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   MMBFC Home      Fish and Fishing      Species ID

Identification Guide to Inshore Fish for the Species Hunt Programme

Angel Shark or Monkfish - Squatina squatina

Photo taken by Jome Jome
ID features: The angel shark’s body is flat and wide, with large fins extending out on either side and large eyes positioned atop the head rather than on its sides, giving a wide field of view. A flattened cartilaginous fish. 2 dorsal fins and a large caudal fin. The pectoral and pelvic fins are broad and extend laterally from the body.  Similar to many rays and stingrays, the angel shark is an actual shark adapted to lurking on the bottom in soft sand or mud. 
Size: To about 240cm in length and 33kg in weight. At birth between 24 and 30cm long. Male angel sharks measure 1.8 meters, while females are larger at 2.4 meters.
Colour: Sandy-yellow, gre to red-brown background to the dorsal surface with white and dark spots. uses colour to be well camouflaged on the seabed. The belly is white, while the upper surface varies considerably, from grey to dull brick red to greenish brown, almost always with many small white speckles for camouflage in sand.
Location & availability: A bottom living fish, found in soft sediment at depths of 5 to 150m. Around in most British waters in the summer months. The angel shark’s range is much diminished from its previous extent, and the species is now confined to the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean, rather than extending down to the Mediterranean Sea as it once did. The angel shark lives on the continental shelf where there is soft sand and mud on the bottom, and is seldom found at depths greater than 150 meters. Angel Sharks also sometimes enter brackish estuarine environments.
Food & bait: Feeds on fish such as sole, dab and large crabs and molluscs
Life story: Give birth to young litters of 9 to 20. The oung are released during spring starting in February to April in the Mediterranean, later further north and in colder waters.
Recreational fishing: Through over fishing and habitat destruction it is now rarely seen. It is a protected spcies in British territorial waters. It is occasionally caught by anglers from boat and shore
 Anglerfish (monkfish) - lophius piscatorius
ID features: Wide mouth with long, sharp, teeth. Lure on top of the head. The distinguishing features of this species are the flattened body and very broad head. It has large, curved, inward facing rows of teeth on both the upper and lower jaws. It has scale-less skin and the dorsal and anal fins are low and approximately equal in size. It is a brown or brown-green colour on top with a white underside except the hind parts of the pectorals and the anal fin are black. Its mottled pattern gives it good camouflage when lying on the sea bed.
Size: to about 2m/50kg.
Colour: Dark red-brown dorsal with white-cream ventral surface, though the colour is variable.
Location & availability:  Bottom-living fish on a variety of substrates, whose depth range extends from 2m to more than 500m. Uncommon in shallow waters of southern North sea and Irish Sea. Juveniles are present in the Bristol Channel in spring. The sea monkfish, also known as the anglerfish is commonly found in coastal waters all around the UK and Ireland. It is large in size, growing up to a maximum length of 200cm. They are present in waters ranging from 20m down to 550m but can migrate to spawn in waters at a maximum depth of 2000m. An unusual characteristic of the monkfish is how it feeds. It has a single spiny ray on its dorsal fin that it uses like a ‘fishing rod’ to lure in potential prey. Once they get close enough, it engulfs them with its large mouth and rows of inward facing teeth. It attracts a wide variety of prey in this manner, including flatfish, gurnards, rays and eels.
Food & bait:  A sit and wait predator, attracts fish using the lure which moves in front of the mouth. Will swallow any animal which moves within range; its stomach is expendable and it will occasionally swallow fish of its own size.
Life story:  Lives to about 24 years; females mature around 8 to 11 years and males around 5 to 6 years. Females are larger up to 2m in length, males rarely exceed 1m. Migrates to very deep water (up to 200m) to spawn in spring and early summer in deep water off the continental shelf to the west of Scotland, in waters down to 1000m. Eggs are released in a buoyant, gelatinous ribbon or 'egg veil' that may be more than 10m in length and will typically contain i million eggs. Once hatched, the larvae are free swimming in open water until they are around 8cm long, when they take up life on the sea bed. Females reach older ages than males.
Recreational fishing:  Only occasionally caught by rod and line. Recommended minimum take size 70cm 9kg. Spawn spring and early summer. MCS rating 4.
Sea Bass - dicentrarchus labrax
ID features: Large scaled silvery fish with two dorsal fins, the first has strong spines. Also got spines on the lower edge of the operculum and anal fin.  Lateral line gently curved over the pectoral fin.
Size: Up to 1m in length, usually smaller in British waters. In large specimens the head becomes much larger in proportion to the body.
Colour:  Silvery in appearance along the sides, dorsal surface has a dark blue-grey hue. The belly is a creamy-white. The young are highly silver, with dark spots and seem dressed in fine chain mail.
Location & availability: Common in British waters, less so in the north and east. Often highly seasonal, moving between the sea and estuaries (e.g. Bristol Channel). Bass are attracted to turbulent conditions such as reefs and surf beaches with strong tidal currents, where they can hunt and ambush their prey. Also attracted to structures such as power station water intakes and outfalls, which can provide a ready supply of food. Can be caught in the Bristol Channel all year round, but most abundant June to October.
Food & bait:  Feeds mainly on crustaceans when young, gradually switching to piscivory with increasing size. Adults love sand eels, herring family and sand gobies. They will also eat young of their own species. So sand eel is an excellent bait, as are rag and lugworm, peeler crab, and a wide range of artificial lures.
Life story:  A long lived fish, slow to mature and can live for 20 years or more. They spawn offshore in continental shelf water, and produce pelagic eggs and larvae. The young fish enter the estuaries, where they rapidly move inshore close to the salt wedge, feeding actively on mysids and other small crustaceans. They may remain in estuaries or seasonally return each summer for about 3 years. As they mature they become more marine in habit.
Recreational fishing:  Targeted by shore and boat anglers. Juvenile bass form shoals, and can often be found in large numbers.  Spawn March to June. Reaches sexual maturity around 46cm. EU take restricted to 3 bass in any 24 hour period form shore and boat. Recommended minimum take size, male 42cm female 46-48cm. MSC rating 3.
Black Sea-Bream - spondyliosoma cantharus
ID features: The Black Sea Bream is rather variable in appearance, though the deep body with long, spined dorsal and anal fins is characteristic, some individuals are much deeper-bodied than others. Compared with other bream the head is relatively small and the jaws do not extend beyond the front of the eye. The pectoral fin is long, extending more than halfway along the body. The teeth are sharp-pointed ; those on the front and sides of the jaw are similar in shape, although differing in size. 
Size: Adults are usually 35 - 40 cm long, in UK waters, occasionally more up to 60cm.
Colour:  Young fish have silvery flanks with many pale broken lines along them and a wide dark band on the tail; adults may be silvery or dark blue-grey sheen, almost black in mating males, and may have alternating dark and silver vertical stripes on their sides.

Location & availability: Common in the English Channel, rarer further north, probably only a summer migrant to Scottish waters.  Adults over winter at depths of 50-100m. As the water warms in spring they move along the English Channel, up into the Bristol Channel into shallower waters. Juveniles are usually found in seagrass beds.  Most abundant from June to September.
Food & bait:  They are omnivorous, feeding on small fish and crustaceans, small encrusting animals and algae, and are usually seen and caught around rocky areas and  wrecks. Mainly an invertebrate predator, known to feed on young cuttle fish, squid, mackerel or ragworm.
Life story:  Black sea-bream start as female and become male at between 30 and 40cm in length. Life expectancy of about 15 years, becoming sexually mature at 2 to 3 years of age. The males make a nest in sandy gravel and guard the eggs. The young stay in the vicinity until 7-8cm long.
Recreational fishing: A popular target for anglers on the south and south-west coasts. Flesh is well-flavoured, if rather bony. Reaches sexual maturity around 20cm, spawning April-May.  Recommended minimum take size 23cm. MCS rating 2.
Red Sea-Bream - pagellus bogaraveo
ID features: A bream with a short rounded head and a relatively large eye. The front teeth are canine-like but not much longer than the rear molars.
Size:  To about 70cm
Colour:  Large individuals are rosy or red-grey, with a dusky blotch at the start of the lateral line. Young fish are paler and more silvery and may may lack the dark blotch.
Location & availability: Common in the deeper waters of the English Channel and off the south-western coasts of Britain, less abundant elsewhere. The young are associated with rocks and wrecks and may come inshore to depths of 35m; adults range to depths of 700m.
Food & bait:  An invertebrate predator, adults feeding on decapod crustaceans, molluscs, worms and small fish.
Life story: In British waters they spawn in late summer and autumn; the eggs are scattered in open waters, and are not guarded. In more southerly regions spawning occurs between January and May.  Lives for about 15 years. All are male during the first sexual maturity, becoming female between 2 and 7 years of age.
Recreational fishing:  Popular with anglers in regions where it is abundant. Good to eat. Recommended minimum take size 23cm.
Gilthead Sea-Bream - sparus aurata
The most popular, and highly regarded of the Sea Breams is the Gilt Head Bream (also known as Royal Bream).
According to Greek mythology, Gilt Head Bream was considered sacred to Aphrodite - the goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture!
ID features:  A deep bodied fish, with one long dorsal fin, distinct lateral line, blunt, deep, head and distinctive silvery scales. The pectoral fin is also quite long, extending more than halfway along the body. The teeth, six strong pointed teeth in the front of each jaw, behind several rows of conical teeth and at the rear of the jaw molar-like teeth. There is a hump in front of the eye, which coincides with the gold-coloured bar.
Size:  Can reach 70cm in length, but likely to be smaller in British waters.
Colour:  A superb looking fish with bright silvery skin with hints of pink and gold. The dorsal surface has a dark blue hue and there can bea scarlet colouration to the rear edge of the operculum. In mature specimens, a greenish-gold bar runs across the forehead.
Location & availability:  Considered rare in British coastal waters, but now quite common in suitable habitat in the extreme south and south-west. A warm water species, found at depths of 0-30m and favours sandy bottoms and seagrass beds. In spring may occur in brackish estuaries or lagoons.
Food & bait: Feeds mainly on molluscs.
Life story: Starts life as a male and is mature at 1-2 years; becomes female at about 3 year. Spawning occurs from October to December; eggs are scattered in open waters and are not guarded.
Recreational fishing:  Targeted by anglers in waters off Cornwall and Devon.  With its pinkish opaque flesh, the popularity of Gilt Head Bream continues to grow as a slightly sweeter tasting alternative to Sea Bass, and can be cooked the same way as Bass and other Breams. Recommended minimum take size 23cm.
Brill - scophtalmus rhombus
ID features: The plain sister of the more glamorous turbot, it is lighter and less meaty of the two. The two have been said to interbreed, and produce brill-turbot hybrids (trill??), but there is evidence to prove this. The brill is a left eye flat fish with a broad body and a flat head. The rays of the dorsal fin at the head end are free of the fin membrane for around half of their length and are flexible forming a fringe. The mouth is large and left of the eyes, the brill is therefore usually termed a left-handed flatfish. The fry start life upright as normal 'round' fish, but then keel over to one side and move to the seabes to become committed bottom-feeders, their eyes migrate round to the left side of the face.
Size: To about 70cm
Colour: A pale cream background colour overlaid with a complex pattern of brown spots that can vary in intensity.
Location & availability: Widely distributed in southern British water, reaches the limit of its range in Northern Britain. A coastal species favouring waters less than 50m deep, moving offshore in winter. Newly-settled young may live in water only a few centimetres deep.   Peak period June to September.
Food & bait: Active predator, young feed on molluscs and crustaceans, and adults mainly on fish and cephalopods. Brill will take a wide range of baits including ragworm, lugworm, peeler crab, but for the largest brill fish baits are best.
Life story: The brill is a short-lived species, up to 6 years of age. They spawn in April to August in depths of water 10-20m and release planktonic eggs which hatch in about 14 days. Juveniles settle at a length of 20-35mm in shallows and rock pools. Size of sexual maturity 41cm. Spawning spring and summer
Recreational fishing:  Much favoured by anglers in waters where it is common. Minimum take size 40cm. Avoid April-August (spawning).

