Kent Coast Sea Fishing Compendium

Gravesend, Isle of Sheppey
& Whitstable

This section of the north Kent coast includes the following 45 shore and boat fishing venues: Greenhithe Promenade, Ship & Lobster (Gravesend), Gravesend Promenade, Gravesend Sea School (site of), Shornemead Fort, Black Post, Shornemead Lighthouse, Higham Marshes, Allhallows, Yantlet Creek, The Flats, Hoo, Kingsferry (bridge), West Minster Wall, Mile Town Beaches, Garrison Point Sheerness, Garrison Beaches, Catholic Church to the Jetty, Coal Pier (adjacent to Sheppey Sailing Club), Blockhouse (opposite the Ship-on-Shore pub), Garrison Point to Boom, Boom to Shellness, Shellness to the Saltings (the river Swale), the Saltings (from the old Kingsferry bridge to the Elmley nature reserve), Cheyney Beaches, Marine Town Beaches, Barton's Point (formerly Rifle Range Beaches), Barton's Point to the Whitehouse (shingle bank), Whitehouse to the Little Oyster car park (The Leas), Little Oyster to the end of the new sea wall (Minster), Minster and Warden Beaches, Warden Point, Eastchurch Gap, Leysdown Beaches, the Swale (from Harty to Queenborough and from Crundels Wharf to the stumps), Rushenden Bay, Queenborough (Medway Estuary), West Minster to Garrison Point, Seasalter, Long Beach, Whitstable Bay, Whitstable Street, Tankerton Bay & Swalecliffe Bay

BBC Coastal Forecast (Thames Estuary)

Fishing Venues

  1. Gravesend: Greenhithe Promenade, Ship & Lobster (Denton Wharf, Mark Lane, Gravesend, Kent, DA12 2QB: 51.443305, 0.395624), Gravesend Promenade, Gravesend Sea School (site of), Shornemead Fort, Black Post, Shornemead Lighthouse, Higham Marshes, Allhallows, Yantlet Creek, The Flats & Hoo
  2. Isle of Sheppey: Kingsferry (bridge), West Minster Wall, Mile Town Beaches, Garrison Point Sheerness, Garrison Beaches, Catholic Church to the Jetty, Coal Pier (adjacent to Sheppey Sailing Club), Blockhouse (opposite the Ship-on-Shore pub), Garrison Point to Boom, Boom to Shellness, Shellness to the Saltings (the river Swale), the Saltings (from the old Kingsferry bridge to the Elmley nature reserve), Cheyney Beaches, Marine Town Beaches, Barton's Point (formerly Rifle Range Beaches), Barton's point to the Whitehouse (shingle bank), Whitehouse to the Little Oyster car park (The Leas), Little Oyster to the end of the new sea wall (Minster), Minster and Warden Beaches, Warden Point, Eastchurch Gap, Leysdown Beaches, the Swale (from Harty to Queenborough and from Crundels Wharf to the stumps), Rushenden Bay, Queenborough (Medway Estuary), West Minster to Garrison Point
  3. Whitstable: Seasalter, Long Beach, Whitstable Bay, Tankerton Bay, Whitstable Street & Swalecliffe Bay

Bait & Tackle

Fresh lugworm, ragworm and the usual selection of frozen baits can be obtained from:

The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 25 August 1863 at page 5

Greenhithe - signs of improvement. This place, one of the prettiest villages in Kent, with splendid views and walks, and from which her Majesty recently took her departure for the Continent, shows undoubted signs of progress. There are scarcely any apartments to be had, and a number of detached houses are in great request, at rentals of about £70 per annum. There is therefore a fine opening for builders. This is the only spot in the Thames for whitebait, and the attractiveness of the locality is much increased by the seat of C. Umfreville, Esq., called Ingress Abbey, and surrounded by one of the most beautiful parks in the county.

"Hints and Wrinkles on Sea Fishing" (1894) "Ichthyosaurus" (A. Baines & Frederick George Aflalo) at pages 75, 82, 83 & 88

Other Kinds of Fishing: Lobsters, Crabs, Prawns &c

"Shrimps all alive, oh!" a cry that resounds at every seaside place, and also through the romantic streets of Gravesend and the borough is, unfortunately, a "stretcher". These shrimps are already boiled.

Sea Fishing near London

There are a great many seaside towns within reasonable distance of London; and it is nowadays quite easy to leave town after breakfast, enjoy several hours of sea fishing and return the same evening with a good basket of fresher fish than might even be sold at Sweeting's - no disparagement to that admirable establishment. [11]

… But there are ten times as many places where one can get the whole tides fishing, and only sleep the one night away; and these, being within eighty miles of town, are well adapted to the requirements of a summer holiday.

Kent - The coast of this county extends from the south bank of the Thames estuary as far as just beyond Dungeness. It has some fishing stations of great importance reached by the S.E.R. and L.C. & D.R. trains; [12] and the aforementioned Sea Anglers' Society are therefore to be congratulated at having so soon obtained concessions from both these companies.

There are half a dozen places at which I have taken large fish; Sheerness, Herne Bay, Margate, Ramsgate, Deal and Dover, bass and pollack in the summer, cod and whiting between November and January.

The first two are the least important, though some good bass are generally taken in August at Sheerness, and Herne Bay gives some very fine dabs.

[11] Editor's note: Sweetings Restaurant in the City of London: 39 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4N 4SF, first opened for business in 1889.

