The bustling seaside town of Falmouth is a popular reside for anglers of all abilities. There is great fishing to be had all year round and I can’t think of one mark which I would describe as ‘dangerous’, making it the ideal place for newbies and youngsters to learn the ropes. There are plenty of opportunities for more experienced anglers too, however the fishing can be very hit or miss, leaving the unfortunate wondering if there’s any life out there at all.
Some local knowledge can really help to extract a decent fish from the area, and I’m hoping that this guide will help you to get the most out of an area with such great fishing potential.
The most obvious marks in Falmouth are the numerous quays which can be found all along the high street in Falmouth and at other points in the Fal river system. The two largest of these are both working quays, with small ferries skippered by grumpy men running every twenty to thirty minutes. This, along with the crowds of people walking behind you and sitting on benches, can make fishing in daylight tricky. There is also plenty of small boat activity in the harbour, and I have commenced battle with a tender a few times now! Don’t let this put you off though. If you must fish in daylight, I would recommend having a dabble in LRF.
The mix of stanchions, harbour walls, boulders and mud mean that a variety of mini species can be winkled out on ultra light gear, particularly in the summer. It’s worth trying all states of the tide and using a mix of lures to see what you can find. It can be addictive stuff! It is also worth using float gear to try for mackerel, garfish and scad, three species which prevail on calm summer evenings. A shallow-set float rig baited with a strip of mackerel or sandeel works wonders, and this method can provide great sport when it’s too busy to get the beach rods out. There are also plenty of mullet scrounging around in the harbour- freelining with breadflake on a flooding tide can be very effective for these, and I’ve had fish to over 4 ½ lbs using this method.
The other way (my preferred way) of tackling the harbour is by fishing after dark. It’s much easier to fish with bottom baits once the boats have moored up for the night, and the piers are deserted enough to send a bait out safely. There are a plethora of desirable species to be had all year round, particularly in the autumn and winter months. The two most obvious targets are bull huss and thornback rays. Most of the rays are in the 4-6lb range, but there are plenty of 8-10lb huss to be had, with big doubles coming out from time to time too. A strip of fresh mackerel is, in my opinion, by far the best bait for both species when fishing the harbour. Other productive baits include sandeel, live prawn and even ragworm, although the latter pair are prone to getting ripped to shreds by the local crab population.
The smaller baits such as worm can also pick up oddities such as gurnard, red mullet and flatties, along with the usual schoolies, dogfish and whiting. The run of tide in the harbour is pretty weak, so heavy leads aren’t usually required- four or five ounces should be plenty. My preferred rigs are up-and-overs or running ledgers with a pair of 2/0 BMX at the business end. Every mark fishes at different times, but as a general rule I would aim to fish from low tide up for four hours, or the first few hours of the ebb. Big springs can push rafts of weed up the estuary and make fishing impossible, so I’d stick to tides below 5m to make life easier.
The rest of the Fal is well worth a fish, certainly more so than the harbour due to the stamp of fish that can be found. There are plenty of shallow muddy creeks which branch off the main body of water- perfect places to try for a gold bar. I can’t give out any specific marks to try, but they are pretty easy to find by having a stroll along the riverbank. Fishing for gilts can be frustrating at times, but get it right and you will enjoy some truly electric sport.
By that I mean the ‘screaming takes, doubled-over rods’ kind of sport! The are plenty of small Bream in the Fal, and a 2ft 20lb running ledger armed with strong size 1 hooks and a big juicy ragworm should find them soon enough. Lots of anglers prefer lugworm for the gilts, whilst peeler crab is equally as good, especially for the bigger fish.
The Fal has produced bream over the 9lb mark (not for me, I must stress), so be prepared as you never know when a specimen fish will hammer your bait and take off downstream! As well as giltheads, it is also possible to catch black bream and the slightly less common couches- in my eyes, one of the prettiest fish in our waters.
The best times to fish for these species are during the spring and summer months, particularly at dawn or dusk when the river is in it’s most tranquil state.
The bulk of my fishing on the Fal is on the main stretch known as ‘Carrick Roads’. Again, the marks are very obvious to find by walking the footpaths and using Google Maps. There are spots worth fishing from the mouth all the way up to the King Harry Ferry. These are mostly shallow rock marks fishing onto mixed ground, all offering the chance of bull huss, thornback and spotted ray, along with other species such as codling and whiting.
Personally I’ve found the rock marks towards Falmouth and Flushing more reliable for rays, whereas the tree-lined marks further up the estuary are my preferred choices for hussing.
Some of these marks can be very inconsistent, but hitting it hard for a few sessions is usually enough to bag a decent fish or two. The top baits for the huss are squid and mackerel, with the latter being very effective for thornies. Sandeel is well worth using for the rays, spotteds in particular; these fish tend to be truly stunning specimens, covered in large blotches with a rich mustard skin tone, nothing like the uniform patterns of the open coast fish! I like to fish the rock marks from low water up to high, with the mid to high tide run being my favourite spot in the tide. Up-and-over rigs or pulley droppers are the norm, coupled with 6oz plain leads for raying.
It’s a good idea to pay out some line and let the rig waft around in the tide, searching for fish-holding features. The narrow marks upstream require 6oz grip leads to hold bottom in all but the smallest of neap tides, and 5m+ tides can drag masses of weed downstream. The rock marks in the lower reaches are fishable on any size tide.
I’m going to briefly mention a few other marks just outside of the Fal itself. You have the beaches along the seafront, all of which are worth a try for bass, with a few other species thrown in. Fishing in the gutter in the way to go, with worm baits being the most effective. However, any hint of an Easterly and they get totally weeded out, so you have to time your visits right.
They are unfishable during the daytime due to beachgoers and bathers, but after dark they become pretty quiet. To be honest I rarely fish the beaches as I find the estuary and rock marks to be vastly superior.
The rock marks are classic mixed-rough ground spots, with Pendennis Point and the stretch between Swanpool and Maenporth being the most popular. The former can get busy on summer afternoons, but it’s a reliable spot to gather mackerel for the freezer. Scad and garfish are common too, and I’ve had five species of wrasse by fishing in the gullies with ragworm, along with plenty of quirky mini species. The latter mark produces the same species plus a few Pollack, however I’ve found that it produces a better stamp of ballan wrasse. Both marks produce huss and eels after dark on large fish baits- these are mostly in the 4-5lb range, but I have caught huss to over 12lb from these marks, so put the time in and you stand a chance of a very respectable fish!
To conclude, I would strongly recommend targeting the huss, rays and bream for the best sport. The Fal is such a lovely place to wet a line, and pulling in a gorgeous spotty or a fin-perfect bar of gold makes the experience even sweeter! If you want to bring your young ones, the piers are great places to try, especially for light rock fishing or float fishing at close range, as are the rock marks on a calm day. I hope this guide brings you some success around Falmouth- I wish you the best of luck!