Fishing on the Canals

Location: on the canals

Fishing is a traditional sport that you often find people pursuing on the canals. It is one of the oldest sports known to man. Fishing has been part of human life for a very long time because it was helpful in providing food to help keep a family alive or to just provide a change. Now-a-days we don’t eat fish from canals, most are native species which are illegal to take out of the canals and rivers. Some rivers you can take fish out of, but you have to check with each place and it is not the normal practise.

Fishing can be a solitary activity, one done in small groups or done in large groups. However you fish here is some information to help you when doing this age-old activity.

Here is a run down of some of the most important things that you need to know when fishing in the canals and rivers run by the Canal and River Trust.

Women holding a fishing rod
Fishing is a very inclusive sport, all ages and genders

Fishing Licence

To fish in any inland waters be they lakes, rivers, ponds or canals you need a fishing licence from the environment agency. If you are only fishing in the sea you do not need a fishing licence.. You can get a rod licence from any post office or by calling 0344 800 5386 or online at . There is a huge £2500 fine if you do not buy your licence before you start to fish, everyone over the age of 13 needs a fishing licence. They are quite low cost and you can get one-day, eight-day or twelve-month licences. If you are between 13 and 16 then your fishing licence is free, but you still need to apply for one. It is called a junior licence. The money goes to the Environment Agency who try to look after our green a pleasant land and our rivers and stream.

Fishing Permits

Once you have your fishing licence you still need permission to fish the specific waters that you want to fish. Some stretches of the canal are ‘owned’ by specific fishing clubs and you need to contact them to get permission to fish there. You should see signs by the local fishing club telling you that they ‘own’ the fishing rights along a certain stretch.

Otherwise if the area which you want to fish is not ‘owned’ by a club then you will need a Waterways Wonderer permit. This is available by ringing up the customer service team on 0303 040 4040, but you will have to have emailed them first with details of your fishing licence and Angling Trust membership to get a reference number. Their email is See for details. The cost for a Waterways Wonderer permit is £20 per year.

Fishing Equipment

Man holding fishing rod
Some of your modern day fishing equipment

The Waterways Wonderer permit allows you to fish with two rods, you may use a keepnet as long as it follows the Angling Trust guidelines. Traps and Lines and Illegal Nets are not allowed on Canal and River Trust waters. Please make sure that you have a mat to put fish on when removing the hooks from the fish.

Other equipment that you may want to have with you are; a disgorger to help remove the hooks, long nosed pliers, spare line, variety of hooks and baits, net to take the fish out of the water so that you can remove the hook, first aid kit, fish antiseptic and a seat.

How to report a problem

If there is pollution, dead or gasping fish, or oil then call the Environment Agency on their 24 hour hotline on 0800 80 70 60. If you are in Wales then the phone number is 03000 65 3000.

If you see someone stealing fish then call the police on 101 to report it. This is because it is illegal to take away native species under the 1968 Theft act and Environment Agency by-laws. We are not in the time of Izzac Walton where you could take fish home for dinner.

How to treat fish

Fish are living animals, we can catch them for sport but we must not let our fun affect their welfare. Unless not permitted you should always use barbless hooks and use as small a hook and line as you can get away with, this causes less distress to the fish. Don’t keep the fish out of water for too long and don’t overcrowd your keepnet in the water. It is advisable to keep a disgorger on your person at all times when fishing to help remove the hooks from the fish as soon as possible. It is a good idea to have a mat to lay the fish on when taking them off your line. It is also good practise to carry some fish antiseptic to treat any affected fish you happen to catch or if removal of the hook causes bleeding. Remember fish live in water, try not to keep them out of it for too long.

Fishing and boats

It is generally permissible to fish off the side of your boat, or even from a canoe or kayak if you want too, but do check to see if there are any signs prohibiting it. Sometimes where you are settled there are unseen dangers for fishing so do pay attention to any signs that are there. If you are fishing and a boat goes by remember that they have right of way.


  1. Tom September 28, 2018
    • Fiona nb Rosey September 29, 2018
  2. Dorajane Apuna September 29, 2018
    • Fiona nb Rosey September 29, 2018

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