I've caught a fair few stingrays from the boat in the Florida Keys, and also from the shore in Angola, and I have seen loads and loads on various saltwater flats that I have photographed over the years - ok, so stingers aren't exactly the greatest scrappers in fishing, but there is something special about rays, or at least I have always kinda loved them since I used to target small-eyed ray off the north coast of Cornwall when we were down there on holiday. It's fantastic to hear about all this good ray fishing up on the Bristol Channel at the moment for example - proper, quality shore fishing, the like of which we need to see.
What, no lure fishing? Well for sometime now I have been fascinated by the fact that they catch some big stingrays over in Kerry in Ireland. I have heard a fair bit about it, but had never seen them over there until we were lure fishing around Tralee a couple of years back and ended up smashing a heap of bass with loads of stingrays moving around us. One of those so special moments that you lock it into your brain to remember for ever.
Recent reports are of some awesome stingray sport in that part of the world right now, and I hadn't actually realised that the Irish record is over 70lbs - and that's a pretty decent fish by anybody's standard, except perhaps for these young nutters I once worked with down in South Africa who catch fish like that for bait. They swim out to a sandbank, catch a ray that might weigh up to the 100lb mark, take them back to shore, stick big hooks in them and then let them swim back out to be munched by a rather large shark or pack of sharks - right about where they were standing just before and catching the "bait". I hear the term "extreme fishing" thrown around almost at will these days, but I think you would agree that stuff is some serious fishing.
Anyway, I always find it rather special to be on a tropical flat and see rays moving around, and I really like how these fish that we tend to associate with warmer countries can in fact be caught in some pretty serious numbers over in Kerry. I understand that fishing for them is very conditions dependent, and I also believe they are caught in some parts of the UK? Anyway, you know me, any excuse to plan another trip over to Ireland - and I am going to set myself the goal of getting over there at the right time next year to have a bit of a crack at them.
I just want to see one caught in European waters, and if it's while being surrounded by the outrageous scenery that is Kerry, well I could just about handle that. I've got a thing about it I suppose, and I want to go and do it - having them swimming all around you while you are lure fishing for bass is pretty special if you ask me, and although my mate caught one fair and square on a lure, I was around the corner at the time and did not get to see it.
I see there is a "Tag a Ray competition with Tralee Bay Sea Angling Club" on the weekend of 31st May/1st June - check here for details. Knowing what a great bunch of people/anglers they are on that coastline, I bet it will be a proper blast, and I hope the conditions aid them in their quest to tag a few of these stingers. And as for other competitions, make sure to get your entries in for the 2014 Irish Bass Festival (25th, 26th, 27th July) - all details are here. What more excuse could you possibly need for getting yourself over to Ireland?