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Popular Questions About Shore Fishing

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 29 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Shore Fishing Piers Harbours Coast

Shore fishing has a special appeal for many anglers – and with no rod licences required and almost all of the country’s best venues available at no cost, it’s certainly one of the cheapest ways to go fishing!

What Can I Catch?

The seas around the British Isles teem with a wide variety of fish – so there’s never any shortage of surprises.

Mackerel are firmly established as good end-of-the-pier fish, while later in the year, especially when the water becomes cloudy and turbulent, cod are often to be had around some parts of the country. Flatfish and cat-sharks (dogfish) offer plenty of opportunities – and there have even been some really big catches made by shore anglers – including Porbeagle sharks – so you can never really be sure what might end up on the end of your line!

Where am I Allowed to Fish?

Anywhere below mean high water – assuming that there is public access to get there. In practice this means that almost all the shoreline is available, although some piers and harbours do charge anglers a small fee.

When is the Shore Fishing Season?

The good news is there’s no closed season – so shore fishing is available at any time. That said, some of the fish are seasonal – such as mackerel and cod – while many others including plaice and cat-sharks tend to be year round possibilities.

What Sort of Tackle Do I Need?

The established shore fishing rig tends to be a 12 feet long beach-caster rod, a fixed spool or multiplier reel equipped with 18 or 20 lbs monofilament line and often two or three baited hooks. On sandy beaches, a sturdy single-spike rod rest is an essential addition, while a tripod one is ideal for rockier coastlines.

What Sort of Bait Works Best?

It often depends on what you’re hoping to catch, since some fish have particular favourites; plaice, for instance, are remarkably partial to mussels. If you’re taking more of a pot luck approach, then strips of squid, rag-worms, lug-worms and peeler crabs seem to be pretty effective.

With all the Waves, How Do You Spot a Bite?

The basics are just the same as for freshwater fishing – you’re looking for movement in the rod, line or float – but sea does make things more complicated and it’s something which has to be developed with practice.

With some fish – sea bass or eels, for instance – there’s little mistake and they can sometimes strike so hard that the rod will jump off its rest, while for others, such as mullet or sole, the bite can be so gentle as to be very easily missed and only experience teaches the tug of the wrasse and the “twitch” of the plaice.

The trick is to try to feel the movement of the sea on the line and be alive to anything which seems outside of that rhythm – which admittedly all sounds a bit New Age and mystical, but I’m sure you understand what I mean!

How Do You Find the Best Spot?

One great advantage that you have as a shore angler over your freshwater counterpart is that twice a day, every day, the tide recedes and gives you a clear look at the underwater environment and it’s well worth making good use of the opportunity.

There are lots of things to look out for which may give you a valuable insight into where the fish are likely to congregate, what they might eat and where’s a good place to avoid – unless you want to spend hours untangling your lines! Knowing where deep pools in the rocks lie – or tidal gulleys in shale or sandy shores – can be a big help and if you can remember where the submerged kelp forests grow, you’ll be able to avoid casting straight into yards of hook-catching seaweed when the water’s in. All sorts of underwater features will hold fish so try to identify all the boulders, channels, hollows, outflows and weed beds that you can.

Unless you know the coastline yourself, talking to locals can be very productive too and it’s often worthwhile getting a good quality map or marine chart – one that shows the seabed – and checking where conditions change. Fish naturally tend to congregate where sand meets rock, or shale meets mud – so a bit of research can often pay big dividends when it comes to finding the best place to try your luck.

Whether you want to try your hand on holiday or you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, there’s plenty of excellent fishing to be had around our coasts – especially if you can recognise the tell-tale signs of a good likely spot. There are no guarantees, of course – but it can’t hurt to try slanting the odds in your favour!

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