Coalfish (saithe, coley) - pollachius virens
ID features: A small member of the cod family, unusually large eyes, but smaller than a pollack, and 3 dorsal and 2 anal fins.  A small and very thin barbel on the lower jaw that is difficult to see in small individuals. The lower jaw extends slightly beyond the upper jaw. Looks very similar to pollack its closest relation in the cod family. Big difference the coalfish's tail is more forked.
Size: To 130cm in length and 22kg in weight.
Colour: Dark blue-brown, almost black dorsal and upper sides, creamy white/silver ventral. The lateral line is almost white and clearly visible against the darker background
Location & availability: Distributed widely in British water, but preferring the colder regions, so rarely caught inshore in the southern North Sea, along the English channel or along southern Atlantic coasts.  Favours rocky and weedy habitat. In northern England and Scotland they congregate closer to the coast, particularly when young, and half-pounders (cuddies). Not an uncommon catch when out mackerel fishing. Generally they live in dark, deep sea where little light penetrates . At 60m down, visibility is minimal, so they have to rely on vibrations, smell and instinct to find their food.
Food & bait: Coalfish will eat just about anything. But they are hunters rather than scavengers, opportunistic fish with big eyes and mouths. They'll hide in the lee of a wreck or rock and gobble up smaller fish that swim by. So, adults are piscivores, feeding heavily on clupeids such as herring and gadoids such as the Norway pout. Juveniles feed on crustaceans. Adults will take mackerel strips or lures.
Life story: Spawn between January and April at depths of 100-200m. The eggs and larvae are pelagic, and post-larvae are most abundant in April-May.
Recreational fishing:  Can be caught on wrecks, but large specimens are usually caught on deep wrecks , over 50m. A favoured target for boat anglers in northern British waters.  Minimum take size 60cm. Avoid January-March (spawning)
Cod - gadus morhua
ID features: Heavy bodied fish with 3 dorsal fins and 2 anal fins. There is a large barbel on the chin and the upper jaw extends beyond the lower jaw. It is greedy, rather dim and no athlete. Note the mottled colouration, heavy build, white lateral line and the presence of a large chin barbel.
Size: Typically to about 70cm in length. They can get much larger but these will not be caught inshore and have become much less common.
Colour: A pale olive brown background colour, which shade to silver cream on the lower surface of the belly. The upper surface is mottled brown-yellow camourflage.
Location & availability: Seeks out the least taxing of locations in which to exist, out of strong currents where it won't have to put in much effort to hold position and where food will mostly come to it. Widely distributed around all British coastal waters, from estuarine waters used by juveniles, to depths of 600m. In southern British waters  it is found inshore during winter months. The juveniles estuaries in June and could remain within the estuary over the following winter. Spawn February to April and are around September to April, with a peak period of November to February.
Food & bait: Usually it will dine on shoaling baitfish, such as sand eels and sprats - provided it doesn't have to work too hard. Will happily scavenge too , with the widest possible interpretation of what constitutes a meal. A general predator eating a wide range of invertebrates, becoming more piscivorous with increasing size. Cod will take anything, so try peeler crab, lugworm, mussel, white rag, black lugworm, ragworm, razor fish, squid and hermit crab.  Don’t forget to experiment, although these cod baits work well on their own they often work better when mixed together to form a cocktail bait.
Life story: Cod a migratory fish moving between nursery feeding and spawning grounds. Spawning occurs on the European continental shelf to a depth of 200m between February and April. The eggs are pelagic and widely dispersed. The larvae initially on copepods, and gradually switch to larger crustaceans as they grow. Cod in British water grow rapidly. In the Bristol Channel cod first enter the estuary in June when about 4 moths old, at a length of 60mm. By their first winter they have reached 160mm or longer. By their 3rd year they may be 55cm in length. There are numerous sub-populations present in British waters. In the North Sea there is a sub-population in the Southern Bight, and another which lives in deeper water north of the Flamborough front. There are indications that the centre of distribution has moved further northwards.
Recreational fishing:  Regularly targeted by both shore and boat anglers and during cod festivals. Record cod sizes have been caught  in the Bristol Channel from shore and boat. Cod reach sexual maturity around 60cm, spawn February to April, minimum take size EU 35cm, recommended 50cm.  MCS rating 5.
Dab - Limanda limanda

ID features: Common right-eyed flatfish. T D-shaped lateral line above the pectoral fin is characteristic - D for dab.
Size: Smaller than the more fancied flat fish, with average dab weighing in at about 250g. Can grow to about 40cm in length, although most adults appear around 20-25cm. Larger individuals are rarely caught inshore.
Colour: They are drab looking fish with plain, rough skin and no elaborate marking or exotic colouring. Usually sandy-brown, though varying with the colour of the substrate.
Location & availability: Widely distributed in British water areas offering sandy seabed down to about 100m. Moves inshore during the summer. The young settle inshore in late summer and autumn.
Food & bait: A generalist predator of small fish, crustaceans and other invertebrates. Common baits are lug and rag worm. Some anglers believe old and rotten baits produce good results.
Life story: This is relatively small flatfish, although it can grow to a length of about 40cm and an age of 10-12 years. Reaches sexual maturity at about 25cm. The spawning season varies with latitude, commencing in winter off Brittany and southern England, April to June in the North Sea. It is a batch spawner, laying repeatedly through the season, rather than all its eggs at once. Males become sexually mature at 2-3 years old when 10-20cm long. Females mature at 3-5 years when 20-25cm long. The eggs and larvae are planktonic and the young fish, the size of a postage stamp, settle inshore in late summer, creating a peak in abundance in shallowwaters in September and October.
Recreational fishing:  Recommended minimum take size 23cm. Easy to catch on rod and line from, beach, estuary, pier harbourside or breakwater. Summer is the best time to catch them. They have small mouths, so small hooks are essential, but will eat just about any bait, including lug worm, rag worm, mussels, crabs, fish strips or shrimp. It doesn't have to be fresh bait either, dabs won't turn their noses up at bait that has grown a bit old and stinky. Spawning season April - June.Peak season September-October.
Dabs can be caught from boats in most areas all year round, but traditionally they are a late autumn and winter fish, generally speaking. During September and October their numbers increase closer to shore and by late November hit peak numbers. They remain until mid February when their numbers start to slowly decline as the adult fish move offshore to spawn. Some of the biggest dabs can stay inshore through until April in colder years.

