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Fishing Guide

Fishing Guide for the Norfolk Broads

Fishing Guide for the Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads in the midst of the wetland landscape of reed beds and marshes located in the heart of Norfolk; offers a wide range of fishing for all levels of anglers. The Norfolk Broads is one of the best known angling locations in Britain; with over 300sq km of rivers and shallow lakes to enjoy the delights of fishing in this unique countryside.

The Norfolk Broads support a variety of fresh water fish species; Bream, Roach, Eels, Ruff, Perch, Rudd, Tench, and Pike as well as estuarine species such as Flounders, Sea Bass, Grey Mullet and Goby and migratory Sea Trout can be found close to the sea.

The region has lots of free fishing places and angling platforms along most of the river banks of the Broads and you can also fish from a boat on the open waters of the Broads. There are also Private Broads that offer fishing by prior arrangement and Day Ticket Bank Fishing Spots. Please make sure that you have the proper permission to fish on privately own Broads or river banks as owners can take offence to those that are illegally fishing on their land. There are numerous places across the Broads that facilitate disability access and wheel-chair friendly fishing platforms at Rollesby Bridge, Filby Broad, the south-east bank at Martham on the river Thurne and upstream of the New Bridge at Potter Heigham.

There are certain Broads where no fishing is permitted because they are conservation areas or SSSIs, and are signposted. There are numerous places across the Broads that facilitate disability access and wheel-chair friendly fishing platforms.

You must have a valid Environment Agency Rod Licence; available from the Post Office or online, to fish on the waters of the Norfolk Broads.

For more information on the fishing season and licences required, check out our licence page - Fishing Season & Licences

Get your rod licence instantly online: Environment Agency Fishing Licence

The Open Fishing Season dates are:

Coarse Fishing - From 16th June through to 14th March the following year.

Please remember the closed season applies to the broads and rivers from 15th March – 16th June inclusive.

Known Hot Spots: Bream, Roach, Hybrids and Eel can be found at Potter Heigham, Pike and Ruff in and around Wroxham as well as Hickling Broad, Perch in Ludham basin, Tench at Malthouse Broad and Sea Bass at Great Yarmouth Harbour. Some of the best urban free fishing for Roach and Perch can be had along the banks of the river Wensum in Norwich.

For all fishing on the Norfolk Broads

Please enjoy the delights of angling on the Norfolk Broads whilst being considerate for all other users of this National Wetland Park and the navigational waters.

Suggested Tackle and Fishing Equipment required: Spinning rods, pike rods, Jerk bait rods, ledger/swing tip rods, feeder rods, 10mt carbon poles, bait runners, centre pin reel and light spinning reels, mono lines ranging from 4lb to 15lb, assorted plugs, spoons, spinners, assorted hooks, disgorgers, forceps, keepnet, overnight fishing gear, canvas stool, waterproof clothing, fishing umbrella, bait boxes and waders.

Suggested Bait: Irish minnows, jerk baits, dead baits, mackerel, herring, smelt, sprats, worms, brandlings, red worms, ground baits, pellets, maggots, casters, bread crusts, hemp and sweetcorn.

Suggested Fishing Methods: Trolling, spinning, dead baiting, pole and feeder fishing, waggler fishing

Suggested Tips for Fishing on the Norfolk Broads

Retaining Fish:

  • Make sure that your keepnet is secured properly to the bank or boat.
  • Gently place the fish as quickly as possible; in a keepnet that is made of fish-friendly mesh. 
  • Only retain fish for the shortest time possible and only use a keepnet if necessary. 
  • Don’t overcrowd your keepnet and check there is enough depth of water to use the keepnet in.
  • Return you catch carefully back to the water, trying not to slide or tumble the fish out of the net.
  • Do NOT retain large fish or keep pulling the net out of the water as this will harm the fish.
  • Do NOT tow fish in a keepnets behind boats.

