Whitby Fishing, The basics of fishing from Whitby.
Fishing has been a way of life in Whitby for centuries. It may not provide the full-time jobs that it did in times gone by but that does not mean that Whitby has lost its enthusiasm for fishing. Far from it. There are many experienced anglers and captains in Whitby with plenty of help and advice for those who want it.
Fishing is a year round activity in Whitby, subject to the constraints of the weather. Arguably, the best catches are in the winter with cod coming closer to shore. However, whenever you are in Whitby, you can enjoy a day’s fishing and here are some basics to help you enjoy the day.
Whitby Beach Fishing
There is a contrast between summer and winter fishing from the beach, so it is worth considering the two seasons separately. In the summer, think Mackerel, Coalfish, Pollock, Flounder and the occasional Bass. Winter brings Cod close to the shore in search of food that has been swept there by winter storms. You should head to the beaches between Whitby and Sandsend and Whitby and Saltwick to try your luck.
Winter Fishing In Whitby
Autumn is the beginning of the time for beach casting / rock angling in the area. There is a festival south of Whitby and Scarborough in Filey during early September with a full week of competition from both the beach and from boats with the highlight being the North of England Cod Fishing Championships. As soon as the Filey Event has finished anglers’ thoughts turn to Scarborough with a further week of competition. That culminates in everyone trying to win the prestigious “All England” Codling Championship.
By this time of year, the Yorkshire Coast begins to experience the start of sea storms as winds come from the North. The result is that the seas become rougher and marine life such as Peeler Crabs, Lug and Ragworms near to the shore are disturbed. That is exactly what the Cod wants after a summer in deeper waters.
Peeler Crabs are great bait for tempting the Cod in the gulleys in the area. Some great specimens are caught each year in this fashion with even the chance of catching a 30 pounder. The fishing gets better as the weeks progress with Christmas often the best time for good Cod although spawning Cod are still in the waters in March. Lugworm and Squid are both good bait during these final weeks of winter. Codling’s spring run follows before anglers take a break to wait for the summer species to arrive.
Summer Fishing in Whitby
While there are a few weeks between the seasons when fishing is largely fruitless, there is nothing to stop anglers preparing for the new season by collecting and freezing Peeler Crabs for bait.
In May, there is an excellent chance of catching Flounder in the River Esk using a small Crab on a size 10 hook as bait. The best time is when the tide is coming in.
In the coming weeks and right through to early September, anglers can test their skills in catching Mackerel, Coalfish, Pollock and perhaps a few Bass using a spinner. Mackerel are also caught by float fishing. As well as Crab, popular bait that is proving successful is Ragworm.
Bait: Commonly used is Mussel and/or Lugworm. These are usually available from the tackle suppliers in the town. ‘Peeler’ Crab is locally regarded as THE bait during the summer months, but it is not available through shops. You will need to ask the locals ‘what?’ and ‘where’? to seek this bait out, but be assured, it is well worth the time and effort.
Whitby Boat Fishing Trips
Trawler fishing on a commercial basis was once a major occupation on this Coastline. Boat fishing trips out of Whitby remain very popular with trips available each day of varying durations. You can go out for just a couple of hours, half a day or the whole day up to 8 hours.
You can discuss everything with local experts on the quayside down to the best bait to use. Equipment is available for hire, and bait can be bought but talk to get exact details before you make a booking. Boats can usually take between 8 and 12 individual anglers.
Evening Trips – Summer
Mackerel are plentiful during the weeks of summer and you can book a short trip out to sea in the evening, perhaps as a family or a group of friends. It is something a little different for your holiday and if you have booked a Whitby Holiday Cottage, you should be able to catch something for the BBQ when you go out with an experienced boat and crew.
The Mackerel come fairly close to shore so you may not go out much further than the end of the piers. There is also the chance of catching other fish as well. Expect the trips to be available between 6 and 8pm as long as the weather permits.
You may not want to commit to too long a trip so the 3 hour taster trip may be for you. It will mean there have to be others with the same idea or perhaps there is a group of you, or even the whole family. Making this slightly longer booking means that boats are able to go out a little further in search of fish. There are fishing marks about 3 miles out of Whitby Harbour and even beginners will have the chance to experience drift fishing and setting up a rig.
As well as Mackerel, Whiting and Pouting, you may be lucky and catch some larger fish out there including Cod which stay out there in the summer, Halibut and Ling. Taster trips are not available every day but as long as the weather is good, you can get or morning or afternoon trip a couple of times a week.
You need to check for availability. You will be able to pre-book but if you want to head down on the off chance, make sure you are there 30 minutes before departures which will be 10 am and 2 pm in all likelihood.