[12] Editor's note: The London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) was a railway company in south-eastern England created on 1 August 1859, when the East Kent Railway was given Parliamentary approval to change its name. Its lines ran through London and northern and eastern Kent to form a significant part of the Greater London commuter network. The company existed until 31 December 1922 when its assets were merged with those of other companies to form the Southern Railway as a result of the grouping determined by the Railways Act 1921. The South Eastern Railway (SER) was a railway company in south-eastern England from 1836 until 1922. The company was formed to construct a route from London to Dover. Branch lines were later opened to Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, Canterbury and other places in Kent. The S.E.R. absorbed or leased other railways, some older than itself, including the London and Greenwich Railway and the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway. Most of the company's routes were in Kent, eastern Sussex and the London suburbs, with a long cross-country route from Redhill in Surrey to Reading, Berkshire. Much of the company's early history saw attempts at expansion and feuding with its neighbours; the London Brighton and South Coast Railway in the west and the LCDR to the north-east. However, in 1899 the S.E.R. agreed with the LCDR to share operation of the two railways, work them as a single system (marketed as the South Eastern and Chatham Railway) and pool receipts: but it was not a full amalgamation. The S.E.R. and LCDR remained separate companies until becoming constituents of the Southern Railway on 1 January 1923.

"The Badminton Library: Modern Sea Fishing" (1895) John Bickerdyke at page 54

Round the British and Irish Coasts

In the Thames estuary professional sea fishing is carried on for shrimps, whiting, flat fish and lampern up to St. Clement's Reach, but there is not much done above Lower Hope at Gravesend. From most of the jetties where the water is brackish a few flat fish and eels can be caught. It would seem, indeed, that the good old times when fish abounded were about to return, for the professional fishermen - who are not a class ready to admit any improvement in the fisheries - one and all declare that there is a marked improvement in the quantity and size of the fish caught in the mouth of the Thames, and that not only are fish more numerous, but that they are found higher up the river than has been the case for many years. This welcome improvement is, of course, owing to the increased purity of the water brought about by the action of the London County Council. Mud, marl and sandy flats are the general characteristics of the river; here and there, particularly near Southend and Leigh, flat fish are very abundant, and are much sought after by anglers.

"Sea Fish" (1898) Frederick George Aflalo at page 237

Whitstable. Mr. G.R. Clarke sends me a note on the fishing at this place, which one is more apt to associate with the lately ostracised oyster. The fish, he says, are mainly flat-fish (soles, dabs and plaice, the last-named up to 2lb) and "silver" eels, the bait most used being lugworm. Prince's Channel, 11 miles run from the Nore, seems to be one of the principal waters and Thomas Knight (charge, 6s. per day) of 45 Albert Street, is recommended as fisherman.

"The Pilot's Guide to the Thames Estuary for Yachtsmen" (1960) Commander H. L. Wheeler, R. N. (Retired) at pages 86 & 100

Section II: Rivers Medway and Swale

East Swale Approach

South East Side. WHITSTABLE STREET. On the eastern side of the approach to the East Swale, this narrow ridge of pebbles, usually dry, extends about ¾ of a mile northward from the coast close eastward of Whitstable town. From its drying extreme the outer edge of the one fathom line is a mile further out, the Whitstable Street buoy being moored just outside it.

WHITSTABLE FLATS. These extensive flats, drying from one to 3 feet, and extending off the coast westward of Whitstable towards Shell ness, contract the Swale opposite that point to less than a quarter of a mile, and thence form the south-east side of the channel as far as Faversham creek. Abreast of Shell ness, Pollard Spit, of hard sand and shells, dries two feet, and projects as a tongue about three-quarters of a mile further northward of the flats.

Obstruction. There is a fish weir on the flats about half a mile off the main shore, almost due south of Shell ness …

Section III: Whitstable to Ramsgate and the Overland Route


General Remarks. From the East Swale entrance the Kent coast runs eastwards for about 15½ miles to Margate, then curves around in a southerly direction to the North Foreland and Ramsgate respectively. From Sheppey to Margate this coast is fronted by wide and continuous shoals and sands. For WHITSTABLE see page 88.

COAST. Eastward of Whitstable the coast is indented by the small Tankerton and Studhill bays, and for the 3 miles to Herne Bay drying sand extends off-shore for 5 cables. There is a small pier at Tankerton, and an old oyster fishing pier at Hampton, one mile westward of Herne Bay. At Swalecliff, between Whitstable and Herne Bay, a chimney is very conspicuous.

Buoy. About a mile from the shore and 11 cables in a westerly direction from Herne Bay pier light, is a red can buoy.

"Sea Angling" (1965) Derek Fletcher at page 251


On the Kent coast, and good for dabs, flounders and bass. Boat-fishing provides the best sport.
May to July: tope and skate.
May to September: flounders.
June to September: plaice and grey mullet.
June to October: bass and dabs.
September to December: whiting and pollack.

Worm- and fish-baits have proved the most productive.

"Pelham Manual for Sea Anglers" (1969) Derek Fletcher at page 190

Your Guide to Where to Fish

Whitstable, Kent. Boat fishing is usually the best method of making the heaviest catches, with tope and skate often providing sport from May to August. Freshly caught small fish are used as baits, and often a small flatfish is productive.

Fishing for flatfish can be rewarding with dabs and flounders most likely, although occasionally good-sized plaice are lured on ragworm and lugworm with reasonable light tackle. There are good-sized mullet around but these are not often fished for. Groundbaiting with breadcrumbs, chopped herring or minced crab will bring them on the feed using bread paste for the hook. Bass will take fish strips and worms, and specimens over 10lb have been recorded.

"Sea Fishing in Kent" (1973) Hugh Stoker at pages 12 to 16

Isle of Sheppey (with Sheerness, Queenborough, Leysdown and Minster)

Tides. High Water: -1 hour 19 minutes H.W. London Bridge. Rise: 17¾ft at Springs; 14½ft at Neaps. Tidal Streams: The direction and strength of tidal streams around the Isle of Sheppey are extremely variable, and considerable turbulence may be encountered in places where the wind is blowing strongly against the tide.

In the Medway channel forming Sheerness harbour the tides run hard. The flood begins -6 hours local H.W. and attains a rate of 2½ knots at Springs. The ebb begins +20 minutes local H.W. and attains a maximum rate of 3 knots at Springs.

