Canal and river fishing FAQs
New to fishing or want to know more about fishing on our canals and rivers? Here are some of the questions we often get asked, and the answers you need.
- Licences and permits
- Where to fish
- Match booking on our commercial fisheries
- Pollution incidents
- Fish poaching
- Fishing from boats
- Canal fishing regulations
- Disabled angling facilities
- Other enquiries
What do I need to fish on the canals and rivers?
- membership of an angling club that rents our waters (or at least a day permit)
- and/or one of our Waterway Wanderers permits
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.
Where can I buy a rod licence from?
Rod licences are available:
- From any post office in England and Wales
- By calling 0344 800 5386
- Online at www.gov.uk/fishing-licences/buy-a-fishing-licence
You must buy it before arriving on site to fish. The maximum fine for fishing without a rod licence is £2,500.
Does a child need to have a rod licence?
Children under the age of 13 don't need a rod licence. Anyone aged 13 years old or over must have a rod licence. However, junior rod licences are available for free to all those aged between 13 and 17.
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 is a rod licence?
See our page on rod licences and permits for the latest fees.
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's an angling club, you need to join as a member or pay them for a day permit. If it's one of our Waterways Wanderers stretches, you need to buy a Waterway Wanderers permit from us.
If you can't find what you're looking for online, email us. 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 contain details 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 buy your Waterway Wanderers permit online, over the phone or by post.
I want to fish or book a match at a Trust fishery. How do I go about this?
Find out more about our commercial fisheries.
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, call Natural Resources Wales on 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.
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.
I have seen nets/traps set up in the canal. What should I do?
Using anything other than a rod and line or 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 on 0800 80 70 60. If you're in Wales, call 03000 65 3000.
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. To discuss this further, please email us.
Can I trap crayfish in the canal for my own personal consumption?
Again, 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. To discuss this further, please email us.
I am an ecological researcher working for an academic institution or as part of a Fisheries Action Plan, can you give me consent to trap crayfish?
Please email us your plans so that we can consider them.
I have a boat licence. Does that give me permission to fish?
No, a boat licence only allows you to navigate our network, not to fish. Find out more about fishing from a boat.
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 a 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 one of our Waterway Wanderers permits.
Please note, however, some clubs’ public liability insurance only covers fishing from the bank, so this may be invalid if an accident were to happen. Find out more about fishing from a boat.
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 obstructing the 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 is not actually angling.
If you find litter or potentially dangerous objects in the water, please contact us so we can report it to the appropriate team.
Can you tell me what baits are banned in a particular area?
Can I fish at night on the canal?
The decision as to whether to allow night fishing or not is made by the managing angling club. Night fishing is allowed on Waterway Wanderers stretches 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 the 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 Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
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?
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 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 angling 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 managing angling club.
I don’t like anglers fishing opposite or in front of my house. Can I stop them?
We have 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 (such as making excessive noise or urinating or defecating in a public place) then you can report this 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?
A cyclist ran over my pole without stopping. Will you 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 Stay kind, slow down campaign page.
The general nature and structure of the canals and when they were built means that access for disabled and less abled people can be difficult. Slowly, as improvement works in partnership with local and national authorities are carried out, access and towpaths will be upgraded to include disabled access.
Disabled facilities are available at our Blythe Waters commercial fishery near Solihull in the West Midlands. For more on access for disabled anglers, firstly contact the local angling club and then email us.
What kinds of fish am I likely to find in my local canal?
See our information on fish species.
Last date edited: 4 February 2022