How to catch garfish

The Talk Sea Fishing guide to garfish fishing, an indepth look at fishing for this athletic species from the boat, shore and on the fly.

About the garfish

One of our more unusual looking fish but a very obliging feeder and prone to leaping clear of the surface multiple times when hooked. It is often referred to as being like fighting a miniature marlin.

They are sometimes known as “green bones” because when filleted, as they are edible and taste a lot like mackerel, the bones carry a greenish hue.

They are a true predator and will attack prey half their size, though this is more “eyes being bigger than belly” rather than being able to eat prey of that size.

Garfish identification

Long-beaked garfish

There are two garfish in UK waters. The most common is the long-beaked garfish (Belone belone). It features a long slim body and a long jaw armed with small but very sharp teeth capable of impaling and cutting through small prey. When viewed from the side the head profile sees a nearly flattened forehead above the eye. The lateral line runs head to tail along the lower sides.

Coloration is a very bright greeny blue back and upper sides with the middle body and belly bright silver with dashes of yellow.

This garfish rarely grows bigger than 3.5lbs or so in weight. Any fish over 2lbs can be classed as a specimen.

They spawn in inshore waters during May and June. The eggs have long tendrils and these attach to any floating object they come across. They are then naturally distributed by the tidal currents. The young fish, up to 3.5ins, have much shorter jaws, the lower elongating first and this stays longer than the top jaw into adulthood.

Garfish Fishing

Short-beaked garfish

The second garfish (Belone svetovidovi), referred to as the short-beaked garfish, is much rarer, though more may be caught than realised and misidentified with the long-beaked garfish.

Whereas the long-beaked garfish can grow close to 40-inches in length, the short-beaked garfish rarely reaches 25-inches. It has a slightly shorter top and bottom jaw, plus the lateral line has a dark line running along it which is a formal means of identification. The body is slightly thinner in profile and is bright silver, sometimes with a slightly darker upper back.

Skipper

A third fish that looks like a garfish is the Skipper (Scomberesox saurus), sometimes called the Atlantic Saury. It features a slender body with very slim jaws and relatively small teeth. The body is very thin and is deeper than it is wide. The dorsal and anal fins are very small and both followed by a series of fine finlets. Also, the V in the tail is wide, not deep.

Its colouration is distinctive being a stunning clear green above shading suddenly to bright silver with a distinct yellowish tinge on the lower sides and belly.

They are the smallest of these three fish rarely growing much beyond 20in.

The Skipper spawns in the open sea, again the eggs having tendrils which attach to flotsam and then drift inshore to geographically spread. Skipper is fished commercially and is an important food species targeted by both predatory fish and sea-birds. It can often be seen leaping clear of water, maybe in an attempt to avoid predators.

Garfish distribution

Long-beaked garfish

This is an offshore garfish that enters shallower inshore waters in the spring and summer. It is found in the south of the Bay of Biscay and right up the European coast as far as northern Norway also in a band from the Faeroes to Iceland, though in these more northern latitudes it becomes much rarer.

It is found all around the UK and Ireland, but somewhat less so in the northern half of the North Sea.

Short-beaked garfish

Short-beaked garfish dwell in the southern and north-eastern Atlantic, mainly in the Mediterranean, the Cape Verde Islands and along the Spanish and Portuguese coast.

They are infrequent visitors to the deeper waters off Southern Ireland, also sometimes off Cornwall, the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly.

Skipper

A wider ranging species found off the east coast of America from Florida to Newfoundland and throughout the middle region of the Atlantic Ocean. It is also common within the Mediterranean, and up the European coast as far as middle Norway and sometimes as far as the southern shore of Iceland.

Though an offshore fish it moves into the deeper coastal waters all around the UK and Ireland from late summer to early winter when sea temperatures are at their highest.

Garfish habitat

All three species live in the surface layers, mostly within a depth range of zero to 40-feet, rarely deeper.

The long-beaked garfish, when in shallow inshore waters, will hug the seabed and be caught around bouldery ground where smaller fish thrive, especially just after rougher seas. It will also be found inside estuaries not far from the sea, and right along the open coast, especially from piers, breakwaters, harbour walls and rock ledges.

