I am buying a house that has river frontage. Can you tell me if I can fish from the riverbank in my garden?
For non-tidal waters, the situation is complex. The owner of the land adjoining one side of a natural river or stream owns the exclusive fishing rights (‘Riparian Rights’) on her or his side of the bank. These rights extend up to the middle of the water, unless the water encircles a pond or lake. Fishing rights will usually belong to the riparian owner, unless ownership has been separated from the land and can be checked with land registry.
Although she or he owns the fishing rights, a riparian owner is still subject to the general laws protecting close seasons for fish. These are down in the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975. Just because one has the right to access a river, stream, lake or any other water body, one does not automatically have the right to fish in it.
Can I fish all year round?
There are annual close seasons for fish to spawn, as well as weekly close times in certain cases. For example, the coarse fish close season applies to all of the rivers, streams and drains in England and Wales and runs from 15th of March to 15th of June.
Do I need a licence?
Any angler over the age of twelve fishing for trout, salmon, trout, coarse fish or eels needs an Environment Agency rod licence.
Fishing licences are available from post offices in England and Wales. They are also available from Environmental Agency regional offices and from the bank-side. If one decides to join an angling club, the club can arrange a bulk purchase from local post offices.
Further, please note that while the national rod licence gives a licence to fish anywhere in England and Wales, one will still need permission from the riparian owner (where required) to fish from her or his stretch of the river bank.
What about fishing in the sea?
Members of the public have a right to fish in the sea below the mean high water mark of tidal waters. Anyone can fish either from the bank or by boat assuming there is public access