Guidance

Rod fishing byelaws: South East

South East byelaws are statutory (regulated by law) rules and regulations explaining who can fish, where, when and what fish you can take.

Overview of South East byelaws

These byelaws apply to anyone fishing with a rod and line for salmon, trout, coarse fish, eels, smelt and lamprey.

See the national rod fishing byelaws for rules that cover the whole country.

The South East is divided into 2 byelaw areas – Thames and Southern byelaw.

Thames byelaw area

This byelaw area includes all waters within the River Thames catchment. It includes the Thames, Darent and Cray, Wandle, Lee, Roding, Mole, Wey, Colne, Kennet, Cherwell, Windrush and Coln, and the Cotswold Water Park. It excludes the River Medway catchment.

Southern byelaw area

This byelaw area includes all waters within river catchments that flow into the English Channel, from Highcliffe (Dorset) in the west and eastwards to the Thames estuary. It includes these river catchments – Medway, Great Stour (Kent), Rother, Cuckmere River, Sussex Ouse, Adur, Arun, Wallington, Meon, Hamble, Itchen, Test, Beaulieu, Lymington and river catchments on the Isle of Wight.

Angling clubs and private fisheries may enforce their own additional rules, but national and local 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 local close season rules (when you must not fish) apply across both the Thames and Southern byelaw areas.

In the Thames byelaw area:

  • the national coarse fish close season, from 15 March to 15 June, applies to rivers, streams and drains
  • the national coarse fish close season applies 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 and drains is 1 October to 31 March
  • there is no close season for brown trout in fully enclosed waters or for rainbow trout in all stillwaters
  • the close season for salmon and migratory trout in all waters is 1 October to 31 March

In the Southern byelaw area:

  • the national coarse fish close season, from 15 March to 15 June, applies 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
  • there is no close season for brown trout in fully enclosed waters or for rainbow trout in stillwaters
  • 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

Canals and stillwaters with a close season

The canals in the Thames and Southern byelaw areas that have a close season for coarse and eel fishing (15 March to 15 June) are:

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

The Regents Park Canal, Grand Union Canal, Lee Navigation (downstream of Aquaduct Lock) and the Oxford Canal have no statutory close season.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) with a close season in the South East

Some stillwaters are designated SSSIs. You are not allowed to fish at the following waters during the close season, from 15 March to 15 June.

Bedfordshire

Houghton Regis Marl Lakes – TL008235

Berkshire

Water OS grid reference
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

Water OS grid reference
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) – TQ933227 to TQ991320

Essex

Water OS grid reference
Abberton Reservoir TL970180
Colne Estuary TM075155

Gloucestershire

Water OS grid reference
Frampton Pools SO753073
Soudley Ponds SO662112
Cotswold Water Park SU000930 to SU200990

Greater London

Water OS grid reference
Mid Colne Valley TQ043896
Brent Reservoir TQ217873
Denham Lock Wood TQ055863

Hampshire

Water OS grid reference
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 – Cadman's Pool SU229121

Hampshire, Surrey

Basingstoke Canal – SU719514 to SU967575 and TQ016597 to TQ046616

Kent

Water OS grid reference
Dungeness TR050180
Holborough to Burham Marshes TQ712618
Marden Meadows TQ762445
North Warren and Thorpeness Mere        TM460594
Medway Estuary and Marshes TQ850720 Excluding Stoke Angling Club reservoir and section of the Delph Ditch (TQ835751), and Abbot's Court northern 2 lakes (TQ795723)
Oldbury and Seal Chart TQ571558
Orlestone Forest TQ982350
Romney Warren TR085262
Sandwich Bay TR353585, excluding Cottington Lakes (TR357532), and Finglesham Ponds (TR340535)
Scotney Castle TQ690350
Sevenoaks Gravel Pits TQ522569
South Thames Estuary and Marshes TQ770785, excluding Beckley Hill ponds (TQ717741)
Stodmarsh TR222618
The Swale, excluding Murston pits TR000670
Walland Marsh TQ960240

Oxfordshire

Wychwood – SP335168

Surrey

Water OS grid reference
Ash to Brookwood Heaths SU920540, SU956545, SU958555, SU945537
Bookham Commons TQ128565
Chobham Common SU973648
Epsom and Ashtead Commons TQ181602
Godstone Ponds 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

Water OS grid reference
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 and Chiddingly Woods TQ334316, TQ348323
Waltham Brooks TQ025159, TQ021152

Wiltshire

Coate Water – SU188820

Rods, tackle, lures and baits

Rods and nets

See the national byelaws for rules on:

  • the number of rods you are allowed to use
  • using landing nets, keepnets, gaffs or tailers

Tackle, lures and baits

National byelaws on lead weights apply in the South East.

National byelaws on using tackle, lures and bait apply in the South East, in addition to the local byelaws.

These 4 local byelaws also apply:

  1. In the Thames byelaw area, you must not fish with any form of gorge bait. A gorge bait is a piece of stick, 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.

  2. In the Thames byelaw area, you must weigh fish as close as possible at the point of capture.

  3. In the Thames and Southern byelaw areas 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 may also use a minnow, provided it is caught from the same water with a minnow trap. The minnow trap must be authorised by the Environment Agency – please call 03708 506 506 (see call charges).

  4. 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.

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, West Sussex
  • Meon, Hampshire
  • Medway, Sussex and Kent
  • Stour, Kent
  • Thames

You must release all salmon you catch from these waters immediately, with the least possible injury.

Coarse fish and eels catch limits

National byelaws apply across the South East.

Trout size limits

In the Thames byelaw area you must not take any trout that are less than 25cm (measured from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail).

In the Southern byelaw area, you must not take any trout less than 23cm, and migratory trout less than 38cm (measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail).

Published 7 June 2019
Last updated 12 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. We have clarified which locations are covered by the South East byelaws, and where national and local byelaws apply.

  2. First published.