An Irish Anglers World

Jelly Worms for Shore Pollack.

The boy sat on Killiney beach his solid glass boat rod and fixed spool reel gripped firmly, a finger crooked around the taught line, waiting. Fifty metres to the right a man equipped with state of the art surf casting gear was sending baits to the horizon, every so often reeling in a wrasse. Late afternoon on a balmy day, a grey haze and a flat calm sea, the boy looks into his Jacobs biscuit tin at the last of his bait. Reeling in he threads his last lugworm and a few tail bits onto the 4/0 hook, before heaving the six ounce lead and accompanying morsel forty meters out.

The neighbouring angler reels in another wrasse and the boy feels a tinge of envy. He concentrates all the more tensioning the line and willing a bite. Five minutes pass, a minute longer and then it’s time to go. Ah well, he stands up pulling the lead towards him as he commences to reel. BANG, the rod heaves forward and the now tight line moves to the left. A fish and a good one, now moving to the right it chucks and chucks. The boy starts to walk backwards up the beach and calls to his neighbour, I’ve got one, I’ve got one!

A cracking West Cork, Ireland, shore pollack.

Running across the shingle the man arrives just as the big eyed, dark green backed, copper sided, handsome fish cleared the waterline. Dropping his rod the boy ran down and lifted the prize, a pollack close to four pounds, his first shore caught fish. Beaming he looked at the man, “well done son, your Ma will be pleased with that, it’s one for the pot”. With that the angler returned to his beach caster the boy hurriedly packing up his few bits before heading to the steps and home.

Still vivid after 37 years that pollack and the manner of its capture highlights a significant trait common to the species, which is that pollack are attracted to a moving bait or lure. Not until the lugworm bait was moved did the fish strike, that it happened on the last cast with the last remnants of bait is what fishy stories are made of. From that day to this pollack are a favourite sport fish of mine, whether from boat or shore the first hit and power dive of a good pollack still thrills.

Typical shore pollack gear.

Pollack (Pollachius pollachius) are distributed all around the coast of Ireland with the largest concentrations in the west and south west. A fish synonymous with inshore reefs they first appear in April and are well established by May. Lovers of high rock and heavy kelp their favourite haunts are headlands especially those giving access to deep water, pinnacle rocks rising to or close to the surface, offshore wrecks, and reefs. Found in depths from a couple to twenty fathoms plus, pollack move offshore to spawn from February to May before returning to their inshore haunts. Juvenile pollack are found around harbours, jetties, and rocky shores migrating to deeper water in their second winter.

Pollack are a powerful predatory fish with a big appetite, members of the cod family in colouration they are bottle green/brown merging to burnished copper, possessing an angular head, a dark lateral line and big eyes. The most distinguishing and relevant feature though being its jutting lower jaw. The pollack attacks prey from below watching for their silhouette and rushing up from the depths to engulf, before flicking its tail and swimming back down to its lair, the protruding lower jaw enabling this particular feeding process.

Jelly worm brands for shore pollacking.

Small fish, sprat, herring and fry constitute the bulk of what pollack eat, but in the early season they will target marine ragworms which swim up through the water to spawn. Spinners, spoons, rubber eels, eddystone and red gill eels, and the now myriad range of soft plastics and shads all attract pollack. Equally, fresh or frozen sandeel especially as the season progresses, so take your pick. That said, I almost exclusively now use jelly worms for shore pollacking and catch my fair share throughout the season.

Pollack do not like bright sunshine and take best at first and especially last light often called pollack light. Dark dull days can be good especially if combined with a deep water mark, my experience and diaries though put mid day to late afternoon as a time better spent chasing other fish such as wrasse rather than concentrating on pollack. Ideally choose a rock mark that shelves steeply into deep water, some of the shore marks that I fish require a count of twenty plus seconds before a 60 gram (2.oz) lead hits bottom. Pollack frequenting these deep shore locations run big averaging 3 – 4.lbs with always the likelihood of a real rod bender snaffling the lure. Certainly 6 – 8 lb fish can be expected at any time during a session.

A lunker Wext Cork, Ireland, shore pollack.

For jelly worming I use a ten foot pike spinning rod matched with a 4000 size Shimano fixed spool reel loaded with maxima or braid. The business end comprises a 2/0 B940 Kamasan Aberdeen attached to 6 feet of Amnesia 6.8 kg connected to a size 8 swivel. Thread a 60 gram barrel lead up the reel line followed by a bead before tying to the prepared hook link. Now choose a jelly worm, push the hook through the head, ease around the bend and work up the shank to the hook eye. Straighten up the worm so the hook point, barb, and bend are exposed and you are ready to go.

Choose a location such as an exposed headland off the beaten track with access to deep water close in, there are many on the west Cork, Kerry, Clare, and Donegal coastlines. Don’t be silly and only venture out in settled weather for the Atlantic is not to be messed with, rogue waves can appear at any time even on calm days. Set up well above the tide line and always keep a weather eye open when fishing, donning a life jacket isn’t a bad idea. Cast out 60 – 70 meters and let the rig sink all the way to the bottom which will be indicated by a slackening of the reel line and a bump sensation. Immediately commence winding very slowly, imagine the jelly worm sweeping down, around, and starting to swim slowly up from the sea bed, very enticing for a pollack.

Shore pollack rig.

Continue to wind slowly and steadily, the life like wriggling of the jelly worms tail will attract pollack from below who will swim up to engage. The first sign is a feeling of weighty resistance and a bending of the rod tip. Keep reeling and in no circumstance strike, the pollack is working its way up the lure only holding on to the tail, remember the jutting jaw. Having engulfed the worm pollack will turn and crash dive towards the kelp, lean back and hold on, your reel will scream, try to control the dive stopping the fish from entering the weed below. If successful, pollack and angler will commence a battle punctuated by sideways runs and lesser dives in open water until the fish is netted. When they are on sport can be frenetic with almost a fish a chuck, quality shore angling and no mistake.

Fresh out of the water pollack are a handsome fish but need to be handled carefully. Coming from deep they are prone to the bends, and also having given their all in battle, are weak. If photographing have the composition planned out prior and take it quick, then release by placing your fish in the water, not throwing from a height.

Shore caught Beara Peninsula pollack for Roger Ball.

Pollack are a true sport fish still present in good numbers around Ireland’s coastline. Powerful, on balanced tackle they are a worthy quarry found in the most spectacular of locations. The best marks are always out of the way so travel light, wear the hiking boots and bring a small rucksack to carry your gear. You will need to have a head for heights, be reasonably fit and posses good coordination, because the best marks always involve a climb. Tell people where you are going and an approximate return time, as mobile coverage is limited in some of these areas. If new to the sport thrill at the strength of these fish, 37 years on and with many a crash dive under my belt I still do.

Marks suitable for jelly worming pollack invariably are home to wrasse as well, giving access also to spinning and float fishing opportunities for mackerel, scad, garfish, coalfish, and mullet. Conger can frequent the bottom along with possibly ling and bull huss. So if time is not of the essence why not make a day of it by planning and organising a species hunt, tight lines….

For further reading, click on: Pollack a Plenty and Rock Hopping for Pollack and Bull Huss.

Ashley Hayden © June 2011