Shop Now

Shop Now

The wrasse is a unique looking fish found in British waters where there are two main species. We discuss both here as they can be caught using similar methods, rigs and baits:

Name

Ballan Wrasse (Labrus bergylta)

Cuckoo Wrasse (Labrus mixtus)

Average Weight

Big rod-caught ballan wrasse can weigh 2.7 Kg (6 lbs) or more. The average ballan wrasse weighs around 1 Kg (2¼ lbs).

Cuckoo wrasse are much smaller, big rod-caught cuckoo wrasse can weigh 0.55 Kg (1¼ lbs) or more. The average cuckoo wrasse weighs around 227 g (½ lb).

IUCN Status

Both species of wrasse have the LC – Least Concern – status.

Appearance

Ballan Wrasse: The ballan wrasse is a sturdy fish with a thick body which is green or red/rust brown in colour; it can sometimes be tinted blue and has a pleasant pattern with a pale underbelly. The ballan wrasse also has a single dorsal fin which is present across its entire body and has a broad tail fin. It also has powerful jaws armed with small teeth.

Cuckoo Wrasse:  The cuckoo wrasse is not as broad or as long as its bigger brother and therefore weighs much less on average. It is also one of the most colourful fish in British waters, male cuckoo wrasse have brilliant blue backs with orange-gold sides whilst females have a vivid pink-red body and black spots across their backs. The cuckoo wrasse has one long dorsal fin and a broad tail, although it is much smaller in total than the ballan wrasse.

Ballan Wrasse (Labrus bergylta)

Female Cuckoo Wrasse (Labrus mixtus)

Male Cuckoo Wrasse (Labrus mixtus)

So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

Wrasse can be caught using a wide range of bait, the best being sandeels and small pieces of fresh fish such as herring, mackerel, pilchard and squid. Ragworms, lugworms, small shellfish, prawns, peeler crabs and soft-backed crabs can also all be used to catch wrasse.

Seasons

The months which offer the best wrasse sport close inshore are May, June, July, August, September and October.

Favourite Feeding Places

These two species of wrasse feed in similar areas – close to the base of inshore rocks, slightly offshore rocks, weed-covered reefs, cracked harbour walls and sandy patches of seabed between rocks and/or reefs.

Best Locations

The ballan wrasse can be found throughout most British waters, whilst the cuckoo wrasse is primarily caught along the shores of southern Britain.

.

Best rig for catching wrasse

Shore Fishing

A rotten bottom rig cast onto sandy area near rocks is recommended when shore fishing for wrasse.

Rotten Bottom Rig

This rig is perfect when fishing over reefs or rocks where you understand that you may lose a trapped weight, but are reluctant to lose swivels, hooks and long lengths of line along with it. Should your weight become inextricably caught amongst the rocks, steady pressure on your line by pulling with gloved hands (do not strain your rod) will break the weaker “light” line attaching weight to the main line. The lighter line should be ABOUT half the breaking strain of the main line. The distance between weight and swivel can vary, but should generally be at least 200 mm (8 inches). The hook should be a minimum of 150 mm (6 inches) from the swivel or blood loop on the main line.

Cost-effective rotten bottom rigs can be constructed with expendable weights such as bolts, nuts and stones with naturally worn holes etc. (see B below).

DO NOT make sweeping overhead casts from the shore with a rotten bottom rig as the weight could break off and injure someone!

Rocks And Harbour Walls

If you are fishing from rocks or harbour walls for wrasse, either a sliding float rig or a rotten bottom rig are recommended.

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).

Rotten Bottom Rig

This rig is perfect when fishing over reefs or rocks where you understand that you may lose a trapped weight, but are reluctant to lose swivels, hooks and long lengths of line along with it. Should your weight become inextricably caught amongst the rocks, steady pressure on your line by pulling with gloved hands (do not strain your rod) will break the weaker “light” line attaching weight to the main line. The lighter line should be ABOUT half the breaking strain of the main line. The distance between weight and swivel can vary, but should generally be at least 200 mm (8 inches). The hook should be a minimum of 150 mm (6 inches) from the swivel or blood loop on the main line.

Cost-effective rotten bottom rigs can be constructed with expendable weights such as bolts, nuts and stones with naturally worn holes etc. (see B below).

DO NOT make sweeping overhead casts from the shore with a rotten bottom rig as the weight could break off and injure someone!

Top tips

  1. A rising tide is great for wrasse fishing as it often brings large wrasse with it.
  2. Wrasse huddle together very close to the rock face, try to place your baited hook as close as you can to the rocks.
  3. Hooked wrasse have a habit of tangling your line around rocks; prevent this from happening back reeling them in as fast as possible.