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.  

Fishing licenses are available from around 17,000 post offices in England and Wales. They are also available from Environmental Agency regional offices and from the bank-side.  If one decides to join an angling club, the club can arrange a bulk purchase from local post offices.

Further, please note that while the National Rod Licence gives a licence to fish anywhere in England and Wales, one will still need permission from the riparian owner (where required) to fish from her or his stretch of the river bank.

Licence Cost

There are two kinds of fishing licences. The cheaper one will not allow one to fish for migratory salmon and trout. The other one will include these. Licences can be bought for the whole season (£ 27.00 and £72.00, respectively), for eight-days (£10.00 and £23.00, respectively) or for just a single day (£3.75 and £8.00, respectively).  

Concessionary licence is available if you are aged sixty-five or over or you have a Blue Badge parking concession. Concessionary licence costs £18.00 and £48.00, respectively. Further, if you are a junior (aged 16 or under), the price is £5.00 in both the cases.

Subject to local bylaws, two rods may be used for coarse fishing and more than two rods many be used provided one holds an additional licence. 

Licence Expiry

If one buys a full licence, it will run out on the 31st of March unless she or he has bought an advance new season licence. One-day licence is valid for 24-hours from the start time the licencee selects. An eight-day licence is valid for 192 consecutive hours from the start time licencee select.


Fishing without a licence can leave you legally responsible to a fine of up to £2,500. As a whole season licence only costs £72 (or £27 in case you select the cheaper version), it is hardly worth the risk. You must produce your licence if asked to do so by an Environment Agency bailiff or any other authorised person. Failure to do so could result in a prosecution and maximum fine. 

Further, remember to carry your licence at all times when fishing. Replace your licence if you lose it. There is a tear-off slip attached to the licence, which you should keep separately. It is important to check the local bylaws and follow them as a rule.