Name

Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught haddock can weigh 3.60 Kg (8 lbs) or more. The average haddock weighs around 1 Kg (2¼ lbs).

IUCN Status

VU – Vulnerable

Appearance

The haddock is a member of the cod family and as such has three dorsal fins, the first appears as a tall triangle, the second is a broader triangle and the third is small and sloping. Its body is grey-brown on the back and gradually morphs into a shade of white on its belly. It is easily recognisable by its black lateral line and by its “thumbprint”, this refers to the black mark above each pectoral fin. It also has a small mouth than other members of the cod family and a small barbule on its chin.

In recent years due to commercial over-fishing the haddock has become scares in British coasts and therefore captured haddock should be returned alive to the sea.

So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

The most effective bait to fish for haddock with is ragworm or lugworm. Shellfish, particularly mussels and cockles also work very well, as do fish strips, particularly mackerel, herring and squid. Shrimps, crabs (soft-backed) and even starfish can also be used.

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Seasons

The haddock can be caught throughout the year, during the winter months it tends to come close inshore.

Favourite Feeding Places

The haddock feeds on or very close to the bottom of deep water off steep-sloping beaches or rocky outcrops. Haddock shoals sift soft sand/mud seabed areas to search for food.

Best Locations

Despite having a vulnerable status, the haddock is now steadily restoring its numbers, and is most common around the coasts of Scotland, north-eastern England and deep water off the West Country.

Best rigs to catch haddock

Shore fishing

We recommend using a two boom paternoster rig or two hook paternoster rig when fishing for haddock from the shore – cast into deep water.

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Two Boom Paternoster Rig

The two boom paternoster rig allows you to present two baited hooks above the seabed and is free to move with the current. The presence of plastic booms removes the possibility of lines tangling and encourages vigorous movement of the baits in a current. Further to this, you can use two different baits at once. The distance between weight and boom can vary, but each spacing should generally be at least 460 mm (1½ ft) and the hooks should each be at least 200 mm (8 inches) from the booms.

Two Hook Paternoster Rig

This is a flexible rig which allows you to present two baited hooks above the seabed, with two different hookbaits being able to be used should you desire. Beach casting anglers reduce seabed wear and tear on the knot by clipping a small split ring onto the weight’s “eye” and tying line to the split ring. Alternatively, the line can be tied straight to the weight. 3 way swivels can be used instead of the blood loops. The distances between the weight, 1st blood loop, 2nd blood loop and top swivel/or split ring, can vary but each should generally be 460 mm (1½ ft). Similarly, the distance between hook and blood loop can vary but should be about 200 mm (8 inches).

Boat fishing

A boat leger rig or two boom paternoster rig work well when fishing for haddock 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.

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Two Boom Paternoster Rig

The two boom paternoster rig allows you to present 2 baited hooks above the seabed and is free to move with the current. The presence of plastic booms removes the possibility of lines tangling and encourages vigorous movement of the baits in a current. Further to this, you can you two different baits at once. The distance between weight and boom can vary, but each spacing should generally be at least 460 mm (1½ ft) and the hooks should each be at least 200 mm (8 inches) from the booms.

Top tips

  1. Haddock shoals are constantly on the move, searching the seabed for any food they can find. Therefore if you’re boat fishing away from rocks and reefs, don’t hesitate to move your boat in the same direction and at the same speed as any shoals of haddock that you hook into.
  2. In water around 20 fathoms (37 m) or more deep, modify paternoster rigs to present one baited hook at about 1 m (3 ft) above the seabed, and a second (if any) baited hook around 1.8 m (6 ft) above the seabed.