Shore fishing in Ireland

Gather round and listen up: the fishing in Ireland is almost the same as fishing anywhere. There's just one rather exciting exception, says angling expert Henry Gilbey

Bangor, County Cork provided by Henry Gilbey
Bangor, County Cork provided by Henry Gilbey

We use the same gear, fish pretty much the same species and use some very similar methods. Even the fishing seasons are much the same this side of the hemisphere. In Ireland, though, you get more fish, less people and more open spaces.

You also get so much water that you’d need several lifetimes to fish it.

Rosses Point, County Galway
Rosses Point, County Galway

But you’re not here for the similarities. You’re here for the secret.

Well, it’s hardly the biggest mystery on earth, but it sure can make your fishing holiday. The least known thing about fishing in Ireland is the rock, surf, beach, pier and estuary fishing – most commonly known simply as shore fishing. Oh, and it’s completely free. There’s no license required. If you can get down to the water’s edge, then you can fish it.

Plenty of fish in the sea

The simple fact is that Ireland has one of the most varied, deserted and rugged coastlines in Europe, and there are lots of hungry fish to catch. Much of Ireland’s coastline is literally crawling with species, and there are so few other anglers about that at times it feels like you’ve been transported to some kind of eternal fishing paradise.

The quality of coarse and game fishing in Ireland has made angling headlines for many years now. Sea fishing and shore fishing are the country’s lesser-known jewels in its angling crown.

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Shore fishing on the island of Ireland is all about the same species and the same methods as you use back home, but with a lot more fish to catch. At times you might think that a place like the Shannon Estuary is literally carpeted with rays and bull huss, and that every single rocky headland in the south west, west and north west has a big population of hungry and often very obliging pollack and wrasse that are almost itching to be caught.

Beside the seaside, beside the sea

Around Tralee and the north side of the Dingle Peninsula, you could even hook a big stingray or tope from some of the beaches. And the smooth hound fishing in the south east can be breathtakingly good.

To stand at the edge of Europe, on the west or northern coasts of Ireland and fish for crash-diving pollack in the deep blue water is like a jolt of electricity, almost unlike anything else in fishing terms.

Further north, along the coast you'll find Benone Beach in County Londonderry, renowned locally for the abundance of founder. A little further along in Portaferry, County Down, and it’s the quantities of dogfish, mackerel and pollack that’ll have you unpacking your rods.

Night-time fishing

Contrast this with the brilliance of fishing at night for cod around south coast estuaries, such as Youghal in Cork, back up at Benone Beach, and towards the shoreline at Waterford in the southeast. In the depths of winter, when the temperature drops right away, the rod tips start nodding as these hungry fish home in on your bait.

You see, whatever the weather or time of year, there will always be world-class shore fishing going on somewhere in Ireland.

Go find it, and be a part of the worst kept secret in fishing.

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