Hooks dressed with feathers are often used to catch mackerel for use as a bait, as well as for whiting, pollack, cod and coalfish. Less commonly, bass, ling, conger, haddock and garfish are taken by ‘feathering’. The tackle is set among a shoal and jerked up and down to simulate the erratic movement of small fish. The use of several feathered hooks helps create the impression of plentiful food. Once a shoal has been located a greedy mackerel, whiting or codling can often be taken on each of the hooks.
The rig for feathering consists of up to six feathered hooks on traces or ‘snoods’ of about 5in, which are attached to the reel line. A line of 1520 lb b.s. Should be used, for with a fish on every hook it will have to take a considerable load when being reeled in to a boat or a pier. The snoods should also be strong enough to avoid losing any fish when hauling in the catch and should be set 910in apart so that they do not tangle. The blood loop dropper is the strongest and most reliable knot to use to attach snoods to the reel line.
A fairly heavy lead should be used at the end of the reel line, for a smaller weight may take a long while to sink, by which time the shoal may have moved on, the feathers not having had a chance to attract them.
When fishing for mackerel as bait (which is hard to beat for its appeal to many species) a sixhook rig will provide a plentiful supply. A group of boat anglers must remember though to be careful when swinging these multihook rigs in board, especially in a wind, for painful accidents and lost fishing time can result from lack of forethought.
Of all the fish species inhabitating Britain’s coastal waters, there is none with a more mixed reputation than that enjoyed by the mackerel.