Pollack Perfection in the South West of Ireland
I headed for the County of Cork in the south west of Ireland for the weekend. The area is a paradise for kayak anglers, with the many bays and headlands there is nearly always some location to be found that is in out of the worst of the big swells and high winds that can be a feature of this part of Ireland’s rugged coastline. To say the place is picturesque would not do it justice. Breathtaking is a better word and a fine place to spend a couple of days with the kayak, whether fish get caught or not. Honestly, to spend time in these surroundings is a privilege; to catch fish is just a bonus. Fortunately for me it looked like I was due a lot of bonuses. I had a bit of a bad run of luck recently, among other things I had my car broken into and my two waterproof cameras were stolen so I was due a bit of good luck. And what better way to get over such events as a bit of fishing therapy? With it still being a little bit early in the marine fishing season I thought that targeting Pollack in County Cork would be one way to lift my spirits.
Pollack are considered a clean species and can grow over a metre in length. They have a fairly strongly defined lateral line and the colouration starts with a white underside, the flanks are lot darker, being said to be a mix of very dark olive towards black. When the sun hits them I think that bronze is the closest colour that could be used to describe them. They can be found anywhere in the water column up to depths of approximately 180 metres/600 feet. They grow to an impressive size with the Irish record just breaking 19lbs/8.6kg but many anglers would consider a 12lb/5.5kg fish to be a catch of a lifetime. They are a fantastic sport fish, making many powerful dives for bottom cover once hooked.
With this in mind I decided to target them with a light set up. My weapon of choice would be an 8 foot/2.4 metre light action spinning rod used for fishing for small trout and European perch which would be similar to the American small-mouth bass. I was using a fixed spool reel and it was loaded up with 10lb/4.5kg monofilament line. At the important end of the tackle I used 1oz/30gr jig heads and some 6 inch/15 cm soft plastic or rubber worms. The hard fighting Pollack would provide tremendous sport on this light type of set up. The plan was to get out in the kayak and drift. As I drifted I would cast the lure in the opposite direction to the drift, wait until it hit bottom and slowly crank the lure back towards me. Frequently, Pollack will see a lure rising through the water column and can follow it for quite some distance before engulfing it and diving back towards the bottom for cover. The first dive that the fish makes is generally the most powerful and if you can beat them on their first dive then you should be able to boat them. The bigger fish will still make multiple dives after the first which can result in rod bending lunges and a 5lb/2.2kg fish will have no trouble towing the kayak for a short distance.
On what turned out to be a day’s sport that surpassed all my expectations, I hit the waves at about 8.00am by launching from a small harbour area. I was fishing in a large bay, sheltered from the worst of the easterly wind that was blowing. I planned to drift about, using the fish finder to look for features and target these areas. Water temperature was a little on the chilly side with 53°f/11.6°c showing up on the fish finder. Temperatures like that mean there are a few weeks to go yet before the sea warms up enough to entice a multitude of species to come in close to shore but I figured it still should have been fine for some Pollack fishing. The first hour or so was slow going but by about 10.00am I drifted over an area that looked very interesting on the fish finder screen. I was passing over a couple of drop-offs where the bottom shelved from 60 feet/18 metres down to 70 feet/21 metres. Along this little underwater shelf were a couple of quite large fish signals that I just had to drop a bait down towards.
I let the bait hit the bottom, started cranking it in and within seven or eight turns of the reel handle, the rod locked over and I felt the pull of a decent fish. After a couple of deep lunges and a spirited fight I was looking at my first Pollack of the day, a fish of about 5lb/2.2kgs. A good start to the day and hopefully that fish was an indicator of how the day was going to progress. It was! The next few hours could only be described as ridiculous fishing. It wasn’t really fishing at all, it was more like catching! Nearly every cast of the soft plastic bait resulted in it being hammered by Pollack. One or two fish took it on the drop but most of them waited until the retrieve and hit the lure just as it was rising up off the bottom. You could feel the fish nipping at the tail of the worm two or three times on most retrieves and then the rod would lock over and you would be connected to yet another powerful adversary. The deep surging run of these fish have to be felt to be believed and to experience them on such light tackle was pure joy. I have no idea how many Pollack I caught, I stopped counting after I hit thirty and that was as early as 11.30am!!!
By 15.30 I was starting to get hungry and decide I would break for a couple of hours to get some food and just relax for a couple of hours but I fully intended to get back out there for the evening. Regrettably, I had to bring two fish ashore with me. They had hit the lures hard and bled a lot when I tried to remove them, eventually going belly up when I returned them to the water. Still, they made a great dinner and they also gave me an opportunity to weigh a couple of fish. The pair that I landed with were not the biggest of the morning session and the larger of the two came in at 8lb/3.6kg and by looking at that fish I reckoned I had some that were getting very close to the 10lb/4.5kg barrier.
For the evening session I hit the water at about 18.00 and headed off for the same spot. The sport continued to be excellent but maybe not quite as hectic as the morning. The trade-off for this was that the average size seemed to increase a little. Having weighed the 8lb/3.6kg fish at lunch time and being able to work off that example, I think that some of the fish I landed in the evening session were well over 10lb/4.5kg probably getting up to about 12lb/5.5kg. Some of the fish that I landed were the same length as my leg and I am 6’2”/188cms tall!!
While the sport was far better than I expected and the thrill of catching such fish on the very light tackle was thrilling, I will be back down to the area for another go with some stronger gear. I connected with two different fish and no matter what I tried; my set up just did not have the backbone to pull them off the bottom. A pair of leviathans that got the better of me, but I will get the better of them eventually. The session was a good distance for me to travel – a 560 mile/900km round-trip. When I get my waterproof cameras replaced I will go back to the same area and try again. I aim to be there again by August.
Some images with kind permission from www.anirishanglersworld.com