Dab (Long Rough) - hippoglossoides platessoides
ID features: When you’re catching the dabs, pay close attention to them. You’ve a very good chance of catching a rare long rough dab. These look like a dab, but are more reddish in colour and have a much larger mouth than the common dab. Put the two side by side and difference is obvious. This dab is a relatively slender-bodied right-eyed flatfish with a large mouth and eyes. The scales are large for a flat fish and clearly visible on the upper side as they catch the light. The middle rays of the tail are the longest.
Size: Reach up about a length of 50cm in colder waters, rarely caught above 30cm in British waters.
Colour: Upper surface brown with diffused darker brown spots. Lower surface white.
Location & availability: A northern species mostly occurring in deeper waters. Found in coastal waters off western and northern Svalbard, south along the continental shelf edge to the northwest coast of Norway. Common in the Clyde sea area of Scotland. Favours fine sand or mud seabed in cool waters, not found inshore in southern Britain.
Food & bait: A predator of worms, crustaceans, other invertebrates, and small fish.
Life story: In the Clyde area they live for about 6 years and reach a length of about 30cm. Further to the north they may live up to 30 years and reach a length of 50cm. In Scottish waters they spawn March-April; the eggs and larvae are planktonic. Reaches sexual maturity in British waters around 2-3 years of age.
Recreational fishing: Not often caught in British waters as it is small and tends to live live in deeper water.
EEL (conger) - conger conger
ID features: A large, elongate, eel-shaped fish. The mouth and eye are relatively large when compared to a common eel. The conger has a scaleless skin and its upper jaw extends beyond its lower. The conger can normally be differentiated from other eels merely by its size. However, small fish can be identified by the dorsal fin beginning  at the pectoral fins and running the length of its body. The dorsal fin on a silver eel begins well back from its pectoral fins. The congers body is a slimy smooth skin, with no scales whatsoever.
Size: Can reach about 3m in length; maximum recorded weight 110kg. Larger individuals tend not to increase much in length, only in girth.
Colour: The dorsal surface is an even grey to red-brown which gradually shades to a dorsal surface which is creamy-light grey. There is a black edge around the dorsal and anal fins which is not possessed by the common eel. Colouring very much depends on the type of seabed it inhabits. On rocks, the back is charcoal grey and the under parts are pale, but over sand the back ia a light-grey brown. The margins of the dorsal and anal fins are black
Location & availability: A common fish on the west coast of Britain. Large individuals are associated with underwater structures such as reefs and wrecks. Smaller eels up to 1.5m are caught in lower estuarine habitats such as the Bristol Channel. In greatest abundance inshore in autumn, usually around all year.
Food & bait: A top predator  on fish and larger crustaceans.
Life story: Conger eels will not enter freshwater, although they can be common in estuaries. They spend from 5-20 years in coastal waters  before migrating to deep water in the mid-Atlantic to spawn. Conger eels are believed to only spawn once. The larvae drift north-eastwards until they reach shallow waters where they settle. They take a long a long time to reach sexual maturity - up to 15 years. There are more than 100 different types of conger eels, and they primarily live around the Atlantic coasts of North America and Europe.
Recreational fishing: Anglers who target conger eels position themselves near reefs and wrecks, and sit at anchor on slack water, when there is little or no tide. They use big baits, such as half a mackerel or a chunky fish head on large, strong hooks. These are attached to the reel line by either a steel wire trace or an extra thick  (60kg)nylon leader, to offer resistance against the conger's teeth. Congers only breed once in their lifetime ( and they swim to the waters off Portugal to do it), so there's every chance a caught conger will not yet have a chance to reproduce. Targeted by specimen/species hunters which may have taken a heavy toll over popular fished wrecks and reefs over the years. We think the fish should be returned to the sea unharmed. Recommended minimum take size shore 95cm and boat 120cm.
EEL (Common, European) - anguilla anguilla
ID features: A long fish with smooth slimy skin, found in a number of different forms corresponding to different stages of life. Yellow eel have a small eye, protruding lower jaw and an extended snout.  The mature silver eel has a relatively large eye and a far blunter snout. Dorsal fin starts one third along the body and joins the anal fin. Lower jaw protrudes noticeably further than the upper jaw. 
Most eels encountered in Britain are yellow eels. The silver eel is rarely caught and does appear morphologically more like a conger eel. 
Size: To about 1.2metres. Up to 5ft in length and 20lbs. Shore caught typically 1-3lbs.
Colour: The yellow eel has a dark brown-green tinged dorsal, grading along the sides to yellow-golden brown and creamy white on the ventral/ The mature silver eel has an almost black dorsal, golden sides and silver white ventral with black lined dorsal/anal fins and a black pectoral fin.
Location & availability: Found in all British waters. Most common in estuaries during spring and autumn .Once abundant around the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe. While it is still found across the British Isles numbers are massively down on previous decades, and silver eels are now absent from areas where they were once common.
Food & bait: Feeds on: Fish, worms and crustaceans when at the silver eel stage of life. Smaller fish, frogs, insect larvae and any other dead and rotting creatures when in its freshwater environment.
Life story: Much of the European eel’s life history was a mystery for centuries, as fishermen never caught anything they could identify as a young eel. Unlike many other migrating fish, eels begin their life cycle in the ocean and spend most of their lives in fresh water, returning to the ocean to spawn and then die. In the early 1900s, Danish researcher Johannes Schmidt identified the Sargasso Sea as the most likely spawning grounds for European eels. The larvae (leptocephali) drift towards Europe in a 300-day migration. When approaching the European coast, the larvae metamorphose into a transparent larval stage called "glass eel", enter estuaries, and start migrating upstream. After entering fresh water, the glass eels metamorphose into elvers, miniature versions of the adult eels. As the eel grows, it becomes known as a "yellow eel" due to the brownish-yellow color of their sides and belly. After 5–20 years in fresh water, the eels become sexually mature, their eyes grow larger, their flanks become silver, and their bellies white in color. In this stage, the eels are known as "silver eels", and they begin their migration back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.
Recreational fishing: Silver eel are caught by anglers in rivers, estuaries and beaches near to freshwater rivers. They will take a variety of different baits such as ragworm, mackerel, herring and sprat, although peeler crab is the bait that accounts for taking most silver eels. With so many baits taken it is impossible for anglers to avoid catching silver eels if they are present in the area where they are fishing. When silver eels are caught they will spin and twist in an attempt to escape and will inevitably tangle up the rig and line. The thick slime that covers the eel also makes it incredibly difficult to hold to remove the hook. Some anglers wrap the eel in a towel or cloth, as this will allow it to be gripped more securely, but it is thought this removes the protective slime around the eels which it needs to survive. There is an urban myth that a rig should always be changed after catching an eel as the slime on the line will put off other fish and all you will catch is more eels. There is no evidence to back this up. In 2010-11 there were bans on fishing for silver eels and anglers catching them were legally compelled to return any caught silver eels to the sea. Ignoring this ban could lead to a fine of up to £50,000 from the Environment Agency. Local and regional bans are still be in place around the UK. All responsible anglers return silver eels due to the fact this species is at a real risk of extinction unless fishing pressure (from both commercial and recreational fishing) is removed and stocks are allowed time to be rebuilt. Remember, silver eels swim to the Caribbean to spawn there and then die so any silver eel caught in UK waters cannot have reproduced. The previous 38cm/14inch minimum size for retaining silver eels has been suspended as all silver eels caught should be returned. Silver eels are sometimes confused with small conger eels, but the main differences are pointed out above.

Flonder (European) - platichthys flesus
ID features: 

The flounder is a typical flatfish with flattened fins that wrap around the oval-shaped body. Its eyes are positioned on the right side of the head (if you imagine the fish swimming upright) but, identification can be quite difficult because

  • some have been found with eyes directed towards the left

  • flounders have been known to interbreed (hybridise) with plaice giving rise to coloured variations

  • there are also flounders which have undersides exactly the same colour as their backs (normally they have white undersides).

The tail of a flounder is quite square at its end and there are bony tubercles around both sides of the body, at the bases of both the elongated dorsal and anal fins. It has small sharp spiny bumps along the bases of the dorsal and anal fins, and the skin behind the head and along the lateral line can be rough and bumpy. Between 35 and 46 anal fin rays.

Size: To about 60cm in length, most are rather smaller.
Colour:  Red-brown or green-brown, varying with seabed substrate. red spots are frequently visible, although their intensity varies; they are raely as distinctive as those on a plaice. Specimens with colouring on both sides of the body are often seen.
Location & availability: Flounders are very widely distributed around the coast of Britain. It lives from the shoreline down to depths around 100 metres deep, favouring muddy bottoms but will also live over sandy bottoms.  Flounders are amazingly tolerant of variations in the salt content of water. They can be found living in the sea, they can be found living in estuaries where salt water meets fresh, and they can even be found (and caught) in the freshwater of rivers well away from the sea shore. Flounders can be caught anywhere with flat shallow beaches and scars favoured spots. Although they can be caught at any time, by far the most prolific period for flounder fishing is within the first 3 hours of an incoming tide. Adults move offshore to deeper water in winter. Available throughout spring, summer and autumn in the Bristol Channel.
Food & bait: A predator, flounders feed upon much smaller crustaceans and animals than the plaice simply because they do not posses the same shell-crushing teeth. They survive on cockles, sand hoppers, shrimps, worms, molluscs and crab. They feed best at night when they move into the shallower water. During the daytime they often remain buried within the mud or sand. Flounders are caught at exceptionally short range. A cast of over 30 feet on an incoming tide is often too far. As the tide starts to flood in the flounder will be right up at the waters edge in search of food picked up by the incoming tide, and it is into the first 30 feet of water that you must drop your baited trace.  As with all UK fish species, the flounder finds the peeler crab irresistible, especially when it is in season. One small peeler or half (or even quarter) of a larger crab mounted on a size 1 hook will do the job. However if you can't lay your hands on peeler don't be put off as the flounder will also take most other baits including ragworm, lugworm, mackerel strips, mussels, fish and shellfish baits.
Life story: During spring the adult flounder move into deeper water of between 80-130 feet to spawn. The females lay between 500,000 and two million eggs which float straight to the surface. Given good temperatures these eggs will hatch in less than two weeks. The lifecycle of a flounder is very similar to that of a plaice - the flounder fry drift with the current and plankton until they reach the shallower shoreline. By the time they reach 1¼in they will have taken on the familiar flounder flatfish shape and the eye will have migrated over to the right side. They then sink to the sea bed to begin their bottom-dwelling existence. Sexually mature at around 30cm. Spawn January - April.
Recreational fishing: As far as anglers are concerned the flounder is primarily a spring, summer and autumn species as it is at these times of the year when flounders live within casting range. In the depths of winter they migrate into the warmer and deeper water well away from the shoreline. Flounders are at their most abundant from mid spring through until late summer. The onset of warmer weather sees the flounder arrive en mass for a summer feeding frenzy. Flounder are also attracted by bright and colourful objects so place lots of colourful beads and sequins (bling) just above the hook.  Observation pays in this kind of fishing. Flounders like to lie in gullies, waiting for food to drift into them. These gullies are often only a few metres from the shore, so it will pay to survey the beach at low water to note them. While beach fishing do not be in too much of a hurry to strike. Many fish are lost by hurried striking. Flounders are noted for the time they take in mouthing the bait, and it is some time before they take in the lot. Use a single hook and a flowing trace rather than a paternoster with several hooks and a heavy weight. A weight sinks slowly into the sand and becomes buried. A trace will move around with the tide, attracting the fish by its free movement. Minimum take size 33cm.

