The main policies the water bailiffs enforce include the Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 as amended (SAFFA), Keeping and Introduction of Fish regulations 2015, the Eel regulations 2009, and several other regulations.
Generally, they are there to ensure no one is fishing illegally, polluting freshwater systems, killing fish illegally, or introducing fish to systems that they shouldn’t. It’s a very important job for the health of the UK’s freshwater rivers and lakes, which are slowly becoming more and more polluted.
Water Bailiffs have more power than you think and actually carry the same powers of arrest and warrants that the police do. They are legally allowed to enter a property, ask for rod licenses, issue fines, and even arrest people.
If you are fishing without a rod license, these are the guys you will worry about and they can fine you up to the region of £10,000 for fishing without a license.
Currently, there are only around 70 full-time Environment Agency bailiffs employed, so the chances of your running into one are minimal. In fact, if you would like to become an EA water bailiff, chances are you can get a job as they are in demand. You can find more details on being a voluntary bailiff here on the UK environmental page.
But, you should have a rod license and should never fish without one as it’s important to follow the rules and support the EA in protecting the freshwater fish of the UK. The money collected each year from anglers’ license fees is used to put back into the sport of fishing and the waters around the UK.
Angling Club Bailiffs
Angling club bailiffs are very different from water bailiffs and are usually referred to as water keepers. They are in the direct employ of the fishery and are usually just volunteers. These bailiffs are sometimes referred to as fishery bailiffs.
They don’t have any legal powers like water bailiffs apart from being able to carry out the authority of the fishery they work for.
Essentially, Angling Club Bailiffs are the guys who check if you have your permits and enforce the rules of the fishery such as only using certain baits, correct fishing line, or barbless hooks. They are legally allowed to ask to see your permit, tackle, and bait boxes to ensure you’re following the rules.
It should be remembered that every fishery has a different set of rules, whilst many fishing clubs have a general set of rules they also have additional rules for each lake or stretch of river they rent or manage.
The law falls under “is preventing the civil wrong of trespass” and basically if you break the rules of the fishery, you become a trespasser in law instead of a paying guest. This is why most private angling waters have signs saying “trespassers will be prosecuted”
Angling Club Bailiffs are extremely important as they are the eyes and ears of the fishery and will be also on the lookout for the following types of incidences:
Any pollution on the water
Large fish kills
Fish in distress
Illegal fishing methods
The stealing of fish
Ensuring non-native fish are removed
Collection payments to ensure the fisheries continue
Without angling bailiffs, the rivers and lakes you fish on would be a fraction of how good they are today. They are vital to the survival of the ecosystems and the fish that we love to spend so much of our time with.
It should be noted that these amazing bailiffs are people who volunteer their time to ensure anglers are following the rules.,
Beware Of Impersonators
Sadly, people do try to impersonate both EA water bailiffs and Angling club bailiffs, so it’s important to know where you stand with each so you can spot them.
Environment Agency Water Bailiffs
An Environment Agency water bailiff does have the right to ask to see certain things but they will always issue a valid warrant since they are legally classified as constables. If you are ever approached by an EA water bailiff, you have the right to inspect their warrant, ID, and ask them what powers they are working under.
Environment Agency water bailiffs will never ask you for money on the bank as their fines are not issued in cash and they cannot sell you a rod license on the bank.
By going through all these questions, you should be able to work out if they are an impersonator or not. It is a crime to impersonate a water bailiff and you should report anyone you encounter doing so.
Angling Club Bailiffs
It is harder to flush out an Angling Club Bailiff impersonator since they aren’t required to carry ID or to enforce any kind of warrants you can quiz them on. The only thing an Angling Club Bailiff should ask you for is to pay for a day ticket, your membership ID, and to see if you are following the fishery rules.
If you think you are talking to an impersonator then ask them to give you the phone number of the club officials so you can verify. A genuine bailiff will be more than happy to do so.
Impersonators of Angling Club Bailiffs are committing fraud with an intention to take money or even your fishing tackle under the false representation section of the Fraud Act 2006. You have every right to call the police, report them, and prosecute.
The chances of you running into a fake angling club or water bailiff are very slim but it’s still worth knowing your rights, theirs, and being aware that they do exist.
Water and angling bailiffs are a very important part of protecting the waters we love to spend time on and fish, so it’s imperative we give them our utmost support by being on their side and always buying a rod license.
Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.