Predator Blog Part Fifteen
Tue 03 December 13
Trophy Trout of Ireland
Ireland’s vast waterways seem to be perfect for growing big trophy trout, and over the years and in particular the last decade some huge specimens have been recorded here. Famous waters come to mind straight away when thinking of big pike and it’s no different for big trout, Lough Mask, Lough Corrib, the Shannon system and the Lough Erne system. The Irish record a long standing 26Ib.02oz was caught in Lough Ennel on 15/07/1894! I predict this to be broken one season very soon.
I first became interested in big trout back in 1997 when catch reports of some upper doubles were being caught on Lough Corrib, these fish were up to 17Ib and were very impressive, it seemed the obvious direction a pike angler living here like myself would turn to at some point. The prospect became more inviting when you can fit the trout fishing around your pike fishing and even fish for both species at the same time (more on this later.) Surely, it was only a matter of time before someone landed a twenty pound plus specimen.
My own big trout hunt would of started there and then if I wasn’t wrapped up in my Pike fishing so much at that time, I only had eyes for big pike at this time, so big trout fishing went on the back burner although I continued to collect big trout catch report information. It wasn’t until June 2002 I turned my attentions on a big trout capture, and looking at the data so far collected Corrib would be the place to head for. My first go was a day trip and was just to get a feel for the north end of the Lough, I’ve done plenty of pike fishing on the middle and lower sections but the north was all new to me at this time. I launched the boat at the end of the Dooros peninsular it’s not a proper slipway but at the time my boat was the 15.8ft Bonwitco and could manage a slip off the gravel there, after launching you have to go through a small tunnel to get out on to open water, this is ok if the water level is low and you have a low narrow boat like the traditional Lough boat style you see so many of here in Ireland. The Bon just fitted under the tunnel with the cuddy on. I started off trolling dead Roach at first I remember the wind was stronger than forecasted and it kept getting stronger throughout the day. Four hours in and nothing had happened, the wind was getting even stronger now a force 6+ so I resulted in sheltering behind an island and tossed out a couple of dead roach into a 21ft channel which was noted on sounder when approaching the shoreline. An hour went by, then I noticed my float which was set over depth start to move along the surface, I struck and was met with some resistance but not much, at 2 1/2Ib it was hardly the Corrib lump I came for, but a trout it was.
Nevertheless, I got a good feel for the areas I was to fish, I took some good soundings and marked them all down on a drawn up map for the next session. One week later I was back, this time it was an all out assault job, I had enough provisions with me for a few days and could stay if I wanted for the whole week. Better still the weather was much better and that awful strong resilient wind had eventually dropped, I started off trolling dead Roach as per usual, one under a float set at 20ft the other rod without a float and was possibly being fished at 35ft+ in 50ft+ of water. After one whole day which at this time of year is a very long one the longest in fact, nothing had happened. So in the late evening I anchored up just off an island and made something to eat and as it was calm I decided to get my head down for a few hours sleep in the boat. The plan was to get trolling again at first light, things can go wrong while fishing and especially boat fishing and during darkness around 1am the bloody wind got up and changed direction and in pitch black of night I had to up anchor in a 2ft wave while drifting towards a rocky shoreline, tilt and start the engine and head out into the black abyss and find another sheltered area to sleep. I came back into the same island but around the corner and noticed the sounder was reading 36ft fairly close in and then a steady rise to 15ft then 5ft and was all smooth i.e. no rocks, so I dropped two anchors in 5ft and tightened up on them before getting the head down again. A few hours later the kettle was on and fresh dead Roach were being hooked up again for the anticipated troll ahead. I trolled everywhere I could from 4am to midday without as much as a pluck, Hmm this Trout fishing lark ain’t easy I was thinking, what could I do next and remembering the echo sounding episode from last night when I re-anchored I thought I would give that deep water a go which was in casting distance from the shore. I was quite tired at this time so I pulled the boat up on to the gravel and cast out some suspended roach baits which were still on their trolling rigs and started to make a camp up on the island. Then all of a sudden I heard a ratchet