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Canal and river fishing FAQs

New to fishing or want to know more about fishing on our canals and rivers? Here are some of the questions we often get asked, and the answers you need.

What do I need to fish on the canals and rivers?

As well as the right fishing kit, you'll need an Environment Agency rod licence, plus:

Licences and permits

What is a rod licence, and what does it entitle me to do?

Just like a TV licence, you need an Environment Agency rod licence if you own a fishing rod and intend to use it. But when you actually use it, you'll also need to pay for (and get permission for) fishing on a stretch of canal or river from the owner of the fishing rights or the angling club that controls the fishing on that stretch. With the exception of a small number of Environment Agency-owned fisheries, your rod licence does not give you permission to fish anywhere.

You can't fish for free on any of our owned fisheries. You can fish on our stretches, where fishing rights are not rented by clubs, but you'll need to buy a Waterway Wanderers permit first.

Where can I buy a rod licence from?

Rod licences are available:

You must buy it before arriving on-site to fish. The maximum fine for fishing without a rod licence is £2,500.

Does a child need to have a rod licence?

Children under the age of 13 don't need a rod licence. Anyone aged 13 years old or over must have a rod licence. However, junior rod licences are available for free to all those aged between 13 and 17.

Where can I go fishing with my rod licence?

All fishing rights in non-tidal waters are owned by someone. The Environment Agency produces both an electronic and hard copy guide to angling within each of its regions.

For our canals and river, use our Fishery list search to find out which angling club manages which stretch of water. If you fish on one of these stretches, you'll need to either join the club or pay them for a day permit.

If you want to fish on a stretch of our waterways not managed by an angling club, it's likely that it falls under our Waterways Wanderers scheme, and you'll need to pay us for a permit to fish there.

How much is a rod licence?

See our page on rod licences and permits for the latest fees.

Where to fish

I want to fish at a particular place. What permits do I need?

You can not fish for free on our canal network.

Use our Fishery list to find out who manages that location. If it's an angling club, you need to join as a member or pay them for a day permit. If it's one of our Waterways Wanderers stretches, you need to buy a Waterway Wanderers permit from us.

If you can't find what you're looking for online, email us. Please provide the name of the waterway, nearest bridge or lock number, postcode or town.

Where can I find out more about fishing rights not owned by the Trust?

The Angling Trust fishing information pages contain details on a wide range of fisheries, including all the fishing rights on our canal network.

Where can I get a Waterway Wanderers fishing permit from?

You can buy your Waterway Wanderers permit online, over the phone or by post.

It's legal to fish opposite a marina entrance unless we signed it to say otherwise. Anglers fishing in these locations should expect boats to use the marina. Therefore, if concerned about being disturbed by boats coming, going and turning in these locations, we advise fishing where angling is unlikely to be disturbed.

If you imagine a line joining both sides of the marina entrance in what would be a continuation of the far bank of the canal. Angling from the towpath should not cross this boundary. Permission must be sought and granted by the marina owner to fish beyond this boundary and into the marina itself.

Fishing in the marina without permission would be classed as both trespassing and poaching, including the theft of fishing rights.

Match bookings on our commercial fisheries

I want to fish or book a match at a Trust fishery. How do I go about this?

Find out more about our commercial fisheries.

Pollution incidents

I've seen dead or gasping fish in the water. What should I do about it?

Call the Environment Agency on their 24-hour hotline on 0800 80 70 60. If in Wales, call Natural Resources Wales on 03000 65 3000.

I've seen oil floating on the canal. Who should I report it to?

Call the Environment Agency on their 24-hour hotline on 0800 80 70 60. If in Wales, the number to call is 03000 65 3000.

Fish poaching

There's someone fishing with a rod and line and taking away the fish. What should I do?

It is an offence to take any native fish species away from a canal or reservoir under the 1968 Theft Act and Environment Agency Byelaws. Please call the Police on 101 and ask for a crime reference number.

Can I take away non-native fish species, such as zander and Wels catfish, if I catch them?

If you catch any non-native fish, do not return them to the water. It's an offence under both the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981) and the Keeping & Introduction of Fish Regulations (2015) to do so.

One option is to take them for food.

I have seen nets/traps set up in the canal. What should I do?

Using anything other than a rod and line or pole to catch fish without authorisation from the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales is illegal under UK law.

If you see something else being used, contact the Environment Agency on their 24-hour hotline on 0800 80 70 60. If you're in Wales, call 03000 65 3000.


I am a commercial crayfish operator. Will you give me permission to set traps?

We don't normally allow crayfish trapping on our waters except for research purposes or as part of an agreed Fisheries and Angling Action Plan. To discuss this further, please email us.

Can I trap crayfish in the canal for my own personal consumption?

Again, we don't normally allow crayfish trapping on our waters, except for research purposes or as part of an agreed Fisheries and Angling Action Plan. To discuss this further, please email us.

Please email us your plans so that we can consider them.

Fishing from boats

I have a boat licence. Does that give me permission to fish?

No, a boat licence only allows you to navigate our network, not to fish. Find out more about fishing from a boat.

Can I fish off the back of my boat if it's moored on either side of the canal?

