Fishing from my boat

With well over 30,000 licensed craft on our waterways, it’s not at all surprising that a good number of people tick both the boating customer and angling customer boxes.

Festival fishing
Adults and children walking along towpath

A lifeline during lockdown

Local waterways have been an escape for many during these difficult times. Our work to protect them is more urgent than ever.

Who owns fishing rights?

Fishing rights are legal property in their own right. We own the fishing rights on most canals, although there are some exceptions to this which have their origins back in history to the time of the Canal Enabling Acts.

On the river navigations, the position is that where we own the land, we also own the fishing rights associated with that land. At other locations on our rivers, we're generally only the navigation authority. Here, typically, fishing rights often belong to the riparian owner. In quite a lot of cases, these fishing rights have been bought by angling clubs and associations, for fishing rights can become separated from the ownership of land. Examples of clubs who have bought fishing rights from landowners are the Birmingham Anglers Association, who control many miles of fishing rights on the River Severn and River Avon, and several Nottinghamshire clubs on the River Trent.

Does my boat licence permit me to fish on the canals?

Your boating licence doesn’t grant you any right to fish, either from your craft or the towpath. In situations where we own fishing rights on canals and rivers, we manage them by either licence agreements with angling clubs or under our Waterway Wanderers scheme.

If you want to fish from a moored boat or kayak, you'll need to have a permit. Either:

Many, indeed probably the majority of our customer clubs, do offer day permit facilities on some or all of their let sections. In many cases day permits are available from the clubs’ patrolling bailiff and cost around £5 or sometimes less.

Please note: do not fish from a boat in 'no fishing' areas. Also, when fishing from a boat on a canal, your boat must be moored. Fishing must not take place from a moving craft.

Where can I go fishing with just an Environment Agency rod licence?

Many people believe or claim to believe that holding an Environment Agency (EA) rod licence covers them legally for fishing in a canal. Of course, it’s true that the rod licence is legally required to fish anywhere, including in your own pond in the back garden!

With very few exceptions (some EA-owned fishing rights) the rod licence does not give the holder the legal right to fish anywhere in freshwater. It just gives you the right to have a fishing rod or pole, along the same lines as a gun licence. 

Why should I buy a rod licence?

There are two answers to that. Firstly, anyone fishing would be breaking the law by not being in possession of a rod licence.

Secondly, all income raised is invested in maintaining, improving and developing fisheries and angling in the widest sense. This ranges from managing fish and regulating fish stocks, to encouraging angling participation.

We work closely with the Environment Agency and are able to offer advice on how the £2 million or so raised from rod licence sales should be best invested to benefit angling and anglers.

How do I buy a permit when I'm on the move?

If you're moored up in a new location, and want to know what permit you need, you can you easily find out which club controls a particular stretch of water using our fisheries list. If you're on our network regularly it may be useful to buy one of our Waterway Wanderers permits too.

The 'fishing info' section of the Angling Trust website is the first port of call for information on the river navigations. 

Why not have a national boaters fishing permit?

It's a great idea. It would be convenient and eliminate worry for boating customers. There could potentially be extra income to allow clubs and us to reinvest in our fisheries. However there are some practical hurdles to overcome before this could become a reality.

These include getting the permission of the multitude of different clubs and owners of fishing rights for all the numerous fisheries that would be included. Then agreeing the ratio of the split in income, not to mention agreeing a set of fishery rules that everyone would sign up to, would be quite daunting. Sorting all these things out would be a massive undertaking.

Angling businesses and boat licences

If you're offering guided fishing trips and taking paying passengers out on our waters, you'll need a Skippered Passenger boat licence. For more information visit our business boating pages.

The skipper must have a Boat Master’s licence or equivalent and the appropriate commercial insurance must be in place. The application process is easy, just download and submit an Operating Proposal.

Last date edited: 15 December 2020