Find out how we regulate eel net and trap fishing, and what you need to do if you want to fish with nets or traps for eel or elver.
Eel and elver may be taken by a variety of net and trap fishing methods – fixed eel traps, fyke nets, small 'wingless' eel traps or elver nets.
From 1 January 2011, anyone using a net or trap to take eel or elver in England and Wales must apply for an authorisation from the Environment Agency.
Download an application for elver fishing authorisation below:
Eel fishing is currently restricted to those fisherman who are existing fisherman and have held a licence/authorisation since 2008. If you have any enquiries relating to eel fishing please call the Fish Movements Team on 01480 483844.
Eel and elver fishing authorisations are subject to a range of conditions. These restrict the design and construction of nets and traps, and where, when and how they may be used. You can download information on the standard conditions for each type of fishing method below:
NB We may also place local conditions on authorisations to prohibit fishing in specific locations eg Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation.
Otter guards and catch returns
Authorisation conditions replace the majority of eel and elver fishing byelaws. Two important national byelaws remain, requiring:
a) otter guards on eel nets and traps, and
b) anyone holding an eel or elver authorisation to send us a completed catch return form within 30 days of the end of the fishing season.
You can download a copy of the byelaws below:
You can download the eel and elver catch return forms below:
Please send completed catch return forms by 10th January following each season.
Fisheries Movement Team
For more information on fishing authorisations and to obtain an application pack, please contact our Fisheries Authorisations Team by phone on 01480 483 968 or by email at
European eel in decline
"Abundance of the European eel stock (all stages glass eel, yellow eel and silver eel) is at a historical minimum and continues to decline.”
This is the advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas to the European Union. The EU has put in place a recovery plan to halt and reverse this decline. More information on this is available below:
Find out more about eel stocks and the fisheries they support
We have produced several fact sheets on eel and fishery regulation: