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Sean wins Helm Skate Festival with record-breaking fish

October 18th, 2017 | by

John O’Connor reports from Westport on the hugely successful Skate Festival hosted from the Helm Bar and Restaurant last week.

On the first week-end in October each year The Helm Bar and Restaurant host one of the biggest deep sea angling competitions in Ireland; with a first prize of €2,000 and a guarantee of great craic, the anglers and their families return year after year to Westport and the two day Helm Skate Festival. Many of the UK anglers have made this their annual holiday.

75 deep sea anglers, from all over the UK and Ireland, aboard seven boats, fished this, the twenty-fifth running of this great two day skate fishing competition in the scenic Clew Bay.

The conditions were perfect with good weather and relatively calm seas and it was no surprise when 8 skate were boated with a further 9 hooked and lost over the two days, making this a record catch, breaking the previous record of 7 skate last year.

The rules of the competition require that the width of the fish is recorded by placing a white cotton tape across the skates back, from wingtip to wingtip and the width is marked on the tape. The tape is then sealed in an envelope by the skipper and opened at the measuring ceremony in the Helm Bar at the prize giving. The tapes are measured against a giant measuring tape on the wall of the Helm. Each angler and their skipper are invited to the board to measure their tape.

On the Sunday night the anglers enjoyed a big party of music and dancing at the prize-giving ceremony in the Helm. Finally the time arrived for the highlight of the festival, the measuring of the tapes.

Proprietor Vinny Keogh welcomed everyone to the Helm. He thanked everyone who made this another successful and enjoyable event. Vinny thanked his family and staff who worked tirelessly looking after the visiting anglers. He thanked the boat skippers for their professionalism and care of the anglers. Vinny had a special word of thanks for the photographer, and the Inland Fisheries Ireland staff aboard the RIB who were stewards for the weekend.

There were two anglers involved in the capture of the first skate.

Theo Birka, Dublin and John Baxter, Cavan aboard the “True Light”, both hooked into the same skate, both anglers played the fish until their lines became entangled. To have any chance of boating the skate Theo cut his line and allowed John continue the battle with the huge fish, eventually boating the skate after a ninety minute fight. Their catch measured 206cm and was recorded on the big measuring board.

From Left; Theo Birka, Dublin and John Baxter Cavan with the skate that both anglers hooked into, but after playing the fish for twenty minutes their lines got entangled. Theo decided to cut his line and allow John to play out the skate. After a ninty minute battle the skate was eventually boated.

From Left; Theo Birka, Dublin and John Baxter Cavan with the skate that both anglers hooked into, but after playing the fish for twenty minutes their lines got entangled. Theo decided to cut his line and allow John to play out the skate. After a ninety minute battle the skate was eventually boated.

 

Next up was Bob Gawn, Isle of Wight and “True Light” skipper Gerard O’Malley; Bob’s skate measured 211cm.

From Left; "True Light" skipper Gerard O'Malley, Bob Gawn, Isle of Wight and Phil Skinner, Dublin.

From Left; “True Light” skipper Gerard O’Malley, Bob Gawn, Isle of Wight and Phil Skinner, Dublin.

 

 

Pat Finglas, Mullingar who fished aboard the “Finnaun” with skipper Joe Gibbons, was up next and his skate measured 213cm.

Joe Carr, Co Antrim also aboard the “Finnaun” was next and his fish measured 221cm.

Sean Fahey, Westport and his “White Water II” skipper Darragh McGee were up next. A loud roar went up from the crowd when the record-breaking width of 230cm was announced.

Skipper Darragh McGee lifts Sean Fahey's prizewinning skate aboard the "White water II" with a little help from his crew

Skipper Darragh McGee lifts Sean Fahey’s prizewinning skate aboard the “White water II” with a little help from his crew

 

Rodger Martin, Westport and proprietor of RBM Fisheries tackle shop, also fished on the “White Water II”, was next, his skate measured 220cm.

Carl Foster, Dublin, fished aboard the “Restorick”, skippered by Tom Moran. His skate measured 202cm.

Carl Foster with his skate aboard the "Restorick" skippered by Tom Moran

Carl Foster with his skate aboard the “Restorick” skippered by Tom Moran

 

Chris Noble UK was the final angler up to the measuring board He fished aboard “The Lady Helen” skippered by Reg Roynon, his skate measured 160cm.

 

Sean Fahey was declared the winner to loud cheering and applause from a packed Helm Bar. A delighted Sean was presented with The Helm Cup and the first prize of €2,000 by Vinnie Keogh and his family at the Helm.

Sean battled his prize-winning skate for fifty minutes before getting it to the boat where she was lifted aboard by skipper Darragh McGee, Newport, who estimated her weight at 220lbs. The giant female fish was tempted with a cocktail of mackerel strip, dogfish and squid. The 230cm wingspan is a record for the festival, and the estimated weight is only 1lb short of the old Irish record weight!

All skate caught were quickly released again following measuring and photo.

The full results and category winners are as follows.

The 2nd Team overall points was won by “Finnaun”

The 1st Team overall points was won by “White Seahorse”

The individual Points winner was Pat Finglas,

Mullingar, with 228 points.

2nd was Alan Mortimer UK with 200 points.

3rd was Carla Costigan, Tipperary with 196 points.

4th was Ruth Blackwell UK with 180 points.

The Ladies competition was won by Carla Costigan, Tipperary with Ruth Blackwell UK in 2nd. Colette and Cora Weir were 3rd and 4th respectively.

 

Photos and report: Courtesy of John O’Connor

 

Go Fishing:

Vinny Keogh and family run the Helm Bar and Restaurant, an award-winning eatery on the quay in Westport. Accommodation on-site is available, and fishing can be arranged on the Helm’s own charter boat, with various package deals available.

The Helm, Westport. Tel. 098 26398

www.thehelm.ie

https://www.facebook.com/TheHelmWestport/


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