Starting Out Sea Fishing

Firstly, I had better start by introducing myself and telling you a little about what I do and what you’re about to read. Some of you may know me, but I’m guessing quite a few of you wont! My name is Jim O’Donnell, I’m 37 and I’ve been fishing for roughly 32 years.

My angling life started at about the age of 4-5, turning stones for Bullheads and netting Sticklebacks in the streams throughout Oxfordshire where I was born and raised. Hands and nets turned into rods and reels… and throughout my younger years and teens, coarse fishing was my main love, although I dabbled with sea fishing on every family holiday.

Jim O’DonnellIn the early 90’s, my parents retired to Devon and I immediately took up sea fishing – how could you resist? In the mid 90’s (my 20’s) by a strange twist of fate, I decided to leave my job and seek a career as a charter skipper, taking people boat angling – a lucky move and one that would change my life forever. My boat “The Tiburon” became one of the most famous boats in the UK for that time, and by another strange twist of fate, I soon found myself doing something that I hated at school… writing! But not just any old writing – writing and photographing for angling magazines! I now write in the region of 60-100 features per year for the paper monthlies and online websites, these include Boat Fishing Monthly, Total Sea Fishing and I’ve also managed to get my ugly mug on TV a couple of times, and I’ve also written five books, aimed predominantly at sea anglers.

Today, I still coarse fish and I still sea fish, both boat and shore, but I don’t run a charter boat in the UK any more. Again, by yet another strange twist of fate, I now have a boat in the Sports Fishing Capital of the World, the Florida Keys, and I organize holidays there for UK and European anglers targeting such niceties as massive Tarpon, Bonefish and Permit. The rest of my work here in the UK though, still comprises of angling journalism, writing books and photography, which like all my fishing, I love dearly! So I guess it really needs no introduction… I shall be writing sea fishing articles for you guys! I hope you can put up with me!!

So lets get started…! Well, that may as well be my title, too, because firstly I’m going to look at what sea fishing is all about and, over the next few articles I write, I’m going to concentrate on the basics for those of you who have never sea fished, and for those of you who know very little about UK saltwater sports fishing. But what makes sea fishing so different from coarse and game fishing?

Sea fishing is no different from coarse or game fishing in lots of ways. Many sea anglers fish for peace and quiet, others fish for food, while many other sea anglers’ fish for the buzz of chasing specimen fish, while others fish competitively.

Jim O’DonnellWith sea fish being quite tasty, it will come as no surprise to you that the roots of sea fishing are in food-source fishing and not sport, but today this is not the case. Modern tackle, gadgets and computer-brained equipment (boys toys) have pushed UK Sea angling into the new millennium. Conservation is now paramount and most anglers fish for sport and only take the odd fish home for the table, returning the rest in good health to perhaps be caught again another day.

Currently, sea angling is a growing area of our sport as a whole and yearly, more and more anglers are discovering the excitement of sea angling – shore fishing, boat fishing and fishing overseas. Whether it’s from a pier, rock, beach, private or charter boat, lots of anglers find themselves hooked by the awesomeness of the sea, by the size of the fish that can be caught from it, and by the fact that, generally speaking, unlike coarse and game fishing, with sea fishing you definitely really do not know what you’re going to hook – it throws up more surprises than any other discipline of fishing! But the main differences that make sea fishing very different from coarse and game fishing (forgetting the different tackle and tactics for a second) are three things...

1) To date, UK recreational sea anglers do not require any license or permit to fish. 

2) All sea anglers have an added natural element to deal with as well as the weather and that is tides!

3) And finally and most importantly… all sea fish are not constrained to the lengths of a river or by the banks of a lake or pond.

To sum up… sea angling is about as wild and unpredictable as it gets. If you’re looking for a new challenge from your fishing, or perhaps a taste of adventure, sea fishing is where it’s at!

Next time, we’ll take a brief look at the different types of UK shore fishing, what they are all about, what you’ll need, and what you might hope to catch!



Name: Jim O’Donnell
Angling guide, fishing journo, writer & photographer
Website: (currently under reconstruction)
Catch up with Jim on Facebook:

Jim O’Donnell

To find out more about Jim’s Florida Keys fishing holidays check out: