Name

Garfish (Belone belone)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught garfish can weigh 0.90 Kg (2 lbs) or more. The average garfish weighs around 455 g (1 lb).

Also known as

Sea Pike, Needlefish and Garpike

IUCN Status

LC – Least Concern

Appearance

The garfish looks like a cross between an eel and a long-beaked bird; it has a long, slender body which is laterally compressed and blue-green in colour ontop with silver sides and belly. It has a distinct sword-like beak which is equipped with rows of small, sharp teeth.

The pectoral, dorsal and anal fins are all found towards the tail end of its body and its lateral line is particularly low on the flanks. The garfish is closely related to the flying fish and so occupies the area close to the surface and can often be seen leaping from the sea.

So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

Small whole fish such as sprats, sandeels or whitebait work very well for catching garfish. Fish strips such as mackerel and herring are also effective, as are lugworm, ragworm and prawns.

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Artificial baits such as spoons or devon minnows can also be used to catch garfish.

Seasons

The garfish is a summer visitor and can be caught from May, after August it typically disappears from Britain’s waters.

Favourite Feeding Places

The garfish is often found at the surface and mid-water levels of any sea area which holds small fish. During rough and stormy weather it tends to dive toward the seabed. In a typical day the garfish will cover a wide area of sea to hunt for food and can often be caught close inshore.

Best Locations

The garfish can be found in most waters along Britain’s coastline, with particularly good catches off the southern shores of England and the West Country.

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Best rigs for catching garfish

Shore fishing

If fishing from the shore, including rocks, piers, jetties or harbours, we advise using a light float rig or a sliding float rig.

Light Float Rig

For this rig, use a slim float and small freshwater fishing weights – you want to sink (cock) the float so only its tip shows clearly above the water. Modify to present your baited hook at the depth you believe fish to be feeding. Re-adjust when required to allow for rise and fall of tide etc.

Sliding Float Rig

For this rig you want to use a narrow float. Tie a stop knot onto the main line at the position where you want the float to stop. Modify when necessary to account for the rise and fall of the tide, etc. A ball or barrel shaped weight is perfect for this rig, attach the smallest weight needed in order to cast the distance you are aiming for and hold your bait against any strong current(s) at the depth you expect fish to be feeding. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft).

Boat fishing

If fishing for garfish from a boat, a light float rig will generally work well.

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Light Float Rig

For this rig, use a slim float and small freshwater fishing weights – you want to sink (cock) the float so only its tip shows clearly above the water. Modify to present your baited hook at the depth you believe fish to be feeding. Re-adjust when required to allow for rise and fall of tide etc.

Top tips

  1. Garfish are commonly found in the company of mackerel shoals and can therefore be an indication of the presence of garfish.
  2. Rapidly retrieved artificial spinning lures can be extremely successful. The brighter your lure the better!
  3. You should tighten line on a garfish which is swimming away with your bait by sweeping your rod sideways, NOT straight up. This sideways motion will drive your hook firmly into the side of the garfish’s mouth whereas an upwards action will simply pull your bait from its solid beak.