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Start of the close season: How do we protect our breeding fish at this time of year?

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Fisheries and biodiversity

Matt Buck, Fisheries Technical Specialist for the Midlands, explains how close season helps protect our breeding fish.

Well the evenings are getting lighter, and across the country fish are starting to move out of their winter haunts - a sure sign that spring really is on the way. This is the season best known for renewal and rebirth and this certainly applies to some of our much-loved fish species.

Every year, usually between March and June, our rivers begin to reawaken, trout fry will be emerging in streams and dace will soon be spawning in shallow gravel runs - their eggs will sit and wait for nearly a month before hatching. Predators like perch and pike will also be spawning soon, they need to be some of the earliest so that their offspring can predate on other species fry through the summer. Barbel and chub wait until May and June when the weather is slightly warmer, cutting depressions (or redds) in gravel to lay their eggs.

Often you may be unaware that beneath the river bed millions of tiny eggs are developing and hatching, and delicate fry float in clouds in our rivers. That is why it’s so important that both the spawning fish and the eggs they lay are undisturbed, allowing the eggs to hatch and giving the fish the ability to swim freely. Once spawned, adult fish are also very sensitive and need time to recover.

In fact, the law actually protects the fish and eggs at this stage from disturbance and damage, from both angling and other activities. Anyone carrying out work in rivers that disturbs spawning fish, their eggs or their spawning grounds is committing an offence. For anglers, fishing is prohibited during the period when most fish are either preparing for, recovering from or actually spawning.

Known as the coarse fish close season, coarse fishing on rivers and streams is closed for three months from and including Monday 15 March until 15 June.

This closing down of angling for coarse fish, alongside our year-round fisheries improvement work, helps protect fish stocks and gives them the best chance to access the right habitat and breed successfully.

Our fisheries enforcement officers and Angling Trust volunteer bailiffs will be patrolling rivers to ensure anglers observe the close season rules, and also to detect and deter any, more nefarious activities such as poaching. They will also be patrolling lakes, canals and ponds to make sure all anglers have a valid rod fishing licence.

Throughout the close season, Environment Agency officers will conduct patrols to enforce it. As part of Operation CLAMPDOWN, now in its ninth year, Angling Trust volunteers support the Environment Agency by keeping watch on riverbanks and reporting incidents to our 24-hour incident hotline 0800 80 70 60.

However, the close season doesn’t completely stop you from fishing. It applies to all rivers, streams and a few canals and still waters in England, but does not apply to most still waters and canals. The Canal & River Trust say nearly 8 million of us are within one km of a canal!

Throughout the close season, you could even try your hand at trout fishing, which is also covered by your coarse fishing rod licence. These fisheries still provide a great chance of an excellent catch and might allow you an opportunity to try something new.  You can fish for salmon and sea trout during the coarse fish close season, but you must have a migratory salmon licence and can only use certain types of lures and baits in some areas.

Last year’s closed season was one of our busiest, as we saw many new anglers enter the sport. We want to see even more take up fishing in 2021, but we know not all will be aware of fishing rules like the closed season. So, if you know a new angler, please remind them of this important period in the angling calendar. Let’s ensure that together, we are giving our fish populations the chance of surviving and thriving at all life stages.

We can also look forward to the glorious June 16th when we can get back on the banks.  I know I will be, there are likely some excellent barbel or chub to be found on my local River Trent.


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  1. Comment by milan posted on

    what about spining?that is same category?some people say no some say yes.i live in halifax and last year i bin check on May on the river from officer and no say nothing.just check my licence.

  2. Comment by James Field posted on

    Do fish not spawn in lakes and canals at this time ?

  3. Comment by David bailey posted on

    Are there any canals I can fish in the East Midlands in the off season?

  4. Comment by Alan Armitage posted on

    It’s a pity you lot don’t do more to protect fish stocks all year round by campaigning and supporting a cull on inland Cormorant populations and control of Otter numbers. !!!

    • Replies to Alan Armitage>

      Comment by Daniel Rose posted on

      I agree, the otter numbers are high again and the cormorants, well. There getting out of hand now

    • Replies to Alan Armitage>

      Comment by James posted on

      Otters control themselves as they are territorial and will kill each other if required. The numbers are not out of hand, they are simply back up to the numbers they were at prior to the rivers being compromised in the 50's and for thousands of years prior.
      A total of 117 captive bread otters were released nationally and that stopped nearly 30 years ago. We NEED them to balance the eco system. They predate on mink the female of which can fit down a water vole burrow. Nature is wonderful and it's only our intervention that messes things up. The only people that seem to grumble about otters are fishermen namely pond anglers. If your hobby was catching mice with rods and line then you'd probably take issue with owls and kestrals.

