Starting Out Boat Fishing

For me, boat fishing is where it’s at! I’m not a static angler - I like to hunt, find and chase a fish and a boat lends me the ability to do this. A boat also allows me access places where the angler on foot just cannot get. And I’d be lying if I said that angling boats aren’t the ultimate in tackle-tarts' toys, too! There are hundreds of ways and methods to fish from a boat, some of which I’ll go into over the coming months, but first here’s a brief look at the three main types of UK saltwater boat angling.

Small Boat Fishing (Inshore)
Although some charter boats specialise in inshore fisheries, it is the small private boat angler who is better equipped to take advantage of the estuaries, harbours and seas around our coastline. For the small boat angler, within a short distance from the marina or slipway there is ample good fishing to be found for a wide array of species - in fact there are probably more species available inshore than offshore. Piers, channels, headlands, tidal races, inshore wrecks, reefs and sand banks are all within the small boat angler’s scope. Some of the small boat angler’s favourite species include codling, flatfish & rays, bull huss, bass, tope, smoothhound and black bream.

Small Boat FishingMaking the jump to owning a small boat is a big step, not to mention quite a large investment, but there are lots of private angling boat clubs, facilities and competitions throughout the UK and Ireland, where help and advice can be found. The Royal Yachting Association’s seaman ship and boat handling courses (and their associated publications) should be the first port of call for any novice boat user. To get over the financial stumbling block of owning a small boat, many anglers form ownership syndicates – joining forces with two or three other like-minded anglers to afford the initial cost and annual fees.

One great advantage of owning a small boat which can be kept on a trailer is that, if the weather is too rough to set to sea, there are many places inland to launch and fish for freshwater predators, like Pike.

Charter Boat Fishing (Offshore)
The easiest way to get afloat fishing is to book a licensed, professional charter boat and charter skipper. Every day of the year, charter-boats depart from ports all around our coastlines in search of the best fishing for their customers. The list of species that UK charter boats target is extensive and many boats offer a fishing style instead, often named after the type of seabed marks that you will be fishing over. These are self explanatory – Wreck, Reef, Sandbank, Mixed Ground and Shark fishing etc. Some of the charter angler’s favourite species include pollack, cod, conger, ling, bass, flatfish, bream, tope and larger sharks. 

Charter Boat FishingBooking yourself onto a charter trip is quite simple. All the Sea Fishing monthly magazines have a classified advertising section towards the rear of the magazine, where many charter fishing operations advertise under each ports heading. and are a great online source of UK charter fishing operations, too. Pick a port, and a boat you like, then give the skipper a call to discuss what type of fishing they can offer. Many skippers will specialise in certain types of fishing and species. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

UK Charter fishing offers the sea angler increased chances of big fish. With Conger eels, Common Skate and certain species of shark growing to well over 100lbs, no other form of UK angling can boast the chance of “ton up” indigenous species!

Kayak Fishing
Kayak FishingKayak fishing has really taken off in the last decade and is a rapidly growing side of UK saltwater boat angling. The Kayak offers the sea angler the chance to get afloat and explore the waters away from the coast, just like any other boat angler, but in an eco-friendly manner without the investment of a big boat. There are many Kayaks available in the UK manufactured especially for sea angling, which have bait storage facilities, rod holders, fitted tackle boxes and even GPS navigators and fish-finders. The Kayak angler generally targets the same grounds and species as the small boat angler, however there are a hardcore of experienced and professional Kayak anglers who will push further offshore and target big species, with getting towed around by your quarry as part of the fight!

Well there you have it, three completely different styles of boat fishing to take your pick from. Employ a professional skipper and charter boat – have the world at your fingertips with your own small boat – or perhaps enjoy the water from an eco-friendly/adrenalin packed kayak?

Next instalment, I’ll start looking at some saltwater species and some of the best ways and places to target them from both boat and shore. 

Jim O’Donnell
Angling guide, fishing journo & photographer
Website (currently under reconstruction)

Jim also runs a successful holiday operation organizing package fishing holidays to the sport fishing capital of the world, the Florida Keys. If the prospect of catching huge Tarpon, Bonefish and Permit excites you, why not join Jim in the Florida Keys? Check out his Florida Holiday website at