This report from the Irish section of the European Federation of Sea Anglers on the 2024 edition of the Winter Shore Festival held in Wexford:

The 35th Irish Winter Shore Angling Festival took place from January 24th to 27th, 2024. The weeks leading up had the committee dealing with a fair amount of trepidation due to the intervention of storms Isha and Jocelyn. Competitors travelling from abroad had a rough time on their sea crossings on the few sailings that were still operating. Thankfully they made it.

The 106 competitors commenced check in on the evening of the 24th in the event headquarters in the Hotel Curracloe, in County Wexford. Numbers were well down on what had been expected given the huge numbers of expressions of interest prior to Christmas. The organisers will be looking at a system to overcome this for next year.
Check in was completed on Thursday morning 25th and competitors moved onto Curracloe beach to commence fishing at 12 noon. The anglers were divided into 4 zones each day. Weather conditions were fairly grim with Storm Jocelyn delivering persistent rain and high southerly winds throughout the session. Lines in was called at 5pm and the competitors were very glad to vacate the beach to get in from the atrocious weather conditions.

Wet and Windy on Curracloe Beach – Day 1

The conditions also affected the catch rate with only 707 fish being recorded for the session, all returned alive. Species recorded were flounder, dab, whiting, scorpion, bass, lesser spotted dogfish, rockling, and coalfish. Best round fish was a 41cm coalfish for Frank Piotter from Germany. Best flatfish was a 32cm flounder for Martin McGowan from Kerry. Super pool winners were Richard Yates, Matt White, and Ged Stevens. These were also the individual best 3 positions on day 1.

Zone winners were Richard Yates (600), Matt White (589), Ged Stevens (559) and Gary Wood (447). All from England. Best Lady was Jane Cantwell from Wexford. Best Junior was Max Roche also from Wexford. Leading the 2 person teams were Matt White and Ged Stevens. The 4 person teams were led by Matt White, Ged Stevens, Shane Russell, and Gareth Griffiths.

Zone prize winners on day 1 were:

The second session commenced at 12 noon of Friday 26th on Morriscastle Beach. The competitors were very pleased to see the sun shining and a nice westerly breeze helping to dry out wet over clothes and gear that had been soaked on day 1. Fish capture was much better from the beginning with some sizeable cards up to 35 fish being recorded. A much happier bunch of competitors pulled in last casts at 5pm in much better form than that on day 1.

Morriscastle Beach – Day 2

The total number of fish recorded and returned alive was 1118. Species recorded were similar to day 1 with the addition of a rare daylight capture of a 45cm spur dogfish for Chris O’Sullivan from Kerry. Best flat fish of 34cm flounders were captured by J.P. Molloy from Cork and Rob Collins from England.

Super pool winners were Juergen van Rijswijk from The Netherlands with the best card of the event on 916 points, Ryan Blair from Northern Ireland with 877 and Stephen O’Donovan from Kerry on 857. Zone winners were Juergen van Rijswijk, Ryan Blair, Saul Page from England, and Dave Wade also from England.

Best lady once again was Jane Cantwell and best junior was also once again Max Roche with a very creditable zone 3rd placing. The 2 person team was still led by Saul page and Richard Yates. The 4 person teams were also still led by Matt White, Ged Stevens, Shane Russell, and Gareth Griffiths. The overall lead was now held by Saul Page on 59 points for 1324 fish points followed by Dave Wade also on 59 points but with 1040 fish points, Gareth Griffiths was in third place. Everything to play for on day 3.

Zone prize winners on day 2 were:

The final session on Saturday 27th had a 10.30 start on Ballinesker Beach. Conditions were fairly good in dry weather with a brisk southerly breeze. Good numbers of fish were captured early on, but the rate became patchy as the session progressed. Some positions continued to produce and as the end of the session approached the entire beach started to see fish again. Lines in at 15.30 saw 808 fish recorded. Species recorded were similar to previous days with the addition of some small sea trout which unfortunately for the captors did not count. All fish were returned alive.

Aaron Vambeck Bass – Day 3

Best round fish was a 53cm bass for Aaron Vambeck from Donegal, best flat fish was a 32cm flounder for Lar Mooney from Dublin. Best scores on the day winning shares of the super pool were Matt White (526), Troy Francis from Kerry (507) and Saul page (499).
Zone winners were Saul page, Dave Wright, Matt White all from England and Joey Brady from Ireland.

Zone prize winners on day 3 were:

The hard working results committee had the results posted at 18.45. A full room of competitors and guests enjoyed an excellent well prepared and professionally served meal after which the presentation of awards took place. EFSA Ireland Chairman George McCullough addressed those in attendance prior to the awards ceremony. He thanked the competitors for their participation and their perseverance over the 3 days of competition in some very trying conditions. He thanked the venue pegging team organised by John Marshall for their work. He also thanked the results committee for their excellent work and also EFSA Ireland Hon. Secretary Warren Doyle for his work in the organisation of the event. He thanked the management and staff of the Hotel Curracloe for their support and professionalism throughout the event.

He then thanked the sponsors, firstly main sponsor Tronixpro for their continued support for the event, also Inland Fisheries Ireland for their continued support and finally Hotel Curracloe for hosting the event at short notice. Finally, he thanked those who had gifted prizes for the raffle and wished everyone a safe journey home and hoped to see them again in 2025.

The awards presentation then took place under the stewardship of Hon. Secretary Warren Doyle and Hon Treasurer Christy Cloak. Longest fish and Super Pool prizes were first awarded followed by daily zone prize winners. These were followed by the team prizes.
The 2 person team was won by Richard Yates and Saul Page while the 4 person team was won by Matt White, Ged Stevens, Shane Russell, and Gareth Griffiths.

L-R Matt White, Saul Page, Troy Francis with Warren Doyle

Best flatfish awards went jointly to J.P. Molloy and Rob Collins for their 34cm flounders. The best round fish award was taken by Aaron Vambeck with his 53cm bass which also took the ‘Best Fish of the Festival’ award. Best Lady was Jane Cantwell and best Junior was Max Roche. The awarding of the top 3 individual prizes then completed the ceremony.
In 3rd place and also being the only angler to break the English dominance of the top awards for the 2024 event was Troy Francis. In Runner Up spot was Matt White.

Winter Shore Festival Winner 2024 – Saul Page

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Wicklow to Wexford sea fishing