The streams in the Swale channel can be very strong at times (up to 4 knots at Springs near Kingsferry, and 3 knots near Elmley). The current is slack along the whole channel from about -5 hours 55 minutes to -5 hours 25 minutes local H.W. Then the tide begins to run in from both ends of the channel, picking up strength very quickly, but decreasing again to some extent as the mudflats become covered. At 0 hours 5 minutes local H.W. the stream begins to run into the Swale from the Medway end only, flowing right round the south side of the island. This continues until +1 hour 5 minutes local H.W. after which the tide begins to flow outwards from both ends of the channel until -5 hours 55 minutes local H.W. when the slack water period previously mentioned occurs again.

Note. Weather conditions and other factors are liable to affect the forgoing times, and they should only be regarded as a rough guide.

Topography. The Isle of Sheppey is low-lying and bounded in many places by extensive mudflats. However, on the east side, near Leysdown, the foreshore is sandy, and there are some cliffs towards Warden Point. Sheerness, the main town on the island, and a Naval dockyard, is situated at the mouth of the river Medway where it joins the Thames estuary.

Shore Fishing

General Remarks. As Sheppey is a fairly small island, the fishing is reasonably constant so far as species are concerned, both along the north shore and the south shore (Swale saltings). Almost any of the beaches can produce fish when the tide has covered the flats, but swimmers and boat traffic restrict the fishable areas during the summer months. In particular, fishing in the Rifle Range and Minster Cliff areas is badly hampered during good weather by sailing and power boat enthusiasts who hug the shore in order to show off - a menace to anglers and swimmers alike.

1. Garrison Beaches. A useful fishing area. Dabs and flounders are encountered for most of the year; also eels, bass, thornback rays, garfish, dogfish, pouting, soles and small conger in summer and autumn. During the latter part of the year whiting and codling come in. The beaches are mainly flat with a few rocks, yielding ragworm at L.W. and soft and peeler crabs in season. Certain parts around the Point can be fished at all states of the tide.

2. Mile Town Beaches. Flounders are taken for most of the year, with eels, bass and a few garfish during the summer. This area is not fished very much. The beaches are flat, with a few rocks. Bait in this area is in short supply - Jacobs Bank being over-dug.

3. Marine Town Beaches. Flounders and a few dabs are taken for most of the year, whilst eels, bass, thornback rays and the occasional sting ray are caught during the summer. Soles, too, may be caught in the evening, mainly at dusk. Whiting and codling during the winter. This shore is very flat, with a good ragworm bank at spring tide. Also a few soft and peeler crabs in season, and slipper limpets.

4. Cheyney Beaches. Flounders, dabs and a few plaice are encountered for most of the year, with eels, pouting and soles during summer and autumn. Whiting show up during late autumn, followed by codling during the winter. The shore consists of mud and sand flats, with a line of rocks at the bottom of the beach. Good ragworm can be dug at spring tides, but the ground is easily over-dug. Peeler and soft crabs during season.

5. Rifle Range Beaches. Flounders are encountered for most of the year, with eels, dabs, bass, sole and thornback rays during summer and autumn. Whiting and codling during late autumn and winter. The shore is stone and shingle, with muddy sand flats giving large black and red lugworms; also cockles and a few clams and razorfish. There are also one or two banks of mud and shingle full of small ragworm, but they are too soft to dig.

6. Minster and Warden Beaches. Good flounders are taken here during the spring, together with a few dabs. The summer months are good for eels, bass, flounders, dabs, thornback rays, sole, pouting and garfish. Good sport has been had at dusk on a summer's evening spinning for bass and garfish. Whiting and cod during winter months. The beach is mainly narrow, and the sea washes the cliffs at H.W. in most areas. There are, however, sandy mudflats yielding good red and black lugworms; also a few clams and razorfish.

7. Leysdown Beaches. Best fished during winter and early spring before they become crowded with holidaymakers. Good flounders are taken here during the winter months but we have no record of anyone catching either whiting or codling. Summer produces eels, dabs, bass and thornback rays. The beaches are of fine sand. Lug can be dug, but they have to be searched for. Cockles are plentiful.

8. Swale - from Harty to Queenborough. Fishes well for flounders for most of the year, and for eels, bass and mullet during the summer. Soles, garfish and pouting are also taken. The shore, consisting of mud banks and soft mudflats, can be dangerous at very low tide, owing to the deep boat channel.

9. West Minster to Garrison Point. A good area for flounders during the winter months; also dabs, bass, eels, mullet, pouting, thornback rays, sting rays, garfish, mackerel and herring during the summer season. This area contains virtually no beaches, and it is very rocky against the waterfront walls. The mud hereabouts is very soft and dangerous.

Note. Sheerness Pier and Harbour (Old Sheerness Dockyard) are private property and fishing is not allowed.

Boat Fishing

Fishing is prohibited in the mouth of the Medway, which is a main shipping channel.

10. Garrison Point to Boom. Spring fishing is rather slow, yielding mainly flounders with a few dabs inshore. In late spring and summer the fishing improves, with eels, bass, garfish, dogfish, pouting, sole (evening), mackerel and herring in season. Whiting and codling during the autumn and winter.

11. Boom to Shellness. Not fished much during the early part of the year, apart from flounders. During summer, however, the boom area is very good for all fish, and particularly for bass during the evening and night. Thornback rays are taken at both deep and shallow marks, and large tope may be caught off the boom at deep water marks. The winter months are good for whiting and cod. Conger have been caught alongside the beach during summer evenings.

12. Shellness to Saltings (Swale). Very good flounder fishing all the year round. The middle of the year is good for eels, bass, mullet, garfish, sole; also whiting during the winter months.

Boat Hire
E. Bowler, Grove Cottage, Lower Road, Brambledown, Sheppey (Tel. Eastchurch 312)
Dell's Tackle Shop (see below)
Paynes Marine Transport (Tel. Sheerness 2437)

Bait Grounds (chart symbols are shown in brackets)

Ragworms (R) may be dug at Garrison, Marine Town and Cheyney beaches and between the rocks in the West Minster/Garrison Point area.

