Environmental management – guidance

Permission to trap crayfish, eels, elvers, salmon and sea trout

Get permission or a licence to trap crayfish, eels, elvers, salmon, sea trout, lamprey and smelt: how to apply and authorisation rules.

You need permission to trap or fish for:

  • crayfish
  • eels
  • elvers
  • salmon
  • sea trout
  • lamprey
  • smelt

Authorisation charges for net and trap fishing 2016

Fishing method or instrument Number of instruments covered Authorisation charge
Elver fishing with elver dip net 1 only £85
Adult eels using fixed trap (eel racks) 1 only £115
Adult eel, smelt, lamprey fishing using fyke nets (with or without leaders or wings), putcheons, pipe traps, criggs pots, baskets and hives 1 to 10 £60
  11 to 20 £70
  21 to 50 £80
  51 to 500 £160
  over 500 £580
Smelt fishing using a seine net 1 only £85
Crayfish trapping using fyke nets (with or without leaders or wings), drop nets, crayfish traps, pots 1 to over 500 Free

To find out about net licences to fish for salmon and sea trout call your regional net licensing officer on 03708 506 506 (see call charges).

Crayfish trap authorisation

You must not trap non-native crayfish without written consent from the Environment Agency (EA) in England or Natural Resources Wales in Wales.

You also need permission from the landowner and any relevant angling clubs.

If you trap crayfish without written permission you could be prosecuted.

If your application is approved you’ll get:

  • permission to trap using approved traps, see the application form for details
  • identity tags for each trap, these must be attached to traps
  • a catch return form, use this to keep a record of crayfish you catch

It takes 10 to 20 days to process your application. It may take longer if the water has a conservation designation such as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

In some areas you also need a licence to keep non-native crayfish alive after trapping.

If you are a fish farm owner or fish farm employee you don’t need consent to trap non-native crayfish but you must comply with trap rules.

Native crayfish

Native crayfish are a protected species – you can only trap them for scientific purposes and not to eat or sell.

To do this you need to register with Natural England and follow instructions on the class licence for white clawed crayfish.

In Wales contact Natural Resources Wales.

Crayfish trap rules

There are strict rules about the design and size of crayfish traps because they can harm other wildlife. If traps are the wrong size or design your application will be refused.

Traps must:

  • be no longer than 600mm
  • be no wider than 350mm at the widest point
  • have an entrance no more than 95mm wide
  • have mesh no bigger than 30mm at its widest point
  • have EA identity tags

You must:

  • tell EA or NRW about crayfish you trap using a catch return form (you get the form when you’re authorised)
  • return species not covered by consent to the water they came from

Protect water voles

Your application may be refused if there are risks to water voles or otters.

You’re breaking the law if you:

  • recklessly allow water voles to drown in crayfish traps
  • place traps in the entrances to water vole tunnels

You may be allowed to use baited drop nets in areas with water voles. To find out more contact your local EA consenting officer on 03708 506 506 (see call charges) if in England or contact NRW if in Wales.

Protect otters

Traps must have a rigid ring guard (no more than 95mm wide inside) fitted to the funnel. The trap must be made of one of the following:

  • tightly stretched flexible netting with a mesh size no more than 75mm when wet knot to knot, or 300mm round the edge
  • a rigid square grille with bars separated by no more than 85mm

To find out more about making traps safe for water voles and otters contact your local fisheries officer.

Deliberately killing otters or water voles is an offence.

Eel and elver net and trap fishing authorisation

Authorisations for commercial yellow and silver eel fishing are limited to those already licensed to fish.

Elver dip net authorisations are available to anyone, but fishing is restricted to certain locations.

To find out more call 0208 474 5243.

Applications take 10 working days.

Where you can fish

You can only fish for eels and elvers in established fisheries.

When you can fish

You can only fish for:

  • eels from 1 April to 10 December
  • elvers from 15 February to 25 May

Net and trap rules

Eels and elvers can be legally caught using:

  • fixed eel traps, which must be one of the following:
    • permanently fixed to a permanent structure, like a weir trap
    • partly or wholly fixed permanently in one place, like an eel rack
  • fyke nets (with leaders or wings), which must have:
    • conical net with in-scales
    • circular or D-shaped opening
    • 2 leaders maximum
    • 10m long wings maximum
    • 5m long or 1m wide net (maximum), excluding wings
    • wings or leaders not higher than the width of the net opening
  • fyke nets (without leaders or wings) a maximum of:
    • 5m long
    • 75cm wide
  • small ‘wingless’ traps eg criggs, pots, baskets, pipes etc (not hand-held or attached to a handle) a maximum of:
    • 75cm high
    • 2m long
    • 75cm wide
  • elver nets

You must not use trawling to catch eels and elvers.

Otter guards for nets and traps

Fyke nets and eel traps must have an otter guard fitted to the funnel if the entrance is more than 95mm inside. This must be one of the following:

  • tightly stretched flexible netting with a mesh size of no more than 75mm when wet knot to knot, or 300mm round the edge
  • a rigid square grille with bars separated by no more than 85mm
  • rigid ring guard no more than 95mm wide inside

These rules apply for 6 miles out in coastal waters.

Salmon and sea trout net fishing

Licences for salmon and sea trout net fishing are only offered to those already licensed to fish.

To find out about net licences call your local net licensing officer on 03708 506 506 (see call charges).

Salmon and trout can be caught using the following methods, depending on the fishery:

  • compass nets
  • haaf nets
  • draft nets
  • hand nets
  • trannel or whammel nets
  • wade nets, including lave and dip nets
  • coracle nets
  • T and J nets
  • drift nets
  • gill nets
  • seine nets
  • putcher ranks, and other fixed engines

Lamprey and smelt trap authorisation

To catch smelt and lamprey you need authorisation from the fish movements team – call 0208 474 5243.

Catch returns

You must submit catch returns forms at the end of the season even if you don’t catch anything. This must be within:

  • 30 days for eels and elvers
  • 14 days for salmon and sea trout

Use the form or logbook you get with authorisation.

If you do not submit a form, you might not be authorised to fish next season.

Contact

Environment Agency fish movements team (authorisations)

Email: fmapplications@environment-agency.gov.uk

Telephone: 0208 474 5243*

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Environment Agency (local fisheries officers)

Email: fmapplications@environment-agency.gov.uk

Telephone: 03708 506 506*

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Natural England

Email: enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk

Telephone: 03000 603 900*

Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.00pm

Natural Resources Wales

Email: enquiries@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

Telephone: 03000 653 000*

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

*Find out about call charges