Ballan wrasse/Labrus Bergylta
Average Size – 1lb
British Record – 9lb 1oz
There are around seven different species of wrasse that can be caught in British waters. Of these the Ballan Wrasse is the largest and most frequently encountered. Ballans are a very colourful fish and can range from olive-green and brown to red and orange all with various stripes and spots. The colour is often dictated by the kind of weed and rocks they have been living around and cannot be used as a means of identification. In general most wrasse caught from the shore which weighs more than 1lb will be Ballans. The Ballan has a long, spiny dorsal fin and large round, paddle-like tails. These fish are generally deep bodied with fat bellies. They have thick rubbery lips concealing large fearsome teeth which they use to crush crabs and other shellfish found in rocky crevices. Much care must be taken when handling and unhooking these hard-fighting fish. The teeth can give a nasty nip and the spiny dorsal fin is very sharp.
Ballan Wrasse are conventionally caught using bottom or float tactics from rocky ground and around piers and breakwaters. They can be caught all year round although they do become more difficult to locate in the deep winter months. Wrasse are one of the few fish that will only feed during the daylight hours although many are taken just before dawn. If you are bottom fishing extremely simple rigs such as a one hook paternoster with strong size 2/0 hooks are the best way to go to avoid losing too much gear in the snag filled ground – you need only drop your baited rig down the side of rock ledges. Ragworm is the top wrasse bait but crabs, both peeler and hardback, prawn, lugworm and even lures will all account for good numbers of fish. Despite growing to decent sizes wrasse are not considered to be a great tasting fish and they should be returned to fight another day.