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Freshwater / Coarse Fishing or Sea Fishing?

Updated on August 31, 2014
Me with my Personal Best, "Neal" a Ghost Carp 30 lb. I have caught 'Neal' at several weights from 23 lb up to 30 lb.
Me with my Personal Best, "Neal" a Ghost Carp 30 lb. I have caught 'Neal' at several weights from 23 lb up to 30 lb.
Linear Carp
Linear Carp
Grass Carp
Grass Carp
Grass Carp
Grass Carp
Linear Carp
Linear Carp
Guernsey Island Record Rudd
Guernsey Island Record Rudd
Ghost Carp
Ghost Carp

Coarse Fishing Versus Sea Fishing

An interesting argument, as both coarse and sea fishing have different things to offer. Living on the Channel Island of Guernsey where coarse fishing is very rare, and everyone tends to sea fish, I frequently find myself posed such questions as:

Why should I pay to coarse fish when I have to return the fish to the water, yet if I sea fish it is free and I can take my fish home with me?

What is the point in coarse fishing, as if you sit by a lake long enough surely you will catch every fish in there, large or small?

What is coarse fishing, I have never heard of it?

Once I choke down my initial reaction of wanting to physically shake some sense into these Neanderthals, I compose myself and give the following answers.

Firstly not everyone eats fish, and there seems little point in fishing all day to catch and keep a load of fish that are likely to end up in either your dustbin or your cat. The reason the coarse fish are returned to the water is that the whole aim of coarse fishing is to outwit your opponent, i.e. the fish, and hopefully catch one big enough and healthy enough to warrant a photo of you, the proud angler, holding his trophy. If you persevere long enough your aim will be to break records by catching the heaviest of any one species that has ever been caught, either as an Island, a UK or even a world record. Other anglers will opt to enter matches, where the overall weight of your total catch will determine whether you win the competition or not. In the latter instance a winning weight can be made up of many smaller fish, rather than larger specimens.

This sport is highly challenging, especially as fish such as Carp (who usually attain the greatest coarse fish weights), are phenomenally intelligent, and quickly learn which baits look suspicious, which baits to avoid, and will even spot the silhouette of anglers fishing on the banks and know to avoid any bait that is in the area nearby. It is far from uncommon to sit for days by a lake or river and not get a single bite, yet I know few coarse anglers who would complain about this, as the surroundings are usually so peaceful and relaxing that the experience was worth the lack of results.

With sea fishing you are highly dependant on tides and weather. You may have to scramble over dangerous rocks to reach the perfect spot to fish, all whilst carrying large amounts of fishing tackle, however, with coarse fishing there are no tides, you can usually park fairly nearby, carry your tackle to your chosen fishing swim, and either set up a fishing umbrella or a small tent called a "bivvie" so that you are not only sheltered from the weather, but can also fish for multiple days at a time if you wish to with no fear of any tide coming in! You will have the option of using comfortable seat boxes or carp chairs, something not very practical when sea fishing unless you are fishing from a boat.

One of the nicest luxuries is the option to have a camping stove so that you can have hot food whilst you are on your fishing trip. Imagine waking up early on a Summer's morning and being able to cook yourself bacon and eggs whilst sitting in the great outdoors listening to the birds singing and watching all the other wildlife going about their daily business. Some venues will allow you to have BBQ or a campfire in certain areas, which is in itself magical, and ensures a fabulous atmosphere.

As most coarse fishing venues are usually inland, and often in leafy wooded areas or parks, you will normally find this type of fishing is far more sheltered than sea fishing, with many more interesting wildlife and flower species to watch whilst you wait for a fish to take your bait.

It may be true to say that if you sat by a lake long enough eventually you would catch every fish it contained, but this is not as straightforward as the sea fisherman often think. Some Carp species go for years between the occasions they are caught, even in relatively small lakes. Usually these are the fish that end up being nicknamed, based on markings, size, etc. The most elusive Carp are usually the largest, and bearing in mind these fish can live for decades I am guessing they have continued to learn how "not to get caught" throughout their growing life.

As for what coarse fishing is, I think my other answers usually pretty much cover it, but to summarise I would have to say that coarse fishing is a hobby, an activity or a pastime that any age or sex can enjoy. It is healthy, cheaper than spending the evening in the pub and a great way of relaxing after a stressful working week. I try to explain to people that coarse fishing is now the largest UK sport, and that the beauty of it is that you put the fish back, gently and unharmed so that they go on to live full lives and breed successfully. I also attempt to convey to people the excitement of seeing your float go under, or your rod tip bend round, the adrenalin rush you feel when your bite alarm starts beeping uncontrollably as a fish charges off with your bait and the thrill of trying to play the fish and land it before it escapes and sparks off another "one that got away" legend. I appeal to non-anglers love of the great outdoors, and describe the idyllic scenery, the wildlife and the fresh air. I challenge their competitive spirit by explaining about records that are there to be broken, and yet all too often I still receive blank looks, and the non-comprehension of a person who has never felt the rush of excitement that follows knowing they have hooked a fish, especially a large Carp.

