- Scientific name: Scophthalmus rhombus
- Size: Up to 3ft and 20lb
- UK minimum size: 14ins/35cm
- UK shore caught record: 8lb 3oz
- IUCN Status: NE (Not Evaluated)
- Distribution: Found in the south and west of the British Isles, although isolated numbers of this species can be found in many other places around the country.
- Feeds on: Prawns, marine worms, crustaceans and to a lesser extent fish.
- Description: Left eyed flatfish. Long dorsal fin and much shorter anal fin. Usually a light brown in colour with speckled black, white and grey spots all over the body. Lateral line runs straight and then curves noticeably over the gills. The mouth is relatively large in comparison to the size of the fish.
Brill are a large flatfish which is found throughout European waters. They are commercially important and heavily targeted by commercial vessels in some areas. Brill are a relatively rare catch for shore anglers and are often confused with the similar-looking turbot.
Brill are found predominantly to the south and west of the British Isles in the Atlantic Ocean, Celtic Sea, English Channel and Irish Sea, although smaller isolated populations are found around the rest of the UK. Mature brill avoid very shallow waters and usually stay just offshore in water at least ten metres deep, although they can be found at depths of one hundred metres. However, fully-grown brill may come into shallower water in spring to spawn. Being a flatfish brill prefer sandy or muddy ground, and can also be found living on shingle seabeds. Their range extends from Icelandic waters to the northern coast of Africa, and they are also found in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
Feeding and Identification
Brill are not fussy feeders and will switch between scavenging and hunting to feed. They will search the seabed and eat any marine worms, invertebrates, and all kinds of crabs, lobsters and prawns they find. They will also hunt and eat small bottom-dwelling fish and sandeels. Brill are closely related to turbot and the two species are often confused. The main differences are that turbot have a circular body shape, whereas brill have a body which is slightly more elongated. Turbot also have skin which is rougher while the brill is smoother. The shore caught record for brill was recently broken in 2018 with a specimen of 8lb 3oz caught by R. Edwards while fishing from Chesil Beach in Dorset. The boat caught record is a brill of 16lb caught by A. Fisher off the coast of the Isle of Man back in 1950.
Brill are edible and commercially valuable. They are caught by trawling, although seine nets and static nets can also be used to catch this species. The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) classes brill as a species of Least Concern, as the level of commercial pressure on this species is not currently thought to be damaging to stock numbers.
Methods and Techniques to Catch Brill
While brill can be caught by boat anglers fairly regularly they are inconsistently caught by the shore angler, due to the slightly deeper, offshore water they prefer. It is only during the spring breeding season that brill come within range of most anglers, and this is the time to target this species. The best chance of catching brill is to fish at distance over sandy or shingle seabeds. Clipped down rigs are the best choice to maximise the distance of casts and hook sizes should be 1/0 – 2/0 so that larger specimens can be caught but smaller brill can still fit the hook into their mouth. A silver strip of mackerel bait is a good choice for bait, but peeler crab, squid and worm will all catch this species if it is present and feeding.