Fishing FAQs

New to fishing or want to know more about fishing on our canals and rivers? Here are some of the usual questions we get asked - and the answers you need.

What do I need to fish on the canals and rivers?

As well as the right fishing kit - rods, tackle, keep nets etc - you'll need an Environment Agency rod licence, plus:

Rod licences:

What is a rod licence and what does it entitle me to do?

Just like a TV licence, you need an Environment Agency rod licence if you own a fishing rod and intend to use it. But when you actually use it, you'll also need to pay for (and get permission for) fishing on a stretch of canal or river from the owner of the fishing rights or the angling club that controls the fishing on that stretch. With the exception of a small number of Environment Agency owned fisheries, your rod licence does not give you permission to fish anywhere.

You can’t fish for free on any of our owned fisheries. You can fish on our stretches where fishing rights are not rented by clubs, but you'll need to buy a Waterway Wanderers’ permit first.

Where can I buy a rod licence from?

Rod licences are available:

You must buy it before arriving on site to fish. The maximum fine for fishing without a rod licence is £2,500.

How old do you need to be to buy a rod licence?

Anyone aged 13 years or over must have a rod licence. Anyone under the age of 13 doesn't need one. Junior rod licences are available for free to all those between 13 and 17 of age.

Where can I go fishing with my rod licence?

All fishing rights in non-tidal waters are owned by someone. The Environment Agency produces both an electronic and hard copy guide to angling within each of its regions.

For our canals and river, use our Fishery list search to find out which angling club manages which stretch of water. If you fish on one of these stretches you'll need to either join the club or pay them for a day permit.

If you want to fish on a stretch of our waterways not managed by an angling club, it's likely that it falls under our Waterways Wanderers Scheme and you'll need to pay us for a permit to fish there.

How much do coarse fishing rod licences cost?

See our page on rod licences and permits for the latest fees.

Fishing locations: 

I want to fish at a particular place. What permits do I need?

You can not fish for free on our canal network.

Use our Fishery list to find out who manages that location. If it is an angling club, you pay them for a day permit. If it's one our Waterways Wanderers stretches, you pay us for a Waterway Wanderers Permit.

If you can't find what you're looking for online, email fisheries@canalrivertrust.org.uk or call 01908 302533. Please provide the name of the waterway, nearest bridge or lock number, postcode or town.

Where can I find out more about fishing rights not owned by the Trust?

The Angling Trust fishing information pages hold comprehensive information on a wide range of fisheries. Including all the fishing rights on our canal network.

Where can I get a Waterway Wanderers fishing permit from?

You can now buy your permit online or over the phone with a credit/debit card - see our Waterway wanderers page for details.

Match bookings on our reservoir fisheries:

I want to book a match at a Canal & River Trust reservoir. How do I go about it?

Our reservoirs currently available for match fishing are: 

The following season permits are also available:

  • West Midlands (Includes Blythe Waters and Earlswood Lakes Engine and Windmill pools)
  • Earlswood Lakes Terry’s Pool

Contact the bookings office on 01582 843454 for more information.

How can I find out about reservoir fishing?

Please contact the onsite bailiff:

Pollution incidents

I’ve seen dead or gasping fish in the water. What should I do about it? 

Call the Environment Agency on their 24 hour hotline on 0800 80 70 60. If in Wales the number to call is 03000 65 3000. 

I've seen oil floating on the canal. Who should I report it to?

Call the Environment Agency on their 24 hour hotline on 0800 80 70 60. If in Wales the number to call is 03000 65 3000. 

Fish poaching

There's someone fishing with a rod and line and taking away the fish. What should I do?

It is an offence to take any native fish species away from a canal or reservoir under the 1968 Theft Act and Environment Agency Byelaws. Please call the Police on 101 and ask for a crime reference number.

Can I take away non-native fish species such as zander and wels catfish if I catch them?

If you catch any non-native fish do not return them to the water. It's an offence under both the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) and the Keeping & Introduction of Fish regulations (2015) to do so.

One option is to take them for food. KIFR permits are issued by the Environment Agency. Here's an example of one of a KIFR permit.

People have been using illegal nets without permission, or I have come across a set line/net/trap in the canal. What should I do?

Using anything other than a rod and line/pole to catch fish without authorisation from the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales is illegal under UK law.

If you see something else being used contact the Environment Agency on their 24 hour hotline 0800 80 70 60. If you're in Wales, call 03000 65 3000. For more information read our fixed engines blog.

Crayfish:

I am a commercial crayfish operator. Will you give me permission to set traps?

We don't normally allow crayfish trapping on our waters except for research purposes or as part of an agreed Fisheries and Angling Action Plan. For further information please email fisheries@canalrivertrust.org.uk.

Can I trap crayfish trap in the canal for my own personal consumption?

Again, normally we don't allow crayfish trapping on our waters except for research purposes or as part of an agreed Fisheries and Angling Action Plan. Please email us at fisheries@canalrivertrust.org.uk. However, if you hold a Waterway Wanderers permit and are fishing on a Waterway Wanderers section, you may use up to two traps within five metres of your fishing peg while angling.

I am an ecological researcher working for an academic institution or as part of a Fisheries Action Plan, can the Trust give me consent to trap crayfish?

Please email us at fisheries@canalrivertrust.org.uk for us to consider.

Fishing from boats:

I have a Canal & River Trust boat licence, does that give me permission to fish?

No, a boat licence only allows you to navigate - not to fish. See our fishing from a boat page for details.

Can I fish off the back of my boat if it’s moored on either side of the canal?