Garfish - belone belone
ID features: A design classic. From its beak-like nose (needlefish) to its deeply forked tail, it's an example of hydrodynamic perfection - and one of the fastest in British waters. It uses its super speed to hunt small fish and to escape large fish. It's agile too; it can leap out of the water , not only to elude predators but also among rocks in the shallow, to gain access to hunting grounds other fish cannot reach.It is an elongated needlefish with greatly extended jaws, which possess needle-like fine teeth. Not to be confused with the much rarer short-beaked garfish (Belone svetovidovi) look at the relative length of the jaws and gill raker number.
Size: To 80cm in length. Minimum take size 40cm. Best keepers for eating are over 40cm and around 500g in weight
Colour: Another regional name is greenbones, due to its shockingly bright green-almost luminous - skeleton. The dorsal ranges from green to dark blue and the sides and belly are silver-white. Garfish also have tiny turquoise scales that detach very easily when they are handled. Garfish anglers usually have shiny, green-speckled hands.
Location & availability:Found in all British waters, but more abundant towards the southwest. garfish are open water living close to the surface. They are only abundant inshore during summer and early autumn. The often move into southern British coastal waters in early summer with the mackerel shoals and are frequently caught while mackerel fishing, as they live alongside the mackerel. Peak period in the Bristol Channel June to October.
Food & bait: They are primarily surface feeders, taking plankton and small fish such as young herring and sand eels. They will sometimes hunt in shoals, or join shoals of other fish such as mackerel or greater sand eel.
Life story: From an ecological perspective, at 40cm the garfish has reach sexual maturity and will have had the opportunity to spawn. They grow fast and mature early. They release a large number of eggs in coastal surface waters in May and June. The eggs have long threads with which they will attach to any algae or flotsam. The fish are born with short jaws, and the lower jaw elongates first. They live for 7 years or more, with most of the growth occurring in the first 3 years.
Recreational fishing: You are most likely to catch garfish around piers, breakwaters and rocky headlands. The technique is to fish with fairly small hooks under a sea float, using finger-sized strips of mackerel (or other garfish) as bait. Garfishermen will often take along a bucket of sloppy mix of bread, fish guts and fish oils (along with other personal choices) which is spooned into the water little and often to entice the fish to feed. It creates an underwater scent trail to lure the garfish to the bait. Hooking a garfish on light tackle is a thrilling experience, much like miniature marlin on account of the aerial acrobatics they can perform in their attempt to escape. A hooked garfish will leap out of the water, 'walk' on its tail, or dive in a vigorous attempt to shake off the hook.
Gurnard (Grey) - eutrigla gurnardus
ID features: Large eyes, diameter as great as the depth of cheek except in the very large fish.  Slender-bodied and the head profile is almost a straight line. The lateral line has sharp scutes along it which may not be very prominent in large fish. The pectoral fin is shorter than on other gurnards, not reaching as far back as the vent or anal fin. The tail is only slightly forked.  All gurnard have feelers under the head which they use to 'walk' along the seabed. They can use the large pectoral fins to fly through the water. Gurnard have a muscle which it can drum against the swim bladder to make a grunting noise.
Size: Up to 45cm in length, usually less than 30cm
Colour: The dorsal and head are red-brown with a dusting of grey, the ventral is creamy-white. There is a dark blotch on first dorsal fin.
Location & availability: Widely distributed in British waters, considered an offshore species, but juveniles frequently caught inshore and in lower estuaries. There is an onshore summer migration giving an increased abundance in the Bristol Channel. Grey gurnard are found in decent numbers between May and September
Food & bait: A predator eating shrimps, prawns, crabs and small fish (gobies, flatfish, young herrings and sand eels. Sand eel, king ragworm or mackerel bait work best for these fish. Mackerel is a firm favorite if specifically targeting this species. Squid and cuttle fish are good bait. As gurnard are visual hunters they feed well during daylight hours.
Life story: Grey gurnard have a life expectancy of about 7 years and reach sexual maturity  in their 3rd or 4th year at about 25cm. They spawn over a long period between February and August, depending on location. Spawning is later in the north.
Recreational fishing: Minimum take size 20cm, avoid spring and early summer when spawning. The less common Grey Gurnard is a very uncommon catch and you are not likely to come across it but it is worth a hunt. Predominantly captured during the autumn months from August through to the start of November. Bottom fishing is the way to go. They are not normally specifically fished for and are more normally a welcome by-catch when after Bream.Often gurnards will make a grunting noise when they have been caught.
Gurnard (Red) - aspitrigla cuculus
ID features:  No spines along the lateral line and 3 short spines on each side of the snout. The lateral pores are covered by large scales. The pectoral fins only just reach the vent. The red colouration and structure of the lateral line scales are the main characteristics. All gurnard species have a peculiar adaptation of the pectoral fins. The first three rays of each fin are separate and developed into finger-like appendages, loaded with sensory organs, which the fish can use to stir up and locate food items in the soft seabed. The 'fingers' may have some chemo-receptory functions, the action of which gives the appearance of 'walking' along the sea bed. Gurnards can make grunting noises using their swim bladder.
Size: It rarely grows above 50cm in length and 1.5kg and is most commonly caught at around 500g.
Colour: A bright red over the dorsal and lateral surfaces, shaded with white along the ventral
Location & availability: Inshore along the Atlantic coast. Rare or absent from much of the North Sea. Its depth ranges from the surface to about400m and it lives over a wide range of seabed substrates including sand, shingle and rocky.Red gurnard is a fish more likely to be found in the south of the British Isles, especially the English Channel. The west coast of England, Scotland and Ireland contain a lot of gurnard, due to the higher temperature caused by the Gulf Stream. Moves into deeper water in the winter and comes into shallower to follow in the sprats, sand eels and other species in the warmer months
Food & bait: A predator eating shrimps, prawns, crabs and other fish. The larvae feed on zooplankton. They will feed where there are offshore sandbanks or swim along sandy coastlines looking for gullies or other features where source of food gather.The feeler feet are used for detecting the movement of crustaceans hiding beneath the sediment. Once the prey is located the gurnard makes short work of eating it. Gurnard don't limit themselves to defenceless crustaceans , they will hunt for live fish as well - such as young whiting, plaice and sand eels. They will also leave the sea floor to go hunting higher up the water column, if that's where the food is. Being nomadic and omnivorous it will go anywhere toeat anything.
Life story: Sexually mature around 25 to 28cm, and a maximum age of about 7 years. Spawning takes place from late April to the end of summer while the fish are in the inshore waters. Eggs hatch within 2 weeks of being laid. Quick growing, plentiful and currently sustainable.
Recreational fishing: Of the 3 type of gurnard the one you are most likely to find, or catch, is the red. Minimum take size 28cm, avoid the spawning season. Fishing is best done on open sandy beaches, or beaches where there is light broken ground or scattered rocks which will hold food. Two or three hook flapping rigs can be used if fishing close in and a one hook rig for distance casting when seeking out the feeding fish. Size 1 or 2 hooks are usually used as the majority gurnard can be quite small. As for bait medium mackerel strips are good, along with sand eels and strips of herring. A set of traditional mackerel feathers with a chunk of bait, strip of mackerel or squid, on the bottom two hooks is worth a try. Tey will take a bare feather but are attracted more effectively with the scent of a little fresh bait. They also crop up on flatfish fishing trips when drifting sand banks, dragging baits with silvery plaice spoons or beads attached. Gurnard seen to love a bit of flash and sparkle.
Gurnard (Tub) - chelidonichthys lucerna
ID features: Very similar to the red, only bigger and rarer, with the characteristic gurnard shape. The snout is produced to form two lobes with a toothed front edge. The eye is smaller than in the other gurnards, the large pectoral fins reach past the vent. The lateral line scales are neither enlarged or spiny.
Size: Up to 70cm and 6kg, the largest of the gurnard species.
Colour: The dorsal and head are red-brown, the ventral is creamy white with red and pink blotches. The pectoral fins are spotted and edged with brilliant turquoise blue.
Location & availability: Found inshore at depths from 2 to 200m. It hunts in small shoals over sand, mud or gravel bottoms. Mainly to be found in the south west of the British Isles, only rarely caught in the northern North Sea, but the range has been extending as the seas become warmer. Present in the Bristol Channel during the summer months, moving into deeper waters in winter.
Food & bait: Same as the other 2, eating small fish, shrimps, prawns and crabs.
Life story: Spawns between May and July. Juveniles inhabit shallow waters and estuaries. 
Recreational fishing: Avoid the spawning season. Minimum take size 30cm, not sure what size they achieve sexual maturity. See red gurnard for further information.
