Species of fish found around the Cornish Coast

This is a selection of the most common species of fish caught around Cornwall. This is a guide only and is not a full list as you may well catch other species too.The fish on this page are grouped by their species, orders and families. The type of order they belong to is usually determined by the general characteristics of the fish, for example whether they are flat fish, ray finned etc. For the Latin speakers amongst you we have grouped the fish in their orders and families for the purpose of this list but throughout the rest of the website you will only see their common names!

FLATFISH

HETEROSAMATA

Pleuronectidae

plaice

lemon sole

dab

flounder

Scophthalmidae

turbot

megrim

Solidae

dover sole

RAY FINNED

ANACANTHINI

Gadidae

cod

ling

whiting

pollock

PERCIFORMES

Scombridae

mackerel

Sparidae

black bream

gilthead bream

red sea bream

Serranidae

bass

Mugilidae

thick lipped grey mullet

golden grey mullet

Labroidei

wrasse

TETRAODANTIFORMES

Balistidae

triggerfish

MISCELLANEOUS

APODES

Congridae

conger

SYNENTOGNATHI

Belondidae

garfish

PLEUROTREMATA

Scylorhinidae

dogfish

SCELOPAREI

Triglidae

red gurnard

HYPOTREMATA

Rajidae

ray

  • Common Name

  • PLAICE

  • Order

  • Heterosamata
  • Latin Name

  • pleuronectes platessa
  • Family

  • Pleuronectidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Feb – April
  • Length

  • 25-40cm

Identification

right sided flatfish (ie eyes on right upper side) – brown with prominent red/orange spots. White underside. Smooth scales. A line of bony knobs runs along the head from the lateral line to the eyes.

Bait

sand eel, prawn and worm

Method

ledger – plaice spoon

Eating

good to eat

Habitat

Plaice are bottom dwellers. You can find them on sandy pebbly ground off the beaches and river estuaries. It’s surprising how far they will travel into fresh water.

  • Common Name

  • LEMON SOLE

  • Order

  • Heterosamata
  • Latin Name

  • microstomus kitt
  • Family

  • Pleuronectidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Feb – May
  • Length

  • 25-30cm

Identification

right sided flatfish (eyes on right upper side). Smooth upper with very small head and mouth. Brownish with darker blotches.

Bait

sand eel, prawn and worm

Method

ledger – plaice spoon

Eating

very good to eat

Habitat

Lemon sole are bottom dwellers. As with plaice, they like sand and gravel. They are more commonly found in deeper waters and are unlikely to travel up rivers.

  • Common Name

  • DAB

  • Order

  • Heterosamata
  • Latin Name

  • limanda limanda
  • Family

  • Pleuronectidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Early Spring
  • Length

  • 20-25cm

Identification

The dab is very similar to a plaice but is a paler brown colour. The lateral line is a circular curve above the pectoral fin.

Bait

sand eel, sprat, mackerel, molluscs

Method

ledger – plaice spoon

Eating

good to eat but not as good as soles or plaice

Habitat

Dab are bottom dwellers. You can find them on sandy pebbly ground off the beaches and river estuaries. It’s surprising how far they will travel into fresh water.

  • Common Name

  • FLOUNDER

  • Order

  • Heterosamata
  • Latin Name

  • platichthys flesus
  • Family

  • Pleuronectidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Feb-May
  • Length

  • 30cm

Identification

White belly with a greenish brown top with faint reddish spots. Has rough scales along the lateral line. Their width is approximately half their length

Bait

sand eel, prawn & worm

Method

ledger – plaice spoon

Eating

good to eat

Habitat

Flounder are bottom dwellers and like sandy and muddy bottoms. They can be found inshore but also in very deep water.

