The gurnard is a distinctive looking fish found in British waters where there are three main species. We discuss all three here as they can all be caught using similar methods, rigs and baits:
Yellow Gurnard (Trigla lucerna)
Grey Gurnard (Eutrigla gurnardus)
Red Gurnard (Aspitrigla cuculus)
The yellow gurnard is the largest, big rod-caught yellow gurnards can weigh 3.62 Kg (8 lbs) or more. The average yellow gurnard weighs about 1 Kg (2¼ lbs).
The average grey gurnard weighs around 230 g (½ lb) and the average red gurnard weighs around 454 g (1 lb).
Also known as
Another name for the yellow gurnard is Tubfish.
All three gurnards have elongated, tubular bodies with long pectoral and anal fins, they have two dorsal fins, the first is large and triangular in shape with the second being much smaller and longer in comparison. The skull is made from solid bony plates; as such the head is pronounced and hard. Under the chin are small appendages which are used to sense and find food and four sharp spines protrude from the pectoral fins.
The yellow gurnard is the both the largest gurnard species and the most colourful, they commonly possess a glorious yellow colour but can also be deep red or orange, they have a white belly and their pectoral fins are edged by bright blue-bands, the presence of these bright blue bands are the easiest way to identify a yellow gurnard from the other gurnard species.
The grey gurnard is the most common gurnard species in British waters and also the smallest, with shore-caught grey gurnards usually weighing under a 500g (1 lb). The grey gurnard possesses the typical gurnard shape and is generally dark grey in colour on the back and sides with a light grey belly. Compared to the other gurnard species it has the smallest pectoral fins and its lateral line comprises of thorny scales.
The red gurnard is the middle weight of the three gurnard species, a red gurnard approaching 700g (1.5 lbs) would be a great catch. They have the typical gurnard body shape and are red in colour however some can have a brown colour instead. The red gurnard is often confused for the yellow gurnard, the pectoral fins are the main way to differentiate the two, if blue bands are present you have a yellow gurnard, no blue bands and you have yourself a red gurnard.
So how do we catch one?
The following information is consistent for yellow, grey and red gurnards and therefore we will refer to them as simply gurnards.
Fish strips, particularly herring and mackerel are effective baits for catching gurnard. Sandeel, shrimps or soft-backed crabs can also be used.
The gurnard comes close inshore throughout the summer months, particularly June, July, August and September. From October the gurnard moves into deeper offshore waters.
Favourite Feeding Places
The gurnard prefers to be on or very close to the bottom of the seabed in soft sand or mud areas, particularly between rocks and reefs both inshore and offshore.
Best rigs for catching gurnard
A basic leger rig or a running paternoster rig are recommended when fishing from the shore for gurnard.
Basic Leger Rig
This rig is used to lay hookbait on the seabed. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft). This rig works so well because your line is able to pass through the weight’s “eye”, meaning that shy or suspicious fish can tug the bait without instantly sensing the resistance.
Running Paternoster Rig
This rig allows you to anchor your hookbait above the seabed and also lets fish take the bait without instantly sensing resistance from the weight. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 150 mm (6 inches). The space between the weight and swivel on connecting line is also variable, but should generally be about 610 mm (2 ft).
A boat leger rig or a simple paternoster rig are both effective when fishing for gurnards from a boat.
Boat Leger Rig
This is one of the simplest and most effective rigs for boat anglers. The space between the hook and swivel can vary, but should generally be about 1 m (3 ft). The bait is presented on the seabed and the line is able to move through the boom without hitting the weight which would otherwise scare off a bait-biting fish.
Simple Paternoster Rig
This rig works great when you want to present your bait just above the seabed and move with the current. The distance between the weight and split ring can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft). Likewise, the distance between the hook and swivel (free running on main line) can vary, but should be at least 150 mm (6 inches).