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Coastal Sea Trout Fishing

It’s a rare thing to hear about a newly founded fishery in this day and age. Small fisheries pop up here and there and most are in the form of another. However, this is no ordinary nor small fishery emerging from nowhere, this is a seriously exciting 53 mile fishery (with scope for many more miles), on some of the most iconic coastlines in the UK the Fife coast and Musselburgh coast. Fishing for Sea Trout throughout the majority of the migratory species season, for an absolute bargain, with the best access and parking you could ask for, and the chance to learn new water and discover the fishing locations for yourself, you couldn’t design it better.

This is a great idea from the coastal fishing rights owners that takes nothing for themselves from the fee. The ticket proceeds actually go towards funding up-river projects to improve habitat, so really it’s a donation to the rivers with the bonus of fishing more water than you can shake your rod at. Locals say there are large numbers of Sea Trout in the estuary all year round, and some of the best times are not when the traditional Sea Trout angler would be used to in May and June.

But why do i need a permit to fish in the sea ?

In general, you dont need a permit to fish in the sea but you do need a permit if you wish to target migratory species such as salmon or sea trout. This is set out under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheires (Consolidation)(Scotland) Act 2003. It states that you need written permission from the fishery owner to fish for migratory species up to 1.5 miles from mean low water. Some anglers wish to target sea trout around the Forth’s coast but want to do this legally hence why we have created this new permit. The permit is similar to the likes in the Tay and Clyde estuary but all funds generated through sales of this permit are reinvested in river conservation projects around the Forth. 

“I’m so excited! So much epic coastline untouched for as long as anyone can remember, and a chance at angry and salt fueled Sea Trout all season long, count me in! I wonder how big they get?”

Craig Somerville

“I can’t wait to see local and travelled anglers fish for Sea Trout on the Forth coast. They (Sea Trout) are there right through the year and often in impressive numbers, you just have to find them. One of the best times I know of for coastal Sea Trout is Mid March, and that so happens to be when this permit starts. And you won’t need a midge net all season long.”

Lee Fisher

Location

The Firth of Forth (Linne Foirthe) has a vast area of coastline meeting the North Sea on the northern Fife side at Fife-ness aka Craighead near Crail, and on the southern side at St. Abb’s Head east of Dunbar. The Firth is where all of the water from the Forth district drains into as far west as the Trossachs ie. Balquhidder and Aberfoyle, and draining Stirling, Edinburgh and Lothians, Fife and so on.

The Fishing

This is the most exciting time for us at Fishing Around the Forth (FAF), as we don’t have the answers yet on how, where, or when to fish for Sea Trout in this amazing estuary, we can only guess. This is in fact the first time the Firth has been legally permitted for line anglers for as long as the Forth District Salmon Fishery Board’s records go back.

What we do know, is that there are often considerable numbers of Sea Trout hugged in close to the shorelines at multiple times throughout the year from reliable sources up and down the estuary. So, we are asking you to give us a hand, let’s learn more about this ‘new’ fishery. What conditions work best for where; what time of year; how big do these fish get; do they form massive shoals or small pods; do they fish best on outgoing tides in the draining guts of flats, or off points and seams as the tide floods, or just quiet bays out the wind; does the moon phase mean anything to the fishing at night, or even the size of the tides? These questions, and many more, are there to be answered and discovered by you, the first Sea Trout rod and line anglers on the Firth of Forth. 

We all, as anglers, have a duty to conserve and protect these fish and because we don’t know how many Sea Trout there are in the estuary there is a mandatory 100% catch and release policy on the coastline meaning that all Sea Trout must be returned at all times. In this day and age this is accepted by all good anglers. We hope to see and read all about your fishing success with pictures of beautiful bars of silver in your rubber catch and release nets with the fish in the water. We’d ask that you share your images far and wide to attract many more anglers to this huge coastline which will never become territorial due to its scale and the movement of fish from day to day. What’s a little bit of fun, and a highlight to fishing in the sea, is that you never know what you might catch whilst Sea Trout fishing. There are some amazing cod, and bass on the Forth coast and Mackerel too in the Summer months. So, if the Sea Trout are a little slow on a particular trip, why not try for these other species.

