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About sea fishing

The UK’s coastline offers up one of the richest opportunities for sea angling to be found anywhere in the world. From the warm waters of the Atlantic in the south-west to the cold waters of the Northern North Sea, a huge variety of habitats and species can be found that offer year-round sea fishing action. Here are some tips on how to get into sea fishing…

Ask Your Tackle Shop

Your local tackle shop will be able to give you advice about what tackle you will need to get into sea fishing. Some expert anglers might spend hundreds of pounds on rods and reels, but you could buy a basic fishing setup for about £25. The key to getting started is to keep things really simple and try and get a friend or family member who has been fishing before to show you how to begin.

Join a Fishing Club

Joining a local fishing club is a great way to learn how to fish and to get access to places to fish and charter boats near to you. A lot of fishing clubs will arrange fishing sessions for new or young anglers. If you are interested in competitive match fishing where you might win prizes, your local club will be able to help you get started. You can find clubs that are members of the Angling Trust on our website HERE.

Sea Fish Species

A survey carried out by the National Federation of Sea Anglers in 2005 showed that the species of most importance overall to sea anglers in England were, in descending order; bass, cod, plaice, thornback ray, smooth-hound, mullet, pollack, flounder, black bream and dab. There are some differences between the most important species caught from boat and those caught from the shore. In addition to those species listed above mackerel, whiting, all other members of the ray family, tope and other sharks can all be considered to be highly popular catches by sea anglers.

Sea fishing techniques – the basics

These species can all be caught using a variety of methods but in general, there are three techniques used in the UK to catch sea fish. These are:

  • Bait fishing
  • Lure fishing or spinning
  • Fly fishing

Although bait fishing is probably still the most widely practiced method for catching most species there has been a surge in interest over recent years in saltwater fly fishing and fishing with artificial lures – the latter of which has been largely influenced by angling techniques in both the USA and Japan. Bait used in sea angling commonly includes lugworm and ragworm, fish baits such as mackerel and sand eels, shellfish such as Razorfish and squid and cuttlefish.

Tackle: The tackle and equipment needed to fish at sea can be very specific. Boat rods and reels must, for example, be able to cope with very large fish in deep water. Likewise, beach fishing rods may require casting distances in excess of 150 meters. Generally, sea angling equipment tends to be tougher, more resilient to corrosion and more powerful than other forms of fishing tackle. However, there are also circumstances where coarse and game fishing tackle can be used, such as when light lure fishing or fishing for mullet, bass or flatfish like dabs and flounder.


As with any other form of angling watercraft (or understanding the marine environment) can have a dramatic effect on your success – arguably even more so with sea angling. To many this watercraft and developing an understanding of the natural environment and its interactions, is one of the great pleasures of angling.

Many different factors affect the presence and movement of sea fish. Understanding the influence of the main ones listed below is essential to being a successful sea angler.

  • Tides – the impact of tides on fish movement and feeding patterns cannot be overestimated.
  • Weather fronts – wind strength, wind direction and water temperature can all have a significant impact on your chances of finding, and catching, fish.
  • Light – bright sunshine can be very bad for fishing while many fish often feed and come closer to shore in the hours of darkness.
  • Seasons – fish migrate on a seasonal basis. Knowing these migration habits is essential to sea angling.
  • Features – gullies, rocks, seaweed beds, groynes and different depths of water are all features that sea anglers look out for at low tide because they act as holding areas for either fish or their prey.


There is a growing interest among sea anglers in marine conservation and the sustainable management of our sea fish stocks. The results of the Angling Trust’s National Angling Survey in 2012 showed that 69 per cent of anglers who completed the survey said poor fish stocks is sea angling’s biggest issue and over 73 per cent said that overfishing by the commercial fishing sector was the biggest threat to recreational sea angling.

While one of the great pleasures of sea angling is being able to eat the fish that you catch, there is a growing movement towards ‘catch and release’ angling which allows unwanted fish to be returned alive to the environment. In addition, anglers and clubs should adhere to any legal minimum sizes that exist. The Angling Trust publishes recommended minimum retention sizes for most species and provides more information on minimum landing sizes for more conservation-minded sea anglers.

Getting Competitive

There is a strong match fishing scene within sea angling with international teams that represent England travelling the World to represent the country. These include senior men’s teams, lady’s teams, junior teams, veteran teams and disabled teams. Qualifying matches take place throughout the year and team members are selected by the Angling Trust’s committee of selectors. More information on competitions can be found HERE.

