Pollack fishing is so simple and exciting that you will wonder why you haven't tried it before. All you need is a powerful 10ft-spinning rod, quality fixed-spool reel, softie lure and deep water. Henry Gilbey gets fired up as the pollack attack right at his feet
KNEE JOINTS PROTEST as you naturally brake against the steep downward slope, but way below twinkles bright blue water, swirling invitingly with white-tinged edges as it laps against the rocky platforms.
Carrying nothing more than a spinning rod, fixed-spool reel and with a small rucksack strapped to your back, you can swiftly but carefully negotiate the cliff path down to the water.
Tying on your favourite lure, you cast it out over the tumbling ocean in front of you. Allow the lure to sink a few seconds, snap the reel's bale-arm back and begin the retrieve. That's when the magic begins.
Every natural sense is actively charged in anticipation of a hit, but steal yourself to keep casting and retrieving, searching out different areas and, of course, don't ignore the water right beneath your feet.
Third cast and you can see what looks like a good pollack dart out at your lure seconds before you lift it to cast again, but in a millisecond it is gone in a flash of aggression.
Cast out again and retrieve through the same bit of water and this time you can actually see the pollack dart out and pounce upon your lure. Can I see a big smile break out across your face?
Is there anything like light-tackle, pure rock-edge spinning to heighten the senses? Roaming the rocks with minimum gear is one of the most exciting ways of fishing ever invented and, as luck would have it, we have truck loads round the British and Irish coastline.
Nothing beats fishing outside the comfort zone. While a vast army of anglers test their skills with long powerful rods, big lead weights and expensive strings of bait, there is a lighter, more nomadic way of fishing.
Granted, not everyone has easy access to the mobile rock-edge fishing I am talking about, but there is growing interest in travelling the coast looking for new places to fish. Holidays obviously open new doors and new challenges, and with no fresh bait supply worries you can fish where and when you like.
The type of sport I am talking about doesn't have to be all about big fish either. I am trying to put across to you the chance to get among some high-adrenaline, heartpumping, light-tackle fishing where the rod bends over alarmingly as a wild fish tries to break it!
Treat pollack as a prize
THE pollack is a humble fish, overshadowed by more illustrious species like bass and cod, but to my mind it deserves more credit as a sporting adversary.
While cold weather cod fishing is part of our shore fishing heritage, with bass adding that fillip when they strike out of the blue like a bully mugging an old lady for her purse, the pollack is always there for you and the fireworks are guaranteed.
Time they are a-changing, of course, and anglers who have got the T-shirt for the biggest and most of everything are looking for new avenues to explore.
That's why more anglers are going down the light-tackle road and finding that while the fish they hook often aren't monsters, boy do they fight on more delicate gear.
Granted, it is not subtle fishing. The only thing to remember is to open the bale-arm of the reel before you cast and wind in at varying speeds. That's all you need to remember. The rest is free fun.
Sometimes I think we can forget that going fishing is all about having fun. While fishing seems to become more and more technical, it really needs to become simpler. The lighter I travel and the further I can fish from the well-trodden paths the better.
Rock-edge, light-tackle fishing is more about a state of mind than concerning yourself with endless rigs and competitions. If the idea of walking miles and miles in search of good marks fills you with dread, then this fishing is not for you.
If you like to fish with lots of people in a competitive environment and want no change from that, no problem, but if you are beginning to take in interest in what I am talking about here, then have a go.
It is incredible to watch anglers finding out for the first time that rods can actually bend when fish are on, that some species can actually demand line from the reel and that there is a whole new world outside the traditional beach fishing scene that is waiting to be explored and enjoyed.
Where and tackle
THINK hard about where you will be fishing and that will be a clue to the type of tackle you should be using.
Forget about the need to fish seriously deep water and don't be afraid to cast and fish right beneath your feet at times. You will be surprised how close to the rocks a pollack will smack into your lure.
Everyone has heard about the legendary pollack fishing to be had around the Irish coastline, but you don't have to cross the water to enjoy the sort of sport I am talking about here.
A lot of west-facing coastlines hold pollack, including Devon, Cornwall, Wales and Scotland, plus numerous other rocky areas where there is some run of tide and life to the water.
The pollack lives and hunts around rocky ground where there is good weed cover, and they can be perfectly happy to run up gullies and inlets to hunt their prey. While summer is generally the most prolific time to hunt these fish, in fact the really big pollack tend to be caught in late spring and early autumn.