Garfish diet

Long-beaked garfish

The main diet of the long-beaked garfish are small fish such as cod and herring, and when inshore, small sandeels. They also eat small squid and crustaceans such as shrimps. They will also hang around dead carcasses of whales and other sea mammals that float on the surface picking off the small bits of flesh that break away as the body decomposes.

Short-beaked garfish

Eats mainly shrimps, small fish that live under flotsam on the surface, typically small cod and herring.

Skipper

Eats more in the way of shrimps, but also small prey fish and crustaceans.

Garfish season

The long-beaked garfish enters UK and Irish waters around April time and can often be found tight in along the shoreline from the end of April, and by late May, they will be in good numbers. They stay through until the end of September, but by then they tend to be more common on the open coast and in slightly deeper water than earlier in the year.

The short-beaked garfish is a late summer visitor showing when the water has had time to really heat up, usually from August through to October.

The Skipper shows a similar liking to warm water, and they usually show from mid-August through to early November. They can sometimes strand themselves along the shore when sudden very cold weather in late Autumn occurs.

Shore fishing for garfish

Regards shore fishing, here in the UK and Ireland, we are only targeting the long-beaked garfish.

They arrive around late April and are varied in their choice of coastal habitat being resident inside the mouths of estuaries, inside harbours and marina’s. They can also be targeted off man-made structures such as piers, breakwaters and harbour walls. They will also be found feeding off rock marks where cliffs fall to sea level.

They stay inshore until late June or so, then gradually their numbers reduce as they filter out to sea and deeper water. That said, in warmer years, they can still be caught in late September from deeper venues such as man-made structure and rock ledges.

Shore fishing tides

Even the smaller neap tides will fish well for gars from the deeper water venues, but the spring tides tend to fish better and see their overall numbers improve. In estuaries, they will tend to come as the tidal flow increases, typically about 2-hours into the new flood. They will feed right through to high-water slack, and maybe for the first couple of hours of the ebbing tide, then suddenly disappear back out to sea.

This pattern of inward migration is apparent when fishing harbours and man-made structure too. The fish are rarely feeding or in any real numbers until the tide starts to flood in strongly, then they suddenly appear. They’ll stay right into the early ebb tide then gradually move back out.

From the rock ledges, the garfish are present most of the time, but will work closer to the rock edges as the tide flow increases.

They are also caught on deeper beaches often right in along the surf line where the breakers start to break, but usually 20 to 30-metres out. The fishing will be best throughout the flood tide, but quickly drops away as the tide begins to ebb.

Shore fishing weather patterns

In rough weather the garfish will move back out into deeper water. They prefer relatively settled seas and settled weather patterns with clarity in the sea. Very light, at worst moderate winds from off the land suit them best, though gentle onshore breezes fish well too. It is less critical inside deep water harbours and off man-made structure where some lee from land or structure is evident.

After prolonged bad weather, expect the gars to be absent for a few tides until conditions settle down fully again and the water begins to clear.

They only feed in daylight, though dusk and dawn can be excellent, especially when there are shoals of small prey fish available from mid-summer on. They are not overly worried by bright sunlight, but a slightly overcast cloud cover can give the better fishing.

Something to watch for is that garfish often feed best when the barometer is starting to rise after a fall. Pressure readings over 1010-millibars, if you bother to take notice, will produce the best catches.

Tackle

A spinning rod between 8 and 9ft in length and rated to cast 2ozs is a good all-round rod for general shore fishing covering both spinning and float-fishing. The reel should be a 4000 sized fixed spool and loaded with 15lb braid adding a short 15lb fluorocarbon leader.

For more sport when float-fishing, choose a coarse fishing light feeder rod matched to a 3000 sized fixed spool reel and load with lighter 10lb mono or braid line. The gars are rarely deep, so a fluorocarbon leader of 8lb and about 8ft in length is enough as casting distances are generally short.

Garfish may have long beaks, but they do not have big mouths. Also, their beaks are bony, so a small but strong hook is necessary. Using the longer shanked Aberdeen patterns is the best choice as these offer some protection to the line as the gars teeth will be against the long hook shank and less so near or on the line. The long hook shanks are also easier to remove. The best sizes are 6 or 4.

