When you tackle up, you slide on a bead, then put on the cork before you slide on the float. When the weight cocks the float it will pull the bead on the bottom of the cork into the little hollow on the top. The result is that the cork - and the vane - stand straight up, increasing visibility and acting as an early warning device for a lift bite from below. If the weight is disturbed the cork will fall onto its side long before the rest of the float. Strike straight away and the response should be a garfish hooked well in the mouth and not deep in the throat, so you should be able to release it almost completely unscathed.
If you want to catch a good-sized garfish, then try using sandeels for bait. I am not talking about tiny little things, but a reasonable sandeel at least six inches long. These will take bigger fish, especially if there is a slight roll on the water. You will also need to go a bit deeper, aiming to start fishing at around sixteen, seventeen feet in depth and then moving up or down until you encounter some sport.
Some other tactics that you might like to try involve spinning - not with lures but with slivers of fresh bait - and float-fishing on the pole. To get this method working you need to get the fish close to the shore and, for this, the most practical solution seems to be a plentiful supply of groundbait. Pop round after the anglers that are gutting their mackerel, then slip the heads and guts into an onion bag on a rope. Sling it in and wait for some sport. When the garfish appear they will put a bend into a six or seven metre pole that has just got to be seen to be believed!
Leave the bag in the water and then, if you are fishing into the dark, put down a bottom rod after conger. You might well be quite pleasantly surprised.
You can also use light tackle for garfish from boat, where the fight they put up is just as good as from the shore. I know there are other species that we might prefer, but the fact is that there are some very big garfish waiting to be caught. I have seen some go past on the Skerries that would easily make the record tremble. One day, perhaps, it might even fall, especially with the way that garfish are flourishing while other species are in decline.
But then, they do say that if you can keep your head while all about are losing theirs...
(Shore, Page 4)
You could also, if you want, have a go for garfish with a thin sliver of mackerel flesh on a fly rod. Use a floating or an intermediate line and count down from fifteen to thirty seconds before you retrieve. Then, when you are lucky enough to hook one, the fight you will receive will more than compensate for any funny looks that you receive.