November 5, 2015 Last Updated 5:47 pm

* The lure of the Specimen….

The Specimen Fish report is a highly anticipated publication each year.....



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The late James Guerin – Specimen Coalfish

Honestly, It was this big…..


Like it or loath it the Irish Specimen Fish Committee has has played an important  role in Irish Angling life. They have produced a specimen fish report each year since 1955. There have been many changes in angling in that time there have been many changes to the Specimen scene in that time. The Committee has often been criticised for moving slowly however the committee has always considered the integrity of the award to be of paramount importance. Hence changes are only made in a careful and considered manner.

The rules for claiming specimens favour the shore angler. It is easy to be prepared. Once you have a decent certified scales and a camera you are in a position to catch, photo and release your specimen. It is more difficult for the boat angler. Fish must be weighed on land. There are a good few species that now allow a “length based specimen” this is a great leap forward. Whether you are on shore or afloat you do not have to kill your fish. You can take lots of ID photos and release the specimen if you wish.

What does claiming a specimen do? Well for one thing it eliminates the “big fish story”. Your fish has been verified and the claim ratified. Nobody can take that from you. Of course there are many who will say “I’ve had loads of specimens but I’ve never claimed them”. Well I’m afraid  technically you didn’t catch a specimen. You just caught a big fish!

You’ll find the downloadable reports at:

Each year the report features a little article from somebody or other. In fact over the years the “little article” reads like a who’s who of angling. Over the years there are pieces from Kevin Linnane, Ed Farrell, Bob Church, Clive Gammon, Norman Dunlop, Nick Parry and more. You can imagine I considered it somewhat of an honour to contribute in 2010. I though long and hard about angling, specimen angling, the committee, the craic and much more. I like the IFSC. I like what it stands for….


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Yours Truly – Specimen Dab


The Lucky Fish?

I am a specimen hunter. I fish therefore I am! My relationship with the IFSC system began as a younger chap. My father was lucky enough to catch a fine specimen bass and was aware of the Committee’s work. He duly got his splendid fish weighed and certified. It was a proud day that he took the trip to Dublin to collect his cert and pin. At that time angling for me was more about catching as many as I could; the competition thrill was the driver. When the urge to catch the most fish left me it was because it was replaced by the urge to catch as many species of fish as I could. It was like a learning experience: when – where – how, my mind was a whirl of ideas. Where did I go for information? The Specimen Fish Report always featured in my investigations.

GPS has to be one of the greater gifts that the sea angler has received. It is incredible when you think about the cost of putting satellites in orbit and then allow the masses to tap into them – the sea angler needed not to look to the shore for reference points anymore. GPS is also the greatest threat to our offshore wrecks. Commercial pressure has increased as more boats net our wrecks with abandon. In the mid-nineties the combination of GPS and fast angling boats meant the offshore wrecks were a realistic target for me – the small boat angler.  Those first few trips were successful, not for me, but successful nonetheless. Maybe there was more to catching the big fish. I thought about my father’s catch. Over a lifetime of catching bass that fish was his first and so far his only specimen bass; an amazing fish considering the pressure the stock was under from commercial fishing around the time. The protection measures had only just come into being around then. It was clear to me then – luck plays its part but being in the right place at the right time with the right technique is the ultimate aim of the specimen angler.

I eventually got on the specimen ladder in 2001 and luckily (there I go again!) I have not been off it since; always marine species and always from my small boat – that’s my quirk! The common denominator has always been: right place, right time and right technique. After that lady luck plays her part. Take my latest specimen – a beautiful dab of 0.7kg – I was fishing for thornback rays and was getting consistent small bites. I said at the time that the bites were “dab-like”. I retrieved one of my rods and tackled up a trace more suitable for smaller fish. Within a few minutes I had a specimen fish in the landing net. Was that luck or was that watercraft combined with a bit of experience coupled with some hard work? I felt more privileged than lucky.isfc

I meet the same “lucky” anglers each year. It is one of the bonuses of going to the awards ceremony. I meet like-minded people who are dedicated specimen hunters. You will always have the guy that catches the fish of a lifetime by chance. He will enjoy his day out as much as anyone. But for me it is the guys that I have been meeting year in year out – consistent specimen catchers – that make my day. The dedication and work that these guys put into their quest is superb. You rarely hear of the many fruitless trips these guys have made before they eventually get all factors perfect and they catch their specimen fish. For them that is par for the course, part of the quest for the “lucky” fish.

I have no doubt that there are stages in the specimen anglers’ career. Firstly you must catch a specimen – any species will do! It seems that then you move to catching as many specimens as you possibly can. Is the next stage targeting specific species and working to that end? Eventually you will succumb to the lure of the specimen species count – sea anglers head for the fresh water and fresh water anglers take to the sea. It seems to be inevitable!

Whatever your reasons for the quest for the “lucky” fish remember you are doing more that chasing your dream. You are writing your name into Irish angling history. You are leaving an invaluable record for those that will follow and be lured to fish. Again we find ourselves in tough times. By certifying your catch you do your part in luring foreign anglers and their valuable business to our shores. Specimen anglers your quest is a noble one! I don’t think there are “lucky” specimens – only dedicated anglers lucky enough to be part of something greater than the sum of its parts.




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