How to book a Whitby Boat Fishing trip
Alternatively if you walk around the lower harbour, close to the Taxi Rank and opposite The Angel Hotel you will see signs for local boat trips with contact information, departure times and you maybe able to speak to some of the skippers.
Wreck And Reef Fishing Trips From Whitby
You can go out further to sea to one of several wrecks or reefs that are found off the Whitby Coast as long as the weather is good enough. The best way to catch fish out here is by drift fishing and these trips which can last anything up to 10 hours is really just suitable for experienced anglers who know what it is like to spend several hours at sea.
If you would like to learn more about fishing like this, the best idea is to look for perhaps a 6 hour trip and you can expect help and advice from the experienced crew.
Winter Up Tiding Trips
Winter is when cod come closer to shore and when weather conditions allow, you may well have great results on a Winter Up Tiding Trip where boats will anchor in inshore waters. The technique involves using fairly light tackle and casting out from the boat. Make sure you have warm clothing with you because it will get cold, but the other side of the coin is that you may land some really impressive fish.
Whitby Pier Fishing
Whitby’s stone piers have been in place since 1632 when the replaced the wooden ones. Wooden extensions were added just before the First World War. Health and safety requirements mean that you cannot drive right down to the pier but there is ample parking just a 5-minute walk away.
If you enjoy fishing but are not too keen to go out in a boat, Whitby’s West Pier is a great alternative throughout the weeks of summer, using spinners and lures as local anglers inevitably do. The ‘ground’ tends to be sandy and almost hazard-free, though some weed and small rocks. Mackerel, in particular, and Flounder are regularly caught off the West Pier
You should check the tides first of all; it is more likely that you will be more successful near and at high water but that shouldn’t put you off completely from fishing at any time. You never know!
If you try your luck in the Autumn, smaller Cod are likely to have moved closer to land together with Whiting. Both respond to Peeler Crab bait, and occasionally Mussels.
Winters can be cold but that should not deter a hardy fisherman. You must wrap up warm of course but the rewards of Cod make it all worthwhile. There have been regular catches of Cod weighing more than 15 lbs responding to the favourite bait of Peeler Crab, Ragworm and Lugworm.
Back in 2007, a local well-known angler, Paul Kilpatrick, had a real battle with a cod which he finally landed a 16 lb cod after a ‘’battle’’ that lasted 45 minutes and which took him 1,000 yards from the West Pier where he started to close to the bandstand.
Please note: Anglers are prohibited from fishing into the harbour from the West Pier.
Whitby’s East Pier has been problematic in terms of access for the last year or two. This issue is still under discussion with Scarborough Borough Council. As with the West Pier, anglers are prohibited from fishing into the harbour. The ‘ground’ is rocky and can be ‘tackle-damaging.’
Summer and Autumn fishing can yield Codling and Mackerel but not in the numbers off the West Pier. However, the East Pier is, more often than not, free and consequently is a very restful place to spend a few hours contemplating the world and reflecting on the frantic nature of it all.
General Health and Safety
Sea angling can be a risky occupation, especially from the rocky shore line. It is very easy to fall, and you would be advised not to fish in an area with which you are not familiar without getting local advice.
You should check the tides to ensure that entry and exit are available for the time you wish to fish. Similarly, you need to pay heed to the weather forecast.
If the storm gates on the piers are shut, you should forget fishing for the day. Always have a means of communicating if you are going off to fish and tell friends or family where you are going.
If the seas are especially heavy, forget fishing; it is unlikely in those conditions that you would catch anything anyway.
West Pier Fishing Safety
The West Pier is on two levels with the lower level reached by climbing down a ladder at the end of the Pier. If the weather is not very good, best advice is to forget about the lower level that day. Checking the tides and the weather forecast are things you should always do before heading for the West Pier.
Special Whitby Fishing Events
Whitby is a vibrant town with many special events over the calendar year. Aspiring anglers should check the diary to see when there is anything relating to fishing.
There have been regular events over the years, often Spring, Summer and Autumn 14 day festivals. A 45lb cod was once caught during the Angling Festival on Shytorgue, a boat belonging to local fisherman, Richard Ward.
There is a fair amount of money to be won. Take for example the 2018 Whitby Angling Festival Events. The first prize in the Spring and Late Summer Festivals was £1,000 with the Summer Event £5,000.
Groups and small parties are able to get involved but they must get in touch well in advance. Tackle can be rented if needed and bait is available to buy.
A Fish and Ships Festival is being launched for the first time in 2019. There are a range of activities including tuition by Whitby Angling Club with competitions and plenty for children to enjoy. You can find out how to dress a Crab or fillet a fish as well as enjoy a trip on the North Eastern Guardian Fisheries Protection vessel.