  • Common Name

  • TURBOT

  • Order

  • Heterosamata
  • Latin Name

  • psetta maxima
  • Family

  • Scophthalmidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Apr-Aug
  • Length

  • 20 – 80cm

Identification

Disc shaped body that lacks scales but has many bony turbercules. Left eyed flat fish

Bait

ledger – plaice spoon

Method

ledger – plaice spoon

Eating

very good eating fish, highly prized with a delicate flavour

Habitat

Turbot are bottom dwellers and like sandy and gravelly bottoms. They are more likely to be found at sea rather than in estuaries.

  • Common Name

  • MEGRIM

  • Order

  • Heterosamata
  • Latin Name

  • lepidorhombus whiffiagonis
  • Family

  • Scophthalmidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Spring
  • Length

  • 25-50cm

Identification

These fish have a slightly larger head than normal flat fish. They also have an elongated body. Light brown in colour – left eyed.

Bait

ledger – plaice spoon

Method

sand eel, prawn, worm and crustaceans

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Megrim are bottom dwellers and like sandy and muddy sea floors. They are usually found out at sea.

  • Common Name

  • DOVER SOLE

  • Order

  • Heterosamata
  • Latin Name

  • solea solea
  • Family

  • Solidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Spring-Early Summer
  • Length

  • 30-70cm

Identification

Oval in shape with small eyes that are close together. Round nose with a curved mouth – nose has opening on the underside. They are muddy brown in colour.

Bait

ledger – plaice spoon

Method

sand eel, prawn and worm

Eating

excellent eating fish

Habitat

Dover sole are bottom dwellers and like shallow waters with sandy and muddy bottoms.

  • Common Name

  • COD

  • Order

  • Anacanthini
  • Latin Name

  • gadus mohua
  • Family

  • Gadidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Jan-Apr
  • Length

  • 1.2m

Identification

Three rounded dorsal fins, two anal fins. Upper jaw extends over the lower. They have a big chin barbel. Medium sized eyes and a white lateral line running from the gill to the pectoral fin and to the base of the tail fin. The back is greenish brown with a mottling appearance towards the lighter sides and white belly.

Bait

cod will eat anything!

Method

baited hooks, feathers, jigs, lures

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Cod live just about everywhere. They can be found off beaches, harbours, jetties, estuaries and deep water. They are mainly bottom feeders but are also found mid water.

Good places to catch cod in Cornwall

Boscastle, the headlands in the Padstow area, Perranporth, Penzance area

  • Common Name

  • LING

  • Order

  • Anacanthini
  • Latin Name

  • molva molva
  • Family

  • Gadidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Mar-Jun
  • Length

  • 1-2m

Identification

Long and slender. Mottled green and brown in colour with white belly. There is a dark blotch at the rear of both dorsal fins. The second dorsal fin is feathery and reaches almost to the tail. The upper jaw is longer than the lower one and they have a barbel on the chin. They have needle sharp teeth.

Bait

mackerel, squid, crab

Method

baited hooks, lures

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Ling like rocky ground and are found on the bottom. The biggest ling are caught off boats and normally in deep water around wrecks and rough ground.

  • Common Name

  • WHITING

  • Order

  • Anacanthini
  • Latin Name

  • merlangius merlangus
  • Family

  • Gadidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Mar-Apr
  • Length

  • 20-150cm

Identification

Golden olive green tops with the belly and sides a silvery pale bluish white. The mouth is large for the head.

Bait

mackerel, squid, crab and prawn

Method

ledger

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Whiting swim in large shoals and are mid to bottom feeders. They can be found off beaches.

Good places to catch whiting in Cornwall

Falmouth, the headlands in the Padstow area, Port Isaac, Perranporth, Penzance, Porthleven

  • Common Name

  • POLLOCK

  • Order

  • Anacanthini
  • Latin Name

  • pollachius
  • Family

  • Gadidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Feb-Apr
  • Length

  • 80-100cm

Identification

Greenish brown with three dorsal and two anal fins. They have a large concave tail. The lower jaw projects beyond the upper jaw. They have white bellies and the colours vary from dark olive green to a golden sheen with silver flanks.

