A Narrow Boating Article.

We hope that you will find the following information useful, whether you are a fishing fanatic hoping for the catch of a lifetime or a complete novice.

Can I fish at anytime of the year?

The close season on UK rivers is from 15th March to 15th June inclusive but the canal network is open for fishing all year round. The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing the close season.

Fishing from the Narrow BoatDo I need a fishing licence?

Rod Licences are issued by the Environment Agency and one will license the use of up to two fishing rods, a Rod Licence is required for all inland waters. Rod licenses are available from any post office in England and Wales, over the telephone on 0844 800 5386 and also on line at and they must be purchased before arriving on site to fish. The fee for a Rod Licence is small, currently £10.00 for eight days and £3.75 for one day, but the penalties for fishing without a one are severe. the maximum fine is £2,500. A rod licence is required by persons aged 12 years or over, they are not needed for the under 12s. Money raised through the sale of rod licences is invested in fisheries work to benefit all anglers.

Can I fish anywhere I like?

Fishing rights to some stretches of our canal network belong to local fisheries or angling clubs and a Rod Licence does not give you automatic permission to fish there. Permission to fish still needs to be obtained from the owner of the fishing rights or the angling club that controls the fishing on that water, some make a small charge for a permit. Any private fishing rights will be clearly marked so adhere to all notices. Generally fishing is not permitted from the offside bank, except where so signed, so only fish from the tow path bank. Fishing is not allowed in lock chambers, within 25 metres of a lock approach or within 25 metres of a water point.

Can I fish off the back of the canal boat?

You can fish off the back of the canal boat whilst it is moored on the towpath, you cannot fish whilst the boat is moving. Remember though just because you are not fishing from the bank it does not mean that you do not have to apply for a Rod Licence and, if necessary, a permit and permission is you are within a private fishing area.

What species of fish am I likely to catch?

Some of the species found in our canals are Carp, Roach, Barbel, Tench, Perch, Trout, Bream, Gudgeon and of course everyone's favourite and the one that fishermen dream of the Pike.

Can I use a net to catch fish?

Using any instrument other than a rod and line/pole is illegal under UK law.

Can I keep any fish I catch?

It is an offence to take any fish away from a canal or from a reservoir under the 1968 Theft Act and Environment Agency Bye-laws. Any fish you catch should be returned unharmed to the water.

Can I put any fish I catch in a Keep Net?

You can but do not keep large amounts of fish in a keep net for any longer than necessary. Make sure your keep net is securely staked out so that the fish have enough room and receive the maximum oxygen supply.

Helpful Tips

There are a few 'Rules of the Road” that you must follow for your safety and enjoyment and for the consideration of other canal users.

Be careful on slippery banks which can be steep.

Do not leave discarded hooks and lines or rubbish on the towpath as this can injure or even kill wildlife.

Do not fish within 30 metres of overhead power lines.

Do respect and appreciate the wildlife and the natural environment. Do your best to avoid accidentally hooking birds or entangling them in your line.

Make sure you keep the towpath clear by keeping your fishing tackle tidy.

Don't tie up and obstruct locks, bridges, designated moorings or water or turning points.

Do not fish close to locks or moveable bridges.

Do not throw bait close to other canal boats and it is illegal to bring live baits from other waters to the canal

Do respect the privacy of other boat users especially in the early morning or evenings.

Don’t leave your rods unattended not only is it illegal a large fish could pull your rod into the water and remain tethered

Remove your equipment from the water in good time when a boat approaches.

Before you go fishing read The Waterways Code available to download on line at


If you just want to give fishing a try and need to buy equipment then go into your local tackle shop and tell them what you want to do. Don't be afraid to ask for advice from the locals most anglers are only too pleased to show off what they know or brag about what they may have caught.

Assembling your rig - Ensure that the line guides or rings are aligned. Attach the reel to your rod at the top of the handle, ensuring that the reel spool lines up with the first line guide. Open the bale-arm of the reel and thread the line through all the line guides. To attach the float, thread the line through the small eye at the base of the float. Now, you have to add the shot to cock the float, ie make the float sit at the right level in the water. Next tie on a hook to the end of the line. Attach some bait to the hook

The Bait - There are many different types of bait but the most commonly known and the type eaten by nearly all fresh water species of fish is the maggot. We respectively ask that you do not keep live bait on the canal boat.

Starting up – Begin by feeding six to ten maggots at a time, this means throwing them into the water so that the fish get used to seeing the bait. Keep feeding six to ten maggots every couple of minutes, even if you are not getting any bites. The key to success is to keep the bait trickling in. Feed little and often.

Cast Off - cast into your chosen swim and get ready to strike when your float is pulled by a fish eating your bait

Canal fishing is considered to require a much greater level of thought and skill than other types of coarse fishing. With plenty of natural food available canal fish are not always easiest to catch. The best places on a canal is on the far shelf about one metre from the far bank. Overhanging bushes and trees are also very good areas.

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