Musselburgh District (South shore of the Firth)

The fishing in this area is from the western boundary at the Granton Harbour wall in Wardie Bay, Trinity eastwards to the east end of Cuthill Park just west of Prestonpans. The John Muir Way follows much of the eastern coastline of the Esk mouth in Musselburgh, and the access is great via road and the Promenade Walkway to Fisherrow Harbour on the west side of the Esk mouth. Also including Musselburgh beach and the Portobello Promenade and beach, then Marine Esplanade and Leith Harbour Western Lighthouse to Newhaven Lighthouse there is access and paths. Please be very careful and wary of the tides at all times and always have an escape route. The harbour wall off McKelvie Parade could be a good spot too, but again nobody knows yet due to this being a new fishery. Of course there will be restricted access in harbours/marinas, however the fishing will undoubtedly be more enjoyable away from these busy areas with a lot of underwater noise pollution.

North Queensferry Point to Buckhaven

The eastern most boundary of this permit is where Battery Road at North Queensferry meets the water at North Queensferry South Bay. There is a little section of no fishing on the west side of the point under the foundation of the Forth Railway Bridge that is fenced off. Otherwise the fishing extends all the way for some 25 miles approximately to the point under the most westerly wind turbine at Buckhaven. Leven Mouth is not part of the fishing on this permit. There are so many access points and footpaths along this stunning and varied section of coastline it is pointless to list them. Simply get a map and explore the areas you think might look fishy. Online maps and Street View can help with your planning process in advance to seek good fishy looking terrain and parking etc.

Shell Bay to Craighead

What an amazing section of coastline this is too. The stunning coastline here extends from the western point at Shell Bay near Earlsferry all the way to Craighead, aka Fife-ness Point. Elie, St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail offer up some of the most beautiful coastal towns and angling opportunities in the world in our opinion with the best “chippies” in the world too. The Fife Coastal Path follows the coastline for the length of the fishing rights here and access is easy off the main roads in several places. The 15 miles (approximately) of fishing opportunities here with rocky ledges and bars and deep pools, drop offs, bays and so much more is a Sea Trout anglers dream. Again, take the time before venturing out to research and choose potential fishing spots. 

Further Information

Facilities

  • Road access is easy, as is car parking and walking on paths and along shorelines. Be wary of tides and swells. Always have an escape route.
  • There are so many beautiful places to eat, stay and holiday on the Forth estuary coastline, you are spoiled for choice. Take a look at Google or Apple Maps for locations.
  • No Fishing Around the Forth facilities are supplied. Everything you use should be for public use/access and respected at all times please.

Top Tips

  • Lure and fly anglers alike will have so much fishing available to them on this permit it will be difficult to decide where to fish. The best advice we can give, to select where to go, is to check the wind and tides and make your decisions based on these.
  • If all the rivers are blown out with high water, or too low, fish the coastal waters as an alternative.
  • The incoming tide and the 2 hours either side is notoriously the best time to fish any coastal waters, so we anticipate this to be the same for the Forth estuary for Sea Trout. However we don’t know for sure.
  • We would expect a dropping tide where sandeels etc may be stranded and easy targets for Sea Trout to ambush may be of significance in sandy/weedy bays.
  • Always, always, always have an escape route on the coast, tides and swells can catch anyone out. Where a lifejacket, use grippy soles, and make sure you have a mobile phone and have told someone at home where you are planning to fish and when you’re coming back. You are responsible for your own safety, nobody else. It can be a good idea to have the coast guard’s number in your phone too.
  • Saltwater will make all of your sinking fishing equipment more bouyant. This is especially good info for fly anglers who want to fish sub surface, an intermediate line will almost float, so in order to not drag the surface around spooky fish, maybe try a faster rated sinking line.
  • Be wary of “no fishing” signs and abide by them.
  • Try fishing dusk and dawn.
  • Try fishing the edge of rough water coming around a point into a calm bay.
  • Soft lures can be extremely effective for Sea Trout on fly AND spinning rods.
  • Experiment and tell us what works.
  • There are no secrets in this game, we have so much fishing available to you and ask that you share your findings with us with whatever means you feel easiest, you can email or call via the Contact Us page, or reach out via Messenger on our Facebook page here.
  • Barbless hooks are recommended in the rules and single point hooks are also recommended on lures due to the very aggressive nature of the design of most sea lures. The fishery is catch and release, whereas the hooks sold with most sea lures are for catch and kill purposes. Please consider this and swap the hooks out.
  • A landing net is essential for catch and release especially in the coastal environment with swells and barnacle covered rocks etc which will destroy the protective layer of slime on Sea Trout very easily. Also, if your net has an extending handle, you may be a little safer too.
  • Don’t wade – Sea Trout can be as little as a meter from the bank with their dorsal fins out of the water trying to hunt out sand eels and crabs.
  • Fish the months other than the expected and traditional Sea Trout months of May and June. Sea Trout often don’t migrate further than the estuary all year until they run the rivers, and sometimes don’t move far at all.
  • Some Sea Trout have been spotted in December in the estuary shoaling and ready to run, so who knows if there is a peak season? Let’s find out and share your new found knowledge with us.
  • Report back to FAF and the community of anglers will create a formula over the next few years of research. This is why the permit is so cheap!
  • Go to your local tackle store to learn what to use. It may be a case of taking a fly rod and spinning rod to make the most out of your day. There will be better applications for both disciplines.
  • Don’t forget to take lures that might attract other sea fish species to spice up your day.
  • Remember there are laws on Bass fishing in the UK – visit this site for more info. https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Salmon-Trout-Coarse/seaangling/bass
  • Your permit cost is treated as a donation to improving rivers in the Forth, it does not sit in someone’s bank account. So invite more anglers to enjoy the fishing and feel good about the work getting done in the background improving habitat for these special fish to successfully migrate and spawn.

