2021 has all the makings of a brilliant summer for LRF, aka Light Rock Fishing, or ‘Lerfing’. Not only are we seeing increasing numbers of anglers take up this lighter side of lure fishing, we also have the annual promise of the summer species and *fingers crossed* relaxing, perhaps even an ending of Covid restrictions.
With the LRF summer kicking off with The Big Lerfin’ Fundraiser in Weymouth on Saturday 3rd July, I think the interest in this part of the sport will continue to grow. That is with good reason too, as fishing ultralight gets the absolute best out of the summer species that invade our coast. Combine that with calm seas and warm weather and you have got a winning combination.
So, with more anglers taking up the sport, this article is my 2021 summer preview of the species you could encounter this season and how best to target them….
The first has to be the one that kicks it all off every summer, the Atlantic mackerel. A species so famous yet often maligned. The chaos this fish creates above and below the water is legendary. With vast shoals boiling the water in pursuit of baitfish, the ensuing carnage both kick starts feeding frenzies through the food chain and, sadly, far too many feather and tinsel clad hooks to be chucked in after them.
LRF tactics make targeting mackerel an ultralight equivalent of playing tuna! On 6lb BS braided line and rods that cast 7 grams or under, these fish pull like trains! They hit hard, fight hard and, if you are so inclined, taste fantastic.
I will bang this drum until the day I hang up my rods, put the feathers away and use a single lure, you will still catch loads but you will have so much more fun.
Lure choice is so varied for mackerel, small metal jigs are my first choice, ranging from the Dexter Wedge to jigs from HTO, Majorcraft and so many more. Tiny soft plastic paddle tails and sandeel imitations also work a treat – my favourites being from the likes of Keitech and Savage Gear. Just work them through the water column, sometimes the fish are deeper, sometimes they are chasing prey on the surface. The good thing is, they never stop moving, so they will find you eventually.
The second exciting summer species would be the scad or horse mackerel. This species often frustrates anglers targeting mackerel, but they are worth catching I promise you that. An underrated eating fish, I target them purely for the sport. They are a fish that prefers the darker water, whether by hunting at night or staying deep during the day. They may not have the unending energy of the mackerel but they fight deep and with superb power. You just need ultralight tackle to get the most out of them.
They take the same lures as mackerel but you will be rewarded for scaling down, especially at night. Hunt the shadows and the edges, keeping your lure deep but using the lightest lure you can get away with, The takes can be gentle or ferocious, they are an exceptionally fun species. There’s a reason the Japanese have a whole section of LRF dedicated to them, called ‘Aji’ fishing, It’s worth looking up.
Moving away from the true pelagic species, there is another that excites me more than most – the tub gurnard. Also called the ‘sea butterfly’ or the ‘sea robin’, I love these fish. In the warmer months they move inshore and are incredibly aggressive. This is a species that rewards light tackle and technique. If you keep your lures close to the sand, especially on clean ground, you can get whacked by a fish that looks remarkably tropical.
Technique is key. You have to have the patience and faith to keep the metal jig or soft plastic, either on, or close to the bottom. This species is an ambush hunter that lives on the bottom, so you need to keep the lure in it’s sight, See my previous Hookpoint article on the subject for more – https://hookpoint.co.uk/let-the-jigs-hit-the-floor/
Lure choice, I really love the Majorcraft Jigpara metals for this job in 5 or 7grams. The Keitech Custom Leech has also worked well in the past for them, rigged Dropshot style. This is a species you can have fun with, experiment and you will reap the rewards.
A species that is truly exotic and often, incredibly rare, is the grey triggerfish. I am lucky to live in Plymouth, Devon, where these fish turn up most years within casting distance. There is truly nothing quite like them in our waters. They have teeth that can shred a hardback crab in seconds and a powerful tail used for rocketing away from danger. They also have a large dorsal spine that they can use to wedge themselves in crevices and snags when hooked.
Location, rather than lure choice, is the important factor with this species. They can be incredibly localised, often shoaling in the same spot for days.
This can lead to angling pressure and, once spooked, these intelligent fish will refuse pretty much any lure. The trick is finding them before others do, which can be hard in a busy city. They aren’t afraid to show themselves though, often lazily cruising in the surface layers, or attacking crustaceans on harbour walls.
Once found, a section of scented, artificial bait such as Marukyu Isome, or Berkley Gulp, will tempt them. Rigged on a light jighead or dropshot. Just strike early to avoid being bitten off! This species is occasionally caught on metal jigs around the Med though, so it must be possible. If you succeed in this, I will happily buy you a pint!
For my final species, I’m going to return to the pelagics. The humble garfish can be genuinely one of the most exciting LRF targets. These bizarre, beaked predators leap from the water, rip soft plastics to shreds and fight like tiny marlin! Give me a pier or rock mark and a shoal of hungry gar and I’m a happy man. I will be grinning from ear to ear as my lure is savaged by toothy beaks and I lose far more fish than I catch as they shake the hook.
I like to use small metal jigs that sink slowly through the water, they get the most hits. A really fine combo though is the Ecogear Aqua Shirasu on a light jighead, the gars love the scented lure and you can get firmer hook ups. A trick is not to strike the first hit but to wait a second then strike, the gar hits the lure to stun it, then engulfs it, so the delay improves hook up rates.
Everyone knows where to find these fish, they are common around piers and rock marks all over the South coast. A superb target that brighten up any day Lerfing. It’s just a shame they absolutely stink!
THank you for reading, I hope this has whetted your appetite for the warmer months ahead. Check out my blog for more LRF articles like this one at – www.benbassettfishing.home.blog