Shore Fishing in Newquay
The town of Newquay in Cornwall needs little introduction. A magnet for surfers, partiers and families alike, the place offers many things to many people. Whether the town lives up to its mighty reputation is a matter of opinion but what is fact is that Newquay offers something other than its beautiful beaches and its potential for Saturday night debauchery: decent sea fishing. With a broad range of environments crammed into a short stretch of coastline, the Newquay area gives the shore angler plenty of meat to chew on, with boat anglers also well catered for by a choice of charters working out of the town harbour.
The shore fishing in Newquay used to be considered among the best that the county had to offer. When I started sea fishing in the mid 1990s, it was normal for the rocks to be lined with anglers every day and night of the week. Now the area is much quieter, with marks that would have once been jostled for daily now left unfished for weeks at a time. But that doesn’t mean that there is no good fishing left to be had at them any more. Newquay, like every area in Cornwall nowadays, can be very patchy but there are still fantastic rewards out there for getting everything right.
So whether you are visiting the town on holiday or you have moved to the area to work or study, be in no doubt that there is worthwhile shore fishing in Newquay all year round and for anglers of all abilities. What is missing, however, is an up-to-date guide on the popular marks and what you need to do to stay safe and (hopefully) catch a fish or two from them. So let me fill that gap and get you up to speed on the shore fishing prospects available in the Newquay area. I’ll cover the area from Crantock beach to the south of the town, to Whipsiderry beach to the north. I’ve previously covered the well-known venue of Watergate Bay in another article which you can read here.
Crantock and the Gannel Estuary
The long sandy beach at Crantock is comparatively lightly fished these days but is definitely worth a shot, especially for bass. Hotspots are at the south end where there is a strong rip tide that runs parallel to the rocks. The rocks themselves are a comfortable option to fish here and also lend themselves well to lure fishing. Further out, the ground becomes rougher and there are wrasse to be found. At the north end, the Gannel estuary empties into the bay and this is a good spot to try from the beach on an incoming tide. The rocks at this end of the bay offer easy fishing and there are several known bass fishing spots to be found. Other than bass, species you are likely to encounter in Crantock bay include flounder, turbot, weever fish, ballan wrasse and thick lipped mullet.
The estuary of the river Gannel is also lightly fished nowadays but still worthy of attention. Fishing with bait in the lower reaches produces bass. These are generally on the small side but bigger fish are on the cards. The winter is definitely worth a try for good-sized thick lipped mullet with the chance of flounder on the bottom.
Where is it and what is it like? This mark is found at the north end of Crantock not far from the end of Pentire Headland. The rockline curves in and forms a natural cove with two partially submerged rocks making up the seaward end.
Tactics: This is a hotspot for bass and casting close to the more southerly of the two rocks directly in front of you should put your bait in their patrol path. It’s also worth fishing at short range as the fish will come in right under your feet. A 2-4oz bass rod matched to a suitable reel is best for bait fishing, with a running leger being the rig of choice. Lure fishing can also score well. This spot has fished best for me on a medium tide, from an hour or so into the ebb down to an hour or so before low water (or the corresponding period on the flood). It fishes well in a nice little choppy surf, preferably with a tinge of colour to the water.
Species: Bass, bass and more bass! You could also encounter weever fish here so take care not to handle them. Flatfish are also a possibility and mullet do pass by and could be targeted.
Baits: Lugworm and live sandeel are the baits that I’ve used most successfully here. Peeler crab will also work well.
General tips: Salt Cove is a great choice if you just want to catch a few bass, regardless of size. It does produce a high proportion of undersize bass so make sure you are up to date on the latest regulations regarding minimum size and how many sizeable fish you are allowed to retain, should you catch some. Parking is in the main car park near the Lewinnick Lodge.
Safety advice: Salt Cove is a relatively comfortable mark with pretty easy access so it’s not a bad place for younger, older or less experienced anglers. Just take care to keep a safe distance from the sea and watch out for any larger waves. As with all the rock marks on this page, strong, grippy footwear is an absolute must and wearing an auto inflate life vest is always a good idea.
The headland at Pentire between Crantock and Fistral bay is Newquay’s best overall option for rough ground fishing. It’s particularly well known for wrasse, with fish over 8lbs having been caught here in the past. Divers and spear fishermen occasionally report sightings of huge ballans so they are still present, although the average size is generally 2-3lb with a 4lb+ fish being a good one. Other than wrasse, the typical rock dwellers like pollack, conger, bull huss and rockling all frequent the area, although the pollack are usually pretty small these days. Spinning and float fishing can also find bass, mackerel and garfish so there is a fairly broad range of species to go at and several methods to choose from.
