News article created on 22 June 2016

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.

National Angling Championships River Trent 1945
A boy fishing at Birmingham Canal Festival

Did you know?

Almost two thirds of households near our waterways are disadvantaged. Support our community projects along canals and rivers.

Our National Angling Advisory group contains one keen narrowboat enthusiast and, until recently, a kayak angler also sat on the group.

Who was the first boater to fish the canals?

To the best of my knowledge, history does not record the name of the first person to actually fish on a British canal. Who knows, it could have been a member of the first boat crew when they moored up on that very first trip. Or, if you include the Fossdyke, then a Roman angler wins the prize. Whoever it was, the purpose would have probably been for the capture of food rather than for sport. For back in the 18th and 19th Centuries, coarse fish such as shad, pike, eel and even gudgeon were an important part of the diet.

Ownership of 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 Severn and Avon and several Nottinghamshire clubs on the Trent.

Your boat licence won't cover you to fish 

Our 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 license 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. Plus, when on a canal, your boat must be moored. Fishing must not take place from a moving craft on the canals.

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

Many people believe or claim to believe that holding an Environment Agency rod licence covers them legally for fishing in a canal. Of course, it’s true that the EA 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. 

So why buy an EA 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 before going fishing.

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.

The Trust, through our national fisheries & angling manager, now has representation on the England Fisheries Group, which advises the EA regarding its fisheries function. This means we can now begin to influence how the £2 million or so raised from rod licence sales to the Trust’s angling customers is invested.

Buying a fishing permit on the move

If you're moored up in a new location, and want to know the correct fishing permit you can you easily find out which club controls a particular stretch using our fisheries list. If you're on our waterways regularly it maybe useful to buy our Waterways Wanderers permit too - which you can by by card by calling 0303 040 4040.

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 Canal & River Trust waters you'll need a Skippered Passenger boat licence. For more information visit our business boating webpages.

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 to The licence fee will be cheaper than you’d expect, at just £150 per passenger. If you have any queries please contact the business boating team through their webpage.