When- Any time, as long as it’s not in the dark, apart from when they move offshore in March, returning in June after spawning.
Where- If it’s rocky, and weedy the wrasse will be there. Ballan wrasse, the only species that grows to a decent size, favour rocky holes and gulleys but they like to follow the incoming tide and can often be caught in surprisingly shallow water.
How- Traditionally the wrasse are fished for with stout rods and heavy lines because the fish are inclined to seek cover under rocks or weed as soon as they feel the restraint of the line. Modern tackle with low stretch braid allows the use of lighter rods particularly when fishing with artificial lures. Distance casting is rarely needed so any reel with a decent clutch should be OK. Baits can be fished either on a fixed paternoster or on float gear using strong hooks appropriate to the size of the bait. By far the best way to catch large ballans is by baiting with hard crab either whole or in pieces. Worm baits will generally tempt a range of sizes including other smaller species of wrasse such as corkwings or cuckoos. Modern Light Rock Fishing gear involving small softbaits and dropshot tactics seems to catch lots of little wrasse. Plugs and larger softbaits will tempt bigger ballans. (For detailed information see Ladle and Pitts (2013) The Second Wave Bloomsbury Press)