scream off on the multiplier I ran at the rod and struck but missed what ever it was. Thinking it was a small pike, I cast it back out again and went back up the gravel to sort out the camping equipment. Then all of a sudden the multiplier ratchet went again, this time my decent was much quicker and had struck into something heavy and fast. She was taking braid off the Abu with her first run, the rod was bent well over and the fish surfaced at 40yds and wallowed, it looked big, very big, but at this stage I was not 100% sure if she was a Pike or a Trout, a few speedy runs later she popped up a few yards out, that’s when the air turned blue, Wow, she was the biggest trout I’ve ever seen in my life, with shaking hands and jelly legs I landed her, she weighed 20Ib.04oz. After the weighing and photos I released her back into Corrib I held her huge tail for a moment before she powered off and disappeared over the drop-off and out of sight, I punched the air YES YES YES . Wow. But the story doesn’t end there, I got another three runs that afternoon, a 6Ib’er, and lost one at the net estimated 16Ib, what an afternoon I had some incredible fishing. After sleeping on the island in the bivvy (a much safer way to get some sleep I thought than an anchored boat) I rigged up the rods for bank fishing properly and in the early hours I lost another big double which just fell off the hooks and then caught another double at 15Ib.10oz, these big trout tend to shake their heads back and forth violently and doing so you can lose them at any time during the fight.
I started to gather information on catch dates and the methods and baits used, catch dates were really important as this also gave me the weather conditions which I got from my own diaries, soon a pattern was merging when these big trout generally like to feed.
Here is a list of upper double catch information that I put together to help my pursuit of big trout on Corrib, from what I can see a good trolling day is a hot calm day with cool/cold nights these are nearly all high pressure conditions, it’s interesting that when I caught my doubles it was dull with a north west wind and cool for the time of year and that I got them with static baits, the air pressure was static at 1012mb but increased the next day to 1022mb. I tried the same tactics throughout the summer of 2002 with little reward, I was getting lots of dropped takes and could do nothing to connect with them. So I left it alone for a while but returned to the island for a static session in a cold period in March 2003, the fish were there and on, I got three screaming runs and lost three good fish one early morning, one of which was estimated at 18Ib+ which fell off within a few feet of landing it. Haven’t done much trout fishing on Corrib since that day, (still trying to get over losing those doubles lol) but have done a fair bit on the Shannon system in February and March.
There is more catch information years 2003-2012 available on line at www.irish-trophy-fish.com/reports/index
In Ireland the trout season starts on February 15th and runs to September 30th, it is possible to catch a double figure trout anytime in and out of this season time, however there are far better productive months which stand out, in general the start of the season is the better time, February, March, being top months to fish as the fish are hungry and are more aggressive, this is true for all the waters here. However, Lough Corrib continues to throw up catches all through the year as does Lough Mask allbeit slow or very slow fishing at times due to possible certain wrong weather conditions. Other waters like the Shannon system do slow down after March but it’s not impossible to catch a double after this time but you can count yourself incredibly lucky if you do so in my opinion, I’ve heard of just a hand full of big trout caught in the summer time from this Shannon system and the same applies to the Erne system too.
This is an interesting one, I have found at the start of the season Februay/March that colder is best, icy conditions are perfect, a slow pike day can be a good trout day. Day time air temperatures as low as (0 oc) have proven good days, Cold north winds, north east and north west winds are usually good winds to get out and fish. To fish in these conditions you have to be prepared well, a boat with a cuddy is a must have, and the Coleman stove is a must for keeping your hands warm and to make hot drinks with, a cuddy for the boat is best as the wind chill will cut you like a knife and then you wont be staying out so long in these good big trout conditions.
Flat calms which arise from high pressure weather system are another good condition it’s best if they come with a cloudy day but bright sunshine can also produce well if you can fish your baits deeper down, this is particular true on Lough Corrib. Low pressure systems don’t seem to be very good trout days so are best avoided, although a rising barometer is good.