Haddock - melanogrammus aeglefinus
ID features: A codfish with 3 dorsal and 2 anal fins. First dorsal fin is triangular with notably long fin rays. Short but clear visible chin barbel. Lower jaw shorter than the upper jaw. Lateral line clearly visible and black.
Size: A very large could weigh in at around 5kg, where as a big cod would tip the scales at 20kg or more. Length is up to 75cm.
Colour: They look like cod only smaller, paler, with a dark green-brown dorsal and cream belly. A black-etched lateral line and a dark grey-black blotch on each side above the pectoral fins.
Location & availability: Found primarily in northern waters, from 40 to 300m. They reach the southern limit of their geographical range in southern British waters, where they occur inshore only in winter. Rarely caught in the English Channel or inshore on south-western Atlantic coasts. Haddock live close to the seabed where they feed. In the north they enter shallow coastal waters in summer and retreat deeper in winter.
Food & bait: Just like cod haddock are demersal: bottom feeders that have nerve-filled short barbule (a goatee-like wibble of skin) jutting out from their chins to help locate food at murky depths. Classed as benthic invertebrates, so will take a wide range of bait including, mussels, ragworm, lugworm and fish strips.
Life story: A female haddock can carry up to 1.8 million eggs, not quite as many as cod 9 million. The haddock's breeding capacity is a function of its size and slow growth, which in turn follows on from their choice of deeper, colder and more northerly water. Spawning February-June. In British waters they spawn mainly in March and April. The eggs float; the larvae are pelagic, and have been found in association with jelly fish. Haddock my live for 14 years and reach sexual maturity during years 4 or 5, at a length of about 41cm for males, and 46cm for females. A one year old haddock in the North Sea is 16-18cm long. At 2 years old, haddock reach 25-30cm. The main spawning grounds are in the northern North Sea, off Rockall, around Faroe, and south and west of Iceland.
Recreational fishing: Minimum take size 35cm. EU minimum size 30cm. Avoid spawning season. If you wanted hunt haddock you would have to go to Scandinavia waters, where they are pursued enthusiastically by local anglers. Apparently they will devour both natural baits and lures, and can be caught like mackerel on a string of hooks, several at a time.
Hake - merluccius merluccus
ID features:  Long slender cylindrical body with large head and mouth, sharp long teeth.  Prominent triangular first dorsal fin and very long second dorsal fin and one long anal fin. Tail fin has straight rear edge. No chin barbel.
Size: Up to 4ft 30lb/140cm in length. In shallow inshore waters more like 15-30cm and a weight in excess of 5kg is rare.
Colour:  Body is silvery grey, sometimes with a green/brown gleam, shading to silver along the sides and silver white on the ventral, underside pale. Noticeable, straight, black lateral line.
Location & availability:  Hake are a wide ranging fish, found everywhere between Iceland and Africa. Hake is a deep sea fish, explaining why it is rarely caught by shore anglers, a fact highlighted by the shore caught record for hake being only 3lb 8oz, while the boat caught record is in excess of 25lb. Hake favour water around 200 metres deep, although it can be found in depths down to 1000 metres. Essentially an offshore fish, favouring depths of 165 - 550m. Distributed in deeper British waters , so rarely encountered in the southern North Sea. Occasionally caught in shallow waters around the southern and western coast of the British isles.  Abundant in the Bristol Channel some time ago (shore caught record in 1984 1,590kg from Morfa beach), but rarely caught now. May come further inshore during cool climate conditions.
Food & bait: Hake are unfussy, active predators, feeding on any small fish they can catch. They will happily eat mackerel, herring (hence the name herring hake), pouting, sandeels, squid or any other fish they come across and they are not averse to hunting down smaller members of their own species. Young feed on krill and other crustaceans.
Life story: Closely related to cod, both belong to the same family. Spawning February-July. Hake spawn off the south west and west coasts of the British Isles in waters with depths around 200m. The eggs are pelagic. Males are mature in their 3rd or 4h year, while females mature a a larger size in their 8th year. The larger females can reach a length of 1m and weigh 5kg.
Recreational fishing: Not a fish we often see in the UK these days. Hake stay on the seabed during daylight, feeding little, and move into mid-water to feed during darkness. Boat fishing in midwater at night, 200m or more deep is required to catch large specimens. Minimum take size 50cm.
Halibut - hippoglossus hippoglossus
ID features: A true flat fish, unrivalled giant of the family. It is more elongated than many other right-eyed flatfish, but is muscular and thick bodied. The mouth is exceptionally large and carries long, sharp teeth. The lateral line has a marked D-shaped curve above the pectoral fin. The scales are small and embedded in the skin. Juveniles might be confused with flounder, plaice and dad
Size: Slow growing. Generally about 2.4m in length, though specimens of 4.7m have been recorded. The maximum weight is around 320kg. Huge halibut are rarely seen today.
Colour: dark brown on the dorsal side and white on the underneath.
Location & availability: Prefers colder deeper water than most of its relatives, as a result, grows slower but much much bigger. To be found in deep northern waters and is known to come close inshore in Scottish waters. A species that rises up in the water column to feed.
Food & bait: Mostly fish, juveniles feed on crustaceans. Lures and live fish are used as bait.
Life story: Halibut spawn at depths of 300 to 700m during the winter months; eggs and larvae are plankton and are widely dispersed. After metamorphosis halibut settle on the seabed. The juveniles live in coastal waters with depths of 20-60m and move offshore into deeper water as they grow and mature at an average age of 4-5 years. Males are sexually mature around 4-5 years of age and 55cm in length. Females are larger and older at sexual maturity which is achieved at about an age of 7 years and a length of 135cm. May live for 50 years.
Recreational fishing: This huge fish has something of an attitude to being caught. If you drag a 25-50kg halibut on to the deck, the chances are it is going to use every steel-hard muscle in its powerful body to smash seven bells out of you and the boat. Unfortunately, there is hardly any halibut in British waters. Minimum take size 4.5kg/10lb. Recommended not to keep, MCS rating 5 don't eat.
Herring (Atlantic) - clupea harengus
ID features: The species of Clupea belong to the larger family Clupeidae (herrings, shadssardinesmenhadens), which comprises some 200 species that share similar features. A laterally-flattened fish that has large, easily-dislodged scales, and no lateral line. The lower jaw is prominent. The single dorsal fin is set in front of the pelvic fin
Size:  These silvery-coloured fish have a single dorsal fin, which is soft, without spines. They have no lateral line and have a protruding lower jaw. Their size varies between subspecies: the Baltic herring (Clupea harengus membras) is small, 14 to 18 centimetres; the proper Atlantic herring (C. h. harengus) can grow to about 46 cm (18 inches) and weigh up 700 g (1.5lb); and Pacific herring grow to about 38 cm (15 inches).
Colour: With a dark blue back, silvery-white sides and belly. 
Location & availability: Found in all British waters, highly abundant near spawning and nursery grounds. Juveniles enter estuaries  such as the Bristol Channel in large numbers during autumn. Adults aggregate in late winter-early spring along the EastAnglia coast prior to spawning. Over fishing has reduced the abundance of this fish.
Food & bait:  Herrings are a prominent converter of zooplankton into fish, consuming copepodsarrow wormspelagic amphipodsmysids and krill in the pelagic zone. Conversely, they are a central prey item or forage fish for higher trophic levels. The reasons for this success is still enigmatic; one speculation attributes their dominance to the huge, extremely fast cruising schools they inhabit. Young herring feed on phytoplankton and as they mature they start to consume larger organisms. Adult herring feed on zooplankton, tiny animals that are found in oceanic surface waters, and small fish and fish larvae. Copepods and other tiny crustaceans are the most common zooplankton eaten by herring. During daylight herring stay in the safety of deep water, feeding at the surface only at night when there is less chance of being seen by predators. They swim along with their mouths open, filtering the plankton from the water as it passes through their gills. Young herring mostly hunt copepods individually, by means of "particulate feeding" or "raptorial feeding",[110] a feeding method also used by adult herring on larger prey items like krill. If prey concentrations reach very high levels, as in microlayers, at fronts or directly below the surface, herring become filter feeders, driving several meters forward with wide open mouth and far expanded opercula, then closing and cleaning the gill rakers for a few milliseconds.
Copepods, the primary zooplankton, are a major item on the forage fish menu. Copepods are typically one millimetre (0.04 in) to two millimetres (0.08 in) long, with a teardrop shaped body. Some scientists say they form the largest animal biomass on the planet.[111]Copepods are very alert and evasive. They have large antennae (see photo below left). When they spread their antennae they can sense the pressure wave from an approaching fish and jump with great speed over a few centimetres. If copepod concentrations reach high levels, schooling herrings adopt a method called ram feeding. In the photo below, herring ram feed on a school of copepods. They swim with their mouth wide open and their opercula fully expanded.

