Welsh boat ‘Seawitch’ has won the Rosslare Small Boats Festival for the first time — and set a new record for the event with 34 species landed.
Seawitch beat 34 other boats with 105 anglers from across England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Wight at the 34th edition of the festival, which took place from 6-14 September.
Sponsored by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), Garmin and Daiwa, and supported by Saltwater Boat Angling Magazine, the Rosslare Small Boats Festival is the most prestigious sea angling boat competition in Europe, generating in the region of €300,000 for the local Wexford economy in the off-peak tourist season.
Throughout the competition, favourable weather conditions and calm seas enabled the anglers to fish without restrictions.
This resulted in 42 species being landed across the fleet, including some rarely seen by the public such as black bream, red mullet, spotted ray and gurnards.
At the end of a close competition, which saw many boats neck and neck throughout the week, Welsh boat Seawitch came out on top after the final fishing day.
Crewed by Rob Shefford, Gareth Protheroe and Arthur Beechey, the boat took first place at the competition with 34 species for 13.67kg.
Second place went to the boat Shy Torque (Gavin Parker, Daniel Parker and Kevin Martland) from Merseyside in England with 33 species for 14.08kg. In third place was Irish Shamrock (Martin Kennedy, Pat Condon, Dan Lynch and Joe McPeske) with 32 species for 15.93kg.
Arthur Beechey from the winning boat won best specimen of the week with a red mullet of 0.48kg.
The heaviest fish was a bull huss of 5.8kg, caught by the boat Safelyduzit from Scotland, for which the crew received a cash prize and a perpetual trophy, sponsored by IFI.
The Ken Evason Memorial trophy for the biggest cod was won by the boat Uptide Girl whose crew caught a cod of 2.18kg.
And the Conningbeg Trophy for the longest bass of 56cm was won by John Meaning, aboard the boat Joe 90 from the Isle of Wight.
Successful conservation initiatives for marine species have been introduced to the competition. Many fish are now caught, photographed on IFI measuring mats and released by anglers at sea.
IFI officiated at the photographic identification of fish species, and also provided a marine fish tank for the purpose of displaying fish species that were caught and later released during the competition.
Staff from IFI were also on hand to share information with festival participants and the public about the fish species on offer from Kilmore Quay.
The prize-giving ceremony took place at the Coast Hotel on Rosslare Strand, where prizes included fishing equipment, cash prizes and engraved trophies.
Barry O’Connor, director of the National Strategy for Angling Development, presented the prizes and said: “I am delighted to attend the Rosslare Small Boats Festival for the first time and am very impressed with the high-quality angling and the dedication and obvious skill and knowledge displayed by all anglers who participated in the competition.
“I would like to congratulate all winners on their success at the 34th Rosslare Small Boats Festival, and would like to say a particular thank you to John Belger and his committee in the UK and Ireland for organising this fantastic competition.”
The event was supported by Kilmore Quay harbour master and staff at Wexford County Council.
Next year’s 35th Rosslare Small Boats Festival is scheduled for 4-11 September 2020.