Minimum Fish Sizes

by David Proudfoot

Size limits for anglers have long been a contentious issue and at times, the myriad different lists can be confusing.

In general, it is accepted that there are no minimum sizes for keeping fish for sea anglers, although this can only be tested in court. The EU publishes a list of minimum landing sizes for commercial fisheries that cover the main species of interest for this sector.

Species Minimum size
Bass Dicentrarchus labrax 42 cm
Coalfish – Saithe Pollachius virens 35 cm
Cod Gadus morhua 35 cm
Haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus 30 cm
Hake Merluccius merluccius 27 cm
Herring Clupea harengus 20 cm
Horse Mackerel Trachurus spp 15 cm
Ling Molva molva 63 cm
Ling, Blue Molva dipterygia 70 cm
Mackerel Scomber spp. 20cm (30cm in North Sea)
Megrim Lepidorhombus spp. 20 cm
Plaice Pleuronectes platessa 27 cm
Pollack Pollachius pollachius 30 cm
Sole Solea spp. 24 cm
Whiting Merlangius merlangus 27 cm

Several Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities, IFCA, publish minimum sizes for their area of responsibility and local bye-laws can apply these to anglers. An example of the extended local size limits can be found on the Southern IFCA website and a list of links to the other IFCAS is available on the right hand side of the above linked page. However, it can be difficult to find the size limits and to date only the North Eastern IFCA specifically state on their size limits page that the limits also apply to anglers. You should contact the IFCA for your area if you are in doubt whether the limits apply to you.

minimum fish size ruler

Most Governing bodies base their recommended size limits for anglers on this list and ask that boat and shore anglers stick to these if taking fish for bait or the table.

It is obvious from the above sizes that fish around this limit will not have had time to spawn if they are taken and not returned. The Angling Trust takes the sensible step of recommending that fish that are below the known breeding sizes be returned safely to help re-stock the seas. In Scotland the SFSA do not have a website but the table above was used the last time that size limits were published. The Welsh Federation of Sea Anglers have an extensive list of minimum sizes covering both boat and shore fishing. The Irish Federation of Sea Anglers recommend the following size limits for fish taken for the table.

Species Species
Bass Dicentrarchus labrax 45 cm
Coalfish Pollachius virens 30 cm
Cod Gadus morhua 40 cm
Haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus 30 cm
All flatfish  25 cm
Blonde Ray Raja brachvara  45 cm wingspan
Thornback Ray Raja clavata 45 cm wingspan
Ling Molva molva 60 cm
Conger Conger conger  80 cm
Pollack Pollachius pollachius 30cm
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