Aside from contributing useful income to the Canal & River Trust to help maintain our waterways, not everyone is aware of the role that angling clubs’ bailiffs play in looking after our fisheries.
They’re a unique set of volunteer eyes and ears. Every club or organisation with an agreement for fishing rights with us, must also provide adequate bailiffing.
The Environment Agency (EA) or Natural Resources Wales (NRW) employ ‘water bailiffs’ to enforce the Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 as amended (SAFFA) and various other legislation, such as the Eel regulations 2009 and the Keeping and Introduction of Fish regulations 2015, for which is required a KIFR permit.
Water bailiffs carry warrants and have the same powers of arrest as police. They can enter property, check rod licences and arrest people. See our bogus bailiffs blog for more details on their powers.
There are currently around 70 full time EA bailiffs, and it’s certainly an opportunity for anyone looking for a career in fisheries.
Angling club bailiffs are legally ‘water keepers’. They don’t have any special legal powers. However, they do carry out the authority of their employer (although most are actually volunteers). In this case the fishery owner or angling club to whom they report. The water keeper has the powers to prevent the civil wrong of trespass.
When an angler breaks the fishery rules, eg. uses a bait or method not allowed as part of the permission granted to the permit holder, then this makes the offending angler a trespasser in law. That’s why the wording used by fishery owners and angling clubs on their permits is important - it allows water keepers to check anglers’ permits, tackle and boxes.
Volunteer angling club bailiffs are often the first to notice pollution or fish in distress in our waterways. Whether it’s a ‘light diesel rainbow sheen’ or something more serious that’s killed or caused distress to fish, the club bailiffs, like any member of the public, should report the matter immediately to the EA.
In England, the number to call is 0800 807 060
In Wales, the emergency number to call is 0300 065 3000
Where fish are clearly in distress, contact your local Trust fisheries manager too as it’s also our responsibility to rescue distressed fish on our waterways.
It’s a sad fact of life that there are criminals who fish illegally – perhaps for food or to sell for restocking in return for cash. With the average price of fish for restocking being around £8 per pound, the temptations are self-evident. Vigilant angling club bailiffs report dozens, if not hundreds, of incidents of illegal fixed engines each year. In England, water keepers, again just like the public at large, should report any illegal fishing to the EA on the above numbers.
Catching a fish by rod and line and then taking it away from a Canal & River Trust owned canal or reservoir fishery is theft.
If you see someone stealing fish, report it to the police immediately by calling 101.
There is however one type of fish that must not be returned to our stillwaters, canals or reservoir fisheries – non-native fish species if taken out for the water. You’ll find more details in our spotted anything fishy from your boat blog.
The most familiar role of angling club bailiffs is to check anglers have paid their annual or day membership fees.
Fishing without proper payment is also theft. Although, most clubs who rent water on our waterways will offer day tickets on the bank at between £3 and £6. You can pay the bailiff in cash.
It’s the dedicated club bailiff who patrols the waterways day in day out, perhaps issuing half a dozen permits on a good day and none on a bad one. As a volunteer, the club bailiff may take a little of the money collected as a contribution towards wear and tear of their vehicle. Next to none of them would come close to making a profit for their endeavours. They do it for the love of their club and of the sport of angling because every little helps when it comes to keeping angling clubs solvent.
Last date edited: 11 January 2018