Lugworms (L) can be dug at Rifle Range, Minster and Warden beaches; also at Leysdown, but this beach is not so productive.

Peeler and soft crabs (C) may be found during the summer months at Garrison, Marine Town and Cheyney beaches.

Cockles (K) are present on Rifle Range and Leysdown beaches.

Clams (CL) are found in limted numbers on Rifle Range and Minster beaches.

Slipper Limpets (SL). Marine Town beach.

Tackle Dealers

Dell Bullin, Dell's Tackle Shop, Neptune Terrace, Sheerness. (Tackle and bait). (Tel. Sheerness 3665)
Sports Centre, High Street, Sheerness.
Bosun's Store, High Street, Queenborough. (Tel. Sheerness 2674)
A. Bonney, The Handy Stores, Leysdown. (Tackle and bait to order). (Tel. Leysdown 250)

Local Sea Angling Club

Isle of Sheppey Angling Association. Hon. Secretary: Mr. F. Ginger, 4 Alma Road, Sheerness.

"Sea Fishing in Kent" (1973) Hugh Stoker at pages 17 to 22

Herne Bay and Whitstable (with Seasalter, Bishopstone and Reculver)

Tides. High Water: -1 hour 44 minutes H.W. London Bridge. Rise: 15½ft at Springs; 12½ft at Neaps. Tidal Streams: Off Herne Bay the inshore tidal streams are moderate and more or less follow the run of the coastline. Slack water coincides with local H.W. and L.W., the actual length of the slack period varying between Spring and Neap tides. Further west, off the mouth of the Swale, the tidal streams become more complex …

Whitstable, about 4 miles west along the coast from Herne Bay, possesses a small but busy commercial port and fishing harbour which dries out at L.W. The old part of the town behind the harbour is flanked on its east side by the modern residential subsurb of Tankerton, whilst on the other side lies Seasalter with its caravan camps, chalets and beach huts. The beach at Tankerton is shingly at H.W., but some mud appears as the tide recedes. At Seasalter the foreshore consists of shingle and shell, with an extensive area of lugwormy sand known as Whitstable Flats exposed at L.W.

An unusual feature of the coastline near Tankerton is 'Whitstable Street' - a narrow drying ridge of shingle and shell which extends seawards for 1½ miles at L.W. Springs. Local legend has it that this ancient causeway is part of a submerged town.

Boat Fishing

10. Swalecliffe. Inshore fishing in this area can produce good catches of dabs on occasions. Results are often best during the flood tide. The dabs are sometimes prolific during the winter months, from about late September to February.

15. Whitstable Street. Very good for bass from May to September. Recommended methods: king ragworm or crab fished on a long trace in the tide race over the bank, or an artificial lure trolled slowly through the choppy water caused by the tide race.

16. Anchored Yawls. This area yields mainly flounders in the spring, using peeler or soft crab bait. Bags of 30 to 40lb of these fish in a single tide are not uncommon when conditions are favourable.

17. Dab Ground. This general area produces good bags of dabs at most times of the year.

18. The Flats. This area is one mass of lugworm beds and cockles and it is a feeding ground for such species as plaice (smallish), sole, flounders, sting rays, thornback rays, bass and mullet throughout the warmer months. However, because the tide goes out so far, the water cools off quickly later in the year and the winter months are not very productive. The setting of long lines is done extensively here for the sole, which are numerous and of good size during the summer.

Tackle and Bait Dealers
Arthur Boulting, 33 Harbour Street, Whitstable. (Tel Whitstable 3680).

Local Bait Grounds (chart symbols are shown in brackets)

Lugworms (L) can be dug at various sandy places on Herne Bay beach, but one of the best spots lies west of the pier. Spring tides are most productive because during Neaps the tide does not go out far enough to uncover the best worm beds.

King Ragworms (K/R) can be dug on the mussel banks at Swalecliffe, Hampton, along Herne Bay pier, on the Rand and the mussel banks east of Reculver.

Sand-Rag (S/R). These small red ragworms are found at the foot of the beach where shingle meets sand, or near Hampton Jetty in blue clay.

Peeler and Soft Crabs (C) can be collected along the entire coastline during spring and early summer, buried in sand around small rocks, breakwaters, stumps etc. They are also found in soft mud in the bottom of old bait holes.

Mussels (M) can be collected at the king ragworm beds listed above, but they are not much used as bait locally.

Cockles (K) can usually be collected in those flat sandy areas favoured by lugworms, but they are not much used as bait locally.

"Fisherman's Handbook" (1977) The Marshall Cavendish, Part 9 at pages 231 to 235

The Kent Coast

Map showing the sand banks and wrecks where fine cod and conger are fished

The Kent coast offers some of the finest sea angling in the British Isles. Many species are encountered with cod predominant, particularly during the autumn and winter. The great advantage of fishing this coastline is that excellent fishing can often be had only a mile or two beyond the embarkation point.

The North Sea, ebbing and flowing through the Straits of Dover, gives rather fierce tides, but the relatively shallow water compensates for this. Rarely is it over 14 fathoms deep, and is on average 7-10 fathoms. There is good fishing up the Thames as far as Gravesend and the Isle of Sheppey but this is estuary fishing. Open sea fishing begins at Whitstable.

Whitstable is reached directly from London via the M2 and A299. The sea around this town is shallow for the first five miles out, and on average less than three fathoms deep. Boat anglers can expect to find dabs, whiting and cod in winter, and flounders, eels and bass in summer. Shore anglers enjoy beachcasting for the same species from the gentle shelving beach east of the harbour.

Herne Bay lies 4 miles to the east of Whitstable still on the A299. Several available charter boats will take anglers to the famous Pansands for the excellent bass fishing in the summer, or to the broken ground off Reculver for winter cod fishing.The town was famous for its tope fishing before the war, but this species seems to have declined since then. The average depth here is about 3 fathoms until one reaches the shipping lanes nearly 7 miles out.

