Environment Agency Byelaws

Environment Agency Byelaws

Rod and line fishing rules South West Region July 2013

This is not a legal interpretation, but provides a layman's guide to the Environment Agency’s rod fishing rules (byelaws) in the South West Region. These laws protect migratory and freshwater fish stocks, and the fisheries they support.

If you break the rules, you face prosecution and may receive a fine of up to £50,000.

Rod fishing rules tell you when you can fish (open and closed seasons); where you can fish; how you can fish; and what fish you can take.

Some fishing rules are local, covering specific waters; others apply to the whole of South West Region; and some national rules cover the whole of England and Wales.

Angling clubs and private fisheries often have their own rules which you must respect.

These rules apply to anyone fishing for salmon, trout, freshwater (coarse) fish, eels, smelt and lamprey in all freshwater fisheries and to a distance of 6 nautical miles at sea. They cover all rivers, streams, drains, canals, stillwaters and coastal waters within the Environment Agency's South West Region.

The Region stretches from the Hampshire Avon in the east up to Bristol and down to Land's End in Cornwall.

To find out more about fishing regulations, where to fish, codes of practice and information on how to stop the spread of invasive aquatic species which can harm our fisheries, please visit our website at

www.environment-agency.gov.uk/fish or www.gethooked.co.uk.

See also: 2012 Fishing Byelaws and Fish Removal Bylaw Update 2010 and Fish for the Future Newsletter

Rod licences

You must have a valid Environment Agency rod licence if you are aged 12 or over and fish for salmon, trout, freshwater fish, smelt or eel in the south west.

A licence for coarse fish, non-migratory trout and eels allows you to fish with 2 rods. If you're coarse fishing with 3 or 4 rods (4 is the maximum) then you need to hold 2 licences.
A licence for salmon and migratory (sea) trout allows only 1 rod to be used for these fish.

An annual rod licence expires on 31st March each year. Short term (1& 8 day) licences can also be purchased. Seniors, juniors and the disabled can buy cheaper licences..

It is an offence to fish for freshwater fish and eels without a valid rod licence and if you are caught and prosecuted you may be fined up to £2,500.

There are four easy ways to buy your rod licence:

1. on-line at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/rodlicence;

2. by calling the Post Office on 0844 800 5386. ( 8.30am - 8pm daily from March to September, and 8.30am - 6pm daily from October to February, Monday to Saturday); Calls to the 0844 number can cost up to 5p per minute for BT users. Calls made using other service providers or mobiles may cost more. This telesales line is operated by Post Office Ltd on our behalf.

3. by Direct Debit (go to www.environment-agency.gov.uk/rodlicence);

4. at any Post Office branch in England and Wales (and some in Scotland).


Fishing rules

Do not sell rod-caught sea trout or rod-caught salmon

No person shall sell, offer or expose for sale or have in possession for sale any salmon or migratory trout which has been taken by rod and line.

Artificial fly and artificial lure only for salmon before 16 June

Where not already limited by existing local byelaws, when fishing for salmon before 16 June in any year, you may only use artificial fly or artificial lure.

Catch and release of salmon before 16 June

You must not remove any salmon, alive or dead, from any waters before 16th June in any year. Any salmon caught before this date must be returned to the water with least possible injury.


Coarse fish removal

On rivers, you may take no more than:

  • one pike of less than 65 cm per day;
  • two grayling of between 30 and 38 cm per day;15 barbel, chub, common bream, common carp, crucian carp, dace, perch, pike, roach, rudd, silver bream, smelt or tench (including any hybrids of these species) of less than 20cm per day.

All lengths are measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail.

There are no restrictions on the number of other coarse fish you may take (see later for eel and shad).

On stillwaters and canals, you may only take freshwater fish with the written permission of the fishery owner or occupier. NB. Canals are defined as those canals where the coarse fish close season has been removed.

You may keep fish in a keepnet or keepsack before returning them to the water.

Eels and shad

You may not take or kill any rod caught eel or shad from any waters, including tidal waters.

You may keep eel in a keepnet or keepsack before returning them to the water. Shad must be returned immediately.


Landing nets, keepnets and keepsacks

A national byelaw makes it illegal to use landing nets with knotted meshes or meshes of metallic material.

Similarly, keepnets should not be constructed of such materials or have holes in the mesh larger than 25mm internal circumference; or be less than 2.0 metres in length. Supporting rings or frames should not be greater than 40cm apart (excluding the distance from the top frame to the first supporting ring or frame) or less than 120cm in circumference.

Keepsacks should be constructed of a soft, dark coloured, non-abrasive, water-permeable fabric and should not have dimensions less than 120cm by 90cm if rectangular, or 150cm by 30cm by 40cm if used with a frame or designed with the intention that a frame be used. It is an offence to retain more than one fish in a single keepsack at any time.

