Garfish: Belone belone
The Garfish (Belone belone), is a long, silver-green, rather eel like fish which is known by various local names such as sea-needle, gorebill, garpike, long-nose, greenbone, mackerel guide, old wife, snipe eel, hornfish, and numerous others. The garfish bears a strong resemblance to the skipper or saurypike,which is, however, a shorter fish, having a maximum length of about 45 cm (18 ins); the pike’s beak-like mouth, also, is shorter than that of the garfish.
The average weight of garfish seems to be about 350 g (12 oz). One specimen in particular which I had for examination and photographing, weighed just under 500 g (1 lb) — but it measured 52 cm (20-¾ ins) (extreme length) and of that length its long beak measured 8.5 cm (3-½ ins).
The approach of spring and a warm spell of weather brings in the garfish, which then move into shallow water to spawn. Garfish provide lively sport while they remain inshore and do not move out to deep water again until the late autumn or early winter. They can be caught from rocks, piers, breakwaters, and boats; they are occasionally taken in the brackish water of estuaries.
Almost any of the usual sea-fishing baits will take gar, but a short list would include live prawn, sand-eel, and herring and mackerel strip, or even a strip from another garfish. The bait strip can be 5-10 cm (2-4 ins) long and about 1.2-2.5 cm (½-1 in) wide. Present the bait and keep it working in the top layer of water.
Tackle and Fishing Methods
During the season specially designed garfish tackle is used by many pier anglers. This consists of a sliding float arrangement which is attached to the line by a quick-release clip after the weighted line has been cast out;is then allowed to slide down the reel-line to the water. The weight on the end of the taut reel-line holds this float in position and thus presents the bait between mid-water and the surface. Line of about 2.5 kg (5 lb) is about the best for this tackle.
In addition to sliding-float tackle some anglers have two or three feet of nylon trace with baited hook tied a few inches above the bottom weight : this takes the odd flounder, plaice, or other fish which may be feeding on the bottom. Garfish, along with the mackerel, often attack the shoals of brit or whitebait.
Spinning is a sporting way of fishing for garfish, but to get the best sport use a lightrod and the lightest of tackle. A mackerel spinner will sometimes take large numbers of garfish. In fact, almost any small, silvery spinning lure will catch them. The line may be of nylon with a breaking strain of some 2-2.5 kg (4-5 lb); use a to prevent the line from becoming twisted. On the reel line, above the trace and swivel, an anti-kink lead should be fitted.
Drift-lining from a boat is another successful method. You’ll need a light rod, a centre-pin reel, and about 90 m (100 yds) of 2.5-3 kg (5-6 lb) b.s. nylon monofilament line. A 0.9-1.9 m (3-4 ft) nylon trace (of slightly lower b.s.) may be attached to the end of the red line by a small swivel. To the end of the trace is tied a No. 5 hook. As the garfish are usually swimming in the surface water, a very light weight should be all that is necessary unless the current is very strong. Then it will pay to experiment in order to get the exact weight of lead needed.
Bait by hooking a prawn or sand-eel lightly through the back, or with a lask of fresh mackerel — say 5 cm by 1.2 cm (2 ins by 1/2 in) wide. The hook is inserted at the broadest end of the mackerel lask, which should then wriggle attractively in the current. Lower the drift-line into the water and allow the current to carry or drift it along while the bait sinks slowly and naturally. Pay out line as the baited hook drifts with the current.
A float tackle can be fished in similar fashion. The tackle is the same, except thatand the extra weight needed to balance it are added. Weight the tackle so that you leave sufficient float protruding above water for it to be clearly visible. Simply let the float tackle with the current, but when a bite comes you must strike quickly, especially if you’ve let the tackle drift some distance, for there will then be many metres of line lying on the surface which the rod must pick up on the strike.
A firm strike is needed because, if only lightly hooked, a garfish will probably shake itself free. Moreover, because a garfish moves at such speed, it is almost impossible to keep it on a tight line. It fights well and often goes wriggling along the surface then leaping about 60 cm (2 ft) out of the water. Let the hooked fish tire before you start to reel in.
Garfish rarely figure in the lists of notable fish.