Most varieties of seafish are caught in the appropriate seasons with thornback ray and smooth-hounds especially prolific during the peeler crab season in April, May and June. For the shore angler, fishing from the Eastern Promenade can be very rewarding, particularly in the autumn and winter after dark. Unfortunately the ¾ mile long pier was closed as being unsafe in 1968.

Good fishing

The twin towers of the ruined church known as Reculver are 3 miles east of Herne Bay. The beach here shelves gently. and thornback and stingrays are caught during spring and summer and cod and whiting in autumn and winter. Shore angling is good for another 2 miles east of this landmark.

Several charter boats are on hire from the harbour at Margate. The water here is 5-6 fathoms deep and the bottom, except at Margate Sands, is of chalk and flints, unlike the sand and gravel bottom at Herne Bay. Excellent bass and thornback ray are caught during spring and summer. The North Foreland Lighthouse is south-east of Margate, and the Elbow Buoy is approximately three miles out at sea from this point. Here one can expect the finest cod fishing to be had in the British Isles.

Many dinghy anglers favour the Longnose Buoy which is nearer, being a mile offshore, and where similar catches can be made. During the summer, bass fishing is good off the inshore chalk ledges and artificial lures are very successful. In the town there is a stone jetty and promenades from which most varieties can be taken depending on the season.

Broadstairs, on the A225 about 4 miles south-east of Margate, has a harbour where boats can be chartered to fish the same area as the Margate boats. Shore angling is possible from the harbour arm and from the chalk ledges north and south of the town.

Ramsgate, south of Broadstairs, is on a direct route from London via the M2, A222 and A253. With its very large harbour and excellent boat facilities, it accommodates both individual and charter anglers. The boats fish as far as the Elbow Buoy, particularly in winter for the cod, at North Goodwins for thornback ray during the summer months, and at Quern Bank for the good bass fishing. Pegwell Bay, which is a shallow water mark, is good for flatfish and whiting. Shore angling takes place from the harbour arms and a large variety of fish are caught although the ground is rather snaggy from the western arm. Large shoals of mullet abound inside the harbour during the summer months and can be caught on freshwater tackle. Other shore stations include the Chines and Under-Cliffe.

Sand and shingle

Although Sandwich lies a mile inland from the coast there is a road through the sand dunes to the shore. The chalk of Ramsgate has now given way to sand and shingle and excellent sport can be had by the beach angler from this point. Big catches of cod are made during the autumn and winter, and mainly flatfish, including soles, through the summer.

South of Ramsgate, and accessible via the M2, the A257 and the A258, Deal is the Mecca of sea angling. Large numbers of charter boats are launched from the steeply-shelving shingle beaches and just about every species of seafish has been caught at some time in these waters. A number of wrecks, particularly on the Goodwin Sands, provide good conger fishing, and in the summer tope and thornback are still caught in fair numbers over the sands. There is often good plaice fishing north of the town and south of Kingsdown, but the town's reputation is primarily for winter cod and whiting. Angling is allowed throughout the year from the modern pier and also night fishing at weekends.

Known as the gateway to England, Dover boasts a magnificent harbour with several angling charter boats. This is the narrowest part of the English Channel and the tides are therefore the strongest, but on neap tides the fishing is good, particularly for conger, cod and pollack found among the many wrecks. The water here is deeper than the rest of the

Kent Coast and the bottom is very hard chalk with fissures. Varne Bank, lying nearly half-way across the Channel, can provide good cod fishing throughout the summer with brill and turbot often a bonus. For the shore angler, the large harbour gives plenty of opportunity, although the eastern arm was closed to anglers many years ago. The Southern Breakwater is only accessible by boat, but a ferry service will take anglers for a nominal charge. Admiralty Pier is free fishing and anglers will often be shoulder to shoulder feathering for the vast shoals of mackerel found here during the summer.


Folkestone Harbour, approximately 5 miles west of Dover, has charter boats which fish Varne Bank in summer and supply good inshore fishing in winter. Several of the inshore marks have 14 fathoms of water, and the sea bed is very rocky particularly off the Warren. Conger to 30 lb are not uncommon near the British Rail Harbour Arm where anglers may fish for a small charge. West of Folkestone, the first mile of shingle beach runs off to snaggy ground, and further westward gives way to sand. This beach extends for 4½ miles, and the road at the top known as Princes Parade enables one virtually to fish from the car. Many species are caught here including bass, conger, plaice, cod and whiting. West of Hythe are the Military Ranges, where fishing is prohibited except on special occasions.

Dungeness is reached via the A259 to New Romney, then the B2071 out to the point. From Hythe to Dungeness the tide goes out so far that very little beachfishing is possible, but at Dungeness itself the steep shelving beach of shingle and the deep water make it ideal for the beach angler. Many years ago Leslie Moncrieff made this station famous for its cod fishing during the winter months. With the right conditions, anglers catch more cod than they can carry, and many of them are over 20 lb. In summer Dungeness and Dengemarsh provide excellent sole fishing and quite often large shoals of mackerel come right to the water's edge. Nearly all species of seafish are contacted; at one time there was even a small thresher shark caught from the beach here.

"Sea Angling Around Britain" (1977) Trevor Housby at pages 9 & 10

Chapter 1: The South East Coast

Isle of Sheppey to Hastings

Within easy travelling distance of London and many smaller towns, this section of the south coast is naturally very heavily fished. Despite this, the whole area is more than capable of yielding first-class catches, particularly during the winter months when cod and whiting shoals come right inshore to keep beach and boat anglers' rod tops knocking.


During the summer months this area is often inundated with silver eels which make a nuisance of themselves by snatching at any baited hook that comes their way. During the winter these eels disappear almost completely and boat anglers in particular often get amongst the cod in a big way.