Equipment seasonally

  • For fly anglers, a #5 – #7, 9-10ft single hand rod will cover most scenarios. Of course this is up to the angler.
  • Shooting head lines will provide better punch into the wind.
  • A switch rod for spey casting heavier flies may help avoid fatigue and issues with wind and higher backdrops behind you.
  • Bass lure rods of 9-11ft with a casting weight of anywhere between 20g to 80g will cover all scenarios.
  • For lure fishing, use 8 strand braid of up to 90lb breaking strain to cut and pull through kelp, with a fluoro shock leader of up to 20lb for best results. Fish to the species you target, so prefered is no line breaking strain under 5lb for Sea Trout.
  • For both fly and lure fishing, try mimicking sandeels, crabs, small squid ie Muppet lures, and anything else your local tackle store recommends. No bait fishing is allowed on this permit.
  • A rubber mesh landing net is essential.
  • One, barbless and single point hook only should be used. For fly anglers, dressed doubles are accepted. No trebles.
  • Seek out saltwater hooks for longevity, ask your local store for help.
  • Sinking fly lines don’t sink as quickly or as deep in saltwater, so if you want to get deeper, either purchase a faster sink line than you would usually use for freshwater, or use heavier flies/weight the leader with split shot.
  • Wear a lifejacket
  • Felt soles or metal studded soles are prefered for sea angling from the shore.
  • Waders can offer comfort from wind protection more than waterproofing when coastal fishing.
  • Light intensifying polarised glasses can make spotting fish possible on occasion.
  • Take a mobile phone loaded with your permit, maps, and a way of calling for help to either home or the coast guard.

Factfile

  • Species fished for on this permit: Sea Trout only. Atlantic Salmon are known for not taking in seawater, however if you do accidentally catch one it must be returned unharmed. This is a Sea Trout exclusive permit and tackle used must reflect this. See the rules. Other saltwater species are of course available, and will keep your day interesting.
  • Access: Easy on the Fife Coast with parking and paths along the ‘Fife Coastal Path’ walking route and on the Musselburgh section there is the John Muir Way and then many roads and access all the way along the permitted fishing areas. See the included downloadable maps and more access info below per section of the permit.
  • Sea Trout – 15th March to 31st October.
  • Fly and Lure only, no bait, line only, single rod and must be held while fishing. See full rules.
  • Category 3 – all Sea Trout and Salmon must be returned at all times.
  • The waterproof Fife Coastal Map supplied by the ‘Fife Coast and Countryside Trust’ is an excellent resource to have for any angler with this permit. Be sure to familiarise yourself with the permitted areas of fishing on the downloadable FAF maps here (https://www.fishforth.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Coastal-Map.pdf), before venturing out. Buy Fife Coastal Path Map here: https://fifecoastandcountrysidetrust.co.uk/product/fife-coastal-path-map/
  • Parking is in public car parks, please use common sense and don’t block accesses.
  • Rules: on permit.
  • 53 miles (approx.) of fishing in total, including North and South coastlines of the Firth of Forth
  • Fishing for Sea Trout by permit only.
  • Permit outlets: FAF only.
Permit Type Cost
Season Permit  £20  (+booking fee)

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