There are numerous places to fish along the north facing side of the headland and at its outer point. Generally speaking, the further inside you go towards the Lewinnick Lodge, the less tackle-hungry the ground gets. Just slightly inside of the pub, the ground changes from rough to clean and you can fish tight to the hard ground and still pick up fish like huss but without losing too much gear. Further out, the ground is very snaggy and you can expect substantial tackle losses fishing on the bottom. There is every chance of a decent conger or huss after dark, although I’ve never done particularly well here for them myself.
Tactics: You can fish for the wrasse with a range of gear, from relatively heavy outfits with multipliers down to HRF style lure fishing kit. The wrasse here respond well to lures when they’re in the right mood. Heavier gear is needed for the bottom fishing for huss and congers. Make sure your kit is strong enough to land fish potentially up to 20lbs plus. There is always a chance of a sizeable pollack, bass or even a cod on these kinds of venues so you’ll be glad of the beefy gear if and when you come to land such a fish. Spinning gear for bass, mackerel and gars, with a little heavier outfit good for float fishing. This is also a decent place to fish with LRF tackle as there are a few quiet bays. Don’t be surprised to be regularly beaten up by chunkier wrasse though!
Species: Ballan and corkwing wrasse, bull huss, conger, rockling, pollack, bass, mackerel and gars.
Baits: Ragworm and crabs for the wrasse, fish and squid baits for the bottom fishing. A belly strip of mackerel on a float will attract mackerel, pollack and gars.
General tips: Pentire tends to fish its best over high tide. If you are wrasse fishing, it can be a good idea to adopt a ‘roving’ approach, trying as many different spots as possible and dropping your baits into any likely areas you find. Generally, if the wrasse are interested, you’ll get bites very quickly. Use large baits for bottom fishing for the other species as most of them have large mouths and a bigger bait will last longer. You will still catch even relatively small fish like three bearded rockling on big offerings. Parking is the same as for Salt Cove.
Safety advice: Pentire can catch a lot of swell and the steep climbs to reach most of the marks makes this a venue better suited to anglers with some rock fishing experience. Good footwear is a must and you need to tread very carefully if the conditions are wet. Look out for black rocks with flat surfaces as these types are very slick in the damp and can catch you out. I would strongly recommend wearing a life vest at this venue, especially if you are less experienced with rock fishing.
Fistral Beach is arguably the UK’s most famous surfing spot but the beach and the bay in general can also produce some good fishing. Fistral is probably best known as a bass venue and many good specimens have been caught here over the years. There’s far more species to go at than just bass, however, so let’s explore the area in more detail.
Found on the inside of Pentire Headland, this cove has a couple of accessible marks that are quite handy for bass lure fishing or light legering with bait. They generally fish well around the mid-tide period either on the flood or ebb with a small surf. I’ve also caught decent wrasse on lures here. Take great care on these spots as they are front on to the swell.
South Fistral Rocks
The whole stretch of rocks at the south end of Fistral Beach is fishable. When I first started sea fishing in the ‘90s, it was common to see the place completely full of mackerel anglers in the warmer months on the better tides. This area has more to offer than just stable platforms to launch feathers from though. Generally, the inside section near the beach is more suited to bass fishing, either with bait or lures. The further out to sea you go, the deeper the water and the more mixed the ground in front of you gets (although you can always reach sand with a reasonable cast). There is decent bottom fishing to be had here at the right times, with plaice, turbot and the odd spotted ray being the highlights. On the rough, expect wrasse and the chance of bull huss and strap conger after dark.
Where is it and what is it like? Splash is found along the rocks at the south end of Fistral, where the rockline forms a natural corner with a prominent rock jutting out of the cliffside above the mark. Here there is a path with remnants of a broken pipe and a short concrete slipway that joins onto a comfortable rock platform a fair height above the sea. The pipe is a remnant from when there was a sewer outfall here. There is a submerged rock immediately underneath that you will have to watch when battling a fish. This used to be one of the best marks for shore fishing in Newquay and it can still be productive on its day.
Tactics: There are a couple of different ways you can approach this mark. Fishing in calm conditions and clear water is optimum for the flatfish, whereas if you want bass (with the chance of codling and whiting in the winter), then the best time to fish is when there is a bit of a swell running. In these conditions it will be obvious where the mark gets its name from, as waves clatter into the rocks below sending dramatic plumes of spray high into the air.
