Top Tope title taken by Carrickfergus angler

Albert Lennox lands the competition record at the Rathmullan Tope Festival. INCT 23-701-CON
Albert Lennox lands the competition record at the Rathmullan Tope Festival. INCT 23-701-CON

A record-breaking Carrickfergus angler has landed another prize catch and has an eye on a possibly even bigger one.

Albert Lennox caught a tope weighing just over 45lbs at this year’s Rathmullan Tope Festival in County Donegal. In the process, he broke a record which has stood for four decades.

Albert with the large skate he caught on a previous trip. INCT 23-702-CON

Albert with the large skate he caught on a previous trip. INCT 23-702-CON

“This fish was 45.1lb and is the heaviest tope ever caught in the competition which has been running 49 years. The last tope caught just over 40lb was by a German 40 years ago,” Albert told the TIMES.

He was fishing between Dunaff Head and Malin Head in a vessel skippered by Trevor Ryder, a marine biologist, when every angler’s dream started to come true.

“I was using a full mackerel as bait. It took about 10-12 minutes to get it up from the bottom and another 10 to get it into the boat.”

A “soft rope” was used to bring the tope on board where the all-important measurement was recorded at 56 inches nose to the fork in the tail before the fish was returned to the water.

The catch is now expected go forward to the Irish Specimen Fish Committee for verification as a record.

For Albert, a retired businessman, it is a long way from his earliest days as a seven-year-old enthusiast at Carrickfergus harbour fishing “with a bent bin and a piece of black thread” in pursuit of tiddlers.

Since then his passion for the sport has taken him to Gran Canaria and the Azores in search of the so-far elusive blue marlin and Norway where a six-plaice haul - the most by one angler - was another notable success.

He also holds the record for Belfast Lough with a 28lb cod off the coast of Whitehead during a routine trip in August 1972.

However, the waters of Lough Swilly and beyond have provided especially rich pickings for Albert, a member of Donegal Angling Club, with a 125lb skate in June 2010 another outstanding achievement.

And once Albert learns if his tope is tops, don’t rule out a more determined tilt at the marlin title.