Recreational fishing takes many forms across Scotland and there is a range of important information that recreational anglers should be aware of before going fishing.
Scotland does not have fishing licences for recreational fishing. Those who wish to fish in an area will need to ensure they have the relevant permission to do so. This is often referred to as a fishing permit but can also be in the form of written permission from the owner of the fishing rights.
Fishing rights can be held separately to land rights. It is advisable to check with the relevant DSFB, river or fisheries trust for specific information regarding fishing permits and any local arrangements which may be in place. Individuals will need to adhere to the conditions as outlined within the fishing permit granted.
There is little commercial exploitation of freshwater and migratory fish in Scotland. Around half of Scotland’s 40 freshwater and migratory fish species are exploited by anglers. The most valuable angling sectors undoubtedly include fishing for salmon, sea trout, brown trout and rainbow trout. Although pike, perch, common carp and grayling also have their devotees.
Anglers have fished for salmon and trout for hundreds of years using the rod and line method in Scotland. Today, the opportunity to fish for salmon and sea trout is highly prized and the high level of demand is reflected in the price. See conservation of salmon for more information.
Most anglers practice catch and release, even in areas where a small amount of salmon catch may be retained. Rod fishing for salmon is prohibited on a Sunday, and annual close times vary across the country.
There is no weekly close time for fishing for brown trout. The annual close time extends from 7 October until 14 March annually, and applies throughout Scotland.
Fishing for grayling is a popular sport, especially during the annual close times for salmon and trout.
As a result of the widespread distribution and abundance of game fish species, there has historically been less of a tradition of angling for coarse fish in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK.
There are no weekly or annual close times for fishing for coarse fish in Scotland. Permit prices vary, and anglers should check the local arrangements when booking for additional rules and restrictions.
Still water fisheries
There are put-and-take fisheries for rainbow trout throughout Scotland, the fish usually being supplied at catchable size by fish farmers. There are also examples of lochs containing populations of wild native trout that have been stocked with rainbow trout.
Recreational sea angling
Sea angling takes place right around Scotland’s coasts, and can be a year-round sport. Our diverse coastline provides many uncrowded angling areas and safe sheltered waters for those fishing from the shore and by boat.
There are additional restrictions depending on the species anglers wish to target. For example, when fishing for sea bass, there are seasonal closures, minimum sizes and catch limits which apply.
It is up to individuals to check that they practice recreational sea angling within the appropriate restrictions for the species they wish to target.
Where a protection order is in force, it is a criminal offence to fish for or take freshwater fish in the inland waters in the prescribed area without legal right, or written permission from the owner of the legal right.
Protection orders are made under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003 and there are 14 protection orders currently in force. These orders were made on the basis of proposals for increased availability of fishing for freshwater fish in the relevant areas. They provide that fishing for or taking freshwater fish in the inland waters in the areas prescribed without legal right or without written permission from a person having such a right, is prohibited.