The almost land locked Bannow Bay (1) enters the sea through a narrow channel about 4.8km north east of Fethard. Shore fishing from either side of the channel mouth at Blackhall to the east and Newtown to the west is productive on the first two hours of the flood tide and around high water for bass to over 4.50kg and flounder to over 1.75kg. Gilthead bream, smoothound and seatrout have also been taken in the area. As the tide rises, so other parts of the estuary are worth exploring. One such area is at Newtown on the eastern side of the bay where the channel runs parallel to the shore. Despite the fact that this is an extremely muddy area it offers good possibilities because the channel is within easy casting range. The most popular bait in Bannow Bay is crab which will take all species with the exception of seatrout. Freelined sandeel is the best method for them. On the western shore of the bay in the vicinity of St. Kieran’s Quay (A) crab can be collected in the weedy margins, while lugworm are plentiful in the mud along the channel banks. From the beach at Fethard Bay (2) bottom fishing over sand will produce flounder, dab, plaice, and bass. Occasional ray and dogfish will be taken on night tides with crab, sandeel or mackerel baits offering best opportunities.
At high water the harbour at Fethard (3) holds a fair head of mullet during the summer months while the rocky ground to the east around Ingard Point offers bottom fishing for wrasse, dogfish, rockling and conger. The R734 road terminates in Fethard village and a much smaller one winds its way from there for a further 10 kms out along the Hook Peninsula. Just under halfway along (4.5km) a small “boreen” runs to the south east, off the main road, to the attractive little cove of Sandeel Bay (4). The beach is made up mainly of sand but it also contains a number of rough patches. Night fishing is generally recommended, as fish tend to move close to this shore in the dark. Fishing on the bottom will yield bass, flounder and conger, at low water and the first two hours of a flooding tide. Spinning over the rocks to the south will produce pollack and mackerel in season. 3.5km further on, the road meets a T junction. The east facing road runs for 1.25km to the little harbour of Slade (5) where shore fishing at high water will yield dogfish, conger, wrasse and rockling to bottom fished baits, and spinning produces mackerel (in season), pollack and coalfish. The slipway there is tidal, parking is restricted, and access is difficult for small boats wishing to launch and fish there during the summer. The main boat fishing areas are concentrated over the reefs and gullies to the south of Hook Head for pollack, coalfish, cod, john dory, ling and conger, while several wrecks, further south, in water around 50 metres deep hold conger to over 18kg, ling over 9kg and specimen pouting of over 1.5kg.
There is also some excellent fishing over sand to the east of Slade for ray, plaice, dabs, whiting, gurnard, codling and occasional haddock. This is a favoured area when winds are blowing from the west.
The road leading south west of the T junction runs for a further 2.0km to a lighthouse which stands on the craggy tip of Hook Head (6). It is said that a mariners warning light has been in place there for over 1400 years(true) but today’s stubby, black and white striped, version dates from Norman times. The rocks around the lighthouse are a popular competition venue and peg numbers have been painted on the ledges by local club anglers. Spinning from these ledges, accounts for pollack, mackerel and coalfish. Bottom fishing over very foul ground is for rockling, dogfish, wrasse, codling and conger. Care should be taken in this area as large swells break on the rocks after storms. There are also a number of blowholes along the shoreline which can suddenly send large volumes of water cascading over the rocks.
Tides at Hook Head can be calculated by adding 15 minutes to the Cobh time, or 6 hours 15 minutes to the Dublin time. About a kilometre back along the road a small track runs almost due west, towards the shallower waters of Waterford Harbour. This is known locally as Churchtown (7) where bottom fishing over very foul ground produces dogfish, wrasse and conger. Float fishing yields pollack and coalfish while occasional bass, dab and flounder can be found over the sandy patches about 55 to 60 metres out from the rock. Crab is the top bait there. North of Churchtown at Lumsden’s Bay (8) and Templetown (9) the rough ground of the headland begins to give way to the sand and mud of the estuary. Dogfish and wrasse are common over the rough patches and spinning with a plug can be very rewarding for bass around high water. Bass will also be taken on crab baits over the sandy patches and flounder can also be expected there.