Predators of herring include seabirds, marine mammals such as dolphinsporpoisesorcawhalesseals and sea lions, predator fish such as sharksbillfishtunasalmonstriped bass,cod and halibut, and fishermen. Bait: Being an oily fish which releases plenty of scent herring are make a good sea fishing bait. They can be used whole for large species such as conger eels or strip of herring can be used as a bait for smaller species or to tip off other baits.

Life story: At least one stock of Atlantic herring spawns in every month of the year. Each spawns at a different time and place (spring, summer, autumn and winter herrings). Greenland populations spawn in 0–5 metres (0–16 ft) of water while North Sea (bank) herrings spawn at up to 200 metres (660 ft) in autumn. Eggs are laid on the sea bed, on rock, stones, gravel, sand or beds of algae.  The fish dart about rapidly,  and when spawning in more shallow water both males and females are in constant motion, rubbing against one another and upon the bottom, apparently by pressure aiding in the discharge of the eggs and milt. Females may deposit from 20,000 up to 40,000 eggs, according to age and size, averaging about 30,000. In sexually mature herrings, the genital organs grow before spawning, reaching about one-fifth of its total weight. Average of sexual maturity 3-9 years.

The eggs sink to the bottom, where they stick in layers or clumps to gravel, seaweed or stones, by means of their mucus coating, or to any other objects on which they chance to settle. If the egg layers are too thick they suffer from oxygen depletion and often die, entangled in a maze of fucus. They need substantial water microturbulence, generally provided by wave action or coastal currents. Survival is highest in crevices and behind solid structures, because predators feast on openly disposed eggs. The individual eggs are 1 to 1.4 millimetres (0.039 to 0.055 in) in diameter, depending on the size of the parent fish and also on the local race. Incubation time is about 40 days at 3 °C (37 °F), 15 days at 7 °C (45 °F), 11 days at 10 °C (50 °F). Eggs die at temperatures above 19 °C (66 °F). The larvae are 5 to 6 millimetres (0.20 to 0.24 in) long at hatching, with a small yolk sac that is absorbed by the time the larva reaches 10 millimetres (0.39 in). Only the eyes are well pigmented. The rest of the body is nearly transparent, virtually invisible under water and in natural lighting conditions.

The dorsal fin forms at 15 to 17 millimetres (0.59 to 0.67 in), the anal fin at about 30 millimetres (1.2 in)—the ventral fins are visible and the tail becomes well forked at 30 to 35 millimetres (1.4 in)— at about 40 millimetres (1.6 in) the larva begins to look like a herring. The larvae are very slender and can easily be distinguished from all other young fish of their range by the location of the vent, which lies close to the base of the tail.

But distinguishing clupeoids one from another in their early stages requires critical examination, especially telling herring from sprats. At one year they are about 10 centimetres (3.9 in) long, and they first spawn at three years.

Recreational fishing: Minimum take size 25cm, EU 20cm. Occasionally caught on baited hooks and mackerel feathers. As a pelagic species herring swim at midwater, at depths anywhere between a few metres below the surface and several hundred metres deep. Herring feed mostly on plankton and krill which they take in and filter through their gill rakers. Despite many people believing that herring feed exclusively this way, they will in fact also hunt small fish and aquatic creatures which they come across. While they are far from a common catch by shore anglers they are sometimes caught on feathers and daylights which are meant for mackerel, while anglers specifically targeting herring sometimes use specifically made very small daylights with size 6-8 hooks.
John Dory - zesus faber
ID features: John DorySt Pierre or Peter's Fish, refers to fish of the genus Zeus, especially Zeus faber, of widespread distribution. It is an edible benthic coastal marine fish with a laterally compressed olive-yellow body which has a large dark spot, and long spines on the dorsal fin. The dark spot is used to flash an 'evil eye' if danger approaches. Its large eyes at the front of the head provide it with binocular vision and depth perception, which are important for predators. The John Dory’s eye spot on the side of its body also confuses prey, which are scooped up in its big mouth.Note large head and highly protrusible jaw. The first dorsal and pectoral fins are also on the large size. There are lines of spiny fins running along the belly and back. It has 10 long spines on its dorsal fin and 4 spines on its anal fin. It has microscopic, sharp scales that run around the body. Its eyes are near the top of its head. It has a flat, round body shape and is a poor swimmer.
Size: Females to 90cm and 8kg, male are smaller and rarely exceed 45cm in length.  The John Dory average size is around 65 cm (2 ft) and 3 kg (7 lb) in weight.
Colour: The fish is an olive green color with a silvery white belly and has a dark spot on its side. Also seen with a pale cream basal colour overlaid to brown and yellow blotches and bands. The black roundel is surrounded by a yellow-cream ring on each side.
Location & availability: John Dory are coastal fish, found on the coasts of Africa, South East Asia, New ZealandAustralia, the coasts of Japan, and on the coasts of Europe. They live near the seabed, living in depths from 5 metres (15 ft) to 360 metres (1200 ft). They are normally solitary. A warm-water species only common along the west and south coasts. The largest specimens are found near the spawning grounds in the Bay of Biscay, the western English Channel and in the Irish Sea
Food & bait: The John Dory catches its prey by stalking it, then extending its jaw forward in a tube like structure to suck the fish in with some water. The water then flows out through the gills; the pre-maxillary bone, the only tooth-bearing bone in this fish, is used to grind the food. The John Dory is primarily a piscivore; it eats a variety of fish, especially schooling fish such as sardines, herrings, sand eels and young gadoids. Occasionally it eats squid and cuttlefish. The jaws hinge forward to form a large tube to snap up the unsuspecting prey. Their predators are sharks, such the dusky shark, and large bony fish.
Life story: When John Dories are 3 or 4 years of age and around 35cm, they are ready to reproduce. This happens around the end of winter and spawning takes place between June and end of August. They are substrate scatterers, which means that they release sperm and eggs into the water to fertilize. The young reach 9-13cm by their first winter. Typical lifespan is about 12 years in the wild.
Recreational fishing: Mainly caught by rod and line by boat anglers, rarely caught from the shore. John Dory will go for lures, as well as mackerel strip that flutters in the tide. The John Dory season lasts from mid march through to November as they prefer the warmer waters in the south west and the majority of the Dory’s caught in the British isles are from Cornwall. In the winter the dory’s head further south to deeper water to breed. Minimum take size 26cm. One caught in 1977 weighed 11lb 14oz.
Ling - molva molva