It’s a point the Talk Sea Fishing team labour, we know, but using that short fluorocarbon leader helps with abrasion too, as this is much tougher than the softer mono, and gars have teeth that will easily chomp through lighter mono, so always bear this in mind. If you try to compensate with heavier mono, then often the gars will refuse to take the bait as they either see the mono, or realise that the bait is not behaving as it should.

Shore garfish rigs

Spinners can be simply tied to the fluorocarbon leader. Do though, make sure that the hooks on the spinners are sharp. Garfish are notorious for throwing the hook when they leap clear of the water. Sharp hooks help avoid this.

Float fishing rig

Float tackle is simple to rig, too. The following is a great choice when you’re fishing from man-made structure and any casting distance is relatively short, say within 25-yards.

1 – On to the leader, slide on a 5mm bead, the float, another bead, a round ball-weight big enough to cock the float, and tie on a size 6 rolling swivel.

2 – To the free end of the swivel tie on 36-inches of 8lb Fluorocarbon and tie on the hook.

3 – Above the top bead tie on a sliding stop knot using a simple 5-turn Grinner knot from 22lb Powergum. 20lb mono will do the same job, but is not as good.

4 – You can set the depth the bait fishes at by sliding the sliding stop knot up and down on the leader.

The best floats are the cigar shaped floats. It’s important to keep these as small as possible to minimise the buoyancy to allow the garfish to really dip the float for good bite detection. The ones about 3-inches long are fine in calm weather. If you use longer floats with more buoyancy, add enough weight so that the float top sits no more than an inch above the surface. This will then dip out of sight even if a small garfish takes the bait.

Bubble floats

From the rock ledges, a bubble float rig is the better choice as it will cast further and cleaner. Again, these are easy to construct.

Normal round bubble floats are ok, but these need rigging on a link swivel to fish and cast effectively. Here’s how.

1 – On to the leader, slide on a size 6 link swivel followed by a 5mm bead.

2 – Tie on a size 6 rolling swivel.

3 – To the swivel tie on 36-inches of 6 to 8lb Fluorocarbon and add the hook.

Bubble float rig

This rig is fished a little differently. You add a little water inside the float to give it casting distance. It is cast out as normal but does not have a line stop above the float to set the depth. You don’t need one as this rig is designed to fish the bait in the surface layers. Hold the rod and keep the line to the float fairly tight. When a take comes you feel the fish hit the bait and the line tighten. You rarely need to strike, just lift the rod into the fish. Should the float be a colour you can see such as red or yellow, or clear? In most instances we’d choose the clear option. However, if there is a little chop on the water that reduces the light levels entering the water column, then you might find it easier to use a coloured float to keep track of the bait as it trots round in the tide.

An alternative bubble float rig, and one the Talk Sea Fishing team favour over all others is the fixed bubble float rig. We prefer to use one of the oval shaped clear bubble floats for this as these have the line fed through the centre of the float which can then be secured in place by pushing in a plastic peg that traps the line. This means the line is in direct contact with the hook trace and hook all the time. If garfish are shy biting, and they can be spooky and skittish sometimes, then this is the rig to use.

1 – Pull the peg out of the bubble float.

2 – Add a little water to the bubble float for casting distance.

3 – Thread the Fluorocarbon leader through the centre of the bubble float.

4 – Push the plastic peg back in to secure the line.

5 – Below the float, tie on a size 6 rolling swivel.

6 – To the swivel add 36-inches of 6 to 8lb Fluorocarbon and tie on the hook.

Oval bubble float

You can instantly reposition the float by pulling the peg out, sliding the float up or down to increase or decrease the depth the bait will drop to, and refitting the peg.

This is a great rig when you can see garfish skittering on the surface as they chase small fry. We’ll explain why in the technique section.

Shore garfish baits

Garfish are simple souls and are pretty much fish eaters, full stop. The top bait, no surprise, are small strips of white belly section cut from a fresh mackerel. Cut the strips no more than 2-inches long, though just 1 to 1.5-inches is really enough, and keep them thin, no more than a 1/4-inch wide. These will flutter in the tide and give a natural appearance in the water.

They also take squid strips, herring strips and sandeel strips cut to the same dimensions. They will also take small chunks of prawn, but really, that’s about it.

