Bass

Scientific name:Dicentrarchus labrax
Irish name:Bas Gheal
IUCN Status:LC (Least Concern)
Size:up to 4ft and 20lb
Specimen:10lbs, or 4.536 kg
Record:17lb 13oz taken on 21.10.2000 by Emmet Naughton at Doughmore Strand
Family:Moronidae
Order:Perciformes
Class:Actinopterygii
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The European Sea Bass to give it its full name, is a splendid fish, usually associated with shore fishing on western storm / surf beaches, but it is caught off boats. It is a slow growing fish and is now protected; - there is no fishing from 15th May to 15th June to allow the fish hazard free spawning. Equally there is a minimum size of 40 cms (just over 1 foot) from snout to tail. Furthermore there is a bag limit of two fish per angler per day. Bass are at their northernmost limit around Ireland and they do diminish rapidly in population density the further north and east travelled. Bass attract fanatical support from most shore anglers. Given their slow growth and relative rarity, try using catch & release for all Bass, regardless of the existing size limits. It would be a tragedy to lose them. Best marks are on the south and south west coasts.

Identification


This iconic sea fish hardly requires description. It is our only official sport fish, and is targeted here in Ireland by anglers from all over the world. Torpedo-shaped and powerful looking, its cream-white belly gives way to iridescent silver flanks and a dark coloured back, usually black or dark-blue, dark green to black.
The two dorsal fins are large, and quite close together, with the front fin being “spikey” in appearance. Sometimes the dorsal fins are seen breaking the surface as the Bass hunts in shallow water, but this must not be confused with Grey Mullet, whose two dorsal fins are further apart. The gill covers have sharp edges and spines, and the mouth is cavernous.

Environment and Habitat


They enter coastal waters and river mouths in summer, but migrate offshore in colder weather and occur in deep water during winter in the northern range. Being not particularly sensitive to low temperature some fish may over-winter in coastal lagoons instead of returning to the open sea. Young fish form school, but adults appear to be less gregarious.

Sea bass are predators, mostly a night hunters and their feeding range includes small fish, prawns, crabs and sand eels. Juveniles feed on invertebrates, taking increasingly more fish with age. European Sea Bass are found all around the Irish Coast with the best fishing around East (Dublin), South East (Wexford), South (Cork), South West (Kerry) of Ireland. Numbers diminish the further north you go.

Diet


Tends to be a surface water predator, feeding on a wide range of other fish, such as sandeels, herring, sprat, pouting, etc., along with a variety of crustaceans such as crab and shrimp. Tend to hunt in disturbed water i.e. breakers and close to rock faces.

Angling Methods


Shore tactics: Bass feature in every beach angler's best dreams and the good news is that lots of double digit specimens are still being caught, perhaps proof that the new laws aimed at their protection are having a positive impact. The most famous marks like Inch Strand in Co. Kerry are still producing fish but smaller almost inaccessible coves along the south coast (Co. Waterford in particular) seem to be harbouring relatively untouched stocks of mature bass. Bass can be caught from the shore using lures usually fished at high speed on the top of the water to imitate sand eels and more recently on the fly - a new sport in Ireland that has seen great responses from those trying it for the first time. Almost all fish are and must continue to be returned alive. Standard worm baits on paternoster aimed for flatfish also work well - but the key is not to cast too far - the last breaking wave on a storm beach is the mark, as this is where they hunt for food. A bad cast often catches a bass! Since Bass hunt in amongst flooded rock pools, a relatively short lob cast of a hefty bait on any kind of tide will take the big fish. The bigger bass seem to show up in an outflowing ebb tide rather than an incoming flood. Peeler crabs (more than one!) and half a mackerel are perfectly acceptable Bass baits, in fact most people fish with baits that are probably far too small relative to the target species.

Boat tactics: Again, similar to Cod, in Ireland we do not have the same "bassing" hot spots as they have in the UK estuaries and sand banks. "Bassing" is not a common sport from boats. Typically Bass are caught more often from the shore than from a boat. They are strong active fish, at home in the Atlantic surf on windswept storm beaches, but they can show up offshore on sand banks and similar marks. Bass are often caught on sandeel and peeler crabs baits, with a light boat rod or spinning rod and 15 lbs line more than enough. Hook sizes should be around 2/0 upwards, with the pennel rig a must for the crab bait. Bass, as active predators, will also hungrily attack suitable flashing lures, including the specially made bass bullets and even flying Cs!

Baits


Bass are a fearsome predator with a huge mouth capable of swallowing very large baits. They attack sand eels and small fish such as young Mackerel, Whiting and Pouting and often hunt close inshore between the surf tables. Bass will also forage amongst kelp and boulders along rocky headlands seeking out inhabitants such as crabs, butterfish and blennies.

What this means is there is a large array of bait that will catch Bass, depending on the area you are fishing and the conditions experienced on the day. Peeler crab can be deadly in many places with rocky, weedy outcrops, but will also work well on clean, surf beaches. Sand eel is excellent and whole Squid, lugworm, ragworm, Mackerel strip and white ragworm all work well or sometimes just a whole Mackerel head and guts will find the bigger fish. Other exciting methods are spinning with plugs or Tobies on light tackle and also fly-fishing, which is becoming very popular.

Legislation Status


Dun Laoghaire is a popular boat and shore angling location. The best way to get here is via the DART or from bus routs 45A, 45B, 46A, 59, 75, 111. All fishing venues are within 5 - 10 minutes walk of bus and DART station. Both the West and East Piers in Dun Laoghaire Harbour are popular for pier fishing for mackerel (in season), whiting, pouting, codling and pollack (night fishing in autumn). You can fish into the harbour for dab, plaice and conger in summer and float fishing from inner coal quays for mullet. Boats can be launched at the slipway for fishing around Scotsmans Bay and Dalkey Island. Two fully equipped charter boats operate from the harbour specialising in general ground, wreck and reef fishing off the Kish and Burford Banks. For further details please contact; Charles Robinson Sea Angling Charters, Tel: 0404 68751/088 508398 and Dun Laoghaire Boat Charter, Tel: 282 3426/088 502066.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour is a popular boat and shore-angling center, which is located off the N31. Both the West and East Piers in Dun Laoghaire Harbour are popular shore fishing venues for mackerel, whiting, pouting, codling and pollack. Fishing into the harbour produces dab, plaice and conger in summer while float fishing from inner coal quays yields mullet.

Boats can be launched at the slipway for fishing in Scotsmans Bay and around Dalkey Island. Charter boats operate from the harbour specialising in general ground, wreck and reef fishing. Large spurdog and tope turn up regularly in boat catches.

Species

Season

May/October

Ground Type

Mainly sand

Bait

Lugworm, ragworm, crab, squid and mackerel.

Method

Leger rigs work best from both boat and shore.

Tips

Use a two up and one down combination drift rig to cover all available species.
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