Have proof to show you’re fishing legally

While you're fishing you may be approached by an official who wants to check if you’re fishing legally. What you’ll be asked and may need to show the official to prove that you’re fishing legally, is on this page.

The documents you need to show

To fish legally in Northern Ireland you will need to buy the following two items:

  • a rod licence plus
  • a permit or day ticket

The rod licence is for the fishing rod and the game or coarse fish you're allowed to catch.  A permit or day ticket gives you permission to fish in a particular fishery. If you’re fishing on the 'Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Public Angling Estate’, you must have the right type of permit by law. 

Anglers no longer get a DAERA paper rod licence, permit or day ticket to confirm their payment.  Instead the payment is confirmed by an electronic record (e-record) with a unique reference number. This is sent to you -

  •  by email if you buy online 
  • or is on your receipt if you buy from a distributor 

DAERA Fishery Officers will have access to e-records using a mobile device. 

Be aware that you should carry either the email confirmation or receipt when fishing in the following areas as officers s will not have access to e-records:

If you are fishing in fisheries outside the Public Angling Estate, you will need the permission of the fishery owner. This will usually be in the form of a day ticket from the owner or the club which leases the fishing rights. DAERA advises that you carry identification when fishing.

All anglers should also follow the angling regulations and any signs at each fishery. 

When an official approaches you

While you're fishing you may be approached by the following officials:

  • DAERA Fishery Protection Officers (FPOs) who patrol and monitor all fisheries within  DAERA's jurisdiction - meaning that they have the authority to make legal decisions
  • Loughs Agency of the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission (FCILC)  Fishery Protection Officers (FPOs) who patrol and monitor all fisheries within the Loughs Agency jurisdiction
  • Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers who have the same powers by law as DAERA Fisheries Protection Officers
  • Private Water Bailiffs (PWBs) who are protection officers for fisheries that are managed privately such as an angling club water - these bailiffs are restricted to enforcing the legislation on waters to which they hold the fishing rights

FPOs and all PWBs carry warrant cards. They will always identify themselves by showing anglers their warrant card. You may be asked to give your name and address. Legally you must give this information, if asked.

You may also be asked for your date of birth, type of rod licence and permit you hold and where you bought these to make sure you’re following the law.

The officer or bailiff may also ask to:

  • inspect your equipment, bait, any nets or bags you may have that could contain fish
  • inspect your vehicle 

Again, due to the law you must agree to these requests. PWBs will also want to find out if you hold the right day ticket for their waters.

When you’re suspected of fishing illegally

If you are fishing illegally, FPOs, PWBs and PSNI officers all have the powers to take your equipment, any fish illegally caught, any boat or vehicle involved in the offence or any unlawful instrument used to take fish.

If anything is taken by DAERA FPOs, you will be given a receipt for the items and they will be stored in a secure area until a decision is taken to either return the items to you or to go ahead with a criminal prosecution. PWB’s and PSNI Officers have to take care of anything seized until a decision is reached.

Minor or accidental offences

Where the offence is minor or accidental, you may be offered advice about keeping within the law. Where a DAERA FPO offers advice, this will be followed up in writing, and a record of the correspondence kept. If you are discovered, again, breaking the law, this may be used as part of any future prosecution case against you.

Serious offences

If the offense is more serious, the FPO, PWB or PSNI officer may caution (warn) you and take notes for a prosecution case. Where a DAERA FPO cautions you, they will send a report to management who will make a decision on whether to issue you with a warning or to prosecute you. The DAERA FPO or PWB does not make this decision.

If DAERA takes a decision to give you a written warning, this is similar to a formal caution. Any items that were taken will be returned and the written warning will let you know how to get these items back. If you break the law again, this warning will be used as part of a prosecution case against you. 

If DAERA decides to prosecute you, the file will be passed to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), who will take the case against you.

PWB’s may take a case against you through a private solicitor; however, in certain situations, they may also pass the case to DAERA to follow up on, in which case the file will be passed to the PPS. PSNI officers may also pass the case to DAERA or they may take the case themselves through the PPS.

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