Groundbait

The use of groundbait can be a big draw to both pulling in and holding garfish in a relatively close area.

A simple but effective mix is a small mesh bag filled with a few mackerel fillets that when shook releases not just scent but small chunks of loose fish that break off the fillets. This can be lowered into position from a pier, jetty or harbour wall and will keep them interested.

An alternative is a small popcorn or sweet plastic bucket with a sealable lid. Drill 1/4in holes around the body to let the scent and groundbait crumbs wash out in the tide.

Where there is some tide run, then mash up some mackerel fillets by hand and add a few handfuls of either animal feed bran or just plain bread. A small amount of pilchard oil is also good in the mix. You do not need massive amounts, just a small bucket full will keep you fishing for hours. But with a bran mix, make sure the mesh bag has holes big enough to let bits of bran and fish fall through. Every 10-minutes or so, shake the bag to release more scent and bits. This trickle of fish bit and smell will excite garfish and make them feed more voraciously.

Buckets of groundbait for garfish

Lures for garfish

Spinners need to be smaller patterns up to an ounce. The better type are the more dense weighted smaller ones such as Dexter Wedge type spinners that have a compact heavy body for their length. Another top lure is the Abu Toby in the 20g size, this being about the perfect size for garfish. Longer spoons the gars will hit but often avoid the hook. There is a huge range of suitable lures available, so just pick out the smaller ones with enough weight to cast 30 to 40yds, which will usually be enough to reach the fish on suitable tackle.

Being a predator, garfish will attack anything that catches the light and flashes in the water. Chrome coloured lures or lures with a high percentage of chrome in their makeup will catch the bulk of fish.

Light coloured lures for garfish

Garfish fishing techniques

Lure fishing

The knack to catching garfish is to actually find them. If you’re fishing from man-made structures such as piers, breakwaters and harbour walls, and often when you’re fishing off the rock ledges into deeper water, you should have enough height above the water to see garfish swimming around sub-surface. They are obviously distinctive and easily spotted being long and slim and few other fish bar mullet show themselves so easily in the water and on the surface.

Also look for fish skittering and splashing on the surface. This is typical garfish behaviour and is the second best means of identifying exactly where they are.

A big mistake many inexperienced anglers make is to cast the spinners directly at the showing fish. Although they are not overly spooky when spinners crash in, it will push them off for a few minutes with a gradual return over time. The better way to target them is to cast well past them, then retrieve to bring the lure back through where they are swimming.

If you can’t see any sign of garfish, this is often an indication they literally are not there. However, garfish will also come to surface activity such as any splashing, so try casting out as far as you can and keep retrieving until you get a take. This is often when the groundbait can work well in pulling fish some distance off to within casting range.

As with most lure fishing, try to cover as much of the water in front of you as you can. Fan your cast out in a cone shape left to right casting short, medium and as far as you can. Also try different depths by letting the spinner sink for variable amounts of time counting the spinners down. It’s important you take note of any takes you get and what depth they occurred as this indicates the depth the garfish prefer at that given time. As tide flow or cloud cover increases or decreases garfish can come up shallower or go down deeper, so you will need to keep searching for them.

You will also find that garfish like to take up station in estuary channels where natural bottlenecks occur. These narrow areas harness and increase the tidal flow and it’s here where garfish like to hunt. Spinning in these areas needs the spinners cast slightly uptide, allowed to sink, then work them back at a slow retrieve. The tidal flow will put a bow in the line and slowly bring the lure round with the current. This imitates a small prey fish struggling to swim in the strong current and being washed downtide with garfish waiting for just such a victim.

Float and bubble float fishing

Using float-fishing tactics is a great way to fish for garfish. The float drifts with the tidal flow and allows you to easily cover a lot of surface water to seek out the fish.

Much of what we said about spinning and finding the fish still applies. Look for surface splashes as the garfish chase small prey fish, also use any height available to get above the fish and spot them in the water. The groundbait is also ideal where you have access to deeper water when fishing man-made structure, as it will pull the fish in to you. The best way to do this is to have the groundbait ready for use as you arrive at your fishing mark and add it to the water before you even tackle up to maximise its effectiveness. Obviously, try to keep the float and bait inside the scent trail emitted by the ground bait bag as it flows downtide.

