Colin Mitchell, our popular weekly blogger, is back with a close look at the rod licence - why sales are down, and why all anglers should all pay for one. If you like this blog, click the social media share buttons.

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THE subject of fishing licences is a hot topic at the moment.

First because of falling sales.

Second because the Angling Trust has taken over certain fishery duties from the Environment Agency – and the cash they receive could vary depending on licence sales.

And now I will add a third item to debate: should clubs and fishery owners be responsible for checking that their members or customers hold a valid licence?

Last week I visited the well-organised and friendly Beaver Farm Fishery near East Grinstead, Sussex, where they check you have a licence before selling you a day ticket.

It’s the first time I have ever been asked at a commercial fishery for my licence. But I give them top marks!

After all, the cash we licence buyers fork out does now directly help to protect our sport.

I stand to be corrected here – but as well as the public being able to call the Environment Agency to report pollution and incidents that need fish rescues I believe fishery owners can shout for help too.

I pay – so should others!

Also, why should law-abiding licence buyers have to fork out cash and those who dodge the fee still reap the same benefits?

There are those who will question the £27 a year fee for a standard coarse licence – yet they will have hundreds if not thousands of pounds worth of fishing gear.

I always question the need to pay road tax for my car, driving licence fees, passports, council tax and the rest – but the fact is I have to pay them if I want to drive, go abroad, live in a house etc!

Like the taxman himself they are a fact of life.

So are numbers really falling?

I have seen the figures that reveal a mass slump in fishing licence sales.

Some will claim this is because of the falling number of youngsters coming into the sport and that angling is on the decline.

But is that really true?

Everywhere I have fished this summer I’ve seen more anglers than ever, on club, commercial and public waters. And they are not all pensioners!

Could it be that a fair number of people who go fishing are just not buying a licence?


I fish in all weathers, at all kinds of venues, but have only been checked by bailiffs of any kind a few times.

Like most Angler’s Mail readers, I fish in all weathers, at all kinds of venues… but I have only been checked by bailiffs of any kind a few times.

I’ve only been checked 3 times

I have still only been licence checked three times in the last decade, once on a commercial, once on a high profile club venue and the other during a well publicised Open match.

That figure – and remember I am not an occasional angler – will be the one that many of the dodgers will look at and wonder if it is worth paying or praying they don’t get caught.

In the past I’ve even wondered whether it is worth buying one because the court fines have been so low that it was worth the risk. However I didn’t fancy a criminal record, even a minor one!

Higher fines for dodgers

Thankfully there have been more higher profile court cases of people dodging licence fees or fishing illegally and these may now help to get licence sale nearer their true figure – especially with the high fines now being dished out.

Over the past 30 years or so angling has often featured in the list of highest participant sports, even hitting the top a few times.

Yet the sales of licences – even allowing for sea anglers not being taken out of the total angler figure – have never matched the number of coarse and game anglers in surveys.

That either means the surveys were all wrong – difficult to imaging when you look at how much tackle is sold – or that there have always been licence dodgers or those who don’t even realise you need a licence wherever you fish.




  • Graeme Waterfall

    seems to me like Scott wants more bailiffs on the bank, but doesnt want to pay for them. catch 22 there.

  • Scott Thomas

    I don’t believe we should be paying a license fee, , surely it should be down to the fishery owners to protect their stock and not us? We pay to fish their waters so why should we pay to look after them?People like myself whole solely fishes commercials and not rivers. I have been asked once to produce my licence in the 22 years I have fished. This is down to the EA. The EA are to blame not to mention the £300k bonus the 34 managers received. Surely that money should of been kept and put to good use? Not to mention the fat cats at the top taking in £100k++++ a year? The EA is a joke, nothing more than robbery. Also where are the EA bailiffs checking licenses???? Where are the bailiffs patrolling the waters because of the Polish poaching our waters and ruining our sport.

    The EA should make all EA license holders legal bailiffs with legal powers!!!! That will sort the problem because clearly the EA can’t even provide adequate bailiffs.

    If I pay it so should everyone. However I don’t believe we should have to pay it

  • Dave

    Never read so much guff. The person responsible for coming up with the concept of licensing the ‘use of a fishing rod’ should be burned at the stake for being a witch. Go try and license the use of a golf club or a football. Only in England and then sap’s take the view that ‘I’ve bought it, so should you…soooo misguided it stinks

  • Philip Morgan

    Having previously owned a fishery for five years I am not convinced by most of the arguments put forward. If you fish on rivers or on lakes owned by the EA then obviously you should buy a license. The vast majority of the money raised by the license is used on the rivers, lakes always seem to suffer. When it comes to privately owned lake fisheries, the chances of getting any help from the EA are almost zero. I can remember one summer we lost approx 12 fish over a period of a few days, it turned out to be an oxygen deficiency problem which we sorted out without the help of the EA. However I did phone the EA for help and their only suggestion was to send them 6 dead fish for autopsy at a cost of £600 per fish. When private fishery owners are offered this type of hep from the EA can you blame them if they don’t feel obliged to ask every angler if they have a license.

  • John Read

    Completely agree that day ticket venues and tackle shops that sell day tickets should ask for a licence before you can get a day ticket. It adds no extra work to the owners or ticket distributors and would make a massive difference when people cotton on. I have been fishing for over 20 years and only been checked maybe once!? Hardly a deterrent. It needs to change asap. It shoul be mandatory for commercials and tackle shops to check for licences, no licence, no sale. £27 is nothing and a lot of the work done by the EA and AT is unseen but enjoyed by all, creating spawning sites and habitation spots so fish stocks increase in our waterways for our sort to enjoy, removing illegal lines, huge projects to jntroduce new blood to the sport we love. To refuse to pay £27, and allow this avoidance of people’s responsibility is appalling.