The short answer to this question is No – sea fishing does not require a licence. However, in many areas the situation is, unfortunately, a lot more complicated. Some fishing marks inland where saltwater and freshwater fishing cross over the licence issue can become unclearwhich can cause a lot of confusion amongst anglers. Read on to find out more about the issues surrounding sea angling and the issue of fishing licences.
Related article: Sea Fishing, Anglers’ Rights and the Magna Carta
Anglers fishing from clear sea fishing marks such as beaches, rock marks, piers and breakwaters have no need at all for any kind of licence (as long as they do not catch and keep certain species – see below). This is clear cut and means the vast majority of sea anglers can fish without worrying about licences at all. However, the issue becomes more complicated further away from the sea. Anglers fishing inland up rivers do not need licences either if they are using sea fishing tackle to target sea fish species within tidal waters (i.e. there is movement of water level with the incoming and outgoing tide). Fishing marks further inland and out of tidal waters may well require a licence and anglers fishing without one will be risking the £2500 fine – even if they claim to be using sea fishing tactics/equipment to target saltwater species. In areas where freshwater anglers are targeting freshwater species side by side with anglers using sea fishing gear to catch sea fish species the issue can become extremely complicated indeed – sometimes there are signs stating that an anglers fishing in an area need licences, often there is not. Anglers unsure about whether then need a licence to fish a particular area should contact the authorities to get advice before they go fishing (ask the local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities). Licences are organised by the Environment Agency and are available online or from Post Offices around the UK.
Restricted Species for Sea Anglers
However, an important point for all sea anglers to remember is that anglers using a rod and line need a licence to catch trout and salmon – even if they are fishing from a ‘pure’ sea fishing mark, many miles away from freshwater or rivers. These species can live in both saltwater and freshwater and migrate between the two, and a licence is needed to retain these species regardless of whereabouts an angler catches them. Anglers without a licence who retain these species are likely to face prosecution if they are caught by the authorities. Other species such as silver eels and shad are protected by law due to their endangered status, and special regulations have been brought in to restrict anglers catching bass for all of 2016 – see this link for more information on restricted species.