Fishing places and licenses


Fishing (or angling) facilities are superb and fishing is the biggest participant sport in England, with over 4 million anglers (the numbers are rising each decade). There are a huge variety of well-stocked waters and some of the best salmon and trout (brown, sea and rainbow) fishing in the world.

In addition to the many rivers and lakes (or lochs in Scotland), trout fishing is possible at over 160 reservoirs. Scotland is world-famous for its salmon fishing (and its scotch).

There are three types of fishing in the UK: sea, game and coarse fishing. Sea fishing is simply fishing in the open sea, while game fishing takes place at specially constructed fisheries stocked with trout or salmon. Coarse fishing is the most popular form of fishing and is common in designated rivers or man-made waters for many species of fish, including bream, carp, perch, pike and tench. Coarse fishermen use live bait such as maggots and worms, and none of the fish caught are killed, but are returned to the water (after being weighed and recorded in the case of competitions). The close season, which is the period when fishing isn’t permitted, varies for different species of fish and between the various River Authorities who are responsible for recreational fishing. Always check when the close season is before fishing anywhere in the UK.

In England and Wales, you must obtain a fishing permit (called a rod licence), which is issued by the National Rivers Authority. You can also buy it online from . A non-migratory trout and coarse fish licence for the full 2007/8 season costs £24.50 for an adult and £5.00 for a child. A one-day licence costs £3.25. An adult’s salmon and sea trout licence costs £66.50 and a child’s £33.25. The charge for a one-day licence in this case is £7.00. Licences are also obtainable from fishing tackle suppliers, hotels and post offices in most areas and online from the Environment Agency (see website above). Once you’ve obtained a rod licence, you must obtain permission to fish from the owner of the water, which usually entails paying a membership fee or buying a ticket (a day permit costs around £2 or £3 a day in some areas). In some ponds or lakes, fishing may be free. Deep-sea and coastal fishing are free, apart from sea trout and salmon fishing, which is by licence only. For information on river fishing, contact the information officer of the appropriate National Rivers Authority. In some areas, 24-hour recorded telephone information is provided about fishing conditions and river levels, and fishing platforms are provided for disabled anglers. Ask at Tourist Information Centres for more details.

Licences and Permissions

Rod licences aren’t required in Scotland, although written permission must be obtained from the water’s owner to fish for salmon or sea trout or to fish in freshwater for other fish. Each district in Scotland has its own close season for salmon fishing, which is generally from the end of August to the end of February. Information regarding permits can be obtained from local Tourist Information Centres. In Northern Ireland, a licence is required for each rod for game fishing and this is issued by the Foyle Fisheries Commission or the Fisheries Conservancy Board, depending on the area. Permission to fish is also required from the owner of the water, which usually means taking out short-term membership of a local fishing organisation or buying a ticket.

When sea fishing from the shore (e.g. from rocks), be careful where you position yourself, as in some areas it’s possible to be swept out to sea and drowned.

You should be wary of eating fish caught in some of the UK’s rivers, as the level of pollution could be harmful to your health, to say nothing of what it does to the poor fish – if they could talk, they might plead with you not to throw them back! However, it isn’t all bad news and many estuaries and rivers (such as the Thames) have been cleaned up in recent years and wildlife is returning, some of which hasn’t been seen for decades.

Visit Britain publishes an annual booklet, Game Fishing Holidays, containing an introduction to game fishing, a list of hotels and inns with private fishing, fisheries and fishing holiday organisers. No fewer than 25 monthly or bimonthly magazines for anglers are published.

This article is an extract from Living and working in Britain. Click here to get a copy now.

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Other comments

  • Mr. L.Brown, 18 May 2009 Reply


    Why do I have to pay for a full salmon licence when I am not allowed to keep the fish I may catch I have to wait to get them tagged and returnd