Something to bear in mind with the groundbait trail is that when the tide is flowing strongly the scent trail will be shallow and so will the fish when in the vicinity of the groundbait bag or bucket, also they will be further away and often maybe 20yds downtide. When the tide is slack, the groundbait will fall more vertically and the fish will be deeper but closer in relation to the bag or bucket and often almost directly underneath it.

With a conventional cigar shaped float, set the depth of the bait at about 6ft to start. This is a common depth for the garfish to be at. Now work from this depth going a 2ft deeper at a time by adjusting the sliding float stop. Eventually, you’ll find the fish. If the garfish can be seen swimming shallower, then the bubble float is the better tactic.

If you don’t have groundbait, again start casting across the cone shape in front of you and vary your casting distance and depth the bait fishes at until you locate the depth the fish are swimming at.

The bubble float method is best when the fish are shallow or working further out as the weight of the bubble float with water added will gain that extra casting distance required.

If you can see the fish on the surface or see them in the water, cast the bubble float well beyond them, then slowly draw the bait in towards the fish. Move the float slowly and not at speed as this will spook the fish. Also try to use any tidal current or wind direction to float the bubble float into position instead of casting. When the float reaches the fish let the bait naturally sink in the water. The bite is often felt on the line as you’re holding the rod, but also watch for the bubble float skating across the surface as the garfish takes the bait. Make a strike by lifting the rod into the weight of the fish to set the hook.

Shore fishing for garfish top tips

  1. When you want to get a bait to sit down vertically or drop through the water column quicker when using a bubble float, add a small non-toxic split shot about 12ins above the hook. This does not put the gars off, but adds enough weight to take the bait down quickly.
  2. If you’re using a conventional cigar float and bites are slow, try drawing the float towards you or lifting it vertically from the water a few inches then dropping it back. This makes the bait lift up then flutter dow and this sudden movement will often tend to trigger a take.
  3. If you’re trotting a float down with the scent trail using the tidal flow, every few seconds stop the float from travelling and hold it in the flow. This sees the bait lift up in the water. When you let the float resume its travel, the float will slowly flutter down and initiate the natural offerings that are falling from the groundbait bag or bucket.
  4. To add extra surface noise and commotion when casting spinners, as soon as the spinner hits the surface start a fast retrieve for a few yards aiming to keep the spinner right on the surface and kicking up water, before letting it sink and resuming a normal retrieve. This can draw gars in to see what’s happening and helps to get more bites.

Boat fishing for garfish

Boat fishing is a great way to target both the long-beaked and short-beaked garfish, also the skipper. All three fish are often pulled into the boat in good numbers when shark fishing due to the use of the rubby dubby which obviously acts as a ground bait.

In the case of the skipper, when well offshore, you can sometimes see major surface activity as fish predators push the shoals of skipper right up to the surface and the fish jump clear of the water trying to save themselves. Seagulls will also be wheeling and diving in the water overhead and are the best visual giveaway.

Garfish boat fishing

Tides for boat fishing for garfish

Tide sizes have little real bearing on the activity of offshore garfish and skippers. All three species will feed or show themselves on any size of tide.

What you can count on is that garfish are more active on the flooding tide, especially during the peak flow period, then when the tide is ebbing. This is because they like a strong flow and generally the tide flow is lessened on the ebbing tide.

You will still catch garfish during slack water between tidal change, but it's often necessary to move the bait to create more natural movement to get a take, this is done by lifting the bait in the water and drawing it back towards you and letting it flutter down.

Weather patterns

When well offshore garfish will feed even in rough weather, but they tend to go much deeper to avoid the movement of surface swell and waves. On calmer days you will see them swimming quite close to the boat and just below the surface.

They will take on bright sunny days, but prefer some cloud cover and a ripple on the sea from a light breeze which minimises the light levels entering the water. This encourages the garfish up towards the surface layer.

After prolonged periods of very rough seas, the garfish can go deep and it will take a few tides and a settling sea to see them return to the surface.

Boat fishing garfish tackle

For spinning from the boat a shorter spinning rod around 7ft to 8ft is ideal, one that is rated to cast no more than 2ozs with a softer tip action being perfect. Match this to a 3000 sized fixed spool reel and load with 10lb braid or 8lb mono.

