January 25, 2014 Last Updated 11:57 am

* Winter Wrecking – Kinsale

When inshore waters are cloudy and the fish are scarce there are still options for getting into fish. You will have to head into international waters! No passports are required though... Jim Clohessy goes wreck fishing.


Yes it is a stir crazy time of year. Weather conditions so far this winter have kept most boat anglers ashore.  Some have taken short trips and have scratched around in Cork Harbour. Results from the harbour trips have yielded the usual winter suspects: dab and whiting with a few small cod thrown in for good measure. Some of the whiting would be classed as decent. Bait fishing is the order of the day as the water clarity precludes lure fishing for the moment.  This calibre of fishing hardly raises the hopes of boat anglers but like me you probably find yourself just wanting to wet a line. There are alternatives that just might yield fish. The main option is to climb aboard a big boat and get yourself well offshore where water clarity is better and the possibility of catching some decent fish remains good.



When a buddy of mine rang with an invite to take a trip I jumped at the opportunity. It was a few years since I had stepped aboard a big boat and Michael Walsh’s Ocean Ranger is one of the best. Michael is more a passionate fisherman rather than a charter skipper. He does charter his boat but it is mainly corporate business rather than angling. In the meantime Michael fishes for sport and has a crew of friends that take regular trips from his home port of Kinsale.

There is some fine fishing to be had from Kinsale. There is a huge variety of ground to be fished and quantity and quality of fish can be great. Apart from reefs like the famous “Ling Rocks”  you also have some potentially superb wrecks in the offshore area. Most of these wrecks are of World War One vintage. There are famous wrecks like the Lusitania and the Arabic and many many more dotted along the shipping lanes that were used back then. There are also numerous well heads in the area of the Kinsale Gas Field and these can yield some good fishing as there is an exclusion zone around the area.



Oldie but goodie – Flying collar rig for shads




One Bait- one Fish – Single hook paternoster – Built to be tough for wrecking!


When Wreck Fishing – Good gear and preparation are the key to success

When I hung up the phone it suddenly dawned on me that I had no tackle organised. I had not been wreck fishing in over a year. It’s a bit like riding a bike though so it was only a matter of gathering the bits and bobs and loading the tackle box.  When taking on a trip you really need to be catering for both lure and bait fishing. Typically with wreck fishing you never know which technique will be most successful on the day. I always have some single hook paternoster rigs in stock for wreck trips. These are simple yet strong traces that will take the abuse and the big fish that are expected. I like the idea of “one bait, one fish” when fishing wrecks. I think I was traumatised by a superb battle one day – I think I had the specimen cert hanging on my wall and was taking the congratulations of my fishing buddies when suddenly the colour from the deep revealed two fine cod rather than the single mammoth I was expecting. From then on I have gone the route of One bait one fish and it has been successful. I construct my traces from 60lb heavy mono. I tie a single dropper loop and attach a strong 8/0 hook blinged up with some blades muppets and beads. A simple loop at the top end and a decent snap swivel on the other and I am ready to rock. I will use this trace both at anchor and drifting. Drifting I will use a standard lead or a hookless pirk. At anchor I will often use a baited pirk, especially if I am targeting congers. I have nothing against store bought traces, but I have seen too many decent fish lost due to light tackle and failing traces. Wreck fishing can yield the fish of a lifetime so you may as well be prepared for it. A 25lb ling is not only a big tough fish but it is also a fairly toothy critter that will make short work of light line.

On the lure front I will try to cover all options – the old and the new! I stock up with some wire booms and traditional shads. I grab my jigging wallet which is loaded with a decent selection of speed jigs of various weights, shapes and sizes. I pack some jigheads and non weighted shads and worms as well. We will be fishing depths of over 350 feet so there is little point in packing lighter gear. As much as I would like to pack my RockSweeper or My Illex Element Rider they would be left at home for this trip. I like to be in control when fishing and an important element of this is being able to feel the bottom. A 2 ounce (60g) leadhead will get to the bottom eventually but when combined with the effect of drift and tide you just will not know where you are positioned in the water column. If you located a shoal of fish the light gear may work fine but if you are searching for that elusive bite the light gear would be a hindrance rather than a help.




