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Books on Fishing?

17 posts in this topic

Hi folks. I was just wondering if any of resident anglers could recommend a few books on Edible fishing in the UK?

I am, and always have been fresh water. I could never handle Sea fishing for some reason.

But I would like to start travelling a little and give beach / shore fishing a go.

A friend goes out on a boat every now and then and the fish he brings back is amazing, tbh I don't what I'm eating most of the time, hence the need for some reading. What I do know is its very nice, very fresh and FREE. The price of good bit of fish in Morrisons these days is ball achingly high.

I know I could look about on-line but I was hoping for an all rounder book I could hold in my hands and have read through, maybe even whilst pike fishing.



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Apparently "Fly Fishing" by J.R Hartley is meant to be quite sought after..

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Cant think of any books but maybe a few seafishing mags thy will tell whats about n rigs n tips on bait etc to help u catch em !!

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@@Billy2Hats Its another subject I would like to look into. I'll have a look. Any fishing where I can eat the fish TBH.

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Some of the UK species are more common in the summer and others during the winter, whilst autumn is often considered the best time to shore fish because summer and winter species overlap. Whilst in late winter fish move away from the shore to spawn and results for anglers can be very poor.

The main seasons for the species depend on your location in the UK, but in general they are as follows:

Spring: School bass, ray, smoothhound, codling, plaice, eel, mackerel, garfish, pouting, and flounder.

Summer: Bass, ray, smoothhound, tope, conger, dogfish, mullet, garfish, mackerel, bream, scad, pollack, pouting, wrasse, sole, plus the odd exotic visitors like red mullet, trigger fish, gilt head bream, etc.

Autumn: Big cod, big bass, tope, conger, mullet, whiting, pouting, dab, flounder, pollack, coalfish, sole.

Winter: Cod and codling, whiting, coalfish, dab, flounder, rockling.


If you take an average of all the fish species caught from the shore by UK anglers it is far less than 1lb. Bigger fish are the favourite target of most sea anglers and many novices may not realise that only a few of the UK species actually grow bigger than 5lb. Locating the biggest fish of the different species is the first problem for the angler and depends upon where you live and fish. The seasons also have an influence on each species whereabouts and potential size. Fish size is also relevant to age, bigger fish are older therefore the odds of them being caught by anglers or the commercial fishermen are greater and that’s why fish average size in the sea has reduced in recent years.

You can separate the most common UK sea species into three size categories and although some do grow fairly large if compared with their British record, most are of a much smaller average size than the record would suggest, especially the commercially sought species.

Biggest species and their specimen size include: Cod (10lb), bass (8lb), several rays (8lb), smoothhound (10lb), conger eel (20lb) and huss (10lb). Tope can be caught from the shore in a few places, but are comparatively rare (30lb)

Medium sized species include: Pollack (3lb bigger fish from the boats), coalfish (2lb), wrasse (4lb), bream (3lb), dogfish, mullet (4lb) and plaice (3lb).

Small species include: Whiting (1lb), pouting (1lb), dab (12oz), flounder (2lb), sole (2lb), scad (1lb), garfish (1lb), eel (2lb), mackerel (1lb) and rockling.

Specimen size is a size that is considered an excellent catch and these do vary around the UK regions.


The range of species in UK waters is mostly of bottom feeders and fishing a bait hard on the sea bed is the major tactic for the majority. However, there are a few species which are pelagic (mid water swimming) and these include the mackerel, garfish and to an extent pollack, mullet, scad, coalfish and bass that can be caught on lures fished in midwater or by fishing a bait up off the bottom using a float etc.


Here is a guide to the baits and the species they catch through the year.

Bass: Lugworm from surf beaches, peeler crab or whole squid from rocky ground, mackerel fillet or head from deep piers. Other baits, live prawn or live fish (pout, pin whiting, pollack, smelt, sand eel). Also spinners, plugs and feathered lures.

Ray: Frozen sand eel, squid, peeler crab, Bluey, herring or mackerel fillet.

Smoothhound: Fresh peeler crab, hermit crab – sometimes squid, fish or worm when the crabs are not peeling.

Cod and codling; Lugworm, cocktailed with squid, peeler crab, white ragworm, Shellfish like mussel and razorfish when local to a venue.

Plaice: Ragworm, lugworm, peeler crab, shellfish. Baited spoons (ragworm).

Flounder: Ragworm, peeler crab, harbour and white ragworm, shellfish.

Wrasse: Small hard live crabs, peeler crab, ragworm, fish, lures.

Mullet: Bread flake/crust, harbour ragworm.

Conger: Fresh mackerel head, flapper, fillet, whole squid, small pout, pollack, etc.

Huss: Squid, mackerel.

Whiting: Lugworm, peeler crab, squid, fish tipped worm.

Mackerel and garfish: Fish strip, sandeel. Feathers and lures.

Dab: Lugworm, clam (both slightly decaying), squid tip, white ragworm tip, shellfish.

Pollack: Lures, head hooked ragworm, bunches of small red and white ragworm, live or frozen sandeels, mackerel.

Scad: mackerel strip, head hooked ragworm.


SPRING: The crabs peel inshore during spring and summer and peeler crab can become the most sought after bait on many venues from April onwards. Many species will have tunnel vision towards peeler and soft crabs, whilst the different types of crabs peel at different times depending upon the location around the UK. Through April to July the common shore crabs shed their shells from the south to the north of the UK, from June the red edible and velvet swimmer crabs shed and June and July it’s the turn of the spider crabs. All are excellent bait, soft or peeled.

