Bleak fishing

Bleak is a small fish which lives in shoals high in water. They do not grow big with the normal size being 5-15 grams. What makes it an interesting fish to go for is that it can show up in large numbers. My personal record (as this is written on 1st of January 1999) is 153 bleaks in 30 minutes. The world record is 563 fish in an hour.


Since bleak live near the surface a special kind of groundbait is needed to attract them. The ball must break in the desired depth below surface and form a cloud. This cloud then attracts the bleaks and keeps them where ever you want to. To get a cloudy groundbait you need to have a very fine texture groundbait. Commercial groundbait makers all sell their own bleak groundbait(s). I have succesfully used Sensas 3000 Surface and Van Den Eynde Special. They are quite similar in texture but the 3000 Surface is the finest of the groundbaits that I have ever seen. If you cannot obtain these then finely grinded brown breadcrumb with some fine maize meal will do.

To use the groundbait it has to be wetted and there are two different ways to do it. You can either leave the mix dryish or make it overwet. These two different ways both have their advantages and disadvantages. The dry mix is easy to use and doesn't make a mess. It creates a nice lingering cloud but is quite light and is difficult to throw longer distances. The wet mix on the other hand easily leaves your hands greasy and wet which makes fishing a bit more difficult and messy. The wet mix also goes down faster than the dry mix and is easier to throw at longer distances. The dry mix should be wetted only enough to get the mix bind together for throwing. The wet mix should be only so wet that you can form small balls by simply digging up some of the groundbait with your fingers.

Obviously the choice of the type of wetting depends on the day's requirements. If the fish are near the surface at close distance then a dry mix is good. If they are at deeper water further out then a wet mix is good because it breaks up deeper than the dry mix. Anything between those two extremes and you need to improvise. A good way to add weight for your groundbait is to add damp leam. Just remember to add the damp leam after wetting the groundbait.


Bleak fishing is no different from other types of fishing in that hookbait samples in groundbait keep the fish interested longer. The most commonly used is the joker. They are small enough for the small bleak and light enough to stay in the cloud of groundbait and not fall directly to the bottom. Remember to go light on the bait to not fill the small fish. 100 grams of joker will be plenty for 2 hours fishing.

Good hookbaits include pinkies and bloodworms. The bloodworms are for the days when the fishing is difficult and speed is not required. The pinkies work well when more speed is required. The bloodworms are fragile and break after one bite while a single pinkie can be used for several dozens of fish.

The methods

The efficient bleak fishing distances vary from about 0.5 meters to about 12 meters. The most common approaches for bleaking are whip fishing and long pole short line method.

Whips are used mostly when speed is needed. The length of the whips varies from 0.5 meters up to 7-8 meters. With the longer whips it becomes more and more difficult to control the rig. Long pole short line method is good for days when accuracy and not speed is the key factor. Long pole is especially effective on days when there is wind or current.

The rigs

The rigs vary according to fishing style and speed. Some use long and thin floats and swear by them while others use a long waterdrop shape. I have tried both and found advantages and disadvatages with both types. The long and thin floats seldom cause tangles with the mainline while shorter waterdrop shaped floats tend to do it sometimes. On the other hand, in my opinion, a long thin float is not good is when there is quite a strong wind. This type of float has a tendency to start drifting with the wind which makes controlling the rig quite difficult. So these days I go both ways, either with a long and thin float or a small waterdrop shape for the whip. For long pole short line method I find the waterdrop shapes to be best.

Shotting patterns that I use are as simple as can be: a bulk of small shots (sizes around 8-11) or then a bulk with a single dropped 5-10 cm from the hook. The bulk is made so that the shots barely touch each other. This prevents the shots from forming a banana shaped bulk. These two shotting patterns are quickly adapted by either moving the dropper away from the bulk or toward the bulk. The hooklength is kept short, sometimes no more than 5 cm and very seldom more than 10 cm. I like to use hooks which have quite a long shank which makes it easy to unhook the fish.

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