14 tips to help anglers share the space

“When fishing I sometimes see anglers shouting at boaters for ruining their swim, when in fact I often catch a fish immediately afterwards. I’ve seen anglers shining their night lights at boaters, throwing bait at boats, arguing over whose right of way it is and more.

It's all pointless confrontation and, while the occasional inconsiderate boater does cause problems, anglers are often at fault too. I’ve have great chats and stopped and had a cup of coffee with some boaters. It's all about respect." Recent quote from one of our concerned anglers

The dos and don’ts of peaceful co-existence with boaters

It costs the Canal & River Trust around £200 million a year to run the waterways, and boaters, anglers and canoeists all pay for the right to use them. Everyone needs to share. Sadly, we still hear about a small minority of anglers whose behaviour can get us all tarred with the same brush.

1. Fishing in the lock chamber is an absolute no no

Our agreements with clubs are every clear when it comes to fishing near locks, it states 'fishing is prohibited in a lock and within 25m of a lock wall approach or moveable bridge used for navigation’.

The 25m distance is roughly the length of one boat mooring. And when it’s busy, it makes absolute sense to leave more room than this.

2. Fishing opposite boats is allowed

National Canal Angling Championships 2014

However, make sure you take special care when fishing opposite craft. The critical thing is to prevent getting tackle and bait on boats and not making excessive noise as explained in Simon Mottram's helpful video. 

3. Remove your bait and tackle as a boat approaches

Did you know that moving narrowboats have priority? They can’t suddenly slam on the brakes if you leave your hook and line in situ for too long. So, it’s your responsibility to get your equipment clear in good time.

Lifting the pole high into the air is one solution or bring your tackle in to the bank. If you hook an especially large fish, which is taking time to subdue, try to bury your rod or pole tip under the water and hope the line doesn’t get broken.

4. Boats must keep to the middle

The Canal & River Trust constantly reminds boaters that they need to stay in the central channel when cruising past anglers and maintain a steady speed.

So, you don’t have to ask them to make and changes such as moving to the offside. This would lead to confusion. The same advice applies to canoeists, i.e. stick to the central channel!

This boat has kept perfectly to the central channel and is creating very little wash:

5. Fishing at visitor moorings

At some visitor mooring sites, you’ll find signs that explain what angling activity you can and can’t do - please follow the instructions, not least because it could be a byelaw offence to ignore the signs!

If there are no signs, please use the towpath on a first-come-first-served basis but note that if you are fishing on the only space left for a boat to moor then they do have priority. We advise taking a common sense approach and avoid busy visitor mooring sites at certain peak times.

Angling club agreements state: ‘Licensees or permitted users should not actively obstruct or impede the mooring of craft at locations signed by the Trust as being for the purpose of mooring but for the avoidance of doubt nothing in this clause is intended to prevent fishing from signed mooring locations when there is no craft present at the mooring and there is no craft wishing to use a mooring.’

6. Winter moorings

When we issue winter moorings to boaters it states in their terms and conditions that they must leave a five-metre gap between one boat and the next. Why? Because, ‘for the purposes of permitting angling from the towpath’. Following the principles of share the space, we are exploring whether this ought to apply more generally between moored boats. Do take special care when fishing close to boats. For instance, please don’t lean your equipment up against the boat hull.

7. Fishing where you find moorings rings

Unless there’s a sign asking you not to fish, you can fish where there are towpath mooring rings.

This is similar to boaters having the right to moor where there are angling club permanent peg numbers. Watch out though – mooring rings might be underneath powerlines or within 25m of a lock wall approach. Clearly, fishing is not allowed in these cases.

8. Ice breaking

There’s nothing stopping you breaking or clearing ice – but please be careful (it might cause our health and safety manager to undergo some sort of coronary arrest if he’s reading this.) Ice breaking is noisy and bound to wake most people from their early morning slumber. Please let any boaters know in advance if your planning any major ice breaking. One club have a rule that no ice breaking is allowed before 9 am on a Sunday to give the moorers opposite a bit of a lie in.

9. Winding holes

Often known by anglers as turning bays, winding holes let boaters to turn their craft around.

Boaters clearly have priority here. But anglers often choose to fish at winding holes because they are renowned for being preferred habitat for bream. So again it’s your responsibility to allow boaters to turn without obstruction. You may need to think about ensuring your keepnet is temporarily relocated when a boat needs to turn.

10. Marina entrances

There’s nothing stopping you fishing opposite the entrance to a marina, just remember that again, boats entering or exiting have priority! What’s more, unless granted permission by the marina, you’re not allowed to fish in the marina. This includes casting your line into the marina or using a bait boat to introduce your bait and hook into the marina.

11. Night fishing

It’s down to your controlling angling club as to whether they issue you a permit to night fish. We introduced night fishing at some of our reservoirs: Drayton, Clattercote and Naseby as anglers act as our eyes and ears to help reduce fish theft and other crimes. Night fishermen at Wilstone Reservoir witnessed the illegal shooting of swans and duly informed the police. On the canals, please bear in mind that you might be fishing near someone’s home. So please keep noise and using lights to a minimum.

12. The call of nature

Did you know you can use our toilets too? They’re not just for boaters, they are for angling customers too. All you need is to purchase a standard key from our online shop. Sadly, we simply don’t have the cash to provide these sorts of facilities everywhere. If you really must ‘go’, then exercise sensible discretion appropriate to your location.

13. It’s not just boaters

Cycling at Foxton Locks

There are many towpath users too to be aware of. As well as important wildlife corridors, they can be a place to take a leisurely stroll or to cycle to work, a good place for a spot of jogging, to exercise a man’s best friend and perhaps even to have a picnic. Arguably the anglers’ biggest fear is that equipment, especially poles, will be broken by a speeding cyclist.

The principles of share the space are that the slowest customer has priority Clearly, we want cyclists to slow down and think to look out for the anglers’ equipment. Conversely, when shipping back your pole or casting, glance behind you, so you do these things without risk to others. It’s also important you lay your equipment out neatly so that others can pass unhindered although at certain locations where the towpath is especially narrow, we appreciate the challenges of achieving this

14. Tidy your tackle

Talking of staying tidy – please remember to take home all your rubbish, old hooks, broken lines, bread etc to leave the towpath as you would want to find it next time. Do not disgard unwanted squatts, pinkies, maggots etc on the towpath. Either take them home and store them for your next session or throw them into the water

John’s final word

I recall in my match fishing youth going bite-less on a clear cut until two boats came through in rapid succession. The fish then switched on as if by magic. In the long run, canals not open to boaters become derelict waterways, great fisheries for a while but they suffer in the long run. So please help us share the space and make life better by water.

Last date edited: 27 August 2019