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Catch & Release

A Guide to Dingle harbour. (Adam Shannon)

Dingle harbour is somewhere I have fished a lot over the years, many years in fact, and it has rarely let me down. The fish I have had from the harbour are Ray to 12lbs(thornbacks), doggies, bull huss (one only), conger to over 30lbs, bass, mackerel, pollock to over 9lbs, wrasse(ballans) to over 4lbs, flounder and mullet.

For such a small area it has great variety of fishing with beach, marina, creek and rock fishing all available. You can bottom fish, lure fish, float fish or fly fish and you will catch fish on each of these methods, and you can even dig rag and lug here.

The main map of the harbour is broken down into subsections, moving clockwise around the bay. Area A is Reenbeg, B is milltown,C is the marina,D is from the small low water beach at the back of the Skellig Hotel to the inner lighthouse rocks and E the outer rocks and Beenbane.

Dingle Harbour aerial map

Area A: Starting with reenbeg, you need to reach it first so head out of dingle towards ventry over the milltown bridge (we will come back to this) and after a km or so turn left following the signposts for the leather factory. Passing the leather factory you can see the sea on your left and you can park at a little lane leading to the fishing area. When driving if you come to a gate blocking the road backtrack for a couple of hundred yards and keep an eye out for the little lane. Once you are down to the sea you can begin fishing right in front of you or any where along the stony beach to your right round towards the entrance to the harbour. The main targets here are ray and mullet, but to be honest Reenbeg has never fished very well for me, though others seem to favour it. For the ray you are casting long over a clean bottom, so you can use a standard leger or a one up one down (or a pulley if you like) with fish baits.

The mullet are close in feeding among the weed, so keep an eye out for them. You can target them with fish groundbait and a float with small pieces of mackerel, bread or maggots or even try fly fishing. Reenbeg is a long mark so you can move up and down it to locate both ray and mullet. Worth a go for the mullet but my advice would be fish elsewhere for the ray.

A 9lbs ray

Area B: Milltown. Although Milltown has fairly limited potential for catching fish it is a good place to try for a mullet on the rising tide, and is also a good bait digging area at low tide.

The best area for bait digging is just on the seaward side of Milltown bridge, which is just beside the roundabout on the dingle to Ventry road. There is a small stream that flows into the sea here and at low tide maddies (harbour ragworm) and lugworm can be dug here on both sides of the stream on the seaward side of the bridge. It can be muddy and is best dug with a fork. Probably it is easiest to reach the digging grounds by parking at dingle marina and walking out from that side as the ground is more firm.

As the tide rises some good mullet move in here to feed in the little creek on the other side of the bridge. Using the same methods as described above for mullet fishing at reenbeg might also work here, fishing from either the bridge or the grass. The water here is shallow and may well be suited to fly fishing for the mullet..

Area C: Dingle Marina. Over the last few years Dingle marina has become a hotspot for catching big congers. Eels to over 40lbs have been caught, and stories abound of bigger ones lost abound. We have had congers to over 30lbs here on float fished and legered fish baits and there are also rays, pollock, wrasse, gars, mullet and mackerel to be caught here. Given this and its easy access it does get pressured, and the eels in particular have thinned out and seem to have become more cautious in the last couple of years, but it is worth fishing for the chance of a big eel and for its ease in fishing. There are four different fishing points within the harbour, three fishing into the harbour for primarily conger and also some wrasse and one fishing to outside the harbour for ray, pollock and wrasse.

Eoins 30lbs 6oz conger

Points 1, 2 and 3 are the east harbour rocks, the central pier and the west rocks respectively and we tend to fish all three in the same way. Casting close just beyond the end of the rocks or down the side of the pier will see you catching conger at any of these points. The west pier has produced the best conger for us but it also gets fished the most heavily and has not produced as well in the past two years as it used to. So in reality you can try anywhere at all in the harbour for conger, they are all over.

Dingle marina

For baits mackerel is usually tops, but a live or dead pouting (which you can catch here sometimes legdering small worm baits) will also work. The rocks and ropes will claim stray tackle and there are also some snags on the bottom that cant be seen from above so we usually fish with a pulley rig or a straight ledger with a weak link for the lead. There is no tidal pull here so you can use light scrap weights like spark plugs to cut down on losses. Another option is to fish a slider float just off bottom (its not too deep) and some big eels have been caught this way, letting the bait drift just off the bottom of the rocks.

Due to the lack of tide here groundbaiting with mashed up fish, fish oil and other additives can really help to pull the eels in

(this is my general sea groundbait mix. Mix is: brown crumb (coarse fishing groundbait, about 20-25 euro for a 25kg bag), liquidised bread (mixed dry with the crumb, helps soak up the oils), red dye (sensas tracix, i just like the red slick it leaves, very blood like), mackerel or sardine oil when mixing with water.

Additives: mushed up canned sardines (cheap as chips, or whole ones from the chinese shops, 4 for 15 or so), but i tend to use canned as they are packaged in oil which can help the effect.

