What to Catch


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Bass (European)

Date updated: May 2021

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.

Recreational bass regulations for ICES areas in the KEIFCA district (IVc and VIId):

1 January 2021- 29 February 2021 and 1 – 31 December 2021, only catch-and-release fishing with a rod or a handline for European seabass shall be allowed. During those periods, it shall be prohibited to retain, relocate, tranship or land European seabass
(a) 1 March 2021 – 30 November 2021, not more than two specimens of European seabass may be caught and retained per fisherman per day; the minimum size of European seabass retained shall be 42 cm. No bass can be taken by fixed nets. These rules apply if you are fishing from a boat or from the shore

North Sea                                   IVb, IVc
Channel                                      VIId, VIIe
Celtic Sea                                    VIIf, VIIg*
Irish Sea                                      VIIa*
South West Approaches          VIIh
(*Inside UK 12nm limit only)

Commercial bass regulations for ICES areas in the KEIFCA district (IVc and VIId):

(a) demersal trawls: unavoidable by-catches not exceeding 520 kilogrammes per two months and 5 % weight of total catches of marine organisms on board caught by that vessel per fishing trip
(b) seines: same as demersal trawls
(c) hooks and lines: not exceeding 5.7 tonnes per vessel per year
(d) fixed gillnets: unavoidable by-catches not exceeding 1.4 tonnes per vessel per year


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.