Fishing With A Pirk By Rupert Drury
With the growing popularity of shad fishing, use of a pirk has fallen out of fashion to a degree. Nevertheless, pirking (jigging or ripping), remains a very effective method of catching cod, ling and other local species. Over the years, Ive had some belting pollack, loads of nuisance whiting, coalfish and even had occasional wrasse and gurnard take an un-baited pirk off the Robin Hoods Bay, Whitby, Kettleness and Runswick areas.
I first starting pirking in the late 1980s and since that time, a lot has changed, both in terms of catches, but also pirking tackle. In those days, I fished much further offshore and went out of Whitby with Brian Marsden on Toiler, Stu Johnson on Sea Trek and Alan and Rich Ward on Summer Wine and Shy Torque. In the early days, we fished heavy, with 50lb, or even 80lb class rods and using 1Â½ lb bar pirks, or 500 gram Norwegian jiggers set up with a killer rig of two muppets on 150lb mono above. At the end of a full days pirking, I used to be absolutely bushed.
On the right is the old 1980s/90s heavy gear Big reels, mono line, Penn 80lb class stand up style rod and 500 gram Norwegian jigger. On the left is todays light gear longer 79 Abu 12lb class rod, braid and 200gram pirk.
In the late 1980 / early 1990s, 20lb+ cod or ling were relatively commonplace and more often than not on those trips, someone on board, usually bagged one or more during the day. Now, twenty years on, a 20lb+ fish is something of a rarity. Nevertheless, there are still a good number of cod to be had today, but we have to accept that their average size is now smaller. These smaller fish, the advent of braided line and a more open minded approach to other techniques has led many of us using lighter and more sporting tackle, which for me anyway, has maintained the fun of boat fishing.
Above : Big bar pirk with muppet on treble and big Norwegian jigger that I used to use.
Those early offshore pirking trips taught me a lot.
- Norwegian pirks out fish straight bar pirks, as they offer a more alluring movement in the water.
Work the pirk as close to the seabed as possible, it should keep just touching bottom, which will mean you need to release a bit more line every few jigs.
- Work the pirk as close to a vertical plane as possible, once your line starts to stream out and approaches a 45Âº angle, wind in and drop down again. With a streaming line, you wont catch as many fish and you are far more likely to snag the bottom.
- Keep your hooks sharp, or change them. Regular contact with rough ground soon dulls hook points.
Muppets on trebles or singles can add to a pirks attraction again more movement of the lure. I rate the articulated movement a muppet gives a pirk.
- A baited pirk tends to catch more ling if thats what you want!
Particularly when using braided line, you really dont need to lift the rod right into the clouds on the up-stroke. A subtle flick of the rod tip, moving the pirk only 18 or so, is often all you need.
Those old 30/50 Shimano reels werent called Beast Masters for nothing, they weighed a ton! I cant imagine pirking with one today. They make the reel I use now look tiny.
The bulk of my inshore cod fishing is now from done from small private boats. I favour the shallower reef and rough ground marks and fish within a mile or so of the coastline, in depths of 10 25 metres. Here, providing the water is clear enough, the pirk can be very effective, as it can worked exactly where the cod are, hard on the bottom of the seabed. The tactics will also over wrecks, but pirk losses will inevitably be higher.
The rough ground can still be quite tackle hungry, but there are ways of mitigating pirk losses, more of which Ill come on to later. Its the cost of these losses which put many novices off pirking, or they choose to use cheap pirks, which they dont so much mind losing, but in truth, Ive found are not half as effective as the ones shown below.
The use of braided line (25 50lb breaking strain) allows much lighter tackle to be used now. For depths of up to around 40 metres, I use 12lb class gear and pirks of between 100 – 200 grams weight. For deeper water than this, a 20lb class outfit can be better, together with pirks of between 200 – 300 grams weight. You can use either of these outfits all day, without feeling youve had a workout at the gym!
These German made 200 gram pirks have caught me loads of fish. They have a circular sweeping action on the drop. Sadly, they seem to be unobtainable in the UK now.
These Mean pirks used to be sold by Harris Angling, now Harris Sportsmail. They came in 100, 150 and 200 gram weights. Their fluttering action, enhanced by the additional movement from a muppet, makes these great pirks. Again, no longer available.
A good pirk thats still available A 200gram Norwegian shape pirk supplied by Sovereign Superbaits. A lure with plenty of action.
Something thats always baffled me in recent years, is why more right handed sea anglers dont use left handed multiplier reels? When pirking, spinning, fly fishing, or coarse fishing, I hold the rod with my right hand. When pirking, I hold the butt of the rod with my left hand and the fore grip of the rod with my right. With a left handed reel, as soon as you get a fish on, you can then use your left hand to wind, or engage the reel straight away, – instead of having to swap the rod from right hand to left hand, which I find so cumbersome. As soon as you get a take, you want to be in a position to wind in and keep tension on the line and fish. Auto engage multiplier reels, like the Abu and Tica below, do help in this regard.
My favoured left hand wind multipliers for 12/20lb. class outfits.
From left to right Tica Caiman CJ201R, Avet 2 Speed MXJ 6/4 and Abu BG 7001 HS
So coming back to the question of how to avoid losing gear here are my top tips!
- Just use a pirk by itself, dont make it a Killer rig with muppets, hokeyes or anything else above the pirk. Fewer hooks = less risk of snagging. Dont get hung up on fewer hooks = fewer fish. The pirk catches the majority of fish anyway.
- If fishing braid as a mainline, tie a 6 8 length of similar strength mono between braid and pirk, to resist abrasion of the rough ground. Braid is very susceptible to abrasion.
- At the end of the mono use a decent snap swivel link, like an interlock. (I dont rate American snaps at all). Dont tie the mono straight onto the pirk.
- Fish the pirk as vertically as possible.
- If you use braid and get stuck on the bottom, you have a brief moment, depending on the speed of the drift, when you can often shake the pirk free. Once you hit a snag, you must maintain tension and rapidly jag at the pirk. You can often release them if you do this quickly.
- If youre fishing from a private boat, watch out for flags marking fleets of lobster pot lines and avoid them.
On really rough ground, use two single hooks instead of a treble. (See pirk below). I find trebles tend to wedge in snags and using two singles reduces snagging by at least 50% and I find increases catches too, as the bottom single catches fish which nip at the muppet on the tail of the pirk. The two single hook arrangement also works without muppets.
This is a Mean pirk rigged with two 5/0 singles in place of a treble. It has lasted for three full days jigging, its bashed about, lost most of its finish, but is still catching fish most importantly, its back in my tackle box, not lost in the rough ground on the seabed.
So there you have it! If you fancy something different to winding in a shad, give pirking a whirl. If you going to try it, I would suggest this is a method that favours slower drifts and / or smaller neap tides.
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