I think Mick Brown the TV angler (usually seen with Matt Hayes on such programmes as "The Great Rod Race" etc) summed it up pretty well when he emailed me regarding our Guernsey Fishing Lake, he said:

"'With the wealth of sea fishing available around the beautiful island of Guernsey, why should anyone want to go coarse fishing there either when on holiday or if living locally? As a I am primarily a coarse angler I could say the same about sea fishing. The fact is that each discipline offers something very different and very rewarding. I would never have missed out on either. If you have never tried coarse fishing, I suggest that you find out what I mean! The atmosphere is different, quiet and tranquil, that is until you hook a carp when you really find out what its like to play a hard fighting fish on gear that is both sporting and a pleasure to use. You can now enjoy both styles of fishing on Guernsey but don't blame me if you fall in love with still-water fishing and hang up your sea rods!

kind regards Mick Brown."

Les Rouvets Lake in Guernsey

Les Rouvets Lake in Guernsey
Les Rouvets Lake in Guernsey

How much is this hobby going to cost me?

The basic equipment for coarse fishing need not break the bank balance, although if you take up this activity on a regular basis you can spend a substantial amount of money on brand named tackle such as "Shimano", "Daiwa" etc.

You can usually purchase a beginners kit from a tackle shop, that will include a basic rod and reel, some floats, weights, hooks etc. These kind of kits are usually around £40 - £50, but be warned, they are very basic. Some fishing lakes may be in a position to lend you tackle until you see if this is a hobby you wish to pursue, or you may have a friend who already has spare tackle and is willing to go with you the first few times and show you the basics.

What you will need as an absolute minimum, is a rod, reel, line, hooks (preferably barbless), split shot (small weights for your line), larger weights for leger fishing, floats, a landing net, an unhooking mat, a disgorger,(small tool for removing hooks from fish's mouths), not to mentionbait of course. This may sound like a lot of equipment, but much of it is small and cheap to buy, especially if you use places such as ebay. Ultimately the most expensive investments are likely to be your rod, reel and landing net.

Later on you may choose to expand your equipment and purchase a good quality seat box (which will also hold most of your tackle), rod rests, bite alarms, a bivvie (small tent for overnight fishing), a camping stove, a fishing umbrella, torches etc.

Bait is easy, as most of it you already have in your kitchen cupboards, sweetcorn, bread flake, kidney beans, cheese, luncheon meat etc. In your garden you have worms and slugs which are also very successful baits. If you go to your local fishing tackle shop they can usually sell you casters (the crysalis of maggots), a variety of different coloured live maggots, various boiliesand artificial lures etc. Again, many boilies and artificial baits can be purchased online very cheaply.

In the UK it is essential you have a rod licence before you fish, and this is £25 for an adult per year for coarse fishing. Prices vary depending on the anglers age and number of rods used, type of fishing etc. In the Channel Islands there is no requirement to hold a rod licence.

Depending on whether you opt to actually become a member of a syndicate fishery, or simply buy day tickets each time you wish to fish, you can spend a varying amount of money. To become a member of a syndicate could cost anything from a couple of hundred pounds a year to over a thousand. Day ticket prices range from four or five pounds up to thirty or forty pounds per day, and this can be for a period of anything between twelve and twenty four hours depending on if the venue allows night fishing or not.

This should be more or less all the costs you will encounter, but do be aware this is a very addictive hobby, and before you know it you will be buying angling magazines that tempt you with all the latest tackle, gadgets and baits to improve your success. It is very easy to spend a lot more money than you ever intended on this destressing pastime, but definitely worth it.

Before you decide to give this sport a try, why not get a feel for it by walking along your local riverbank, or taking a stroll around the lake in your local park. Talk to the anglers fishing the waters and ask them why they do it and what they get out of it. Spend a little time watching "Discovery Real Time" on Sky, and look out for such programmes as "The Great Rod Race" and "The Greater Rod Race", with Matt Hayes and Mick Brown. Their enthusiasm will soon rub off on you, and they will provide loads of helpful advice and tips to ensure your future success.

I truly hope this article has explained why we coarse fish, and how little suffering is caused in the process. The hooks we use in coarse fishing are usually barbless thesedays and a fraction of the size of sea fishing hooks, (probably no larger than a ladies stud earring). The fish are released after photographing and weighing, and go on to live long and healthy lives (often for many decades). A true coarse angler has a great deal of respect for the fish they catch, and treat them incredibly gently because they want them to survive and breed future generations to ensure quality of fish for the future anglers.

This is truly a sport that everyone should try, if for no other reason than to enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of the great outdoors.


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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Boilies, you just need to persuade her to have a go so that she too becomes addicted :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Certainly is Misyhorizon i have been fishing for 18 years now and make i go every weekend, although the wife is now starting to get a little annoyed :(

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Carp Fishing Tackle, it is an addictive hobby once you catch your first fish I know. :)

    • profile image

      Carp Fishing Tackle 

      8 years ago

      Fantastic write up, i have been coarse fishing now for several years, my grandad first introduced me and have been hooked since.

      I have done my fair share of sea fishing but just cant seem to get the hang of it, think i will stick to the commercials.

      Thanks, Andrew.

    • Health Conscious profile image

      Health Conscious 

      11 years ago from South Florida - USA

      Your course fishing sounds a lot like my trips to the farthest point of the continental US and sitting on the bank for 3 days. Nothing like it.Everglades National Park campground.

      We were catching redfish about the size of the carp in your first picture. My wildest fish caught came from that spot. A saw tooth shark.


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