Category: Frontpage Feature

The Angler’s Guide to Handling Fish

This article has been written as a guide and for information purposes only – its not a ‘This is how it should be done’ spiel, as I am sure that many fellow anglers have their own equally safe and respectful ways to handle different fish and disgorge the hook from them. However, for the newer anglers among us that have not handled many fish before, I hope this is of some help.

During this article I am going to cover a few topics including landing the fish, handling the fish to remove the hook, dispatching the fish if you intend to keep it, and returning the fish safely to water for those that you don’t intend to keep.

Whilst we are out fishing we are always in the general publics view and what we do when we catch a fish can affect the way they portray the average fisherperson.  In my time I have (and no doubt others have too) seen some sad behaviour of the minority of anglers that let us all down. I hope here can share some tips to help make us all Ambassadors of our sport.


Catching and Landing Your Fish

On hooking into your fish and reeling in, you will come to the point of removing the fish from the water – and you would be amazed at just how much damage you could do to a fish if it’s carried out in the wrong manner or using the wrong equipment.  So, should you use a gaff, a net, or just to lift it straight out using the line? It depends to a certain extent on whether you are boat, pier or beach fishing, but please be aware there is quite a bit of crossover too!

A gaff is one of the normal instruments used on boats for larger specimens of fish such as massive conger.  I myself have used a homemade gaff on board ship to lift out large stingray onto the deck for hook removal before being returned to swim off happily.  The problem comes when you don’t know where to gaff a fish, although if you are on a reputable charter boat then the skipper of the boat should normally know.  When it comes to conger it is now unacceptable to gaff it in its body where it causes a lot of damage and unnecessary pain to the fish – now the gaff is placed in the underside of the eel’s jaw where there is a soft membrane and nothing else.


For skate and rays, the leading edge of the wing should be used where a small whole caused by the gaff emulates a natural wound that it would receive whilst bottom fishing.  The only other fish that should need to be gaffed is the Angler (or Monk) fish.  No way should sharks be gaffed, they should be lifted out of the water by two people – one at the dorsal, the other at the tail – carefully and securely lifting them out for unhooking etc.  If the shark is too big then leave it in the water and unhook it (or cut the trace near the hook).  Thornback rays (and other rays as well as Huss can be lifted out of the water by the hook trace and by the tail (ensure you use a gloved hand when lifting sting rays).

netA landing net or drop net should be used if there is some distance from the water for larger fish. Either are useful to have and will also help stop the loss of fish when hauling them out of the water.

Using a landing net is easy to use, you simply steer the fish over the landing net and scoop up the fish – it’s easy, quick, efficient and good for the fish.

Just lifting them out by the line is acceptable and is probably the most used technique used by anglers all around the country.


Handling Fish

The main problem when finally landing the fish is to handle it correctly and not let it thrash around and injure itself – whether you are on a boat or shore fishing.

teethyfishThere are many things to look out for before you handle a fish, for example, does it have spines (and if so, where are they located?), has it got teeth etc?  Many fish also have a protective coating of mucus or slime on the body to protect them from infection, and the last thing you want to do is disrupt this before returning it to the water.

When fish are taken out of the water you should handle them with wet hands, because if you do handle them with normal dry hands some of that coating will adhere to your hands and leave the fish open to attack.  Better still, you should handle them with a damp cloth or chamois leather (this will also aid in grip), similarly if you have to put the fish down then place it on a soft wet surface or cloth and not down on tarmac, sand or shingle.  Using a cloth is also good if the fish have spines, as this will give some padding between your skin and the sharp bits.  You should be confident, yet gentle, when picking the fish up – it appals me to see how some people hold fish, squeezing them tightly – so much so you can see their eyes bulging out (I know some people from this site have seen fish literally squeezed to death) due to bad handling.

fishhandlingdiagramRound fish should be gripped between thumb and fingers over the head and just to the rear of the gill plates – this allows the hand gripping the fish full manoeuvrability.


Common and Silver Eels there is no easy way of handling them as they tend to wriggle and squirm all of the time, knotting themselves and your tackle up – the best way to handle these are with a piece of chamois leather as this gives better grip, and by holding the main body and gently grip the head between index, middle finger and third finger you should be able to remove the hook.

Dogfish are another matter, especially with their sandpaper skin that can literally rub your hands etc raw if you are not careful – they should be held by folding the tail round to touch their head and gripped so for unhooking.

Flatfish should be held gently behind the head with your fingers underneath and your thumb on top.

I feel that in this part the mackerel should have its own mention here – the long and short of it is that the heat and oils from our hands damage their skin – which in turn causes them to die from between 3 to 48 hours afterwards.  I have done some research on this and have found many references on websites which have been confirmed by CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science).


The recommendation here is:

1.    Stop catching them once you have reached your personal quota and change rigs to go for other fish like Bass which won’t be far from the shoal.

2.    Use gloves / a cloth whilst unhooking them.

3.    Use barbless hooks and shake them off without touching them.


Removing Hooks

Once you have hold of your fish you will want to get the hook out of it so you can carry on fishing.  There are many tools to help you do this and everyone will have their favourite.  It has been suggested that there are a few ways to subdue a fish and make it easier to remove the hook.  One way is to place a damp cloth over its eyes, and the other is to turn it on its back.  I have not tried the fist but have had some success on the second.  Fish that are going to be returned should be unhooked as quickly as possible.

disgorgersFor smaller fish you can use a disgorger which is a moulded plastic or aluminium tool where the end is slipped over the line and sliding it down to the bend in the hook.  A push is then needed to remove the hook, and under the pressure of the line, the hook will tighten against the end of the disgorger and removed from the mouth.

Bigger fish you can use a set of forceps or long (snipe) nosed pliers to do the job.

For shark, tope, eels and rays etc then a normal set of pliers can sometimes be used at a push – but remember to keep your fingers away from the teeth/grinders – although its much safer and more prefereable to use a heavy disgorger, or T-bar, as they are commonly referred to.

The best place to grip a hook is not on its shank, but in the middle of the bend where gentle, but persistent pressure away from the hook hold will lift the hook point free. Twisting the hook will do no good at all. If a fish has pulled the hook point fully through the lip or any part of the skin, then it’s quicker to snip the hook trace off above the hook, and pull the hook through point first followed by the shank.

The next bit is a bit of a debate, what to do if you can’t get the hook out – do you cut it off and leave the hook in there, or do you try your hardest to get the hook out and possibly end up killing said fish?

I can only offer what I know. If you take what fish eat, broken mussel, razorfish shells and hard backed crab for instance, then you realise just how insignificant a hook can be to a fish. There is evidence to suggest that fish can shed a hook within hours of being hooked, providing it is a bronze pattern and that it will corrode. It is recommended that coated or commercially plated pattern hooks and stainless steel hooks should never be used for this reason.


Returning Fish to Water

dogfishhandlingHow you return a fish to water can make the difference to whether it will live or die.  A lot of anglers tend to just throw the fish back without any consideration (and yes I have been guilty of this one as well) to the fish.  Fish can be damaged this way as well as being killed by shock.  If you have to drop them into the water then reduce the height at which you do to the minimum.  Even better, if you can place them into the water by hand (one hand supporting the stomach and the other at the tail, place in towards oncoming water), or walk them out into deeper water – just watch out for dogfish though as they have a tendency to swim back towards you after release.  Some fish like wrasse and pollack can be left in deeper tidal pools until reclaimed by incoming tides.


Getting the smell of Fish off your hands at the end of the day

Handling fish leaves a less than pleasant smell on your hands (unless you’re into that sort of thing!!!).  Whether you are fishing, gutting, cleaning the fish, the fishy smell remains long after the fun is over.  There are many options to remove the smell off your hands.  Choose whichever one easier for you.

  • Cut a fresh lemon into wedges. After you are finished handling the fish, squeeze the lemon onto your hands, rub your hands together, and rinse with water.
  • Squeeze liquid hand-sanitizer onto your hands. Rub your hands together till dry.
  • Rub your hands with toothpaste, then rub together, and rinse under water.
  • Use soap specifically made for removing fish odors, like De-Fishing Soap.
  • Surgical spirit works well also.
  • Wash your hands with neat Head & Shoulders Intensive Care shampoo and rinse with water.

How to Catch More Bass

What is the best time of year for Bass fishing?

In Devon and Cornwall, Bass can be caught all year round, but April to November will see Bass in higher numbers around our shores. Due to the lower water temperatures, Bass are most scarce around February.

Where are the best Bass fishing spots?

How long have you got? It’s impossible to talk specifics here since there are so many excellent Bass marks in Devon and Cornwall but, generally speaking, there are certain types of ground which hold Bass in greater number than others.

Surf Beaches Check out the Guide to Bass fishing in surf

Estuaries Check out the Guide to estuary Bass fishing

Harbours & Marinas Check out the Guide to harbour Bass fishing

What are the best baits for Bass?

Bass baits fall into 3 main categories: Live baits, dead baits and Lures.


Since Bass are out and out predators many are taken on live baits and lures, but they are also opportunists, never rule out dead baits since they too can be extremely effective on their day. When fishing for Bass, just like most other types of sea fishing, match your bait to the conditions and the environment. For example, during a storm – when the sea is about as clear as custard – a dead bait with a good scent trail may out fish every lure in your box. However, from the same mark on a clear sunny day, with bait fish jumping all around, lures may do the business whereas to the cautious Bass the same dead bait, sitting on the bottom and looking a touch out of place, may look a bit, well, fishy.


Popular baits are as follows:-

Live Baits – Ragworm, Lugworm, Sand Eel, Prawn, baitfish, mini-species (Blennies/Gobies etc). For more in depth info, check out our guide to Livebaiting for Bass.

Dead Baits – Peeler crab (green shore peelers or velvet swimmers if you can get hold of them), Softies, Mackerel, Squid and Prawn.

Lures – All manner of lures will work on their day (even feathers!), but particular styles of popper, plug and spinner are time-honoured favourites. Dexter wedges, Tobys, certain Rapalas and small jelly/sand eel lures regularly do the business. Again, match the lure to the environment. For more in-depth info, check out our guide to Spinning for Bass.


When is the best time to fish for Bass?

Time of Day – You can fish anytime, particularly if the sea is coloured by day, but first and last light are definitely the best times with good Bass also being taken at night. The problem with night fishing for Bass are the limitations: safety will become even more of an issue if you’re thinking of rock hopping, and low light may hinder lure fishing in general. That said, at night, an illuminated patch of swim (from pier lighting, for example, or your own) will bring in the Bass since they use the light to hunt for bait fish/other small species. You may or may not see Bass in the illuminated swim, but you can guarantee that they will be lurking in the shadows waiting for their next meal to swim by!

Night Bass

Weather – During or directly after a patch of bad weather is a good time to fish for Bass. A rough sea is a productive one. Close to the shore, rougher seas will give the sea bed a hearty makeover and dislodge/uncover food. This new abundance of food will encourage the Bass to work further inshore instead of feeding off the sandbanks and offshore reefs. Naturally, in these conditions, safety can be an issue and commonsense prevails.Fishing just after a storm (particularly if its bean an easterly blowing and the fish have been off the feed) can be just as good and it makes for a safer and more comfortable day out. This suits me just fine since one for ‘manning it out’.

Tides – Tides are a key factor when it comes to Bass fishing. Neaps aren’t so good since less food will be dislodged during weaker tidal flows, though in the main channels of estuaries this is less of an issue. By that rationale, you’d think that ripping spring tides are the best times to shore fish for Bass, but that’s not the case. Moderate tides following the neaps are widely recognised as the most productive and best time to fish for Bass.

What is the killer Bass rig?

It all depends on where you choose to fish. Among other things, your choice of rig will depend on both the location and conditions. Check out the individual Bass fishing guides for more information on Bass fishing rigs.

What rod and reel do I need?

Again, it depends on where you are fishing but to cover most of the bases a supple rod around 10 – 12 ft (with a sensitive tip but power enough in the mid section to take charge of a hard fighting Bass). Also, remember you will be working the rod all the time, so something lightweight will make life easier. Generally speaking, look for a rod capable of casting anything between a free lined bait and 3 oz – this sounds a tall order, but some carp rods and larger spinning rods will do this. As a rough guide, a rod with a 2-3oz casting weight should do the job unless you’ve got a penchant for fishing uber-light.

More often than not, Bass will be within easy flicking range (and sometimes right under your nose!) so big leads and manly beach/surfcasters are not always necessary. However, fishing over snaggy ground, or over a sandbar where surf is breaking a long way out, may call for the heavier artillery.

When it comes to the choice of reel and line, fish as light as you can get away with. Not only will it be more fun when you connect with a Bass – or when a Bass connects with YOU in some cases – but you’ll have more of getting into one of these wily, easily spooked creatures. In calmer weather, a light spinning rod with a fixed spool reel loaded with 10lb mono, with 1 or 2oz of lead (max), will provide hours of fun – and the lighter line will open up more swim for your lure. However, as an all rounder and certainly for rougher conditions, a carp rod/heavier spinning rod and medium sized baitcaster reel with 15lb mono, or an Abu 6500 sized multiplier with 10-20lb braid (with shock leader), will hold you in good stead.

Balance your rod and reel and consider where and when you will be fishing. For example, braided line or lighter mono will be more manageable from a beach in ripping currents or at distance, but will not fare as well over rough ground or in gullies where the potential for snagging and abrasion is considerable.


And remember: if you’re fishing ridiculously light but haven’t got easy access to the water’s edge, avert the ‘one that got away’ story with a landing net!


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Frayed Nerves

Submitted by Bill Fagg 26/10/2015

It’s a decent set of tides so I arrange to meet up with my mate Nigel Mullet Machine. 

We arrive at the car park at the same time, tackle up and get going. 

As we tromp along in the drizzle I mention to my mate the fact that my braids been fluffing up for the last couple of weeks, after a few hours of fishing it gets the point where it snaps at the slightest tug. I know something is wrong with my gear but I just can’t put my finger on it.

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Illegal Fishing: What Can We Do?

There are new by-laws proposed by the EA to control the taking of coarse fish, but without proper enforcement these new regulations will be worthless, and the same goes for undersize sea fish caught along the shoreline.  EA bailiffs are rarely seen by anglers and there is a widespread culture of lawlessness on many riverbanks, lake sides and foreshores.  At sea, commercial fishermen catch huge quantities of fish illegally and are rarely prosecuted, and if prosecuted the fines are inadequate.

These by-laws will also help to make the EA aware of night lines with multiple hooks; nets; even the use of poison throughout the country to capture fish for consumption and sale and migrant workers, who come from cultures where coarse fish and undersize sea fish (by British standards), are regularly taken to eat as long as we – the responsible fishermen – report it.

Illegal fishing – what can I do?

There seems to be more and more threads popping up on the SouthWestSeaFishing forums (and others) about groups of individuals catching and keeping juvenile fish.  This is illegal if they are below the minimum size limits.

If you suspect someone or a group of doing this, here are some pointers to allow you to report it to the authorities safely.

The EA ( for England and Wales and for Scotland) manages the rivers and many lakes inland but they also look after the British seashore and can act on illegal fishing activity from beaches, piers, rocks and jetties.
Illegal gill-netting goes on night after night along our shores and often-even deep inside our so-called bass nursery areas. Anglers are quick to complain amongst themselves at the effect the nets are having on their fishing and fish stocks, yet remain reluctant to do anything about it.
The fact is that shore anglers are the people most likely to observe potential illegal netting and are best placed to report it to the necessary authorities.

If you see anything suspicious, the first thing to do is get some details fixed in your mind (or down on paper).  The most important things they will need to know are:

1. Exactly where the alleged offence was taking place.
2. The time of day it was happening (this is particularly useful as it may happen regularly at the same time).
3. What methods were being used to catch the fish.
4. The types of fish and approximate sizes.
5. How many people are involved and a description of them.
6. The registration numbers of any vehicles involved.

Once you have these details, phone the EA as soon as possible on 0800 807060and report this information.

Make sure you are given a Report Reference number so you can be certain your complaint is logged properly and this will also allow you to follow it up.

This does not implicate you in any way

You need not give your name nor address, just pass on the facts. Your conversation is in total confidence. Once you put the phone down you’ll hear no more about it, unless you want to know what has been done about it (just leave them your name and number if you do). It doesn’t matter if the fishing/netting turns out to be legal. The only way the authorities can do their job is to act on information received and check every report out fully.

It is not recommended to approach and challenge these people (nor try to damage their nets and equipment) as they may know that what they are doing is illegal and turn nasty – Let the authorities and courts take care of it.

With the right information and prompt action we can all do our bit to protect young, juvenile fish from illegal harvesting (and make sure there are more for us to catch on the shoreline) and therefore help ensure our fish stocks.

Don’t assume that someone else will report it. Make the effort yourself and make sure – you’ll only have yourselves to blame when the inshore fish stocks are depleted from their present levels.

I have led by example an recently contacted the EA concerning an illegal fishing scenario and I can confirm that within the hour the EA had acted upon the information and the offending articles had been removed, thus allowing us – the shore fishermen to continue to respect the sea.

Here are the contact details again:

The EA – for England and Wales and for Scotland.

Telephone – 0800 807060

Bass fishing – finding those big Bass


Submitted by Leakyboots 05/3/2016

As I write, I’m trying to fix my gammy leg, so fishing is on hold.  No terrible loss as far as I’m concerned: February and March aren’t my favourite months.  And being stuck at home has given me the chance to play around with my catch records.
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Sea Fishing: Worth the Risk?

risk3I have been a keen sea fisherman for the past 40 years and during this time, probably like most of us, I have taken a few chances; climbing down onto near inaccessible ledges to fish a gulley, or fishing rocks that are just a little too close to breaking waves.  However, over the past few years my approach to angling has changed, almost totally due to my work, and I have realised it’s never worth pushing your luck as maybe sometime, excuse the pun, you will get caught out.

I used to be employed as a rear crew member of a Search and Rescue helicopter crew, (before the service was privatised)  in both the South West and Scotland During this time I spent numerous hours searching for lost fishermen or recovering their bodies from the sea.  Nearly all had been reported as falling overboard or being swept from the rocks or a beach by freak waves, I don’t believe there are such things,  if there were  then why do they come so frequent?

I would hate to discourage anyone from fishing the rocks and I don’t want to teach anyone to suck eggs, but having flown past several anglers “pushing their luck” with a breaking sea, I thought maybe just a reminder of a few precautions that may one day help save them.

To start with, remember the 5 p’s.  Prior Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance. You wouldn’t go fishing without your bait so make sure you prepare before heading out with your kit.


First off, check the weather. There are plenty of good sites, don’t rely on yesterdays forecast. Although they are generally more accurate nowadays, they appear to change so rapidly nowadays with the latest prediction models.

Dress appropriately. In the winter, the sea temperature drops to a point where even short term submersion will result in rapid onset of hypothermia (in minutes you could be rendered incapable of getting yourself back out the water).  Lots of thin layers are far better than just one thick layer; it traps the air between them which helps insulate.  Ensure you finish with a windproof and waterproof top, wind-chill is a killer, particularly when against a backdrop of snow and sub zero temperatures.  Bright colours help to identify individuals, as do reflective materials, particularly at night.  Beware wearing waders or tight fitting boots that cannot be kicked off, sadly I have attended several incidents where someone has fallen overboard or their boat has gone down and they never got out because of the weight of water  has pulled them down.  If you can, wear an inflation suit or a lifejacket, the modern jackets are quite discreet and lightweight. I have known of several occasions where one has saved the wearers life, quite literally.  Oh and don’t forget a hat, a lot of heat is lost through your head.

Other equipment to consider is a short length of rope, both to assist in lowering equipment down a steep face or to help a companion who may have fallen or been washed into the sea.  Not only have I had to rescue fishermen from the sea, but also a number who have fallen a short distance because they struggled with the amount of kit they have been carrying.  It only takes a fall of 3 times your own height to be fatal!  A mobile phone is a must, even when unable to use your own network due to lack of signal a majority of phones will give you access to the emergency services on other networks.  A torch is also a must, even if you intend leaving before nightfall, no one can second guess the future, if we could we would all be millionaires having won the lottery.  If you spend a lot of time fishing the rocks at night or a small boat an investment in some flares would be beneficial.   Before you get onto the rocks just watch the sea for a few minutes, the fish will wait whilst you watch several sets come through.   I would also advise arriving before dark; the shoreline changes rapidly however familiar you are with a particular mark.

Many of the callouts I had, did not come from the casualty but from a fishing partner. The message here is clear: where possible, don’t fish alone – particularly when fishing anywhere where there is even a slight risk.  If you intend to go it alone then ensure someone knows where you are going and when you are due back, if you change your plans then make sure you let them know.  I have known of one occasion when a crew was searching for a group of fishermen in a small boat at night who changed their mind on where they were to fish and went somewhere else, were catching plenty and stayed several hours longer than planned, a wife became concerned phones the emergency services and a search was instigated.  Not only was this a waste of money but assets were diverted away from another incident in which there were 3 fatalities.



If you do still find yourself in trouble after taking all the precautions you could’ve, what can you do?  Whatever happens, try and stay safe.  This may sound simple but you would be surprised at the number of people who get into trouble, cut off by the tide etc, who then push on and make the situation worse.

If you have to contact the emergency services, coastguard or police ensure you pass as much relevant and accurate information as possible.  Your position, the nature of the incident, the number of persons involved.  Other information of use would be extent of any injuries, what you are wearing which will assist in identifying yourself and contact details.  If you are a third party reporting an incident and there has been a delay whilst you attempted to gain a phone signal, the time the incident occurred would also be of benefit.

Depending on the type of incident and the controlling authority, this might be where my colleagues and I may get involved.  For searching, the UK helicopter SAR force has a number of sensors at our disposal.  The primary is the Mk 1 eyeball, a visual search of the area; this is where an accurate position and description is vital.


sar1Alternatively, a Forward Looking Infra Red Search or FLIR could be used; this relies on a contrast of temperatures, i.e. the body against the sea.  FLIR is good but it has its limitations, although it looks fantastic in “Police camera action” it’s not particularly good in poor visibility, in fog, drizzle or rain.  Another aid used during night searches are Night Vision Goggles or NVG’s, these use and enhance background light source and can be a very powerful search tool in the right conditions; personally I have located an injured climber in the mountains from over 5 miles by the light of their mobile phone, but again its effectiveness is reduced in poor weather.  Finally the aircraft can use RADAR to locate small craft.

Hopefully, with these aids to assist and with the help of the other emergency services we will locate you.  And once we have, how can you help, well, if you have flares don’t fire them directly at the aircraft or in it’s flight path, you may laugh but it has happened.  If it’s at night don’t shine your torch directly at the aircraft, at best it may take out the pilots vision, this is particularly hazardous particularly if they are wearing NVG’s.  If you can, I strongly advise you to secure your kit away, the rotor wash from aircraft is storm force so any loose object becomes a missile and you might lose your £300 rod and reel to completely ruin your night.  If you have your rope then you can also consider securing yourself.

sar2One thing to note as the winchman is lowered to you is the amount of static charge that will be discharged as the winch wire earths as it comes to ground.  To that end, don’t be tempted to assist the winchman until the static wick that hangs beneath him touches the ground, alternatively if you wish to ignore this advice, grab it but don’t be surprised the winchman has a bit of a giggle as you start break dancing across the rocks .  If, however you are unfortunate to end up in the water, then it will obviously require a winch recovery, the winchman will be lowered adjacent to you where he will attempt to place 2 strops around you, don’t struggle, fight or grab him (easy to say that sitting in front the fire), or he will hold off.  The first strop is the primary lifting strop and will go under your arms, the second is placed under your knees and allows you to be lifted horizontally, an important factor particularly in even the mildest hypothermic situation.  Keep your arms by your side and you won’t fall out and enjoy the ride.  As you approach the aircraft you will enjoy the heat from the engine and will be swung into the door, do not attempt under any circumstance to remove the strops until either you are strapped into a seat or told to.  There is nothing worse than rescuing someone to find they then fall back out and you have to start  all over again!  Once inside the aircraft do exactly what the crew tell you, it can be a dangerous environment to be in if you are not used to it, particularly at night.

As I said at the start, I don’t want to be seen to be teaching anyone to “Suck Eggs” but sometimes even the simplest of precautions can be enough.  Well, fish safe and tight lines everyone,  hopefully I will see you on the beaches and rocks in my spare time, not professionally!


Article Submitted by Florrie 4/2/13

Updated by John 26/10/17

Loe Bar – Taking the Myths out of Fishing the “Bar”

On the South coast of Cornwall, lies half a mile stretch of shingle bar separating the largest fresh water pool in Cornwall, The Loe from open sea.

The deeply sloping beach is renowned for its fishing as well as other interesting facts, myths and legends.


Myth – The shingle bar was created by Jan Tregeagle a man of evil who was given the futile task of moving all the sand from Berepper beach to Porthleven. He fell when crossing the then mouth of the river Cober and the sand emptied into the mouth of the river blocking its entrance forever.

Fact – Until the mid 1800s the river Cober was still used by ships crossing the gap before it became blocked.  Large storms and tidal waves have probably played a major role since the 1850’s. Tidal waves hit the Cornish coast in June and October 1859 and in April 1868. These events were not part of any storm and were not just simply one huge wave – the one in 1868 was described as being a “succession of hundreds of great waves for more than an hour”. In January 1924 another tidal wave destroyed part of the fishing village of Porthleven, swept away large areas of the cliff and threw vast quantities of shingle onto and over the Bar.

Fishing Loe Bar

Understanding the Bar and how it works will help keep you safe when fishing. The Bar is replenished with shingle at an incredible rate especially during big storms. Longshore drift operates in both directions across the bar. The drift is immediately apparent when your fishing, cast straight out and you will find your lead moves left (predominantly) with the drift before settling in the shingle. The bigger the sea and tide and prevailing wind, the stronger the drift runs right to left across the beach. If your lead does not hold ground, you will find it washed a hundred yards to your left and buried in shingle in no time.

If you’re planning a session and the forecast is anything over 3ft, take beach spikes with you if you have them, they help keep the lines as high in the water as possible and prevent your line being pulled into the dump by big waves and helps stabilise the rod for bite detection. Under 3ft and a standard rod rest should suffice.

I often fish with both spikes and rest when the wave height is higher.

rodrestand spikes

This lets me put the spikes down the beach just above the wash up the beach, the kit and rod rest are well back. This way I am at a comfortable distance back from the dump for bait changes, unhooking fish etc. without having to look over my shoulder at what the dump is doing, especially once it gets dark!

When to fish the bar? There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account. Wind, wave height and strength is the most important. Use surf forecasts to get a rough idea of the predicted wave height for the duration of your session. Don’t rely on this however, as its rarely accurate but always look at the predicted wave height for the duration of a planned session. It may start small but can quickly build into a monster over a 6 to 8 hour session.

In this clip, wave height 7 to 9ft – it looks like I’m standing close to the dump, I’m standing on the rocks under the cliff right under the Anson monument, 2 hours before HW. The dump is powerful enough to sweep right up the beach to the rocks. Now imagine that in the dark with all your gear on the beach!

This clip is the same day, looking back up the path towards Porthleven, then sweeping around to the Bar.  The waves can be seen sweeping up the beach, with this regularity its a sure sign that that its not a day to fish the bar no matter how far you’ve traveled to get here. Bigger waves are always expected, no such thing as a freak wave , they appear too often to be called “freak” down the Bar.

A few tips that may help, especially so if you’ve never fished there before:

Always get there before dark and on arrival, don’t do anything until you have watched the wave action for 10 to 15 minutes.

  1. Note how far the waves wash up the beach, if the wave strength is high they will travel a fair distance up the beach, do not fish in these conditions.
  2. Note wave height, if it’s up to 5 foot, in my opinion this is your limit, over 6 foot and it’s not only dangerous, but it will be very difficult to get the lead to hold on the cast.
  3. Scan the surface, it’s not unusual after a storm, for rafts of weed and general rubbish to be on the surface. Once it’s dark you won’t see it.
  4. If the tide is on the flood, the waves will increase in size as it nears high water (HW), take this into account especially if HW occurs later in your session when it’s dark and if it’s a Spring tide it’s likely the waves will increase a few foot on the rise, falling back slightly with the ebb.
  5. Keep watching as some bigger sets of waves are very common on the bar. If you stand and watch carefully you will see just how regular these bigger sets come in.
  6. Do not be tempted to stand in the wash up the beach, it only takes a couple of inches of backwash to take your feet away from under you, the bar is very unforgiving if you end up in the water, do not take any chances.

So you’ve checked it out and you decide to fish. Check out the beach and note the HW line, that’s the best place to put you gear for an incoming tide. If you have beach spikes, these can be put a safe distance from the line of the dump coming up the beach and moved with the tide.

A 5oz gripper lead will do for anything up to 5ft, if the wave height does rise and the lead does not hold then its handy to have a few bigger leads handy just in case, providing your end gear supports it, so probably best to rig up with a leader with a view to going heavier if needed.

If you haven’t fished the Bar before, it’s worth just attaching a lead for an exploratory cast before rigging up, so that you can see how the drift is working. Unless the wind is Easterly, the drift will be from right to left looking out to sea. Try casting slightly right of straight out first and beyond the dump. You should notice the drift will take your lead left, before settling on the grippers which if you got it right should now be straight out. If it’s gone further left, subsequent casts should be further right until you find the right spot. You can’t afford to have slack line, as the dump will take your line in and you’ll end up back on the beach or lose your rig, having said that, it is unusual to lose a rig on the Bar.

This clip by forum member bigraymaster shows how to fish the bar when the dump is just about on the limits of being fish-able, great care should be taken and keep gear well up the beach.

Distance casting isn’t needed at the Bar, it goes deep quite quickly, but you have to clear the dump. This will vary from day to day, all that is needed is to clear the breaking waves. You’ll know soon enough as the lead won’t hold if you’ve cast into the dump particularly when fishing the bigger 5ft or so waves. Too close and your rig could end up buried, the backwash is pretty powerful, you’ll notice that on the retrieve, try to time it to make use of the incoming waves to “surf” fish up the beach.


When the beach is busy and crowded, it’s the guys that haven’t worked it out that end up crossing your lines or you dragging their line in when you retrieve your rig which you have correctly positioned straight out. If you’re not confident with your casting, when it’s crowded the bar isn’t the place to go. On the other hand, when it’s quiet down there it’s the perfect place to practice getting your casting right.

Parking and Access

The whole of Penrose and the Loe Pool area is NT land. There are farms and holiday lets at both sides, Penrose and Chyvarloe


The access is from the Helston end of Loe Bar, check out the Google maps and look for the road that turns off by Culdrose main gate and head towards Chyvarloe farm. The parking areas are signed just past the farm. There is a metal post which prevents cars driving down the track to the bar, use the car parking areas and walk down, its only a 10 minute walk. Do not block any farm gates, this is a working farm.


Back to Google maps and check out Loe Bar road, there is parking at the end of the road, park here and walk to Loe Bar, again only 10 minutes. Penrose estate is private and access is restricted to residents and holday lets, please respect the privacy and do not attempt to drive through the estate to Loe Bar.

Stay safe and enjoy your fishing.

The information on this website is provided “as is” take the advice given if you choose to or just ignore it and do whatever you usually do when going fishing. SWSF makes no representations or warranties in relation to the information on this website. Use of the information contained here is a guide only, you fish as always, at your own risk.