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An Introduction and guide to Saltwater UK fish species

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

man sea fishing
sea fishing

The considerable diversification of fish species provides something to target for every type of angler. There are a wide variety of valuable baits within the UK. Making saltwater angling easily accessible. If you love a large variety of locations, saltwater angling is perfect for you.


Different fish will live at different depths. The depth you choose to fish at will alter the types of fish you can catch. There are three main sections within the ocean: the bottom tier, middle tier and upper tier.

If the sea were 60 metres deep, the tiers would be:

Bottom tier - 0 metres above the sea bed. Middle tier - 30 metres above the sea bed. Upper-tier - 50 metres above the sea bed.

Fishing within the bottom tier (commonly known as the sea bed) will allow you to target bottom-feeding fish such as flounder, dab and plaice. Fishing within the middle tier will allow you to target fish such as mackerel that shoal within the middle tier of the ocean. Fishing within the upper tier will allow you to target fish such as coalfish and other species that travel closer to sea level.


Anglers can only target some species at certain times of the year. The least productive months would be the end of January to the start of March. Within the beginning of spring, rays and flatfish can be targeted. Towards summer, the species will significantly increase when the sea warms up. Pollack, wrasse, conger, mackerel, trout and bass would be more summer dependent. Towards autumn, anglers can catch bass, flounder, turbot and scad. Within winter, whiting, herring, coalies and cod are more plentiful.


Before making the journey to reach deep water, it is recommended that a small amount of time is taken to catch smaller fish. These fish can be used as baitfish to target larger species withindeeper water. Having fresh bait will increase your chances of catching larger specimen fish. A highly recommended baitfish is mackerel.

An interesting technique used by many saltwater fishermen is to take a live fish, place hooks in its back and let it swim about until something larger eats it. Although, many anglers also find this tactic morally wrong and there fore do not do it.

UK Species Specifications

Small range species

Specie Name: Mackerel Specie Description: A small torpedo-shaped fish that have a row of small finlets along their back. They are highly carnivorous fish feeding on plankton and other micro fish. Specie Size: Tiny Rarity: Very common Difficulty to catch: Easy

Specie Name: Pollock Specie Description: Specie Size: Usually small but can grow to much larger sizes. Rarity: Common Difficulty to catch: Easy

Specie Name: Flounder Specie Description: Small sandpaper-like flatfish. Specie Size: Small Rarity: Common Difficulty to catch: Easy

Specie Name: Dab Specie Description: Specie Size: Small Rarity: Medium Difficulty to catch: Easy

Medium range species Specie Name: Cod Specie Description: Specie Size: Medium to large. Rarity: Uncommon Difficulty to catch: Easy/Medium

Specie Name: ling Specie Description: long eel-like fish with protruding whiskers, brown or greenish Specie Size: medium to large Rarity: Rare Difficulty to catch: hard

Large range species

Specie Name: conger Specie Description: long black eel with smooth, scaleless skin Specie Size: large to very large Rarity: Rare Difficulty to catch: hard

Specie Name: rays Specie Description: a massive flattened creature with sizeable patroling barb and pectoral fins Specie Size: large to very large Rarity: scarce Difficulty to catch:

Specie Name: bull huss Specie Description: a shark-like creature with thick blackhead and sandpaper-like skin Specie Size: large Rarity: Rare Difficulty to catch: hard

Specie Name: tope Specie Description: long snout, massive mouth, and small sharp, blade-like toothed shark Specie Size: immense Rarity: Rare Difficulty to catch: very hard


There is a large variety of sea fishing gear on the market. Every rod and reels performance will be different. Therefore, selecting the correct combo is essential for a successful UK sea fishing trip. It would help if you tried to keep your rods and reels clean at all times. Saltwater will destroy the mechanisms within the reels. Purchasing an elastic fishing reel cover will help to keep saltwater abrasion from occurring.

A highly recommended rod is the Carbon Fiber Max Power Boat fishing rod. This excellent rod is designed for catching saltwater species with carbon fibre reinforced material. To keep your rod parts together, a 2pc fishing rod tie strap will help improve protection.

Baits in General

There are a large number of baits available to use within the UK. The two main types of worms are called ragworms and lugworms. Both are very large sandworms.

When hooking, these worms push the hook through the worm's mouth and slide its body up the hook. Leave a small amount of the tail off the hook, so it moves within the water. Many people sell them locally close to busy coastal destinations.

If you cannot find anyone selling them locally, they can be purchased online or dug up on beaches.

Another common bait to fish with is mackerel and squid. Mackerel and squid can be cut into slices and placed on the end of a two hook flapper rig (general all-around fishing rigs). If you choose to use a whole mackerel, make sure to cut the tail away. The reason for doing this is to prevent it from moving too much within the water.


Overall, it is clear that the species within the UK waters are plentiful. The wide variety of sizes (seen within the species specification) shows the enormous variety to target. This means there is something to do for beginners to advanced skilled anglers. Purchasing the correct rod and reel and selecting the right bait will radically improve the chances of catching prized fish.

by Daniel ONeill

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