It is around the middle to late March I start targeting huss on my home ground in North Wales. These fish start to move back in numbers on to the deep water rock marks and, along with early plaice, herald the arrival of spring.
My tactics are pretty simple. I aim to fish a tide with low water falling around dusk or in to dark. I tend to favour the smaller neap tides on the marks I fish as fast tide runs induced by the bigger tides tends to push the fish in to sheltered bays, or more likely, out in to deeper water where the tide run is lessened and out of casting range.
The type of ground huss are working through is typically underwater rock ledges, boulders, small rising rock pinnacles and kelp beds. In short it is rough and tackle hungry, but that’s where the fish are. Another obstacle to struggle with is that the best marks often have numerous lobster pots set at both close and long range. These are often set on long lengths of rope that swing in front of you with the tide and you need to consider this when fishing. The pots though, are obviously baited, and it’s this continual scent stream that helps bring the huss in to the area, so you need to learn to live with the pots.
Tackle needs to be strong! I tend to fish powerful beachcasters such as the ABU Atlantic 464 which has the power to bully big fish up and away from the snags, plus the ability to launch big baits and leads out in to a head wind when necessary. I’m fortunate enough to have been fishing and testing prototypes of the new Penn 535Mag 2 reel which will be available hopefully this coming autumn and this reel is perfect for this rough and tough fishing. It casts exceptionally well and holds around 275-yards of 30lb mono, but has a 6.1 retrieve ratio so can really get big fish moving, plus reduces tackle losses when retrieving as it gets rigs and leads up in the water column quickly.
I always fish a 60lb shock leader when after huss. Although strong for casting and giving you something to grab and steer bigger fish on to rocks with, it actually also acts as a weak link. If you get snagged and pull for a break by hand, the line will mostly part at the leader knot losing only the leader and rig. This preserves your main line, which I prefer to do.
I tend to fish mainly pulley rigs for huss. These are made from 80lb mono as they will be in direct contact with the rough stuff. I make mine from a section of line about 60-inches long. Tie a SALT Lead Clip Link to one end. Slide on 5mm bead, a Salt Pulley Rig Bead and another 5mm bead. At the free end of the mono, 24-inches above it, tie in a figure of eight knot. Now slide on a 5mm bead and tie on the hook to the free end. Above the hook and bead tie on a 5-turn stop knot. The knot and bead act as a bait stop to avoid the bait sliding up the hook snood during the cast. The hook should be a single 5/0 to 6/0 O’Shaughnessy pattern. Huss are greedy fish and there is no need for a two-hook pennel system. The hook goes in the Clip Link when casting and will release on hitting the sea’s surface.
Huss are generally predatory fish eaters. The best baits are squid, mackerel, bluey and sandeel. On some marks sandeel is the top bait, but whole squid is also a killer. Another good one is a mackerel and squid, or bluey and squid cocktail. The mackerel or bluey puts major scent in the water, but the squid is the chocolate chips on the ice cream and can increase your catch rate as opposed to fishing just individual fish baits.
I put all this in to practice on a recent dusk in to darkness session in North Wales. Low water fell at dusk, but ideally it needs to be full dark before you can realistically expect the huss to turn up. So it proved this particular night with a bite showing about an hour after low water with the light pretty much gone in the western sky.
The fish rattled the rod tip then pulled it hard over. I gave it a little slack line and waited for it to pull on the rod top again before hammering the hook home as I was fishing at range. There was good weight on the rod and the fish hugged the seabed twisting and turning through kelp fronds. It took steady pressure to get the fish out of the weed, and then up in the water away from the snags. It fought well and broke the surface way out with my powerful headlight beam finding the fish. I could see it was close to pot buoys and I had to steer the fish away from them by walking to the left and dropping the rod to the side. Once clear of the buoys, it was then just a case of easing it in to the edge of the rocks.
My buddy lifted the fish gently on the shock leader. We took a photo and estimated its weight at between 7 and 8lbs, then released it. It was the only huss of the night, but a good start to my spring campaign and there’ll be more huss for us in the coming months, and I hope much bigger ones too!