What are the sea fishing seasons in the UK?

What are the sea fishing seasons in the UK?

Britain is perfectly located in the world to be home to a huge variety of different fish species in the waters that surround the British Isles.

The seasons throughout the year bring vastly different conditions to Britain, with angling in the summer often taking place is 30 degrees heat, and freezing conditions in winter. The contrasting weather conditions provide different opportunities to the angler, with a general pattern of migrating fish entering and leaving British waters at any time of the year.

Due to large number of fish species in the sea at any time, it is possible to catch a variety of different fish in one session, but there are times in the year when it is possible to better target specific fish that will probably be in the area you are fishing.

Spring Beach Sea Fishing

Spring (March, April & May)

Early spring time is often a quiet fishing time around parts of Britain for sea fishing. This is due to the natural migration of winter species (cod) and the summer species have still not arrived in British waters. As spring goes on then the fish that will have migrated away during the winter will have started to reappear. Such fish that start to re-appear include bass and mackerel, and bait fish including sand eels and sprats.

There are fish in British waters that do not migrate during the year, but these will tend to move to deeper waters and will therefore be out of range from the shore angler. Such species include Pollack and Wrasse. As spring progresses these fish will start to move inshore as the temperature of the water begins to increase, but the water temperatures generally lag around 3 months behind the actual temperatures and conditions.

So, Spring can be seen as a poor time of the year for sea fishing.

  • Codling
  • Dogfish
  • Conger Eel
  • Dab
  • Flounder
  • Garfish
  • Ling
  • Mackerel
  • Mullet
  • Plaice
  • Pollack
  • Pouting
  • Rays
  • School Bass
  • Smooth Hounds
  • Tope
Summer Sea Fishing in the UK

Summer (June, July & August)

As summer arrives, the seas around the UK will have started warming to a decent level that will see summer species move back inshore to more relatively warmer conditions, perfect for targeting by the shore angler. As the water conditions warm, this will attract smaller bait fish (sand eels and sprats), which will in turn attract mackerel, garfish and school bass. Fishing for these species of predatory fish is extremely fun on light spinning gear combined with lures, feathers and floats. Larger bass and pollack will also be attracted inshore by mackerel feeding on the bait fish, allowing large fish to be caught from the shore.

There will also be the presence of large tope, conger eels and smooth hounds feeding on fish that are attracted inshore, providing ample opportunity for breaking a personal best fish from the shore. The summer months will also provide the chance to fish for flatfish including turbot, plaice and flounder – commonly found in estuary locations.

Rare fish to the British shores often appear during the summer months in the south west around the shores of Cornwall, Devon, Southern Ireland and West Wales. Such species include trigger fish, john dory and a variety of bream.

The weather conditions in Britain will usually have improved and crowds will now become a factor when deciding where and what time to fish – early mornings, late evenings and overnight sessions proving a popular choice for the more experienced angler.

  • Bass
  • Ballan Wrasse
  • Bream
  • Cod (North of Britain)
  • Conger Eel
  • Dab
  • Dogfish
  • Dover Sole
  • Flounder
  • Garfish
  • Ling
  • Mackerel
  • Mullet
  • Plaice
  • Pollack
  • Pouting
  • Rays
  • School Bass
  • Smooth Hounds
  • Spurdog
  • Turbot
  • Tope

Autumn (September, October and November)

As summer turns in to autumn, this is probably the best time of the year for fishing in Britain. Summer species will not have left our shores yet and winter species start to show up.

Autumn is the ideal time for targeting a variety of both summer and winter fish off the shore. Autumn tends to see larger bass being caught and as you go through autumn, larger cod will start to make their way down from Scandinavia further south, which are seen in good numbers throughout Scotland and North-East England. Larger cod will continue to travel south and will reach areas such as the Bristol Channel and Cornwall, albeit in lesser numbers than Scotland and North-East England. As the frosts begin to appear, whiting begin to follow in closely behind these colder conditions.

  • Larger Bass
  • Ballen Wrasse
  • Cod (South: October onwards)
  • Coalfish
  • Conger Eel
  • Dab
  • Dogfish
  • Dover Sole (up until September)
  • Flounder
  • Ling
  • Mackerel
  • Plaice
  • Pollack
  • Pouting
  • Rays
  • Smooth Hounds
  • Tope
  • Turbot
  • Whiting

Winter (December, January and February)

Winter sea fishing in the UK is world-renowned with cod and whiting being the typical target species. Sea anglers will commonly be targeting larger cod throughout the UK, but most commonly in northern regions of Scotland and England, where the migration of large cod from Scandinavian waters is a short distance. Whiting remain a constant throughout the winter and can provide good sport when caught in decent sizes.

  • Coalfish
  • Cod
  • Conger Eel
  • Dab
  • Dogfish
  • Flounder
  • Ling
  • Pollack
  • Pouting
  • Rays
  • Rockling
  • Whiting

Final thoughts on British fishing throughout the seasons

The species mentioned above that can be caught during the four seasons is to be used as a general guideline as regional variations mean that for example – different fish may be more common in Cornwall throughout the Winter than in Thurso, Scotland (the very of mainland Britain). This is a general guideline that allows you to have an idea of what can be caught in the waters around Britain at all times of the year.

The conditions common in Britain vary greatly with freezing temperatures common in winter and hot conditions sometimes experienced during the summer, meaning that you should eventually have a range of tackle and clothing to match all conditions and types of angling.

Light spinning rods used for lure fishing for bass and mackerel should be owned for the summer where this type of angling is possible, along with heavy-duty beachcaster rods used for ledgering baits during unsettled winter conditions where you may need to cast at a reasonable distance from the shore to target good size fish.

Ryan Davies

Ryan runs the Reel and Rod website, writing about all aspects of sea, course and game fishing! Get in touch with if you want to help our platform grow, have any feedback or would like angling advice!
Ryan Davies
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