Species: In warmer months: bass, plaice, turbot, pollack, mackerel, garfish, wrasse and dogfish. In winter: bass, dogfish, codling, whiting, pollack, pouting and poor cod. Conger are also a possibility.
Baits: Lugworm and peeler crab baits fish well here for bass and codling, with ragworm also good for the plaice when the water is clear. A belly strip of fresh mackerel is a great bait if you are after turbot.
General tips: Splash likes a bigger tide and has fished best for me on the tides leading up to the top of a spring cycle. For plaice, concentrate your efforts on the flood from mid tide to high tide. For species like bass and codling, a rougher, more coloured sea is preferable. The ebb can fish well for these species from high down to an hour or two before low. You can park by the side of the road at South Fistral and it is only a short walk from there to the mark.
Safety advice: Although this mark fishes well in rougher weather, it needs to be approached with caution. Landing large fish can be problematic as you have a choice between deadlifting your fish up to the platform or risking trying to wash them onto a rock to collect them. In unsettled conditions, I would always choose to stay high and go for the lift approach.
Fistral has a decent reputation as a bass venue and there is plenty of beach to choose from here. Most anglers concentrate their efforts towards the rocks at either end – I personally feel more confident fishing the north end. At the south, however, there are some nice sandy gullies in between the rocks that are fun to fish with a light legering approach on a flooding tide. Small turbot are also caught from the beach and small eyed ray and dogfish are possibilities after dark. There’s a chance of smoothhounds too to crab, worm and squid baits.
North Fistral Rocks and Little Fistral
Between the rocks at the north end of Fistral Beach and the beach at Little Fistral, there are a series of gullies that lend themselves really well to lure fishing for bass over high tide. All of these gullies can produce fish and it’s always a pleasant session working each spot in turn with your choice of lure. Little Fistral itself produces bass from the rocks at either end and you can also fish from the beach itself over high water with a good chance of finding bass. It’s also worth trying a bait at short range here.
The one-time jewel in the crown of Cornish shore fishing and the premier venue for shore fishing in Newquay. The outer marks in particular have produced amazing fish and catches over the decades, particularly when the old sewer pipe was still in operation. These days, the water is cleaner and the fish are far fewer but this venue always has the potential to throw up a good specimen or a tidy mixed bag. You can broadly divide the headland into two main areas: the outer marks (High Place and Low Place) and the marks inside of that (such as Lenard’s Rock and the old lifeboat slip). The outer spots are better suited to experienced rock anglers as they pick up more tide and swell. The inner marks offer comfier fishing with less challenges.
This variety of marks all in one small area and the range of species to target are the great strengths of the headland. It is also one venue that offers a reasonable chance of good fishing all year round. Spring can fish for smoothhounds on the outer marks, with the chance of plaice and maybe the odd ray. Summer can see the inner marks produce fun mixed bags of mackerel, gars, wrasse and small bottom species like black bream and gurnards. Autumn can be good for all sorts and in a good year for codling, these will start to appear in rougher conditions. Winter can offer fishing for species like codling, whiting, pouting, conger and rockling, although recent winters have been poor. Throughout the calendar, you can never rule out the possibility of a nice bass as they do roam along this stretch. You can also never rule out the possibility that hordes of dogfish will annihilate each and every single bait you send out there but this is much the same at rock marks all over Cornwall these days.
Where is it and what is it like? Located near the tip of Newquay Headland, this mark’s name is a little deceiving as although the main platform is a fair height off the water, the rocks slope diagonally to the right, offering a range of positions to fish from depending on sea conditions. To the left, the sandy bottom gives onto a snaggy reef that can catch you out if you’re not careful. A strong current runs immediately in front of High Place. This isn’t always so evident on the flood but on the first couple of hours of the ebb is intensified to the point where it can be impossible to hold with any lead. As swells tend to run parallel to this mark rather than hitting it front on, it is possible to fish it in rough seas. The mark can fish exceptionally well under these conditions although, obviously, great care needs to be taken.
Tactics: Standard beach gear for bottom fishing. It’s wise to bring a few different styles of lead with you, however, so that you can respond to changes in the current and still get the presentation you want. This is a good spot for mackerel when they are around and there are nice wrasse to be caught under your feet and in the gully at the back of the mark too so it’s a good idea to bring a lighter setup. The gully is also worth trying with LRF gear around the boulders in the shallower areas.
