Fishing in South Devon: the lowdown
January 26th, 2016 | By Ross Purdy
Keen anglers, families and newbies alike can enjoy fishing in South Devon, mainly due to the surprising range of terrain you can find along our beautiful coastline.
This article will focus on sea fishing from the shore rather than a boat. We’ll be adding information about other kinds of fishing in South Devon in due course, so please head back soon, but for now here is our quick and easy guide to sea fishing on this picturesque coast.
Where to pick up fishing tackle in South Devon
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to places for fishing in South Devon, and picking up tackle is also easy enough. There are two specialist fishing tackle shops in the South Hams, one semi-specialist retailer and countless local stores which include some basic tackle amongst their stock. There is also a vintage tackle store in the village of Harbertonford, just south of Totnes.
You’ll find the excellent Devon Angling Centre in the village of Chillington, a 30-minute drive from Salcombe and around 25 minutes from Dartmouth. Its location is very convenient for fishing at Start Bay (more on that later) and its range of products and prices are excellent. Live baits are usually available, but call ahead to check that the shop is open, as opening times can vary at some times of the year.
In Dartmouth, your best option is Sea Haven on Newcomen Road. You can buy rods and reels as well as the basic tackle you’ll need to start fishing here (unless you are looking for some specialist equipment). However, the only bait you can buy at Sea Haven is preserved rather than fresh/frozen.
In Salcombe, Phoenix Charters has a fine range of tackle and baits, as well as offering (as the name suggests) boat trips ranging from fishing around wrecks and reefs to heading out to hook some monster sharks.
If you’re bringing your own kit and just need to buy bait, another option is to buy fresh or frozen mackerel from a fishmonger or even a supermarket. As a bait, it works all year round and will attract most of the same species as the ubiquitous ragworm. Depending on your targeted species, other baits commonly used at the marks below include frozen squid, peeler crab, sandeel and lugworm.
Start Bay – the biggest, most accessible beach for fishing in South Devon
All-round anglers or those who don’t fancy the idea of a long trek to their chosen mark should head to Start Bay. There you’ll find Slapton Sands, a beautiful two-mile beach with convenient parking at each end and in the middle. This also includes Blackpool Sands, a smaller, privately-owned beach which is a little more sheltered.
At the rockier edges of both beaches you’ll find wrasse and the chance of hooking a conger eel. Move a little away from the rocks to save your tackle and there are plenty of whiting, pouting, plaice and dogfish amongst other species. In the Summer, the whole bay fishes well for mackerel. Some anglers think of catching these as cheating in some way, but in our opinion nothing tastes better than freshly-caught mackerel straight from the barbecue. What better way is there to end a Summer’s day’s fishing in South Devon?
More adventurous anglers can drive a little further to Start Point, where there are opportunities to fish from the rocks. Be warned, however – the walk from the car park to the best spots is not for the faint hearted!
Salcombe’s top fishing spots
East Portlemouth, just a short passenger ferry ride across the water from Salcombe, contains some of the most popular marks for sea fishing in South Devon. The beach itself is also loved by sunbathers, sandcastle builders and others, so it’s best to fish here early in the morning, late at night, or out of season. Alternatively, make your way onto the nearby rocky outcrops with light gear to fish for bass in the Summer along with a huge range of other reported species. There’s some excellent advice about fishing in East Portlemouth here.
Bolt Head is certainly one of the most celebrated spots for rock fishing in the region, but only with real enthusiasts due to the challenging walk (or, rather, climb!) it involves. With plentiful plaice in the Summer and larger species catchable, plenty of anglers consider it worth the effort.
Fishing in and around Dartmouth
Fishing from Dartmouth harbour is great fun, particularly if you’re holidaying in the town and only want to wander over with some light tackle for a couple of hours’ spinning. Mackerel are abundant in the Summer and bass are often reported on both the Dartmouth and Kingswear sides of the Dart Estuary.
If you don’t mind a little walk, head to Dartmouth Castle and onwards to the Coastal Path. Around halfway up the hill, take a left and make your way down towards the water, where you’ll be able to fish from the rocks.
If you are considering rock fishing in South Devon, please do make safety your number one priority as some of the coastline can be hazardous.
Considering a fishing holiday in the area?
For other ways to spend your time on holiday, please take a look at our A-Z list of things to do in and around South Devon.