- Scientific name: Trisopterus luscus
- Also known as: Pout, Bib, Blegg, Scotch Haddock
- Size: Up to 2ft and over 5lb. UK shore caught typically 8oz – 1lb.
- UK minimum size: 8ins/20cm
- UK shore caught record: 4lb 9oz
- IUCN Status: NE (Not Evaluated)
- Distribution: Found around most of the UK, although they are more common in the south and south west of the British Isles.
- Feeds on: Unfussy scavenger that will feed on marine worms, small fish, crabs and prawns.
- Description: Small fish with a high, rounded body. Three dorsal fins are present, the first of which is high and triangular. Prominent barbule on the chin and a small black spot is present at the start of the pectoral fin. Back is usually brownish to orangey/copper in colour and underbelly is pale. Bars or thick stripes can sometimes be found running down the flanks of this species, although these fade once the fish is out of the water for any amount of time.
Pouting is a member of the cod family, but it is poorly regarded by shore anglers who often see it as a bait-stealing pest species. The reality is that pouting can grow to decent sizes (the UK boat caught record is 5lb 8oz) but the bigger specimens move offshore into deeper water, out of range of shore anglers. This means that the pouting which are caught from the shore are small, with a one pound specimen being a good catch (although the shore caught record is approaching 5lbs). Despite the small average size pouting are relatively abundant, and many an angler has been spared a blank session by catching a pouting or two. Pouting are most common over relatively clean and clear sandy or shingle seabeds, although they are sometimes also caught from mixed and rough ground. Pouting are often mixed up with poor cod, and the two species are very similar looking. However, there are a few key differences between the species which are pointed out on this guide which can be viewed by clicking here.
Like whiting, pouting have a newly acquired reputation as a food fish. Until recently it was rare to see this species for sale but this has changed and now it is possible to buy both pouting fillets and whole pouting from supermarkets and fishmongers, where they are a cheaper (and more sustainable) alternative to premium white fish such as haddock and cod. Many of the pouting which are caught by trawlers still end up being processed as fishmeal, or used to bait crab and lobster pots. They are also commonly used as a ‘filler fish’ in cheap fish products such as fish pies, fish fingers and other frozen fish products.
Life Cycle and Use as Bait
Pouting spawn in spring. They are a fast-growing fish reaching around 15cm in length at the end of their first year and are fully grown and sexually mature at the end of their second year, with this rapid growth making them a sustainable fish to catch commercially. They are a short-lived fish with the maximum life expectancy thought to be around four years. Because of the small size inshore pouting reach, they are a constant source of prey for larger species, meaning that pouting make a good bait for bigger fish. Pouting can be either fished dead for large species such as conger eel or tope, or livebaited, with a small pouting being lowered down from the end of a pier a good technique to catch big bass.
Methods and Techniques to Catch Pouting
The vast majority of sea anglers do not specifically target pouting but catch them inadvertently when fishing for other species. Pouting are voracious feeders that will often wedge big baits into their mouth, much to the annoyance of anglers aiming for bigger species such as cod or bass. When fishing specifically for pouting it is best to use smaller size 1 – 2 hooks in a multi-hook rig, such as a two or three hook flapper. There is no need to use expensive baits as standard sea fishing baits such as ragworm, lugworm and mackerel strip will all catch this species. Sandy and shingle beaches are the best marks for targeting this species, and pouting are known to come into shallower water, and feed more willingly, once the sun begins to set.