Shore pollack fishing with artificial lures through the summer and autumn time is fast catching up and is becoming almost a cult thing, much as bass fishing did back in the mid 1960's. Anglers are looking for lighter tackle thrills more and more nowadays and pollack off the shore fight hard. They also seek more variety of fishing tactics than boring old ledger fishing, and not least there's the dramatic scenery that is indicative of pollack country adding to the adventure and serenity that fishing is all about.
POLLACK COUNTRY You'll see writers refer to pollack when pier fishing. Forget it! Look to the wild rocky cliff country of Devon, Cornwall, Wales, west coast of Scotland and the Irish west coast.
In these places are jagged cliffs falling almost vertical to the tide line, sea-scarred headlands defiantly forcing their way westwards, and fallen scree a remnant of aeons of erosion. The rocks fall in to deep water topped by white crested waves and the wind will be warm in your face and smell pure. This is pollack country!
You need to identify safe areas where you can access the sea at water level. These are often just outcrops of rock amongst the cliffs, the ends of small headlands and the edges of bays.
The ground you'll be fishing over will be rock, uplifting peaks, weed beds and scattered sharp edged rocks that once stood proudly part of those cliffs behind you. This ground will eat your tackle with a voracious appetite, but fear not, quality fish will repay your losses.
GO WALKABOUT To get the best from shore pollack fishing, you need to be mobile carrying a minimum of kit to slow you down and make the descent and ascent of rocks as easy as possible.
Consider only true climbing boots with tough non-slip soles and hard toe caps. The boots need to support and protect the ankle. Boots with soft uppers and minimal ankle support can see you with twisted ankles should you slip and jam your foot in a crack. Other clothing can be chosen to suit the days conditions, but it keep it light and manoeuvrable.
Also essential are polarised sunglasses, the amber lens colour being best for low light saltwater work, and a peak baseball cap or similar.
Tackle is best carried in a batman style utility belt around the waist. Both Daiwa and Shakespeare do these. Alternatively, a small rucksack is good
Suitably attired, you now choose a section of coastline and just follow the sheep paths locating accessible rock as you go. This allows you to cover the maximum number of fish, and also enables you to locate pockets of fish that are willing to feed when others refuse to.
TACKLE AND LURES Even though you're fishing the open sea marks you don't need heavy tackle. Rods need to be between 10-feet and 11-feet and a medium fast action, slightly forgiving in the tip but with power coming quickly in the mid section and butt. This extra length serves two main purposes. Firstly, a longish rod gives you a good action to cushion the sudden dives that pollack typically use in their fight tactics, but with plenty of power in the butt end to put pressure on them when they turn and dart for snags.
The longer length also helps you to punch lures further out in to head on winds. They allow line to be picked up quickly when you need to lift to tighten against a taking fish, plus you have some control over the fish when they come close to the rock prior to landing.
Only use fixed-spool reels for this type of fishing. They allow long casts with the minimum of back swing when fishing awkward places tight up against a rock face, plus have a rapid retrieve rate allowing the lure to be "paced" to suit the fish's taking mood.
Line needs to be between 10lbs and 12lbs breaking strain. I use 12lb line as it casts far enough to work plenty of water, casts well with light 1oz and 2oz bombs, but most importantly gives me something to fight back with when a pollack over 6lbs grabs the lure and heads for the bottom at full speed. Just dropping to 10lb line can cost you fish to breakage's. I only use clear mono lines too.
Pollack will take all manner of lures. Chrome silver spinners like the Dexter Wedge, ABU Toby and Landa Herri are excellent in 1oz (28gm) and 2oz sizes (50gm), but press the barbs on the hooks flat to aid both penetration and removal.
The best are artificial sandeel representations like Redgills and Eddystone eels, or Mr Twister type jellyworms. The best sizes overall are the smaller 112mm ones. Carry black, red, yellow and white, but the black and white are the main killers. Fish the white by day and the black at dusk and dawn.
I've also had a lot of success with the small Shad type rubber imitation fish between 3-inches 7.5cm) and 4-inches (10cm) long. These often fish well in the middle of the day and slack water when small fish are active around the seabed.
