ASFN catches Garrick off the boat
Each year, winter comes with a promise, a promise of blistering cold fronts, big winds from the South, cold water currents — but most of all on a positive note — the promise of good Garrick fishing. ASFN Ambassador Wesley Peens explains.
For those who have yet to have the privilege of targeting this cooler water species, I would like to walk you through a few techniques that I use to target Garrick off the boat, and obviously when and where you should be looking to get a bite. These techniques can also be used off a paddle-ski or jetski.
Who: The Garrick is a pelagic species also known as the Leervis in some parts but the scientific name is Lichia amia, with a minimum size of 70 mm and a bag limit of two fish per valid fishing permit per day. Garrick is targeted throughout South Africa by many anglers for the fighting ability and exciting mannerism of this beautiful fish.
Where: Found in many parts of the world, here in South Africa they migrate up the east coast in the winter months and back down to the cooler waters of the Eastern Cape and Western Cape in the warmer summer months. Garrick is an inshore fish found in the surf zone, in water between 1-10 m, obviously with the occasional exception to the rule.
Diet: Small fish – Shad, Blacktail, Pinkies, Mackerel, Mozzies, Silver Bream, Mullet and a variety of small fish species, also eating Squid and the odd Crustacea that may get in the way.
How to target Garrick off the boat
Garrick is well known as a widely targeted rock and surf fish, and in most cases, Garrick is not regarded as a species that one will target off the boat. Although this prime fighting royal of the shallows deserves the utmost respect, a pure, wild hearted fighting machine that will provide most anglers with a personal best rod-bending tussle to get the heart racing.
I would like to discuss the tackle I use on the boat and the simple process that I follow when targeting Garrick. Also I will chat about the different methods that I use with good results. Weather Conditions: weather forecasts, tide, barometer and water clarity always play an important roll, although my experience tells me that the Garrick is not as affected by weather conditions and more specifically barometric readings as some other pelagic species.
Barometric Reading – Stable reading, around 1 015-1 019. Tide – Neap Tide, outgoing or low tide around first light or mid morning. Water Colour: Dark Blue, Off Coloured – Green or Ginger Beer (especially by river mouths). If the water is clean, drop your bait in the breaking white foamy turning water.
Step 1: Select a destination – river mouths, deep sandy beaches close to deep water points etc. Step 2: Catch live bait – This is probably your most important task, live bait will in most cases determine your success. Make sure you have a live bait mark/spot to catch bait before you target the Garrick in the surf zone.
Step 3: Keep your live bait alive – what ever you do, make sure that these baits have enough oxygen and fresh water at all times. Dead bait is no good. Step 4: Tackle up – 2 x trawling rods; 1 x spinning rod.
Step 5: Select your fisherman and select your skipper – this is important if you have two people fishing on the boat, because you will be in the surf zone, you will need one skipper behind the wheel AT ALL TIMES (IMPORTANT: I will come back to safety later).
Step 6: Lines in – always make sure you have two live baits in the water, one at approx 15m and the other at approx 30m. Step 7: Identify the sand banks, channels and choose troll your line – Garrick fishing is all about the surf zone, being as close to the breaking water as possible and identifying areas where you have currents, rips, holes etc that will hold fish.
Step 8: Trawling speed – no faster than 3 km/h, always have your Bow pointing towards the surf.
Step 9: Always fish with a very light drag – set the drag on the reels to an almost “freespool” position.
Step 10: Getting the bite – once a Garrick eats the bait, freespool the fish so that it does not feel any pressure on the line and ask the skipper to get the boat out of the surf zone for safe fighting, as soon as the boat is in a “safe” zone and the fish has had some time to eat, click over wind the line until it is tight and strike. Remember with all the loose line in the water, you will have to ensure that when you strike the line is direct to the fish, striking on a slack line will result in a lost fish.
Step 11: The fight – this fast fish can spit hooks if he so wishes so always fish with soft arms, so when the fish turns, there is not great pressure on the direct line to the hook, although always maintain a tight line. Garrick are lost mainly on the initial bite, secondly to a hook falling out due to slack line, thirdly close to the boat due to a fixed drag.
Step 12: Boating the fish – always support the head and tail of the fish while trying to get it on the boat for a picture.
Step 13: Release the fish – not the best eating fish so I always release my Garrick as they play an important role in our local eco-systems, bag limit of two per valid fishing licence.
2 x Penn Torque Game Fish Series Rods 10-15kg Class – this lightweight, well constructed, great quality rod has a soft tip to absorb those quick turns from the Garrick and solid backbone when you need the strength to pull.
2 x PENN Fathom 25 – with a light solid frame structure, unique smooth Versa Drag system for those unsuspecting runs and great line capacity, the Fathom is perfect for the job.
1 x PENN Conquer 5000 – spinning reel to cast a surface plug while your baits are in the water.
1 x Berkley Air 8’Extreme – has the ability to cast a 1/2 oz up to a 3oz surface plug. The Methods: (in order of preference) Method 0ne: Direct Line to leader Execution: Trawl the live bait in the top water column without weight or flotation. Use spinning rod to cast surface plugs into surf zone to attract the Garrick to the baits. Trace: No. 5 Power Swivel, 1.2 metres of 0.65mm Stren Gun smoke Fluorocarbon leader, 6/0 Live Bait Gamakatsu.
Execution: Drop the bait which is floated by the bait float just behind the breaking surf and position the boat in the safe zone, which is out of the way of breaking water. Watch the float and wait for a bite. Use spinning rod to cast surface plugs into surf zone to attract the Garrick to the baits.
Trace: 2 metres of 0.65mm Stren Gun smoke Fluorocarbon leader, 6/0 Live Bait Gamakatsu, Large bait float, just buoyant enough to stay above water – attach the boat float approx 1.5 metres up the leader. Method Three: Bottom Bait.
Execution: Dropping live bait in the surf zone on a bottom trace, weighted with a running sinker to stay in one place, after which the skipper will take the boat out of the breaking zone where the angler will wait for a bite. Use spinning rod to cast surface plugs into surf zone to attract the Garrick to the baits.
Trace: 75cm of 0.65mm Fluorocarbon Hook snoot between a No. 5 power swivel and a 6/0 Gamakatsu Live Bait hook, 20cm of 0.50mm clear monofilament between a No.5 power swivel and 6oz sinker (depends on the sea conditions). Safety: Due to the nature and feeding habits of the Garrick, it requires us as anglers to work the surf zone; this in itself comes with various threats. Obviously safety comes first, this is without exception. The skipper must at all times be in control of the boat and have an escape route planned if and when a close out set comes through. Close out set is a wave that stands bigger than the rest and breaks further out to sea. My rule of thumb, always have the bow of the boat pointed out to sea, towards the horizon and if and when a Close Out set comes through you are ready to act and dodge the wave. ALWAYS KEEP THE MOTORS RUNNING, NO EXCEPTION to this rule!! Assess your fishing area, if a Close Out set does come through and you have to run it on the inside, make sure you know where the sand banks are and where your “channels” or “safe zones” are situated.
Garrick fishing is great fun, make sure you are safe, and make sure you are careful and release these fish, but they are not great for eating! This powerhouse fight will keep you wanting more, SO HOLD ON TIGHT AND WAIT FOR A BITE. Let us all do our part and make sure we look after the Garrick species and together we can FISH FOR THE FUTURE.