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
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|
|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|
|East Sussex, Kent||Walland Marsh (Royal Military Canal)||TQ933227 – TQ991320|
|Cotswold Water Park||SU000930|
|Greater London||Mid Colne Valley||SU200990|
|Denham Lock Wood||TQ217873|
|Avon Valley (Bickton-Blashford)||SU150100|
|Lower Test Valley||SU360153|
|Warren Heath Ponds||SU769599, SU782588|
|Castle Bottom to Yateley Common||SU815587|
|New Forest– Hatchet and Cadnam ponds only||SU298081|
|Hampshire, Surrey||Basingstoke Canal||SU719514 – SU967575 and TQ016597 – TQ046616|
|Kent||Delph Ditch and Abbot's Court northern 2 lakes||Q835751, TQ795723|
|Holborough to Burham Marshes||TQ712618|
|North Warren & Thorpeness Mere||TM460594|
|Medway Estuary and Marshes excluding Stoke Angling Club reservoir||TQ850720|
|Oldbury and Seal Chart||TQ571558|
|Sandwich Bay, excluding Cottington Lakes and Finglesham Ponds||TR353585, TR357532, TR340535|
|Sevenoaks Gravel Pits||TQ522569|
|South Thames Estuary and Marshes, excluding Beckley Hill ponds||TQ770785, TQ717741|
|The Swale, excluding Murston pits||TR000670|
|Surrey||Ash to Brookwood Heaths||SU920540, SU956545, SU958555, SU945537|
|Epsom and Ashtead Commons||TQ181602|
|Godstone Parks||TQ353516, TQ360509|
|Ockham and Wisley Commons||TQ082585, TQ084592, TQ078595, TQ070585|
|Papercourt||TQ035563, TQ035569, TQ042565|
|Puttenham and Crooksbury Commons||SU915464, SU890453|
|Vann Lake and Ockley Woods||TQ156392|
|Thursley, Hankley and Frensham Commons||SU885405, SU915410, SU855405|
|West Sussex||Arun Banks||TQ029100|
|Buchan Hill Ponds||TQ245343|
|Cow Wood and Harrys Wood||TQ270299|
|St Leonards Ponds||TQ200308|
|Wakehurst & Chiddingly Woods||TQ334316, TQ348323|
|Waltham Brooks||TQ025159, TQ021152|
Legal fishing tackle, lures and bait
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:
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.