Once famous for its excellent oysters, Whitstable also provides shore and boat fishermen with good mixed fishing. Shore anglers take cod, pouting, whiting, sole, dab, flounder and silver eels in good quantities during the various seasons. The shingle beach by the Swalecliffe sewer to the east of Tankerton is a favourite venue. In the winter this beach is particularly good for cod fishing. Other notable beaches are Whitstable Street shingle beach and Long Beach which is situated on the east side of the harbour. The harbour wall at Whitstable, although not always particularly rewarding, can produce the odd good catch and for this reason is well worth a visit. Boats are not easy to charter at Whitstable, although anglers can launch their own boats at Horsebridge [1].

[1] Editor's note: Horsebridge slipway can be found at 51.360999, 1.022891

"The Sea Angler's Guide to Britain and Ireland" (1982) John Darling at pages 10 & 11


… the beaches in summer tend to be crowded with tourists, sailors and powerboat enthusiasts. The best summer fishing is to be had from a boat offshore, while the shore fisherman is advised to operate early, late, or where the beach is less accessible.

Caesar landed here because the beaches are so flat. The high water mark generally consists of shingle, becoming sandier. Inside the Thames Estuary, and especially around the Isle of Sheppey, the foreshore becomes very muddy and is dangerous in some places. Areas of rock are extensive, patchy east of Herne Bay, but more frequent towards Cliftonville. Rocks are one of the features that attract fish around here. Deeper water near in also persuades the fish to come closer to the beach than elsewhere.

Shore fishing is for cod (but not a huge run, as in south Kent), whiting, dabs and flounders during the winter months; and for small tope, some thornback rays, huss and spotted dogfish, the occasional sting ray, bass, plaice, a few sole and thousands of silver eels in the summer months. Bass frequent the rocks early and late in the summer, spending the major part of their time hunting around the offshore sandbanks.

Much of the very best fishing is from a boat because the beaches shelve so gently. Offshore, there are channels and sand-bars built up from sand and shell and one or two wrecks. Populations of fish out there are similar to those caught from the beach, but better in numbers and quality.

Visiting boat anglers should take care. The very shallow water reacts badly to winds from the north and east, especially when the tide is ebbing hard into the wind. Anything over force four sets up a dangerous, short wave pattern - very unpleasant and not safe for small boats. Weather details are available from Garrison Point (Tel: Sheerness (07956) 3025).

Flood tides fill and ebb tides drain the Thames Estuary. High Water at Herne Bay is 1½ hours before London Bridge. Inshore currents run parallel to the shore.

Club Headquarters: The Isle of Sheppey AA has a clubhouse close to the tackle shop at Neptune Terrace, Sheerness. Herne Bay AA has its headquarters at 59 Central Parade, Herne Bay (Tel: Herne Bay (02273) 62127).

Onshore winds here bring the fish on the feed in both summer and winter. Overcast skies help, too, or dusk and dawn conditions, to reduce the light intensity in this shallow water. Launching is not advised during onshore wind regimes. Those with boats on trailers are advised that there are several public slipways and ramps, few of which can be used at all periods of the tides. Slipways exist at Queenborough (any time); Whitehouse (2½ hours each side of high water); Herne Bay (Neptune Jetty, 4 hours each side of high water); Minnis Bay, Birchington (3 hours each side of high water); Margate Harbour (3 hours each side of high water).

1 Garrison Point: Very rocky with fierce tides. Some good bass fishing, especially for big ones. Good silver eels, dabs, scad, flounders and thick-lipped mullet in summer. Cod and whiting, in some years as far upstream as Gravesend, in winter. The pier is owned by the Medway Ports Authority and fishing there is restricted. Bait supplies are uncertain and hard to gather, so visitors are advised to contact Sheppey Bait and Tackle Shop, Neptune Terrace, Sheerness (Tel: Sheerness (07956) 3665).

2 Barton's Point: Consistent for bass and eels in summer, though better in winter for cod and flatfish. Boat anglers are advised that there exists a no-go area around the buoyed wreck of the Richard Montgomery just offshore. Beware of large tankers and other commercial traffic that use the sea lanes. They cannot stop for small boats.

3 Eastchurch Gap: Some cliff here. Best results are achieved casting out a bit and at night for bass, eels and smooth hounds on crab in summer, cod and whiting in winter. This area is hard to get to and you risk being cut off by the tide, so survey the place carefully in daylight before starting to fish.

4 Leysdown: The fishing can be excellent, but shallow water limits operations to 2½ hours each side of high water. Note that the private nudist beach at Shellness is accessible for neither fishing nor bait gathering.

5 Medway Estuary: This is the best area for flounder fishing using red river ragworm, especially when the fish are migrating early in the year. Plenty of silver eels and some school bass, especially at Stangate Creek. All West Minster and Queenborough walls are fishable. Boats can be chartered either through Sheppey Bait and Tackle, or through Stan Smith, High Street, Queenborough, Isle of Sheppey (Tel: Sheerness (07956) 67304).

6 The Swale: Eels, flounders and school bass in summer, a few whiting in winter and the occasional cod. Like the Medway Estuary, the Swale is heavily populated by thick-lipped mullet in summer, for which specialist study and tackle are required.

7 Tankerton Bay and Whitstable Street: Good bass and flounders off Street on peeler crab all through tide, with flatfish and eels along the beach. Some cod and whiting in winter. Charter boats operate from Whitstable Harbour. Details of bookings from Ron Edwards at 50 High Street, Herne Bay (Tel: Herne Bay (02273) 2517).

Bait Areas

A: Plenty of lugworm at Seasalter and Whitstable. Large brown blow-lugworm generally dug by trenching and a few cockles. Lugworm beds extend round to Margate.

B: The north Kent coast, wherever there is some rocky or bouldery ground, will produce good numbers of peeler shore crabs from April to May but fewer during the main summer months. Crabbing improves in September.

C: Plenty of harbour ragworm on mudflats at West Minster and Queenborough. Beware of soft mud while digging on the Isle of Sheppey.

