How to buy a fishing rod licence

fishing licence

Image source: Environment Agency
David Miller’s beautiful design for the 2016/17 licence. Got yours yet?

The fine for fishing without a licence is anything up to £2,500. Each year, thousands of anglers are prosecuted for fishing without a licence, and while it’s unusual to receive the maximum penalty, a fine of between £200-£800 is quite common.

If you bought a licence last year, it’ll expire on the 31st March. Don’t get caught out – renew!

So how do you avoid the fines and stay on the right side of the law? It’s easy – just by a rod licence. A standard licence costs £27. Here’s how (and why) you should go about getting one.

Who needs a licence?

The Environment Agency says a licence must be held by:

Any angler aged 12 or over, fishing for salmon, trout, freshwater fish, smelt or eel in England (except the River Tweed), Wales, and the Border Esk (and its tributaries in Scotland)

There are discounts for under-16s, over-60s and Blue Badge holders, but if you’re over 11 – get licenced!

What type do I need?

There are two main types of licence available: the Non-Migratory Trout & Coarse Licence and the Salmon & Sea Trout Licence. The Salmon & Sea Trout Licence is more expensive, but also covers you for Non-Migratory Trout & Coarse.

You can buy either licence for one day, eight consecutive days, or a full year. Dedicated anglers will make sure they have a full-season licence so they can fish whenever they want during the season.

How do I buy my licence?


Rod licences are issued by the Post Office. They offer a number of ways to buy:



Just head to the Rod Fishing Licence page on the Post Office’s website, and fill out a few details. You can either buy a fresh licence, or renew an existing one (if you have your renewal number to hand). You don’t need to register with the Post Office if you’re only buying one licence, and it’s quick and easy to go through the process and pay securely with your bank card.

By telephone:

There are two numbers available here:

Call 03708 506 506 to set up a Direct Debit. Once you’ve done this, your licence will renew automatically each year, taking the payment on the 1st of March. You’ll get your new licence through the post in time for the 1st of April. Easy!

Call 0344 800 5386 to buy from the rod licence sales line. This doesn’t renew automatically. Between 1 March – 30 September the line is open from 8.30am-8pm daily. Between 1 October – 28 February the hours are 8.30am-6pm Mon-Sat. The line is closed on bank holidays, apart from Easter.

In person:

Just head to your local Post Office and buy one over the counter!

Proposed changes to the licence reported in the Anglers Mail include making the licence a rolling licence, so that it ends a year after purchase rather than at the end of March each year – but that won’t come into effect until 2017 – watch this space for more information!

Once you’ve paid for your licence, you’ll be given a receipt number and (if you’ve bought online) a transaction email. Take these details with you when you go fishing, and if the bailiffs come to your swim, you’ll have evidence of having a licence, if it hasn’t arrived yet.

Make sure you only buy your licence from the Post Office. There are scam sites around, and the Money Saving Expert site has some great advice on how to avoid these. Don’t get stung!

How much does a fishing licence cost?

  Adult Senior (60+)/ Blue Badge Junior (12-16)
Non-Migratory Trout & Coarse Licence £27 £18 £5
Salmon & Sea Trout Licence £72 £48 £5

Again, the proposals to update the fishing licence include removing the Junior licence – so that from 2017, all under-16s can fish for free!

If you want to fish the locks and weirs of the Thames, there is an additional licence you’ll need: the Lock and Weir Fishing Permit (£48 for adults). This is in addition to your fishing licence, so make sure you have both if you’re heading to those areas.

What do I get when I buy a licence?

A Trout and Coarse licence gives you the right to fish two rods in rivers, streams, drains and canals in the UK. That doesn’t include spod or marker rods, as long as they don’t have hooks on the line. Want to fish with three or four rods? Buy another licence!

The proposals for the 2017 licence include increasing the allowance to three fishing rods rather than two – but for now, make sure you’ve only got two hooks out there!

The Salmon & Sea Trout Licence allows you to fish one rod in rivers, streams, drains and canals, and two rods in reservoirs, lakes and ponds.

Where does my money go?

The Environment Agency uses the revenue from fishing licences in a number of ways. Over £20 million is raised each year from licensing. Here are just a few of the ways it’s spent:

  • Rearing coarse fish to stock fisheries
  • Improving fishery habitats
  • Enforcement of fishing laws (including licensing)
  • Fish movement operations to improve fisheries
  • Fishery monitoring and improvement

The EA gives a full report of its annual expenditure in its Annual Fisheries Report. There’s an enormous amount of detail there, much of it broken down by region.

Get licenced!

Make sure you get your licence before April 1st. If you’re out fishing without a licence and you’re caught by one of the licence enforcement team, you could find yourself with a hefty bill to pay.