It costs us around £200m a year to run the waterways, and boaters, anglers and canoeists all pay for the right to use them. Everyone needs to share the space considerately.
A recent quote from one of our concerned anglers:
“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."
We know that most anglers on our waterways are considerate of other users. However, it's good to refresh yourself on best practice every so often. We've put together 14 tips to help you share the space while still getting the most out of your fishing trip.
The dos and don'ts of peaceful co-existence with boaters
1. Fishing in the lock chamber is an absolute no no
Our agreements with angling clubs are very clear when it comes to fishing near locks. They state that '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
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 above.
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
We constantly remind 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 changes, such as moving to the offside, as this leads to confusion. The same advice applies to those in canoes and kayaks, and on paddleboards.
The boat in the picture below 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 by-law 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're fishing on the only space left for a boat to moor then they do have priority. We advise taking a common sense approach and avoiding busy visitor mooring sites at peak times.
Angling club agreements state that, ‘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 we state in the 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 sharing 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 mooring 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, as 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. Ice breaking is noisy and is bound to wake most people from their early morning slumber. Please let any boaters know in advance if you're planning any major ice breaking. One club have a rule that no ice breaking is allowed before 9am 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.
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. 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 to do is 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 use sensible discretion appropriate to your location.
13. It's not just boaters
There are many other towpath users to be aware of. As well as being important wildlife corridors, towpaths are a great place to take a leisurely stroll, cycle to work, exercise man's best friend and perhaps even have a picnic. Arguably anglers' biggest fear is that their equipment, especially poles, will be broken by a speeding cyclist.
The principles of sharing the space are that the slowest customer has priority. Clearly, we want cyclists to slow down and look out for anglers' equipment. Conversely, when shipping back your pole or casting, glance behind you, so that you do these things without risk to others.
It's also important to lay your equipment out neatly so that others can pass by you easily. Although at certain locations where the towpath is especially narrow, we appreciate the challenges of achieving this.
14. Tidy up before you go
Talking of staying tidy, please remember to take home all your rubbish, old hooks, broken lines and bait. Leave the towpath as you would want to find it next time. Do not disgard unwanted squatts, pinkies and maggots on the towpath. Either take them home and store them for your next session or throw them into the water.
We'd love to tell you more
Our newsletter is packed full of exciting updates and stories of how our charity keeps canals alive.