Battling Ballans

Bad weather approaches. The meteorological situation in Ireland has decided to do a complete U-turn.

Ready to launch from a small Dublin harbour

We have moved from getting cooked by a hot summer sun to windy and overcast conditions in, quite literally, the blink of an eye. The forecast for the next couple of days is predicting tornadoes so as a kayak angler I need to get out before they arrive. With time at a premium I decided to try a small, sheltered bay not too far from home. Within minutes of arriving at a small harbour only a few miles south of Dublin City’s centre I was ready to do battle.

The intended targets were ballan wrasse and I had a tub of ragworm to use as bait. Ballan wrasse live close to the bottom, near structure. Rocky, weedy areas are good places to find them and this is where I sent my baited hooks to. These fish do not grow large and I would consider a 6lb/2.75kg fish to be a monster. What they lack in size they certainly make up for in strength. A fish that lives close to the rocks has to be powerfully built to survive the rough waters that can be a feature of these areas. By observing their big, paddle like tail and large pectoral fins, you can tell these fish have power surges in spades. When you hook one you hang on tight and hope you can keep it away from snags. A reel drag that is set too tight is bound to end with a broken line or straightened hook. Too loose and the fish makes it to the sanctuary of structure. A fine balance is needed. Holding the rod tightly is also advisable – even the smallest of the species will drag an unattended rod down to the depths. Fishing for them on lighter tackle can be immense fun and for today’s exercise I opted for a setup that would usually be more commonly used to drop shot for perch in freshwater – a light but strong 6ft/1.80m rod, and a small baitcaster reel filled with braid.

the first Ballan Wrasse of the day   followed by another Ballan Wrasse

I baited my hooks and lowered my bait to the bottom. Within seconds there was a ‘thump’ felt through the braid and I lifted into the first fish of the day. It was far from being a monster but it was nice to know that there were fish in the area and this was confirmed by dropping a second bait and hooking up again almost immediately.

The next couple of hours were to proceed in this fashion. Almost every time a bait was lowered to the depths it was rapidly seized by the hungry ballan wrasse. Although there seemed to be no shortage of fish, none of them were of a large size by national standards but they made for an enjoyable couple of hours on the water, testing the lighter gear to its limits.

Ballan Wrasse 31.07.2013 1 Ballan Wrasse 31.07.2013 2 Ballan Wrasse 31.07.2013 3 Ballan Wrasse 31.07.2013 4 Ballan Wrasse 31.07.2013 5 Ballan Wrasse 31.07.2013 6 Ballan Wrasse 31.07.2013 7 Ballan Wrasse 31.07.2013 8  The business end of a Short Spined Sea Scorpion one of three small Codling, all returned on the day

The selection of images above give an idea of the average size of fish that I managed to ensnare on the day. Ballan wrasse are not considered a palatable fish in Ireland so each and every capture was carefully released to grow larger seconds after each image was recorded. Also making up the catch on the day were three small codling and a short spined sea scorpion. Tasty as cod are, they are also in short supply so the logical course of action was to return these catches to the water along with the wrasse and sea scorpion.

I was very happy with my couple of hours’ ‘work’. Granted, none of the fish were large, or even getting anywhere near that description, but to experience hard fighting fish on lighter tackle is a joy and who cares what you are catching as long as you are catching and deriving some enjoyment from it. To be able to enjoy such an experience within 10 miles/16 km of a European capital city centre only adds to the convenience. Some species are a long way from home for me but here is fun, quality fishing practically on the doorstep. Following the rapid consumption of the bait it was time to head for home.

I hope to return soon for more of the same and perhaps to see if I can tempt again the brute that straightened out one of my hooks. Hopefully, there will be more about that fish, ‘the one that got away’, at a later date. In the meantime I will leave you with an image of the session’s biggest ballan wrasse;

the biggest Ballan Wrasse of the day


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