Cornwall has some of the best fishing in the UK and dozens of proudly-kept fishing vessels for group or individual hire. Mevagissey is the fishing hub of South Cornwall but there are other good options for charter boats from Newquay, Falmouth and St Ives among other places. Trips tend to be focused on wreck fishing, shark fishing or mackerel fishing. You won’t find very many boats that go trolling since we don’t have big game species in the UK except as rare visitors, like the odd bluefin tuna.
Book a trip, bring your sun cream, hat and a warm jumper and the skipper will take care of everything else. Modern boats use fish finders and high grade devices for detecting bad weather, so you’re in safe hands. Fishing kit is provided, and some boats sell snacks and drinks on board. Bring your kids if you like, everyone is welcome regardless of previous experience on most boats.
There are dozens of species that are regularly caught on deep sea fishing trips but there are some slimy faces you will see again and again. Cornwall benefits from high levels of exposure from the gulf stream which brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico and with it the occasional exotic species that ventures beyond its Mediterranean home. In the 1800 killer whales were sighted regularly out of Mevagissey and were called ‘grampus’ by the locals, but these left with the pilchard. Mevagissey has a variety of fish species and its fish trading market has a great variety of fish species. Here are just some of the species you might catch.
The Cod Family
The mainstay of UK wreck fishing are pollack, ling and conger – you’ll see these slimy faces a lot. The full variety however can seem endless. On the very short trips from harbours you can expect only to catch mackerel. These trips are great for kids and for providing for BBQ’s. On longer wreck fishing trips you get into the bigger fish, and on shark fishing trips you get into the monster fish. The pictures speak for themselves.
The delicious white-fleshed cod family is very large and includes most of the fish you’re very likely to catch on a UK boat fishing trip. Ling, pollack, coal fish, poor cod, pouting, haddock and of course cod are all in the family of Gadidae, or codfish. These are the fish that make you glad you can keep your catch on boat fishing trips and make you wish you owned a bigger freezer.
Rays, Flatties & Groundsharks
These fish are related only in the sense that you’re likely to catch them using the same tactic – bottom fishing. Groundshark species include catshark species like dogfish and bull huss as well as the more convincingly shark-like tope and smooth hound. In the UK we have all kinds of ray and skate species and flat fish like plaice and flounder too. But, alas, whatever you’ve hooked is probably just another dogfish! (as it can sometimes feel)
Conger eels are one of the highlight species of UK boat fishing for their meaty size and fighting power. Being able to swim reverse and living inside shipwrecks gives targeting them certain challenges, but it’s amazing how many congers are turned out on cornish boat trips. These elongated meatheads might not be as exotic or tasty as a tuna or marlin but they’re a serious fish nonetheless.
Blue sharks, porbeagles and thresher can be caught far off shore in Cornwall. These will be released and sometimes tagged for conservation purposes. These aren’t the only shark species in the UK (see above), but they’re the one’s people think of because they have actual shark-teeth and don’t live exclusively on the bottom.
Deep-sea Fishing Techniques
Most Cornish boat trips begin by getting the motor going and whizzing miles out to sea to reach deeper water where the larger fish species lurk. The skipper will know where wrecks are and these spots are often targeted because fish really like living near underwater structure. If you think of the sea like a desert, these places are like the only buildings in a large expanse of desert, and many species congregate in these old wrecks.
Drift fishing most commonly refers to dropping lures to the bottom and drifting in a boat over a wreck without an anchor down. The angler reels the lure in and repeatedly drops the lure back down again so that it’s creating a zigzag pattern through the water column near the wreck. It’s very easy to do and often the skipper will advise you how much to reel in, depending on the depth the fish are at.
Jigging can refer to the process of sharply raising your rod before allowing the lure to sink back down again in a static boat. This is how you fish for squid from boats, but is otherwise not all that common compared to drift fishing. More typically, jigging refers to the method of letting your lure sink through the water column, retrieving and repeating with a vertical line. It’s the method best suited to being combined with drift fishing.
Using fixed weights on the bottom is the method used to target species like congers and rays. You’ll use a stinky bait or live bait and wait for a tug.
