Recreational Fishing

There have been significant changes made to the management of fisheries at a European level which will affect those fishing in the Cornwall IFCA district in a number of ways.

Most fishing methods can be used to fish recreationally but many European, national and local rules will apply.

This page gives an overview of some of the rules governing recreational fishing within the Cornwall IFCA district .

If you would like any further explanation or information please contact us.

Minimum sizes for fish and shellfish
In August 2019 the changes to the European technical measures stopped European minimum sizes form being applied to the recreational sector.  Therefore the only minimum sizes which are applied to the recreational sector result from Cornwall IFCA byelaws, or from UK Statutory Instruments. The following list are the minimum sizes that apply to recreational fishing In the Cornwall IFCA district.

PLEASE NOTE:  Changes made by the EU in Janurary 2020 now apply the 42cm minimum size for bass to the recreatioanl sector once again. 

Fin Fish     



42 centimetres

Conger Eel  

58 centimetres


30 centimetres

Grey Mullet 

20 centimetres

Red Seabream 

25 centimetres

Black Seabream

23 centimetres

Red Mullet

15 centimetres

Witch Flounder    

28 centimetres


15 centimetres

Lemon Sole    

25 centimetres


25 centimetres


25 centimetres


30 centimetres


30 centimetres





Edible Crab female


Edible Crab male


Spider crab




The sizes listed above (excluding the bass minimum size) result from byelaws inherited from the former Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee and therefore, do not apply to the whole of the Cornwall IFCA district, principally they do not apply within some rivers and estuaries.  If you would like further information about this, please contact us .

In addition to the above shellfish minimum sizes, please be aware that cockles removed from Cornish rivers and estuaries must not pass through a space of 20mm width.

There are also some restrictions on restrictions on recreational netting for sand eels within Cornwall’s rivers and estuaries. Please contact us. for more information.

Click here for a full list of minimum sizes that apply within the Cornwall IFCA district.

Fishing for bass 

Click here to download a leaflet for recreational bass fishing in 2024.

Fishing for crabs and lobsters

You can fish recreationally for crabs and lobsters in the Cornwall IFCA district as follows.

Fishing from a boat: If you are fishing from a boat you are not allowed to remove more than a maximum of five shellfish per day from the species lobster, crawfish, edible crab and spider crab, with no more than two of these five being from the lobster and crawfish species combined. This is because recreational vessels are not eligible for a Cornwall IFCA Shellfish Permit.

Fishing from the shore: If you are fishing for a crab or lobster from the shore, whether by laying pots or by hand gathering, you are not limited on the number you can take. However, you must still abide by the minimum sizes listed above and other conditions such as v-notched tails and berried (egg bearing) lobsters.

Click here for more information on recreational fishing for crabs and lobsters. 

Those spearfishing must comply with the minimum sizes and catch limits (as above) for fish and shellfish and with the bass regulations for recreational fishermen. In addition it is now an offence to catch or harvest marine species using any type of projectile, including handheld spears and spear guns used in recreational fishing from dusk till dawn or when using an aqualung.

Protected Species

There are some fish species which are under threat and have been given special legal protection. This may be in the form of restriction on targeting and/or retention. Below is a list of the most common protected species encountered by anglers (in the Cornwall IFCA district).

Click here for a full list of marine species protected by European and national legislation.

Tope: Tope can be targeted by recreational sea anglers as a sport fish but cannot be landed and must be returned to the sea.

Angel Sharks and White Skate: These rare species are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside act. It is an offence to kill or injure them. Any which are accidently caught, must be returned to the sea as quickly as possible.

Shad: Allis shad and twaite shad are both protected and must be returned if caught.

Goby: It is an offence to kill, injure, take possess or disturb giant goby and Couch’s goby.


Blue fin tuna
The recent appearance of blue fin tuna around the coast of England and Wales had led to a lot of public interest in the rules applied to fishing for this species.

Click here to view commercial and recreational blue fin tuna fishing guidance issued by the Marine Management Organisation.

Bait Gathering and digging
Cornwall IFCA has no byelaws that restrict bait digging or gathering. There may be some areas where these activities are restricted, for example, by local harbour byelaws which restrict bait gathering around moorings. The Angling Trust recommends the following voluntary code of conduct for collecting bait.

The Angling Trust recommends the following voluntary code of conduct for collecting bait.

Click here  to view the Angling Trust Voluntary Bait Collecting Code of Conduct.

Hand gathering mussels, oysters, cockles, clams and other bivalves
The commercial gathering of bivalves for human consumption is subject to them being taken from a designated area where water quality is monitored and classified as suitable by the Food Standards Agency.

For local information on harvesting areas and shellfish depuration please contact the Cornwall Port Health Authority. Those collecting bivalves recreationally for their own consumption are not restricted by Port Health water quality closures but are strongly advised to contact Port Health for updates on any closed areas, where water quality may put human health at risk.

Restricting the gathering of some bivalve species in some areas Gathering mussels and oysters in a large part of the Fal is prohibited unless it is carried out under a licence issued by Cornwall IFCA. Fishing time, seasonal restrictions and specific minimum sizes for native oysters and mussels also apply. Click here for more information on the Fal Fishery Order.


Voluntary code of practice for winkle picking 
In addition to the above rules there is a voluntary code of practice in place for the harvesting of winkles.

Cornwall IFCA Code of Practice for Winkle Fishing.

Recreational netting
If you wish to fish recreationally using a net in Cornwall you will need to abide by some of the rules that apply to commercial netting described in the netting section  of this website.  Please note the rules can be complex, if you are new to netting in Cornwall we would strongly recommend you contact us to talk to one of our enforcement officers for advice and guidance.


Can I sell the fish that I catch?
It is an offence to sell fish caught using a motor powered vessel unless that vessel has an appropriate fishing licence. Whilst not technically recreational activities, you can sell fish that you have caught from unpowered vessels (less that 10m in total length) or when fishing from the shore, however, under EU bass regulations you cannot sell any bass which are caught from the shore.


To view the National and European rules for fishing are published in the Blue Book (please note this has not yet been updated to reflect the changes to the EU technical measures). However, it is very extensive and a lot of it will not relate to recreational fishing activities. You can view all of the Cornwall IFCA byelaws and voluntary codes of practice in the Byelaw section of this web site.

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