The behaviour of a pollack when hooked is entirely different from that of any of the other fishes so far mentioned, different indeed from any other familiar fish in our seas. If the action of a shark may be compared with that of a runaway horse, the manner of the pollack fighting for dear life might approximately be represented by a large tom-cat slung on a light line out of a top window. It sinks to the bottom like a weight, struggling and kicking every yard of the way. There is no hesitation on the part of the fish, which has but one object-to get to the rocks as quickly as possible, and there, if possible, to cut asunder the cruel line. It is no part of these notes on practical fishing to inquire too minutely into the psychological aspect of a hooked fish, but I desire mildly to record my conviction, and to stand by it, that the pollack has this object in view. It has been objected that the fish would not know the result of drawing a line across a sharp edge of rock, and that its object in "boring," as fishermen call it, is merely to hide away under some rock-the rush of the wounded creature to its lair. It is quite possible that the first pollack that ever bored in this fashion did so out of sheer fright and agony, but it must have accidentally cut the line across a rock and regained its liberty. A second experience of the kind, or, if fishes have means of communicating their thoughts-as why should they not ?-a comparing of notes with a friend similarly placed, would have confirmed the lesson, and in course of time pollack have instinctively acquired a knowledge of this means of escape. Whatever the motives of the fish, however, one fact is of practical interest to the angler, and that is that the pollack will, given the chance, sever the line against the rocks or against the edges of the mussel shells that grow over them. My own plan is to withstand the first rush of the fish, however heavy, and to keep it from the bottom at all cost. This, in twenty or thirty fathoms of water-a very usual depth on good pollack ground six or eight miles out-is not a matter of great difficulty. It necessitates the use of a stout sea-rod or of a hand-line. With such a rod, the Nottingham reel is put at the check, and, over and above this, the thumb is cautiously pressed against the flying rim ; this throws much of the brunt on the top joint, but the top joint of an 8-foot sea-rod can stand a good deal. With the hand-line the line is gripped just inside the boat, and has to fly out between the thumb and first finger of either hand, with a further friction against the gunwale. This checking of the pollack's first rush is not perhaps very artistic fishing, but it kills the fish.
Mr. Walter Shaw, of Salcombe, has a more interesting plan of letting it run unchecked. He never uses a rod of any pattern for this work, but hand-lines all his fish, letting them go right down to the rocks and then playing them afterwards. I have never fished with him, but imagine that he throws out plenty of slack line. It would, unless the fish contrived to double ingeniously round a sharp rock, be very difficult, if not impossible, to cut a very slack line in the manner indicated. Any one doubting this should endeavour to cut a piece of string lying on a table one-handed, holding the blade of the knife edge upwards between the string and the table. An old trout-rod - it would be wanton wickedness to use a new one for such work unless bought specially, for it will not be of much account for trout again-gives good sport with these large pollack, though a number of the fish get away. There must be sixty or eighty yards of fine line on the reel, for the first rush has to go unchecked. After that it is a toss-up whether the fish wins or the fisherman. In any case they both get a run for their money, which is the ideal of sportsmanlike angling.
A simple and workmanlike gaff should be used in getting these large pollack into the boat. Failing such an implement on board, it is best, at any rate in Cornwall, to let your fisherman stoop over the side and hook his arm round the fish. These men do a lot of pollacking single-handed, and they get in the way of heaving their big fish into the boat in that way. Whatever you do, do not attempt to lift the fish in, if over a pound or two, by the line. A pollack may not, to all appearance, have any fight left in it after the first rush or two, but a fish that looks all but dead may make a wonderful effort if carelessly hauled into the boat, and more fish will escape that way than any other. There is nothing clever in hooking a pollack, for the simple reason that it hooks itself. The art comes in when the fish is fighting downwards on a light line and the angler has to get it, single-handed maybe, into his boat. In such a case, I am not sure that a landing-net is not preferable to a gaff, the latter being very difficult to use in one hand while the other is holding the line. The worst of a landing-net for pollack is that it must be rather large and unwieldy to be of use, the pollack being a very long fish for its depth. This is not, however, the place in which to discuss the merits of gaff or landing-net, for each has its advocates as firm in their convictions as the supporters of preferential tariffs and free trade.
Mention was made above of yet another fish often taken on the pollack grounds, and that is the sea-bream. There are several kinds of sea-bream on our coasts, and they are particularly plentiful down in the south-west, being, in fact, southern types. This is the common red sea-bream, very like the Australian snapper, and a fine fish it is, to fight first and then to eat. A bream of about a pound or a little less is known in Cornwall as a "ballard," a term of which I do not pretend to know the derivation, and in its still smaller stage, it goes, as we have already seen, by the name of chad. It is at all stages a bold biter, and few fish fight better for their weight.