What to Catch


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Bass (European)

Date updated: September 2013

Season: All year

Socio-economic Importance: Being a higher value fish a lot of effort is placed upon bass during the summer months by both sport anglers and commercial fishermen.

Ecological Importance:  Key predator when inshore in the estuaries and along the coast during summer months.

Where commercial bass fishing is allowed (subject to restrictions):

From 1 January 2017 you may only use certain fishing methods to fish for or retain bass as a by-catch when operating in the areas below:

Sea area International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) division
North Sea IVb, IVc
Channel VIId, VIIe
Celtic Sea VIIf, VIIg* (inside the 12nm limit only)
Irish Sea VIIa* (inside the 12nm limit only)
South West Approaches VIIh

Subject to having a track record in the fishery, you are only permitted to catch and retain bass with the following gears:

  • fixed gillnets;
  • hooks and lines;
  • demersal trawls and seines.

You are not allowed to catch and retain bass with any other gears, including drift nets. Commercial fisheries from the shore are also prohibited.

Track Records and authorisation:

Your vessel will have a track record if there is a record of bass landings during the period 1 July 2015 to 30 September 2016.

You will be issued an authorisation by your fisheries administration notifying you of the gear(s) you are allowed to use.

If you receive a letter stating you have no authorisation to fish for bass, then you are not allowed to catch, retain, trans-ship or land bass. You must return any bass to the sea immediately.

Fixed gillnets:

Only vessels with a record of catching bass with fixed gillnets during the track record period are permitted to retain bass as a bycatch when fishing with fixed gillnets.

You may retain up to 250kg of bass per month as an unavoidable bycatch when targeting other species.

Hooks and lines:

Only vessels with a record of catching bass with hooks and lines during the track record period are permitted to retain bass when fishing with hooks and lines.

You may retain up to 10 tonnes of bass during the period 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017. It is prohibited to catch and retain bass with hooks and lines in February and March.

Demersal trawls and seines:

Only vessels that have recorded catches of bass during the track record period may retain bass when fishing with demersal trawls and seines.

You may retain bass up to 3% of the total weight of marine organisms retained on board per day as an unavoidable bycatch. This is up to a maximum of 400kg per month.

Fishing gear:

You may only use one authorised fishing gear per trip when retaining bass on board.

Summary of commercial catch limits

 Vessels with authorisations:

Fixed Nets Demersal Trawls and Seines Hooks and Lines
Fishery Restrictions Unavoidable by-catch fishery only Unavoidable by-catch fishery only. Maximum 3% by weight of all marine organisms per day. Closed February and March
Maximum catch limit 250kg per month 400kg per month 10 tonnes per year

Vessels without authorisations:

All other gears (including drift nets) and vessels without authorisations
All bass catches prohibited

 Commercial shore fisheries:

Commercial shore fisheries
All bass catches prohibited.

Bass and the landing obligation:

The landing obligation applies to commercial fisheries.

 Pelagic landing obligation:

You must discard all bass caught when using pelagic gears as fishing for bass is prohibited.

 Demersal landing obligation:

The demersal landing obligation is being gradually phased in but does not currently apply to bass in 2017. It will apply to bass in all fisheries no later than 2019. This means that you must discard all bass unless you are fishing using fixed nets, demersal trawls and seines or hooks and lines in accordance with your authorisation.

If you are fishing using a gear specified in your authorisation you must discard fish below the Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) and any fish in excess of your permitted by-catch. Once you have reached your monthly bycatch or annual catch limit then you must not retain any bass.

Recreational fishing for bass

If you are a recreational fisherman in the North Sea and Western waters you are subject to the limitations below:

Sea area ICES division 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2017 1 July 2017 to 31 December 2017
North Sea IVb, IVc Catch and release only 1 bass per fisherman per day
East Channel VIId, VIIe Catch and release only 1 bass per fisherman per day
Celtic Sea VIIf, VIIg Catch and release only 1 bass per fisherman per day
Irish Sea VIIa Catch and release only 1 bass per fisherman per day
South West approaches VIIh Catch and release only 1 bass per fisherman per day
West of Ireland VIIj, VIIk 1 bass per fisherman per day 1 bass per fisherman per day

These catch limits apply whether you are fishing from a vessel or the shore.

If you have any queries please contact your local marine office.



Minimum sizes:

Legal Minimum Size: 42cm

Average Breeding Size: 46cm

Where and when to catch them:

Generally regarded as a summer species, bass spend the first four years or so of their lives in shallow, warmer water, generally in estuaries, where they are often caught as ‘schoolies’.

When they mature bass move out of nursery areas and down to the winter spawning grounds before returning as adults in the spring, coming inshore as the crabs begin to moult.

They can be caught practically anywhere in estuaries and on the coast, often moving a long way up rivers and feeding on coarse fish.

Boat fishermen look for features on the sea bed such as wrecks, reefs and gullies where bass tend to wait and ambush prey such as whitebait, sandeels and small fish.

They can often be spotted feeding around the legs of our local piers and jetties.

What tackle to use:

Almost every method will catch bass, bottom gear, lures, float-fishing, fly-fishing.
Often regarded as a sports fish they will give the best account of themselves on the lightest tackle that suits the conditions being fished.

A typical day on a boat after Bass could involve a short session on a wreck or reef with feathers and lures followed by a bottom fishing session near a sand bank or gully with peeler crab or even a head of a fresh Mackerel for those bigger fish.

What bait is best to use:

Bass will take almost any bait. Lures and legal-sized live-baits do best in high summer and bottom fished baits such as peeler crab, ragworm and fresh mackerel in the autumn.

Best conditions for catching them:

The bigger bass will move inshore under the cover of darkness, with dawn and dusk favored by specimen hunters.  In summer they will be chasing whitebait and mackerel shoals close inshore. Look for surface activity and gulls sweeping down to join the melee.

Positioning yourself in a gully ready for the boat to turn on the first of the flood can be very productive. Move closer to shore as the fish move in with the tide.


Bass will usually survive if they are handled carefully.