Garfish (Belone belone)
Irish Record 1.729 kilo taken on 28.05.2007 by Stephen O’Neill at Cork Harbour.
Specimen 2.205lb, or 1.0 kilo
Garfish are easily recognised. The thin, elongated body and long distinctive beak immediately separate this from any other fish in Irish waters. The dorsal and anal fins are located close to the forked tail. The beak is lined with tiny teeth. Colouration is iridescent silver flanks leading to a blue-green back. The only time it may be misidentified, is with the smaller species Belone svetovidovi. Apart from size, they are very difficult to tell apart, but the smaller species has a shorter beak, fewer teeth and fewer gill rakers.
Where to catch
Garfish can be caught all around Irelands' coast but the Southern and Western coasts are usually better if specifically targeting this species. Almost all larger specimens are taken from marks out of Cork Harbour. They tend to be caught near to or above shoals of Mackerel on the surface, and when hooked, perform all manner of aerial displays in a bid to shake the hook free. Although there are two species of Garfish in Irish waters, Belone belone and the smaller Belone svetovidovi. I have only been able to find the larger species to date. Most specimens are taken off-shore, aboard charter boats and private boats launched from harbours along the Cork coast-line.
Brilliant fun on light coarse angling tackle
When to catch
As with Mackerel, Garfish are a mainly a summer species, so June through to October would cover their arrival and departure around our shores.
Garfish feed almost entirely on bait-fish and sand eels, and choice of bait should reflect this. Popular methods are small spinners and lures or Herring rigs, but a thin strip of fresh Mackerel, float fished three feet below the surface on suitable light tackle such as a coarse fishing outfit, will give excellent results.
Many Garfish are caught each year fishing in this way by casting into the oily "Rubby-Dubby" slick whilst fishing for sharks. On a calm day, Garfish can be seen darting back and forth picking up small particles of Mackerel and can be caught quite easily.
My old mate Dessy Young with a decent Garfish
A coarse fishing match rod, light spinning rod or quiver-tip outfit is ideal if you wish to target Garfish on the surface with a small float and Mackerel strip. This visual method can be great fun. Failing that, jigging a Herring trace baited with thin belly strips of Mackerel above Mackerel shoals may find the target species, or spinning with small silver lures, 5gTobies and similar.