November 10, 2015 Last Updated 10:55 pm

* The Art of Wreck Fishing – Lures

You touch down on the bottom.... you wind at pace.... 5 turns... 10 turns.... 15 turns.... Boom!..... It can only be a wreck!



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The Art of Wreck Fishing – Lures

(This Article appeared in Irish Angler Magazine in 2004)

Picture the scene: you have arrived at your chosen wreck. You pick up your favourite 12-20 rod, check the braid and make sure your drag is smooth and set. From the tackle box you produce a flying collar rig that you lovingly tied last night. Chances were you barely slept in anticipation of this very moment. You open your trace wallet and select a 6inch Lumi orange shad and fit it to the 7/0 hook set into a 2½ ounce leadhead. A quick glance over your shoulder at the sounder shows that the wreck is below the boat, you drop your line over the side and begin the long drop to the bottom over three hundred feet below. The anticipation is tingling the adrenalin is pumping. Your lead hits bottom. Before the shad has time to embed itself in the steel you begin to crank your shad for all you’re worth, counting turns as you go. Eight, nine, ten, wham!, wait a minute…, you didn’t really expect a hit so close to the bottom. Something hits your lure hard and boy does it pull back, a ling without fail! But no ling fights this way: constant pressure and nodding, short sharp bursts to the bottom. You hope against all hope, shaking, you continue to pump the fish to the surface being gentler but more forceful than ever before. The battle seems to go on forever. Your pulse is racing your knees are getting shaky. You glance over the gunwale to see some colour, nothing yet. You continue to wind when suddenly you see some colour, a golden glow from the deep: Cod, big Cod. The size fish that makes your dreams come true.

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Although I do tend to spend a lot of time dreaming about fish and fishing, this scene is not a fabrication. I was not in Norway on my holidays. Fishing like this can be had, when conditions are right, off the south coast, West Cork to be exact.

Cod must be the favourite fish of the sea angler. They provide good winter sport from beaches. They lighten up the dark winter days in our harbours and bays. They offer good sport and superb eating. A cod over ten pounds is an exceptional fish at any time of year at any venue.

A few years ago the specimen weight for cod was reduced from twenty-five pounds to twenty as specimen cod were no longer being caught. A twenty-pound cod is a huge fish!  There is no doubt that cod are still threatened with extinction through over fishing; however some big fish escape the trawl every year and it’s these fish that offer hope and sport to the angler.

 There have been increasing amount of specimens caught over the last few years. There are patterns to be watched. The Irish Specimen Fish Committee’s excellent annual reports tell a tale: 1998: 5 specimen cod, 3 from West Cork. 1999: 1 specimen cod, from West Cork. 2000: 3 specimens, 2 from West Cork. 2001: 5 specimens, 3 from West Cork. 2002: 8 specimens, 6 from West Cork. I could go on but I think the pattern starting to become clear. You might think that there are some hardy anglers fishing in West Cork who target big cod in the winter, not so. All these specimen fish are caught during the middle of what we call summer! You want to increase the chances of catching a specimen cod? Book your holidays for next year in West Cork.

Wreck fishing is a waiting game. You wait for the window of opportunity that allows travel to offshore marks. The internet has revolutionised weather forecasting. There are some super sites offering forecasts out to nine days. These sites can be very accurate. It can be frustrating beyond belief to be watching the forecast for weeks on end waiting for the opportunity to arrive. Of course you can travel to a productive wreck on a perfect day only to find that the fish are not feeding. As I said, wrecking is a waiting game.

After watching the forecast for weeks we spot a window that will last for twenty-four hours. Carpe Diem! Seize the day, Lets go fishing.

The Old Head of Kinsale

The Old Head of Kinsale

Kinsale on a July afternoon is a bustling tourist town. There is a buzz about the place that’s fabulous. We arrive to launch shortly after noon. Securing parking is normally a nightmare at this time of day but the Harbour Master allows us to park at the head of the slip out of the way of any traffic. We appreciate the break and in short time are steaming slowly past the Bullman bouy before opening up Skua to full throttle, a mileage gobbling thirty knots. What a day to be out in a boat! I have the engine trimmed up as high as is safe so we are making the best speed possible in comfort. In calm conditions it is amazing what you can see on the surface. We see dolphins, pilot whales and even a basking shark when we stop to catch some fresh mackerel for bait.

We eventually reach our target and begin to fish with shads. Things are not as prolific as we’d hoped. The sounder shows a lot of activity around the wreck but very little is interested in our offering. Slack water can do this. A diver once told me that while diving at slack water in an area were cod were common, he was amazed to see cod hanging motionless in the water. Normally they are very active searching and chasing food.

