A beginners guide to sea fishing

Sea fishing can seem complicated and confusing to someone new to the sport. However, as Chris Middleton explains, a single well-chosen fishing rod, a relatively small number of rigs, and selection of bait can see anglers successfully catch fish from a wide range of sea fishing marks.

Sea fishing needn't require a complicated set up

Sea fishing needn’t require a complicated set up.

Sea fishing equipment for beginners

If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to get together some basic equipment that you can build on as you get more experience. Specialist kit and tackle is something you can pick up over time, but as a beginner, this is what you need:

  • A good quality rod
  • A fixed spool reel
  • Monofilament fishing line
  • A few ready-made rigs (to tie to the end of your line)
  • Bait (in a container to keep seagulls out)
  • A sharp knife
  • Pliers
  • A bucket (for any fish you catch)
  • Towel and wet wipes

Let’s look at all the equipment in more detail…

Sea fishing rods, reels and lines for beginners

There’s a huge range of different sea fishing rods on the market, which cover every imaginable type of sea fishing. However, a good quality all-round 12 to 14ft beachcaster will cover a wide range of fishing situations, and is the ideal choice for starting out with sea fishing.

Most anglers start off with this type of rod and then move on to more specialist equipment once they’ve learned the basics of sea fishing.

A fixed spool reel

A fixed spool reel.

The two main types of reels used in sea fishing are fixed spools and multipliers. While many anglers will claim multipliers offer the best performance, fixed spool reels are the easiest to use, and make the most sense for someone new to sea fishing to start off with.

It’s best to begin with monofilament fishing line in 15lbs breaking strain with a 60lbs shockleader to absorb the power of the cast. Again, many anglers begin with a fixed spool reel and then move on to using a multiplier once they have gained confidence in their casting ability.

Sea fishing rigs for beginners

Clipped down bait on ready made rig

Clipped down bait on ready made rig.

‘Terminal tackle’ is the term used for the various pieces of equipment which anglers tie onto the end of their line – hooks, links swivels and beads are all terminal tackle, and go together to make a ‘rig’. There’s a huge selection of terminal tackle for anglers to choose from, which can seem overwhelming to someone new to the sport.

Many new sea anglers purchase ready-made rigs. This is a great way of learning how rigs work and how to construct them. Once you’re familiar with a few basic ready made rigs you’ll soon progress to making your own.

How to catch sea fish

Anglers using an all-round beachcaster rod and fixed spool reel can fish a wide variety of marks (fishing locations), but here we will concentrate on just two: beaches and piers.

How to fish from beaches

Sea fishing from a sandy beach.

Sea fishing from a sandy beach.

Sandy beaches are a great place for beginner sea fishing as they’re often relatively snag-free. It’s always best to visit a beach at low tide and look for features which will attract fish such as gullies or depressions in the sand.

When the tide comes in, natural sources of food such as dislodged shellfish, marine worms and small fish gather in these places, making them an excellent area to place to cast near to.

To catch larger species such as bass and cod, try a single size 2/0 hook in a clipped down rig, but flatfish species – particularly flounder – can be caught in very shallow water. Two hook flapping rigs with size 1 or 2 hooks are the best choice when aiming for these species.

How to fish from piers

Anglers fishing from wooden pier

A pier is a popular spot for fishing from.
Image: Shutterstock

Piers are a popular angling mark due to their easy access, and the ability to place a baited hook into deep water. Many piers have restrictions on when fishing can take place, so it may be necessary to purchase a ticket to fish from some piers. Check with the pier’s local authority before you head out!

Whatever kind of pier you’re fishing, casting distance is usually less of an issue (due to the already deep water). This one of the reasons a pier is great for beginners – you’ll have a good chance of catching even while you’re still learning to cast.

Two hook flapping rigs are a good choice from piers but it can pay to use size 1/0 or 2/0 hooks in a strong pattern. This size allows smaller fish to be caught but will still retain the strength to handle a larger fish if one takes the bait.

Specifically targeting larger fish? Step up to size 3/0 or 4/0 hooks and use a pulley rig as this will increase the chances of landing a large fish. A huge range of species including cod, whiting, flatfish species, bass and rays can be caught from many piers around the UK.

Best bait for sea fishing

Ragworm on newspaper

Ragworm make a great all-round bait.

Ragworm is one of the most effective baits for sea fishing and can catch everything from small flatfish to specimen sized bass, cod and rays. Indeed pretty much every fish species in the UK can be caught on ragworm. Another advantage is that ragworm is easy to acquire from any tackle shop. It’s easy to present on the hook, and stands up well to casting.

Fresh mackerel is another top bait, and is even easier to get hold of from supermarkets and fishmongers. Strips of mackerel are rich in fish-attracting oils and the vast majority of species around the UK can be caught on mackerel baits.

A relatively simple sea fishing set up can equip anglers to successfully catch a range of different species from a number of different marks. Keeping equipment, rigs, hooks and bait simple is the best bet for those new to the sport, with more advances and specialised rods, reels and terminal tackle being used once anglers have got to grips with the basics.

Chris Middleton writes for British Sea Fishing where you can find find information and advice on all aspects of shore fishing around the UK with information on techniques, bait, tactics and fishing marks across the country. As well as this there are features and articles on wider issues such as commercial fishing, conservation and the sea fish species and other sea creatures found around the British Isles.