Every rock formation throws up its own challenge. Here it’s impossible to get down to the sea to land fish. Tackle therefore needs to be more powerful to cope with hauling them out.
A pike or carp rod (1) with a test curve of 2 1/2 b (1.1 kg) is about right for float fishing from the rocks, though sometimes you can go lighter. If the fish are especially big, or the rocks extra snaggy, you may need a 3lb (1,4kg) TC.
Use a fairly robust fixed- spool reel (2) loaded with 15 lb (6.8kg) line. With a selection of sliding floats (3) you can deal with varying swell and tidal flow.
In good conditions, float fishing for wrasse and Pollack can be an ideal introduction to the sport – it’s great fun.
Don’t take too much gear – mobility is the key. You need a knife and scissors (4), some pierced weights (5), beads (6), swivels (7), and a variety of hooks sizes 2-2/0 (8). Use strong hooks when wrasse are your quarry.
With a sliding float you can fish very deep water, change depth easily, and cast and land fish with a minimum of fuss.
Wrasse fight hard and are very colourful. They don’t make good eating however, so put them back carefully once you’ve unhooked them. A pair of forceps make this easier – for you and the fish.
The smiles say it all. Fishing for wrasse is great fun as they bite readily and fight hard. A landing net can be useful – but only if you can get close to the water in safety.
In Cornwall both wrasse and pollack (like this one) grow big, so you may need slightly stepped up tackle to cope with them. Pollack make very powerful first runs which you must halt before the fish reaches the weeds. Wrasse fight all the way to the net!
With a strong swell and slippery rocks, you must take extra care. Always tell someone where you are going and when you’ll be back.
Although rocks usually give access to deeper water than any nearby beaches, they are also far more dangerous. A visiting angler should always fish with a companion.
Look at the venue at high water. This shows whether it is safe to fish it all the way through the tide. Also remember to allow for bigger spring tides and the possibility of a rogue wave.
Fishing light from the rocks is very exciting, particularly for hard-fighting wrasse and pollack. Mick Toomer and a float help you winkle out the fish from their weedy home.
Float fishing from the rocks for wrasse and pollack can be one of the most enjoyable forms of shore angling, and is especially popular with holiday anglers. It can also, however, be one of the most dangerous types of shore angling.
You should not attempt fishing any rock mark for the first time without asking locally about the effect of tides and weather on the venue. This may not seem so important in the summer when the sun is shining, but that’s when the coastguard is kept busiest by careless anglers.
Getting there – safely
Just getting to the fishing mark, which can be quite remote, often requires clambering down headlands or jumping from rock to rock. Try to keep tackle to a minimum, and leave both hands free if at all possible. It is also important to wear sensible footwear -walking boots or trainers are much better than waders or Wellingtons.
Once you reach the mark, there are a number of further precautions you should take. Be careful while casting and landing fish – weedy rocks are very slippery.
Keep an eye on escape routes as the tide rises – it’s all too easy to be cut off by the rising tide. This is an often-repeated message and yet every year many anglers are cut off and need to be rescued by the emergency services.
A further danger comes from rogue waves, which can wash an unwary angler into the sea. These waves, nicknamed growlers, are much bigger than normal waves and can appear even on the calmest days. They are especially common at venues facing the open sea. At estuary marks, the wash from large boats can often have the same effect.
The minimum gear
Because of the need for mobility, float fishing – with its minimal tackle requirements – is ideally suited to fishing from rock marks.
A carp rod and fixed-spool reel are ideal for this type of fishing. Don’t go too light -you need a test curve of at least 2lb (0.9kg) to stop the bigger wrasse making it to the shelter of the rocks.
Terminal tackle is simple. A selection of sliding floats (from lightish pike floats to heavier sea sliders), beads, drilled weights (/20z/14g upwards), swivels and some hooks of sizes 2-2/0 are all you need. The main line depends on the nature of the terrain. Line of 15lb (6.8kg) is right for most circumstances, though sometimes it is possible to go lighter. Where the bottom is particularly snaggy or the fish especially large, step up the line to suit.
Where the angler has to fish a long way above the water, heavier tackle is necessary to winch the catch up to the fishing platform. It is difficult to use a dropnet safely at rock marks, so where there is no access to the water, all the tackle has to be stepped up.
There is no need for fancy end gear. Rocks usually offer access to deep water, so a sliding float rig is best. It makes casting and landing fish simple, it’s easy to vary the depth and it won’t snag as often as a leger rig.
Wrasse in particular usually feed in the bottom third of the water, but you may have to vary the depth until you find the fish. The best way to approach this is to set the float fairly shallow to start with, deepening-off until you find the fish. Remember too that you may need to vary the depth as the tide ebbs or floods.
Baits and bites
The best bait varies with the time of year and the particular venue. In general, a whole ragworm hooked through the head attracts both wrasse and pollack, though wrasse may take several chunks of the worm before accepting the piece with the hook.
Small and average-sized wrasse are also partial to lugworm, but its attraction for pollack is limited. Live prawns are an excellent bait for both species, but for pollack, especially larger ones, live sandeels are hard to beat.
Where wrasse are the main target, few baits outfish crab. Although peeler may have a slight edge over ordinary hardback, the difference is rarely worth the extra effort and expense. For medium-sized wrasse, crabs of about 2.5cm (lin) across are ideal, while the really big fish can take a bait twice that size.
Bites are usually quite positive, especially when the tide is running or where there is a bit of a chop on the water. Try to keep the line to the float as tight as possible and react quickly once it disappears. If you are slow, the fish may drop the bait, or find sanctuary in a rock crevice. Wrasse are particularly adept at finding underwater obstructions. At times you have to test your tackle to its limits bullying a hooked fish into clear water.
Treat your catch with care. Don’t let fish flap about on the rocks, damaging themselves. Some anglers may like to take a pollack or two for the table, but there are few people brave enough to eat wrasse. It’s far better to handle the fish carefully and return them to fight another day.