I’ve fished in Donegal more times than I can count. It’s long been an ambition to catch a 100kg tuna. It’s been a dream to catch a giant bluefin tuna. All three strands wove together beautifully during a trip to Ireland.
I went to Killybegs in Donegal Bay with an old fishing pal of mine, Robert McMillan. I asked Robert about charter boats & he immediately suggested I call Michael Callaghan and charter the Leah-C of Wild Atlantic Way Angling. I booked one day on bluefin tuna another on sharks, fully expecting the tuna to be a bust and the sharking easy – boy was I gonna be proven wrong!
My hopes rose when I first saw the boat; the Leah-C is an 11m BW Seacat Catamaran, an absolute cracker of a boat and one of the best I have been lucky to set foot on. Michael welcomed us aboard and I knew straight away that the three of us would get on well. He’s a professional skipper and a great bloke, full of chat, knowledgeable and always has the kettle on - plus he uses great bluefin tuna fishing tackle and knows how to use it.
On our way out we saw lots of activity including lots of feeding seabirds; fulmars, shearwaters, and of course gannets – all good signs of life. We saw a few dolphins, then more dolphins and after an hour or so saw the first tuna. It looked like whales breaching at first but there’s no mistaking those scimitar tails – they were huge fish, nothing under 200lbs and most bigger than that.
We had the usual frustrating but exciting wait for the first hit, watching enormous tuna scattering bait fish, gannets wheeling and diving and the anticipation rising with every splash in the water. At around 10am we had our first run, the tuna came up behind the spreader bar on the port corner like a rainbow trout behind a lure, head-and-tailing before hitting the stinger with an enormous shower of spray and a noise like rocks hitting the water. The screaming reel got us all into action. I got the 450lb (thanks Bob!) to the boat after a good tough fight. Then after some photos alongside the boat it was safely released. I helped set out the rods again and was just about to get myself a drink of water when the second fish hit, Bob was into his first fish.
We ended the day with five hook ups, one broke off (of course it was the biggest) and in the end we had fish of 220, 300, 350 & 450lbs – not bad for a day when I wasn’t expecting much.
You could be like me and chase big fish all over the world, and a very enjoyable hobby that is too OR you could head to Killybegs in Donegal, book the Leah-C with Michael Callaghan and try for the bluefin tuna there. Just like me you might be very pleasantly surprised by the results if you do.