ID features: Big mouth for just about any fish or crustacean of manageable size that crosses its path. Ling are 'white fish' bottom dwellers with with clean, clear non-oily flesh. They are a large, elongated, cod-like fish with a single large barbel on the chin. Two dorsal fins the first with a short base, the second long-based. One very-long based anal fin. Looks like a cross between a cod and a conger eel.  Mouth full of sharp teeth.
Size: Largest member of the Gadidae family, with the potential to grow up to 2m in length and 40kg in weight. And live up to the grand old age of 25 years if they are lucky.
Colour: Dorsal surface is mottled green-brown, grdually shading to a dorsal surface which is creamy-light grey.
Location & availability: They prefer a deep (100-400m), sheltered location in amongst shipwrecks or craggy ledges - places where the current is slack and life can be lived without too much effort. Early in the year, fish that move from deeper water to these comparatively shallow wrecks could be about to spawn. The spawning female may be heavy with ripe eggs that she is just about to deposit amongst the sheltered parts of the wreck. Immature ling are found inshore at depths of only 20m, adults are  deep-water fish living on the seabed at depths of 300-400m
Food & bait: In common with big cod, big ling will just about anything. A piscivore, eating other members of the cod family such as pout and blue whiting. Once in deeper water ling will hunt any fish they can find such as herring and mackerel in mid-water, and cod, pouting and flatfish near the seabed. While fish make up the vast majority of the diet of a ling, they will occasionally eat crustaceans such as crab or lobster if this source of food is present.
Life story: Shares much of the same life style as the cod. Ling are slow growing, taking 5 or 6 years to reach sexual maturity. When they do spawn, a big female may lay 60 million eggs. They spawn to the north of Britain between Mach and July and may grow to 50cm in length by the end of their 3rd year. Males rarely live longer than 10 years, females mature at 6 to 8 years and can live for 14 years. The eggs are pelagic and float close to the surface.
Recreational fishing: MSC rating 5. Minimum take size 90cm. EU minimum landing size 63cm. Usually caught at depths of  50-100m. Once in deeper water ling will hunt any fish they can find such as herring and mackerel in mid-water, and cod, pouting and flatfish near the seabed.  Ling often take fish and crab baits meant for other species, and fishing into deep water from the end of a long pier, or a rock mark that allows casts to be made into deep water offers the best chance of catching a shore-caught ling. Shore catches are more likely along the north east coast of England and Scotland.  Generally, ling prefer hunting over and amongst rocky and broken ground, and are often targeted by boat anglers over wrecks.
Mackerel - scomber scombrus
ID features: They have a classic streamlined torpedo profile; deeply fork tails, fins that fold back into recessed slots, a mouth hermetically seals, and eye sockets flush to the head - all of which minimise water resistance and maximise speed. Two dorsal fins are followed by a series of 5 finlets. One anal fin followed by 5 finlets.
Colour: Blue-black-green tiger striped-back and flanks and shimmering silver belly.
Location & availability: You know winter has finally gone when the first mackerel arrive. Being true pelagic fish they roam the seas searching for food, burning up calories and maintaining a permanently taut muscle tone. A pelagic schooling species found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, often forming huge shoals. Mackerel move inshore  and northwards during the summer to feed, following plackton blooms and shoaling prey fish such as sprats, and its between June and September that they are mainly caught.
Food & bait: They are tireless hunters who fed at any depth from the seabed to the surface, on anything from ragworm to sprats, sand eels to plankton. Their healthy lifestyle make them a great source of nutrients - much appreciated by seabirds, seals and all kinds of predatory fish i.e. bass and pollack prevalent amongst them. Many anglers regard mackerel purely as bait, they get chopped up to make rubby-dubby, cut into flappers to catch any manner of bigger fish. Their main food is plankton crustaceans and small shoaling fish such as juvenile sprats and herrings. They readily attack a wide range of lures and feathers.
Life story: They spawn offshore in summer in the central North Sea, north of the Dogger bank, and to the west of Britain in a wide arc stretching from the Celtic Sea off Cornwall, around Ireland, to the north of Scotland. They over winter well off shore, moving deeper to the edge of the continental shelf, where they remain, feeding a little, until spring. They scatter floating eggs; subsequent larval growth is rapid. Fish spawned in the spring can reach 5cm by July and 13cm by August. At one year old the average length is 23.8cm. Most are mature in their second year at a length of around 29cm. If not over fished, it can live for over 20 years; occasionally very large mackerel are caught.Average size of sexual maturity 34cm.
Recreational fishing: Best to avoid early in the season as they might still be spawning, but as the water warms up so will the fishing. Mackerel come running in ahead of the summer migration of bass, black bream, sole, garfish and smoothhound. A shoal of mackerel will snap at anything. You can catch them on a simple strip of foil wrapped around a hook, and sometimes even bare hooks are sufficient. The classic tackle  is a string of mackerel feathers - 6 hooks, each with a coloured feather tied to its shank.   Can be caught from both shore and boat, although boat fishing is more reliable. In season, they are almost too easy to catch, usually by jigging feathers in the top few metres of the water column, although they will attack almost any lure.Recommended Minimum take size 30cm. EU minimum landing size 20cm )30cm North Sea). MSC rating 3. Spawning March - July.
Megrim - lepidorhombus whiffiagonis
ID features: The megrim or whiff (Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis) is a species of left-eyed flatfish in the family Scophthalmidae. It is found in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea between 100 and 700 m (330 and 2,300 ft) below sea level.  It is left-eyed, has a slightly larger head than usual in flatfish, and with a narrower body than usual. The dorsal and anal fins are relatively short and start far back on the body. Lower jaw extends beyond upper. Lateral line has a marked D-shaped curve above the pectoral fin. The eyes are large and the lower eye is placed well in front pf the upper eye.
Size:  It can grow up to 60 cm (24 in) in length.
Colour: The colouration is usually light brown/pale yellow to grey with dark spots across the body and dark grey fins. It lacks the highly distinct dark spots found on the fins in its close relative, the four-spot megrim
Location & availability:  The megrim prefers a sandy or muddy sea floor from 100-700m, from southern Iceland to the north-west of African coast, and the western Mediterranean. Adult females enter shallower waters to a minimum depth of 50m. They are predators and eat small fish and squid and also consume crustaceans. In turn megrim are themselves prey for larger species such as sharks, seals and large cod.    Megrim is abundant in Cornwall’s surrounding waters and off the coast of Ireland.
Food & bait: A piscivore, taking sprats, sand eels, gobies and juvenile gadoids such as whiting. It also eats squid, crabs and prawns.
Life story: Megrim spawn in deep waters off Iceland and the west of Ireland between March and June, releasing small plankton eggs. Average size of sexual maturity 25cm.
Recreational fishing: EU minimum take size 20cm. UK minimum take size 10in/25cm. Caught size 2lb 4oz.
Mullet (grey, thick lipped) - chelon labrosus
ID features: A heavily built torpedo-shaped fish with 2 dorsal fins and large easily-detached scales. The greatly thickened upper lip up to half eye diameter in depth, and its papillae (a small fleshy pimple like protuberence, with some sensory function), are characteristic. The mouth is small and the head flattened on top.
Size: To about 75cm in length and 6.5kg in weight. Big caught size 4.5 to 6kg.
Colour: Dark grey-green dorsal surface gradually grading to silver-cream along the sides and belly. No lateral line.
Location & availability: Found inshore along all British coasts, thick-lipped grey mullet are often seen swimming in small groups in sheltered inshore waters such as harbours. They will enter low salinity waters and are common in creeks and channels of salt marshes. They are to some extent migratory in British waters, entering more northern localities during thee summer. They enter British southern harbours in the spring where they remain until cool winter temperatures initiate an offshore migration to deeper warmer waters. They are usually present in harbours from May to October. Peak Bristol Channel period June to August.
Food & bait: Happy to drive nourishment from algae, seaweed, worms, maggots and mud. Feeds on surface algae and diatoms which are scraped off the seabed and other surfaces. They also take small invertebrates  such as crustaceans and worms, as well as bread and food detritus.
Life story: They spawn off shore during winter and spring, and the young fish have been seen in English Channel rock pools in July and August. Recommended minimum take size 38cm. Average size of sexual maturity 47cm.
Recreational fishing: Mullet may be among the most visible of sea fish; but even if they are never shy of putting in an appearance , they are exceedingly wary of fisherman's baited hook. Most fish are fairly easily tempted by the usual range of live or dead bait: mussels, worms, prawns, crab and squid or fish chunks. Mullet will eat none of these - at least, not until they are reduced to practically particle form (fish soup almost). They can, however, be tempted by bread, but they suck and nibble this with their abnormally thick lips in such tiny morsels that to present a small enough bait, on a hook small enough to deceive them, is feat of wily cunning beyond most anglers. Only the most dedicated light-tackle anglers regularly succeed. Try freshwater tackle: 12ft float rods, 2lb breaking strain line and minute hooks. Also use ground-baiting techniques with onion sacks full of stale bread and mashed up fish baits. The bags slowly release flakes and crumbs of bread and fish. Then, over this chum slick waft minute bread flakes on tiny hooks under ultra-sensitive waggler floats. When a big mullet is hooked, the ensuing battle is truly spectacular. Pound for pound, they grey mullet is one of the strongest fighters of the all. When it's hooked in shallow water, it has no choice but to run away, it can't dive dive deep or take refuge in a wreck, it can only sprint as far and as fast as its fins carry it.
Mullet (grey thin lipped) - liza ramada

ID features: Large-scaled fish with two dorsal fins. The upper lip is narrow. The pectoral fin is short and when folded forward it does not extend to the eye. When looking at the mouth of a thin-lipped grey mullet, note the lack of papillae (a small fleshy pimple like protuberence, with some sensory function) on the upper lip, unlike the thick-lipped grey mullet.
Size: About 60cm in length and 3.5kg in weight.
Colour: Dark grey-blue dorsal surface gradually grading to silver-cream along the sides and belly. There is a dark spot at the base of the pectoral fin.
Location & availability: Common in southern English estuaries and harbours, tends to migrate north during summer. Will enter upper estuarine and almost freshwaters,  and is the most abundant mullet in southern English/Welsh upper estuarine waters. Mullet enter estuaries and river during spring and summer months when the water temperature is between 8 and 24 degrees C. They leave in winter, favouring lower estuarine and marine locations.
Food & bait: Like other mullet species, grazes on algae, and also small invertebrates.
Life story: Migratory fish.Communal spawning occurs in inshore waters between September and February. Eggs are free floating, juveniles colonies the littoral zone and estuaries. Average size of sexual maturity 47cm.
Recreational fishing: Prized by specialists as a sport fish, and for its delicate feeding habits. See more above.
Mullet (golden grey) - Liza aurata
ID features: Smallest of the 3 grey mullet.  It has a hydrodynamic, very elegant elongated, more or less cylindrical body, with strong tail-fin. Golden spot is present in gill covers.Two dorsal fins. The upper lip depth is just less than half the eye diameter. The pectoral fin is longer than in the thin-lipped mullet; when folded forwards it extends over the rear edge of the eye. The body appears more slender than the other British mullet.
Size: Its maximum length is around 50-60cm and weight around 1.5kg, but commonly it is much smaller fish with average specimen having 30cm in length. Record weights 1.3 - 1.6kg.
Colour:  It has dark gray back that transit into silver white toward the belly with several, 6 or 7, grey horizontal stripes.The golden patch is on the operculum and no dark spot at the base of the pectoral fin, unlike the thin-lipped grey mullet.
Location & availability: The least common and most marine of British mullet, frequently seen in southern inshore waters and harbours. It undertakes seasonal movements offshore in winter.
Food & bait: Similar diet to that of the other mullets above.
Life story:  Reproduction takes place in the sea, from July to November. The eggs are free-floating. Average size of sexual maturity 28cm.
Recreational fishing: Like the other mullets.
Mullet (red) - Mullus surmuletus
ID features: Steeply sloping head and large eyes. Two dorsal fins, the first of which is quite spiny. They have a tapering body streaked with red and sometimes yellow lines on the back and upper flanks fading to pale on the underside. There are two long sensory barbels protruding from underneath the head. Tail is deeply forked and can, along with the fins, have a yellowish tinge. The mouth is downward pointing and the scales are quite large.
Size:  Size: Up to about 18ins/40cm and 4lbs. UK shore caught record: 3lb 15oz, 1.786kg, boat 1.559kg.
Colour: Red on the dorsal surface with a cream belly. When caught alive in daylight it is possible to see 4-5 yellow strpes running along the length of the body. The colour is distinctive.
Location & availability:  Found around the south of the British Isles. Most frequently caught in the English Channel and southern North Sea. In the Bristol Channel it is only caught during summer and autumn. A warm water fish the red mullet is found mostly in sub-tropical and tropical waters of Europe. It will however, be found in the southern parts of England and Ireland in the warm summer weather, and has been reportedly caught as far north as parts of Scotland in sporadic numbers. When fully mature they prefer deeper water and are generally found over sandy, shingle and mixed seabeds.
Food & bait: Red mullet scour the seabed for crustaceans worms and molluscs, although they are unfussy and will scavenge fish given the chance. They are demersal fish which scour and scavenge along the seabed for shellfish, crabs, small lobsters and will also eat marine worms and dead fish.
Life story: The English Channel red mullet spawn between May and June and are sexually mature from 1 year of age at at length of about 16cm. They can live for about 7 years. The eggs and larvae are pelagic, and settle into bottom-living life in September.
Recreational fishing:  As they are a rare fish they are not commonly caught by sea anglers and numbers are too thinly spread out to specifically target this species. Red mullet that are caught in UK waters usually go for fish, crab or worm baits, presented on the seabed. It is usually anglers targeting flatfish who end up inadvertently catching red mullet. If you want to give it a go try using a running ledger with a size 1 hook with Rockworm or Redcat. Also don't strike too hard as they have soft mouths and you will pull the hook. July is a good month when the best baits are rag, tipped with fresh mackerel or a thin squid strip. They fight hard and taste good.