Fish catfood, conger seem to like it (the sardines and catfood are mushed up in a seperate bowl with water and then added to the dry groudbait mix above. and then chopped up mussel, crab , frozen lug, squid , mack or whatever you have. i freeze the mussel and crab in tubes, topped up with salt water to prevent freezer burn. The mix can be balled in like when coarse fishing, use this for wrasse when the tide is not too strong to sweep it all away. or hung in a sack to create a slick in the moving tide (attracts pollock and conger etc).

The big eels most often show up at night, but can be caught during the day also, and can come on the feed during both the flood and the ebb.

a 21lbs float caught conger

This mix can also be fed bit by bit (made sloppy to break up) to attract wrasse and mullet. Speaking of which there are some good wrasse around the harbour and float fishing rag, lug or crab 10-15 feet down close in to the rocks or pier will see you in with a chance of one. You can also catch some Pollack and occasional mackerel by lure fishing out into the bay and ledgering a worm bait might see you pick up wrasse, pout and the odd flatfish. Casting from point 4 out into the bay with fish baits and a pulley or one up one down rig will pick up some good thornbacks to double figures and you can drop a bait inclose to the rocks too for the chance of a conger. Its comfortable here and well worth a go for the conger and ray. You could spend the whole day here fishing for the ray, wrasse and Pollock during the day and then switching to in close fishing for the conger at dusk. I find it fishes best on the rising tide for the ray and we have had eels at all stages of the tide from high down to low and then back up. Its also close to shops and a caf so the family will be kept happy.

Area D: The inner harbour rock marks includes a stretch of beach and a long rocky mark that stretches all the way round to below the light house. The mark begins at the back of the dingle skellig hotel where there is a short stony beach. Ray can be caught here using the same tactics as for reenbeg and there are also some flats and mullet about. Its also a place that might be worth a cast for a bass. The beach stretches all the way to your left towards the watch tower, below which the rock marks start. You can fish from the weed covered rocks below the tower, casting out into the channel using a pulley pennel or one up one down rig and you will pick up good ray here and also the odd doggy and conger. You can lure fish here too for Pollack and mackerel as they enter the bay chasing sprats and you could also try dropping a peeler crab or a spot of lure fishing in among the shallow spits of rock to your left for a bass.

A double shot of thornies

Further along towards the lighthouse the area becomes more rocky but by casting more than 50 yards over the rocks will see you out on clean sand or broken ground. The marks here are clean further out but can be snaggy close in so a pulley rig or rotten bottom would be advisable. The tide can be strong here in the narrow channel so 6oz grips may be needed to hold bottom, if you are using grips it is worth lengthening your snoods to keep them away from the spikes so you wont spook the ray. There can be a lot of crabs here so use a big bait like a mackerel tail section or a half mackerel side and use some elastic to keep the crabs at bay. If you donـt do this your baits wont last 5 minutes but if you use big baits, elastic and maybe even squid wraps your bait should last 20 minutes or more, plenty of time for a ray to find it ( I think this is the main mistake a lot of pople seem to make here, by using baits too small to resist the crabs for long, and the big ray here like big baits) . I find this mark fished best on the flood but the ray will also feed on the ebb. They often seem to go off the feed at high tide for a while so this might be the time to try for some fresh mackerel for bait or for a Pollock. We have had some really good sessions here in the past few years. The best we have had to two people in three hours or so was 9 ray to 11lbs, a 10lbs conger, five Pollock to 5lbs and lots of mackerel. At times the ray can be a bit picky so trying change baits like sandeel or prawn could help put a few more fish on the bank.

a double figure ray

Fishing closer in among the rocks will see you snag up a lot, so use a rotten bottom, but will give you the chance of a decent conger. We have had them to 15lbs here, and there are occasional dogfish and rockling too. You can night fish for conger at the concrete steps below the lighthouse but be careful. All along this rocky area and also directly below the light house is worth a try for wrasse on a float fished worm or crab.

Area E: The outer rock mark stretches from the area to the left of the lighthouse (to the right of the lighthouse on the above map) around to the beenbane mark, just past the carpark (which is reached by taking the first proper road on your right after you leave dingle heading east).

As with the above rock marks there are some ray along the area nearest to the lighthouse, but not as many as inside the harbour. However there are more Pollock and wrasse around here and also some flatfish and bass at the small beach below the carpark.

I remember catching a 9lbs 6oz Pollock here while using a float fish crab in search of wrasse in a gulley just to the left of the lighthouse, I thought it was a wrasse and got a real surprise when the big golden flank came up. I thought it might go 10lbs but was just short. Explore along here with lures and float fished baits and you will catch Pollock and wrasse. This is also the case at beenbane where it might be worth putting out a bottom bait too for a doggy or a conger.

My 9lbs 6oz pollock

At the little beach you might try using a one up one down rig with worm, peeler or sandeel for the chance of some flats or maybe a bass.

The best times to fish the harbour for me have been March to September when the ray are feeding and there are mackerel, wrasse and Pollock a plenty. So good fishing and please, please return all ray, conger and bass that you catch.

All aerial pictures are from google maps (www.maps.google.com).