What Is Urban Fishing And Street Fishing?

Disclosure: Some posts contain affiliate links, which earn us a commission if you make a purchase through them. Positive Fishing © participates in various affiliate networks including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.

You have probably heard of urban fishing or street fishing by now. In a nutshell, urban fishing is simply fishing in an urban area like in a city, town, or under an overpass. You probably guessed this from the name, but why has it suddenly become possible? 

But what is it and what is driving it? Has fishing on a weekend gone from having to drive to the mountains, to walking canals and rivers in major cities instead? These are the questions I am going to answer. 

Join me as I run through everything you need to know about urban/street fishing so you can understand how it came about and get involved if it sounds like something you’d enjoy. 

The History Of Urban/Street Fishing 

Urban fishing started in the US in 1969 by the Missouri fisheries division. The goal was to give anglers living in the cities an accessible place to fish, both as a food source, but also for leisure purposes. City lakes and ponds have been designated as urban fishing areas to allow better access to fishing, and inspire urban dwellers including kids, to start fishing.

In Europe, urban fishing is known as street fishing and has major participation in many European capitals such as Paris, Stockholm, London, and Amsterdam.

Urban Fishing Explained 

In US cities, urban fishing waters are small lakes and ponds under 25 acres that are designated by the local municipality. In certain cities, rivers are included in the program.

In Europe, street fishing is far more widespread and is more prevalent in the river systems within the cities. 

It seems to be a little evolutionary step in the way fishing is going, or has gone over the past 20 years, and has even been featured in magazine articles. 

We anglers are true addicts and if fishing was available down the road wouldn’t we have worked this out years ago? We would! 

So, what changed to make fishing in urban areas a reality?

Urban Fishing Is Easily Accessible

If you live and work in a city, getting out to fish in the countryside can be a long journey. Having access to a pond, lake, or river on your doorstep can be a big-time saver. It also saves money since you can even use public transport to get to your destination quickly without having to worry about parking your car. 

Using travel rods is a great way to urban fish, without having a huge amount of gear to carry around with you for a quick few hours fishing nearby.

Urban Waterways Are Cleaner Than Ever 

Most cities on the planet are built next to a river, the sea, and/or feature canals. These waterways were key transportation routes for moving goods in and out of the city to and from other parts of the country. 

When this network of waterways was used for transportation, they were heavily polluted. This was mainly due to the lack of environmental consciousness of the old days with sewage being put into rivers, and poor technology, using engines spurting fuel and oil into the water, and more. 

When these urban waterways were polluted, the fish life inside them was poor and who wants to fish in a polluted river without many fish in it? No one! 

Nowadays, urban waterways are cleaner than ever. Sewage is less often dropped into them, they are not used to transport goods anymore, and pollution is controlled with laws and better technology. 

Now, the canals, rivers, and lakes in urban areas are surrounded by cafes, restaurants, parks, and more. This means, the fish life has come back into the waterways and now makes urban fishing a reality. 

What Species Can You Catch in Urban Areas? 

What you can catch while fishing in cities totally depends on where in the world the city is. Having lived in London for a chunk of my life, I am going to use it as an example. 

The River Wandle flows through the borough of Wandsworth in London and it is actually a pretty epic river to fish, once you get around the shopping trolleys! 

This river is packed with brown trout, chub, pike, and perch meaning you can even go fly fishing on a public river in the middle of London. The River Wandle is also home to smaller fish such as roach, bream, and bleak. 

The parks in London, such as Battersea Park or Clapham Common are also stocked with species like carp and roach. You can even buy a day ticket online and spend the day targeting them in the middle of a capital city. 

Did you know that there is a lake/pond stocked with peacock bass right next to Miami Airport? You can literally be catching fish endemic to the Amazon basin within an hour of getting off your flight. 

Unsurprisingly, some of the best urban angling can be found in the United States. Denver has the epic South Platte River flowing through it which is home to huge carp, and you can catch trout inside the city at Sloans Lake. 

