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Fishing Rod Licences – Current Laws and Proposed Changes

In England, Wales and the Esk region of Scotland you require a rod licence to legally fish for salmon, trout, freshwater fish, smelt or eel on any waters. You need a licence even if you are fishing on private lakes and only children under the age of 12 are exempt. Even then, if you help a child by holding the rod, you need a licence!

The Licences

There are two types of licence. The cheaper licence is the trout, coarse fish and eel licence. This enables you to fish for non-migratory trout, char, coarse fish, eel and smelt. It covers just one rod if you are fishing streams, rivers, drains and canals and two rods when you are fishing lakes and ponds. The salmon and sea trout licence is more expensive but permits you to fish for salmon and sea trout in addition to the other fish mentioned above. The salmon and sea trout licence covers you for two rods. An additional licence will enable you to use four rods. If you want to fish the Thames then you need a yet another licence!

The Costs

Licences are priced from £27 to £72 (concessions for juniors and senior citizens). The funds raised from the sales of the licences are invested in projects which help anglers and also to tackle pollution and disease and to improve natural habitats. A licence can be purchased online or at Post Offices. At the time of writing, a licence is valid for one year but all licences run from 1 April to 31 March. In other words, if you purchase a licence in June you are only covered for 10 months.

Possible Changes for 2017

It looks like there will be changes to the arrangements in 2017. It is proposed that licences should be valid for 12 months from the date of purchase and that charges will be increased a little to enable all angers under the age of 16 to fish for free. The new regulations may also enable coarse fisherman to purchase the right to use a third rod rather than having to upgrade to a licence for four.

The Penalties for Fishing Without a Licence

You must carry your licence every time you fish and you can be fined up to £2500 if you are caught fishing without one. The law is enforced by the Environment Agency. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you won’t get caught. Last year the Environment Agency checked over 62,000 anglers and prosecuted more than 1900 for various licence related offences.

A tourist in the Lake District recently found out what happens if you are caught fishing without a licence. David Jones, from Denbigh in Wales was fishing on Lake Windermere. But he hadn’t bothered to invest in a licence and was caught by an Environment Agency enforcement officer. His misdemeanour resulted in a £440 fine. That is a lot more than the cost of a licence!


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