Species: Virtually anything could show up here. This is one of those marks that is a passing place for travelling fish, as well as having its own residents. Typical catches in the warmer months include mackerel, garfish, bass, plaice, gurnards, turbot, smoothhounds, ray, pollack and wrasse. In the colder months: codling, whiting, pouting, pollack, smoothhounds, bass, conger and rockling. Dogfish are likely at any time of year.
Baits: With such a wide range of species on the cards, any of the common baits can have their day at this mark. The dogfish are always quick to fish and squid baits if they are there in numbers so opting for worm or crab can slow them down a bit and help you pick out a quality fish.
General tips: Sessions at High Place can be blighted by the presence of the local seals. These are adept at snatching hooked fish from your line and many anglers have tales of woe about the time they lost a good fish to one. Sometimes you can get lucky and they’ll move on after a time if you’re not catching, but often they will go and wait out of sight somewhere, only to pounce as soon as you reel in a fish. The mark can get crowded too, particularly with mackerel anglers in the warmer months. Parking is in the council car park.
Safety advice: It is true that this mark often gives its best during or shortly after very rough weather. Obviously, fishing it at these times is hazardous and for more experienced anglers only. Grippy boots are a must and you would be wise to take a long-handled gaff to help with landing any large fish that you intend to keep. A lifejacket is also a great idea. The access to the mark is relatively straightforward as it’s only a short climb down to the fishing platform. This clamber is not without risk, however, so tread carefully. Generally, High Place is not a spot I would recommend to less experienced anglers, younger anglers or anglers with limited mobility.
Inside of Newquay Headland and Dane Rock
Past the lifeboat slip, the inside of Newquay headland curls round into a shallower, more sheltered area. There is a useful mark just east of the Headland Hotel, reached by a steep sandy path. There is rough ground inside of here but a longer cast clears it. This is a spot I have fished in the winter if the sea is raging or if the outer marks are busy. With the rough ground in close, you also have the chance of a strap conger or a bonus rockling by dropping in short. Wrasse are present in the warmer months.
Just below the Atlantic Hotel is a mark called Rocket Pole. Access to this is a little tricky but the platform itself offers comfortable fishing. You can cast onto sand with ease here although the mark is handy for lure fishing for bass and seems to be a popular haunt of garfish in the summer. You can have a lot of fun catching these with float or light spinning gear.
Dane Rock is the name given to the point near the old Huer’s Hut. I have never done that well here but it has a reputation as a decent mark for plaice. You do need a longer cast to reach sand, however. Fishing on the rough ground in winter time has produced good eels and rockling in years past.
Fly Cellars and the Harbour
If there is one mark that is head and shoulders above all of Newquay’s others in terms of accessibility and ease of fishing it’s Fly Cellars. Built for the purpose of landing and salting pilchards, Fly is a flat, roomy platform, sheltered from westerly winds. It’s a top spot for mackerel fishing, although the seals can make it very difficult to land any that you hook. In more unsettled weather, Fly can fish well for a mixed bag of species such as dogfish, bass, whiting, flatfish, codling and the odd smoothhound. It also used to fish well for conger, although the eels that come out now are on the small side. Convenient as it is, Fly does get crowded and has its own crew of regulars who fish through the seasons. The mark fishes either side of high tide so it is best to get here early if you want to secure a spot.
Often overlooked, the two quays at Newquay harbour can offer some fun fishing. There are bass to be caught casting into the back of Towan beach, with the area by the toilets on the south quay being a hotspot. This is also a useful spot to try for mullet, as is the inner harbour on the right day. Rough weather in the winter can be good for mixed bags of whiting, bass, pollack, coalfish and flounder. The north quay has slightly deeper water and can throw up species like codling and smoothhounds on occasion.
Newquay Town Beaches
The connected beaches of Towan, Great Western, Tolcarne and Lusty Glaze can all offer excellent bass fishing on the right tide. The level of exposure to swell increases as you go from Towan to Lusty, with Tolcarne arguably being the sweet spot and the most productive of the four. I usually fish here after dark around the low water period, although there have been more than a few big bass caught on flat calm days with blazing sunshine from these venues. Baitwise, the standard bass offerings of lugworm, crab, squid, mackerel or sandeel can all work well. If you are after the bigger bass that show from these beaches, stick to large squid, fresh mackerel or crab baits for the best odds of attracting their attention.