Shark fishing is all about getting the water bloody and stinky with a chum trail and then getting a big float out there with a shark sized bait on it. Blue sharks are the most common target and porbeagles and threshers are caught on occasion.
Sea Sickness Advice
The simplest things you can do to avoid getting seasick are to go on a boat that doesn’t have a flat bottom, in the summertime, when the weather forecast is good. You should also aim to get a good night’s sleep before the trip. You can also avoid alcohol and rich food before the trip and avoid sitting near the engine where you might breathe in fumes. Some people also swear by ginger. If you’re unsure if you are going to get sick you could take a short 2-4 hour trip rather than a longer one to find out. Staying hydrated is also important.
If you’re going to use pills, it should be noted that they aren’t all the same in terms of strength or how they work, so you want to get the right ones. Based on my research, the most reliable one’s are also the strongest and hardest to get hold of and come with side effects of full-on drowsiness. Over the counter pills still work for many people.
- scopolamine (transdermal patches, Transderm-Scop)
- dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)
- meclizine (Antivert, Bonine, Meni-D, Antrizine)
- promethazine (Phenergan, Phenadoz, Promethegan)
- diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- cyclizine (Marezine)
In my personal experience, how sea-sicky the experience is depends heavily on whether the boat will be largely moving or at anchor/drifting. When the boat is moving, some people have no problems at all.
First-time Anglers & Families
Boat fishing with an experienced skipper is quite easy and you don’t need prior experience. It’s ok to make a fool of yourself and the fish won’t mind – don’t be surprised if it’s a 13 year old that hooks the best catch of the day. The truth is, most of the skill in boat fishing is operating the boat and knowing where to go, with what lures, at what depth, at what time, on what tide etc. In other words, the skipper has skill and experience so you don’t need so much. Just be sure that if you don’t know much, you know you don’t know much and ask questions and listen carefully to the skipper.
It’s an opportunity that can’t be missed for people new to angling, young kids and young families. If you’re hesitant to go, try a simple 2 hour mackerel trip or choose one of the shorter 4 hour trips rather than a 6-8 hour one.
What do you wear to go deep sea fishing?
In summer it’s fairly straight forward so long as you have sturdy shoes or wellies. Consider bringing plenty of warm clothing that dries easily. Waterproofs can be useful. A sun hat and sunscreen will have you cruising out to sea well prepared and avoiding the cooked lobster look! Remember that in summer it can be much cooler than you expect in a boat, especially on longer trips. Avoid flip flops and go for something more sturdy and that won’t slip all over the wet surfaces on a boat. You can always message the skipper before your trip to get an idea of what conditions to expect and what to wear.
Dangers of deep sea fishing
The sea is extraordinarily dangerous and deaths in the fishing industry are fairly common, especially compared to other modern occupations. This, however, is mostly because commercial fishermen are using nets, trawling equipment and are out in all kinds of difficult conditions. The other major cause of problems at sea is overconfidence and a lack of awareness of safety risks.
There’s no reason to be concerned about safety with a reliable skipper. Thanks to modern equipment and forecasting you’re extraordinarily unlikely to ever get stuck in a storm on a charter boat trip. Managing your own boat comes with all kinds of risks and is a different matter. Most skippers have also worked in the fishing industry or are so used to boats that they drift over their local wrecks in their sleep!
How much does it cost?
2019 prices for two hour mackerel trips are usually about £10-15 and you can fill your boots with fish for the BBQ. 4 hour deep sea wreck fishing boat trips cost more like £30-50 per head or about £300 to hire a whole boat for 10. Longer trips can cost about £50-90 each.
How far out do you go?
Mackerel trips are best suited for those that want to stay close to shore as there’s no need for them to go far out. These kinds of trips cater more to families and so they often offer trips that are part sightseeing and part fishing.
Deep sea wreck fishing trips will be between 2-30 miles offshore, probably somewhere between 5-15 miles. Shark fishing in the UK always involves getting into deep water.
Weather & Cancellations
It can be worth checking what the cancellation policy is before booking a trip, typically it will involve your trip being postponed or your ticket exchangeable for a trip on another day. A decent skipper isn’t going to go ahead with the trip if the weather conditions are too poor, but if you’re a fair weather angler you can always check the weather yourself and go for a last minute booking to try and get the best conditions.