Essex Charter Fishing - Sea fish found on the Essex coast

Over the years, Jolly Roger has seen good quantities of all the local sea fish. Below you will find details on some of the available fish.

Bass Fishing

Bass FishingThis is perhaps the most prized fish sought by sea anglers. They offer great sport and fantastic eating. The average bass caught off the British Isles will be around the 3-8lb mark, but it is possible – with Lady Luck on your side – to smash the 10lb barrier. Bass are lovers of surf beaches, offshore reefs, sand banks and estuaries – they use those areas to feed on all manner of sea life. To stand the best chance of catching a bass in the British Isles try the shorelines around Ireland, Wales and southern England. Another prime spot worth traveling to is the mouth of the Thames estuary. Please note that in order to protect bass stocks the fish must have reached a length of 14in (35cm) before it can be taken.

The bass is quite a chunky, long and streamlined fish that has a fantastic silvery appearance. The scales are almost always grey, with the flanks being an incredibly bright silver that merges into the green/blue back. Bass have two dorsal fins. The first is rayed and quite spiky, while the second is a much softer fin. There are also additional spines around the gill plates. Finally, the mouth is very large and features quite thick lips.


Black Sea Bream fishing

Black Sea Bream fishingThe black sea bream can be found throughout the coastline of Britain and Ireland. The Scottish coast is about as far as the black sea bream travels. It is most common in the southern counties of England, Wales and Ireland. The usual size of an adult black sea bream is around 35 to 40 cm, but specimens have be recorded at 50cm long. They are fond of wrecks and rocks, but black sea bream will graze over sand and sea grass meadows.

The black sea bream has a typical fish shape in that its body is oval, the back arched, the tail is large and forked, and the head is large. It has a single, long dorsal fin, its mouth is quite small and, surprisingly, most adult black sea bream are silvery. It is only when the males begin nesting that they transform into a deep black colour. Spawning males derive a fantastic blue/grey stripe between the eyes, and young black bream have a blue/black outline to the tail fin. Young black sea bream are also a lot more colourful than the adults – they have an array of yellowy stripes down the sides and rather spotty fins.


Cod / codling fishing

Cod fishingThe cod is one of Britain’s most sought-after sea fish, especially throughout the winter months. As we all know, it makes for great eating, whether filleted and battered, or baked into a pie, it’s really delicious. The average cod that is caught from the British shores during the winter will be around the 5-15lb, but they have been known to reach weights in excess of 100lb from other continents. Cod much prefer cold water, so in the summer they will move into the deeps well out to sea. Here you could catch them over wrecks and the likes. But during winter the shoaling cod will move in to the shore, where they can be caught on beach casting gear.

Although cod can be caught from the whole of the British Isle’s shoreline, they are far more abundant off the shores of Scotland than in the south, purely due to the water temperature. Cod do tend to migrate southwards in the winter to feed, where they can be caught quite readily from the shores around East Anglia and even in the Channel. During the spring the cod migrate northwards again, back into the colder waters around Scotland.


Common Skate fishing

Common Skate fishingThe common skate is one of a few skate species. It is quite common around the whole of the British and Irish coastlines. Adult common skate prefer deeper water between 30 and 600m deep, while younger common skate can be found patrolling and feeding in shallow inshore waters. It is the largest and heaviest of the European rays, attaining lengths of almost 3m and weights of around 250lb.  

The common skate has a long snout and the leading edge of the two wings is slightly concave. The wings are rounded at the tips. Young skate are smooth-skinned, while older males have spiny backs, and older females have a few prickles on the front of the body. All skate have between 12 and 20 spines along the tail and another three spines between the dorsal fins, positioned at the end of the long tail. The backs of skate tend to be dark olive or grey with brown patches and dark spots.


Dab fishing

Dab fishingThe dab is one of Britain and Ireland’s commonest flatfish. It is particularly commonplace in the North Sea. It thrives over sandy bottoms and is more often found in water between 20 and 40m deep, but smaller and younger dab will be found in really shallow areas, in less than 1m of water. Most dabs measure around 25cm on average, but some individuals to 40cm-plus have been found. Although small, dabs are great to eat as they are full of flavour.

Dabs are a light brown colour, oval, their eyes are situated on the right side of the body and their tail fin is rounded at the end. The pectoral fin can sometimes be orange, but not always. The flesh on their backs is quite rough to the touch and you will find a very distinct lateral line that curves its way around the pectoral fin. You may well encounter dab that have very small orange spots. These are no where near as pronounced and as visual as the plaice.


Dover Sole fishing

Dover Sole fishingThe sole and solenette is unlikely to be confused with any other flatfish due to the shape of its head. Sole reach a length of around 40cm, but some fish have been caught measuring 60cm. The solenette is much smaller, reaching around the 13cm mark. Both these species are widely distributed around the British Isles and Ireland, favouring both mud and sand bottoms. You will find the younger and smaller sole very close to the beach, while the older, wiser and larger sole will be living in much deeper water of up to 150m. During the summer months, when the water temperatures are higher, the sole will migrate into the shallows – in winter they move into the deeper water, where it is generally a little warmer. The smaller solenette lives in water ranging between 5 and 40m.

The sole and solenette are very similar. Their head is very rounded with a low-slung, semi-circular mouth which gives the soles a rather sad expression!. They both have very long dorsal and anal fins that are joined to the tail, plus they feature short filaments around the head. The eyes are on the right side of the body. They are a master of disguise as soles can alter the colour of their backs to suit the conditions, but generally they are a light brown with an array of darker blotches scattered all over the body. The underside is white. Apart from the size, the way to spot the difference between a sole and a solenette is to take a look at the fins. The sole has a black mark on its tiny pectoral fin. The solenette has black stripes on its dorsal and anal fins – every fifth or sixth ray is striped.


Flounder fishing

Flounder fishingFlounders are yet another flatfish that have their eyes on the right side. It is a very widely distributed flatfish found all around the coast of Britain and Ireland. It lives from the shoreline down to depths around 50m 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 slat water meets fresh, and they can even be found (and caught) in the freshwater of rivers well away from the sea shore. 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.

The flounder is a typical flatfish. It has flattened fins that wrap around the oval-shaped body. Its eyes are positioned on one side of the head – the uppermost side. The eyes of a flounder are situated on the right side of the head (if you imagine the fish swimming upright). But, identifying flounders can be quite difficult as some have been found with eyes directed towards the left. Plus, flounders have been known to interbreed (hybridise) with plaice, so coloured variations have been known to exist. And, there are also flounders out there which have undersides exactly the same colour as their backs – normally they have white undersides. The tail of a flounder is quite square at the end, plus there are bony tubercles around both sides of the body, at the bases of both the elongated dorsal and anal fins.


Ling fishing

Ling fishingThis characteristic fish are most often found around the west coasts of Britain and Ireland, predominantly around Devon, Cornwall, the Irish coasts and around Scotland. They much prefer rocky, open coastlines and thrive in water over 20m, but will move in to 10m if there is an abundance of food. They love rocky fissures and overhangs, even wrecks. We are most likely to encounter the smaller ling when fishing as the vast majority of larger adult ling prefer to move into water between 300 and 400m deep.

The ling is a long, slender fish that has a very distinctive barbule on its chin. It averages around 1m long, but specimens have been caught that grow to 2m and up to 25kg. It has two very soft dorsal fins. The first is quite short, the second is much longer, spreading along the fish’s back right to its rounded tail. The first dorsal fin has a dark patch at the back, while both the second long dorsal fin and the long anal fin have white edges. The colouration of the ling is a mottled brown/green with a lighter underside. Younger ling are often a lighter brown with a series of irregular paler marblings.


Plaice fishing

Plaice fishingPlaice are common all around Britain and Ireland, thriving on sandy sea beds. They will also live over mud and gravel – even sandy areas with rocks. They are most common in water between 10-60m, but they can be caught in water in excess of 200m deep. Plaice spend a great deal of their time remaining stationary on the bottom, partly buried for camouflage. They are most active during the hours of darkness. Catch a decent-sized plaice and you are sure of having a great meal – they make for fantastic eating.

The plaice is typical of a flatfish in that it is oval, flat and has a small tail and a body that is fringed with flattened fins. It’s quite easy to distinguish between a plaice and any other flatfish as plaice have bright orange or red spots all over the body. They also have a row of small bony knobbles at the back of the head. Another way to distinguish a plaice from some other flatfish is that plaice are right-eyed. You may find that some plaice have an array of smaller white spots. These can be found on plaice that are living over areas of sand that contain many broken shells or pebbles. Plaice can alter the colour of their backs to suit the conditions, therefore they are excellently camouflaged – only the orange or red spots on the backs give them away.


Pollack fishing

Pollack fishingThe Pollack is a member of the cod family. They are common all around the British Isles and Ireland. They are particularly fond of wrecks, rocks and kelp forests, keeping quite close to these features. Younger fish will be found closer to the shore, again particularly around rocks – using them as camouflage. They will grow to over 1m long and weigh up to 30lb, but the average fish caught will be around half that length and weight.

