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Pollack, Pollachius pollachius

Irish Record Fish: 19.81 lbs 8.99 kgs
Caught: Ballycotton 1904.
Boat Specimen: 12 lbs 5.44 kgs
Shore Specimen: 8 lbs 3.63 kgs

Photo Credit:

karl coffey, kieran hanahan

This is a standard inshore reef Pollack taken on the drift on bare feathers on the "Rachel Michelle" out of Belmullet in September 2002.  The mark is over reefs in 10-20 m of water, on the northern shore just east of the highest sea cliffs on Achill, in relatively sheltered water.  You need a strong flowing tide.  Small mackerel feathers worked, with jellyworms and other larger lures proving ineffective.  The Pollack were gorging on small sprat.

Introduction: The Pollack or 'White Pollack' is a superb fish, found on rough ground, reefs and on wreck sites.  It can reach > 8 lbs (3.5 kgs) in inshore situations and can reach > 20 lbs (9 kgs) on deep wreck sites.  Deep living fish may not survive the decompression resulting from being caught, as evidenced by ejected "innards" but big Pollack are superb sport and a match for any sea angler.  Since their habitat tends to be difficult for the trawlers and commerical boats to get at, their populations have avoided the commercial over-fishing evidence elsewhere and they remain a popular source of great sport for modern sea anglers. It is to our advantage in Ireland that the wreck netting commonly practiced in the North Sea has not spread here - yet!

Boat tactics: A 20 lbs rod and reel is ideal for taking on deep reef Pollack although a drop down to 12 lbs is well within reach for most compentent anglers, especially in inshore waters.  They really do like rough ground, reefs and strong currents.  A strong trace (not wire) is important and the normal bait is a lure like a jellyworm on a flowing trace, or a Mackerel fillet set onto 3/0 to 6/0 hooks.  On the drift you need to look at using strong shockleader to counter the abrasive qualities of reefs and wrecks, and in deep water there is no doubt that braid as a main line offers better bite detection - not that Pollack are particularly sensitive feeders!  Big Pollack will often turn their noses up at feathers, so try any drifting technique with a long trace and fluttering bait. Red Gills, Jellyworms (especially black with red tails) and Eddystone Eels work really well on Pollack.  Smaller Pollack - even fish up to double figures - will still take most feathers, especially baited feathers, but if you want a speciment then you have to look at bigger baits and lures.  This said, if there is lots of sprat in the water, as there often is late in the year, then only small feathers will get you bites from big and small fish. Pirks are falling out of fashion in preference to soft bodied lures like shads, as they seem to spook fish, especially in deeper and darker water.  Any lull in boat fishing for Pollack often coincides with the top or bottom of the tide.  Weak links to the leads are a good idea as Pollack fight by diving down so snagging is a very real possibility...  Pollack will often follow a lure a long way, from the bottom right up past mid-water, so ask the question to quickly speeding up the retrieve in the last 10 metres.  This action will often prompt that wild plunging bite!

Shore tactics: From shore, Pollack can be found over rough ground especially if there is decent weed cover.  Strong currents are good and I find large red Hookai lures take large Pollack from marks like the deep water harbour at Cloughmore in Co. Mayo.  Pollack will go for baits and the best is probably the sand eel, the Pollack's natural food especially from June onwards in the west of Ireland.  They are opportunists and on the east coast we regularly took Pollack from rock marks like the Split Rock on Howth Head with king ragworm or mackerel strip.  The deeper the water, the stronger the currents, the better the weed, the better the fish will be...  I have also seen large Pollack taken in strong surf conditions on the rocky margins of storm beaches like Lahinch in Co. Clare (the old promenade end, unfortunately also favoured by the surfers).  Fly fishing for Pollack is increasingly popular with large flies mimicing sand eels proving amongst the most effective. Shore marks for Pollack are often difficult to access and dangerous so safety is always a key concern.  Other fish caught on the same marks will typically include Wrasse and Coalfish, with the possibility of Whiting, Codling, and Pouting.