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Salmon Fishings - Who owns the rights to fish?


Salmon Fishings - Who owns the rights to fish?

Members of Thorntons Land & Rural Business team were delighted to attend the opening of River Tay 2018 salmon fishing season yesterday. Chatting to some of the other attendees, most had a common passion for the countryside and fishing. One of the attendees mentioned that his house is beside a river and he wondered whether he had the right to fish. In typical lawyer fashion, the response was “it depends”.

Salmon fishings are owned separately from land. If you own land generally you own everything on it and within its boundaries including buildings, rivers and streams. Salmon fishings are an exception to this rule. Even if you own a river you do not own the salmon fishings within it unless you have a specific title to them. You can also own the salmon fishings but not the river itself.

Only salmon fishings get this special treatment. The owners of rivers and other inland water automatically have the right to fish for other fish.  Further, if you own the banks of a river but not the river itself you are entitled to fish for fish of the non-salmon type from the bank even if you do not own the river itself. 

Salmon fishings in Scotland originally belonged to the Crown and still belong to the Crown unless proven otherwise. To validly possess a right to them you need to trace ownership from the Crown or show that you have a title specifically to the salmon fishings over a particular stretch of sea, river or inland water along with evidence of actual possession of the fishings, such as catch records, for a period of 20 years.

While we at Thorntons can get enthusiastic about actual ownership of the fishings more practical points are equally as important. Owning the fishings is pointless unless you can get to them and use them.  Our team of experts will check for access rights and what they extend to. Can you, your employees and guests drive over privately owned land and park vehicles beside the beat and near enough to the pools?  Can you tow boats over the land and launch boats from it?  Is any additional land needed for a hut and does that land need services such as electricity? Has SEPA had an interest and are there any hydro or other schemes which might interfere with your enjoyment of the rights?

Commercially run salmon fishing beats are facing tough times and competition but as we heard today, the outlook is good. Salmon fishing in Scotland does and will continue to attract interest from around the world for first class fishing amidst beautiful scenery and a flourishing tourist industry.

For further information and advice in relation to salmon fishings or any other fishing or sporting rights, please contact a member of our Land and Rural Business Team.

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