SELSEY is a busy and picturesque seaside town at the tip of the promontory, which juts some six miles out into the English Channel just south of the old Roman City of Chichester. Its shores can be fished on both SW and SE sides, which can afford some shelter from the prevailing winds.
There is a mixture of rocky rough-ground, sand and shingle. The depths around the tip, called ‘The Bill’ and on the East beaches can be considerable and long casting is neither required nor recommended.
The SW facing West Sands Beach is a protective shingle ridge leading to a shallow sandy beach. It is accessible for about two miles through the West Sands Caravan Park. Please respect caravanners rights to access, quiet and litter-free beaches.
How to get there
Selsey is clearly signposted from the A 286 and B2145 junctions on the A27 just south of Chichester.
The area is very rural and locals ask for motorists to be considerate along the winding roads. Beware, these single lane roads get very congested at the height of the holiday season. Daytime fishing is not appreciated in the midst of holidaying swimmers.
The East Beach
Access is via a left turn as you enter the town of Selsey. Follow the signs to East Beach Car Park. The beach is a very short walk from the car park to the promenade
. A word of warning here: always check your fishing spot in day-light as there are boats and moorings all the way to ‘The Point’.
Strong tides and ‘snaggy’ ground mean that 6 oz grip leads are necessary on the bigger springs. Casting distance need not be more than 50 yards.
Be prepared to put up with plenty of weed, which comes and goes throughout the tide. Species include mackerel, bass, small thornbacks, black bream, gurnards and smoothhounds in the summer and cod and whiting through the winter months.
Very good bass fishing is found here on calm summer nights when pout and mackerel baits are free-lined or lightly anchored no further than 30 feet from the shore. Stealth and quiet are required.
The Lifeboat Station
Again this is found from the left turn to East Beach, but instead of following these signs look for the directions to The Lifeboat Station.
There is limited parking at the end of the road in a cul-de-sac opposite the Lifeboat pub. The ground here can be very ‘snaggy’, but, a large peeler bait may be taken by a big bass or smoothhound if the angler is brave enough to cast close to the ironwork. Distance is not required just lots of leads and rotten bottom links. A 35 lb stingray was caught at this mark last year.
General fishing with worm baits will produce school bass, bream and gurnards. Early and late spinning or feathering can be successful for bass and mackerel. Bass anglers are again very successful, fishing at ultra-short range at night. Fresh mackerel or large peelers are the best baits, by far.
Selsey Bill/The Point
This is Selsey’s best-known landmark. It can be found by driving straight through the town as far as you can go.
On the left at the seashore is a ‘pay and display car park. Local knowledge counts for plenty here; there is a very strong tide-rip which creates unpredictable sea conditions. Sadly two boatmen were lost last year when their boat rolled over.
This is a very productive mark but is not recommended for younger children, unless under close supervision, as one slip could mean loss of life.
Two hours after high water is a good time to spin or plug for bass and mackerel. On the whole, the top of the tide is too strong for bottom fishing. Many cod, codling and whiting are taken over low water in the winter.
It is probably the most reliable shore mark for winter cod in central-southern England; because of this the best tides are often crowded here. The cod are frequently taken on one or two squid on a large Pennel rig, but lug and squid works well too.
In summer, some huge smoothhounds are taken here with a few ‘twenties’ turning up mostly in the hot calm conditions of July and August.
Peeler, peeling spider crabs and even small hardbacks the size of a 50p piece are taken with relish. Surprise bass are often a bonus when fishing for ‘smoothies’. Simple pulley-rigs, one-metre paternoster and flowing-rigs are all effective when baited with crab and a strong 2/0 – 3/0 hook is required.
Local anglers think nothing of using 50 lb snoods, which makes landing the fish much easier. Please return these fabulous sportfish and preserve a special piece of sea angling for future generations.
Drive halfway through the High Street and keep your eyes peeled on the left hand side for the sign (W.Sands Caravan Camp) to turn right into West Street, then Crablands and on into West Sands Caravan Camp.
Look out for small children and speed bumps! You cannot miss the windmill. There is limited parking nearby and near the caravan company offices.
The caravan company is very tolerant of anglers but not when they park carelessly, leave litter, tackle and bait on the beach – be warned or anglers will lose this access. The worst scenario is a club match in which smoothhounds are retained, weighed and then dumped in caravanners’ dustbins; avoid such matches.
On a general point – you cannot fish at Selsey and not expect to get ‘weeded up’ at some point in a tide. Be patient, because it will often clear, signalling the smoothhounds to feed. Access to the beach from the windmill is down the adjoining footpath beside the kiddies play area. It’s a 300-metre hike for the not-so-fit.
There are no best spots here; it’s either dead or electric. Simple one hook 2/0 rigs baited with peeler crab or the equivalent is the way to go.
Five-ounce breakout leads are required. Pick a 10pm High Water in July or August… ‘light the blue touch paper’ and look out! For those who have not caught a smoothhound from a shore mark before here is a warning: set your rod-rest up sideways on, match-fishing style, and you will lose rods, reels and fish.
You MUST set the drag/ratchet lightly because they take off like ‘trains’…. you will not stop them on twenty-pound line or with a poker-like rod.
These are serious fish to be ‘played’ properly ‘off the drag’. Place your rod-rest facing to sea in it’s most stable position. Set the drag lightly, so that line can be pulled reasonably easily from it. Do not leave your rod after dark or you may never see it again …..
‘The Club’ is the West Sands Caravan pub, swimming pool, and theatre, which underlines what a great sea anglers’ family holiday venue Selsey makes.
To get there, pass the windmill and follow the road to the left. Be careful of the one-way system. You can park directly outside the club.
There is clean sand and daytime fishing is not advised when youngsters are swimming. Summer nights produce soles, smoothounds, bass and pout.
Crab is really necessary for ‘smoothies’. Daytime fishing can produce bass, mackerel, gurnards, small brill, turbot and rays.
This is not the best winter mark. I understand that a mobile tackle shop is making an appearance near ‘The Club’, but expect to pay 80p for a decent peeler crab… ouch! Try placing orders in advance with Shoreline Angling (below).
This is literally the end of the road at West Sands beach. Pass ‘The Club’ and keep going.
There is parking for about 20 cars in the cul-de-sac. Please be quiet in the early hours as there are many family holiday- makers in the vans nearby.
The three West Sands marks are each tidal venues with the two up and three hours down the favoured slot.
Late June sees the arrival of the ‘smuts’ as they are affectionately known and this peaks in July and August. It is never easy fishing here because tide rips and opposing currents dump seaweed everywhere.
Then that ‘special moment’ happens… two hours of weed-hauling over and the ‘smoothies’ come out to play. In a two hours spell it is possible to land upwards of ten fish averaging between five and twelve pounds with ‘humdingers’ touching over 20 pounds. Roll on July… this is a very special place.
Selsey, S & L ANGLING, 2 Orchard Parade, Beach Road, Selsey, 01243 602939
Raycraft Tackle, 119 High Street, Selsey 01243606039
Shoreline Angling, 7 Shore Road, East Wittering 01243673353
Southern Angling Specialists, 2 Stockbridge Place, Stockbridge Road, Chichester (on the Selsey Road) 01243 531669
West Sands Caravan Park, 01243 606080