Bait

mackerel, sand eel, squid, crab and worm

Method

float, spin with feathers or lures, ledger

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Smaller pollack can be found off jetties, piers, harbour walls and rocks. Larger ones are found in deeper waters around rocks, reefs and wrecks as they like cover.

Good places to catch pollock in Cornwall

Pollock are caught all around Cornwall including Cape Cornwall, Padstow area headlands, Port Isaac, Boscastle & Tintagel, Porthcurno, Lamorna, Sennen, The Lizard, the rocks off Porthtowan, Helford, Kennack Sands, Coverack, Porthleven & Charlestown and the rocks between Newlyn and Mousehole.

  • Common Name

  • MACKEREL

  • Order

  • Perciformes
  • Latin Name

  • scomber scombrus
  • Family

  • Scombridae
  • Breeding Time

  • May-June
  • Length

  • 30-40cm

Identification

Torpedo shaped with black near vertical stripes on the back. Deeply forked tails with silver bellies.

Bait

sand eel, worm, prawn, shrimp

Method

float, spin with feathers or lures

Eating

good eating fish which is very underestimated. Great smoked.

Habitat

Mackerel live just about anywhere and are probably one of the most prolific fish in Cornish waters.

Good places to catch mackerel in Cornwall

Mackerel can be caught all around Cornwall but some suggestions are: Padstow area headlands, Port Isaac, Boscastle, Mullion, Porthcurno, Lamorna, Sennen, The Lizard, the rocks off Porthtowan, Helford, Mevagissey, St Ives, Kennack Sands, Coverack, Porthleven and Charlestown

  • Common Name

  • BLACK BREAM

  • Order

  • Perciformes
  • Latin Name

  • spondyliosoma cantharus
  • Family

  • Sparidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Apr-May
  • Length

  • 35cm

Identification

Deep flattened body with large scales. They are a silvery grey on top with a white belly. They have a single long dorsal fin with eleven spines. Small head and large eyes with a small mouth.

Bait

prawn, worm, sand eel, mussels

Method

weighted hook

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Black bream like rocky weedy ground and are found at the bottom. They like estuaries.

Good places to catch black bream in Cornwall

Helford and Mevagissey

  • Common Name

  • GILTHEAD BREAM

  • Order

  • Perciformes
  • Latin Name

  • sparus aurata
  • Family

  • Sparidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Oct-Dec
  • Length

  • 35-70cm

Identification

Deep flattened body with large scales. They are golden on top with a white belly. They have a single long dorsal fin with eleven spines. Large head forming 25% of the body with a gold band between the eyes. Mouth has large lips and has large pointed teeth.

Bait

prawn, worm, sand eel, mussels

Method

weighted hook

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Like the black bream, the gilthead bream like rocky weedy ground and favour estuaries, however these fish are mainly solitary.

Good places to catch gilthead bream in Cornwall

Helford and Mevagissey

  • Common Name

  • RED SEA BREAM

  • Order

  • Perciformes
  • Latin Name

  • pagellus bogaraveo
  • Family

  • Sparidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Aug – Oct
  • Length

  • 25-40cm

Identification

Flattened body with large scales that also appear on the head. Long dorsal fin with twelve spines. Top half is a reddish orange colour and the sides are a pinky silver. The adults have a blackish spot just behind the gills. Large eyes and small sharp teeth.

Bait

prawn, worm, sand eel, mussels

Method

weighted hook

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Red sea bream are found at the bottom in rough, rocky, seaweedy ground. They are shoal fish and are the most abundent of all the breams.

Good places to catch red sea bream in Cornwall

Helford and Mevagissey

  • Common Name

  • BASS

  • Order

  • Perciformes
  • Latin Name

  • dicentrarchus labrax
  • Family

  • Serranidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Mar – June
  • Length

  • 1m

Identification

Streamlined body with a slightly enlarged head. Relatively small eyes. Body and head have large scales – back is bluish grey with silvery grey sides and white belly. Very sharp gill covers and spiny dorsal fins.