Yes, unless it is signed differently, but you must agree to buy either a day permit or membership of the managing angling club and follow their rules at all times. If there is no club controlling the fishing rights, you'll need one of our Waterway Wanderers permits.

Please note, however, that some clubs' public liability insurance only covers fishing from the bank, so this may be invalid if an accident were to happen. Find out more about fishing from a boat.

Can I fish from a canoe or kayak?

Yes, but you need a boat licence and permission from the managing angling club or, if there is no club controlling the fishing rights, a Waterway Wanderers permit. Your boat must be moored to the bank to avoid obstructing the navigation.

Fishing with magnets

Magnet fishing is not allowed on our waterways. It's the process of using magnets to 'fish out' metal objects from the canal bed and is not actually angling.

If you find litter or potentially dangerous objects in the water, please contact us so we can report it to the appropriate team.

Canal fishing regulations

Can you tell me what baits are banned in a particular area?

You need to get this information from the managing angling club. There are no bait bans on Waterway Wanderers stretches.

Can I fish at night on the canal?

The decision as to whether to allow night fishing or not is made by the managing angling club. Night fishing is allowed on Waterway Wanderers stretches, but please show consideration to people living nearby.

Bivvies are only allowed if the towpath is wide enough, and their presence must not prevent towpath access to the general public.

Can I fish at a water point?

Fishing is not allowed:

  • in lock chambers
  • within 25 metres (one boat length) of a lock approach
  • within 25 metres of a water point
  • within 25 metres of a swing or lifting bridge

During peak boating season, it's a good idea to leave extra space at these locations, as there may be boats queuing.

Can I fish near overhead powerlines?

Never. Modern fishing equipment conducts electricity, and sadly, there have been a number of fatalities and accidents because rods touched or came close to overhead wires. Electric current can jump (arc) through the air, so you don't have to touch the powerline in order to be electrocuted.

Can I fish from visitor moorings?

Fishing is not allowed at some visitor moorings (often on river navigations), and these will be signed accordingly. However, at most canal visitor moorings, fishing is allowed.

If the moorings are busy, think about whether it is sensible to fish there, as sooner or later, a boater will need to occupy your peg if all other spaces are taken.

Can I fish from a winter mooring?

As stated in the winter mooring terms and conditions, if the winter mooring site is somewhere regularly used by anglers, boaters should leave at least five metres between their boat and the next one to allow space for fishing.

Boaters must be prepared to move temporarily to allow for match pegging. Where anglers know when match pegging will take place, they will give boaters reasonable notice (usually two weeks).

How do I find out if there is a close season on the canal?

The old close season ran from 15 March to 15 June inclusive. This has now disappeared from most canals, except certain Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Most of our canals are, therefore, open for fishing all year round. However, the close season still applies to rivers. The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing the close season regulations. Read more about the coarse fishing close season to find a list of our canals and rivers affected by this.

My garden is next to the canal. Is it OK for me to fish off my land?

No. Fishing rights on canals are owned from the water's edge to the water's edge, so you'll need to get permission from the managing angling club or buy one of our Waterway Wanderers permits.

Some rivers are different, and the landowners may well have riparian rights, including fishing rights.

Anglers keep pushing their poles through my garden hedge. What can I do about it?

Ask them politely not to do it again. You can talk to the managing angling club. Usually, the situation can be resolved amicably at a local level. The matter is potentially one of trespass, and the police would need to be contacted.

There's a lot of angling rubbish at location X. Can you get it cleared up?

It's often difficult to determine who has left the litter, but if the litter is clearly coming from anglers, contact the managing angling club.

Email us if the area is on a Waterway Wanderers stretch. For general litter, fly-tipping, and the emptying of litter bins, please contact our customer service team.

I don't like anglers fishing opposite or in front of my house. Can I stop them?

We have a statutory legal duty to provide boating and fishing facilities. If a customer behaves unreasonably or is in breach of the law of the land (such as making excessive noise, urinating, or defecating in a public place), then you can report this to the local authority or police as anti-social behaviour. Otherwise, they do have a right to be there.

Can fisherman fish opposite my boat?

Yes, there is nothing to prevent angling from taking place opposite moored boats, but anglers should take extra care to avoid getting their bait and tackle on the boat.

There are maggots and groundbait all over my boat. What can I do about it?

Firstly, talk to the managing angling club, as their angling customers are the most likely culprits. In the event that the angling club doesn't respond, email us.

A cyclist ran over my pole without stopping. Will you reimburse me for the damage caused?

No, this is a matter between the angler and the cyclist. All cyclists should hold third-party public liability insurance and as individuals, cyclists have a duty of care to make sure they don't cause any damage to the equipment of angling customers. There's guidance and a video on our Stay Kind, Slow Down campaign page.

Disabled angling facilities

The general nature and structure of the canals and when they were built means that access for disabled and less abled people can be difficult. Slowly, as improvement works in partnership with local and national authorities are carried out, access and towpaths will be upgraded to include disabled access.

Disabled facilities are available at our Blythe Waters commercial fishery near Solihull in the West Midlands. For more on access for disabled anglers, firstly contact the local angling club and then email us.

Other enquiries

What kinds of fish am I likely to find in my local canal?

See our information on fish species.

Last Edited: 02 May 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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