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Wreck fishing

Wreck fishing for ling at Baltimore
Specimen ling are a feature of Irish wrecks
There are wrecks all round Ireland, with the largest concentrations off the north and south coasts. Most of them are relics of the two world wars though some are older and a few, like the 160,000 ton ore-carrier Kowloon Bridge, came to grief more recently. Many of them, especially those in deeper water, hold fish of a size not often seen on inshore grounds.

Wreck fishing was really borne in Ireland in the 1960s with a spectacular catch of ling from the wreck of the liner Lusitania off Co Cork. Today there are several ports along this part of the coast with a reputation as wreck fishing centres. Although wrecks have not escaped the attention of commercial fishermen there are still plenty of good fish to be had. In recent years the ling, coalfish and haddock records have all been broken on wrecks off the Cork coast.

Many different kinds of fish appear on a wreck from time to time but ling, pollack, coalfish, cod and conger are the most likely species. The average size of ling generally increases with depth. The deepest wrecks hold out a good chance of a ling over 30 lbs (14 kg) and the distinct possibility of one over 40 lbs (18 kg). Pollack and coalfish are closely related and both species are widely distributed on Irish wrecks. Both are hard-fighting fish but there are differences. Coalfish run to a larger size and pound for pound are an even stronger fish than pollack. While good pollack may turn up on wrecks in any depth of water, large coalfish are almost entirely confined to deepwater wrecks where they can go to well over 20lbs (9 kg). Given a choice cod tend to prefer rough ground to a wreck. However, where there is less rough ground available – often the case offshore – large cod sometimes congregate around wrecks in considerable numbers. Conger eel are a fish with a well-known predilection for wrecks and they are plentiful both inshore and offshore. The larger specimens are by no means confined to deep water, though for some reason Irish conger do not attain the huge sizes found on English Channel wrecks. A 40 lb (18 kg) eel is an exceptional fish in Ireland, even on a wreck.

Wreck fishing for cod at Baltimore
Four cod from one drop on a south coast wreck

Conditions have to be right for a successful wrecking trip, which usually means light winds and slack tides, especially if you plan to fish at anchor. Anchoring over a wreck is an art in itself and success depends a lot on the skill of the skipper. Drifting is normally the best approach when the target is pollack, coalfish or cod. It often works well for ling too but if the fishing is slow or a wreck has been heavily fished anchoring may produce better results. If conger are the target anchoring is more or less essential.

For wrecking the usual natural and artificial baits work well, though it may be worth scaling them up a bit. However, tackle losses can be high, so cost is a consideration. The use of braid is strongly recommended, especially in deep water where bite detection can be a problem. Breaking strain depends on the size of fish expected, but the need to haul them clear of the wreck calls for a larger than normal margin of safety. Traces generally require an upgrade too, especially if using more than one hook. Two thirty pound fish pulling in opposite directions is more than most normal rigs can stand.

With lots of other good fishing to be had wreck fishing is just one part of the Irish sea angling mix, but it is certainly one of the most exciting. Deep water, big fish and twisted metal present exceptional challenges and exceptional rewards.

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