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Freshwater Rod Fishing Rules UK

Do you use a rod and line for freshwater fishing in England and in Wales? If so, you must comply with all national freshwater fishing rules and local government byelaws.

ROD FISHING RULES: Freshwater rod fishing rules help protect UK-wide vulnerable fish stocks and sustain fresh water fisheries.

Most freshwater fish spend long periods or all their lives in lakes and rivers. As a rule, their fresh water habitat has a salinity below 0.05%.

Coarse fish, trout, salmon, and eels are the species fished most often by freshwater anglers in the United Kingdom.

Note: You must own a freshwater rod fishing licence to fish in England and Wales from age 13.

Which Freshwater Rod Fishing Rules Apply for Your Area?

Rod fishing rules differ in certain regions of England and Wales. But you will find that each local fishing byelaws include the national fishing rules. Different laws may also apply to privately owned bodies of water, such as ponds and fishing lakes.

Read Local Rod Fishing Byelaws

You should check the regional fishing byelaws for your specific area to find out:

  • Which areas prohibit fishing in your region.
  • The dates of closed seasons for certain waters and fish species in your region.
  • What sort of fishing tackle you can use for certain fish species in your region.
  • The minimum size and the number of fish you can catch and keep in the United Kingdom.

When is Fishing Closed Season?

You cannot fish for certain types and on some waters in the fishing ‘close seasons’. An example would be the prohibition of coarse fishing on any river in England and Wales from the 15th of March to the 15th of June.

Reservoirs, Lakes and Ponds

As a rule, fishing for coarse fish, rainbow trout, brown trout, and eels is permitted on most enclosed stillwaters and canals all year long.

Rivers, Streams, Drains or Waterways (not canals)

You must not be fishing for eels or coarse fish on rivers from the 15th of March to the 15th June. Exception: you can fish for eel in some areas.

Make sure you check the local byelaws for close seasons on rivers. They apply for brown trout, rainbow trout, and salmon. Close season usually applies to privately owned bodies of water as well.

Lock and Weir Fishing on the River Thames

Fishing at locks or weirs on the River Thames means you need an additional permit.

Game Fishing Rules in Coarse Fish Closed Season

Game fishing for trout and salmon is allowed during the coarse fish close season. But, in some areas you must use certain types of baits and lures.

Fishing Areas in England and Wales Type of Fishing Lures and Baits
Midlands, Yorkshire, North-east and North-west of England You can only use natural or artificial fly, minnow, worm, shrimp, prawn, sand eel or artificial lures during close season.
South-east of England You can only use artificial fly. In the Thames area, you can apply for permission from the Environment Agency to also use minnow caught in a minnow trap if used on the same waters.
Wales or the South-west of England Read the local fishing byelaws for Wales or the south-west of England.

Note: Click here to check the government local fishing byelaws in your area.

If you are after somewhere to fish to take advantage of your rod licence then check out FisheryGuide.co.uk who have a list of over 2000 venues.

Fish Size and Catch Limits

The UK freshwater rod fishing rules allow you to keep only a certain amount of the fish that you catch. The fishes that you keep must also be a certain size or length. All anglers must return any fish that you cannot keep back into the water and unharmed.

Note: Taking too many fishes or fish that are too small is an offence and punishable by a fine.

Fish Size Limits UK

Always check local byelaws to see whether you can keep the fish you catch. As a rule, it depends on the fish species and the region you are fishing at. Take all measurements from the tip of the snout to the fork of the fish’s tail for fish catch size limits.

Fish Catch Limits

In general, there is a daily limit of how many fish you can take. If you catch eels you must release them back into the water alive (except conger eels).

Coarse Fish (freshwater)

If you are fishing in rivers, each day you take a maximum of:

  • 1 pike (up to 65cm).
  • 2 grayling (30cm to 38cm).
  • 15 small fish (up to 20cm) including barbel, chub, common bream, common carp, crucian carp, dace, perch, rudd, silver bream, roach, smelt and tench.

You may also take:

  • Minor or ‘tiddler’ species (e.g. gudgeon).
  • Non-native species.
  • Ornamental varieties of native species like ghost or koi carp.

Note: Removing fish from privately-owned waters without written permission from the owner can result in a fine.

Salmon, Grilse, and Trout

Check local byelaws for the regional daily limit of salmon and trout that you can take away.

Note: Selling rod-caught salmon or sea trout in England and Wales can result in a fine.

What Fishing Tackle Can You Use?

Freshwater rod fishing rules govern the angling tackle you can use. This includes the types of bait, lures, weights, and nets. The laws also control how many fishing rods you can use at one time.

Freshwater Fishing Rods

The region you are fishing and the species you are angling for determines the maximum number of fishing rods you can use.

Anglers must be careful when using multiple rods and line. The distance between the butts of the outermost rods should be no more than 3 meters.

Note: It is illegal to leave a rod and line in the water unattended or use it without adequate control.

Bait, Lures, and Fishing Tackle

Fishermen in England and Wales must not:

  • Fish using crayfish for the bait.
  • Catch and use another fish as bait unless you do so on the same waters where you caught it.
  • Keep any fish that you foul hooked; foul hooking means puncturing the fish anywhere other than its mouth or throat; you must return them alive.
  • Use a gaff to hook fish or a tailer (a fishing pole with a loop of cable or wire at the end).

If you catch salmon before the 16th of June you must return them unharmed into the water. You can only do so using artificial lure and artificial fly at these times.

Note: Always properly dispose of your fishing tackle safely to avoid injuries and harm to wildlife.

Fishing Lead Weights Banned

Freshwater rod fishing rules ban the use of certain lead weights. Fishing laws allow the use of lead weights if they are .06 grams (or less) or heavier than 28.35 grams. Anglers will understand these lead shot weights as measuring from size 14 to size 8 and more than 1 ounce.

Note: Lead is toxic to some animals and birds. Ensure containers are spill proof if you use lead dust shot.

Keepnets, Keepsacks, and Fish Landing Nets

If you use a keepnet it must:

  • Contain no knotted meshes or have any meshes of metallic material.
  • Have holes which are less than 25mm.
  • Measure at least 2 metres long.
  • Contain supporting rings or frames less than 40cm apart and more than 120cm in circumference.

If you use a keepsack it must be:

  • Manufactured from a soft, dark coloured, non-abrasive and water permeable fabric.
  • A minimum of 120cm by 90cm if it is rectangular in shape.
  • At least 150cm by 30cm by 40cm if you use it with a frame.
  • Used to keep no more than one fish at any one time.

If you use a freshwater fish landing net it should not contain knotted meshes or made of metallic material.

Freshwater Rod Fishing National Laws and Local Byelaws in the United Kingdom