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In order to try getting the fish to feed we try every colour shad we possess. As well as shads we try twin tails and jelly worms. Nothing seems to work. My compadre changes to bait and immediately hits a ling. I persevere with the shad, gradually increasing the height of retrieve until I contact some coalfish. My second coalie is a beauty. A solid pot-bellied fish of 19 ½ pounds comes to the boat. At this time of the year the coalfish are gorging themselves on baitfish, stocking up for the coming winter. They have a different fighting character to the coalfish we caught earlier in the year. The fight is more prolonged the runs are harder and deeper. Still the fishing is not prolific enough. We move to another wreck. The tidal run had picked up at this stage. We were drifting solely on the current. The light breeze had little effect on the passage of the boat. We have caught cod on this wreck before, and in good numbers too.

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Now we go back to the scene set at the start of this article. That first cod weighed in at 18 ½ pounds. It was the first fish of what would prove to be an incredible days angling. My partner continued with bait on this first drift and as usual he pulled in a nice ling. When he saw the cod he took off his paternoster and tackled up with a shad as quick as lightning. Within minutes he was puffing and grunting under the strain of another good cod. He face nearly split in two he was smiling so much! Cod will tend to do that to you! Again the fish was over sixteen pounds! We adjusted our drift to take in the uptide portion of the wreck. We dropped to the bottom. A cod hit my lure just as I contacted bottom. I looked over to see Sean experiencing the same thing. A double hook up of double figure cod! I had another take on the next drift. I looked to the other rod and reckoned he was stuck in the wreck! Then I saw the tip dive and bend over at an alarming rate. It was obvious that what was at the other end was not going to give up easily. He cranked down his drag and began to inch the fish away from the wreck. The dawning realisation that he had a big cod on the line meant that he could not and would not bully this fish. The fight seemed to last ages. The fish stripped line off the reel a few times. Gradually he made progress and began to gingerly but firmly pump and wind the fish to the surface. I grabbed the landing net and stood waiting at the gunwale, staring down into the water. Out of the gloom appeared the thickset shape of a cod. I held the net under the fish as we got a hand into its gill and hoisted the big fish into the boat. After the euphoria and “high-fiving” died down I produced the scales and weighed the fish. The specimen was over 26 pounds!

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This pattern of fishing continued on for over two hours. The calibre of fish that we were catching was incredible. We had barely noticed the pod of pilot whales that began to circle the boat and generally give us the once over. They actually stayed on the top of the water checking us out; so close you could smell their breath! There are whale watchers out there who would pay thousands to see the activity that we hardly noticed such was the intensity of the fishing. Late into the evening we landed another specimen cod of the day, a fish of over 23 pounds. With the fish feeding as they were it provided a great time to experiment with other artificial lures. Again we tried the usual assortment of different makes and colour of shads and jelly worms. In fairness they all produced fish. The most successful lure on the day was a Lumi Orange 6 inch Fishtek shad. These are an incredible lure. They are made from a form of latex and therefore are virtually indestructible. Where most shads will begin to fall apart from the constant rasping of teeth these things will go on and on. We tried varying the speed of retrieve. A fast retrieve was the most productive; I would think that the faster speed imparts a better swimming action to the shad.

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Time was passing quickly. It was fast approaching lines-up time. I was catching cod up to 19 pounds on each drift but it looked as if I would not catch a specimen. We eventually stayed later than we planned. The boat was lined up for the last drift of the day (we had had about six “last drifts” at this stage). I was playing a good fish at this time. I was having a tremendous battle with my cod. It lunged and dived constantly. I eventually got it to the surface and knew immediately I had a specimen fish.

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We had to leave some of the best fishing we have ever experienced. But as usual safety considerations are first. We wanted to be back to port before dark. We stowed the gear and reluctantly headed for home. Upon arrival we quickly trailered SKUA and while I sorted the gear and got the specimens weighed and measured, we also got busy with filleting. We always examine the stomach contents of each fish. Every cod was stuffed full of crabs and prawns there were no fish present, yet these cod refused to take bait when presented.  At this stage I think the bush telegraph had started to work, people seemed to materialise from thin air! We took stock of what fish we would need ourselves and duly distributed the rest to the happy onlookers. We met some fellow anglers on the slip. It transpired they were fresh water anglers from West Cork, and Irish Angler readers to boot. It was one of those days that you wish would not end. The chat lasted late into the night we didn’t even have time for a celebratory drink. We were too late; the pubs were closed. We didn’t care. Job done, mission accomplished.

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