Read the story of how the Canal & River Trust came to be
Work for us
We have vacancies across all of our waterways and in the offices, museums and attractions that support them. We're one of the UK's biggest charities and we take pride in everything we do
If you're thinking of getting in touch then please take a moment to look through these pages as we probably have the answer on our website
Planning & design
All you need to know about planning and design on our canals and rivers
Find a winter mooring
Find a cosy section of canal to hunker down in this winter
10 reasons to take up canoeing
It's a great way to get fit and explore our waterways at the same time
Share the Space
Take a look at our common sense guide to sharing the towpath
Find a place to fish
From reservoirs to club-managed canals and river stretches - find your nearest place to fish
Get your free guide
Download your free guide today and start exploring the waterway nature near you
Download your free guides
You've nine free days out guides to choose from - where will you go first?
Find a walk near you
Are you ready to ramble? Find a waterside stroll or a satisfying hike along our beautiful canals and rivers
Take a look at our upcoming events here.
Find your favourite waterway
With over 95 canals, rivers, reservoirs, docks and navigations, find out more about your favourite waterway
Something for everyone
Help us make a difference and have fun along the way. Find your perfect volunteer role today
Join our team
Could you join your local Towpath Taskforce team and help us to keep our canals looking lovely?
Desmond Family Canoe Trail
If you're aged 16-25 and would like to get involved with this exciting project, please get in touch
Could you be a volunteer lock keeper?
Find out what's involved with this popular volunteering opportunity
Why we think canals are better with Friends
Become a Friend of the Canal & River Trust today and you’ll open yourself up to new experiences and endless opportunities.
We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
If access to the towpath for the general public is free, surely you can fish from it without payment too? Well, no. And here’s why…
It’s all about the fishing rights for the water itself.
Fishing rights are legal property. The owner of river, canal or reservoir (Stillwater) bed is assumed to own the fishing rights above the bed of the fishery.
But it's not really that simple. Ownership of fishing rights in the water can be separated from the ownership of the land. Some of these ‘incorporeal fishing rights’ even exist on our canals, although they are much more common on rivers where in the past clubs have bought fishing rights from farmers or local landowners.
In the strict legal sense, the public only has a right to fish for free in the officially recognised fully tidal parts of rivers and in the sea, except where an individual owns a private right of fishery.
So, while the fishing might be free, you need to be aware that you don’t necessarily have a right to access the estuary or the shoreline – the landowners are quite within their rights to charge an access fee to access their land the fishery. Although, in theory, you could get access by boat.
By law (since 1882) no public fishery can exist in waters that are not tidal. Even where a public right of navigation exists, this doesn’t give you the right to fish. So, in inland fisheries, the fishing rights are owned by someone. Some owners might choose to allow the public to fish free of charge or, for a variety of reasons, choose to take no actions against people fishing in their waters.
Fishing rights on canals are privately owned – mostly by the Canal & River Trust since we own most of the canals in England & Wales.
So, if you were reading this, hoping to be able to fish without payment on a canal, then we’ll have to disappoint you - there is no such thing as free fishing on the canals. You’ll need a permit. Either:
You can find which clubs controls which stretch of canal using our Find a Fishery search.
The same rules apply if you want to fish from your boat, as your navigation licence does not give you any right of fishing.
Fishing without the permission of the owner of the fishing rights is, in fact, theft.
The Theft Act of 1968 states: ‘an offence is committed when a person unlawfully takes or destroys, or attempts to take or destroy, any fish in water which is private property or in which there is any private right of fishery.'
The ‘taking of fish’ to include temporarily holding them in a keepnet and later returning them to the water. In other words, you don’t have to physically steal the fish to commit an offence; the stealing of the fishing rights is also in itself an offence. (An analogy might be playing a round of golf without paying the requisite fee to the owner of the golf course, which – in case you were thinking of chancing it – is also an offence.)
To fish anywhere with rod and line on inland fisheries, including in the pond in your back garden or even in a large fish tank in your front room, you’ll need a rod licence. It’s known as a ‘hypothecated tax’ used by the fisheries regulator, the Environment Agency (EA), to maintain improve and develop fisheries. And it’s the EA from whom you need to buy your rod licence.
You need one to fish everywhere but it entitles you to fish nowhere. Or almost nowhere, there are a few EA fisheries that are available to rod licence holders without further payment. See the Angling Trust Fishing Info pages for details of these.
If you are caught by an Environment Agency Fisheries Bailiff or a police officer, and are found guilty by a magistrate, then you’ll get a fine (under Section 27(1)(a) of the Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries Act, 1975) which can be up to £2,500!
This depends on whether you are fishing for freshwater fish or sea fish. You need a rod licence to fish using rod and line for freshwater fish – salmonids, coarse fish and freshwater eels, whether this is above or below the official tidal limit.
You will probably need to show the fisheries enforcement officer that you are targeting a certain species and not just fishing for whatever you can catch. And, you must also observe the close-season for your target species.
But take heart, because your permit fees go towards us, the fisheries and angling team at the Canal & River Trust, the charity that cares for over 2,000 miles of canal and rivers, being able to keep fish stocks healthy, diverse and secure for plenty more fishing in the future.
Try one of our fisheries
We own and manage a number of reservoir fisheries around the country - where's your nearest one?
Last date edited: 4 January 2018