Bait

weighted hook, spinners, lures.

Method

weighted hook, spinners, lures

Eating

excellent eating fish

Habitat

Bass can be found everywhere, in rocky or sandy environments and from deep sea right up to the end of estuaries. They will follow the tide up into tidal estuaries.

Good places to catch bass in Cornwall

Bass are caught all around Cornwall but some really good bass fishing areas are St Keverne, Coverack, The Roseland, The Lizard and on the north coast off the beaches at Newquay and Porthtowan

  • Common Name

  • THICK LIPPED GREY MULLET

  • Order

  • Perciformes
  • Latin Name

  • chelon labrosus
  • Family

  • Mugilidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Jan – Apr
  • Length

  • 40-50cm

Identification

Small flattened head with small mouth. Thick lips and small eyes. Two dorsal fins with spines. The top is greenish and turns to silver grey at the sides with a white belly.

Bait

sweetcorn, small pieces of prawn, bread

Method

small hook and float

Eating

ok eating fish although ones caught up rivers may be a bit muddy tasting.

Habitat

Grey mullet are found in estuaries and harbours and less likely at sea as they prefer shallow waters.

Good places to catch thick lipped grey mullet in Cornwall

The Hayle estuary, Helford river, Falmouth, Flushing and Charlestown

  • Common Name

  • GOLDEN GREY MULLET

  • Order

  • Perciformes
  • Latin Name

  • liza aurata
  • Family

  • Mugilidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Jul – Nov
  • Length

  • 40-50cm

Identification

Very similar to the grey mullet above but with golden patches on their cheeks.

Bait

prawns, bread, sweetcorn

Method

small hook and float

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Grey mullet are found in estuaries and harbours and less likely at sea as they prefer shallow waters.

Good places to catch golden grey mullet in Cornwall

The Hayle estuary, Helford river, Falmouth, Flushing and Charlestown

  • Common Name

  • WRASSE

  • Order

  • Perciformes
  • Latin Name

  • labrus bergylta
  • Family

  • Labroidei
  • Breeding Time

  • Apr – Aug
  • Length

  • 60cm

Identification

Stocky fish with large head, relatively small mouth but with large thick lips. Long dorsal fin with about twenty spines. Large body scales and a speckled body colouration which can be anything from green to reddish brown. Small white spots all over.

Bait

mackerel, sand eel, crab, mussels, worm, prawns

Method

float fish

Eating

these are edible fish but are prone to worms and are best released

Habitat

Wrasse like weedy, rocky bottoms and can be found off harbour walls and rocks.

Good places to catch wrasse in Cornwall

Boscastle & Tintagel, the rocks off Porthtowan, Cape Cornwall, Mullion, Mevagissey, Charlestown, the rocks between Mousehole and Newlyn, Kennack Sands, Coverack

  • Common Name

  • TRIGGER FISH

  • Order

  • Tetraodantiformes
  • Latin Name

  • balistes capriscus
  • Family

  • Balistidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Summer
  • Length

  • 30-40cm

Identification

oval compressed body with short tapered back leading to a tail fin. Covered in toughened scales. Enlarged head making up a third of the total length. It has small eyes set back from a small mouth which has a large set of sharp teeth. The dorsal fin is in two sections made up of spines that work in unison – the first can not be depressed until the second has done so. This is so that the fish can wedge itself but is also the reason that the fish has it’s name. It is blacky grey and sometimes a bit browny in colour.

Bait

prawn

Method

baited hook

Eating

good eating but are quite boney so need filleting

Habitat

Trigger fish prefer to be in shallow water and can be caught on rocky ground near the bottom.