Unhooking Fish:

  • Always wet your hands before handling any fish. 
  • Always carry disgorgers and forceps for removal of hooks, small and large.
  • Please use barbless or micro-barb hooks that are kinder to fish and it is easier to remove these types of hooks. 
  • When unhooking a fish, the surface that you lay the fish on should be soft and wet. Use an unhooking mat for large fish and Pike. 
  • Weigh fish with appropriate nets or weighing slings NOT by the gills.
  • Do NOT use towels, wet or dry on the fish as this can remove their protective natural layer of slime.
  • Always hold a fish low to the ground, should slip out of your grasp - there is less distance for the fish to fall and be harmed.
  • If you want to photograph your prize specimen, have your camera ready and set up before you take the fish out of the waters, saving time and unnecessary stress for the fish by being prepared.
  • After weighing, return the fish as soon as possible, gently releasing the fish back into the water or at the end of the day if using a keepnet.

Unattended rods and fishing equipment:

  • It is an offence to leave a baited rod unattended as it can endanger water birds that could get entangled in the line and fish might gorge the bait or snag the line. There is also a danger of losing your rod if a passing boat should catch your line. 
  • Keepnets should not be left unattended for long periods of time. 
  • Be aware of crime – Do NOT leave valuable fishing equipment, rods and personal effects unattended on the bank or boat.

Fishing from boats:

  • When fishing from your own boat or hire craft, moor safely, drop mud weights gently into the water.
  • Always wear a LIFE JACKET.
  • Do NOT trail baits and lures from moving boats as it is both dangerous and an ineffective way of fishing.
  • Wear appropriate footwear on deck, be mindful of slippery surfaces.
  • Observe the speed limit and be considerate to other water users.

The Environment and other general tips:

The Norfolk Broads are a fragile wetlands environment, so please take litter home with you and remember never to discard fishing tackle, as it can easily harm wildlife.

  • Choose your swim carefully, reducing the risk of snagging bank side and over hanging trees, vegetation and any obstacles (like moored boats) in the water.
  • Immediately remove rigs and tackle that gets caught up in branches, bank side vegetation or underwater snags where it is safe and practical to achieve. 
  • Baited hooks, hooks and lines should never be discarded. 
  • Beware of birds swimming into your fishing line. Wind in your tackle if you think birds are at risk from trying to feed off your bait.
  • Be careful of fishing where people feed the waterfowl, as the birds may have learned to associate people with food and adventure close to your line and increase the risk of entanglement.
  • Be aware of overhead power cables, especially at boatyards or behind you on the bank and take notice of any signs, LOOK OUT, LOOK UP and CAST WITHCARE.
  • Please respect the right of other water users and when fishing at a free mooring; anglers should give way to vessels wanting to moor up.
  • If fishing on a bend of a river, or in secluded area, be aware of approaching boats as you might not be visible to them and they might not be able to see you. 
  • Move your gear out the way when if it obstructs a boat’s passage. 
  • Please remove any hooks that get caught on a boat’s mooring ropes, ask permission of the people on the boat and if it is safe and practical to get it out.
  • Keep paths clear for walkers and cyclists alike.

A Guide to the Freshwater Fish Species that can be found in the Norfolk Broads

ROACH

  • (Rutilus rutilus)
  • Length: 8-10 inches – Weight: 1-2lbs
  • Broads specimen size: 2 lbs
  • A fish with silver/blue scales and vermillion fins.
  • A common fish for all seasons, found in the slow running rivers of the Norfolk Broads
  • Perfect for float-fished or on a ledger rig. 
  • All fresh water baits, float fish with bread, maggots, casters, sweetcorn and hemp on fine tackle.
  • Feed little and often.
  • Lines: 2lbs-4lbs reel-line with 1lb-3lbs hooklines
  • Hook size: 20-12

BREAM

  • (Abramis abrama) 
  • Length: Up to 12 inches – Weight: 2-7lbs 
  • Broads specimen size: 7lbs
  • A olive-bronze slab-sided fish with dark green or brown back.
  • Naturally occurs in the rivers of Eastern England, also found in many enclosed waters. 
  • Lives in shoals of up to 50 fish. 
  • Predominately nocturnal by nature but can be caught early or late in the day. Try float fishing with a waggler, and the bait tripping or laying on the bottom. From the bank, try ledger fishing using a swingtip where flow allows or a quivertip in faster waters. 
  • Bait with bread, maggots, casters, sweetcorn, worms and ground bait.
  • Recast regular to lay a bed of feed but beware of striking at line baits; that could scare the fish away.
  • Lines: 3lbs-6lbs reel-line with 3lbs-5lbs hooklines
  • Hook size: Forged size 18-8

Roach & Bream Hybrids are sometimes found in the Broads. Hybridisation occurs because Roach and Bream often spawn at the same time in the same habitat. During spawning some eggs from one species can accidently be fertilised by the other. It can be identified by counting the number of branded rays in the anal fin. Roach have 9-12; bream have 23-29 while the hybrids have 14-19. If the fish has more than 12 such rays, it cannot be a Roach.

