Publication - Factsheet

About coarse fisheries, game fisheries and sea angling

Information on the extensive range of world renowned fishing opportunities attracting anglers from communities across Scotland and further afield.

About coarse fisheries, game fisheries and sea angling
Fishing methods

Fishing methods

According to the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Protection) (Scotland) Act 1951, 'inland waters' include all rivers above estuary limits and their tributary streams, and all waters, watercourses and lochs whether natural or artificial which drain or drain to some extent into the sea.

Rod and Line

The 1951 Act states that, "No person shall fish for or take salmon in any inland water, except by rod and line or by net and coble" and "No person shall fish for or take freshwater fish in any inland water except by rod and line". Some exceptions do, however, exist - the use of cruives for catching salmon, and nets for catching trout (only in ponds or lochs where all proprietors are so agreed), is permitted; and the use of a trap, or net, for catching freshwater fish, other than trout, is permitted (restricted only to owners or occupiers).

The definition of rod and line as given in the 1951 Act is "single rod and line with such bait or lure as is lawful at the passing of this Act and, in the case of fishing for salmon in an area to which and at a time during which regulations made under section 8 of the Salmon Act 1986 apply, is not specified in such regulations in respect of that area and time." This causes practical difficulties for coarse anglers. The prohibition of the use of set lines, which was first enacted in the Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1860, was retained by the 1951 Act. Common practices in angling for coarse fish include 'ledgering', where a bait or baits are fished using a weighted line, the rod being set on a rod rest. It can be usual for coarse anglers to set several lines when fishing for coarse fish. The courts have determined that laying down a rod and leaving it supported on a rock or stone constitutes fishing with a set line. This would apply equally to the use of a rod rest. Thus, anyone who fishes for coarse fish in Scotland using set lines or ledgering for that branch of the sport runs the risk of being charged with fishing illegally.

In practice, rod and line fishing precludes the use of:

  • any fish roe, or light, as a lure
  • double-rod or cross-line fishing, use of set-lines (even if the line is attached to a rod), use of an otter or striking the fish with a hook (sniggering or dragging)

Net and Coble

The definition in The Salmon (Definition of Methods of Net Fishing and Construction of Nets) (Scotland) Regulations 1992, as amended by SI 1993/257 and SI 1994 111(4), is as follows:

"fishing for or taking salmon by net and coble means the use of a sweep net, paid out from a boat, and worked from the bank or shore or from waters adjacent to the bank or shore, whereby the salmon are surrounded by the net and drawn to the bank or shore, provided that:

  • the net and any warps are not made or held stationary, nor allowed to remain stationary, nor allowed to drift with the current or tide, but are both paid out and hauled in as quickly as practicable and kept in unchecked motion under the effectual command and control of the fisherman, for the purpose of enclosing the salmon within the sweep of the net and drawing them to the bank or shore

  • no stakes, dykes, other obstructive devices or other nets are used in association with the net

  • the water is not disturbed by throwing of stones or other objects, or splashing or other activity in order to drive salmon into the area to be swept by the net

  • the net shall not come within 50 metres of any other such net already being paid out or hauled, until the last mentioned net has been fully hauled in to the bank or shore

  • the net is not designed or constructed for the purpose of catching fish by enmeshing them"


A cruive is an old form of fish trap, operated in rivers, and at one time estuaries, consisting of an enclosure of stakes or wicker-work and sometimes set in a rubble dyke. As developed for salmon fishing they consist of a more-or-less rectangular box-trap, with inscales, set in a stone dyke across a river. The use of cruives in estuaries has been firmly prohibited since the 15th century.

Cruives can only be operated under special grant from the Crown and no new grants have been made for many years.

Fixed Engine

Bag Net, fly net or other stake net

Fixed engines include bag nets, fly nets and other stake nets. Bag nets are fished usually in deep water and are held in position by floats and anchors. Stake nets are usually fished on sandy shores into which the stakes which support the gear are driven.

The definition in The Salmon (Definition of Methods of Net Fishing and Construction of Nets) (Scotland) Regulations 1992, as amended by SI 1993/257 and SI 1994 111(4) is:

"fishing for or taking salmon by bag net, fly net or other stake net means the use of a fish trap (including the use of a landing net to remove salmon from such a trap) consisting of one or more fish courts and associated inscales and wings, together with a leader net designed to lead the salmon into the trap; the whole of which is fixed or moored to the shore or seabed; provided that:

  • no part of the bag net, fly net or other stake net except mooring warps and anchors shall extend seawards beyond 1300 metres from the mean low water mark
  • no part of the net or trap is designed or constructed for the purpose of catching fish by enmeshing them
  • The Regulations also state that, "No monofilament netting shall be used in the construction of any net used in fishing for or taking salmon.", and "Any net used in fishing for or taking salmon shall have a mesh size of not less than 90mm as measured in accordance with regulation 7."

Haaf and Poke Nets

Other fixed engines, used in the Solway Firth, include haaf nets and poke nets. The haaf is fixed within a rectangular frame, and is held in the current by the netsman, who wades in the estuary.

The net is lifted when a salmon enters it. Several fishermen may work together in line abreast. Poke nets consist of a series of pockets of net mounted in lines on poles and set across the tide. Fish are trapped in the pockets as the tide recedes.