Fishing Rights

The Law in England and Wales 

There are laws that govern fishing in England and Wales. Like many other activities these laws have been developed over the centuries of Britain’s history. Though following these laws is not too difficult, there are aspects which seem a little confusing at times.

Tidal Waters Fishing Rights

Members of the public have a right to fish in the sea below the mean high water mark of tidal waters. Anyone can fish either from the bank or by boat assuming there is public access.

Non-tidal Waters Fishing Rights

For non-tidal waters, the situation gets a bit complex. The owner of the land adjoining one side of a natural river or stream owns the exclusive fishing rights (called, Riparian Rights) on her or his side of the bank. These rights extend up to the middle of the water. These rights can be leased or sold as separate and valuable properly rights (apart from ownership of the land itself). So, the owner does not essentially have the right to fish from her or his side of the bank. An owner whose land adjoins a pond or lake has similar rights which extend only as far as the middle of the water unless encircles the pond or lake.

Although she or he owns the fishing rights, a riparian owner is still subject to the general laws protecting close seasons for fish. These are down in the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975. Just because one has the right to access a river, stream, lake or any other water body, one does not automatically have the right to fish in it.

Fishing at sea is subject to controls over the manner in which fish can be caught, the minimum size of the fish, and the size of the mesh in the nets. These controls are to protect against indiscriminate catches. In addition, European Union quotas are applicable to commercial fishing.  

Closed Season

There are annual close seasons for fish to spawn in as well as weekly close times in certain cases. For example, the coarse fish close season applies to all of the rivers, streams and drains in England and Wales and runs from 15th of March to 15th of June.  


Any angler over the age of twelve fishing for trout, salmon, trout, coarse fish or eels needs a licence.

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For more information on:

  • Licence Cost
  • Licence Expiry
  • Enforcement