1. Fishing permits (written permission) in Scotland
In order to fish for freshwater fish and migratory fish (sea and freshwater) you need a written permission from the landowner or a fishing club.
2. No fishing rod licence in Scotland
There is no fishing licence necessary to fish in Scotland. The only exception is the Border Esk region of Scotland, which flows into England and is regarded as English water. Although the river Tweed flows east across the Border region between Scotland and northern England there is no rod fishing licence necessary to fish in river Tweed, even from the English boundaries.
For sea fishing in Scotland no permission is required. However be careful when sea fishing in the estuary of a river, as you will need the fishing rights (permit) for the corresponding river. Roughly a distance of 1.5 km from the estuary of a river has to be taken to be on safe ground.
3. Fishing regulations in Scotland
The fishing regulations in Scotland are not clearly arranged.
Mainly there are four fisheries acts & regulations that are of importance:
- Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003)
- Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007)
- The Conservation of Salmon (Prohibition of Sale) (Scotland) Regulations 2002)
- Wild Fisheries Review 2016
These regulations give general advice on how to fish in Scotland.
Generally, the Scottish fishing law discriminates two types of fish:
- Migratory fish (salmon and sea trout) and
- Freshwater fish (trout, pike and all coarse fish)
Each river has its own statutory regulations and closed season. There might be conservation codes in which fishery owners will ban the use of e.g. spinners, worms or pawns for the whole or part of the season. In the river Tweed you can only fish by fly during most of the season. Furthermore, some waters in Scotland allow only catch&release.
Boundaries where to fish
Please consider the general rules defining the boundaries of where you can fish:
Rivers: If banks are owned by two different proprietors you can only fish from the bank where you have got the written permission of the landowner. However, you may cast over the full width of the river.
Lochs: If a loch is owned by two or more proprietors, written permission from one proprietor allows the angler to fish over all parts of the loch. However, one should avoid non-permitted trespassing.
3.1 Fishing regulations on migratory fish in Scotland
Fishing regulations on migratory fish in Scotland are quite strict. A written permission from the landowner or a fishing club is absolutely mandatory to fish for in migratory fish in Scotland. When fishing without written permission for migratory fish you commit a criminal offence in Scotland. This might result in a high fee or even arrestment and/or legal prosecution. In contrast, fishing for freshwater species without written permission is covered only by civil law.
General rules on fishing migratory fish in Scotland
In order to preserve migratory fish (salmon and sea trout) and regulate fishing there are various national rules on fishing migratory fish in Scotland to be respected:
- Fishing for salmon and sea trout is not allowed on Sundays.
- Salmon and sea trout fishing on rivers are subject to a closed season
- Closed seasons vary from river to river and can be found here
- It´s a criminal offence and thus forbidden to sell self-caught wild salmon or sea trout
- In some rivers there is a mandatory catch and release policy (see here)
- Generally, fishing is legally restricted to rod and line only
Please keep in mind that each fishery may have its own statutory regulations and closed season. Therefore make sure you are fully informed before you go fishing.
Also, consider the fisheries acts & regulations before you go fishing:
3.2 Fishing regulations on freshwater fish in Scotland
In contrast to fishing regulations on migratory fish in Scotland, regulations on freshwater fish in Scotland are less rigid.
General rules on fishing freshwater fish in Scotland
- Freshwater (trout and coarse) fishing is allowed on Sundays (in contrast to migratory fish)
- There are no legal restrictions on keeping freshwater fish, but many fisheries impose limits.
- The Brown trout season in all river systems is from 15 March to 6 October
- There is no legal closed season for rainbow trout, grayling, coarse or sea fishing
Fishing regulations on freshwater fish in Scotland depend on protection orders. Protection orders are designed to protect the fish (to stop overfishing) and to protect anglers rights (to ensure public access). It is important to know whether a fishery is under a protection order (P.O.) or not.
If there is a protection order in place and you fish without written permission, you commit a criminal offence in Scotland. If there is no protection order in place there is no legal requirement to have a written permission to go fishing. However you´ll have to check for each individual fishery if written permission is needed or not (see also below: “5.Where to fish in Scotland”).
Currently, there are at least 12 waters under protection orders in Scotland. According to the Freshwater and Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1976 it is a legal “offence to fish for or take fish from inland waters in the prescribed area without legal right or written permission from the person having such right”.
Public (tidal) waters
Public waters are those which are both navigable and tidal. It is a common law and the public right to fish for freshwater fish in the tidal portion of a river. The tide must ebb and flow at the point where the right is claimed and the right extends as far up the river as the ordinary spring tides.
Fines for fishing for freshwater fish without written permission
When fishing for migratory fish without written permission you commit a criminal offence in Scotland. Fishing for other freshwater species without written permission is covered by civil law, except of fisheries under protection order.
Thus, in contrast to England there are no direct fines for freshwater fishing without permission. The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards comments: “If a landowner finds someone fishing without permission, the only remedy is under the common law of trespass and he may turn the poacher off his water. If the poacher is a repeat offender, the landowner may seek a court interdict”.
4. Gyrodactylus salaris
Before arriving in the UK, anglers from areas with known occurrence of Gyrodactylus salaris must take precautions to decontaminate their fishing gear and tackle.
The parasite Gyrodactylus salaris was found in rivers of the west coast of Sweden, in Norway and recently in some rivers in northern Finland and northern Russia.
According to the Scottish Government website tacking one of the following measures is sufficient to decontaminate fishing gear and tackle:
- Drying at a minimum temperature of at least 20 °C for at least 2 days – or
- Heating for at least 1 hour at temperatures of above 60 °C – or
- Deep freezing for at least 1 day – or
- Immersion in a solution of the following composition for a minimum of 10 minutes:
- Virkon® Aquatic (1%), Wescodyne (1%), sodium chloride (3%), sodium hydroxide (0.2%)
A guide on how to decontaminate fishing gear and tackle can be found here.
5. Where to fish in Scotland?
Information on fisheries and angling clubs clubs in Scotland
- There are plenty of waters that do not require a written permission for freshwater fishing. You can find some waters here, however make sure this information is still valid before you go fishing.