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Whitby Sea Fishing
Website last updated 11/11/2021

Whitby header (image)

Welcome to my website about fishing in and around Whitby in North Yorks.   I fished all my youth and up to my early 30's along the North Yorks coast up as far as the South Gare on the Tees.  I fished mainly this area as there was never any need to travel much further away and living in Redcar gave access to the scaurs which fished brilliantly for Cod over the winter months from the beginning of October until around end of March / April.  I gained a lot of knowledge about fishing the area, fishing most nights of the week along one of the best coastlines in the country.

Whitby is probably the premier port in the UK for charter boat fishing and it still holds the record for the heaviest cod caught on rod and line in British waters, weighing in at an incredible 58lb 7ounces!   The fish was caught by Noel Cook aboard Stuart Johnson's boat, Sea Trek way back in 1992.

Whitby provides plenty of diversity when it comes to fishing.  From fishing aboard the many charter boats hoping for a record cod or ling from the many wrecks that adorn the North Sea, to fishing the Whitby piers, both into the outer side of the piers into the sea or to having a leisurely couple of hours fishing into the harbour for a nice sized Flounder or Plaice.

Whitby Piers (image)It's that time of the year now when grown men are reduced to a quivering wreck at the thought of all those cod arriving on our shores after a good blow and stir up of the sea.  This disability can last anywhere from October through to the end of March!  It doesn't matter what time of day or night it is, if the tide and conditions are right, then so are we.  
Doesn't matter what state the weather is, might be blowing a force ten, the rougher the better.
Off we trudge, laden down with our tackle box, bait bag, rod stand, rods, tilley lamp, flask, sandwiches, drop net, dressed in a pair of the wife's tights or Long Johns, 2 tea-shirts, a pair of quality jeans, shirt, jumper or sweater, (is there a difference?), fishing waist-coat, a big woolly hat or balaclava that makes you look like a terrorist, a headlight, a 2 piece or 1 piece wet-suit, 2 pair of long thermal socks and either waders or chest waders depending on where we are heading!
Now as my missus once said, if she were to ask me to dress like that and go and stand in the garden for 4 hours whilst a force ten was blowing, I'd have her certified, too blooming right I would!

This is where us anglers/fishermen differ from the rest of society.  They don't undertstand about winter sea fishing, they don't understand the importance of being dressed like a drag queen on the inside and a deep sea diver on the outside.  Neither do they understand the joy of standing freezing, watching a brass monkey looking for a welder at 3am in the morning, while explaining to your companion why there ain't any fish about but there will be tomorrow and trying to thread a frozen worm onto a very sharp hook, as you just found out by the amount of blood dripping off your finger!  
Then telling all and sundry it's, "just nice to get out for a bit of fresh-air actually"!!

If you are fishing on a pier or jetty anywhere in the country, especially Saltburn Pier, a few short miles up the road, pray you don't catch a fish of size or you will have every village that is missing an idiot asking you; What hook size are you using, what bait are you using, how far did you cast, what rod have you got, what sort of reel is it, what sort of line do you use, what time are you fishing too and is your missus all alone at home tonight?

That's why I prefer Whitby pier, there's plenty of room to maneuver about and you can fish at a safe distance from others if you choose. With a lot of piers, folk seem to gather close together at the end of the structure, don't know why.  It can get quite dangerous with leads being thrown about from all directions and I have seen plenty of accidents where people have been hit with a stray lead, not a pretty site. 
A lot of anglers who fish piers and jetties, especially in the winter, nearly all attempt to cast to the horizon for some strange lemming like reason.
Most of the fish will be caught close in where there is a natural supply of food.  Mussels will be attached to the pier piles or the jetty wall, crabs, small bait fish etc, they all will most certainly be there to attract the feeding fish.
Of course if there are 'runners' or holes at a distance and you are sure of your facts, then distance might make a difference but if your unsure of the venue then I find it best to start to fish relatively close in and see what is about.
On most piers you can walk along at low water and see if there are any 'runners off to the side or any large holes around the base of the pier legs.  It always pays to do a bit of homework before a fishing session.
Whitby is no exception to anywhere else for catching fish, apart from when you fish at whitby you tend to catch more. Whitby is a picturesque town based at the mouth of the Esk river.  

The town is dominated by the cliff-top ruins of the beautiful 13th century Whitby Abbey. Whitby Abbey (graphic)
This is a traditional maritime town, with old cobbled streets, picturesque houses and boasts a sandy blue flag beach.  
It is a great place to take a holiday or enjoy a long weekend break in the summer, so if you have a family bring them along then and let them enjoy the diverse attractions which includes Pannett Park,  the Victorian Jet Works, visit the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, the Dracula Experience, and Whitby Museum while you enjoy a few hours or a full days trip on one of the many charter boats to catch your favourite species.  

Whitby also runs fishing festivals throughout the year, the summer festival being the biggest. There is plenty of accommodation if you want stay over for a few days fishing.  In the winter accommodation should be quite easy to find.  Self catering is always the best option if you are planning to be fishing most of the night.  Nobody will thank you for clonking about with a load of gear in the middle of the night while they are trying to sleep.  Plus, if you arrange a self catering holiday you will probably have some sort of freezer to put your catch in until your leaving date.

I like a trip down to the Suffolk coast for a bit of sea fishing and we always book a local holiday cottage if we want to stay for a few days, gives us the freedom to come and go as we please, and the rates are very cheap compared to the mid summer months if shared between four. (The wife understands about male bonding...honest) The cod season normally starts towards the beginning of October but it does seem to be getting later every year and lasts until the end of March or possibly a bit longer.

Beginning of the season and the spring the bait to use is definitely Peeler Crab, followed by Lugworm, Ragworm, Squid and Mussel, NOT necessarily in that order.
Using any of these baits will bring you a variety of fish including cod, whiting, coalfish, eels and flounders.
Flounders, Dabs and eels can be caught in the river side of the piers, whilst most of the cod, whiting and coalfish will be caught on the seaward side of the piers. I remember catching 'flatties' the size of dustbin lids in the 'river' side of the pier in my young days.
A word of warning here for the un-initiated, keep an eye out for the many boats and trawlers leaving and entering the harbour. 
If you are fishing the 'river' side and you see any approaching, reel your tackle in, you won't be a happy man if you get some irate trawlerman bearing down on you asking why your line is wrapped round his propeller.  It's so easy just to reel in and then cast out again, far easier than a boat having to navigate your line that is nigh on impossible to see, especially at night.
If you don't want to do that then you can just leave it where it is and you can take a picture as your rod and reel taking a dive over the side of the pier as the boat goes by!

Sandsend beach just a couple of miles down the road provides a variety of fish and the car park makes for very easy fishing.  Do be careful though and don't back the car right up to the sea wall and then fish out of the back of the car if the sea is really rough.  You are sure to fill the car with lovely cold sea water when that rogue wave comes blasting over the top, which it surely will.  Trust me, I know!

Sansend car park, on the other side of the wall is the sea!

Sandsend car park in a storm (graphic)

Place your cursor on the picture above and see what the car park looks like when the sea is rough!

Some of the locals fish from the top of the cliffs at Sandsend, certainly not recommended for anyone not knowing the area, but it does go to show the diversity of the fishing in and around Whitby.In conclusion:  Whitby offers some of the hardest fishing through to some of the easiest sea fishing anywhere.
You can fish from the pier in Whitby, very easy access, with ample parking around the beginning of the pier in the harbour area, catching Cod, Whiting and more from October to March/April or take a trip to Sansend, only a couple of miles down the road.  Why not come along and enjoy some very good Whitby Sea Fishing ?

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