Regional rod fishing byelaws: south-east region

South-east region byelaws are statutory rules and regulations explaining who can fish, where, when and what fish you can take.

Overview of south-east byelaws

These byelaws for the south-east region apply to anyone fishing with a rod and line for salmon, trout, coarse fish, eels, smelt and lamprey in all freshwater fisheries.

Within the south-east region, there are rules that apply to:

  • the ‘Thames byelaw area’, which include the catchments of the Rivers Darent and Cray
  • the southern byelaw area
Map showing the South East region including the Thames

Private fisheries may enforce their own additional rules, but national and regional byelaws still apply.

When and where you can fish

Dates are inclusive

All dates mentioned in these byelaws are inclusive: this means a stated period, such as 15 March to 15 June, includes the full day of 15 March and the full day of 15 June.

Close season rules

National and regional close season rules apply across both the Thames and southern areas. The close season rules in the Thames byelaw area state that:

  • national byelaws apply to coarse fishing in rivers, streams and drains
  • national byelaws apply to fishing for eels in rivers, streams and drains, but there is no close season on the tidal River Thames downstream of the Thames Barrier
  • the close season for brown and rainbow trout in rivers, streams, drains is 1 October to 31 March
  • the close season for salmon and migratory trout in all waters is 1 October to 31 March
  • there is no close season for brown trout in fully enclosed waters
  • there is no close season for rainbow trout in all stillwaters

The close season rules in the southern byelaw area state that:

  • national byelaws apply to coarse fishing and fishing for eels in rivers, streams and drains
  • the close season for brown and rainbow trout in rivers, streams and drains is 1 November to 2 April
  • the close season for salmon in all waters is 3 October to 16 January
  • the close season for migratory trout in all waters is 1 November to 30 April

There is no close season for brown trout in fully enclosed waters, or for rainbow trout in still waters.

Canals and stillwaters with a close season

The canals in the Thames and southern Byelaw areas that are subject to a close season for coarse and eel fishing (15 March to 5 June) are:

  • the Kennet and Avon Canal, downstream of its confluence with the River Kennet at Kintbury
  • the Lee Navigation, upstream of Aqueduct Lock
  • two designated stretches of the Basingstoke Canal, from SU719514 to SU967575, and from TQ016597 to TQ046616.
  • the Wey Navigation

Regents Park Canal, Grand Union Canal, Lee Navigation (downstream of Aquaduct Lock) and the Oxford Canal remain open.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) with a close season

Some stillwaters have been designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and angling at these waters is prohibited during the close season.

SSSIs in the south-east:

County Water OS grid ref / map
Bedfordshire Houghton Regis Marl Lakes TL008235
Berkshire Heath Lake SU829652
Rapley Lakes SU889653, SU901647 – within Broadmoor to Bagshot Woods and Heaths SSSI.
Swinley Park and Brick Pits SU895675, SU905670
Wasing Wood Ponds SU578636, SU583633
Wraysbury and Hythe Gravel Pits TQ014737
East Sussex Ashburnham Park TQ695148
Ashdown Forest - Pippingford Lakes only TQ450300
Eridge Park TQ576344
Herstmonceux Park TQ650107
Pett Level TQ903157
East Sussex, Kent Walland Marsh (Royal Military Canal) TQ933227TQ991320
Essex Abberton Reservoir TL970180
Colne Estuary TM075155
Gloucestershire Frampton Pools SO753073
Soudley Ponds SO662112
Cotswold Water Park SU000930
Greater London Mid Colne Valley SU200990
Brent Reservoir TQ043896
Denham Lock Wood TQ217873
Hampshire Alresford Pond SU593331
Avon Valley (Bickton-Blashford) SU150100
Bramshill SU766605
Fleet Pond SU822551
Lower Test Valley SU360153
Shortheath Common SU775366
Southampton Common SU415145
Titchfield Haven SU539035
Warren Heath Ponds SU769599, SU782588
Castle Bottom to Yateley Common SU815587
New Forest– Hatchet and Cadnam ponds only SU298081
Hampshire, Surrey Basingstoke Canal SU719514SU967575 and TQ016597TQ046616
Kent Delph Ditch and Abbot's Court northern 2 lakes Q835751, TQ795723
Dungeness TR050180
Holborough to Burham Marshes TQ712618
Marden Meadows TQ762445
North Warren & Thorpeness Mere TM460594
Medway Estuary and Marshes excluding Stoke Angling Club reservoir TQ850720
Oldbury and Seal Chart TQ571558
Orlestone Forest TQ982350
Romney Warren TR085262
Sandwich Bay, excluding Cottington Lakes and Finglesham Ponds TR353585, TR357532, TR340535
Scotney Castle TQ690350
Sevenoaks Gravel Pits TQ522569
South Thames Estuary and Marshes, excluding Beckley Hill ponds TQ770785, TQ717741
Stodmarsh TR222618
The Swale, excluding Murston pits TR000670
Walland Marsh TQ960240
Oxfordshire Wychwood SP335168
Surrey Ash to Brookwood Heaths SU920540, SU956545, SU958555, SU945537
Bookham Commons TQ128565
Chobham Common SU973648
Epsom and Ashtead Commons TQ181602
Godstone Parks TQ353516, TQ360509
Hedgecourt TQ355403
Langham Pond TQ002721
Ockham and Wisley Commons TQ082585, TQ084592, TQ078595, TQ070585
Papercourt TQ035563, TQ035569, TQ042565
Puttenham and Crooksbury Commons SU915464, SU890453
Staines Moor TQ040730
Vann Lake and Ockley Woods TQ156392
Whitmoor Common SU985535
Thursley, Hankley and Frensham Commons SU885405, SU915410, SU855405
West Sussex Arun Banks TQ029100
Arundel Park TQ015082
Buchan Hill Ponds TQ245343
Burton Park SU977177
Cow Wood and Harrys Wood TQ270299
Ebernoe Common SU977270
Forest Mere SU820300
Shillinglee Lake SU968311
St Leonards Ponds TQ200308
Wakehurst & Chiddingly Woods TQ334316, TQ348323
Waltham Brooks TQ025159, TQ021152
Wiltshire Coate Water SU188820

Lures and baits

National byelaws apply in addition to regional byelaws to the use of tackle, lures and bait.

In the Thames byelaw area, you must not fish with any form of gorge bait. A gorge bait is a piece of stick, strip of plastic or bone hidden in the bait parallel to the line. When swallowed, a tug on the line causes the gorge to turn sideways in the fish’s throat.

In the Thames byelaw area, fish must be weighed as close as possible at the point of capture.

You must only fish for sea trout, trout or rainbow trout with an artificial fly or lure during the coarse fish close season.


In the Thames byelaw area, you must not use more than 3 separate hooks attached to the same rod and line. You must not use any device that is designed to hook a fish automatically.


Rules around the number of rods permitted, use of landing nets, keepnets, gaffs or tailers are all covered in the National Byelaws.

Catch limits, size limits and catch returns

Salmon and migratory trout catch limits

It is illegal to catch and remove any live or dead salmon from these rivers, their tributaries and estuaries:

  • Ems
  • Meon
  • Medway
  • Stour
  • Thames

All salmon caught from these waters must be released immediately with the least possible injury.

Coarse fish and eels catch limits

Across the south-east region, national byelaws apply.

Trout size limits

In the Thames byelaw area you must not take any trout that are less than 25cm.

In the southern byelaw area, you must not take any trout less than 23cm, and migratory trout less than 38cm.

The size is measured from the tip of the snout to the fork or cleft of the tail.

Picture of a fish with an arrow to indicate how a fish should be measured
Published 7 June 2019