Shetland is one of Europe's richest fishing grounds and is an ideal place for anglers to enjoy a spot of loch or sea fishing.

Sea angling

Whether you're just after some mackerel, ling or haddock for a superbly fresh meal, or want to take on the bigger challenge of halibut or porbeagle shark, Shetland waters are among the most promising you'll find anywhere. It's usually possible to charter one of the local sea-angling boats.

You can check the Charter Boat Directory for more information.

Trout fishing

Anglers are spoilt for choice in Shetland and you can fish a dozen lochs a day at astonishingly low fees.

The wild brown trout in Shetland’s freshwater lochs are one of angling's best-kept secrets. Thanks to more than 80 years of careful management by the Shetland Anglers' Association, superb fish are to be found in more than 300 lochs scattered all around the islands, ready to be tempted by a fly or spinner.

The Shetland Anglers' Association website has full details on trout fishing in Shetland, as well as valuable hints and tips. You can buy a fishing permit from the website, giving you access to fish in all Shetland’s lochs. Permits cost just £30 per season. They also have boats for hire on several of the most popular lochs.

A brochure on trout fishing in Shetland is also available and contains a map and details of more than 70 of the best angling locations, as well as information on boats, fish species and access. You can buy the brochure online for just £2.50. It's also available to buy in Lerwick from The Shetland Times Bookshop and LHD Marine Supplies.

One thing I can do in Shetland I can't do elsewhere is fish into the night during midsummer, watch the sun briefly dip below the horizon and enjoy the magical glow with friends.

Billy Arthur
Billy Arthur

Where to go

Here's a recommended schedule for a visiting angler on a week's visit from the Shetland Anglers Association:

Spiggie Loch in the South Mainland is a must. The loch contains a large head of silver trout averaging 12oz. This is a fly only loch and if the fish are not surface feeding, nymphs fished slowly in mid water can be very effective. Within easy range of Spiggie are Broo, Clumlie and Vatster and these are all worth a visit.

The lochs of Tingwall and Asta are almost joined together and should be on the 'to do' list. Over the last few years, the Tingwall trout have tended to bottom feed so if things are looking dour, try the more free rising Asta trout. If you are keen on walking, the chain of hill lochs to the west of Tingwall makes an enjoyable day out.

The lochs in the Nesting area also make a good day's fishing. These are big fish waters with Girlsta, Benston and Houlland all capable of producing trout over 3lb and better. It is worth repeating that the secret of successful angling in Shetland is to change lochs rather than persevere with changing flies on a loch where the trout are not co-operating!

When a visiting angler looks at the map of Shetland's Westside for the first time it must be a daunting thought to select the best waters. Perhaps it is best to concentrate initially on the lochs in the Clousta road (Northhouse, Vaara, Clousta and Clingswater). A day exploring in the Sandness and West Burrafirth roads is also recommended. If you are after really big fish, try Upper Brouster where trout reach the teens of pounds due to the rich feeding around the cages.

Northmavine also has some excellent fishing. The Eshaness lochs produce specimen fish every year, particularly early season, and as a bonus the scenery is tremendous. The roadside lochs of Haggrister, Punds Water and Eela Water are also worth an hour or two on the way past. If you are a hill walker with a trout rod, the ultimate day out will be a trip to the Ronas Hill lochs – remember not to pass even the smallest of ponds, anglers have been surprised before!

As you can see, the fishing week has been filled already and we have not been able to get to the Whalsay, Yell, Fetlar and Unst lochs.

If you have little, or maybe too much, luck in the lochs why not try a cast or two from the shore for some sea trout, scarcer nowadays but worth the effort if you manage to catch one.