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Common skate

fishing

Common skate taken off Baltimore
The common skate (Raja batis) is the largest of the skates and rays of western Europe, and one of the largest fish in our waters. Off Baltimore an average specimen weighs about 120 lbs (54 kg). Several skate near, and even over, the record weight of 221 lbs (100 kg) have been tagged and released here recently.

For anyone used to rays, common skate have some unexpected habits. Unlike rays they show a liking for rough ground, even pinnacle rock at times. This is probably because of the availability of large prey. Nonetheless, they frequently take quite small baits. An angler who expects to avoid an encounter with a barn-door skate by using a small bait can be in for a surprise.

The combination of a large running fish and rough ground necessitates heavy traces (preferably mono, knotted not crimped). Because the main line may come in contact with the skate's heavily armed tail, it is also advisable to use a rubbing leader of heavy mono above the weight.

Tackle gets tested to the limit by skate fishing. True, sometimes big skate are landed on relatively light gear, but generally this involves a lot of patience and invariably a degree of luck. Even on 50 lb class tackle an encounter with a big skate in 200 ft (60 m) of water is likely to be a protracted affair. A skate just below the surface can do a remarkably good imitation of still being glued to the bottom. This is when a tackle harness proves its worth.

The largest skate, say, over 150 lbs (68 kg), are usually female. They are often accompanied by a smaller male, recognisable by his long trailing claspers. So if one skate is hooked a second often follows in quick succession. Moreover, there are plenty of other good fish on the skate grounds — conger, ling, bull huss, sharks, etc — so skate fishing is not purely a waiting game.

Angler playing 230-pound common skate on Rooster

Skate can be found on the same marks right through the year. In fact, results from tagging show that individual skate may frequent an area for years on end. All the same, there can be periods, often after bad weather, when they seem to quit their usual hunting grounds.

The west of Ireland is one of the common skate's few remaining strongholds. Sadly, in most places it is not 'common' any more. A large skate may be as much as fifty years old. If you are lucky enough to catch one, please see it gets returned quickly and safely to the sea.

ABOVE: A SKATE OF ABOUT 170 LBS (77 KG ). THE FISH HAS BEEN TAGGED AND IS SITTING ON THE NET SLING USED TO WEIGH IT. AN IDEA OF SIZE CAN BE GOT FROM THE FOOT (TOP LEFT).
LEFT: PETE PERRY PLAYS A 230 (104 KG) LBS SKATE ON 25 LBS BRAID. THE CONTEST LASTED 2 HOURS
© Nick Dent 2005 Email nick@wreckfish.com Tel. +353-86-824 0642

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