Every area fishes slightly differently, but you can't go far wrong if you chose to fish a flooding medium-sized tide when the sea is relatively calm and there's safe to access to the marks. Whatever the state of the tide, pollack often go on a feeding frenzy during the last hour of daylight, when the sun is not shining directly on the water.
I have yet to see it, but some anglers tell me of late season pollack being willing to hit surface lures. The sight of a good fish charging from nowhere and hitting your lure has got to be an angling high.
There's no need to carry more than one rod and reel; this is all about travelling light and staying mobile.
Leave those rod bags, tripods and shelters at home, and enjoy the fishing. I tend to favour powerful 9ft to 10ft spinning rods rated to cast up to about 100g. While I'm not going to cast a lure that weighs around 4oz, I am after a rod with backbone that can deal with a crash-diving fish.
Long carp rods don't find favour with me and I'm currently playing around with the Greys G-Series Spin 9ft 60-100g and their GRXi Spin 9ft 30-100g, which seem to do the job perfectly.
Fixed-spools work perfectly and I look to a 5000-size reel to give me line capacity and overall strength. I am only interested in very good line-lay, ultra-smoothness and a powerful, non-sticking drag.
Shimano make top end reels and models like their Baitrunners and Technium FA are just about perfect and will provide many years of trouble-free service.
I'm not entirely decided on whether I prefer braid or mono mainline; I like the directness and feel of braid, but still a big part of me really wants the stretch and abrasion resistance of mono.
I tend to use 15lb red Sufix Tritanium mono or 30lb Sufix Matrix Pro braid with a 30lb clear mono leader direct to the lure.
What lure on the line?
WHATEVER I say is open to debate. Old fashioned spinners, bars and spoons are always going to work, but small Stormtype shads and all manner of jellyworms, used with a 2oz ball lead, size 3/0 hook and short 30lb trace, will work Every lure angler has a personal favourite, but do accept that you will lose lures when fishing over rough ground. Make the lure work hard and cover as much ground at as many different depths as possible and if you get hit hard, hang on for dear life... and smile.
Spring and summer are prime times to catch pollack from the shore, and here's a brief insight into four great tactics to try to ensure you catch one of these stunning and very tasty fish...
Look at a pollack's huge eyes and large protruding mouth and you can see it's built to catch live fish in the darkness of the kelp forest among rock and reef.
Despite being a close relative of the cod, the pollack is a far more mobile predator that hunts at all water levels. Like codling, immature pollack frequent the inshore early in their life; they prefer harbours and pier walls and survive on a diet of worm, shellfish and small fish.
It is only when the food source inshore cannot sustain their increasing growth rate that they turn to the open deep sea for the larger prey, switching exclusively to fish.
Rarely caught by accident, pollack only occasionally take bottom-fished baits. Their pelagic lifestyle as an ambush predator and occasional scavenger sees them avoid the open sea bed and they always shoal around a feature. From the shore it can be a pier or breakwater wall or a cliff edge, but in deeper water those reef edges, pinnacles and the thousands of wrecks are their main haunts.
A shore pollack will rarely be bigger than 4lb; most are under 2lb with shoals often localised to a particular venue where they are not always caught because anglers don't fish for them. From many remote rock marks, especially in Ireland, bigger fish are found close to shore, often taking up temporary residence to exploit any marine-rich kelp and cliff pinnacle edges.
Catching pollack involves a number of different angling techniques, which range from spinning to freelining. Tackle and baits vary between boat and shore, although the basics are similar.
Chasing pollack can see you fishing some stunning rocky outcrops.
From many rock marks spinning is the most successful method to catch pollack. They will take most of the slimline, silver or copper lures that resemble a large or small sandeel.
Essential to the method is a steady retrieve of the lure because pollack will shy away from a lure that is retrieved jerkily, bass style. Artificial eels, Scallywags, jellyworms and Bandits are the most successful of the pollack lures, while a fresh or frozen sandeel is more deadly for large pollack.
Pollack, unlike bass, do not shy away from a lure presented close to a lead weight, due undoubtedly to their ambush, eat and retreat tactic. They do not inspect their prey closely like the bass.
This makes fishing a light lure, like an artificial eel, far easier because you can add a lead weight in the line in front of the lure to aid casting and this will not put off the fish.