RUDD

  • (Scardinius erythrophthalmus)
  • Length: Up to 13 inches – Weight: 1lb
  • Broads specimen size: 1 ¼ lbs
  • A fish with golden flanks and crimson fins.
  • An increasingly rare fish but still caught in various areas of the Broads, especially in the Upper Thurne and Trinity Broads and larger specimens have been caught at Hickling Broads.
  • Find them near marginal reed beds and quiet bays, easily spooked.
  • Float fishing – waggler set shallow or slow sinking.
  • Use Bread flake or crusts, casters and sweetcorn as bait. Feed little and often.
  • Lines: 2lbs-4lbs reel-line with 1lb-3lbs hooklines
  • Hook size: 20-12

TENCH

  • (Tinca Tinca)
  • Length: 12 -16 inches – Weight: 3-5lb
  • Broads specimen size: 4-6 lbs
  • A fish with a dark olive green coloured body and rounded fins.
  • Found mainly on Thurne and Trinity Broads. The best time to catch Tench is early dawn or at dusk and through the night. Look for them along reedy margins or close to lilies.
  • Float-fishing laying on the bottom or using the lift method. From the bank; using a running ledger or patemoster, with swimfeeders being effective for feed.
  • Using bread, maggots, casters, sweetcorn, worms, ground bait and hemp for bait.
  • Lines: Strong 5lbs-6lbs reel-lines with 4lbs-5lbs hooklines
  • Hook size: Forged size 16-8

PERCH

  • (Perca fluviatilis)
  • Length: Up to 12inches - Weight: 2-4lbs
  • Broads specimen size: 2- 3lbs+
  • A flat-sided greenish body graduating down to a white belly fish, with broad black vertical stripes down the sides and bright red/orange pelvic fins. 
  • Regularly caught throughout the rivers and Broads. Perch love hiding under cover, especially in deep water or beneath overhanging trees, under permanent moorings or deep reedy margins.
  • Float and ledger fished deep or on the bottom.
  • Bait with worms, maggots, casters, small fish, small spinners and lures.
  • Lines: 2-6lbs according to the size of fish you are expecting.
  • Hook size: 18-8

CARP

  • (Cyprinus carpio)
  • Length: Up to 14 inches - Weight:10lbs to 20lbs
  • Broads specimen size: 30lbs 
  • A brown to greenish brown or golden brown in coloured body with a lighter brown, cream underside
  • Carp are found in all waters, but are fished for predominantly in still-waters. The Carp that have escaped during the floods from fisheries are now commonplace in the Broads waters, especially in the rivers Waveney and Yare.
  • Carp are caught using various methods including float, ledger or feeder. Throw some 'free' offerings into the water where you are about to fish then get tackled up.
  • Bait with corn, meat, bread and pellets and in the summer- bread crust and dog biscuits.
  • Lines: 10lbs reel-line with a 2 lb test curve (or a heavy feeder rod) fitted with a fixed spool reel.
  • Hook size: 18-24

PIKE

  • (Esox lucius)
  • Length 15-40 inches+ – Weight: 4-12lbs
  • Broads specimen size: 20lbs+ 
  • A elongated fish with its distinguished striped or spotted silver/grey pattern body and its dark brown dorsal and anal fins are set far back compared to most fish.
  • Pike are commonplace across the broads however they require specialist tackle and skilful landing techniques to fish for and it is not advisable for inexperienced anglers to fish for pike unless they are confident that they can unhook and safely return the Pike afterwards. 
  • Float fishing, free-lining or ledger from the bank, with effective bite indication that properly registers both runs and drop back indicators. Always use a wire trace of 20lbs minimum breaking strain. Always strike runs as quickly as possible.
  • Freshwater or sea fish baits work best by float fishing on and off the bottom and artificial lures. 
  • You can fly-fish for pike on the broads.
  • Lines: 15lbs min.
  • Hook Size: Semi-Barbed Doubles or trebles. 8-6