- Scientific name: Pollachius pollachius
- Also known as: Lythe, Pollack, European Pollock
- Size: Up to 4ft and over 30lbs (UK shore caught typically 1 – 5lbs)
- UK minimum size: 12inches (30cm) in length
- UK shore caught record: 18lb 4oz
- IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
- Distribution: Common throughout the whole of the UK and Ireland.
- Feeds on: Predator that feeds by hunting small fish and sandeels, but will also scour the seabed for anything it can find such as worms and crustaceans.
- Description: Lower jaw protrudes noticeably and there is no barbel on the chin. Flanks are brown to greenish-grey, although pollock from some areas have a coppery colour which can be very bright, especially when a fish has just been removed from the water. There are three dorsal fins and the lateral line is high and curves upwards.
The large eyes and mouth make it clear that the pollock is a predatory fish that feeds by hunting. While most fish are either demersal (feed on or near the seabed), or pelagic (live and feed in mid-water), pollock will feed at all water levels. They will hunt for small fish such as sprats, small mackerel and sandeels between mid-water and at the surface, and also scour the seabed for flatfish, worms and crabs and shellfish. The largest pollock generally tend to live in deeper offshore waters, and especially favour feeding over wrecks, while smaller pollock form into loose shoals and generally stay in shallower water where they will feed on a wider diet including mussels, crabs, worms as well as any small fish they can catch. Pollock fishing is synonymous with rock marks as pollock favour hunting among or over rocky and weedy seabeds. The British shore caught record for pollock is a specimen of 18lb 4oz which has stood since 1986, while the boat caught record is a pollock of 29lb 4oz which was set in 1987.
Pollock appear to be non-migratory and stay around the same area for the whole of their lives. Larger pollock will generally move into deeper water in the colder winter months and may go as far as several miles offshore. During this time they will also spawn. For this reason, pollock is mostly seen as a summer species by UK anglers as it is in the warmer months when the majority of catches are made. However, some pollock stay in shallow waters all year round, and catches of this species can be made in winter, although it is usually smaller specimens that are caught at this time of year.
Pollock from European waters are not commercially caught in large numbers, although recent years have seen the popularity of this species rise as people look for a sustainable whitefish alternative in response to declining numbers of cod and haddock. While pollock is a perfectly acceptable table fish (and is a member of the cod family) it is seen as inferior to cod and haddock and does not command as high a price as either of these species. In 2009 the UK supermarket Sainsbury’s attempted to re-brand pollock under the new name of ‘Colin’ (which is the French word for hake) on the basis that many consumers were avoiding buying pollock because of its name. The Alaskan pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus), also known as the walleye pollock, is one of the most important commercial fish in the world and is caught in huge numbers in the Bering sea and the Gulf of Alaska. However, these fish are only distantly related to the pollock that live in European waters.
Confusion with Coalfish
Sometimes anglers get the pollock confused with the closely related coalfish. While both fish are broadly similar in both appearance, feeding and behaviour there are a number of clear differences, and with a little knowledge, it soon becomes easy to tell these two species apart. See a detailed guide explaining the differences between these two species by clicking here.
Pollock or Pollack?
There is confusion over how the name of this species should be spelled with some sources stating that it should be ‘pollock’ and others ‘pollack’. Some people even claim that the pollack spelling means that the European species is being referred to, and the pollock spelling denotes the American Alaskan species. A quick review of sea fishing books, magazines and websites will reveal that both spellings are used interchangeably in UK sea fishing literature, and both are considered correct. For the sake of consistency this website always uses the pollock spelling to refer to this species.
Techniques and Methods to Catch Pollock
Inshore pollock live and feed in rocky areas, especially marks that give way to deep water. Because they can be found anywhere in the water column – from scavenging for worms on the seabed to chasing preyfish at the surface – there are a range of different fishing techniques that will catch these fish. Bait fishing with squid, crab, mackerel and worm baits can be effective. Hooks sized 2/0 or 3/0 in a strong pattern are a good choice, with clipped down rigs used if fishing at range or one or two hook flapping rigs used if fishing closer in. Lure fishing is an effective way to catch pollock, with spinners, plugs and especially jelly lures all being taken by pollock. Float fishing can also be a productive tactic with mackerel, ragworm and sandeel baits presented in mid-water accounting for some decent sized pollock. Free lining mackerel strip, head-hooked ragworm or sandeels into deep water is also worth a try. Some anglers even use fly fishing gear and sandeel type flies, as pollock will feed right at the surface of the water, especially at dusk. Whichever methods are used anglers should always keep their wits about them as pollock can strike at any time and will often hit a spinner or plug when it is very close to being retrieved by the angler.
See the full range of jelly lures, spinners, feathers and daylights available at SeaAnglingShop.co.uk by clicking here.
Reputation as a Sport Fish
Pollock fight very hard, and many anglers would say that pound-for-pound they are one of the hardest fighting fish that British anglers are likely to encounter. Once hooked pollock will dive, often seeking cover in weed beds or heavy kelp. Pollock that are hooked on light gear and allowed to dive is often lost as they cannot be removed from the weed beds once they have secured themselves there. The variety of methods that can be used to fish for pollock, and the fight that they put up once hooked, mean that they are one of the UK’s most highly regarded sporting fish.