Where is it and what is it like? Porth is located to the north of Lusty Glaze and south of Whipsiderry. A small stream empties out onto the beach, carving a shallow channel down to the sea. At the north end of the beach, Trevelgue Head (commonly known as Porth Island) juts out into deeper water.
Tactics: There are plenty of species to target in the Porth area. The rocks on the north side of the beach are good for mullet fishing year round. Aim your sessions either side of high water for the best chances of success. On larger tides, the concrete platform at the top of the beach on the north side is fishable and is easily accessible for less mobile anglers. As well as mullet, flounder are sometimes caught here. Porth beach itself can be good for bass fishing after dark over low water. Watch out for surges though as the beach is very flat. There are several options for fishing Porth Island. Lure fishing into the back of the surf can be good on the north side, while the very end boasts the deepest water and can be productive for a range of species such as mackerel, dogfish, gars, turbot, plaice and smoothhound. This used to be a good venue for ray and, with their current resurgence, there is every chance that it could be again in the near future. Use standard beach gear and aim your sessions over the high water period. You can also fish from the north-facing side of Porth Island looking onto Whipsiderry. As well as the chance of fish like ray and smoothhounds, you are likely to encounter bass here. especially when the sea is unsettled. You will need standard beach gear for fishing from the end of Porth Island and the north facing side. It is better to go heavier rather than lighter as the tide and swell can be strong and there is every chance that you’ll need to lift a fish.
Baits: Bread for the mullet, mackerel and sandeel baits for dogfish, turbot and ray, worms for bass and plaice; and crab or squid for bass and smoothhounds.
General tips: Porth can fish well for mullet when the sea is carrying a tinge of colour or when there is a light surf coming into the cove. Out the end, spider crabs can be a real pain as they tend to infest this area through the spring. If you get frustrated with them removing the hooks from your traces, attach a short length of strong braid to your hooklength and tie your hook onto that. The spiders won’t be able to cut through this. Although Porth is sheltered, don’t underestimate its potential to throw up large bass from the beach. There have been plenty of good fish caught here over the years.
Safety advice: Some of the rocky spots bordering Porth beach are a little tricky to access and care should be taken. It’s wise to wear a lifejacket when fishing any spot in this area as there are strong currents to contend with should you fall in. Porth Island can be fished in a little swell but take care as the tip is front on to the waves and they can really hammer in. Take extra care when landing fish and do not be tempted to take any risks – you do not want to fall in here.
Probably my favourite of Newquay’s beaches to fish for bass, Whipsiderry is a really pretty stretch of sand, surrounded by towering cliffs with a big rock island just in front of the access point. The steps to reach the beach are steep and not suited to less mobile anglers. Whipsiderry has two real hotspots for bass fishing, the rocks at the south end and Lions Rock at the north end. The stretch of sand in between is also worth time, especially if you locate a hole or gully. Small eyed ray are also a possibility here.
Where can I buy bait and tackle?
Newquay used to have several good shops in the town itself but these are now gone and the only local place I would recommend for high quality bait and tackle is Gwinear Angling Tackle Shop and Lakes just outside Newquay on the A3075. The shop is really well stocked with a range of sea and lure gear (as well as coarse fishing tackle). They also carry a range of fresh and frozen baits and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable. Gwinear also offer day ticket fishing on their pleasure lake, which is a fantastic option if you are gagging to do some fishing but the sea is too rough for getting out on the shore.
A last word on safety
The sea around Newquay can get exceptionally busy with a variety of water users. It’s important to try to respect their space and behave responsibly when they are in close proximity to you, even if they often don’t offer you the same courtesy. Many non-anglers are ignorant of the dangers posed to them by hooks, line and lead weights so try to be tolerant and do your bit to ensure that nobody gets hurt.
Before embarking on a session, make sure to check the weather and surf forecast. Conditions can change very quickly and, with the large tides that this coast is subject to, a rock mark can go from safe to lethal in a short space of time. Keep your eyes open and don’t turn your back to the sea. It’s never a bad idea to sit and watch the ocean for a while before you fish, then you can get an idea of its mood and better anticipate how things are going to change throughout your session.
I use this weather forecast as it’s usually pretty reliable for wind direction and strength: https://www.bbc.co.uk/weather
This site is generally quite accurate for sea conditions: https://magicseaweed.com/
If I want a second opinion on the weather and waves, I use this site: https://www.windfinder.com