The twin coves of Dollar and Booley Bays (10) which are divided in the middle by the rocky ridge of Black Point are popular bass fishing locations. A number of 4.5kg plus fish have been recorded there over the years with sandeel and crab baits accounting for most of the bigger fish. In recent seasons, these locations have attracted anglers practising plug and fly fishing for bass with the middle of the beach close to the rock proving more productive than the open stretches of sand on either side. Dogfish, dab, flounder, plaice, seatrout and silver eel are also possible there, particularly on night tides.
A Norman fort guards the entrance to the harbour at Duncannon (11) at the end of the R737 road. On the sands to the south of the fort, the first two hours of the flood tide are most productive for seatrout and bass to 5.12kg, while spinning. Bottom fishing will also produce bass, plus occasional codling, flounder, dab, silver eel and dogfish. On the northern side of the impressive ramparts is the outer quay wall of the harbour where anglers can fish for conger on night tides. There is a slipway in the harbour where boats can be launched throughout most tides, with the possible exception of low water on springs, to explore the fishing on Waterford Harbour which is the estuary of the 3 sister rivers the Barrow, Nore and Suir. Two purpose built charter boats are based in the harbour and are available for much of the year. One big advantage there is that bad weather seldom leads to a cancellation of fishing, because if it is too inclement on the productive Hook Head grounds then alternative sport can be found in the estuary where bass, flatfish and eels are the target species. At low water lugworm, small white ragworm, and occasional sandeel can be dug on Duncannon Strand (B) with the southern end of the beach most productive.
Fishing into the channel from the banks between Arthurstown and Ballyhack (12) will yield flounder, silver eel, codling, whiting and bass. Crab is the best bait, fished at night, on leger tackle, through the last hour of the ebb, and first two hours of the flooding tide. The quay wall at Ballyhack will also produce conger at high tide after dark. On the banks of the shallow King’s Bay (C), north of the old quay at Arthurstown, mussel can be collected and ragworm dug. The all tide ferry slipway at Ballyhack cannot be used to launch small boats because there is no facility nearby whereby trailers and towing vehicles can be parked.
In May and June each year a major fish migration, takes place through Waterford Harbour when twaite shad run in from the sea to spawn. This event usually coincides with the peak of the spring tides and migrating fish provide superb light tackle sport on lure and fly at St Mullins on the River Barrow. With the exception of the 3 sisters system, twaite shad are virtually extinct in all other Irish waters, making the annual “shad run” one of the most unique fishing attractions in the entire country.
A cross-harbour car ferry operates regularly between Ballyhack and Passage East (13), the eastern gateway to the city of Waterford which stands on the River Suir some 10kms to the west. There are a number of top class tackle shops in the city where bait can also be purchased during the summer months.
An all tide slipway is to the north of the quay at Passage to facilitate the car ferry but small boats can be launched and retrieved there during periods when the ferry is out on the water. Would be boat anglers should note that the ferry takes precedence on the slipway so it is essential that no hold ups occur due to poorly parked trailers, or slow launches and retrievals.
At high tide, the outer wall of the harbour provides bottom fishing for bass and flounder on crab baits, while spinning or “plugging” from the banks to the south produces bass from low tide through the first couple of hours of the flood. At low tide the shore around the mussel banks, at the northern end of Passage Strand (D) affords the collection of mussel and provides excellent digging for ragworm.
The coast road runs south of Passage for 5kms to Woodstown Strand (14). The beach is very shallow there and at low tide strips by over 800 metres. There is however, reasonable depth at high tide and beach fishing provides sport with bass to 5.8kg, silver eel and flounder. Occasional black sole to over 1.5k. and electric ray to over 15kg have also been recorded. Night tides in autumn are generally most productive with the top baits being sandeel and crab. The beach below Woodstown Car Park (E) is of firm sand along the low tide line and cockles are plentiful and easily collected there. Some lugworm is also available.
Two kilometres to the south is Fornaught Strand (15) which is a small shallow beach, of less than a kilometre in length. It appears to be squeezed between Knockavelish Head on the northern side and the considerable lump of Creadan Head which juts out for almost 2km into Waterford Harbour in the south. Like Woodstown this beach fishes best around high water on an autumn evening when bass, flounder, sole, dogfish, silver eel and occasional plaice can be expected. On the northern side of Dunmore Bay, about 700 meters from the R684 road, is the picturesque, south facing, Ladies Cove (16) which is almost totally surrounded by red sandstone cliffs. Fishing over sand from the rocky platforms on the southern side will produce dabs, flounder, plaice, dogfish and occasional bass. The beach is very sheltered and as a result is very popular in good weather with swimmers and sun worshippers. On such occasions, fishing is fruitless and is restricted to evening tides when the beach becomes almost deserted. (Care should be exercised there at all times, as the rocks can be cut off at high water, particularly on spring tides).
On the south western corner of Waterford Harbour is the picturesque fishing port of Dunmore East (17) which is one of the most important commercial fishing centres in Ireland. The area is also a popular holiday destination and there is a wide range of accommodation locally, including a plush 4 star hotel and numerous well appointed self-catering cottages, many of which have thatched roofs. The town also has a growing reputation for its reasonably priced eating places, which specialise in fresh, locally caught, fish and seafood.
Two charter boats are based in the harbour and are generally available from April to the end of September, while a slipway can be accessed on the northern side of the Western quay. It should be remembered that this is a working harbour which can be very busy at times. The slipway is also popular with canoeists and general boat enthusiasts in the summer months, so anglers are advised to launch small boats early in the morning if they want to beat any possible rush! Parking is also restricted on the pier so vehicles and trailers may be required to park in the main car park above the East Pier.
A wide range of species is available to boat anglers including blue shark to over 48kg from July to September. There is top class boat fishing over mixed ground, in water up to 20 metres deep, between Red Head and the Falskirt Rock off Swines Head which may not be visible at low water, where a wide range of species is available. Included are pollack to 5.9kg, cod to 12.50kg, ling to 14.18kg, whiting to 1.50kg, pouting to 1.4kg and ballan wrasse to 2.25kg. It is also one of the few areas in Ireland where red bream and john dory turn up with any degree of regularity. Tides are strong in the area and anglers in small boats, in particular, should pay attention to wind speeds and tide heights, because sea conditions can change very quickly there. The golden rule, as in any similar situation, is to seek local advice and “if in doubt, don’t go out.”
Shore anglers are spoilt for choice in Dunmore with pier, beach and rock fishing, all available locally. Irish specimen rockling over 1.25kg, ballan wrasse over 2.25kg, bass to 6.9kg and flounder over 1.35kg have all been recorded there while pollack, mackerel (in season) and garfish have also been caught from the rocks below the car park to the south of the town. Some bits and pieces of tackle can be bought in the general store on the main street, some 250 metres from the pier, but specialised tackle will have to be purchased in Waterford.
Tides at Dunmore East are +00.13 minutes on Cobh times.
Some 4kms west of Dunmore, along the scenically, spectacular shore road, and just beyond Swines Head is Rathmoylan Cove (18) where there is bottom fishing for flounder, dogfish and occasional bass. Spinning from the rocks to the east provides sport with pollack and bass on plugs and fishing is best when high tide and dusk coincide. Fishing is similar at Ballymacaw Cove (19) some 2kms further west but spinning and plug fishing is best on the western point of the cove where mackerel can be a welcome addition to catches in summer. There is an old slipway in Ballymacaw which has suffered some damage during storms, which means that boats can only launch and retrieve there at high water. The space for turning and reversing trailers is very restricted and parking is also limited. All in all not the sort of place that the majority of small boat anglers would choose to set out from.
