The angler was an old hand at this, reeling even faster to keep the deep sunk lure sending out its enticing vibrations, his intuition borne of long experience told him that his lure had tempted a fish from the shoal which was painting a dream picture across the face of his echo sounder.
Deep beneath the wind slicked sea, a predatory Pollack had sensed the fast moving Eddystone Eel, it's lateral line homing in on the flic-flac vibrations emitted by the lure's tail, until closing in on the lure, the fish's eyes picked out the dark red eel against the deep green overflow flooding over the rusting hulk.
Instinctively the Pollack attacked and engulfed the lure before another fish from the shoal could compete for it. The 12 pound class rod heeled over as the angler tucked the butt under his arm, his other hand skilfully altering the setting of the clutch to it's pre-set stop as the fish bored ever deeper, back toward the sanctuary offered by the rusting plates of the deep sunk hulk.
The fight began in earnest when the angler shifted the rod position to begin the patient line recovery, lifting the rod slowly against the weight of the fish, then reeling swiftly to recover line on the down stroke, lifting the fish rod length after rod length toward the surface. Time and again the line so patiently recovered was stripped from the reel as the fish fought to return to the dark sanctuary of the deep water. Eventually the angler's painstaking skill was rewarded when the Skipper dipped his big stainless steel rimmed net under the fish and a moment later an ecstatic angler hefted his superbly conditioned 18lb Pollack in gleeful triumph.
Although the end-of-year temperature had not yet dipped to frost level, Winter had arrived!!
It is through the late autumnal months and early winter that these wonderful sporting fish are in top condition when they pack on weight by chasing the last of the sandeel shoals and heavily predate the prolific sprat, pilchard, herring and mackerel shoals, packing on oil rich weight to withstand the rigors of the winter months and their cold water breeding cycle.
The Pollack of the cold months are fish in prime condition which will soon find any weaknesses or inferiority in your tackle. The most sporting tackle for these hard running fish is a 12 lb class rod such as the excellent Daiwa Powerlift 12 matched with the simple but robust SL 175H multiplier reel. If you feel the need for a more upmarket outfit look seriously at the Shimano Calcutta reels and perhaps an Interline 12 rod. These 12lb class outfits are specialist outfits designed for the experienced angler who would use them almost exclusively for Bass and Pollack fishing.
A good 20lb class outfit is a more general purpose set of gear which can be used for other purposes as well. If you are not experienced at fishing light tackle and are fishing a charter boat with a full complement of anglers then the 20lb class outfit should be your choice for the trip.
Whatever your choice of tackle, several days before the trip check out that rollers roll, that you have no chipped or scored rod rings, that your reel is fully functioning, oiled and greased. Particularly check out your line, re-load your reel with new line if necessary, this is a good time of year to do it.
Rigging the running trace or "flowing trace" as it is sometimes known is simplicity itself. Slide a boom onto your mainline, then a plastic bead and tie off to a size 10 swivel. The leader can be anything between five and twenty five feet long depending on the conditions, how many there are of you fishing, strength of the tide and so on. After a lifetime of this style of fishing I have come to the conclusion that 10 to 12 feet leader length is long enough, especially when wreck fishing with artificial eels such as the Eddystone.
A useful tip is to insert another swivel about two feet up from the lure or hook to help prevent any tangles to the leader. The leader line from that swivel to the lure should be at least 20lb breaking strain. The Pollack or Coalfish does not have big sharp teeth but what they do have is a set of small highly abrasive munchers capable of gripping a slippery mackerel or sandeel. These highly abrasive little teeth can abrade light line very quickly. So after you have landed a fish slide your fingers down the leader to check on its condition, if it feels rough, change it!
Fishing the Eel.
Fishing artificial eels is simple keep them on the move all the time, their attraction is not that they look like fish or feel like fish but that their highly mobile tails give off vibrations which must be similar to an escaping baitfish. These tails do not vibrate if they are left static.
Before dropping away, flip the eel outwards and wait till the full length of the leader is extended in the tide, then drop away, regulating the speed of the drop to avoid the leader tangling back around the main line. This is where a good long boom earns its keep.
After the rig has tapped the bottom commence a fairly brisk retrieve, often up to fifty turns of the reel handle. Then drop the gear away again, tap the bottom and retrieve so that your lure swims up through the cloud of fish that hangs in the faster water over the wreck. If you feel a pluck on your lure don't stop winding or slow down, keep it moving. Nine times out of ten the fish will follow and take the lure.
The first indication that you get of the take is when your rod suddenly heels over and line starts to peel from your reel, that is if you have set the clutch correctly to about one third the breaking strain of the line. Keep cool, let the fish run, it is very rare that they make it back to the wreck against the pressure which you are exerting on it. Pump the rod to regain line, lift the rod high and reel on the down stroke to recover line. Once you start this pumping action, keep it going to keep the fish looking up the line. While it is looking up the line it cannot dive, slack line allows the fish to turn and use the full power of its tail and fins to dive against the opposing force of your rod and reel.
Survival in the cold.
Fishing deep water wrecks in the Winter months for these magnificent fish impose a set of survival rules which you ignore at your peril. Once cold on a small boat it is almost impossible to get warm again, so the simple rule is, don't get cold in the first place. During the Winter months a floatation suit will keep you snug, warm and well insulated from the cold as well as the often underestimated effects of the "wind-chill factor". Make the float suit a "must have" item if you want to fish the deep water wrecks in winter.
A one piece coverall suit makes the most sense for winter fishing although a two piece salopette and jacket is the choice of many anglers as good all year round suit. If you do decide to go for the jacket and salopette option, ensure that the trousers are not buoyant and that all the floatation is in the jacket. The Marinepool Jacket and salopette suit is excellent.
So how should you prepare for a Winters day afloat? First, and I make no excuses for repeating myself, buy a float suit it will make your day afloat so much more pleasant. Secondly, get yourself a good pair of sea boots and thermal socks. The best sea boots are the Douglas Gill or the very similar boots sold by Veal's Mail Order called the "Yachting non slip boots". These boots will give a good grip on wet decks and worn with woollen thermal or neoprene socks will keep your feet as warm as toast.
It has been said that a large proportion of body heat lost is through the head and, if you are as thin on top as I am, it is not difficult to believe, so wear a hat. The old fashioned knitted skull cap is not as fashionable as a trendy "billfish" cap, but when it gets windy or you want to use the hood on the float suit, the knitted cap is warm and comfortable, so many anglers often have one lurking in the bottom of their tackle bag.
Sufficient food and drink are essential to well being and warmth in cold weather. One justifiable instance where the diet can take a hike. Mars bars, chocolate biscuits, Crunchies or whatever you fancy. Plenty of tasty sandwiches and if the Skipper is always boiling a kettle for tea, take a couple of pot noodles which with a splash of hot water will give a hot, nourishing snack which is surprisingly tasty. Make sure you have an eating iron!
Winter fishing on the deep water wrecks for these magnificent fish is always a gamble with the wind and weather, but it is truly a unique angling experience.
Enjoy the day, keep warm and comfortable, take your best kit and tie your best knots to avoid the sorry story about the "one that got away". Keep the faith!!