Minneapolis is covered in lakes and rivers which are stocked with fish you can target. Atlanta is home to awesome bass and trout fishing. 

Amsterdam also offers some excellent fishing as it has a huge canal network and the canals are full of zander and perch. Just imagine walking around Amsterdam with a light spinning setup catching fish as you explore the city. It would be pretty awesome right? 

Why Is Urban Angling Popular? 

You are probably thinking, why would you fish in the middle of a city when you could be doing it in pristine natural surroundings? And you are right to think that, because why would you if you had the choice, you wouldn’t. 

However, you haven’t taken into account the addictive nature of us anglers. When we want to fish, it is an itch that has to be scratched. 

While long weekend trips camping next to rivers and lakes are still on the calendar, we aren’t going to say no to casting a line in a city when we are dying to go fishing. 

Also, time and money aren’t something all passionate anglers have a lot of. Work has taken over these days and people are working longer hours than ever. But, with urban community fishing, you can cast a line, disconnect from your day, and maybe even catch a fish after work or even on your lunch break. 

Convenience also plays a large factor in the popularity of fishing in cities. Juggling a busy city’s social life, work, and fishing is not easy. Usually, you have to choose between fishing or being social but not anymore. 

In London, for example, I can have dinner and drinks with my friends on Friday night and go fishing on Saturday morning and then go and see a live gig in the evening, all without leaving the city. 

Also, while fishing I have access to so many things I don’t have in the wild. I can grab a beer, have lunch at a restaurant, pack up and catch a movie, do some shopping for the house, and more. 

Urban angling adds fishing to your city life, so you can have it all in one place instead of separated lives lived between nature and cities. 

Do Urban Anglers Only Fish In The City? 

No, many anglers will fish in the urban areas and out in the countryside. While there are some great things about fishing in cities, it is not the same as fishing in the wilderness. 

There is nothing quite like taking in the fresh mountain air, hearing only birds chirping in the background and exploring a natural wilderness. Fishing in urban areas will never replace this for me and I think most anglers would agree. 

I would think of urban angling as the nicotine patch for addicted anglers living in the city. The need to go fishing can and will burn a hole inside you, so getting a fishing fix in NYC or London just a few minutes from your apartment is always a good idea. 

But, it is not quite the real thing, and going fishing in nature will always be a great need for me as an angler. But for some, the city is the only alternative. 

Does Urban Fishing Require A Permit? 

This is totally dependent on the city you are fishing in and the exact fishery you intend on casting a line in. 

Remember permits are different from the fishing license, most countries or states require a fishing license. A permit is required to fish on a specific fishery or river that is managed by an angling club or association. It’s always advisable to research via websites or social media to confirm which waterways require you to pay for a ticket or not. 

Urban Fishing Regulations

In the US, areas designated for urban fishing are signposted and have some special regulations. All the areas are accessible to the public.

Urban waters have a year-round season and do not have any length limits on fish. Most cities set aside one or two periods where disabled anglers and those under 15 years of age have priority fishing. A standard state fishing license is still required prior to going fishing.

Check out your state fishery department website for those areas determined as urban waters, and the bag limits of each type of fish that can be taken. The state of California’s Urban city fishing is a great example of a successful program.

In Europe, there are no special regulations. However, you must follow the license regulations in the respective country. Check out my license guidelines for European countries here!

Street Fishing World Championships

Each year the street fishing world championships are organized by the FIPS – Eau Douche (Freshwater) International Sport Freshwater Fishing Federation. In 2022 the event was held in the city of Hellevoetsluis, Netherlands.

You can read more about this competition here, and register yourself for the 2023 event which will be held in the city of Oderzo, Italy

Final Thoughts

Urban and street fishing gives city anglers, and those wanting to start fishing a great alternative to accessible fishing. Everyone has the opportunity in the community to take part, even if you are living in the city.

I hope this article was informative, why not check out my article on “Is fishing a sport or a hobby?” here!

Steve Fitzjohn