Everyone has a lure in the bottom their tackle box bought on a whim. You’ve never caught anything with it – or maybe never tried it? – but you’ve kept it because it will get catch a fish “one day”. In my case this is a 250g pirk bought in a shop in Singapore many years ago; I thought it might be good for cod. (Pirk? Jig? is there a difference?) It came equipped with a huge ‘grappling hook’ of a treble, which in the snaggy, kelpy reefs I fish, would mean an instant loss.

Today, I would give that lure its turn. I removed the treble hook, and tied on my own ‘assist’ hook: a 5/0 circle on a length of 50lb mono. I attached the pirk to the bottom of a set of mackerel feathers, effectively using the pirk in place of the large lead I would otherwise need.

At the mouth of Milford Haven, the skipper positioned our boat over a reef that was productive last year. I dangled my offering near the bottom. The skipper’s rod was already taking gurnards on feathers, but nothing was interested in my feather/pirk combo. I persisted. A few pollack took the feathers.

It didn’t take too long before I felt the weight of a very good fish. The rod bent over. I could barely lift it. A few seconds of stalemate and the line went slack. I wound in to find that the hook length had snapped off. That was the last of my circle hooks. I improvised with tying on a regular J-shaped 6/0 hook, making sure the knot was good.

A few more drops down to the rocky reef and another good fish was on. I could feel it was smaller than the lost fish. I wound in a 3lb-ish cod.

Cod, Gadus morhua
Cod, Gadus morhua

A few more pollack and coalfish took the feathers and occassionaly the pirk. All fish were a lot smaller than usual at this spot, where a 2lb pollack is standard.

Pollack, Pollachius pollachius
Pollack, Pollachius pollachius


Coalfish Pollachius virens
Coalfish, Pollachius virens

On a calm day like this, we’d normally head out to the reefs and banks around Skomer and Skokholm islands. However, the fish were biting well enough, so we saved on the diesel and stayed put. One minor diversion was to assist with some missing divers near Gateholm Island. Divers in distress are a regular feature of Bank Holiday weekends on the Pembrokeshire coast. The skipper pushed forward on the throttle lever and we headed off to help. The AWOL scuba enthusiasts were thankfully recovered without our assistance, and we returned to the haven. On the return journey, I trolled a Rapala past the St. Ann’s Head lighthouse. I hoped for a bass, but was unlucky this time.

Returning to our earlier methods, we found lots of  large sandeels attracted to the feathers. Both rods were pulling them in, in numbers. I recycled these into a bait for a bass, but couldn’t temp one (just another pollack). The eels were so plentiful, I could imagine the bass thinking “I’ll burst if I eat one more sandeel”.

Greater Sandeel, Hyperoplus lanceolatus
Greater Sandeel, Hyperoplus lanceolatus

In total, between three anglers, 44 fish were boated. A good haul for the day, relatively early in the season.


Total Catch:

  • 11 Pollack
  • 2 Cod
  • 2 Coalfish
  • 4 Greater Sandeel