Brixham’s harbour is the heart of the town, a bustling, colourful place where hours can be spent watching trawlers chug in, landing the day’s catch, while smaller fishing boats cruise in and out, bearing the freshest fish for the town’s Fish Market.
According to the Torbay Harbour Authority, Brixham is the most important fishing port in England and Wales in terms of the value of the hauls which are brought in. The industry has been thriving for over 1,000 years and the fishing fleet now embrace innovative equipment and strategies to support sustainable fishing.
The restaurants here make the most of their proximity to the sea, with mouth-watering menus of seafood and fish which are so fresh they’re almost leaping off the plate. If you’d like to see behind the scenes of the bustling Fish Market, book a tour at the crack of dawn which ends with a fish breakfast at Rockfish restaurant. Tours run on selected dates from April to October, so be sure to book in advance.
Once you’ve got a taste for Brixham’s fish, it’s likely you’ll want to try your hand at netting some for yourself. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far to cast your line and begin hauling in succulent sea creatures to cook up in your holiday cottage. The breakwater stretches a quarter of a mile out to sea, the perfect platform on which to set up your rod and settle down for a couple of hours’ fishing.
Where’s the best spot?
Fishing is prohibited inside the harbour but cast off on the seaward side and you’ll have a chance of catching a whole range of different species. The last third of the breakwater is the best place to pitch up, but it’s rarely busy so there’s plenty of room for everyone.
You can also fish from Breakwater Beach. Night time is best to avoid swimmers and other beachgoers. If you find somewhere else you’d like to try, it’s worth paying a visit to the Harbour Office to check if fishing is permitted.
What can you catch?
A whole plethora of fish swim the waters off the seaward side of the breakwater. Throughout the year you’ll have a chance of bagging yourself mackerel, mullet, pollock, bream, whiting, bass, conger eels, scad, plaice, dabs, wrasse and garfish.
Mackerel is the most prevalent during the summer and the easiest fish to catch, even by an inexperienced angler. Use glittering feathers and pieces of mackerel, squid or sand eel as bait, and on a good day, you’re sure to pull in several each time you cast out. Technique plays a part, so cast out, let the sinker drag the line down a bit before raising in the rod and winding it in. Mackerel do put up a good fight and it can be a challenge to haul them up the harbour wall if you’re lucky enough to hook six at once! Garfish and pollock can also be caught in this way, so it’s a lottery what will turn up on the end of your rod.
Early mornings and evenings in September are good times to try for bass, using various baits including mackerel, pollock, crab and prawns. The seabed is quite rocky, so it’s inadvisable to attempt bottom fishing if you want to keep your tackle! Opt instead for a float set up and be cautious of restrictions governing bass fishing, which are subject to change. Search ‘bass’ on the Government website for the most up-to-date guidance.
Wrasse can be caught along the length of the breakwater using ragworms, peeler crab or shrimp as bait. They feed during the day but can be quite a tricky fish to catch as they swim around the rocky bottom and close to the wall. A paternoster rig is recommended to keep tangles and snags to a minimum.
If you’re after mullet, you’ll need to entice them in first with a tasty ground bait concocted from mashed up bread and fish such as mackerel. Throw it in the water and lay in wait with a float or paternoster rig, loaded up with bread or mackerel as bait.
The ultimate catch from Brixham Breakwater is arguably the fearsome conger eel. You’ll need sturdy tackle and a strong rod so choose your tools wisely before you set off in search of this slithery prey. Cast out around 10 metres with oily fish as bait. If you’re lucky enough to catch one of these beasts, you’ll definitely need a gaff or heavy-duty landing net to haul it up the harbourside and be very careful of its mighty jaws full of sharp teeth; they can cause serious injury as they thrash around.
If you’re new to fishing and all of the above sounds like jumping in at the deep end, don’t give up on your dreams of catching your supper just yet. There are numerous local companies offering fishing trips which include equipment, guidance, and most importantly, a fun few hours on the sea!
You’ll feel the exhilaration of catching your dinner and have the opportunity to enjoy additional experiences such as wildlife watching and sightseeing.
Where to stay?
Brixham’s steep little streets climb up around the picturesque harbour, with pretty cottages enjoying fabulous open views. If you’re looking for a relaxing break on the English Riviera with a little fishing thrown in for good measure, browse our fantastic selection of holiday cottages. There’s something for everyone: families, couples, groups and even dogs!
Returning happily from your fishing trip, you’ll be keen to cook up your fresh catch for dinner. We recommend the following recipe for a delicious summer treat.
BBQ mackerel with ginger, chilli and lime
- Olive oil
- 4 mackerel
- 1 red chilli
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 cm root ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2 tsp honey
- 2 limes, zested and juiced
- 1tsp fish sauce
Fire up the barbecue and wait until the flames have gone and the ashes are white.
Gut and clean the mackerel – there are YouTube videos on how to do this if you’re not sure.
Mix together all the other ingredients to make a dressing.
Score the mackerel across the top and bottom, but not quite to the bone. Brush with oil, season and put on the BBQ for up to 6 mins on each side. The fish skin should be dark and crunchy, the eyes white.
Drizzle the fish with the dressing and serve with salad, potatoes and other BBQ sides.
Take a look at our collection of beautiful Brixham cottages, all of which are just a few steps from the sea.
Find more detailed information about fishing in Brixham on the excellent Tetraplegic Living website.