go and fish the beautiful Barrow Beach just below the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course which is that of “Tralee Golf Club”.
I was joined this time around by anglers on an angling trip from Dublin, Alby Allan, and Fintan Kavanagh. The game plan was to see if there was any painted ray around, and get the guys into some action.

The night was fantastic and conditions where excellent, a little chilly after all the mild weather, but hey, we are anglers after all. It was that kind of surf that gave the feeling that the fish where watching and waiting for you.  A light shower to start, cleared of after landing. The rest of the night stayed dry and pleasant.

Eugene Farrelly painted ray

I went along equipped with a couple packs of frozen Sandeel, as did the rest of the guys, along with a few lugworms just in case. I had some fresh Sandeel also with me that I collected the day before. I wouldn’t normally have fresh Sandeel with me on a ray session. To let you in a secret, blast frozen Sandeel is twice as good as fresh Sandeel on any day, when fishing for rays, bullhuss and dog fish.
Fresh Sandeel will fish well for bass and Pollock, when fished under a float over rocky ground.
You will know the quality of your shop brought Sandeel by blood around the eyes and gills; this will be visible in the packet around head area. Also look out for Sand-eels where there belly tends to split when putting on your hook, not a good sign.

When using Sandeel, do not forget your elastic thread, a piece of kit you cannot do without. It’s essential for binding your Sandeel to your hook. I like to prepare my Sandeel by snipping the tail and head just behind the gills; this will allow a nice sent trail from the start.

It did not take long for our first bite of the night. That went to one of our friends from Dublin. Alby was over at my rod stand, chatting away with me, when we heard his line being stripped from his reel. We all knew Alby was into a good fish, the fish ended up taking Alby one hundred yards down the beach. It was not long before we could see a fantastic ray lit up by our headlamps, trashing around in the surf. This was a dream start, but Alby still had some work to beach this awesome looking fish.

painted ray

Ray landed, and after a few pictures with this fantastic fish, it was time to release back to fight another day. Not long after returning the fish, Fintan was in on the action; there is nothing better when fishing, then seeing the end of your rod lift of the ground with a fish on the other end. Fintan had to be fast, or his rod would have gone for a swim, after lifting into the fish, the bend on the rod and bouncing rod tip said it all.  Fish on! After some time battling the surf and fish, a beautiful Painted ray showed itself, the smile said it all. Those rays were not alone, over the next few hours we had a total of seven painted ray. All anglers’ landed painted ray, along with the occasional flounder. It was great to see one of the lads, catch their first painted ray. A new species to the list, always adds enjoyment to any session.
Painted ray are a great fish to catch in the surf, they give a tremendous fight, using those wings to glide in and out of the surf.

setting free

Fishing sessions can sometimes be about the quantity of fish, you catch. But the outcome of this trip was all about the quality of fish, yes you guessed it, painted ray. The guys were delighted with their rays, all taken on Sandeel.

Top Tips:
1 Bait- Frozen Sandeel
2 Rig – 2up 1down
3 Hook size – 1
4 Essentials:  Bait elastic – scissors –headlamp


must haves


Ullcatch – Is an angling company that is growing. The Kerry based company offers many services to the angling industry in Ireland. Apart from sourcing quality tackle from around the world Ullcatch also provide a guiding service in the Kerry. They cater for all methods and styles of angling and can cater for both salt and fresh water. You can check out details and information at www.ullcatch.com or contact Martin @ 087 315 2516. 


Comments are closed.