River Thames – There are a huge range of sea fishing opportunities all of the way along the River Thames – hence this estuary being given its own section on this website. Sea fish species can be caught all the way up to the Thames tidal flood barrier in Woolwich in south-east London, which is over fifty miles away from the North Sea proper. In fact certain species, such as the saltwater-resistant flounder and silver eels will venture even further up the river than this. The issue of needing a fishing licence to fish in rivers is a complex topic (more details will be available on this soon) as there is no set-in-stone dividing line between freshwater and saltwater. The simple answer is that if you are targeting saltwater sea fish species with recognised sea fishing tackle between the mouth of the Thames and the tidal barrier and Woolwich then a licence is not needed.
The information below begins with Southend-on-Sea on the north side of the Thames Estuary and then the marks described continue inland towards London, along the north bank of the Thames until reaching Woolwich. From this point on the venues described then switch to the south side of the river and move along the river back out to sea.
Southend on Sea – Southend Pier is just over 1.3 miles long (the longest pleasure pier in the world) and offers great fishing opportunities, although parts of the pier dry out at low tide and can therefore only be fished over high tide. Summer sees mackerel, scad and garfish taken with floatfished baits and spinners/lures, and school bass taken on worm, sandeel and crab baits. Set baits near the surface for garfish, deeper down for mackerel. Mullet are also a possibility for anglers using bread, earthworms, harbour rag and small fish strips on small hooks and light gear in calm conditions. Winter brings cod, whiting and pouting with flounder and dab also being common catches, and silver eels will also be caught in spring to summer. A train runs from the shore the pier head. There is a charge to access and fish from the pier, differing opening times depending on the seasons and restrictions on fishing at night and from certain parts of the pier. See here for prices and details. View this area on Google Maps here.
Canvey Island – There are a number of beaches around the Canvey Island area that offer a range of species. The beaches are mostly clean ground and made up of sand and mud, with a few patches of slightly rougher ground. Long distance casting can pay off here, as much of the water is quite shallow. Labworth beach offers good summer fishing for bass and silver eels on peeler crab baits, while winter sees the usual whiting and cod with lug worm and squid cocktails on pennell rigs finding the fish. Flounder are one species that can also be caught as close range to worm baits, while longer casting needed to reach the better fish, especially cod. The sea wall area and beach at Thorney Bay caravan park can fish well a few hours either side of high tide for whiting over winter and well into the new year, with other species such as cod, flounder, dab, pouting and silver eels also caught here. View this area on Google Maps here.
Tilbury – There are plenty of great angling marks around this area. The sea wall defences around Tilbury Fort and the World’s End pub offer a range of places to fish from. Flatfish – mainly flounder and sole – are caught to worm baits, and bass and silver eels will be caught here in the summer. Peeler crab is the best bait for them but worm baits and mackerel strip will also catch fish. In winter cod and whiting will be caught here with size 1/0 – 2/0 hooks in a strong pattern being the best choice as they will allow the smaller whiting to be caught but can also handle a larger cod. Mixed ground area with clean snag-free sections and some parts where gear will be lost. High tide is the time to fish this mark. View this area on Google Maps here.
Grays – Grays Wharf is a good mark for a number of different species such as whiting, cod, flounder, pouting and bass. Lugworm and ragworm are both good all round baits from here, while peeler crab can catch the better bass. A top bait for the winter cod is a large black lugworm and squid cocktail presented on a pennell rig. This mark fishes best around high tide and daytime fishing is always much better if the water is a little choppy and carrying some colour. View this area on Google Maps here.
Purfleet and Rainham – Silver eels, flounder, whiting, school bass, codling and pouting can be caught from both of these marks. This far inland earthworms can also be successfully used to catch flounder and silver eels. Marks alongside Harrison Wharf in Purfleet are worth a try for all of these species. The Ferry Lane area of Rainham is good for all these species as well, plus possibly sole, as the ground being cast onto is mostly snag-free mud. It is a high tide mark with fishing a few hours either side of high water the best bet. View this area on Google Maps here.
Woolwich – This marks the furthest point up the River Thames that sea fish species can still be caught on a regular basis. Mullet are present here and can be caught in calm weather to the usual bread and earthworm baits. Flounder – being a species that can tolerate low salinity are also caught here – as are silver eels to peeler crab or mackerel strip baits. Earthworms can be a successful bait here, not just for mullet, but also for silver eels and flounder as well, while the more conventional sea fishing baits of ragworm and lugworm will also catch fish. View this area on Google Maps here.
Thamesmead – [Moving back out to sea along the south side of the Thames] Plenty of good fishing at Thamesmead with whiting being caught in winter, along with codling, although if the fish are in it is likely to be the former species which is caught in the greater number. Flatfish are also caught here with regularity, with flounder being by far the most common species caught, although school bass and silver eels will show as well. Worm baits are a good all round bait here which will tempt most of the species present, although other baits such as squid, mackerel and peeler crab will also catch. View this area on Google Maps here.
Erith – Erith Pier is the longest on the Thames and is a very popular angling mark. It can produce flounder, sole and silver eels in summer. Worm baits seem to work best here with king ragworm, blow lugworm and harbour rag all catching fish. Earthworms are also reported to be successful here for the flounder and silver eels. Whiting are caught here in the winter and the odd codling as well, and using squid, or adding it to the worm baits can prove effective. Mullet are present here in the summer but actually catching them is a challenge and the usual stealthy tactics and baits could pay off but a lot of time may have to be spent before catches of this species are made. There are gullies in the sand and mud close in to the pier so long casts are not always necessary. View this area on Google Maps here.
Greenhithe and Dartford Bridge – Bass are still found this far up the river and some very big specimens are reported from here, along with the smaller schoolies. They will go for a range of baits with ragworm and peeler crab being two of the more successful. There are the usual flounder and silver eels to peeler crab, ragworm and lugworm baits. Whiting and codling are present here in the colder weather and whiting can be caught in decent numbers to most of the usual baits. View this area on Google Maps here.
Gravesend – Jetties and patches of shingle near to the famous Ship and Lobster pub offer some of the best fishing around here with bass, sole and silver eels caught in warmer months, cod and whiting in the winter. Three Doors mark offers a safe and comfortable fishing venue and is easy to access. Bass, silver eels and various flatfish such as flounder and Dover sole caught in summer, whiting, cod and pouting can show in winter. Fish can be caught close in but longer casts can locate the bigger fish. Some mullet also found around here in calm weather in the warm summer months. View this area on Google Maps here.
Isle of Sheppey, Kent – Beaches and other marks at Sheerness can be good in winter for cod and there are plenty of whiting around as well. School bass are also taken to worm and peeler crab baits and various flatfish in summer are also taken on lugworms and ragworms. Barton’s Point is a good mark for cod and whiting in the winter with flounder and dab also taken. Try rag or lugworm for the flatfish and larger worm and squid cocktails for the cod. In summer Dover sole are present but hook size needs to be stepped down to a 6-8 to catch them. Marks around the Eastchurch area are reported to be ray hotspots. Try fishing mackerel or herring fillet or sandeel baits at range. Leysdown offers great range of fishing with flounder, silver eel, codling and whiting all on the cards, as well as a thornback ray to long casts. View this area on Google Maps here.