Good places to catch trigger fish in Cornwall

The area around Porthcurno and Lamorna

  • Common Name

  • CONGER

  • Order

  • Apodes
  • Latin Name

  • conger conger
  • Family

  • Congridae
  • Breeding Time

  • unknown
  • Length

  • 2m

Identification

Long eel shaped with scaleless skin. Charcoal grey colour with pale belly. The edges of the dorsal and anal fins are black. Extremely sharp teeth and strong jaws. These fish will stay alive for long periods out of the water.

Bait

mackerel, squid

Method

weighted hook

Eating

they are edible but are not particularly popular as an eating fish

Habitat

Conger live in kelp, rocky gullies, wrecks, holes in harbour walls. They are mainly caught at night as they are night feeders.

Good places to catch conger in Cornwall

The rocks between Mousehole & Newlyn, Mevagissey, Sennen, Mullion, Lizard, rocks off Porthtowan, Tintagel & Trebarwith Strand and some very large ones can be caught off the headlands around Cape Cornwall.

  • Common Name

  • GARFISH

  • Order

  • Synentognathi
  • Latin Name

  • belone belone
  • Family

  • Belondidae
  • Breeding Time

  • May-Jun
  • Length

  • 80cm

Identification

Long thin eel like fish with a beak (a bit like a swordfish). They have a greeny bluey back and silver belly.

Bait

prawn, worm, mackerel, sand eel

Method

float fish

Eating

good eating fish but bones remain green after cooking which is off-putting but harmless

Habitat

Garfish are found in the top twenty metres of water and can be caught off harbour walls, rocks and boats. They are often found swimming in shoals of mackerel.

Good places to catch garfish in Cornwall

Mullion, St Keverne, Coverack, Mevagissey

  • Common Name

  • DOGFISH

  • Order

  • Pleurotremata
  • Latin Name

  • scyliohinus canicula
  • Family

  • Scylorhinidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Nov-Jul
  • Length

  • 160cm

Identification

Dark brown mottled upper body with small and large black spots, sometimes white. The underside is paler. Looks very much like a small shark.

Bait

mussels, crab, lobster, prawn, mackerel, sand eel

Method

weighted hook

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Dogfish are found on the bottom on all types of terrain including sandy, rocky, weedy and can be found in deep or shallow water.

Good places to catch dogfish in Cornwall

Tintagel & Trebarwith Strand, Port Isaac, Porthtowan, Porthcurno, Lamorna, Newlyn, Mousehole, Porthleven, Mullion, the Roseland and Mevagissey

  • Common Name

  • RED GURNARD

  • Order

  • Scleroparei
  • Latin Name

  • aspitrigla cuculus
  • Family

  • Triglidae
  • Breeding Time

  • unknown
  • Length

  • 30-40cm

Identification

Large pectoral fins with very solid skull. Six spiny legs on each side and sharp spines on the gill plates and dorsal fins that inject a mild poison that can cause mild pain for a couple of days. They croak when you catch them.

Bait

sand eel, mackerel, worm, squid, crab

Method

weighted hook

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Red gurnard are found on muddy sandy ground adjacent to rocks. They can be found in deep or shallow waters.

Good places to catch red gurnard in Cornwall

Port Isaac, Cadgwith & Kennack Sands, the rocks off Porthtowan

  • Common Name

  • THORN BACK RAY

  • Order

  • Hypotremata
  • Latin Name

  • raja calvata
  • Family

  • Rajidae
  • Breeding Time

  • Summer
  • Length

  • 30-40cm

Identification

Diamond shaped body with thin tail. Brown colour on top with white, black and light brown dots. Underside is white. Has a barred pattern on the tail. Care should be taken when handling as there are spines on the tail.

Bait

prawn, squid, sand eel, mackerel, crab

Method

weighted hook

Eating

good eating fish

Habitat

Ray can be found anywhere on the bottom, however they prefer mud and sand. There are many species of ray and they are all similar in their habitat.

Good places to catch thorn back ray in Cornwall

Polzeath, Rock, Penzance area

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