With out doubt its roach roach roach all the way. Some big trout do get caught on trolled lures, I wouldn’t bother with anything else but Roach myself, if your dedicating the fishing just for big trout. I’ve had a handful of trout on sea baits which were meant for pike these being mainly mackerel and herring, but I know for a fact that roach would out fish all other baits given a chance. I fish pollon quite a lot for pike during good trout periods and have never accidentally caught a trout doing so, where roach has caught both big pike and big trout on the same day for me. Other baits like small trout have caught a few big trout I hear Neville had a nice one from Corrib on one, and there’s the story of the huge mega trout on Corrib seen on the surface chasing a 2Iber! Estimates for the fish were over 30Ib! Size of bait is worth a mention here, these big trout have huge gapping mouths, I couldn’t believe the size of mouth and gut the 20Ib’er I caught had, and can relate it as looking into a drain pipe! The use of large baits is fine they like a big bait.
Bait trolling can be practised with or without a float, I prefer to use a float and drilled bullet weight and set the stop knot at the desired depth. I have also dabbled with lead core line and wire line personally you don’t need to use these lines to catch, and they can be more trouble than conventional tactics to fish with. However, I have had some success using a down rigger on Corrib and a bottom bouncer rig on the Shannon system. I rig these methods just like you would for pike fishing, I have found these big trout are not tackle shy at all, if they want it they will have a go. Use your pike fishing gear, my standard here is 60Ib severn strand trace wire and two or three Owner treble hooks, when float trolling use an up trace which holds the drilled bullet to cock the float remember these fish fight very well and have sharp teeth like the pike and they grow big and powerful, a fish up to 30Ib is possible.
Going by results alone Corrib is “The water” for the big one’s, it consistently produces the goods every year and I believe an Irish record is on the cards here soon to some lucky angler. A few years back Corrib produced a 25.04 to a visiting angler, and a few more years back a pike angler trolling in October caught and released another 25Ib er, with sightings of some very big fish being seen on the surface in flat calm conditions taking prey. I’m definitely interested myself to have some more sessions there this spring and summer, I have some better gear nowadays for the job. Anywhere up the north end can produce the goods, I have found some better areas myself over the years which I’m keeping secrete for now as I’m going back there soon. But, around the islands especially deep water areas seem to be good spots, but you can’t dismiss open water too. The big island in the middle called (Inchagoil) is a good starting point for a troll and from there head south where there are dozens of smaller island’s and features.
Mask would be very simular to Corrib although it produces far less big ones than it’s bigger neighbour Corrib. There was a 21Ib’er found dead and is I believe now setup in the fisheries office at Cush Lough bay. However, Mask does produce a good fair share of lower doubles and a few uppers every year, but Corrib rains supreme for the Mega Trophy Trout in Ireland.
The Shannon System
February and March and April are the best months by far on this water in my opinion. The great thing is you can fish for the pike at the same time you just use Roach as your main bait and your automatically fishing for both species. I’m yet to catch an upper double from the Shannon system although they are definitely there but obviously not in the numbers that Corrib holds, I’ve done alright though with quite a few lower doubles to 13:08. Over the years I and other anglers have seen upper doubles leaping out of the water and head and tailing on the Shannon system and it’s possible one or two of them were 20Ib+ specimens too, usually this activity is again seen early in the season in February and March and April and nearly always in a very cold period too. I believe it’s only a matter of time before I catch an upper from this system.
Other potential waters
Lower Lough Erne has produced some upper doubles mainly at the start of the season and is definitely worth a go, it’s location is in the north of Ireland so a licence is needed to fish there, also Lough Melvin which the border runs though is worth a look for a trophy too.
I’m sure you would agree these big Trout look awesome, they are a great challenge for us anglers, most of the time they are not easy to catch, but I believe that’s down too the fact they are just not interested in feeding most of the time, but when they are interested the sport can be quite hectic and thrilling either trolled baits or at times static baits can score very well.
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