Need a licence for Sea fishing?

Do I need a licence for sea fishing? I see this question asked all the time on the popular fishing forums and facebook pages. Do I need a fishing licence to fish in the sea. The short answer is NO, get in!

Where can I fish

You are free to fish to your hearts content from the shore or by boat. We are lucky to have thousands of miles of rugged coast line with an abundance of fish species available, from tiny Gobies to the mighty basking shark. There is even a pod of Killer Whales that roam the Hebrides, these are rarely seen but do show up in other places occasionally. On the 9th June 2018 they were around South Stack in Anglesey, we missed them as I was in Rhosneigr getting some underwater footage for my Action Cam review.

Taking fish home

There are a few things to bear in mind, firstly there are the minimum fish sizes, say if you want to take a fish home for tea. These sizes are aimed at trying to protect juvenile fish and allow them to reach close or past breeding age. This allows for more, in theory, sustainable fish stocks around our waters. There is a minimum size chart at the bottom of this page for easy reference.

Rivers and estuaries

Secondly questions are asked around do I need a licence to fish river estuaries. Well this depends on two things. The first being what are you fishing for? If it’s a sea fish then you are absolutely fine, you will be using suitable tackle and bait so if you are questioned by a environment agency fishing officer it is clear what you are doing, There will also be visible tidal movement in the area you are fishing for the avoidance of doubt.

If you are far enough up the estuary for freshwater fish with double red maggot and a match rod, that just isn’t going to cut it when you are questioned on what you are fishing for. Although some salt species will travel a considerable distance up into the river such as Flounder, you would need to prove that is what you are targeting so always keep within the tidal range.


Worms baits have always worked for myself when fishing estuaries, your main quarry will be flat fish species, although what species can depend on the time of year.

Species Scientific name MCRS in UK waters*
Anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus Whole area, except ICES division IXa east of longitude 7° 23′ 48″ W: 12 cm or 90 individuals/kg.

ICES division IXa east of longitude 7° 23′ 48″ W:10cm

Bass Dicentrarchus labrax 42 cm (1)
Blue ling Molva dipterygia 70 cm
Cod Gadus morhua 35 cm
Haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus 30 cm
Hake Merluccius merluccius 27 cm
Herring Clupea harengus 20 cm
Horse mackerel Trachurus spp. 15 cm
Ling Molva molva 63 cm
Mackerel Scomber spp. Whole area, except North Sea: 20 cm.

North Sea: 30 cm

Megrim Lepidorhombus spp. 20 cm
Plaice Pleuronectes platessa 27 cm
Pollack Pollachius pollachius 30 cm
Red Sea Bream Pagellus bogaraveo 33 cm (2)
Saithe (Coalfish) Pollachius virens 35 cm
Sardine Sardina pilchardus 11 cm
Sole Solea spp. 24 cm
Whiting Merlangius merlangus 27 cm

This is taken from the UK gov marine management organisation and are the minimum conservation reference sizes for UK waters.

There is however one large exception to the above rules, that is regarding Bass. For the remainder of the year (2018) it is against the law to remove any Bass regardless of size. This exert has been taken from the .gov website.

  1. Recreational Bass fishing

For recreational fishers, any bass caught during 2018 must be returned immediately. This applies if you are fishing from a boat or from the shore.

This is currently being challenged by the EAA, you can read about it in more detail HERE

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