First in an occasional series by Age Lundström
No, this is not an article about the finest LRF fishermen I know (sorry chaps, maybe one day), but is about some of my favourite fish to target using LRF and light lure techniques.
First up is the lowly Scad, yep, the bloomin’ Horse Mackerel. Not a very highly regarded species, yet is becoming a bit of a “secret pleasure” amongst the LRF fraternity. Often, in the past, they were regarded as “junk” fish to be discarded when caught. Myths grew up about their lack of value as a table fish and that they were full of bones! Nothing could be further from the truth! They are no more full of bones than mackerel, and can be prepared in exactly the same way, should you wish to try one – just remember to trim the sharp lateral line from the fish and remove the pin-bones. Their flavour is often described as being like a mild sardine by some, and reminiscent of bacon by others! The scad is a commercial target in the UK, nowadays, but most of the catch is exported to the continent.
The scad is not really a member of the mackerel family (it is actually a type of jack), but is often associated with them as a by-catch when feathering. Characterised by its’ large eye, two dorsal fins (the anterior fin being quite spiky), large pectoral fins and a raised and sharp lateral line; it is a silvery, streamlined, torpedo shaped “speedster”. On light tackle, when hooked, the fight seems to consist of frenetic, mackerel-like zipping about at high speed, pollock style crash-dives and bass-like pugnaciousness….. FUN!
These feisty little fighters put in an appearance around the same time as the mackerel move inshore, but tend to remain right through the autumn and into early winter providing consistently good sport for the light game enthusiast whilst the general fishing seems to be swapping its’ cast from summer to winter species. An ideal target for the urban angler as they are attracted to artificial light playing on the water and can, therefore, be caught within very short casting distances …. sometimes, right at your feet.
When targeting scad, I can think of no better way than using out and out LRF gear. Rod between 7’ and 8’ capable of casting as little as 0.5g and maxing out at around 8g, 1000 – 2500 size fixed spool reel loaded with 6lb braid and a 4lb fluoro leader or, even, 3lb fluoro or copolymer straight through. A size 6 or 8 jig head of up to around 3g (having de-barbed the hook – as my fishing is mainly catch and release), upon which I mount a small paddle tail (like the Rock & Street M-Minnow), a small wormy type lure (eg. HTO Knight Worm, Rock & Street Two-Ball or Ecogear Shirasu) not forgetting that an inch of Isome in pink or white can also be very effective. Other lures can also work, but this is what I find works best for me in this locale.
Ideal marks seem to be ones which offer easy access to relatively deep water and artificial lighting present. Scad appreciate a bit of current flowing, so look for estuaries – especially where there might be a bottle neck that will enhance the tidal movement – also harbour entrances can provide the right conditions.
I have found the most productive times to be the first 2 or 3 hours of an ebbing tide, after dark. The fish could be feeding at any level throughout the water column, so a systematic approach is essential to maximise your chances of catching. I tend to start by casting uptide (assuming the flow of water isn’t fast enough to plant the lure at your feet before it can find the sea bed), allow it to find the bottom whilst keeping in contact with the lure. Then flick it off the bottom about a foot or so and allow it to sink (again keeping in contact with the lure), repeat this all the way in. If this results in no action, using the countdown method, work a sink and draw retrieve at various depths. Another productive technique is to cast straight out in front of yourself and allow the tide to take the lure around to about a 45 degree angle to yourself, then embark on a slow to moderate retrieve, pausing every now and then to allow the lure to sink – often the fish will hit on the drop, so it is important to maintain contact with the lure at all times. Depending on the weight of jig head and strength of the tide, you may not reach the bottom with this technique, but a small upward sweep of the rod immediately before pausing will enable the lure to drop further than it would otherwise.
Scad are a shoaling fish, so once you have caught one, you should soon make contact with a couple more as they pass your mark in small groups.
I tried to find out why they are called Horde Mackerel, but the only explanation I could find was that in the past it was thought that smaller fish hitched a ride on the backs of scad, riding between the dorsal fins. Of course, this may well have been dreamed up by a forager who returned home with the “wrong sort” of mushrooms! If anyone has a better explanation, I’d be interested to hear it.
So, there you are, the first LRF All Star ….. they are around now, so go out and have some light game fun!