Plaice - pieuronectes platessa
ID features: Plaice are pleuronectidae, or right-eyed flatfish (most are left-eyed), with both eyes together on the right side of the face. Their skin is thick and tough  and relatively easy to peel off in whole, unbroken sides. There are a series of bony knobs on the head, more of a ridge than in a flounder.The lateral line has a shallow curve above the the pectoral fin, much less pronounced than that of a dab. There are no prickles along the base of dorsal and anal fins as found in the flounder. The skin feels much slimier than flounder.
Size: To about 40cm in length; specimens of 1m have been caught. Other sizes reported include - shore-caught 3.822kg and boat 4.635kg.
Colour: What make them stand out most obviously from the flatfish crowed are the bright orange spots and splodges sprinkled across their green-brown backs. No other flatfish sports spots like these. Underneath, the bottom-hugging side is like most other flatfish, milky white. Spots are pale in young fish.
Location & availability: Plaice love sand, mud and gravel because they can hide in it, or stir it up with their wings-like fins and snouty mouth to expose crabs and other goodies. Widely distributed in British waters in areas offering a a sand substrate, down to about 200m, but most commonly from 10 to 50m. Undertakes seasonal migration and is most abundant inshore during autumn. Often lies buried in sand during the day, becoming more active at night. Rarely enters freshwaters.
Food & bait: They to the mussel beds in spring and early summer. Their tough, bony mouths allow them to tear off these tiny mussels and swallow them whole, digesting their sweet orange flesh. Often they are fixated by the mussels that they won't eat anything else - certainly nothing as mundane as a regular angler's bait. Hence the use of fancy bling to attract their quarry. Sandbanks also provide a further selection of food source in the form of crustaceans, shellfish, marine worms and other small bait-fish. Baits – Combination baits including ragworm, lugworm, black lug, squid strip, fish strip, peeler crabs and various shellfish all have their given day. To up the odds use visible baits on clear water days, and smelly baits when the water is discoloured.
Life story: A plaice's brow is a curio. Like most flatfish they start life as a normal upright, side on fish. But as they grow, they tip over to one side and one eye migrates around the head, to sit squashed up against the other. Average size of sexual maturity 35cm. Females mature at ages 3 to 7 years and spawning takes place between December to May. the eggs and larvae are planktonic.  Upon metamorphosis, the postage stamp-sized young fish settle in shallow water off sandy beaches.
Recreational fishing: The culture of rig and tackle adornment began with the humble plaice spoon. The purpose of the spoon was to kick up sand and sediment during a boat's drift, suggesting a lively alternative to the mussel menu for the plaice to come and investigate. Over the years the spoons have become more elaborate, and are now fully accessorised with coloured beads and rattling balls. The bait and its presentation generate almost as much discussion as the rigs on which it is presented. The choice is yours. Plaice bites are tender, twitchy little affairs that leave anglers unsure and insecure. They don't know whether to lift slowly, to strike hard or just wait and hope. Popular with anglers is bottom fishing at night. A predator of crustaceans, polychates and molluscs whose siphons it nips off. A popular bait is lugworm. Should you wish to try for a specimen fish then mid to late summer offers your best chances, with fish up to 5lb possible.  Minimum take size EU 22cm, recommended minimum take size 33cm. Avoid the spring spawning season.
Pollack - pleuroneectes platessa

ID features: It looks superficially similar to cod, with a large head and big eyes. It doesn't have the cod's green measles or pot belly. It does have a very distinctive lateral line that runs the length of its body and just behind the head/pectoral fin curves sharply downwards. Along with the big eyes they have a big mouth.  As a typical member of the cod family they have 3 dorsal fins and 2 anal fins; there are a short gaps between the fins. The lower jaw extends beyond upper and there is no barbel on the chin.
Size: To about 130cm in length and 18kg in weight. Shore caught record 8.277kg, boat 13.267kg.
Colour: Its back is a darker, green-brown and steely blue dorsal colour and its flanks are often bright bronze or green-gold. Creamy-silver white along the ventral.
Location & availability: Pollack is common all round the coast of Britain and Ireland. Can be caught from beaches, boats, rocky headlands and even piers. Most are caught from boats over offshore wreck marks, between 30 and 75m deep, where they've often become resident and territorial. Live close to the sea floor down to about 200m. Particularly abundant off the rocky shores of the west coast of Britain. Adults favour rocks, reefs and wrecks; juveniles enter estuaries to feed during autumn and winter and may form schools with saith. Juveniles are plentiful in the Bristol Channel during the autumn months. Peak period in the Bristol Channel May to September.
Food & bait: They hunt small fish, worms and crustaceans that use wrecks for shelter. Not fussy about what the eat. The adults are piscivorous and are known to take sprats, herring and reef-dwelling fish. Juveniles feed heavily on crustaceans.
Life story: In southern England spawning occurs between February and March at depths of 100-20m, in northern waters spawning occurs later. The eggs and larvae are pelagic. Post larvae are most abundant between April and May. The young occur close inshore and may live among weeds or enter estuaries. Maximum known age 15 years
Recreational fishing: Pollack that have been reeled up from a depth of over 50m rarely survive being released. Their gas-filled swim bladders expand as they ascend and they unable to deflate them to descend again, so if they are released on the surface these fish will perish. Regularly caught by boat anglers fishing reefs and wrecks, and rocky shores. Typical baits are mackerel strips and sand eels. They will also take lures and spinners. Average size of sexual maturity 50cm. Minimum take size: EU 30cm, recommended 50cm. Avoid spawning season.
Poor cod - trispterus minutus
ID features: A small member of the cod family. Three dorsal fins, the first of which is triangular, and two anal fins which almost touch at their bases. There is gap between the anal fins which helps to distinguish small poor cod from pout - pulling forward on the first anal fin does not significantly move the second. Relatively large eyes about equal in diameter to the snout length, lateral line has a distinct upwards curve towards the eye and a barbule is present on the chin.The upper jaw extends beyond the lower.
Size: Usually to 15-20cm, but 25cm have been known. Recommended MLS 20cm/8ins.
Colour: Upper flanks and back can be brown to yellowy-green, to a reddish tinge, while underside and lower flanks are silvery white.
Location & availability:  The poor cod is a small fish which inhabits inshore waters all around the UK, with its range extending into northern European waters such as the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic. This species is much less common in the warmer waters of the south of Europe but can still be found in parts of the Mediterranean Sea and along the coasts of North Africa. While poor cod are mostly found in shallow inshore waters they can occasionally also be found venturing into depths down to several hundred metres, with poor cod in deeper water often being found congregating in shoals around underwater features such as wrecks. The poor cod is a member of the Trisopterus genus and is closely related to the pouting, although the two are separate species.Most abundant inshore and in estuaries in the autumn.
Food & bait: Will hunt very small fish and also scavenge for pretty much anything else it can find, crustaceans, worms such as lug or rag.
Life story: Spawns in late winter, scattering its eggs in open water. Life span 5-6 years, reaching sexual maturity at 1-2 years
Recreational fishing: Can be caught by boat and beach fishing. Rarely targeted by anglers, but quite often caught as they will take most baits.
Pouting - trisopterus luscus
ID features: A deep-bodied cod fish with 3 dorsal fins and 2 anal fins. The upper jaw extends beyond the lower jaw, and there is a long barbel on the chin. The pelvic fins reach back to the vent.
Size: Can reach 40cm in length and 2.5kg in weight. Usually smaller, typically shore caught 8oz to 1lb. Recommended MLS 25cm.
Colour: Coppery-brown dorsal, shading to yellow/green sides and creamy-silver-white along the ventral. There is black spot at the base of the pectoral. The anal fin is fringed with a white line. When alive, there are dark vertical bars down the sides. This natural colouration is rapidly lost upon death and can also disappear when the fish is stressed.
Location & availability: It is common and widely distributed in British waters, favouring reefs and other underwater structures such as wrecks. Juvenile pout moving inshore and up estuaries in early summer and remain in high abundance until winter. Peak period for pouting in the Bristol Channel is from September to December
Food & bait: Feed heavily on shrimps, crabs and other crustaceans, Large pout will take small fish.
Life story: Pouting spawn in spring (March-April) at depths of 50-70meters. They are a fast growing fish reaching around 15-20cm in length at the end of their first year and are fully grown and sexually mature at the end of their second year, meaning that they are seen as a sustainable fish to harvest and eat. They are a short lived fish with the maximum life expectancy thought to be around four years at which time they could be 30cm in length.
Recreational fishing:
Pouting is a member of the cod family, but it is poorly regarded by shore anglers who often see it as a bait-stealing pest species. The reality is that pouting can grow to decent sizes (the UK boat caught record is 5lb 8oz) but the bigger specimens move offshore into deeper water, out of range of shore anglers. This means that the pouting which are caught by shore anglers are small, with a one pound specimen being a good catch. Despite this pouting are relatively abundant, and many an angler has been spared a blank session by catching a pouting or two. Pouting are most common over relatively clean and clear sandy or shingle seabeds, although they are sometimes also caught from mixed and rough ground. Pouting are often mixed up with poor cod, and the two species are very similar looking. However, there are a few key differences between the species. Because of the small size inshore pouting reach they are a constant source of prey for larger species. This make pouting make a good bait for bigger fish. Pouting can be either fished dead for large species such as conger eel or tope, or livebaited, with a small pout being lowered down from the end of a pier a top technique to catch a big summer bass. However, if fishing specifically for pouting it is best to use smaller size 1 – 2 hooks in a multi-hook rig, such as a two or three hook flapper. There is no need to use expensive baits as standard sea fishing baits such as ragworm, lugworm and mackerel strip will all catch this species. Sandy and shingle beaches are the best marks for targeting this species, and pouting are known to come into shallower water, and feed more willingly, once the sun begins to set.
Ray-Blonde - Raja brachyuran
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