It is illegal to retain in keepnets any salmonids (adults or juveniles) except when specially approved by the Environment Agency for collecting broodstock.


A number of other national fishing rules are in place - see below

  1. In all reservoirs, lakes and ponds, with the owner’s permission, you can fish all year for rainbow trout.
  2. On fully enclosed stillwaters, with the owner’s permission, you can fish all year for brown trout.
  3. You are not allowed to use a gaff or tailer at any time when fishing for salmon, trout and freshwater fish or freshwater eels.
  4. The number of rods that you can use at any one time is as follows:
    • One rod when fishing for salmonids in rivers, streams, drains and canals;
    • Two rods when fishing for salmonids in reservoirs, lakes and ponds (subject to local rules);
    • Up to four rods when fishing for coarse fish and eels (subject to local rules).

    When fishing with multiple rods and lines, rods shall not be left unattended and shall be placed such that the distance between the butts of the end rods does not exceed three metres.

  5. Annual catch returns for salmon and migratory trout should be submitted no later than 1 January in the following year. This is in addition to any returns that you have to make to in relation to a separate fishing permit.
  6. Crayfish of any species, whether alive or dead, or parts thereof, may not be used as bait for salmon, trout, freshwater fish or eels.
  7. Livebait may only be retained and used at the water where they were taken.
  8. All salmon, migratory trout or trout, hooked other than inside the mouth or throat, shall be returned immediately to any river, stream, drain or canal.
  9. A rod and line with its bait or hook in the water must not be left unattended or left so that the licence holder is unable at any time to take or exercise sufficient control over the rod and line.

Rod fishing open seasons

Salmon

Fishery District

River

Starts

Ends

Avon (Devon)

Avon (Devon)

15 Apr

30 Nov

Avon (Devon)

Erme

15 Mar

31 Oct

Axe (Devon)

Axe Otter Sid

15 Mar

31 Oct

Axe (Devon)

Lim

1 Mar

30 Sept

Camel

Camel

1 Apr

15 Dec

Dart

Dart

1 Feb

30 Sept

Exe

Exe

14 Feb

30 Sept

Fowey

Fowey Looe Seaton

1 Apr

15 Dec

Tamar & Plym

Tamar Tavy Lynher

1 Mar

14 Oct

Tamar & Plym

Plym Yealm

1 Apr

15 Dec

Taw & Torridge

Taw Torridge

1 Mar

30 Sept

Taw & Torridge

Lyn

1 Feb

31 Oct

Teign

Teign

1 Feb

30 Sept

Frome (Dorset) & Piddle

1 Mar

31 Aug

All other rivers in Wessex

1 Feb

31 Aug

Migratory trout

Fishery District

River

Starts

Ends

Avon (Devon)

Avon (Devon)

15 Apr

30 Sept

Avon (Devon)

Erme

15 Mar

30 Sept

Axe (Devon)

Axe Otter Sid

15 Apr

31 Oct

Axe (Devon)

Lim

16 Apr

31 Oct

Camel

Camel Gannel Menalhyl Valency

1Apr

30 Sept

Dart

Dart

15 Mar

30 Sept

Exe

Exe

15 Mar

30 Sept

Fowey

Fowey Looe Seaton Tresillian

1 Apr

30 Sept

Tamar & Plym

Tamar Lynher Plym Tavy Yealm

3 Mar

30 Sept

Taw & Torridge

Taw Torridge Lyn

15 Mar

30 Sept

Teign

Teign

15 Mar

30 Sept

All rivers in Wessex

15 Apr

31 Oct

Brown trout

Fishery District

Starts

Ends

Camel & Fowey

1 Apr

30 Sept

Other rivers in Devon & Cornwall Area

15 Mar

30 Sept

All rivers in Wessex Area

1 Apr

15 Oct

Enclosed stillwaters

No statutory closed season

All other waters in Devon & Cornwall

15 Mar

12 Oct

All other waters in Wessex Area

17 Mar

14 Oct

Rainbow trout

Fishery District

Starts

Ends

Camel & Fowey

1 Apr

30 Sept

Other rivers in Devon & Cornwall Area

15 Mar

30 Sept

All rivers in Wessex Area

1 Apr

15 Oct

All reservoirs, lakes & ponds

No statutory closed season

Grayling, coarse fish and eels

Fishery District

Starts

Ends

Rivers, streams & drains (including the Glastonbury Canal) and some stillwater Sites of Special Scientific Interest

16 Jun

14 Mar

Ponds, lakes, reservoirs and all other canals

No statutory closed season

There is no close season for coarse fish on canals within the region, with the exception of the Glastonbury Canal which is an open system with the South Drain.