For working a bubble float, a longer 9ft rod rated to cast 2-3ozs gives you that little bit more length to help keep the float from tangling other lines and to control garfish when they get close into the boat and are still jumping clear of the water. The 3000 fixed spool reel and 10lb braid or 8lb mono are again ideal.

Light tackle for garfish

Use size 6 Aberdeen hooks, sharp good quality ones such as the Kamasan B940 pattern, no bigger as the garfish have small mouths and the beaks are very hard.

You can use conventional cigar shaped floats to fish the baits deeper and these do work very well when you need to trot baits well away from the boat. Use the smallest you can get away with to make it easy for the garfish to dip the float when it takes the bait.

When the garfish are very tight to the surface change to a clear oval shaped bubble float. There is no need to add water to it unless you need to cast.

Always use a short section, say 6ft of 6 to 8lb fluorocarbon below the floats to minimise the visual properties of the hook length, and also to give some protection from the sharp teeth of the garfish.

Float rigs

When using a normal cigar shaped float the rig is the same as described for shore fishing.

1 – On to the leader, slide on a 5mm bead, the float, another bead, a round ball-weight big enough to cock the float, and tie on a size 6 rolling swivel.

2 – To the free end of the swivel tie on 36-inches of 8lb Fluorocarbon and tie on the hook.

3 – Above the top bead tie on a sliding stop knot using a simple 5-turn Grinner knot from 22lb Powergum. 20lb mono will do the same job, but is not as good.

4 – You can set the depth the bait fishes at by sliding the sliding stop knot up and down on the leader.

The principles are the same regards using the smallest float, ideally no more than 4 or 5ins in length, you can get away with in the conditions, plus the smallest round ball weight, but this needs to be heavy enough to cock the float with just an inch showing above the surface, 2ins in rougher seas, and to keep the bait down in the water.

Bubble float rig

The bubble float rig is also pretty much identical to the shore fishing version described above.

1 – Pull the peg out of the bubble float.

2 – Add a little water to the bubble float for casting distance if needed.

3 – Thread the Fluorocarbon leader through the centre of the bubble float.

4 – Push the plastic peg back in to secure the line.

5 – Below the float, tie on a size 6 rolling swivel.

6 – To the swivel add 24-inches of 6 to 8lb Fluorocarbon and tie on the hook.

You can fish the bubble float with just the weight of the swivel to take the bait down, or, add a small split shot to take it deeper positioning this about a foot above the baited hook.

Garfish boat fishing baits

There are only two common baits worth using offshore, mackerel strips cut from the white belly section and 1.5ins in length and just a 1/4in wide. Hook them once through the every end of the strip to make the bait have maximum movement in the water column, swell and tide run.

Mackerel strips for garfish

Squid strips can also work well. They will take small strips of herring, but otherwise, the mackerel strips are the number one bait.

If the garfish are feeding in a shy and spooky manner, which they can sometimes do, cut the strips smaller, no more than an inch in length and drop the hook size down to a size 8. This can help increase the catch ratio.

One bait that does work exceptionally well offshore, is a strip of garfish cut the same way as the mackerel strips. Garfish are real cannibals and love the taste of their own kind. This bait can often produce the very best garfish fishing and is worth bearing in mind.

Groundbait

If you’re shark fishing and killing time between shark runs by garfish fishing, then the rubby shark dubby will hold the fish all day. If you’re targeting garfish but not shark fishing, then you need still rubby dubby to attract and hold the garfish.

This is best placed in a small plastic bucket with a sealable lid on and with 1/4in holes drilled in the side. This can be trailed over the side of the boat by a cord so that it sits on the surface and the movement and twist of the bucket in the swell will give a continual scent trail as the contents are washed free.

The best rubby dubby for offshore is minced up mackerel with some mackerel chunks added, and mix this in with some handfuls of animal feed bran and some pilchard oil. Mash all this up with your hands so that it gives a trail of scent, bran bits and mackerel bits. Give it a shake occasionally to break it up and give a sudden explosion of scent if the gar bites go quiet.

