Well, it is my business to put the reader in possession of the most killing methods of taking the chief sporting fishes of our seas and not to quibble about names.
Drift-lining is, in fact, also practised from an anchored boat for bass and pollack. The drift-fishing for bass in estuaries is quite different, and will be described in a later page. In drift-lining for pollack, as for mackerel, the boat is anchored out in the tideway, but always over rocks and often as far as ten miles from the coast. The tackle is much heavier than that used for mackerel, and the light rod is usually laid aside for a sea-rod. So little sport, however, have I lately found in these stiff rods that I have been using the hand-line whenever the trout-rod was hors de combat. Whether this is only a passing fancy, or whether it will crystallise with me as permanent doctrine, it seems desirable to record such impressions at the moment of writing. The bait for a pollack of 10 or 15 lbs. must be something worth offering to a fish of such splendid appetite, and the half of a large pilchard is not deemed too much. To those unfamiliar with a fish little known outside Cornwall, it should be explained that the pilchard is not unlike a herring, only it is a smaller, greener fish, with larger scales. The side of a pilchard, then, of 7 or 8 inches in length, cut with one rip of the sharp bait knife from behind the neck to the root of the tail fin, makes a capital pollack bait, and another good bait is composed of one strip of pilchard and another of mackerel. This is a particularly useful combination on days when the chad, or small red bream, are too attentive to the hooks. These little plagues, which afford endless amusement to the children that fish from the piers and quays, are a constant spoil-sport for the more serious angler out in deep water, and the extreme remedy is to put out a chad line with small hooks, catch one or two of the greedy little fish on a small bait of mackerel or pilchard, and then bait the pollack hook with a large slab of chad. This, while not perhaps as attractive to the pollack as the more oily pilchard bait, is nevertheless generally appreciated, and it has the further advantage of being very tough and resisting the constant worrying by other chads, which at once drag the soft pilchard bait off the hook.
Three fish are commonly taken on these drift-lines for pollack in the deeper offshore water: the pollack, for which they are baited; the large bream, which give perhaps less sport, but are infinitely better for eating purposes; and the sharks, blue or porbeagle, which are useless when killed, but which certainly afford a measure of sport in the killing, with just a dash of that excitement inseparable from the very name of these marauders. Although huge sharks, weighing a hundredweight or two, are captured in the fishermen's nets in Cornwall, nothing of great size is ever taken on the hook. I have once or twice had all my line run out and then broken, much as would happen if I hitched the hook to a motor car about to start on a tour round the world, and I have suspected very large sharks, such as are known to inhabit our south-western seas. Frankly, however, I never had a glimpse of these monsters at the other end of my line, as I have often had in Australia and elsewhere abroad, so their weight and dimensions were mere surmise. I have, however, taken porbeagle sharks of close on forty pounds, and blue sharks of considerably over twenty, on the rod, and good fun they are as long as they light. Once brought to the gaff, they are disgusting; and if any sensation could ever bring me near to sea-sickness, it is that of sitting in a boat, on a blazing hot summer day, with the boat rising and falling on the remains of an Atlantic storm, and a newly killed porbeagle shark in close proximity. This unpleasant contingency is, however, averted, for once killed, and even in the killing, the shark is kept carefully aloof from the other fish, and is then strung up at the bow. The capture of a shark generally marks the interval between two good spells of fishing, the lull being the result of the terror inspired by these hideous monsters. Keeping the shark away from the eatable fish in the well of the boat may be simply a superstition, or contact might actually damage the better kinds. I do not know. What is, however, worth recording is that the rowhound, or rough-hound, a relative of the sharks, makes colourless patches on any whiting or pollack or similarly dark-hued fishes with which its wet skin may come in touch, and this bleaching property even seems to be possessed by the water that drips from it.
One of the most interesting of the many studies that suggest themselves to the contemplative sea angler is the difference in the behaviour of the many fishes hooked. The shaik behaves more after the manner of the bass and mackerel, sheering away at the top of the water, confusing any one unaccustomed to its quick twists and turns and changes of mood, for it will first steer right away from the boat, making the reel scream and playing mischief with the rod top, and then, without warning, it will head with the same amazing rapidity for the boat. This, unless the angler has reeled in very carefully, leads to trouble, for it is only with the utmost difficulty that he can keep a tight line on a fish that is swimming towards him at a hundred yards a minute, with perhaps another rush in the opposite direction at any moment. All said and done, then, a shark of 20 or 30 lbs. affords a chance of sport for ten minutes or so, and the fact of the fish being useless when brought to the gaff ought not entirely to disqualify it as a sporting customer, though I was never able to agree with my esteemed friend, the late Mr. Matthias Dunn, who gravely suggested that shark-fishing would, if properly advertised, become so fashionable a sport as to draw hundreds of yachtsmen and anglers to Cornish resorts every summer. Tastes differ in angling, fortunately, as in most other modes of pleasure-seeking, but the thought of enthusiastic pilgrims performing an annual journey to that western Mecca to slay such scaly vermin will be a little too much for the gravity of the critical. We may take our sharks as they come, anathematising them when they rob us of valuable tackle and deriving what fun we may from their capture when the hook holds; but to go three hundred miles specially equipped for such work is not, I think, likely to occur to London anglers anxious for distraction.