To rig a Redgill, Mr Twister or Shad is easy. Tie a three-way swivel to your main reel line. To the middle eye of the three way clip on a Mustad 2/0 oval split ring which takes the lead weight. To the last eye, add a hook trace about 36-inches 90cms) long from clear 15lb mono. With the Redgill added, this will cast cleanly without tangling too much and present the eel in a natural manner.
It pays to replace the hooks that come with Redgills and other artificial eels with an Aberdeen or Viking pattern size 1/0 or 2/0. These are from a finer wire gauge than the supplied hooks and will penetrate better, plus they may straighten out when heavy pressure is applied if you get snagged and need to pull directly on the main line for a break.
Mr Twister jellyworms can also be used with a lead-head. These tend to fish with the hook point facing upwards and can reduce the risk of the lure snagging. You can increase your hit rate by painting the lead-heads in yellow and red, then painting in an eye. Pollack, as all predators do, seem to hit a lure harder if there is an eye looking back at them. A sobering thought!
WEATHER & TIDES Don't be mistaken in thinking that pollack will feed anytime. They are fickle, totally disinterested much of the time in the offerings you put before them. But a switch in tide flow or power, a change of wind, or a drop in light levels is all it takes to switch them on to a feeding frenzy.
You need good clarity in the water for the pollack to see the lures you offer, so avoid fishing just after storms or long periods of unsettled weather. Try to go just as a calm spell of high pressure is settling in, and just prior to it breaking up. The latter conditions can be especially good.
A light wind is best coming from the sea. Wind off the land is less good producing very flat seas which can put the pollack off their food for a while leaving them lethargic.
Pollack hunt prey fish from below using the surface light to silhouette a potential kill. Bright sunlight defeats the object allowing too much light to filter through the surface. Patchy cloud or a light overcast sky is better, even drizzle cloud enables a good target to be seen by the prowling pollack.
They are especially active at both dusk and dawn. Dusk especially, can be a real feeding festival for the fish as they work in to the surface layers balling up sandeel shoals.
Pollack dislike fast tides and will seek the shelter of rocks, reefs and headlands, or sink tight to the seabed while the main tidal flow is pushing through. Expect the main action to come the two hours either side of slack water. Note I said "slack water" as the high tide time predicted in your tide tables might not be the same as actually occurs in these rocky areas. Tides flow around this type of ground feature in strange ways, first west to east, then suddenly east to west, even though there has been no tidal change out to sea. It's all a matter of currents around headlands and other major structures.
Pollack feed longer during smaller neap tides than they do through a big spring tide. Try to plan your trips around the smaller neaps, but experiment with the medium to big spring tides. Often you'll locate pockets of fish that are protected from the full flow of big tides and you can still make a good catch. The same areas will produce time after time for you once found.
TACTICS When assessing your rock mark, get into the habit of starting your casts to one side, left or right, and then each cast is brought a little further round until a full casting arc has been completed. This means you fully cover all the water in front of you and will put a lure across every possible holding place where pollack may be laying.
Make your casts as long as possible, count down slowly as the lure sinks until you feel the "bump" as the weight hits the seabed. Next cast, count two times fewer and a slow retrieve will bring the lure upwards at a shallow angle just off the seabed.
You need to pause occasionally to maintain the depth of the lure by letting it sink back down a few feet. This does cost snagged up lures, but then you need to be fishing the lure where the fish are holding up, not 5-metres above them.
When a pollack takes a lure it is surprisingly gentle. You'll feel a slight tightening of the line, it's important to continue retrieving, at all costs do not stop or the pollack may spit the lure. Once the fish is hooked and the line comes tight the pollack will turn and dive for the nearest cover. You need your clutch set to put heavy pressure on the fish, but it still needs to be light enough to allow line off the reel to avoid a breakage.
The fish will try and run several times if it's over a couple of pounds, initially at the beginning, a couple of times in mid fight, then one last ditch effort when nearing your feet. Be vigilant, more pollack are lost on the initial run than at any other time. Give them just enough line, but try to hold them hard to keep them away from the snags.
SAFETY Never fish alone on these marks, always with a friend. Make sure people at home know exactly where you are and your expected time of return. Mobile phones are a good idea in case of an accident but often reception signals can be bad in these wild places and they cannot be replied upon.
Never fish when there is a big swell coming directly on the rocks. Anglers are washed off in such conditions every year. Also be aware of slippy rocks and make sure you have easy access off during rain showers. In short, apply common sense.