Wrasse, Ballan

by David Proudfoot

Labrus bergylta species ID ballan wrasse

Other Names

Sea Soo, rock fish

Distinguishing features

The ballan wrasse is a deep bodied, fully scaled member of the Labridae family with a pointed but not elongated mouth which contains prominent teeth and thick lips. More crushing teeth are to be found on the pharyngeal bones in the throat. The colour of the ballan varies from venue to venue and may range from greeny-brown through green to red. The underside and the fins are spotted with white. The spiny first dorsal has 19 to 20 rays and the posterior one 9 to 11.


The maximum size for a ballan wrasse is around the 5kg mark but any fish over 3kg would be an excellent specimen.

British Record Fish List

UK Shore Record: 9lb 1oz 0dms / 4.110kgs
UK Boat Record: 9lb 7oz 12dms / 4.302kgs

European Line Class Record for this species


The ballan is to be found around European waters including the coast of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The best fishing is to be found on the Atlantic coast of the UK and France. It is commonly found near to rocks and reefs from around 2 metres to depths of 25 metres. The adult is normally a solitary fish and is territorial.


The ballan feeds heavily on crustaceans, especially small crabs and molluscs.


Crabs, both peeler and hardback are the most effective bait for the larger ballan wrasse. The hardbacks will generally sort out the larger specimens. Ragworm and lugworm also make an effective bait for this species although it is more susceptible to the smaller fish. Ballans will occasionally take fish baits but they would never be relied upon as bait for this wrasse.


Ballan wrasse will occasionally take lures especially short, stumpy plugs and soft plastics. One theory is that with the wrasse being territorial, it is chasing off a competitor rather than attempting to feed.

species ID ballan wrasse

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