An angler fishing in closed season

If you are a coarse fishing angler then the chances are you would have heard of the coarse fishing closed season. But what does this actually mean? Can you still fish in certain waters in the closed season? Do you have to only target certain species in closed season?

I am regularly asked both these questions plus many more regarding fishing at this time of year. For this reason, I thought I would write an article on it. Hopefully, any questions you have will be answered below.

What Is Coarse Fishing Closed Season UK?

Coarse fishing closed season is a time of the year when it is illegal to go fishing on rivers, streams, and drains for any species of coarse fish. In general, this is due to the fact that this is the time of year when the fish start spawning.

Spawning season is a stressful time for fish, with a good few of them not making it through the process. If you add to this a load of anglers casting lines at them it does them no favours at all.

The closed season starts on the 15th of March and opens again on the 16th of June. So just to clarify, you cannot fish on the 15th of March all the way up to the 16th of June. The 16th of June is the first day you can start to fish the rivers again.

This date for many anglers is probably the most important in their calendar.

The 16th of June usually sees the river banks start to get busy once more with hopeful anglers trying to bag their fish of a lifetime.

two men fishing when the closed season has ended
The rivers get busier again on the 16th of June in the UK

Is There Anywhere I Can Fish In Closed Season?

When the coarse fishing closed season starts there are still places you can go to and fish legally. I have never really properly understood the reasoning behind this.

Coarse fish, whether in a canal, lake river or stream all spawn at roughly the same time. So why are we allowed to generally fish lakes and canals when the rivers and streams are out of bounds?

I did hear one theory that it was rich influential people back in the day that started the coarse fishing closed season. These people liked to get out after the Salmon at this time of year and didn’t like the ‘riff-raff’ lining the banks with them. Whether there is any truth in this theory is anyone’s guess though.

Even though still waters are not affected by closed-season rules, you will need to check with whoever has the fishing rights. Some clubs like to have a closed season on their still waters merely just to give the fish a break. Which I think is fair enough to be honest, especially on heavily fished venues. We all deserve a bit of peace once in a while.

Two anglers fishing a lake in closed season
Most still waters remain open in the closed season in the UK

What Fish Can I Catch On Rivers In Closed Season?

Even though coarse fish on rivers and streams are out of bounds during closed season there are other fish you can target. Trout, Salmon, and Grayling are all up for grabs during the coarse fishing closed season.

Traditionally these types of game fish are caught by means of an artificial fly. A lot of fisheries and clubs stick by this as part of their bylaws and will only let you fly fish for these types of fish. So it is definitely advisable to check any local bylaws before game fishing during the closed season.

If the club where you aim to go allows you to use other methods such as lure fishing and spinning then I would highly recommend giving it a go. It can be a great way of targeting Trout and Salmon on the river.

Obviously whilst targeting game fish you may encounter the odd coarse fish that will go for your bait as well. If this does occur you are advised to unhook it and get it back in the water as soon as possible. For example no photo shoots and no retaining the fish for reasons such as weighing it.

You will need a rod license to catch any fish in the UK and Wales. If you are planning to go for Trout during the closed season then the usual coarse fishing license will cover it. If however, you plan to go after Seatrout Or Salmon a separate license will be needed.

Find out more details on rod licenses here.

An image of a salmon
You will need a separate license for catching salmon

By the way, if you happen to lose or misplace your rod license then don’t panic, there are ways of getting it sorted.

So When Is Trout And Salmon Season?

In the UK you can fish for trout all year round on still waters as long as the owners allow it. But be sure to check what bait you are allowed to use before casting a line. A lot of fisheries only allow fly fishing.

However, when it comes to fishing for trout on a river or stream there is a season you have to adhere to. Trout season starts on the 22nd of March and goes all the way through to the 30th of September.

When it comes to fishing for salmon in the UK a lot of rivers have different seasons and you will have to check the area’s local bylaws.

An angler salmon fishing in the course fishing closed season
Always check the local byelaws when fishing for salmon in closed season

History of the Coarse Fish Close Season in the UK


The idea behind the original close season for coarse fish can be traced back to 1878 with the passing of the Mundella Act[^1^]. The Sheffield anglers initially proposed that the months of March, April, and May be designated as the closed season, with specific periods for different fish species, such as not taking barbel or carp in May or June[^1^].

Disagreements and Consensus

There were disagreements between Sheffield and London regarding the exact months for the closed season. The experts of the time had differing opinions on the exact periods for different fish species. A compromise was eventually reached, with several voices suggesting a closed season from 15 March to 15 June, which was unanimously agreed upon[^1^]. This decision was not based on a scientific approach but was more of a consensus between different angling communities.

The 1878 Act

The Freshwater Fisheries Act of 1878 was introduced, which encompassed all anglers, including club members, honest anglers, and those engaging in illegal activities such as poaching[^1^]. The Thames Conservancy soon aligned its fishery byelaws with the rules incorporated in the new Fisheries Bill.

The Real Purpose

The primary purpose of the closed season was not just about allowing fish to spawn naturally. It was established to protect coarse fish from illegal netting, poaching, and existing rules that favored salmon and trout over coarse fish[^1^]. This was evident from a statement by Alf Waterhouse, president of the National Federation of Anglers in the 1950s, who mentioned that fishery boards initially regarded salmon and trout as the only fish worthy of their care, while other fish were seen as undesirable[^1^].

Yorkshire’s Stolen Fortnight

In the early 20th century, river boards were allowed to vary the close season, provided it comprised a set number of days (93 days). Yorkshire, for a period, was allowed to start coarse fishing on 1 June, but the whole of March was closed for fishing[^1^].

Reference: History of the coarse fish close season – Angling Trust

To Conclude

If you want to fish the rivers, drains, or streams in the UK you will have to follow the rules and local bylaws.

This includes following the closed seasons and using the proper valid rod licenses. As I have mentioned earlier, even when the closed season is in force on your local rivers there is always somewhere else to fish nowadays. But fish welfare should always be at the top of your agender, so if you see signs that they are spawning I would advise you to leave them well alone.

After all, that is the next generation of fish that we could be putting in danger. Tight lines and enjoy your fishing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the coarse fishing closed season?

The coarse fishing closed season is a designated period during which it’s prohibited to fish on rivers, streams, and drains for any species of coarse fish. This season is set to protect fish during their spawning time. It starts on the 15th of March and ends on the 16th of June.

Can I fish anywhere during the coarse fishing closed season?

While fishing on rivers, streams, and drains is restricted during the closed season, you can still fish in certain stillwaters like lakes and canals. However, it’s essential to check with the respective fishing rights holders or clubs as they might have their own specific rules.

Which fish can I target during the closed season on rivers?

While coarse fish are off-limits during the closed season on rivers and streams, you can target game fish such as Trout, Salmon, and Grayling. However, always check local bylaws and club rules to ensure you’re using the permitted fishing methods.

Do I need a special license to fish for Trout or Salmon during the closed season?

Yes, a rod license is mandatory for fishing in the UK and Wales. While a standard coarse fishing license covers Trout, you’ll need a separate license if you plan to target Seatrout or Salmon.

When can I fish for Trout and Salmon in the UK?

In the UK, you can fish for trout all year round in still waters, provided the owners allow it. However, for rivers or streams, the trout season runs from 22nd March to 30th September. Salmon fishing seasons vary across different UK rivers, so it’s essential to consult local bylaws for specific dates.

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