Guidelines for fishing along canals and rivers
Swans glide by, the sun glints on the water, there’s nothing better than relaxing on the canal bank and waiting for a fish to bite. Just keep in mind these common sense safety tips to make sure that fishing is enjoyable and safe for all visitors to the water.
Wildfowl and Angling (Environment Agency 2010)
General fishing guidelines
- Discarded hooks and line, bottle, cans and tins can injure or even kill wildlife. Gather these up and remove them along with any other litter from your angling peg and the end of your fishing session. Don’t give angling and anglers a bad name, take your litter home.
- Beware of birds swimming into your line or eating floating baits and do your best to avoid accidentally hooking them or entangling them in line.
- Do not leave discarded bait on the bank at the end of the fishing session. Either take it home with you or throw it into canal where it will be eaten by the fish.
- Do not keep large amounts of fish in a keepnet for any longer than necessary. Make sure your keepnet is securely staked out so that the fish have enough room and receive the maximum oxygen supply.
- If you are targeting large fish please use an unhooking mat to protect the fish whilst it is out of the water.
- Don’t leave rods unattended, it is illegal. A large fish could pull your rod into the water and remain tethered.
- Fishing from a moving boat is not permitted on canals.
- Removal of fish from the canal is an offence under both Environment Agency byelaws and the 1968 Theft Act. All native fish species including pike and carp must be returned to the water. Please report any fish movement immediately on 0800 807060.
- If water levels appear unusually low please report this to the nearest Canal & River Trust office during working hours or out of hours call 0800 4799947.
- It is illegal to bring livebaits from other waters to the canal.
- Don’t cut down vegetation without the permission of the Canal & River Trust. However, it is OK to clear a minimal amount of vegetation around your peg in order to be able to fish in safety.
- Do not light fires.
- Do report any animal in distress contact the RSPCA on 0990 555999 (24 hour line).
Considering other users
- Remove your equipment from the water in good time when a boat approaches. If you decide to hold your pole high in the air please ensure it is well clear of the passing craft.
- When fishing in a winding hole, boaters wishing to turn their craft have priority so move your equipment in good time and under no circumstances complain if your peg is disturbed by a turning boat.
- When fishing at visitor moorings be prepared to pack up and move if yours is the only space available for mooring. When visitor moorings are likely to be busy think whether it is sensible to fish there.
- When fishing opposite boats use a pole cup for feeding groundbait and loosefeed. Do not use a catapult or throw groundbait by hand.
- When fishing opposite or near boats which may be occupied please don’t make any unnecessary noise or cause excessive disturbance.
- If fishing in the vicinity of occupied moored boats do not break ice before 8am.
- Shipping back your pole to land a fish or change bait or depth is perfectly acceptable, but under no circumstances permanently block the towpath with angling equipment.
- Do not use a bivvy on the towpath unless there is sufficient space for other towpath users to be able to pass safely.
- Do not trespass onto other people’s private property.
Tips for canal fishing success
- Canal fishing is considered by most experienced commentators to require a much greater level of thought and skill than other types of coarse fishing. With plenty of natural food available canal fish are not always easy to catch.
- Use small hooks, size 20 with hookbaits such as pinkies or squats.
- Plenty of fish can be caught close to the nearside bank, just 2 or 3 metres from the waters’ edge. Fish on or just off the bottom and introduce small quantities (5-10 maggots) every couple of minutes.
- Probably the most productive place on a canal is on the far shelf about 1 metre from the far bank. Overhanging bushes and trees are also very good areas.
Your safety and peace of mind
- Be extremely careful if breaking ice. Under no circumstances venture out on to ice.
- Do not fish close to or under overhead powerlines. Modern fishing equipment conducts electricity and sadly there have been a number of fatalities and serious injuries caused by carbon fibre rods touching or coming close to overhead wires. Voltage can jump through air and therefore you do not have to touch the powerline in order to be electrocuted.
- Sadly accidents occasionally can happen when fishing. It is strongly advised that you hold personal liability insurance cover. In the event of an accident occurring whist fishing, you could be personally liable.
- Always make sure that you are fishing legally. If day membership is available take enough cash with you to purchase a permit.
- Many sections of canal are only available on a season permit or advance day permit basis such as those covered by the Waterway Wanderers permit. It is against the law to fish without the necessary advance permissions.
- In addition to permission from Canal & River Trust or controlling club, anglers aged 12 and over are required to possess an Environment Agency rod licence. These must be obtained in advance. If you go fishing without a rod license you can be fined up to £2,500 and get a criminal record.
- Catching Weils disease is a potential risk so please cover any cuts with plaster to reduce the risk of bacteria entering the bloodstream. Also make sure you wash your hands before eating or drinking.
- Choose a level area to place your fishing box in safety.
- Swimming in the canal is not allowed and is very dangerous. Do not swim out to retrieve lost tackle, it’s not worth the risk of drowning.
Where not to fish
- Fishing is not allowed in lock chambers, within 25 metres (one boat length) of a lock approach, within 25 metres of a water point or in the vicinity of overhead powerlines.
- Do not fish on rivers during the close season (15th March-15th June inclusive) or on any canal sections that are classified as SSSi’s.
- Generally fishing is not permitted from the offside bank (except where so signed) so please fish from the towing path bank only.