As the coast swings away west from Ballymacaw and around Brownstown Head, which juts out to sea for 3kms to the south west, the large expanse of Tramore Bay, opens up. There is a car park about a kilometre west of Corballymore cross roads which affords access to the shore at Saleens (F). To the north of the car park, peeler and soft crab can be collected under the seaweed, at low tide. Moulting crabs begin to appear there about mid May and can, in some years, be available up to the end of September. To the south of the car park in the narrows between the eastern end of Tramore Strand and Saleens the main channel funnels through the narrows of Rinnashark (20). Traditionally crab baits have accounted for many big fish from either side of the channel including bass to 6.4kg and flounder to 1.75kg. Plug fishing has also become extremely popular and the area also appears to be the ideal place for the growing number of saltwater fly fishing enthusiasts to try their skills. Grey & Golden Grey Mullet too are visitors to the area and as the tide fills they make their way through the narrows into the estuary behind. Care must be taken as high tides can leave anglers cut off from the mainland.
As the estuary opens up it uncovers a vast expanse of mudflat behind the beach at low tide. This is known as the Back Strand (G) where lugworm are plentiful particularly to the south of the R685 road as it runs close to the dyke wall. Peeler and soft crab can also be collected around the stone and weed margins at the outlet from the marsh, below Lisselan.
The popular holiday town of Tramore, some 10km south of Waterford City, sits at the western end of the 4km long Tramore Strand (21). During the fine days of summer, the beach attracts hordes of holiday makers, making fishing totally impossible. After dark, however, when the tourists have adjourned to the cafes and bars the beach angler may find fishing of a very high calibre in the surf, for bass to 6.5kg and flounder to 1.3kg. In periods of high pressure, when the sea is becalmed, painted ray to 5.8kg, dogfish to 1.4kg, and dabs to .45kg can be taken by those anglers capable of casting baits up to 130 metres off the beach. The summer is not the only time of year for anglers to visit Tramore Strand, because during the winter from October to February, there are no problems with swimmers and sun worshippers, and numerous big bass have been recorded by anglers prepared to put in the time and effort to catch them. Codling and whiting are also possible, at night, during these colder months. Crab, sandeel, ragworm and mackerel strip are the best baits there and the most productive periods are the last hour of the ebb through the first half hour of the flood, and one hour either side of high water. There is a tackle shop on Main Street in the town.
Tides at Tramore are + 00.13 minutes on Cobh times.
The shore road to the south of the town runs parallel to the sea for 2kms before reaching a car park at Newtown Cove (22). Between there and Newtown Head, some 2kms further south, there are a number of access points where spinning and plug fishing is possible in summer for mackerel, pollack, occasional garfish and bass. Float fishing will produce ballan and corkwing wrasse and coalfish. This area should never be approached in easterly winds which cause waves to break on the shore or when rain is falling, as the rocks can become slippery and dangerous in these conditions. The local authority have erected notices advising anglers, that as a safety measure, fishing is not permitted at the bathing place.
On the headland stands three high concrete pillars. These were erected by Lloyds of London in 1823 as navigational aids to warn vessels away from the rocks and shallows of Tramore Bay. Standing on the central pillar is a statue dressed in Georgian seafarers costume and known as the ‘Metal Man’. Local legend has it that on nights of high winds and rough seas the Metal Man can be heard warning shipping away from the treacherous shore beneath by calling out;
“Keep out, keep out, good ships from me,…………… For I am the rock of misery”.
Boat anglers take note!
About 4km west of Tramore on the R675 road there is a sharp turn to the left after Fennor Bridge and a narrow road runs for 2kms down to the very pretty cove at Kilfarrasy (23). The Kilfarrasy Stream crosses the beach there and when surf is running the combination of freshwater and churning wave acts as a magnet for flounders and bass. In calmer conditions, particularly at night, thornback ray, dogfish and even the occasional conger are possible. This is a popular venue with local anglers who hold regular club competitions there. The beach at Annestown (24) is situated where the R675 road from the east meets the coast and provides similar conditions and fishing to Kilfarrasy. At the western end of the beach, where the Annestown Stream enters the sea, mullet will occasionally be taken on small ragworm baits. Bottom fishing from the middle of the beach, at high water will produce bass to over 5.5kg, flounder, dogfish and thornback ray. On the south western side of Annestown is Dunbrattin Head (25) where bottom fishing close to the rock will yield conger, dogfish and huss particularly at night while float fishing and spinning accounts for wrasse and pollack. Boat fishing off the Head yields ray, dabs, plaice, gurnard, dogfish, pollack, codling and mackerel in season.