How many fish can I keep?

See page 2 for coarse fish removal limits.

Bag limits

 

Period

River / Area

Species

24 hours

7 days

Season

Wessex (N)

Non-migratory trout

2

N/A

N/A

Wessex (N)

Grayling

2

N/A

N/A

Taw

Salmon

2

3

10

Taw

Migratory trout

5

15

40

Torridge

Salmon

2

2

7

Torridge

Migratory trout

2

5

20

Private fisheries or clubs may have their own rules so do check.

Prohibition of use of lead weights

No person shall use any instrument on which is attached directly or indirectly any lead weight (except a weight of 0.06 grams or less, or one of more than 28.35 grams) for the purpose of taking salmon, trout, freshwater fish or eels in any waters within the region, unless it is incorporated and fully enclosed in the core of the fishing line, or incorporated in the construction of a swim-feeder, self-cocking float or a fishing lure; “fishing lure” means any device, including a fishing fly, which is designed to attract fish and which incorporates a fishing hook.

Kilbury Weir – Prohibited fishing

It is illegal to take or attempt to take by any means fish in any waters within 50 yards below the crest of Kilbury Weir on the River Dart.

Devon rivers – no spinning for trout

No spinning for trout in waters included within the Dartmoor National Park, the Exe above Exebridge, Otter above Langford Bridge, Torridge above Woodford Bridge, Bray above Newton Bridge, Mole above Alswear Bridge, Little Dart above Afleton Bridge, and the whole of the Okement, Lyn and Barnstaple Yeo.

Use of float

The use of a float when fishing for salmon or trout in any waters within the Avon (Devon), Axe (Devon), Dart, Exe, Taw and Torridge and Teign districts is prohibited.

Permitted baits

Crayfish of any species, whether alive or dead, or parts thereof, may not be used as bait for salmon, trout, freshwater fish or eels

The use of particular baits for fishing is regulated by byelaws and in some cases additional restrictions are imposed by the fishing association or riparian owner. The byelaw restrictions are shown in the table below:

Fishery district

Species

Baits (real or imitation)

SW Region

Salmon

Before 16 June, artificial fly and artificial lure only

Avon (Devon)

Salmon & trout

No worm or maggot

Axe (Devon)

Salmon & trout

No shrimp, prawn, worm or maggot. Fly only after 31 July below Axbridge, Colyford

Dart

Salmon

Trout

No worm or maggot. No shrimp or prawn except below Staverton Bridge. No spinning above Holne Bridge.

Fly only.

Exe

Salmon & trout

No worm or maggot.

Barnstaple Yeo (tidal)

All species (inc seafish)

No fishing

Taw & Torridge (except Lyn)

Salmon & trout

No shrimp, prawn, worm or maggot

No spinning after 31 March

Lyn

Trout

No worm or maggot before 1 June

Teign

Salmon

Trout

Artificial fly and artificial lure ONLY after 31 August

No worm or maggot before 1 June

Camel & Fowey

Salmon

Trout

No byelaw restrictions on bait after 16 June

No byelaw restrictions on bait

Tamar

Salmon & migratory trout

No worm, maggot, shrimp or prawn after 31 August

Wessex Area

Salmon & migratory trout

Artificial fly only before 15 May.

Wessex Area

All species in rivers, drains and canals

No maggot (or pupae), processed product, cereal or other vegetable matter during the coarse fish close season.

Size limits

Length to be measured from tip of the snout to the fork or cleft of the tail.

The size limits, below which fish must be returned, imposed by byelaws are set out in the table below. Sizes in centimetres (cm).

Area, district or catchment

Migratory trout

Non-migratory trout

Grayling

Camel, Fowey, Tamar & Plym

18 cm

18 cm

N/A

Avon(Devon), Axe (Devon), Dart, Exe, Taw & Torridge, Teign

25 cm

20 cm

N/A

River Lim

N/A

22 cm

N/A

Wessex (N) except By Brook

35 cm

25 cm

25 cm

By Brook & tribs

35 cm

20 cm

25 cm

Wessex (South)

35 cm

25 cm

N/A

These size restrictions do not apply to non-migratory trout in any waters included within the Dartmoor National Park, the Exe above Exebridge, Otter above Langford Bridge, Torridge above Woodford Bridge, Mole above Alswear Bridge, Little Dart above Afleton Bridge, and the whole of the Okement, Lyn and Barnstaple Yeo.

Taw & Torridge salmon

From the 1 August to 30 September in any year no person shall take in the River Taw and River Torridge any salmon of a length greater than 70 centimetres.

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