Guide to Identifying UK Sea Fish

There are many species of sea fish in UK waters, and one of the most exciting aspects of sea fishing is never quite knowing what will be caught. While the most common fish such as cod and bass are easy to identify it is amazing how many anglers (of all experience levels) struggle to identify what they catch. For example, some anglers never bother learning the difference between flounder, plaice and dab and refer to them all generically as flatties, while others get mullet and bass, or pollock and coalfish confused. It is worth learning to identify UK sea fish so that anglers know exactly what they have caught.

The marine life found around the British Isles can be divided into several broad categories: There are round fish which are round in the cross-section and have a normal fish shape with a broad head and gills that tapers to a tail (cod, haddock and pollock are all examples). Flatfish have a flattened body with fins around the edges, a lateral line down the middle and both eyes on the upper side of their head. Flatfish are often described as right-eyed or left-eyed – this refers to the side of the head the eyes are on when the fish is viewed straight on. There are also skates and rays which may look similar to flatfish but are in fact a separate genus of fish, more closely related to sharks. As well as this there are two species of true eels which are found in inshore British waters, several different species of sharks (ranging from small dogfish to much larger species such as the blue shark), and other more exotic and unusual rare and unusual fish, some of which (such as the sunfish, triggerfish and bluefin tuna) are becoming more common in UK waters. There are also a whole range of mini-species (fish which grow to a maximum of around 1lb in weight), and many other non-fish species such as crabs, lobster, squid, octopus and other sea creatures such as sea cucumbers, coral, sea urchins, sea horses and brittle stars. There are also a number of offshore and deeper water species such as haddock, halibut and monkfish which live in deeper water meaning they are rarely encountered by anglers and there are also a range of weird and wonderful deep-sea fish. These species live at depth of over 1000 metres, meaning they are rarely encountered by humans – and never by anglers fishing with a rod and line.

Key Features of Fish Species Found Around the UK

Fish species labelled diagrams

This website features profiles of over one hundred species – all of which are confirmed as being found in British waters. Information is included on the distribution of species, what they feed on, where they are found and how to catch them. As well as this there is information on many different non-fish species such as crabs, lobsters, jellyfish and other marine creatures. A page showing the differences between some of the most commonly confused UK fish species is also available by clicking here.