Another advantage going for huss is that, compared to many other fish, they grow sizeable. Few huss weigh less than 5lbs and there are good numbers to 10lbs. If you're looking for a specimen, then think in terms of a 12lber as being a really good fish, but 15lb fish are not uncommon.
Although huss are taken in the English Channel around the Isle of Wight, the best huss country is where there are cliffs along the shoreline. This votes in the Devon and Cornish coast, west and north Wales, and the whole Scottish west coast as being the prime areas.
They care little what depth of water they swim in. I've caught huss in nearly three hundred feet of water, also in depths not much more than ten feet. That said, there will be more huss around if you're fishing in daylight if you find a depth exceeding 30ft under the keel.
Huss are not so weather conscious as other species. They feed well in most conditions. They do though, move around and hunt further during the smaller neap tides than during the bigger spring tides. Swimming a long way in strong tides burns up too much energy and then they tend to concentrate their feeding periods over big tides to short spells either side of low water slack over the offshore grounds.
Many of the best marks for huss are close inshore just out from the cliffs, but they are never localised and will be one of the dominant fish on offshore patches of rough ground, in amongst reef structure and even working the clean offshore sandbanks. They are adaptable, easy to please food wise, and capable swimmers. They are happy to scavenge food when it's scarce, but easily switch to true predator tactics when in amongst the rocks where they pounce on food they scare into making a dash for freedom.
That's where you start putting together your huss strategy. Think in terms of fishing reef and rough ground mainly. Aim to set the boat at anchor a little uptide of the structure and fish your baits back in to it. Huss have a phenomenal sense of smell and will locate your baits well downtide of you. They follow the scent trail back towards and this tactic can keep pulling in fish towards you as the scent from your baits continues to work further and further a field the longer you fish.
You can help matters further by adding small cubes of mackerel into the tide that will sink down to seabed level and increase the smell around the baits and downtide of them. Some anglers choose to add a groundbait can to the anchor. This helps, but can pull fish too far uptide of your baits and will limit the catch during periods of light tidal flow.
Exactly the same uptide anchoring tactic and loose feeding cubes of fish works on the sandbanks as well, but tends to pull in tope, rays and dogfish as well.
Even though huss are not choosy in their diet, they do love certain baits above others when dwelling on rough ground. Their real favourite is sandeel. A whole launce with the head and tail clipped off is excellent. Alternatively, take the backbone out of a couple of smaller sandeels to leave the juicy fillets attached to the head, then bind these around a whole small sandeel to make a big bait that's oozing juice. It's just as good.
They like combo baits too. Mackerel tipped with a big strip of squid works well, as will a whole small calamari squid. They'll take mackerel and herring okay on it's own, but not quite so readily as the sandeel or combo baits.
What really turns a huss on though, is something that is still alive and trying to escape. It's down to personal decision whether this is acceptable to you, or not. A small whiting, dab, joey mackerel or launce sandeel fished as a live bait hard on the seabed will get huss queuing up for a chance to dine. This is the method that picks out the bigger fish. Naturally, if you have the patience, then the bigger the live bait you use, the bigger the fish you are likely to catch. I've seen huss wolf down whiting near a pound in weight easily. Worth bearing in mind when targeting big huss.
The live baits need attaching simply by lip hooking in the top lip. In this way, they are free to move and work their gills, and stay alive and kicking for a long time.
I've refined my huss tackle over the years and fish as light as is sensible on the day. If you're working an area where there is a fast tide, then you should still be able to get away with an uptide rod and say 6ozs of lead. There is no real need for 30lb class tackle or heavier in most typical huss areas.
Better still, I drop down to a 12lb class outfit, small multiplier like an ABU 6500 or 7000 and line between 12lb and 16lbs, depending on the type of ground I'm fishing. Over the sandbanks where snags are non-existent, then I'll go down to a light spinning rod about 9ft long, small fixed spool reel and line between 8lbs and 10lbs. This really comes in to it's own during the slacker water periods as the tides are changing.
The best huss rig is a simple running ledger. I put a carp fishers link ledger bead on first to take the lead, then a bead to act as a buffer. Tie on a size 6 rolling swivel, and to this I add about 3 to 4ft of 35lb mono. I also like a shock leader to take the strain near the boat and to resist the abrasive hide of the huss. To main lines below 12lbs I use a 20lb leader. For heavier main lines I prefer a 40lb leader given that the tides will add weight to the fish close to the boat prior to lifting.
I deliberately left the hook out of the rig description. Out of all the fish we catch, more huss are lost due to a bad choice of hook than any other. Why? Huss have a very tough mouth that hooks find hard to penetrate. Also, the huss have a habit of holding on to baits without getting hooked, then let go of them when the surface light makes them feel insecure as they are being retrieved.
Using heavy wired hook patterns like O'Shaughnessy's that sport a huge knife-edge point and big barb aggravate this hook penetration problem. These take heavy rod pressure to make the point penetrate and prove too heavy to make proper contact in the tough jaw muscle and cartilage of a huss.
You need a hook that will penetrate easily with minimal line pressure. The hooks I favour are the Mustad Viking 79515 size 6/0, but really sharpen the point prior to fishing with a honing stone. Also the Mustad 3262 Aberdeen, again a 6/0 size. These are sharp with a needlepoint and small barb, so set well with limited line pressure.
Probably the best of all is the Varivas Big Mouth size 6/0. This hook has a wider throat than the other two and puts the hook point further away from the shank. This helps get a good hold, usually in the scissors or upper jaw and minimises deeply hooked huss making their return to the water alive after landing safer and simpler. All these patterns limit the chances of the huss holding the bait, then letting go resulting in the loss of the fish.
Huss bites almost feel like the fish are knocking on the door. It's a series of "bump, bump, bump" and a pause. Let the huss have a little free line to make sure the bait is in the mouth, then immediately the fish moves away strike hard several times to sink the hook point and start to retrieve the fish. Don't give the fish slack line at any time to give them an opportunity to shake the hook free. If the point has not fully penetrated at this time, then the steady pressure of the fight will ensure the point eventually sinks home providing the line is kept tight.
What's rarely mentioned in other huss literature is that they are not often alone. Huss are not group or shoal fish, but do work patches of ground in collections of three or four fish. Often when boat fishing, you get huss taking two or three baits in quick succession after a slow period. Possibly, the scent of the baits and the added chunks has brought those fish off the same patch of ground and towards the baits at roughly the same time. Again, something to hold in your mind and suggesting that a quick re-bait can get you extra fish.
Huss are extremely muscular fish and even a 10lb fish is very difficult for a grown man to hold. They twist and distort their bodies forcing you to release your grip. The best way to get a photograph is to grab the huss behind the head between fingers and thumb, and hold the wrist of tail about 20cms below the tail. This helps reduce the pressure of the twisting. Don't grip the huss too hard as this makes them twist and distort even more, much as we would do if somebody tried to restrain us against our will.
They are tough fish and can be dropped back over the side without the need to resuscitate them.