This section is a short guide to angling rules and regulations in Northern Ireland. Detailed information is available from the address at the bottom of this page.
You need a licence to use a fishing rod. You can be fined for fishing without a licence. There is more information on the licences and permits page.
All commercial and recreational salmon catches must be tagged and the catch recorded in a logbook. This applies to all salmon and sea trout over 50cm.
An angler uses a blue, plastic tag which is self-locking and embossed with a code identifying the tag number and region where the tag was issued.
Anglers must record their catch on a daily basis at the end of each fishing trip (before midnight of each day) in the logbook. You will receive salmon tags and a log book when you purchase any game rod licence.
Recording angling catch returns
Recorded catches help manage the Public Angling Estate. You record your catch on the back of your permit or complete the Angling Catch Return Form below and return by post to:
- Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure
1 - 7 Bedford Street
or email: email@example.com
Fishing seasons vary for different fish species and for fishery locations. The variety of seasons is a reflection of the timing of salmon runs into different river catchments.
For pike, bream, roach, perch, tench, rudd, carp and rainbow trout fishing there is generally no close season.
For salmon and wild brown trout fishing the seasons vary, as follows.
- in the Foyle catchment the salmon fishing season operates from 1 April to 20 October
- in the Carlingford catchment the season is from 1 April to 31 October
- in the Bann catchment and the Co Antrim rivers the season is from 1 March to 31 October (except the River Bush where the season ends on 21 October)
- in the Erne catchment the season is 1 March to 30 September except for Lough Melvin (1 February to 30 September)
The use of gaffs is illegal in the DCAL and Loughs Agency area.
There are other regulations about types of fishing permitted, hook sizes, and fishing from boats, which apply across Northern Ireland. Details are available from the licensing authorities or fishery owners.
Please enquire when you are purchasing your licence or permit what specific rules apply to the fishery.
Bag limits/catch and release/minimum sizes
Salmon, sea trout and brown trout
There are no specific bag limits or minimum sizes for brown trout except for the Foyle and Carlingford catchments regulated by the Loughs Agency. Fishery owners tend to apply their own bag limits and minimum sizes and information is generally provided on the permit you purchase from the fishery owner.
In general, a bag limit of four brown or rainbow trout may be taken from the stocked fisheries. The minimum size of fish that may be taken from stocked fisheries is 25.4cm.
In the FCILC area, four brown trout or any sea trout (under 40cm) may be taken on any one day.
As salmon stocks are declining across all North Atlantic countries there are limits on the number of salmon that may be retained.
Salmon limits in FCILC Area
Catch and release only on Loughbrickland, Binevenagh, River Roe (DCAL Stretch), Lough Ash, Moor Lough, Lough Braden and Lough Lee at all times.
From the opening of season to 31 May , one salmon or any sea trout (over 40cm) on any one day and up to five during this period may be retained.
From 1 June to the end of season, two salmon or any sea trout (over 40cm) on any one day and up to a total of 20 during this period, may be retained.
Salmon Limits in DCAL Area
Catch and release only on all Public Angling Estate waters at all times.
For other fisheries outside the Public Angling Estate but within the DCAL jurisdiction catch and release operates (except for Lough Melvin) for salmon from 1 March to 31 May and a daily bag limit of two salmon applies thereafter.
On Lough Melvin one salmon may be retained from 1 February to 31 May and three salmon from 1 June to 30 September. You may continue to fish after you have obtained your bag limit but all fish must be returned alive and unharmed to the water.
All salmon and sea trout over 50cm retained by the angler must be tagged. Tags are provided with your game rod licence.
All pike weighing 4kg or more must be returned alive and unharmed to the water. You can retain one pike per day under 4kg.
In the Foyle and Carlingford catchments these limits also apply. However, one specimen pike captured in a river weighing 9kg or more or captured in a lake weighing 13.6kg or more may be retained on any one day.
Other fish species
There is a daily bag limit of four coarse fish (except pike). This means that anyone who takes more than four coarse fish (except pike) in a day while angling must return the fish to the water from which it was taken without avoidable injury.
Anyone who takes a coarse fish (except pike) which is greater than 25cm measured from the tip of its snout to the fork or cleft of it tail, must return it to the water from which it was taken without avoidable injury.
It is illegal for anyone to have more than four coarse fish at any one time caught by rod and line or hand line for use as bait in fishing for pike.
Ground baiting is permitted on most coarse fisheries.
Catch and release
There is a right way and a wrong way to return fish to the water. Fish taken from the water are stressed and possibly exhausted. If the proper steps are followed, most returned fish will survive to spawn or grow bigger. The advice below applies to all fish but provides different methods when returning trout and salmon, pike and carp.
Salmon catch and release guidance
By following the guidelines set out below at all times you can be confident that any fish you release will have a very high chance of going on to spawn successfully.
- small single hooks should be used at all times
- the use of trebles should be avoided
- hooks should be barbless - barbed hooks can easily be converted to barbless by pinching the barb with pliers
- both the rod and line should be strong enough to subdue a fish with the minimum delay
- strength of flows and the size of fish likely to be encountered should be considered when selecting the appropriate tackle to use
- before fishing, it is worth thinking about where a fish might be landed
- the aim is to keep the fish in the water and avoid beaching or dragging it up a steep bank before release
- once hooked, a fish should be brought to hand or net as quickly as possible - this will help keep stress and fatigue to a minimum and will ensure the fish is able to recover quickly
- aim to keep handling time to a mimimum
- make every effort to keep the fish in the water at all times as prolonged exposure to air will reduce survival rates
- before handling a fish make sure that hands are wet
- avoid squeezing the fish
- use pliers to remove hooks but if hooks are too deep and removal will lead to damage or delayed release then cut the line as near to the hook as possible
- support the fish in the water preferably in a gentle current and with the fish facing upstream
- recovery can take several minutes so be patient
- wait until the fish recovers sufficiently to swim away from you
- high water temperatures (over 21 degrees celsius) can significantly reduce survival rates, so anglers should take extra care when practising catch and release when flows are low and water temparatures are high (typical summer conditions)
Permitted angling methods
Definitions for the different methods of angling and related terms, as laid down in the Angling Waters Bye laws and Regulations are as follows:
- 'All legal methods' means any method of angling with rod and line, except a method forbidden by any statutory provision for the time being in force
- 'Fly fishing' means the use of a single rod, reel (including a fixed spool reel), fly line or blow line and a single cast carrying not more than three artificial or winged natural flies, but does not include the use of a bubble float in conjunction with artificial or winged natural flies
- 'Ground bait' means any material used other than on a hook and designed for the purpose of attracting fish to natural or artificial bait
- 'Maggots' means any larvae of the housefly of the Genus Musca and the bluebottle or blowfly of the Genus Calliphora and any other insect larvae
- 'Spinning' means the use of a single rod, reel (including a fixed spool reel) and line to cast or throw an artificial or natural bait and retrieve the bait by rewinding the line onto the drum of the reel with the bait kept in motion throughout
- 'Trolling' means the drawing of a fishing line, with one or more hooks attached, through the water from a moving boat
- 'Worm fishing' means the use of a single hook baited with one or more earthworms
Permitted methods of angling, duration of season, size and bag limits and other useful information for each location can be found via the link below:
Details of all regulations relating to the Public Angling Estate are printed on the back of permits. There are other general restrictions, which apply to all angling in Northern Ireland.
Copies of statutory regulations are available from the address below. Anyone who contravenes the regulations is guilty of an offence and is liable to be prosecuted.
The Stationery Office Bookshop
16 Arthur Street