What Are Fishing Bailiffs And What Do They Do?

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.

If you have ever been fishing without the proper fishing license then you will have had “the fear” of an angling bailiff finding you on the water and asking to see your license, and catching you out. 

But what are angling bailiffs really? Are they just there to check a license or two? Or is there more to their role? That is what we are here to find out. 

In this article, we are going to take a look at angling bailiffs, the types of angling bailiffs out there, and their roles in fisheries management. 

Types Of Angling Bailiffs 

License checking is a large part of the bailiffs function

Did you know that there are two types of angling bailiffs that one might encounter while out fishing in the UK?

These are Water Bailiffs and Angling Club Bailiffs

Water Bailiffs

Water Bailiffs are employed by The Environment Agency (EA) or Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and their job as environment officers is to enforce the legislation put in place by the government to protect the freshwater systems around the UK. 

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 

Bailiffs will show their EA identity clearly to every angler

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. 

You can find more information on the best practices for fishing and water bailiffs here from the angling trust.

Summing Up 

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. 

Thanks for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and found it informative. You can read more on what is an angling club and how to be a member and what is a carp fishing syndicate and how to join one.

Jamie Melvin