SUMMER: The mackerel and sandeel shoals are their densest at this time of year and many of the largest predators are taken on a large mackerel fillet or a whole live launce of sandeel. A head hooked free swimming ragworm fished alongside piers, rocks etc is also an excellent bait choice.

AUTUMN: With the bait fish leaving UK waters the fish have a wider preference of baits with worm, squid, crab and almost any bait taken.

WINTER: The winter gales disturb marine worms and shellfish populations and the various species home in on the devastation with shellfish deadly on some storm battered venues. Small fish are also a target of the larger species like cod.


The most dangerous part of most fish caught by UK anglers is their teeth. Much is made of the threat of poisonous weavers, sting ray’s spines and the like although few sea anglers have seen a weaver or a sting ray. However, fish teeth are sharp, especially some of the small species so beware of sticking your finger in any fish mouth and always use a disgorger if in doubt. Common danger mouths to avoid include: dogfish, rays, whiting, species to watch out for sharp spines include bass, thornback ray, scad whilst wrasse and even flatfish have the odd spine to avoid. In the case of bass also beware of the gill covers which have razor sharp edges. Pick school bass up by the mouth to avoid spines and gill covers.

Avoid picking a weaver up at all – its spines on dorsal fish and gill covers can penetrate a cloth. Sting rays have a spine at the base of their tail and should not be picked up or touched in the head area because they will lash out with the spine.

Blennies, dragonet’s, scorpions, and gobies, etc are all mistaken for weavers, but in the main are harmless save for the odd short spine, if in doubt don’t handle at all – the boot and pliers are best.

Not all fish in UK waters are subject to a legal minimum size limit because the limits concentrate on the commercially valuable species, the humble pouting, rockling and some others have no legal protection at all because they are not commercial. However sea angling has its own list of minimum sizes and anglers are urged to use them to avoid the risk of retaining an illegal catch because the angling limits are all larger that the legal limits. The fine for retaining an undersized fish is considerable so be warned.

Fish are measured from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail and custom made fish measures with a stop board at one end which are mainly used by match anglers are available from most tackle dealers.

I would also urge anglers to observe an upper limit for the larger species especially bass (6lb) – Killing a breeding bass has a far greater impact on stocks than killing an immature schoolie!

Bass – 41cm

Bream – 24

Coalfish – 35

Cod – 35

Conger – 91

Dab 20

Dogfish – 38

Eel – 38

Flounder – 25

Garfish – 38

Huss – 58

Mackerel – 30

Mullet – 33

Plaice – 28

Pollack – 30

Pout – 18

Rays – 41

Smoothhound – 51

Sole – 25

Scad – 25

Whiting – 27

Wrasse – 23


All of the mentioned species can be eaten, although some are not popular and others labour intensive to skin, scale and prepare for the table. Flounders for instance can be extremely muddy from the estuary. Mullet may also require added flavour to make them edible, smoothhounds have the flavour and smell of ammonia, whilst small bony fish like pout and rockling may be only good for cat food. Favourites are cod, whiting, plaice, dab, bream, pollack and bass and some of these are better fresh or better frozen, opinions differ. Mackerel are great on the barbecue and best eaten straight from the sea, scad are bony, but their limited flesh between the bones is tasty, garfish have green bones, but again the taste is excellent. Rays and dogfish are tedious to skin and prepare, but again they too have their fans. Some people eat the lesser spotted dogfish!

Not a book mate,but some maybe useful info


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ha ha made me laugh(Billy2hats) what about Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing? Dont eat Chub. Perch are tasty

Edited by mudman123
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Well done Tenchie Aint it good that people are so helpful? Muddy

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Apparently "Fly Fishing" by J.R Hartley is meant to be quite sought after..

I got it @@Billy2Hats.

I actually was going to drop the joke when i noticed the title, then found you had beaten me to it.

For this i hate you.


Edited by mrtibbs

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Cracking post @@Tenchie.

@@GreenVision, the magazine 'Sea Angler' is a good read, plenty of season specific advice in there. Can't recommend any books though I'm afraid.

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@@Tenchie That's pretty much everything I needed to know tbh...lol

I'm in the south east, is anything to be had these shores or would I need to travel out a bit further?

Fish I know I will eat for sure are Cod, Plaice, Bass Mackerel, its likely I have tried others but just not aware of which. As I say, I'm a Bivvy by a swim day ticket angler, Pike, Zander and Perch are my favs to fish, with Carp and occasional Catfish, but I am literally a sea fishing newb.

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@@Billy2Hats I never read the name properly, but no mate, I do remember that one. Wasn't there one about a model train as well?...lol

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I'm SE as well bud, plenty of places along our coast where you can book a day out boat fishing, with pros who know the best places to go and you keep what you catch.

That would be a good way to get started imo


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I cant take the credit for my post mate,its off the web mate,just thought it would give you an idea of where to start.

I`ve done some makerel fishing years ago,we always knew when they were in,their scales would be all over the pier.

Talking of piers,good places to visit and chat to other anglers,cant beat some local knowledge,them and local tackle shops.

I prefare coarse fishing too mate,Tench being my fav,but more often than not bream and carp are landed.

Fuck bobbin about on a boat all day tho,I would chuck up for sure.

I dont even like eating fish to be honest,but love my fishing.

Good luck in finding somewhere close to you,will watch out for further updates in the future.


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A Hand in the Bush by Deborah Addington is a good place to start.


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