Yes, but you must agree to buy either day permit or membership of the managing angling club and follow their rules at all times. If there is no club controlling the fishing rights, you'll need our Waterway Wanderers’ permit.

Please note however some clubs’ public liability insurances only covers fishing from the bank and may be invalid if an accident were to happen. For more information please read our fishing from my boat page.

Can I fish from a canoe or kayak?

Yes, but you need a boat licence and permission from the managing angling club or, if there is no club controlling the fishing rights, a Waterway Wanderers’ permit. Your boat must be moored to the bank to avoid obstruction to navigation.

Fishing with magnets

Magnet fishing is not allowed on our waterways. It's the process of using magnets to 'fish out' metal objects from the canal bed and not actual angling. If you find litter and potentially dangerous objects in the water, please contact us so we can report it to the right team.

Canal fishing regulations:

Can you tell me what baits are banned in any particular area?

You need to get this information from the managing angling club. There are no bait bans on Waterway Wanderers fisheries.

Can I fish at night on the canal?

The decision as to whether to allow night fishing or not is made by the local managing angling club. Night fishing is allowed under our Waterway Wanderers' permit but please show consideration to people living nearby. Bivvies are only allowed if the towpath is wide enough and their presence must not prevent towpath access to the general public.

Can I fish at a water point?

Fishing is not allowed:

  • in lock chambers
  • within 25 metres (one boat length) of a lock approach
  • within 25 metres of a water point
  • within 25 metres of a swing or lifting bridge

During peak boating season it's a good idea to leave extra space at these locations as there may be boats queuing.

Can I fish near overhead powerlines?

Never. Modern fishing equipment conducts electricity and sadly there have been a number of fatalities and accidents because rods touched or came close to overhead wires. Electric current can jump (arc) through air so you don't have to touch the powerline in order to be electrocuted!

Can I fish from visitor moorings?

Fishing is not allowed at some visitor moorings and these will be signed accordingly. However, at most visitor moorings fishing is allowed. If the moorings are busy think about whether it is sensible to fish there as sooner or later a boater will need to occupy your peg if all other spaces are taken.

Can I fish from a winter mooring?

As stated in the winter mooring terms and conditions, if the winter mooring site is somewhere regularly used by anglers, boaters should leave at least five metres between their boat and the next one along to allow space for fishing.

Boaters must be prepared to move temporarily to allow for match pegging. Where anglers know when match pegging will take place, they will give boaters reasonable notice (usually two weeks). 

How do I find out if there is a close season on the canal?

The old close season ran from 15 March to 15 June inclusive. This has now disappeared from most canals except certain SSSIs. Most of our canals are therefore open for fishing all year round. However, the close season still applies to rivers. The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing the close season regulations. Read more about the coarse fishing close season to find a list of our canals and rivers affected by this.

My garden is next to the canal, is it OK for me to fish off my land?

No. Fishing rights on canals are owned from waters’ edge to waters’ edge, so you'll need to get permission from the managing angling club or the our Waterway Wanderers permit first. Some rivers are different and the landowners may well have riparian rights including fishing rights.

Anglers keep pushing their poles through my garden hedge, what can I do about it?

Ask them politely not to do it again. You can talk to the local managing angling club; usually the situation can be resolved amicably at a local level. The matter is potentially one of trespass and the police would need to be contacted.

There's a lot of fisherman’s rubbish at location X. Can you get it cleared up?

It's often difficult to determine who has left the litter but if the litter is clearly coming from anglers, contact the local managing angling club

Email fisheries@canalrivertrust.org.uk if the area falls under the Waterway Wanderers' scheme. For general litter, fly tipping and the emptying of litter bins please contact our customer service team.

I don’t like anglers fishing opposite or in front of my house, can I stop them?

We've a statutory legal duty to provide boating and fishing facilities. If a customer behaves unreasonably or is in breach of the law of the land (eg. makes excessive noise or urinating or defecating in a public place) then report it to the local authority or police as anti-social behaviour. Otherwise, they do have a right to be there.

Can fisherman fish opposite my boat?

Yes, there is nothing to prevent angling taking place opposite moored boats but anglers should take extra care to avoid getting their bait and tackle on the boat.

There are maggots and groundbait all over my boat, what can I do about it?

Firstly, talk to the local managing angling club as their angling customers are the most likely culprits. In the event that the angling club doesn't respond, email fisheries@canalrivertrust.org.uk. This is also covered in our top angling tips video.

A cyclist ran over my pole without stopping. Will the Trust reimburse me for the damage caused?

No, this is a matter between the angler and the cyclist. All cyclists should hold third party public liability insurance and, as individuals, cyclists have a duty of care to make sure they don't cause any damage to the equipment of angling customers. There's guidance and a video on our Share the space, drop your pace pages.

Enquiries about disabled angling facilities

The general nature and structure of the canals and when they were built means that access for disabled and less abled can be difficult. Slowly as improvement works, in partnership with local authorities and the highways agency, are carried out, access and towpaths will be upgraded to include disabled access.

Disabled facilities are available at our Blythe waters fishery site near Solihull in the West Midlands. For more on access for disabled anglers firstly contact the local angling club and then fisheries@canalrivertrust.org.uk.

Other enquiries

What kinds of fish am I likely to find in my local canal?

See our fish species section.

How can I find out what's going on at my local fishery? 

You'll find fisheries and angling action plans for many areas of our canal network. Scroll to the bottom to download a PDF of the plan that covers your local area. If you have any queries, email fisheries@canalrivertrust.org.uk

Last date edited: 4 December 2019