Guidance

Regional rod fishing byelaws: south-west region

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

Overview of south-west byelaws

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

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

Map showing the south west region of England including the area known as Wessex

South-west and Wessex

Within the south-west region, some rules apply specifically to an area referred to as ‘Wessex’.

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

Many regional variations to national close season rules apply across the south-west region.

Salmon close seasons by river

River Start and end
Avon (Devon) 1 Dec to 14 Apr
Erme 1 Nov to 14 Mar
Axe, Otter, Sid 1 Nov to 14 Mar
Lim 1 Oct to the last day of Feb
Camel, Gannel, Menalhyl, Valency 16 Dec to 30 Apr
Dart 1 Oct to 31 Jan
Exe 1 Oct to 13 Feb
Fowey, Looe, Seaton 16 Dec to 31 Mar
Tamar, Tavy, Lynher 15 Oct to the last day of Feb
Plym, Yealm 16 Dec to 31 Mar
Taw, Torridge 1 Oct to the last day of Feb
Lyn 1 Nov to 31 Jan
Teign 1 Sep to 31 Jan
Frome (Dorset) and Piddle 1 Sep to the last day of Feb
All other rivers in Wessex 1 Sep to 31 Jan

Migratory trout close seasons by river

River Start and end
Avon (Devon) 1 Oct to 14 Apr
Erme 1 Oct to 14 Mar
Axe, Otter, Sid 1 Nov to 14 Apr
Lim 1 Nov to 15 Apr
Camel, Gannel, Menalhyl, Valency 1 Oct to 30 Apr
Dart 1 Oct to 14 Mar
Exe 1 Oct to 14 Mar
Fowey, Looe, Seaton, Tresillian 1 Oct to 31 Mar
Tamar, Tavy, Lynher, Plym, Yealm 1 Oct to 2 Mar
Taw, Torridge, Lyn 1 Oct to 14 Mar
Teign 1 Oct to 14 Mar
All other rivers in Wessex 1 Nov to 14 Apr

Brown trout close seasons

Waters Start and end
Enclosed stillwaters No statutory close season
River Camel 1 Oct to 30 Apr
River Fowey 1 Oct to 31 Mar
Other rivers in Devon and Cornwall 1 Oct to 14 Mar
Other waters in Devon and Cornwall 1 Oct to 14 Mar
All rivers in Wessex Area 16 Oct to 31 Mar
Other waters in Wessex Area 15 Oct to 16 Mar

Rainbow trout close seasons

Waters Start and end
All reservoirs, lakes and ponds No statutory close season
River Camel 1 Oct to 31 Mar
River Fowey 1 Oct to 31 Mar
Other rivers in Devon and Cornwall 1 Oct to 14 Mar
All rivers in Wessex area 16 Oct to 31 Mar

Weirs

It is illegal to take or attempt to take fish by any means within 46m (50 yards) below the crest of Kilbury Weir on the River Dart.

Coarse fishing close season

The coarse fishing close season applies from 15 March to 15 June to rivers, streams, drains, and the Glastonbury Canal. This canal is part of an open system with the South Drain.

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

Use of floats

The use of any float when fishing for salmon or trout in any waters within the Avon (Devon), Axe (Devon), Dart, Exe, Taw and Torridge and Teign districts is prohibited.

Devon rivers – no spinning for trout

No spinning for trout in waters included within the Dartmoor National Park, the Exe above Exebridge, Otter above Langford Bridge, Torridge above Woodford Bridge, Bray above Newton Bridge, Mole above Alswear Bridge, Little Dart above Afleton Bridge, and the whole of the Okement, Lyn and Barnstaple Yeo.

Rods

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

Permitted baits

National byelaws apply across the south-west region, with the addition of the restrictions in the table below:

Fishery district Species Bait or lure rule
South-west region Salmon Artificial fly and artificial lure only before 16 June
Avon (Devon) Salmon and trout No worm or maggot
Axe (Devon) Salmon and trout No shrimp, prawn, worm or maggot. Fly only after 31 July below Axbridge, Colyford
Dart Salmon See byelaw above. No worm or maggot. No shrimp or prawn except below Staverton Bridge. No spinning above Holne Bridge
Trout Fly only
Exe Salmon and trout No worm or maggot
Barnstaple Yeo (tidal) All species including sea fish No fishing
Taw and Torridge (except Lyn) Salmon and trout No shrimp, prawn, worm or maggot. No spinning after 31 March
Lyn Trout No worm or maggot before 1 June
Teign Salmon Artificial fly and artificial lure only after 31 August
Trout No worm or maggot before 1 June
Camel Salmon No byelaw restrictions on bait after 16 June
Trout No byelaw restrictions on bait
Fowey Salmon No byelaw restrictions on bait after 16 June
Trout No byelaw restrictions on bait
Tamar Salmon and migratory trout No worm, maggot, shrimp or prawn after 31 August.
Wessex Area Salmon and migratory trout Artificial fly only before 15 May
Wessex Area All species in rivers, drains and canals No maggot (or pupae), processed product, cereal or other vegetable matter during the coarse fish close season

Catch limits, size limits and catch returns

For coarse fish catch limits, national byelaws apply across the south-west region.

Salmon and trout catch limits

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

  • Allen
  • Avill
  • Bristol Avon
  • Brit
  • Doniford
  • Fal
  • Harbourne
  • Heddon
  • Lerryn
  • Looe
  • Otter
  • Par
  • Parrett
  • Porth
  • Seaton
  • Sid
  • Valency
  • Washford
  • Winster
  • Stour
  • Yealm

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

As per national byelaws all salmon caught before 16th June must be returned alive. The rules below apply after 16 June.

Keep limit Period
Area or Catchment Species 24 hour 7 days Season limit
Wessex North Non-migratory trout 2 N/A N/A
Wessex North Grayling 2 N/A N/A
Taw Salmon 2 3 10
Taw Migratory trout 5 15 40
Torridge Salmon 2 2 7
Torridge Migratory trout 2 5 20

Coarse fish and eels catch limits

Across the south-west region, national byelaws apply.

Trout and grayling size limits

Trout and grayling smaller than the size limits outlined in the table below must be returned to the water.

Area, district or catchment Migratory trout Non-migratory trout Grayling
Camel, Fowey, Tamar, Plym 18cm 18cm N/A
Avon (Devon), Axe (Devon), Dart, Exe, Taw, Torridge, Teign 25cm 20cm N/A
River Lim N/A 22cm N/A
Wessex North except By Brook 35cm 25cm 25cm
By Brook and tributaries 35cm 20cm 25cm
Wessex south 35cm 25cm N/A

These size restrictions do not apply to non-migratory trout in any waters included within the Dartmoor National Park, the Exe above Exebridge, Otter above Langford Bridge, Torridge above Woodford Bridge, Mole above Alswear Bridge, Little Dart above Afleton Bridge, and the whole of the Okement, Lyn and Barnstaple Yeo.

Taw and Torridge salmon

It is prohibited to take salmon more than 70cm long in the River Taw and River Torridge between 1 August and 30 September.

The length of a fish is measured from 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