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Eastern Atlantic Red Gurnard, Chelidonicthys cuculus

Irish Record Fish: We have withdrawn the details on the Irish record and specimen weights as the current IFSC rules require anglers kill all such fish, hardly sporting or conservation minded, is it?  Alternatives exist.
Boat Specimen:
Shore Specimen:
Photo Credit:

 Brian Smith, Clew Bay, July 2004

Introduction: The Eastern Atlantic Red Gurnard, to give it its full name is called "the chicken of the sea" and tastes extremely nice. It is a shame it is such a small fish.  Before you cook one, be sure to check that the flesh is not infested with a nematode worm - a common complaint for this bottom dwelling fish. A fish of over 1 lb (400 grams) is an fine example.  They are typically caught in relatively shallow water over sand and mud, although we have caught them on the reefs in Clew Bay in ripping tides using baited mackerel feathers! An opportunist feeder, baits need to be kept on the bottom, where they will take Codling, Pollack, Coalfish etc.

Boat tactics: Gurnard are small fish, and the Red Gurnard is a small fish.  They will tackle just about any bait, but mackerel strip and ragworm as a cocktail is the best.  A 2/0 pennel rig on 15 lbs (7 kgs) trace line is more than enough.  A spinning rod will take Red Gurnard, although it might cause anxiety with larger fish like Pollack!

Shore tactics: We have not heard of them being caught from shore, although they will be caught in under 12 feet (4 metres) of water from off a boat!  Distance casting would seem to be vital so a big beachcaster and a multiplier with lots of line is key - how is your pendulum casting?  By the way, the fish can speak out of water - a skipper showed me how they can croak like a frog!  Fillets of gurnard grilled with a sprinkle of lemon... yum!