Salmon fisheries are the most important inland fish in Ireland from a recreational and commercial perspective.  Salmon includes fish of the salmon species, sea trout and spawn or fry thereof.  A salmon river is one frequented by salmon.

Salmon fishing opens on January 1 on a handful of rivers and after that the remainder of rivers open on various dates in February, March, April and May. The majority of rivers close on September 30th but some rivers remain open for sea trout fishing to October 12.

The legislation provides for a number of salmon rod licences.  There is provision for an annual licence and annual district licence, a 21-day licence, late season licence and a Foyle area licence.

Salmon fishing with a rod and line is subject to licensing and duty.The fisheries year is a calendar year.

A salmon rod annual district licence is issued on payment of a duty provided by the legislation.  It authorises the person named, but  no other during the period and in the fishery, district concerned, to fish with a salmon rod subject to the legislation, statutory instruments and byelaws.

Licences  were formerly  issued by the regional fishery boards.  Functions now are transferred to Inland Fisheries Ireland. The legislation refers to a “fishing engine” which means any engine, net or other instrument whatsoever capable of being used for the taking of fish. Salmon licences are available as a National licence or a District Licence. A National Licence covers all Fishery Board Districts while a District Licence covers only the Fishery District in which the licence is purchased.

A person may apply to an IFI district for issue of the salmon rod annual ordinary licence, for persons under 18 known as a juvenile licence.

It is an offence to use a scheduled engine other than by rod and line or take a salmon by rod and line without the requisite licence.  It is an offence to take salmon, trout or eel in respect of which there is not any ordinary fishing licence authorising the use of that engine.  It is an offence to fish or take fish, kill salmon with rod and line in a fisheries district where a person is not the holder of a licence in respect of that district.

If a person fishes or kills any salmon, with a rod and line and is not the holder in the case of salmon a salmon rod ordinary licence,  he is guilty of an offence. A person who is convicted is subject to a penalty of €635 or an indictment €2,540- or two-years imprisonment. There is provision for forfeiture of the rod and line on  conviction.

A separate ordinary fishing licence is issued for each separate fishing engine. Ordinary fishing licences are in a form prescribed by the Minister.  They are to state the district concerned and the kind of fishing engine. The expression “fishing engine” means any engine, net or other instrument whatsoever capable of being used for the taking of fish

Every ordinary fishing licence other than a freshwater rod ordinary licence authorises the use during the period specified in the fishing district of the fishing engine of the kind specified. Except in the case of agriculture licences, fishery licences are generally in respect of the implement to use fish.

Trout and Course Fishing

No no licence is required for trout, pike and coarse fishing. Trout is defined when used without any qualification to include fish of the brown trout kind, rainbow trout, and char on any spawn or fry of a trout.  It does not include sea trout.  Trout generally includes rainbow trout, trout includes fish commonly known as rainbow trout.

In 1987 the government sought to introduce rod licensing for fishing for trout, pike or coarse fishing, which had formerly been duty free.  There was a nationwide dispute involving anglers on  the principal trout fishing lakes.  There were many protests.

The  Fisheries Amendment Act 1991 was introduced which provides classes of Salmon Rod Ordinary Licences which are liable to duty.  The 1991 Act provided that the licence is not required for angling for trout or coarse fishing.

Anglers in the Shannon Region must have a Permit (ticket charge) to fish for trout, pike or coarse fish in the Midland Fisheries Group of controlled waters. This area comprises the following river catchments; RIVER SUCK, RIVER INNY, RIVER BROSNA, LITTLE BROSNA RIVER and CAMLIN RIVER. This permit is not required to fish the main River Shannon or other fisheries whose fishing rights are NOT under the control of the Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Trout does not include sea trout. Sea Trout Licences are available as a National licence or a District Licence. A National Licence covers all Fishery Board Districts while a District Licence covers only the Fishery District in which the licence is purchased.

Freshwater Regulations

The only legal method to catch freshwater fish is by rod and line (Control of Fishing for Coarse Fish in Fresh Water Bye-law No. 595, 1977.). A person may fish with not more than two rods at any time (Control of Fishing for Coarse Fish in Fresh Water Bye-law No. 595, 1977.).

It is illegal to have or to use live fish as bait (Use of Live Fish as Bait in Fresh Water Bye-law No. 592, 1977). It is illegal to transfer live roach from one water to any other waters (Transfer of Live Roach, Bye-Law No. 561, 1973).

ANGLING BYE-LAW NO. 955, 2017 This Bye-law prohibits the use of any fish hooks, other than single barbless hooks, and also prohibits the use of worms as bait in angling for all species of fish in the waters specified in the Bye-law. An) The bye-law prohibits the killing and possession of foul hooked fish (i.e fish not hooked in the mouth) in any fishery district in any year.

Special Tidal Waters

The appropriate regulator IFI on the order of the Minister may issue licences for use in special tidal waters of any specified kind for fishing engines of a kind for which no ordinary licences are issuable for taking of salmon. No special local licence can be issued otherwise  than under the authority of such order.