  5. Comment by Dave Charrington posted on

    What about canoeists, paddle boarders, wild swimmers and dog walkers disturbing spawning fish during this time ???? If we are to have a closed river season it should be closed to all not just Coarse anglers ?

  6. Comment by Mike lynch posted on

    Quite simply there should not be a close season. The numbers that fish rivers is considerably down on the 60’s and 70’s. Cormorants, Otters etc have a far greater impact on fish stocks through the close season than the handful of anglers on the riverbank ever would. It also pushes anglers towards the commercial waters resulting in less anglers on the bank side that keep an eye on the upkeep of the natural waters

    • Replies to Mike lynch>

      Comment by David Hutchinson posted on

      Obviously , there won't be no comments regarding Otters etc as well as the illegal netting / poaching that goes on . Personally I disagree how this spawning agenda is set up . Pike spawn in February . So would imagine Perch also . Because of Global warming waters are warmer and thus alters the breed time .
      Given economic impact of Covid . Without scientific proof of negative impact . Rivers should be allowed open all Year . Rather strange the Close season merges to Salmon and Sea Trout running . So truth of matter is most likely keep us common folk off the Water . While the numble get the fly tackle .

  7. Comment by Gary Cyster posted on

    Anyone carrying out work in rivers that disturbs spawning fish, their eggs or their spawning grounds is committing an offence.

    When and where was the last time the EA prosecuted anyone for this offence on the River Trent and what was the penalty?

  8. Comment by Hugh Schkok posted on

    I hate littering and the destruction of the foliage even though the requirement to cut some back is necessary. However there is no excuse for littering. Fisheries should provide a contained space to dump litter in as only a few currently do. Next be sure that all anglers provide a valid ID and their vehicle reg number so that if after they have departed should they leve piles of rubbish they are dealt with to the finite level of the law. I caught a carp last year and when I opened his mouth to get the hook out it had part of a plastic chocolate bar wrapper in its mouth and partially in his throat. How it took my bait I can only guess. I was sickened to the core. If the perpetrator simply bagged it up and took it away the less the stock may suffer

  9. Comment by Pat D'Arcy posted on

    How can I confirm whether or not I am able to try fly fishing on the "free water". The Avon, downstream of the Gladstone Road bridge in Chippenham Wiltshire. I have a 2 rod coarse license. Any advice would be welcomed.

  10. Comment by Dave simpson posted on

    Is the nottingham canal between beeston and nottingham still open in the close season, cheers,dave

  11. Comment by JOHN CLINTON posted on


  12. Comment by ROBERT TAYLOR posted on


    • Replies to ROBERT TAYLOR>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      If you see anyone fishing illegally, please report direct to our 24/7 Incident Hotline on 0800 807060. Thanks - Joz

  13. Comment by Dennis Willis posted on

    Can you come over to Norfolk and arrest Natural England officers who plan to prevent bream and pike from reaching their proven historic spawning grounds in Hoveton Great Broad?

    I challenge you to publish this.

  14. Comment by Petre posted on

    Salut . Este un canal în apropiere de Sibsey(Station Road)se poate pescui pe el în perioada asta ? Cine îmi poate spune ? Unde să întreb ?Am înțeles că pe unele canale este permis pescuitul pe toată perioada anului !

  15. Comment by Daniel Rose posted on

    We also have this same issue. My local lake has lost most of its pike and carp sticks as the EU fisherman keep what they catch.

  16. Comment by Michal Galinski posted on

    Still can't get it why closed season works for rivers only...maybe just because most of lakes and ponds are PRIVATELY owned, and the money seem to be more important than "fish and eggs peace" ?

    Memberships, bylaws, gates, private lands.
    Fishing in UK is more stressful than relaxing.
    Before you go, check tens of club's rules etc.

    All I want to do is little bag with lures, spinning or fly rod and walk along the river, in this lovely English nature...impossible, just impossible.

  17. Comment by Adam posted on

    Hi all good people 😁
    I had question about tackle,bait and type of lure,weight I can use during close season targeting trout, I found info that you are able target trout during close season using certain lures but no info described lures type or tactic that can be use.
    I can imagine that fly tactics are green light to use but rest spinners, wobblers, plastic worms etc live baits maggots, earth worm.
    Thank you for your time and respond

  18. Comment by John Court posted on

    No look here, everyone. When I was a kid, it was impressed on me that tradition demanded a close season, such that a level of excitement built up, culminating on the 16th June when off I went to the Grand Union canal to catch 4oz roach, using the floats I had lovingly touched and admired for the previous 3 months. Now I see most of you want to do away with it. You can still go out into our beautiful countryside but do not attempt to catch any fish until the early morning of the glorious 16th.
    Old Codger, now living in Brisbane.


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