It was 22 degrees outside at 5:30 a.m. when I pulled into the marina in Rockport, Massachusetts. The conditions were on par for early January. It had snowed heavily, at least more heavily than the last few years, for the past two days. Sitting in my idling car behind piles of plowed snow, I began having second thoughts about going offshore in a center console. However, I had never gone jigging for pollock before, and a winter offshore trip had been on the bucket list for some time. So when Captain Cam Faria arrived wearing gym shorts wielding a shovel for the boat deck, I felt some slight reassurance that, at least, I’m not the craziest one here.
Cam is a 20-year-old, full-time nursing student and commercial fisherman, and during the peak season he runs recreational charters on his 24-foot 1996 Angler. Joining him were his friends Michael and Albert. Michael is better known by the internet as Tackle2thePeople on social platforms, where he shares his on-the-water adventures with the online fishing community. His fun and informative videos have amassed an enormous audience of viewers that are equal parts curious and passionate about fishing in the Northeast and beyond. And, as it turns out, with Michael behind the camera, his buddy Albert is often the star of the show.
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After the coldest boat ride of my life, we arrived to find only one other boat in the area. Big marks on the Humminbird Helix 10 display indicated the pollock were right where Cam had left them, so we wasted no time dropping jigs.
A pollock rig is pretty basic. It’s similar to a diamond jig and teaser rig you would use for black sea bass. Only for pollock, which suspend off the sea floor between 100 and 300 feet, we’re using heavy, beefed up metals to reach bottom quickly and keep our lures in the strike zone. On this day, we fished jigs ranging from 4 to 16 ounces, depending on the speed of the current.
For most of the day, I used a 7’6″ moderate-action Lamiglas BL 7640C rated for 4- to 12-ounces of weight with a Maxel Ocean Max 10 lever-drag reel. It was spooled with 60-pound-test Seaguar Threadlock Hollow Core braid with a lengthy 80-pound-test leader, which was clipped to an 11-ounce Point Jude Deep Force jig. Hollow core braid lies flat against the spool to help increase line capacity, which is especially valuable when fishing 40 fathoms deep.
Evenly spaced about 18 to 24 inches above the Point Jude jig were two white Jigging World Fluke Candy teasers on dropper loops. The teasers feature a mylar skirt around a long shank hook for a little action and flash. Plus, they’re buoyant, so they present horizontally in the water column to help minimize tangles.
Our large, deep-bodied jigs closely resembled the herring these pollock were gorging on—although they did not seem to discriminate against lighter, slimmer AVA-style diamond jigs either. As long as we were marking fish, they were eating whatever we put in front of them, no matter the color or size.
Jigging for Pollock: Techniques
When the pollock bite is lock-and-load, as it has been for most of this winter, anglers hardly have to do anything but keep their rig in front of the fish. At times, pollock were grabbing our teasers before the jig even reached bottom. But, with the school constantly on the move and feeding at different depths, there were many instances where we employed two simple techniques to entice suspended pollock.
The basic lift-and-drop worked well when pollock were “hugging” bottom. They typically schooled 10 to 20 feet off the sea floor, which was predominantly mud and silt. When the jig makes contact with bottom it stirs up the mud, so the teasers are typically first to get bit. However, it was not uncommon for a second or third pollock to jump on the jig as it climbed through the water column.
When jigging for pollock, “squidding” is the favored method. It is equally popular with anglers diamond jigging for striped bass and bluefish in Long Island Sound.
Squidding requires nothing more than a smooth, steady retrieve cadence. When the jig reaches bottom, begin a slow to moderate retrieve and crank the jig up anywhere from 20 to 100 feet at most, depending on the depth at which you are marking pollock. They are aggressive and frequently chase the jig as it swims upward. If they don’t hit it on the way up, they may hit it on the fall, so drop the rig right back down and repeat the process.
Watch the full video from Tackle2thePeople below:
Most of our fish came near the bottom as the jig was falling, or halfway up around 100 feet when the school was on the move. Depending upon the number of teasers above the jig, double-ups and triple-ups were common. Fishing more than 2 teasers is overkill though, as reeling in three 15- to 20-pound pollock from 200-foot-plus depths is no easy task and could potentially damage your gear.
In Massachusetts, there’s no closed season and no bag limit on pollock for recreational fishermen. With the caliber of fish around from late November of 2023 through January, anglers and headboats have had no problem finding pollock over 20 inches, so the small ones were all thrown back.
A single 15-pound pollock yields two massive fillets, and the firm, fatty white meat is equally as tasty when breaded or battered and fried as it is baked in butter and breadcrumbs. I only have a couple mouths to feed, so two large pollock yielded enough fillets for my fridge and for my coworkers back at the On The Water office.
Despite their deep-dwelling nature, there’s no guess work involved in sensing a bite. Pollock hit the jigs and teasers with aggression. A noticeable thump and sudden tension, or lack thereof, indicated when a pollock had taken the bait. At that point, all that’s left to do is reel down into the bite to eliminate slack so the hook takes purchase in their bass-like lip. Big hero hooksets are not necessary with heavier gear.
Full-grown pollock are powerful, and when they’re first hooked, the rod will bounce with their violent headshakes. It is no wonder that Atlantic pollock received the nickname “Boston bluefish” for their seemingly insatiable appetites and long history of feeding on the surface just outside of Massachusett’s capital during the winter months.
The first half of the fight is the most enjoyable part of jigging for pollock, but as they spiral toward the surface, their headshakes cease and they become dead weight, making it easy to hoist them over the gunnel and get them on ice. To save space, we decided to forego the cooler and just toss the pollock right onto the snowy deck.
Cam, Michael and Albert have more than a few friends and family members who would love a couple hefty fillets, so once we were bailing them, Michael got to work gutting the fish to preserve the fillets. Pollock are ground fish and, like haddock, once they die, their organs can taint the flavor and quality of the meat. Fishing for pollock, or fishing offshore during the winter for that matter, is entirely new to me; luckily, Michael knew what he was doing, because he had his work cut out for him.
Eventually, after 5 hours of fishing, my shoulders and lower back required a break. I picked up Cam’s Dark Matter Psychedelic rod, which is paired with an Avet SX 5.3 G2—a low-profile lever drag reel spooled with 30-pound-test braid. With this setup—which Albert had used earlier in the day— and a slowing current, I was able to deploy a 3-ounce diamond jig with a green tube trailer. It brought in a few smaller pollock that swiped at it with a standard squidding retrieve around 100 feet down, and even hooked me one small cod.
On the Dark Matter/Avet combo, teasers were omitted. We didn’t want to test the limits of Cam’s lightest setup and end up with a broken rod.
From 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. we bopped around jigging for pollock in different depths, catching fish up to 20 pounds and very few under 20 inches. It was a welcome change of pace from the rainbow trout fishing I’ve been doing in the kettle ponds back on Cape Cod.
I can’t say I’ll be offshore in January in a center console again any time soon. But, if pollock are chewing like this next winter, it just may happen. Otherwise, a headboat trip with Eastman’s Fleet or the American Classic is surely in order to tide me over until the stripers return in April.
» Follow Albert on IG @byfaithfishing
» Follow Michael on IG @tackle2thepeople