Beaches are one of the most popular fishing destinations in the UK and it is not difficult to see why – many feature easy access, snag-free fishing and a multitude of different species to catch. Despite many beaches looking similar, there can be a huge range of features hidden beneath the water and every beach will require different methods and techniques to catch the fish which are present there. The beaches around the British Isles offer great views, (mostly) clean ground fishing and the chance of some very good fish – just avoid the crowds that descend on these venues in the summer months!
Beaches and Fish Species
Sandy beaches are home to many me species of fish which are highly sought after by anglers. Flatfish are obviously adapted to live on flat sandy seabeds and are a regular catch from beaches. Flounder are often caught very close to the shoreline as they come into incredibly shallow water and will happily feed covered in just a few inches of water. Plaice and dab are caught on beaches around the country and Dover sole show more to beaches around the south and west of the British Isles. Less common larger species of flatfish that occasionally show around the UK include both turbot and brill. Sandy beaches can also hold ray species with thornback rays the most commonly targeted ray species in the UK, but blonde ray, small-eyed ray and even stingray all being caught on UK beaches. Cod are a familiar catch for many beach anglers in the winter, while summer can see big bass coming into very shallow water as they feed just behind the breaking waves when some sea is running. Pouting, whiting and silver eels will all also show around beaches, and anglers fishing on sandy patches which are located next to rocky areas may find themselves having the best of both worlds as species associated more with the rocky ground will also be caught.
Beach Fishing Equipment
While some anglers use tournament and specialist distance rods these are not necessary for successful beach fishing. A standard mid-priced beachcasting rod is designed for this type of fishing (hence the name) and will do the job of catching fish from a beach perfectly. A selection of these type of rods can be viewed by clicking here. In terms of reels, a decent quality fixed spool reel or a casting multiplier is ideal, and the choice of which to use is purely down to the angler’s personal preference. As there is likely to be a low chance of getting snagged, but a need for distance, it makes sense to use 15lb main line with a shock leader. Other equipment needed would be some kind of tripod rod stand or rod rest, and most anglers bring a fishing box that they can sit on during a long fishing session.
When targeting flatfish on beaches anglers often step down their equipment and fish using light gear – usually 11ft bass or specialist flatfish rods which are rated to cast 2 – 4oz, as the snag-free conditions allow gear this light to be used. Most anglers find they have much more fun and enjoyment fishing for flatfish such as plaice, sole and flounder which are unlikely to weight more than 1lb using this type of gear. Anglers specifically targeting bass may also use this type of set-up due to the additional subtlety and finesse this type of equipment offers.
Beach Fishing Rigs
There are a wide variety of different rigs which can be used from beaches, with the species which is being targeted dictating exactly which rig should be used. Anglers fishing close in for flatfish generally use multi-hook rigs as casting range is not important and having three baits in the water allows a greater scent trail to be built up and increases the chances of hooking a fish – the three hook flapping flatfish rig with size 1 or 2 hooks would be a good choice for this type of fishing. For general fishing where a range of different species is being sought at short to medium range the two hook flapping rig with size 1/0 or 2/0 hooks is a good all-round rig for fishing a beach mark. Anglers aiming to cast our further into deeper water for larger fish should consider using the single hook clipped down rig, as the clipped down nature of this rig means that longer casting distances can be achieved and the bait is protected as it makes impact with the water. Size 1/0 or 2/0 hooks are a good choice as they can catch the smaller species which are found around the UK, but also handle any larger fish which may take the bait.
Types of Beaches and Water Depth
While almost all of the beaches around the British Isles offer the opportunity to catch fish it is generally beaches that are steeply sloping and offer deeper water to cast into which are most productive. The famous Dungeness beach in Kent and Chesil Beach in Dorset are examples of this type of beach. Shallower beaches will generally provide fewer and smaller fish, with flatfish species that are adapted to feed in very shallow water making up most of the sport, along with undersized fish such as school bass. Vast, flat beaches, such as Southport Beach pictured below, offer very few areas of deeper water meaning that they offer very few fishable marks.
The stage of the tide can also play an important role in the depth of water that anglers are casting into. As the diagram below shows some beaches may offer deeper water to cast into at low tide, but fishing the same beach at high tide will result in casting into much shallower water.
Of course, not all anglers want to fish in the deepest water possible. Anglers who specialise in targeting flatfish may well specifically seek out shallow beaches to fish, while others may successfully make good catches in shallow water. However, it is generally deeper water which results in the most consistent catches for anglers fishing from beaches. Furthermore, many beaches offer the best fishing at night as fish feed more freely during darkness. Shallow beaches which have not been productive during daylight can often fish much better at night.
For a detailed diagram of the layout of a beach with all of the different areas and sections labelled, click this link.
Beach Fishing Techniques
While many beaches may look featureless at first glance this is rarely the case as there are often gullies and channels which have been carved out by tide where dislodged shellfish, marine worms and other sources of food will gather and attract fish. On some beaches the constantly changing currents and water flows can shift the sand and sediment of the beach, meaning that new underwater features are created by each tide.
As fish will be attracted to the food which gathers in gullies, casting into (or near to) these areas will significantly increase the chances of catching fish. Other features such as rocks, natural reefs and other undersea features will cause the tide to churn up the seabed which will also attract fish, and fishing near one of these can also result in better catch rates. Anything that offers differentiation or change to a stretch of beach is likely to be a source of interest to smaller sea creatures, and in turn, the fish that feed on them. Often local knowledge will play a part in knowing where these features are, but an experienced angler can see the differences in the surface of the sea caused by an underwater feature, and visiting a beach at low tide will reveal the gullies and channels that will be covered with water when the tide comes back in.
A common way of maximising the chance of catching on a clean sandy beach is to use a plain weight, as this will roll around with the tide and eventually come to rest in gullies and channels which hold fish. Most anglers fishing clean beaches use plain weights whenever possible and only switch to grip leads when the tide becomes so strong that a plain weight no longer holds the bottom. Fishing a beach mark near mixed, broken or rocky ground can be productive as the rocks will hold shellfish and crabs that fish will feed on. Similarly, fishing a beach after a storm or spell of sustained bad weather will increase the chances of catching as worms and shellfish will have been dislodged from their homes (and will end up in the aforementioned gullies) and fish will be actively feeding on them.
Fishing a beach can often involve moving around a lot as anglers will need to change their fishing position and move forwards or backwards as the tide goes in and out. The actual amount of moving that an angler will have to do will depend on the size of the tide and the specific mark being fished.
Beaches and Safety
The vast majority of beaches around the UK offer safe fishing as long as anglers are aware of the tidal conditions of the beach prior to going fishing. In some parts of the UK such as the areas around the Bristol Channel there is a very large difference between the high tide and low tide points and the tide will come in with great speed meaning that beaches and other fishing marks can be dangerous if anglers are not aware of this. Flat, open beaches can also be dangerous if anglers have walked out a long distance from the shore at low tide as the incoming tide can come in behind anglers and cut them off from getting back to land. For these reasons it is important that anglers do their research and are aware of any potential hazards or safety issues before fishing a beach mark.
Beaches are obviously popular with tourists and many of the beaches across the UK will become so busy in the summer months that fishing from them becomes impossible. These types of beaches have to be avoided at peak times and will only be fishable very early in the morning or at night. Even outside of summer beaches can be popular with dog walkers and birdwatchers along with people taking part in activities such as windsurfing and kayaking, so anglers should always be observant of who is around them and take care when casting. If an area becomes too busy the only option is to pack up and move to a new quieter fishing mark.