"The Penguin Guide to Sea Fishing in Britain and Ireland for Shore and Boat Anglers" (1983) at pages 24 & 28

Three: East Anglia and South-East England

The Humber to Margate

… From East Anglia southwards, the summer fishing improves and there are more and more opportunities for boat fishing, where species taken further south in the Channel can often feature in catches - bream, conger, and various kinds of dogfish. The whole of this area can produce tope, some very big, which are most likely to be taken from boats.

Worm bait suppliers are abundant, although it is usually practical to dig your own from the many productive grounds unless weather or time dictate otherwise. Mackerel are normally plentiful during summer.

One of the most welcome features of fishing in the South-East is the effect of the campaign to clean up the River Thames. Year after year the fishing in this area improves, and several species are re-establishing themselves.


High tides, especially those backed by easterlies, bring some bass in summer and cod and flounders in winter. Northfleet Creek produces flounders, with some summer mullet. Worm and tackle available locally. Best local marks are foreshore from Greenhithe to Gravesend, Sea School and Cooling beaches. A local speciality bait for codling, whiting and flatfish is cooked shrimp. Best boat marks are Grain Edge and All Hallows.


Good fishing here and at Warden Point and Leysdown-on-Sea for summer bass and mullet, flatfish, rays, dogfish and silver eels, and winter codling and whiting. Eel and flounders in the Swale, with some bass. Good tope grounds off the island. Bait and tackle available locally.

"Sea Angling: Kent to Cornwall" (1990) Mel Russ & Alan Yates at pages 18, 19 & 20

Kent Alan Yates

Guide to Kent's all-year beaches

It could be argued that Gravesend is the nearest shore angling venue to London, which is probably why it gets a lot of attention from fishermen. Sited on the south shore of the Thames estuary, Tilbury is on the opposite Essex bank, about a mile across the river. Catches are limited to flounders and eels with the occasional bass or mullet in summer and cod, whiting and flounders in winter.

Shore angling in this area is hampered by muddy banks and, after rain, these banks can be treacherous. Easy access and comfortable fishing can be found at Greenhithe promenade and Gravesend promenade, although catches are limited to eels and flounders. This area is especially noted as being ideal and safe for both junior and disable anglers. During winter the stretch of shoreline adjacent to the Gravesend Sea School [2] is popular because there is the chance of a 15lb cod. This length of shoreline stretches two miles to Shornemead Fort [3] and the Shorne Light [4] and a top mark is the Black Post [5] half-way along the venue.

[2] Editor's note: Gravesend Sea School has been demolished and a block of flats built in its grounds at Commercial Place, Gravesend DA12 (51.444507, 0.375820)

[3] Shornemead Fort (51.446545, 0.434109)

[4] In circa 2004 a new Shornemead Lighthouse was installed just offshore from the original lighthouse opposite East Tilbury Fort (51.449593, 0.442733)

[5] The "Black Post" fishing mark is located beside a stile on the bank between Shornemead Fort and Shornemead Lighthouse.

Fishing is best over the high water with spring tides best. The ebb is particularly strong and a grip lead is required to hold bottom. Top baits throughout the Sea School stretch are lugworm, peeler crab and king and harbour ragworm, with boiled shrimp a local favourite for the flounders. The banks of the river are protected by a rocky wall which stretches out some 50 feet - a trap for grip leads if you don't reel in fast enough.

The Isle of Grain is a flounder angler's paradise, with lots of inlets and creeks in which to drop a ragworm or peeler crab bait. It is a comparatively shallow area and winter results show only the very occasional cod. Marks at Higham Marshes [6], Allhallows [7], Yantlet Creek [8] and The Flats [9] down to Hoo [10], on the Medway estuary, all offer flounders. Best results come at high water: beware of the mud. Access is via the A228 from Rochester, and the B2001 to Grain.

[6] Higham Marshes (51.447989, 0.440590)

[7] Allhallows (51.473600, 0.654134)

[8] Yantlet Creek (51.472893, 0.670024)

[9] The Flats are between (51.448710, 0.670083) on the Grain Road (A228) and Vicarage Lane (51.41367, 0.56863)

[10] Hoo (51.413427, 0.573568).

There's lots of potential around the Isle of Sheppey, where shore catches have included thornback ray, smoothhounds and stingray. Even tope have been caught in the past. Nowadays, though, it enjoys only a shadow of its former glory, and sport majors on flounders and eels. When the sun shines in June or July and temperatures rise there's the chance of bass, smoothhound and thornback being taken from Eastchurch Gap, Warden Point or Leysdown on peeler crab.

For the remainder of the year the good old flounder can be found all around the island, with the West Minster Wall, Swale estuary at Kingsferry, Rushenden Bay and Queenborough amongst the favourite marks. During the spring, peeler crab, which is found all around the island, is the only bait worth using and this secures the odd decent bass as well as as the flounders and eels.

A favourite bass mark is Garrison Point, on the north-west tip of the island, at the entrance to the River Medway. Strong tides make this mark difficult to fish, but it offers a chance of big bass, especially at night during midsummer. Sheppey's front beaches offer whiting and codling in winter during spring tides with Barton Point and the new promenade at East End top marks. Best baits are common or yellowtail lugworm, king and white ragworm and peeler crab. Ideal conditions of a northerly onshore wind may offer much, but the island never guarantess anything.

Anglers are warned that the cliffs in the area around Warden Point are especially dangerous in wet weather and always likely to subside. The Isle of Sheppey can be reached via the M2 (take the A249 at junction 5).

The Tankerton to Margate stretch of shoreline offers comparatively limited fishing from the shore and is better known for its abundance of different types of bait. Tankerton, Whitstable, Herne Bay and Reculver offer eels and flounders in summer with the occasional bass or the odd stingray at Bishopstone Rocks. Herne Bay Pier is only a shadow of its former self with the short stumps left after the original pier was demolished. It has, however, yielded double-figure cod in the depths of winter following onshore gales as well as whiting, dabs, flounders, plaice and the odd stingray.