The Minister may fix licence duty payable for such licence.  The Minister may direct the form and  effect of such special local licences.  Separate special local licences shall be issued for each licence.

Special local licences and special tidal areas are areas where  private fishing rights survived to transfer of privately owned fisheries into State control. Orders have been made in areas where the privilege survive and exist. for a special draft and drift net licences.

It is an offence to use any kind of fishing engine for the taking of salmon or trout in special tidal waters without the holder of a special local licence authorising the same.  In addition to penalties, fine or imprisonment the fishing engine may be forfeited on conviction.  Holders of special licences may also be disqualified from holding a licence of a period of up to one year.

Sea Angling

There is a register of sea anglers.  The 1980 Act provided for maintenance for register of sea anglers in which the name of persons applying are to be entered.

Prior to the 1987 Amendment, there were different categories of licences for angler for different species.  The registration entitled the person registered to vote in fisheries board’s elections.  The legislation had provided for representation of anglers and others on the fisheries board. These are no longer relevant.

Nets were used for fishing salmon in the sea or at the mouths of rivers.  This form of fishing has almost completely disappeared except in relation to some privately owned fisheries. A net is regulated as a fixed engine when fixed.  The times at which nets may be used are controlled,  generally by byelaws.  Some methods of fishing  are unlawful and are prohibited.


All salmon (and sea trout over 40cm) kept must be tagged, and the logbook filled out accordingly. All salmon and sea trout caught and released (including kelts and baggots) must be recorded in the logbook accordingly.

It is an offence to kill any sea trout in the Galway, Connemara or Ballinakill Fisheries Districts including at sea from Hags Head in County Clare to Clew Bay (and in any waters flowing into Clew Bay) in the Bangor Fishery District south of a line drawn due east and west through Achill Head.

It is prohibited sell rod caught salmon or sea trout over 40cm between January 1st and October 31st
National bag limit for sea trout – anglers can catch 3 sea trout in a 24 hour period (in open rivers).

Dealer’s Licences

There is provision for a salmon dealer’s licence and eel dealer’s licence and a molluscs dealer’s licence. Salmon, trout, eels and molluscs shellfish preserved and sold in tins, bottles, jars and sealed packages are exempt from the requirement. A person may not sell or expose for sale, these fish unless he holds the appropriate fish dealer’s licence in force and the sale is at a place which is authorised by that licence to sell.  Breach is an offence subject to summary prosecution.

A person applying for the licence may apply to the District Court .  The court on application may grant a certificate of fitness to hold a licence.  The application is made on notice to the fisheries regulatory authority IFI. There is provision for licence renewal transfer and termination. A register of licences under Part X of the Fisheries Act is kept.

Licence holders must within three hours of a sale, exportation, disposal or removal or within six hours of purchase or receipt, register particulars of the transaction and the person to whom it is transacted and or the place to which the fish were removed. Inspectors may inspect all invoices, receipts, registers, consignment notes, et cetera.

The register must be kept for at least six months after the latest entry. It is an offence to fail to keep the register, produce it, make false entries, et cetera.  The licence is  be kept in places where business is transacted.  It is an offence to purchase Part X fish from a person who does not hold a licence or his authorised agent.  This does not apply to bona fide purchase by a person for using his own home, purchased for hotel, restaurant or a catering business.

A person convicted of an offence under the Fisheries Act involving fraud, dishonesty or breach of trust may have his licence revoked by the Minister. The licence holder may make representations which must be taken into account.

It is not lawful for a person in a district to which the Minister has applied the legislation to sell by auction any fresh fish or to act as agent for the sale by wholesale of any fresh fish unless he holds a fish sale licence in force. Contravention is an offence which is subject to conviction on summary prosecution.

The provision does not apply to a person who sells by auction fresh fish or acts as agent for the sale by wholesale or fresh fish at the seashore or quayside upon such fish being first landed to any person who is for the time being are duly authorized representative of the Board.

The Minister is to maintain a register of fish sellers licences into which particulars of all licences issued are to be entered. A person may inspect the register on payment of a fee. A certificate by the Minister is sufficient evidence that a licence is held.

Other Licences

Older Fishing Act licences typically licence the apparatus used to fish which is described as a fishing engine or in the schedule a scheduled engine.  the expression “fishing engine” means any engine, net or other instrument whatsoever capable of being used for the taking of fish. See other sections in relation to special licences for apparatus which would otherwise be probited.

Bair Bed Consent

It is lawful for the owner or occupier of land bordering the sea or estuary with the  permission of the Minister or for any person with the consent of the owner or occupier and with the permission of the Minister to form a bait bed on the seashore adjacent to land. The bait bed is private property of the person by whom it is planted. The planting of the bait bed shall not give any exclusive right title to the occupancy of the shore. It is an offence to interfere with the bait bed.


Important Notice! This website is provided for informational purposes only! It is a fundamental condition of the use of this website that no liability is accepted for any loss or damage caused by reason of any error, omission, or misstatement in its contents. 

Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *