Sea Fish Species Guide

With over 300 different species of fish being found in coastal waters around the British Isles, it is easy to understand why some of the less common species can be difficult to identify. Whilst species such as cod and bass are fairly well recognised by anglers, the differences between plaice, dab and sole can still be a struggle to identify for many anglers. Here we discuss many of the fish that are sought after or likely to be encountered by sea anglers and disclose the essential facts required to begin catching the species of your choice whilst also providing information which will allow you to know exactly what you have caught.

 

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Sea fish species across the British Isles can be split into three main categories:

ROUND FISH

Round fish are fish which have a round cross section and a body which narrows into a tail – pretty much exactly what you would think of when you think of a fish – they also tend to have broad heads and gills. Cod, haddock and bass are all common examples of round fish. The majority of these fish species can be found in relatively shallow water; as a result they are regularly caught by sea anglers across the UK. However, there are a few round fish species which favour deep water and so are not often caught from the shore – these species include haddock and ling.

Black Bream

Name:
Black Bream (Spondyliosoma cantharus)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught black bream can weigh 2.25 Kg (5 lbs) or more. The average black bream weighs around 0.70 Kg (1½lbs).

Also known as:
Porgy or Seabream

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Red Bream

Name:
Red Bream (Pagellus bogaraveo)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught red bream can weigh 2.72 Kg (6 lbs) or more. The average red bream weighs around 0.90 Kg (2 lbs).

Also known as:
Blackspot seabream

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Coalfish

Name:
Coalfish (Pollachius virens)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught coalfish can weigh 8.15 Kg (18 lbs) or more. The average coalfish weighs around 3.20 Kg (7 lbs).

Appearance:
The coalfish is closely related to cod and young coalfish are referred to as “billet”.

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Cod

Name:
Cod (Gadus morhua)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught cod can weigh 14.50 Kg (32 lbs) or more. The average cod weighs around 5.45 Kg (12 lbs).

Also known as:
Codling and Atlantic Cod

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Garfish

Name:
Garfish (Belone belone)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught garfish can weigh 0.90 Kg (2 lbs) or more. The average garfish weighs around 455 g (1 lb).

Also known as:
Sea Pike, Needlefish and Garpike

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More Round Fish

Gurnard

Name:
Yellow Gurnard (Trigla lucerna)
Grey Gurnard (Eutrigla gurnardus)
Red Gurnard (Aspitrigla cuculus)

Average Weight:
The yellow gurnard is the largest, big rod-caught yellow gurnards can weigh 3.62 Kg (8 lbs) or more.

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Haddock

Name:
Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught haddock can weigh 3.60 Kg (8 lbs) or more. The average haddock weighs around 1 Kg (2¼ lbs).

IUCN Status:
VU – Vulnerable

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John Dory

Name:
John Dory (Zeus faber)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught John Dory can weigh 4 Kg (9 lbs) or more. The average John dory weighs around 0.90 Kg (2 lbs).

Also known as:
St. Peter’s Fish

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Ling

Name:
Ling (Molva molva)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught ling can weigh 18.14 Kg (40 lbs) or more. Commercial trawlers have netted specimens weighing in excess of 294 Kg (650 lbs)!
The average ling weighs about 6.80 Kg (15 lbs).

Also known as:
Common ling

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Mackerel

Name:
Mackerel (Scomber scombrus)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught mackerel can weigh 1.6 Kg (3½ lbs) or more. The average mackerel weighs around 0.55 Kg (1¼ lbs).

Also known as:
Atlantic mackerel

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Monkfish

Name:
Monkfish (Lophius piscatorius)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught monkfish can weigh 27.2 Kg (60 lbs) or more. The average monkfish weighs around 9 Kg (20 lbs).

Also known as:
Anglerfish, headfish, goosefish and sea-devil

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Mullet

Name:
Thick-lipped mullet (Chelon labrosus)
Thin-lipped mullet (Liza ramada)
Golden grey mullet (Liza aurata)

Average Weight:
Thick-lipped mullet: Big rod-caught thick-lipped mullet can weigh 3.6 Kg (8 lbs) or more. The average thick-lipped mullet weighs around 1 Kg (2¼ lbs).

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Pollack

Name:
Pollack (Pollachius pollachius)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught pollack can weigh 7.25 Kg (16 lbs) or more. The average pollack weighs around 2.26 Kg (5 lbs).

Also known as:
Lythe

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Pouting

Name:
Pouting (Trisopterus luscus)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught pouting can weigh 1 Kg (2¼ lbs) or more. The average pouting weighs around 0.6 Kg (1¼ lbs).

Also known as:
Pout, Bib and Blegg

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Weever

Name:
Greater Weever (Trachinus draco)
Lesser Weever (Trachinus vipera)

Average Weight:
The greater weever has an average weight of around 230g (½ lb), whilst the lesser weever is considerably smaller, only growing to about 150 mm (6 inches) in length.

Also known as:
The lesser weever can also be known as the sting fish.

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Whiting

Name:
Whiting (Merlangius merlangus)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught whiting can weigh 1.4 Kg (3 lbs) or more. The average whiting weighs around 0.5 Kg (1 lb).

