UK Minimum Size Limits

UK Minimum Size Limits

Why Do We Have Size Limits?

Here in the UK, we have Minimum Size Limits applied to the fish you can take from our oceans (just like everywhere else in the world really). This means that whilst participating in recreational fishing (Angling and Spearfishing for non commercial purposes), you must only take fish at, or above the specified length or weight. Applying size limits to fish enables fisheries to protect the reproduction of species. Also, it helps to ensure they’re survival in their natural environment. This is something often overlooked by novice Spearos. As they’re often just excited to get out into the water and catch something for dinner.

With this in mind, I can’t stress the importance of knowing the minimum size limits of the fish you’re catching. Also, the usefulness of being able to measure them at sea to avoid you taking anything undersized to shore. Having this knowledge is for your own benefit, and for the benefit of the sport as a whole. No one wants you to catch an undersized fish and end up getting a fine from the fisheries!

With this article, I’m hoping you’ll come away with a reference point for the minimum size limits of fish native to the UK. And also learn how I, and many other experienced Spearos measure the fish we catch at sea.

Please note: I will try to keep the below table as accurate as possible. However, changes in laws and legislation take place on an ongoing basis. This means that changes in minimum sizes may not be reflected in the information below. The table below is therefore for guidance only.


Species:Photograph:Size (cm):Special Notes:
BassDicentrarchus labrax © Scandinavian Fishing Year Book42Bass are catch and release only in January, February and December 2022. Recreational fishermen limited to retaining two bass (of minimum size) per day in all other months.
Black BreamBlack Bream | Direct Seafoods23
BrillBrill | Direct Seafoods35
Bull HussBull Huss |
CoalfishWhat Is Coalfish & How to Catch Coalfish | BadAngling35
CodAtlantic Cod | NOAA Fisheries35
Conger EelConger Eel |
DogfishDogfish - Down The Cove38
GarfishGarfish |
GurnardRed Gurnard, Cornwall Good Seafood Guide28
HaddockWhat is haddock | Sustainable fish | Marine Stewardship Council30
MackerelWhat is mackerel| Sustainable fish | Marine Stewardship Council30
MonkfishMonkfish, Cornwall Good Seafood Guide20May be protected by local bye-laws. Know before catching.
Mullet Grey mullet, Cornwall Good Seafood Guide36Applies to thin lipped, thick lipped and golden spot.
Mullet (Red)Red Mullet global wholesale market prices - Tridge20
PollockPollock |
Pouting Pouting |
Smoothound Smooth-hound |
TurbotTurbot - The Devon Fishmonger41
Wrasse (Ballan)Ballan Wrasse23
UK Shore Fishing Minimum Size Limits *Guidance Only

Crustaceans & Shellfish:

Species:Photograph:Size (mm):Special Notes:
Edible CrabCrab, Brown, Edible, Cornwall Good Seafood Guide140Measurement taken across width of the shell.
Velvet CrabFIS - Companies & Products - Velvet crab fishery in Northern Ireland needs  better management65Measurement taken across width of the shell.
LobsterLobster87Measurement taken from the back of the eye socket to end of the carapace (where tail begins). If clearly carrying eggs do not take.
MusselMussels are recommended by Cornwall Good Seafood Guide51
Razor ClamRazor clams, Cornwall Good Seafood Guide100
King Scallop 100Check local restrictions before taking.
Queen ScallopQueen scallops, Cornwall Good Seafood Guide40
Spider CrabSpider crab, Cornwall Good Seafood GuideMale – 130
Female – 120
Males will have longer claws and legs than females.
UK Shore Fishing Minimum Size Limits *Guidance Only

How To Measure Your Catch At Sea:

Being able to measure the length of the fish you catch whilst at sea is something vastly overlooked by a lot of Spearos here in the UK. Sure, once you’ve gotten more experienced you’ll be able to get a good idea whether the fish you lining the shot up for is of a legal size. But don’t just take your eyes word for it. There are way’s that are commonly used across the UK. These being:

  • Markings on Spearguns,
  • Wooden Measuring Rule.

Markings On Spearguns:

This is the method I personally use, and have done for over 10 years. When you think about it, the barrel of your Speargun is likely going to be the longest solid object you take into the ocean. And typically, the shortest length Speargun you’re going to be using is 60cm. Meaning that your Speargun is a great and efficient way to serve this purpose as well as being your primary hunting tool To make markings on your Speargun, all you need to do is get some masking or electrical tape and a tape measure. Using the tape measure start from the point wear the Speargun’s muzzle joins the barrel, and use the tape to mark the length. However, be careful not to disrupt the Spears rail, otherwise you will affect the Spear in motion when you’ve fired your Speargun. Which could ultimately lose to your missing your target.

Rob Allen Sutu Carbon
Rob Allen Sutu Carbon 80cm

The above image shows my 80cm Rob Allen Sutu Carbon Speagun with the measurements I have made along the barrel using electrical tape. Here I use 28, 36, 40 and 45cm measurements. This is because i will often use this gun in BSA Competitions and need a good range measurements for the varied species i will be looking for. The 45cm measurement is important because in some cases Bass are limited to 45cm minimum.

I recommend putting the pulling measurement marks on your Speargun to cover as many bases as possibly:

  • 28cm – Black Bream, Flounder, Plaice, Wrasse
  • 36cm – Cod, Mullet, Pollock,
  • 42cm – Bass, Turbot
  • 45cm – Bass

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from putting whatever measurements you want onto your Speargun to suit the fish you’re targeting.

Wooden Measuring Rule:

This method will allow you to cover a wide range to measurements. However, usually, these are something that a diver had made themselves and something you can’t easily purchase. But they are very simple to make. All you need is a small length of wood, a tape measure and a marker pen. To start, cut the wood down to the size you need. I would recommend making the overall length of the rule around 50cm. As this will typically be around the same length as your float, and encompasses a wide range of size limits. Then, fix your tape measure to the length of the wood, and with the marker pen, mark off the significant measurements you need.

The only problem with this method is fixing it to your float. For this I’d recommend drilling a small hole in one end of the rule, tie a D Clip to it with some string to be able to clip it to your float. Depending on your Float set-up you may have some bungee wrapped around the float to tuck it into.

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