In addition, clubs run their own competitions which may be a one off or annual fundraising competitions, social matches for fun or leagues throughout the year with a more structured system of points.

Shore, Boat or Even Kayak…

Sea angling is generally split into shore fishing and boat fishing. Shore fishing is by far the most widely practiced but there is an ever growing number of privately owned boats with anglers fishing considerable distances from the coast. In addition, the charter boat fleet around the country provides anglers with the opportunity to pay for access to boat fishing with experienced and knowledgeable charter skippers. In recent years kayak fishing has become increasingly popular because it allows anglers to get onto the water with relative ease compared to owning a boat and provides a new dimension to the sport. Boat fishing and kayak fishing offer the opportunity to target species that may be unavailable to the shore angler.


The UK coastline has a phenomenal variety of marine habitats that support a huge range of recreationally important angling species. From the shore; sandy or shingle beaches, estuaries, rocky outcrops, shellfish beds and man-made structures such as piers, breakwaters, groynes and harbours are all excellent habitats in which to find fish.

From a boat; sandbanks, reefs, wrecks and other natural and man-made underwater structures provide excellent habitat for fish of different species.


Specimen Sea Fish Awards Scheme

This annual competition opens on 1st December and closes on 30th November of the following year, is open to paid-up Members and Members of Affiliated Clubs and is divided into two sections for fish caught from boats or for fish caught from the shore, piers, harbour walls or breakwaters.

As an angler, you receive a certificate for each specimen fish awarded and can also purchase the appropriate medal to go with it for a small fee.

The Sea Angling News trophy is awarded each year to the fishing club with the most entries.

How do I enter?
The rules and a table of specimen weights, a specimen claim registration form and a map of the specimen areas and boundaries can be downloaded below.

Measure & Release Bass Rule For Angling Trust Sea Specimen Awards Scheme Specimen sea fish anglers are being reminded to return all bass alive to the sea from now until July 1st 2017 in line with the EU conservation measures for 2017.

The Angling Trust has agreed to implement a ‘measure & release’ rule for anglers who wish to enter bass caught into its popular Sea Specimen Awards Scheme between now and July 1st 2017. This rule will allow specimen fish to be recorded based on the total length of bass allowing anglers fishing from the shore, or without access to certified scales at the point of capture of a specimen fish, to measure fish before returning them alive to the sea.

Specimen weights have been converted into lengths using the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network’s (SSACN) Give Fish A Chance online converter. The changes to the scheme will begin immediately and the rules of the scheme will be amended accordingly.

Recreational anglers have always sort to preserve stocks of all species of fish and many years ago formulated a ‘catch & release’ scheme for both boat and shore competitions.  More recently the Specimen Awards Scheme introduced a ‘weighed at sea’ category to allow anglers to return protected or threatened species that would have previously been required to be weighed on land to claim a Specimen Award.

The inclusion of ‘measure & release’ in the Sea Specimen Award Scheme reflects a legal requirement for bass caught by recreational anglers to be returned during the first six months of 2017 as well as the hard-fought campaign by the Angling Trust to allow the ‘catch & release’ of bass during this period. From July 1st until the end of 2017 recreational anglers will be allowed to retain one bass per day.

Anglers wishing to make a claim for a specimen bass can buy a durable bass measuring tape for only £3 from the Bass Anglers Sportfishing Society (BASS) website.

The Specimen Award Scheme is open to individual Angling Trust members and members of Angling Trust member clubs.



For more information download the Angling Trust’s guide to ‘All the facts about the 2016 EU bass fishing measures’ by clicking HERE.

2017 Awards

Please click here to see all specimen fish that were recorded in 2017. Congratulations to all those that were successful in their search for that special fish.

2016 Awards

837 entries were received in 2016, you can see each of the entries and information by clicking here or download the document at the bottom of this page. A report of the 2016 scheme can be found here

2015 Awards

Please click here to see all specimen fish that were recorded in 2015. Congratulations to all those that were successful in their search for that special fish. A summary of the scheme can be found here


Article and images provided by The Angling Trust

Comments on Get into sea fishing

There is 1 comment on Get into sea fishing

  1. Comment by Shaun


    That kid’s dad is definitely doing it right, getting him into sea fishing at such a young age! I sure wish my dad would have, but I don’t exactly hold it against him or anything, he’s done more for me than I could ever ask for.

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