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You need a magistrate to endorse the appointment of a private water bailiff to police a body of water in Northern Ireland.

You can appoint a private water bailiff if you own or are licensee of a fishery or have fishing rights in a lake or river. An authorised bailiff has the power to search boats, nets or containers, seize any fish or fishing gear from unlicensed anglers or poachers and arrest those committing offences.

How to apply

Contact the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) for a form of appointment.

Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure Inland Fisheries
0300 200 7860
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You will need to provide details including:

  • your name and address
  • the name and address of the person you wish to appoint
  • the name of the lake, river or fishery

The form must then be sent for confirmation to the magistrates’ court for the district within which the water bailiff is appointed to act.

A hearing date will be arranged. You must give written notice of your application to DCAL at least 14 days before this date. An official from DCAL may then attend the hearing and give evidence.

The appointment will be confirmed when the resident magistrate endorses your form of appointment.


An authorised private water bailiff has certain statutory powers of entry, search, seizure and arrest in relation to the waters named in their warrant.

A water bailiff’s authorisation will usually last for 5 years from the date of confirmation unless you choose to revoke it sooner. You can renew an appointment by serving notice on the magistrates’ court and DCAL no less than 6 weeks before it is due to expire.

Fines and penalties

A water bailiff may be fined up to £200 if they act without authorisation.