Lough Mask is situated in co, Mayo, Ireland and north of Lough Corrib it is the sixth largest lake in Ireland. It is a limestone Lough about 16km long and 6.5km at the widest point that makes up an approximated surface area of 20,500 acres. Lough Mask flows into Lough Corrib through an underground stream and when the lough is in flood the Cong canal becomes another out let that flows in the Lough Corrib that then flows into Galway Bay. Lough Mask can be a dangerous lake due to it shallow waters that appear fast from deep water with jagged rocks. If you look at the maps of Lough Mask the western side of the Lough is deeper and much safer than the eastern side. The trout are stunning and fight hard when hooked on a fly but if you are looking for one of the larger trout (Ferox) trolling is the way to go. I have being told that all Ferox only live a short life due to how fast it grow [that is only an excuse for people that kill them] but with further research on the net I found the oldest Ferox found was 23 years of age before it died in Scottish highlands from Loch Killin, and the British record is 31lb 7oz. That is a monster compared to our record that stands at 26lb 2oz on Lough Ennell in 1894 by Wm. Mears. I truly believe if all ferox were protected in Ireland we would exceed the 30lb mark as well.
Some Launching points on Lough Mask the one I have used are on the west side of the Lake it is deeper than the east side and better for trolling
As I gathered more information about Mask through Mick Hennessey an IFI officer on what areas fish best, times of the year and what depths To look for. He all so told me what depth to troll the baits and then sent on photos of what type of mounts he was using and how fast they were being trolled at. To top it off he also showed me a picture of him and another IFI officer with two cracking Ferox trout.
With big fresh water fish and guiding in mind I decided to invest in a Sheelin 19ft lake boat and a 9.9 Yamaha engine. With that decision made I decided I was going the full hog and was going to kit out the boat as well. First to be purchased was two Scotty Orca rod holders that has a quick rod release and are super strong. They wont slip, bend or twist as the rods is violently bend around when large fish slammed the bait unlike the other rod rests I have purchased over the years. Then, a hi-spec Garmin 50DV GPS fish finder that has the new Dv image that shows all the structures under the water as they are, not as arks or humps. I also bought an electric Scotty down rigger that from Bantry Bay Canoes in Bandon [the same place that does the Scotty trolling rod holders]. With my bank account empty and my local credit union loan at its max I was hoping I would get clients and more important I would land some cracking big fish.
My new GPS fish finder is my latest toy; it lets me mark fish as I see them on the fish finder GPS Split screen. Normal fish finder image on left Dv fish finder image on right there are multiple screens options you can choose from
With a few days trolling for pike, watching the fish finder and practicing how to adjust the depths up and down on the downrigger as I was passed over deep and shallow water, snags and fish. With the workings of my boat down to a tee, I decided to phone Terry to see would he like to join me in the pursuit of these incredible looking fish. As you can guess yes was the answer and as Terry was talking about the areas he fished a few years ago it coincided with the areas that Mike told me to fish, a plan was starting to form terry and myself all we needed was good weather and some luck.
With an eye on the long-range weather forecast we could see a three-day window opening up with light warm westerly winds. With that information we got all the camping and fishing gear ready, disinfected the boat, engine and trailer to stop the spread of invasive species spores that could be stuck to them.
As it was over a four hour drive for Terry and Andy from the North and the same for myself and Derick from the South we decided to go the night before so we could have a good night sleep and an early start in the morning. With the GPS quadrants inputted in my Sat Nav for one of the slipways on Mask it was time to start our four hours and fifteen minutes journey. With twisty narrow roads and a missed turn we arrived at the destination just before midnight. With the tent up a few cups of tea drank with the lads as we were getting the boats ready, it was time to get some sleep. With a six am wake up I got a nice surprise as the sun peeked over the mountains I could see the lake was like glass.
Lough mask is an amazing looking Lough especially at first light when there is no wind and the lake is flat calm
With the camping gear packed and the boats in the water it was time to go fishing for them incredible looking ferox trout. As we neared the area were Mike and Terry caught Trout, we decided to stick to the plan and troll about fifty yards apart for the first day hoping to hook fish or local them on the fish finder.
As we were trolling I got the image in my mind of loch Ness when they were looking for Nessie and like them we were trying to find a monster as well
We trolled all the areas with S shape movements to make the bait and lures drop and rise in the water. As each hour passed without a take I was starting to get worried, was I traveling too fast or too slow. I decided to reel in one of the rods and found the line was twisted so bad I had to cut it. I check the other rods and lucky enough they were ok. The reason the line was twisting was my dead bait was turning, so to stop this I had to add more lead to the bar under my dead bait.
If your bait or lure is traveling to fast or is mounted incorrectly it can starts to twist, if this happens your line will get destroyed with twist loops. This happened to us and we had to add more lead to our skull mount
With all baits in the water and running smoothly it was time for us to eat. We decided to cook on the boat, as it was calm and we were hoping the trout would get the same idea.
With the dinner over a few fish that we marked through the day at 35 to 42 feet started to rise from that depth to 28ft to 30ft and a few minutes later the down rigger rod sprang into action. Instead of lifting the rod to strike I gave a sudden jolt from the engine to set the hooks. It was not a long battle but was exciting to see a large brown trout coming to the net. It took a 20cm roach that looked tiny in its mouth. For the next two days derrick and Andy lost two good trout as they were a few feet from the net and terry had a small brown and a pike. To be honest it is hard work to stay focused when you have trolled over 38 hours in three days with only two takes.
My lure and bait of choice a 20 cm roach on a scull mount with added weighted under it belly to stop it from spinning around as it being pulled through the water at 2.5nots
1 You needed to be trolling at 2.25knots to 2.75knots to make the dead bait swim properly when mounted on a savage gear skull mounts and if it starts spinning add more lead under need it
2 you are searching for depths between 40ft and 80ft and any fish marking at that depths are likely to be trout
3 hunt the area that you find fish and when you see the fish rising up from the depths to about 25 feet you are in with a chance
4 dead baits about 20cm is spot on for ferox
5 you will have to add two to three one oz lead bullets up about your six to eight foot trace this will help you to get down to the depths the trout are feeding
6 put a stinger three-way hook in the dead bait tail
7 after landing a ferox remember they are coming up over thirty feet and they seem to get an air bubble in the stomach so when returning it try point the head about 18in above the water and push it throw the water like a torpedo. I know it sounds harsh but it is better than the fish swimming on the surface for ages