IUCN Status:
LC – Least Concern

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Wrasse

Name:
Ballan Wrasse (Labrus bergylta)
Cuckoo Wrasse (Labrus mixtus)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught ballan wrasse can weigh 2.7 Kg (6 lbs) or more. The average ballan wrasse weighs around 1 Kg (2¼ lbs).
Cuckoo wrasse are much smaller, big rod-caught cuckoo wrasse can weigh 0.55 Kg (1¼ lbs) or more. The average cuckoo wrasse weighs around 227 g (½ lb).

IUCN Status:
Both species of wrasse have the LC – Least Concern – status.

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FLATFISH

These fish have the typical flattened bodies you would expect, with their fins being located around the edges. They generally have a lateral line visible along the middle of their cross section and both eyes are positioned on the upper side of their head. Flatfish are commonly labelled as either right eyed or left eyed, depending on the side of the head the eyes are located when the fish is viewed from straight on. The most common species of flatfish are discussed here, although there are some rare ones which are generally found in particularly deep water. It is also worth mentioning that despite skates and rays looking similar to flatfish, they are actually completely different and more closely related to sharks than flatfish.

Brill

Name:
Brill (Scophthalmus rhombus)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught brill can weigh 4.5 Kg (10 lbs) or more. The average brill weighs around 1.8 Kg (4 lbs).

Appearance:
The brill is a left eyed flatfish…

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Dab

Name:
Dab (Limanda limanda)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught dabs can weigh 0.70 Kg (1½ lbs) or more. The average dab weighs around 340 g (12 oz.)

Also known as:
Common Dab

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Flounder

Name:
Flounder (Platichthys flesus)

Average Weight:
Big flounders can weigh 1.56 Kg (3½ lbs) or more. The average flounder weighs around 0.45 Kg (1 lb).

Also known as:
Fluke

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Halibut

Name:
Halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught halibut can weigh 40 Kg (90 lbs) or more. Commercial deep sea trawlers have even caught halibut which weigh more than 115 Kg (250 lbs).
Atlantic halibut

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Plaice

Name:
Plaice (Pleuronectes platessa)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught plaice can weigh 2.25 Kg (5 lbs) or more. The average plaice weighs around 1 Kg (2¼ lbs).

IUCN Status:
LC – Least Concern

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Sole

Name:
Sole (Solea solea)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught sole can weigh 1.36 Kg (3 lbs) or more. The average sole weighs around 0.55 Kg (1¼ lbs).

Also known as:
Common sole and Dover sole

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More Flatfish
Turbot

Turbot

Name:
Turbot (Scopthalmus maximus)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught turbot can weigh 9 Kg (20 lbs) or more. The average turbot weighs around 3.2 kg (7 lbs).

IUCN Status:
NT – Near Threatened

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EEL

In the UK there are only two species of eel which will be encountered by anglers – the conger eel and the european eel. Eel species are identified by their characteristically long bodies, a lone fin which is present across their entire body and their slimy, scaleless skin. There are fish species which have some, but not all of these characteristics and therefore are not eels. There are other eel species in UK waters besides the conger and european eel, however these exist at extreme depths and will never be encountered by anglers.

Conger Eel

Name:
Conger Eel (Conger conger)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught conger eels can weigh 27.20 Kg (60 lbs) or more, making them the largest eel species in the world by weight. Conger eels caught by commercial fishermen has been reported to be around 100kg (220 lbs).

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OTHER

Here are other species of fish which can be found in British waters but do not fit the clear descriptions of either round fish, flatfish or eel. This section covers skates, shark species and rays.

Bull Huss

Name:
Bull Huss (Scyliorhinus stellaris)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught bull huss can weigh 7.3 Kg (16 lbs) or more. The average bull huss weighs around 3.6 Kg (8 lbs).

Also known as:
Nursehound, large-spotted dogfish and greater spotted dogfish

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Common Skate

Name:
Common Skate (Raja batis)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught common skate can weigh 68 Kg (150 lbs) or more. Common skate are known to exceed 180 Kg (400 lbs) in weight! The average common skate weighs around 20.41 Kg (45 lbs).

IUCN Status:
CR – Critically Endangered

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Lesser Spotted Dogfish

Name:
Lesser-spotted Dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught lesser spotted dogfish can weigh 1.6 Kg (3½ lbs) or more. The average lesser spotted dogfish weighs around 1 Kg (2¼ lbs).

Also known as:
Lesser-Spotted Dogfish and Rockfish

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Smoothhound

Name:
Smoothhound (Mustelus mustelus)
Starry Smoothhound (Mustelus asterias)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught Smoothhounds and Starry Smoothhounds can both weigh 9.10 Kg (20 lbs) or more. The average Smoothhound and Starry Smoothhound weigh about 4.50 Kg (10 lbs).

Also known as:
The smoothhound is also known as a common smoothhound or a gummy shark.

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Sting Ray

Name:
Sting Ray (Dasyatis pastinaca)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught sting rays can weigh 18.14 Kg (40 lbs) or more. The average sting ray weighs around 6.80 Kg (15 lbs).

IUCN Status:
LC – Least Concern

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Thornback Ray

Name:
Thornback Ray (Raja clavata)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught thornback rays can weigh 9.07 Kg (20 lbs) or more. The average thornback ray weighs around 4.53 Kg (10 lbs).

Also known as:
Roker and Skate

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Tope

Tope

Name:
Tope (Galeorhinus galeus)

Average Weight:
Big rod-caught tope can weigh 20 Kg (46 lbs) or more. The average tope weighs around 11.33 Kg (25 lbs).

Also known as:
Tope Shark, School Shark and Miller’s Dog

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