Like all members of the cod family, pollack have three dorsal fins. They have very streamlined bodies which are silver to white along the flanks and belly, merging to dark green or a brown/green across their backs. There is quite a lot of confusion between pollack and coalfish, but a glance at the lateral line will help distinguish the two species – the pollack has a curved lateral line, while the coalfish’s lateral line is straight. If the lateral line isn’t clear, take a look at the jaws. The pollack’s lower jaw protrudes the upper, whereas the coalfish’s jaws are of an equal length.


Small-Eyed Ray Fishing

Small-Eyed Ray FishingAlthough not widely distributed around the whole of our coastline, the small-eyed ray can be found and caught from the south of Ireland, south Wales and the south of England. They live in shallow water, close inshore to depths of up to 100m. Small-eyed rays prefer sandy bottoms. They grow to around 80cm long and have 60cm wingspan. The maximum weight is around the 12lb mark.

The snout of a small-eyed ray is very short and, although curved, the wings are almost set at right anglers. The spines running along the tail and the middle of the body are very close together and bent in right angles. They are grey/brown on the back with many large off-white patches and streaks which tend to run parallel with the edges of the wings. The only true way to tell a small-eyed ray is the size of its eyes. Take a look at the gap between the eyes, now take a look at the length of the eye and spiracle. If the gap between the eyes is over twice the distance between the eye and spiracle, it is definitely a small-eyed ray.


Smooth Hound Fishing

Smooth Hound FishingThe smooth hound is a member of the shark family. It has all the distinguishing features of a shark. You will find smooth hounds all around the coast of Britain and Ireland, but they are quite rare in the upper regions of Scotland. They live in water having depths of between 5 and 100m deep, over gravel, sand or mud.

This is a small, slender shark having a pointed snout. Its most distinguishing features are that they have a pair of large and equally-sized dorsal fins, and anal fin underneath the back-most dorsal fin, and white spots on the back and sides of the fish. The usual size for the smooth hound is around 1m long, but some fish have been caught to 1.6m long. They are a plain grey colour with a creamy underbelly.


Thick-Lipped Grey Mullet Fishing

Thick-Lipped Grey Mullet FishingThe mullet is a torpedo shaped sea fish that can be seen in tightly packed shoals in harbours, estuaries and other shallow coastal waters. The thick-lipped grey mullet is the most common and largest of the mullets that can be found around the British Isles and Ireland. During the summer they migrate northwards, and vice versa during the winter.

Mullet have striped bodies and a pair of large, widely spaced dorsal fins. The first dorsal fin comprises four spines. As their name suggest, they have grey backs, silvery flanks, white underside with large scales. The stripes along the body are grey. The mouth is quite small and when viewed straight-on it is heart-shaped.


Thornback Ray (Roker) Fishing

Thornback Ray (Roker) FishingThis fantastic-looking fish has a typical diamond shaped body with long tail. They have been caught measuring 1m, but the general maximum size is around the 85cm mark. They are common all around the British Isles and Ireland, living over muddy, sandy and gravelly bottoms. Luckily for us anglers, thornback rays tend to prefer quite shallow water of between 10 and 60m deep.

These wings are slightly pointed to form right angles at the tips, also the thornback ray’s nose is very short and dumpy. There are rows of sharp thorns along the tail (often called bucklers). There are also a few spines scattered over the back too. The colour of the thornback ray is very variable but generally they have mottled brown to grey backs with lots of darker blotches and lighter patches. The underside is a creamy white with a grey outer.


Tope Fishing

Tope FishingThe tope is a member of the shark family. It can be found all around the coastline of the British Isles and Ireland. They live close to the bottom, preferring sand or gravel, but they will move into mid-water to feed. They younger the fish the more chance of it coming into the shallower water near the shore, so if you wish to catch a larger tope you may need to go adrift upon a charter boat.

The tope is a very slender shark that has a sharply pointed snout. Its first dorsal fin is very large compared to the second (which is positioned very close to the tail). It also has an anal fin which is positioned directly underneath the secondary dorsal fin. The colouration of the tope is as follows: grey/brown on the back and sides with a white/creamy coloured underbelly. The tope has sharp triangular teeth within its underslung mouth. They are triangular and very typical of most predatory sharks. The average adult tope measures 1.3m long, but tope to 2m have been captured and recorded.

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