THE Bank Holiday weekend’s good weather brought hundreds of people to the coast with their fishing gear and a reader asks what he might catch from the piers of north Down. In its heyday Bangor pier was one of the best marks around Belfast Lough producing good cod and even huge thornback rays. It can still offer a decent day’s sport despite the general decline of the Irish Sea.
A string of feathers or flashing lures will produce mackerel either side of high tide and the further you can cast out to sea, the better are your chances. Lug or rag worm suspended from a float will attract small groups of passing pollock and if you can find a clean mark on the bottom worms will find flounder, dabs or maybe even a decent plaice.
A chunk of fishbait on the bottom placed closer to the shore will prove tempting to wrasse, dogfish, rays and conger eels and will require a much stronger rig. Grey mullet will soon be returning to the harbour and present a real challenge for the angler. Skillful presentation of soft baits, including processed cheese, on light tackle offer your best chance of hooking one of these elusive ‘grey ghosts’ which are a distant relative of the fabled fighting bonefish of the Caribbean. They must be stalked and are easily spooked by poor casting.
Sea trout can also be found in the harbour and present the ultimate challenge. One jumped into Bangor’s RNLI lifeboat a few years back and I watched a small fish patrol along the south pier on Monday when the shallows were full of baitfish. They were once plentiful along the north Down coast and though numbers have fallen you still have a sporting chance if you have patience and know what you are doing. Your chances are probably at their best in the evening and with small lures.
There are a number of other good marks on the rocks from Wilson’s Point to the Long Hole, the ‘mackerel rocks’ along Seacliff Road and at Orlock. Donaghadee harbour also puts you in reach of mackerel, pollock and codling. A big Spring Tide in the early morning or as the sun goes down improves your chances so check the tide tables which can be found on line or purchased in any good tackle shop or yachting supplier.
If you want to be sure of taking something home for the table then you are best to book a trip with a professional skipper in one of the fishing boats which operate short trips around the coast. These range from bigger vessels which can accommodate a group to smaller guided trips which will bay hop in search of a range of sporting species and offer a more personal service.
Meanwhile the lack of rain has been a problem for salmon anglers as most rivers in the west are at summer levels and fish are slow on the take however trout fishing appears good across the country and the first fish have been taken on May flies on the bigger waters. Book early if you are planning a visit.