Boat garfish fishing techniques

Lure fishing

Spinning can work from the boat, but remember the garfish will always be in the rubby dubby trail and this means they are likely to be in and around the balloons suspending the shark baits up in the water. Unless you specifically take rubby dubby to target gars and don’t shark fish, then spinning is difficult.

What you can do though, is drop the spinner over the side of the boat and into the scent trail, let it sink a few feet, then lift and drop it on a tight line by lifting and dropping the rod tip. This imitates a small prey fish eating bits of the dubby and will take garfish.

Float fishing

Set the bait to fish at about 6ft, and go deeper each time by 12ins until you find the fish. Also let the float trot out upto 30yds or so. Sometimes the garfish will be right by the boat if the tide is slack or the drift slow as the rubby dubby will fall more vertically in the water. During a fast flowing tide with wind against tide and the boat held up by the wind pushing on it, they will be much further away as the scent trail from the dubby will be shallower.

Also try holding the float back occasionally on its outward journey. This lifts the bait in the water then lets it flutter back. His simple movement can trigger garfish to attack.

Free lining for garfish

Freeling is a very successful method of taking garfish from a rubby dubby slick. This just requires a hook adding to the end of the Fluorocarbon leader. Although it is technically free lining, it is best to add just one small split shot 12ins above the hook just to help the bait get down deep enough.

The bait is dropped over the side and use your hand to pull a few feet of line off the reel until the line starts to flow out in the tide. Continue to trot the bait away from the boat. You’ll feel the garfish take as the line pulls tight to the rod tip.

In all cases be aware that the garfish will leap from the water when it feels the hook and line tension. Keep the rod tip low and use side strain to keep the fish away from any other lines in the water.

It’s best to land any garfish using a landing net. They will writhe and twist if you lift them by hand, and they easily shed the hook in doing this.

Boat fishing for garfish

Top tips for boat fishing for garfish

  1. When freelining, if you notice that all the fish are pretty much of a common size, add a bigger split shot to get the bait deeper and further away from the boat. It’s often the case the bigger garfish are working deeper than the majority. The same can be said when setting the depth of the cigar floats. Go deeper and further away from the boat to find the bigger fish.
  2. On very cloudy rainy days, try adding a small 3mm luminous green bead directly above the hook and especially when fishing deeper in rougher conditions. This simple addition can really make a difference in the number of fish you catch.
  3. You’ll often see garfish follow a retrieved bait in. When using float or freelined tackle, immediately stop and let the bait fall in the water. The garfish, or another one following others, will move in and grab the bait.

Fly fishing for garfish

A few words on fly-fishing for garfish are appropriate. The garfish will take a fly really well, both from the shore and offshore.

They will take in all conditions from bright sunny days to overcast days with drizzle. The sea needs to be fairly calm and pretty clear. Dirty water is not good and the fish will struggle to see the fly. One of the best times to fly fish for garfish is during a flooding tide just after dawn and just before dusk when the light levels are low.

A five or six weight fly rod is enough and will give enough casting distance as garfish are rarely more than a few yards out when both shore and boat fishing. A good general line is a weight forward sink tip, but on occasions a floating line is best when the fish are right on the surface, or an intermediate when the fish are that bit deeper.

Flies patterns are not critical. They will hit pretty much anything tied small on a size 6 to 8 hook, but the addition of red and silver can make a difference, as can a tail with movement such as a few strands of red or white Marabou. A few flies with a gold head on helps get the fly that bit deeper when needed.

Always use fluorocarbon leaders. These need to be no more than 6 to 8ft and from 6 to 8lb fluorocarbon. The shorter leaders are easier to cast in side winds and help get the fly down quicker.

Look for areas where there is a little tide run and aim to cast the fly slightly uptide and let the line come round naturally with the flow, giving the line a few intermittent short pulls to give the fly some natural movement. Takes are very decisive and hard to miss!

You can also fish the fly into light surf tables on the deeper beaches and here a faster stripping action is best to simulate fry trying to get away from nearby predators. The same tactic works from deep water rock ledges too, but here let the fly sink a little deeper and let it rise up in the water column by using short stripping movements of the hand to retrieve line in short lengths.

Fish the fly right to the waterline. Garfish will often hang back then dart forward at the last minute when they think a small food fish is about to get away.

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Guru Incredible Catapult

Guru Incredible Catapult