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Ballan Wrasse, Labrus bergylta

Irish Record Fish: 9.5 lbs 4.31 kgs
Caught: Clogher Head 1983
Boat Specimen: 4.75 lbs  2.16 kgs
Shore Specimen: 4.75 lbs  2.16 kgs
Photo Credit: Lee Rock, Dunmore East, Waterford  2004

Introduction: The Ballan Wrasse is the more common and happily the largest of the wrasse species in Irish Waters.  This is a real foul ground, rough and tumble merchant so expect to lose gear if you are fishing for these fish.  Watch for the teeth - they rip limpets of rocks so imagine what they can do to a finger!  Anything > 3 lbs (1.3 kgs) is good.  Try hard to access rock marks - although resident all year round they do tend to be caught more during the summer months (perhaps because we do more fishing in good weather!). Wrasse are territorial so if you are catching small ones, you need to change location if you want to catch a big specimen.  

Boat tactics: Wrasse typically live off mussels and shellfish.  Their powerful mouths are full of strong and sharp teeth - not a place for an unwary finger.  The odd very big Ballan Wrasse will take an artificial lure but anything organic is on the menu for all discerning Wrasse.  Ballan wrasse are quite big and extremely powerful fish so the hooks are generally around the 2/0 mark.  Due to their perferred habitat however the rig is often far stronger than the fish might warrant... the only exception to this rule would be in float fishing with worm and/or mackerel strip, where the tackle is normally well out of the way of dangerous snags, weeds and rocks. All wrasse have sharp spines built into the dorsal fins and the gill covers.  They are sheathed in strong scales, akin to armour plating, that offers very little purchase so careful handling is not easy. A wet towel / sacking is useful.

Shore tactics: Ballan wrasse also display this knack for sucking worms off the hooks so to stop them sucking off the bait, a tiny square of squid or bits of mackerel behind the hook barb is the trick... Ragworms tend to be the best bait, followed by crab, lugworm, shellfish, worm and mackerel strip.  Shore tactics tends to involve arranging a group, mountaineering equipment and weatherproofs!  Play safe always. A dropnet is essential kit on most good wrasse marks.