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

IUCN Status

LC – Least Concern



The monkfish is easily identifiable; it has a huge head which is particularly broad, flat, and depressed, with the remaining body appearing tiny in comparison. Its wide mouth covers pretty much the entirety of its head and both jaws are equipped with long, sharp teeth. These teeth are sloped slightly inwards, meaning that once the jaws have closed it’s even harder for the prey to escape.

The pectoral and pelvic fins are both extremely pronounced, allowing the monk fish to essentially walk along the bottom of the sea, where it hides amongst the sand and seaweed waiting for its unsuspecting prey. The monkfish has no scales, instead extending from its skin are structures which resemble small branches of seaweed.

Warning: The monkfish has powerful jaws and sharp teeth, giving it the nickname of “Sea Devil”!

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So how do we catch one?

Best Baits

Most whole fresh fish or large fish strips work well. Monkfish is best caught with larger baits as they have a huge appetite. The best types of fish to use as bait are mackerel, whiting, pollack, pouting, and herring.


The monkfish is a summer visitor and can be commonly caught throughout May, June, July, August and September. Throughout the winter the monkfish departs to the ocean depths where it is very rarely caught by the average angler.

Favourite Feeding Places

The monkfish favours mud, sand, rocks and wrecks resting under deep water – around 40 fathoms (73.2 meters). Occasionally the monkfish does enter shallower waters inshore.

Best Locations

Monkfish is found in most British waters, particularly the south coast and West Country.

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Best rigs for catching monkfish

Shore Fishing

If you’re trying to catch monkfish from the shore, we advise casting from either a beach or rocks into deep water using a basic leger rig with a wire trace.

Basic Leger Rig

This rig is used to lay hookbait on the seabed. The distance between the hook and swivel can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft). This rig works so well because your line is able to pass through the weight’s “eye”, meaning that shy or suspicious fish can tug the bait without instantly sensing the resistance.

Boat Fishing

If you’re boat fishing for monkfish, the most effective rig is a boat leger rig with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on line.

Alternatively you can use a simple paternoster rig where bait is presented slightly above snag-ridden stretch of seabed, with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on line. Lastly you can also use a rotten bottom rig with a wire trace attaching hook to swivel on line.

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Boat Leger Rig

This is one of the simplest and most effective rigs for boat anglers. The space between the hook and swivel can vary, but should generally be about 1 m (3 ft). The bait is presented on the seabed and the line is able to move through the boom without hitting the weight which would otherwise scare off a bait-biting fish.

Simple Paternoster Rig

This rig works great when you want to present your bait just above the seabed and move with the current. The distance between the weight and split ring can vary, but should be at least 300 mm (1 ft). Likewise, the distance between the hook and swivel (free running on main line) can vary, but should be at least 150 mm (6 inches).

Rotten Bottom Rig

This rig is perfect when fishing over reefs or rocks where you understand that you may lose a trapped weight, but are reluctant to lose swivels, hooks and long lengths of line along with it. Should your weight become inextricably caught amongst the rocks, steady pressure on your line by pulling with gloved hands (do not strain your rod) will break the weaker “light” line attaching weight to the main line. The lighter line should be ABOUT half the breaking strain of the main line. The distance between weight and swivel can vary, but should generally be at least 200 mm (8 inches). The hook should be a minimum of 150 mm (6 inches) from the swivel or blood loop on the main line.

Cost-effective rotten bottom rigs can be constructed with expendable weights such as bolts, nuts and stones with naturally worn holes etc. (see B below).

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DO NOT make sweeping overhead casts from the shore with a rotten bottom rig as the weight could break off and injure someone!

Top tip

Be alert. Monkfish can remove bait from hooks with ease. Be aware for faint knocks or tugs and tighten your line immediately.