"Sea Angling: Kent to Cornwall" (1990) Mel Russ & Alan Yates at page 33

Kent Alan Yates

Boat angling guide to the Kent coast

Charter boat fishing is limited along the north Kent coast, with only a few boats operating from Gravesend, the Medway estuary and Whitstable. However, the area offers miles of calm and safe inshore water for dinghy angling, especially around the Isle of Sheppey and Herne Bay. In fact, Herne Bay is considered the centre of dinghy fishing in the county because it has excellent launching facilities, including the Neptune Jetty situated to the east of the pier. Other slipways in the vicinity include those near Hampton Jetty and Whitstable harbour.

"Sea Angling Magazine" Issue 506 (5 June 2014) Dave Lewis at page 21

10 Top UK Sole Venues

② Gravesend, Kent

A prolific River Thames summer venue that produces in the coloured water, day or night. Easy access at Denton Wharf, try between the short jetties. Lug, maddies and ragworms are the baits. Fish show at Greenhithe and in the River Medway at Strood and Rochester.

Sheerness Steel Sea Angling Club

Garrison Point Sheerness

Because of its shallow grounds and surf beaches, Sheppey can always produce some superb bass fishing no matter what your preferred tactics are. At the Garrison at Sheerness (when the water is clear) if you fish tight or even climb onto the rocks you can have some great fun spinning for these aggressive feeders. Frozen sand eel, sea bars and any form of plugs work well from June to September and you will also catch garfish at this venue. If you prefer to fish from the beach, then anywhere from the edge of the rocks to the wall will produce bass. From July until September you will also catch sole and eels from this mark; other species you can expect to catch are wrasse, flounders, pouting and rockling. In the winter months you can also catch bass along with codling, whiting and dogfish.

Catholic Church to the Jetty

These are two points between a small 400-yard shallow bay. In winter you will catch bass, whiting and cod on the night tides and when the weather is rough you will catch them on the day tides along with flounders and the odd sole.

The Coal Pier

This is located alongside the Sheppey Sailing Club; although the pier has long gone it still retains the name amongst the angling community. This can be a very productive mark throughout the year depending on the weather conditions. From spring to autumn you can catch eels, bass, flounders, sole, and skate along with the odd mullet. In the winter this venue will yield catches of cod, whiting, dogfish and dabs.

The Blockhouse

This is opposite the Ship-on-Shore public house, a very popular mark amongst the locals. In recent years sea defence works have been carried out at this venue so when you fish here after dark it can become quite difficult to cross the rocks. The species that can be caught are codling, whiting, dabs, pouting, dogfish, bass, flounders, sole and rockling over the winter and, in the summer months, you can catch skate, flounders, bass, eels, mullet, sole, dogfish and the odd smooth-hound.

Barton's Point

This is one of the most well known angling marks on Sheppey and is located between Sheerness and Minster. At this very popular and productive venue you will catch a variety of different species throughout the year. In the winter months you will catch whiting, cod, dogfish, bass, sole, flounder, rockling, place and pouting. In the summer months you will catch bass, eels, skate, sole, flounders, place, garfish and the odd smooth-hound.

Barton's Point to the Whitehouse

This is a venue the locals call the 'Shingle Bank'. It a great place to fish after dark, especially in the winter months when you will catch whiting, cod, dogfish, bass, sole, flounder, rockling, place and pouting.

Whitehouse to the Little Oyster car park (The Leas)

All the way along this venue you will catch flounders, bass, eels and the odd skate in the summer months and in the winter expect to catch cod, whiting, flounders, dabs, dogfish, sole and pouting.

Little Oyster to the end of the new sea wall, Minster

All the way along this venue you will catch flounders, bass, eels, skate and the odd smooth-hound in the summer months, and in the winter expect to catch cod, whiting, flounders, dabs, dogfish, sole and pouting.

River Swale

One of the most productive marks for catching flounders on Sheppey from September through to April is the Swale from Crundels Wharf to the 'Stumps'. However, this venue is rarely fished during the summer months, but those who do usually catch eels and the odd mullet.

Kingsferry Bridge

This fast-water mark is ideal for bass fishing and the best time to target them is on the last of the ebb over the slack water and the first two hours of the flood tide. This is also a great place for those anglers who like to spin or fish with plugs.

The Saltings

It can be a bit of a stroll from the old Kingsferry Bridge to the Elmley Nature Reserve but the results can be well worth it. This is the place to catch the summer mullet that shoal up in their hundreds in the tributaries and over the shallow ground. Other species to be caught hear are flounders, eels and bass.

Skate start to show early on in March and always show at Eastchurch Gap first. Then, within a week or two, they can be caught from Warden Point, the ramp at Warden and the green car park at Leysdown. The best conditions to catch skate always seem to be overcast with an onshore breeze. The best baits are peeler crab, squid and fish. By mid May they start to venture offshore to feed on the small fish that shoal up at these venues and you will catch the odd one here and there but usually the eels are on your bait long before any of the skate have had a chance to. A word of caution though - at Eastchurch Gap the trawlers sometimes drop their nets very close to the shore and this can adversely affect your catch rate at this venue. At the other mentioned venues though, the ground is too shallow for the trawlers to work their nets.

If you want to target the hard-fighting stingrays then Eastchurch Gap is the place to try for them from mid May until July. Once the skate run finishes the trawlers seem to leave this ground alone. The weather conditions greatly affect your catch rate so avoid hot, calm and still conditions. All the best recorded catches have been when the weather was mild but overcast with low pressure showing on the barometer. They are often caught on the first of the flood tide but the best catches have come from between 1 to 3 hours into the ebb. The preferred baits are crab, fish and squid.

The venues to try for smooth-hounds are Warden Point and the Boom at Minster and the preferred baits are crab, fish and squid. From July until early September smooth-hounds can be caught no matter what the weather conditions, particularly by anglers who can cast 80 yards plus.

All of the above-mentioned venues are superb marks if you like to fish for the eels and bass.

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