If I was travelling in my own boat I probably would have four or more rods but on this trip I decided to limit myself to two. I brought a Daiwa Kensaki 12-20lb fitted with a Penn 525 and I brought a Grauvell jigging rod for its maiden trip. So with the tackle ready all I had to do was sort out my layers of warm clothing for the trip.


Skipper Michael – The stamp of coalies was great fun on light gear!

It was dark and cold when we slipped from the marina near the Trident Hotel in Kinsale. We had close on thirty miles to travel so we decided to head early. Short days make steaming in darkness almost compulsory. The watery sun was shining as Michael manoeuvred Ocean Ranger while locating our first wreck of the day. I stood at his shoulder watching the plotter and the sounder and was delighted to see some fish holding above the structure. I was tingling as I flicked my speed jig from the stern of the boat and guided my braid from the Grauvell 60F fixed spool. The others dropped a mix of shads and bait. As soon as we could see the wreck showing on the outside fish finder we began to hit fish. I was working the speed jig with the short rod and it felt very responsive and natural in terms of its action. I touched bottom, jigged, wound a few turns, jigged, wound a few turns, you get the picture. After about thirty turns from the bottom I felt a snatch on lure and when I lifted the rod into the bite I was rewarded with a superb take and a screaming fixed spool. There was I initially thought that I was into a decent pollack but when the fish began a second run for the bottom I knew that we had hooked up some coalfish. I must say it was refreshing to get to grips with a decent coalie, it has been a few years since I had caught fish over double figures.



I looked along the rail to see a couple of gnarly pollack being landed and one of the lads landed a tidy ling, he was bait fishing. I eventually landed my coalie of about twelve pounds – a nice fish. We worked the wreck for another few drifts. Things got quiet as the tide eased and we decided to move to another wreck while the tide was slack. We arrived to the wreck to be greeted by a set of buoys, typical fare these days. Our wreck fishing has declined over recent years and no doubt the impact of gill nets is being felt all round. The profusion of nets on wreck is the main reason that I rarely head wrecking these days. It is soul destroying to head long distances only to find wreck after wreck netted and as a consequence the standard of fishing has plummeted. We had no choice to to move on again. At last we found a clean wreck and began drifting again.



Victor landed this cracking ling on a joey mackerel bait



We had fish each drift. I watched the guys fishing with bait and decided to stick with artificials. The Grauvel 60F began to growl a bit so I switched to the Kensaki for a while and rigged up a short flying collar rig and bounced a Storm shad over the wreck. Cod were scarce. With only a couple of small fish coming to the net. I switched back to jigging as I saw a cloud high above the wreck. Immediately I struck into a hard fighting coalfish, my best of the day and just a tad under fifteen pounds. It made some delightful runs and really put a bend in the Grauvell rod. After the scrap the 60f was noticeably shook and I decided to retire it for the rest of the trip.



All too soon it was coming up to home time. The temperature began to drop and it would be dark by the time we would touch down in Kinsale. We hauled our gear for the last time and headed for port. It was a typical winter wrecking trip. The action, while not ballistic was enough to keep us buys all day. The craic aboard a big vessel is great and there was banter ongoing all day. We had seen countless dolphins a good few whales and an amazing amount of bait balls on the surface. All this going on in the depths of winter! The long distance trip certainly whetted my appetite for some more wrecking later in the year as the weather improves.

Grauvel 60F Pro Boat 210. This is an interesting little combo offered by the French tackle giant. I believe that it is being sold as a relatively cheap combo for the coming season. The blank is perfect for working speed jigs in deep water. It is stiff but bends all the same when needed. The reel is, as you would imagine quite large at 6000 series. There is no doubt that this combo is what it is – a well priced combo mainly for the opportunist angler. It would be grand to be used occasionally for the odd wrecking trip it would have little difficulty with tope or even smaller blue sharks. The price point is incredible but remember for that money you are not going to get a combo that will last a lifetime. I would suggest that a season or two would be acceptable.



You can find out more about Michael Walsh’s Boat Ocean Ranger on his website:

Atlantic Charters

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