Modern self-weighted shads are proving a big advantage for this method. Fish the lure or frozen sandeel on a trace of two to three feet or more. However, pollack will get wise to the same lure passing them regularly, so keep on the move when spinning, therefore covering different ground, and change the lure colour or type.
Spinning a fresh or frozen sandeel is a deadly way to catch pollack. Thread the sandeel head first on a size 2/0 Aberdeen hook and secure it with a half hitch in the snood line around the snout of the sandeel. Cast and retrieve the eel very slowly as close to the kelp and rock as you can. Takes are often at the last moment as you lift the eel up the side of rocks.
Similar tactics are employed from a boat, but generally only with lures which are dropped as close to wreck or reef as possible and then retrieved at a steady rate.
Pollack commonly haunt the upper areas of a wreck, its superstructure and mast wires and often close to the surface, so reel almost to the top as takes can come late.
One of the most effective and fun methods to catch pollack is using a freelined head-hooked wriggling king ragworm or a sandeel.
Using a spinning-type rig, add lead if needed although often the weight of a swivel is sufficient for this method. Use the tide and allow the bait to drift back at the speed of the current and sink as it does so.
This method lends itself to groundbaiting with sections of a ragworm or sandeel.
Alternatively, you can freeline or spin with a head-hooked live king ragworm and this can prove more effective than with a lure from many rock marks. The method is to retrieve the worm slowly and then allow it to sink before you retrieve again. Give the fish time to take the bait because striking too quickly means a fish will bite off the tail.
Alan Yates with a fine pollack he caught while freelining a sandeel.
What is known as the ballcock method is a way for fishing for big pollack from steep cliff marks over kelp tangles where the fish can dive into the kelp for safety.
A bottom rod is cast out with a leadhead weight incorporating a hook and then a large float is slid down the line.
From the float the bait can be fished up to 12ft or deeper; in many cases the depth you fish is crucial bearing in mind the ever changing tide and depth.
A pollack taking the bait is prevented from diving back to the kelp by the large float.
You can also fish this method with a smaller float or with a sliding float fixed directly to the mainline, but a pollack is powerful and can quickly retreat to the kelp.
A similar method is a slider without a float. Use an American snap link to connect a short trace, with or without lead, and a hook baited with a ragworm to your mainline.
Allow it to slide down the line. Be fussy with the weight of lead added because this will affect the rig's rate of descent to the sea bed.
Wessex Angling's Simon Barber with a typical float rig for catching pollack.
Smaller pollack that frequent harbour arms and breakwaters can be fun to catch on a light rod with a long, light monofilament paternoster with hooks baited with head-hooked white rag, mud rag of small king rag and allowed to drift back in the tide among pier piles and stanchions.
On walled piers, French booms and a slightly heavier outfit can be used to fish ragworms just off the sea bed or alongside the wall in the tide. The depth the baits are fished is crucial, which is why the booms are spread wide apart with the overall trace length of 12ft essential to the method.
A special rod-rest to hold the rod tip out from the wall or piles is used by many anglers with baits carefully and deliberately raised and lowered to tempt fish to take the bait but to discover the feeding depth of the fish.
Chris Clark caught this rock-edge pollack on a ragworm.
● Pollack take advantage of tidal movement to feed, as well as waiting for food to pass them, so a mobile approach by the angler and moving the bait is essential.
● Allow pollack time to take the bait because they often nip at the tail of a ragworm or lure.
● Spinning and freelining rods chosen for rock fishing are often too light. Beware, especially in Ireland, because a 5lb pollack can make a mockery of a carp rod among the kelp. A light (bass) beachcaster is the best choice.
● Pollack shy away from the same lure if it is dragged past them too many times. Fan out your casts to probe every angle and depth and then move to the next cliff ledge.
● Pollack are a delicate species and because they wriggle violently when handled are prone to fatal damage if dropped. Fish to be returned should be handled with care in a wet cloth or landing net.
● From piers, pollack often frequent the level where weed grows off the wall. Finding the productive level is a secret to success.
● Fishing for pollack from piers at night is more successful near or on the surface.
● The pollack's initial run to cover after taking the bait is powerful, so make sure you can operate your reel's drag. After that their stamina is limited.
● The minimum size for Pollack is 30cm.
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