Sea Fishing in Cornwall

A guide to the basics of sea fishing in Cornwall

With over 300 miles of coastline, Cornwall is a fantastic place for sea fishing. This page is aimed at beginners or inexperienced anglers and hopefully we have kept things as simple as possible!

We have sea fishing starter kits designed especially for fishing around Cornwall’s coastline.

Safety First! – whatever fishing you are planning to do, make sure you stay safe around the coast. We have some tips to help you on our coastal safety page.

Types of Fishing

Beach Fishing

There are many beaches around Cornwall that are great places to fish from and in particular if you are after flat fish or bass. The north coast of Cornwall has some very large beaches that are perfect for fishing but the disadvantage is that they are also a popular place for families and surfers wanting to enjoy the sand and surf.

If you want to fish from the beaches during the summer months it is better avoid the busy times and stick to first thing in the morning or in the evenings when the beaches are quieter.

The usual fishing method from the beach is bottom fishing (see below) although don’t be afraid to try plugging or spinning as these methods can also be very successful especially for bass.


Rock Fishing

Cornwall’s coastline provides an abundance of rocks to fish from although some places are difficult to access and are not recommended for the novice climber. It is also important when rock fishing that you are aware of the tides and state of the sea. Do not try and retrieve lost gear when fishing from rocks.

We would recommend that you do not go rock fishing alone.

The usual fishing methods from rocks are float fishing, spinning or plugging.


Fishing from Harbour Walls & Piers

Harbour walls and piers provide the best places for novice anglers as they are safer. You will usually find fellow anglers at these locations so they are good places to gain local knowledge. Harbours and piers will normally be busier in general and care should be taken when casting so that you don’t catch a bystander!

The usual fishing methods from walls and piers are float fishing, spinning or plugging.


Boat Fishing

Boat fishing broadens the horizons and will normally give opportunities to catch a greater variety and larger fish. We would only recommend boat fishing if you go with a local boatman who knows the area.


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Fish Species caught around Cornwall

At present on this site we have concentrated on the most common species of fish caught from the shores of Cornwall. If you fish from a boat offshore, you will catch other species too.

Click on the image to see detailed listing of species.


Fishing Methods

Bottom Fishing

This is a method of fishing using weights, hooks and bait and is mainly used for fishing from beaches.

You can use lots of different weight/hook combinations and these are called rigs.

Examples of rigs are the ledger, the pennel, the paternoster and a trapped swivel rig.
There are instructions for each type of rig in the booklet that is included in our
starter fishing kits.



Spinning involves using a lure such as a spinner or eel (for example the Eddystone Eeel). Cast out the line and then retrieve slowly. The lure will appear like a small swimming fish in the water and will attract your catch.



Plugging is very similar to spinning but many of the plugs have got more than one treble hook and also they are set to dive to a certain depth. Many will float when you stop retrieving.

A lot of plugs have rattles inside that attract the fish.


Float Fishing

Float fishing is a good fishing method for harbour walls and piers. By altering the position of the float on the line you can set the hook to whatever depth you like depending on which species you are aiming to catch. Simply wait for the float to move and bingo!


Free Lining

For free lining you need a rod, reel, light line and hook.

To free line you bait your hook with, for example, sand eel, lugworm, mackerel strip or sprat and cast the line out gently and let the line out gradually as the bait sinks. When you think it has hit the bottom wind it in very slowly.

This is not a conventional rig but is very effective, especially in the evenings when the fish move in closer to the shore as large bass will venture in close to shore.

Many mackerel, plaice, bass, trigger fish and large pollack have personally been caught using this method.

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Different bait can be sourced from a variety of places…

Peeler Crabs

Also called soft crabs, peeler crabs are the crabs that have just lost their shells and they make excellent bait for all types of fish. These crabs will hide while they are waiting for their shells to harden so the best place to find them is under rocks at the low water mark in estuaries such as Falmouth, Helford or the Camel.


The most common worms around Cornwall are lugworms although you can also get other varieties including ragworms. You can dig for worms at any time of the year. At low tide look on the sand for signs of worms as shown below and then dig between the squiggles and the hole and you will find the worm.

wormsand                     wormsand

Please do take note of any signs before you dig for bait as not all places allow digging.

Frozen Sand Eel

Frozen rather than fresh sand eel is better as the scent trail improves with frozen eel. This is readily available in tackle shops.

Drop Nets

If you are fishing from a harbour or pier try using a drop net to catch some bait. This provides excellent results as the small crab, prawns etc that you catch in the net will be the same food that is attracting the fish to the wall in the first place.

To use a drop net, simply put some bait in the net (this can be, for example, scraps of mackerel). Then lower the net into the water until it is just above the bottom and then wait for 10-15 minutes before bringing it back to the surface.

Example of a baitfish and crabtrap, a large pier drop net and a crab drop net (all available to purchase)

NT014           NT030                  NT008

Best Fishing Places around Cornwall

Click on the map below to find out more about the particular area including which species you can catch.

Bude Boscastle-Tintagel PortIsaac-Polzeath Newquay

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