The resident commercial fishing boats that are moored on the Hamble predominantly fish outside the River itself, but at certain times of the year occasionally fish for grey mullet in the River, and during the winter season 2 or 3 of them may dredge for oysters in the river mouth.
To undertake such fishing in the Hamble these resident commercial fishermen must request a license from the Harbour Office, which has certain conditions attached to protect the navigational safety and mooring structures of the River. This license is in addition to any others the fishermen must gain from other consenting bodies such as the Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA).
The European Union ultimately has control over sea fishing, and member states can bring further regulations to their own vessels. IFCAs are responsible for managing fisheries within 6 miles of the coast, and may set additional byelaws.
The mouth of the Hamble falls within the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority control. Within the river itself falls under the Environment Agency which has powers under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 and the Water Resources Act 1991 to make bye-laws regulating fishing for these species. The Environment Agency also enforces water quality standards for shellfish under the Shellfish Waters Directive.
Recreational angling takes place in the Hamble river.
Although there is little fishing activity in the river, it is an important nursery ground for a variety of species including bass, and is recently known to be supporting migrating sea trout again.
The mouth of the river and Southampton Water are important Oyster bed grounds.
The master of a vessel shall not use or permit such vessel to be used for drift, trawl or other net fishing or shellfish dredging in the River, except with the previous written permission of the Harbour Master
It is legal to take salmon and sea trout at certain times of the year from the Hamble Estuary with a rod and line as long as that person holds a current Environment Agency rod licence. There are closed seasons that apply. Close seasons aim to protect fish stocks from the impacts of angling during and after the fish breeding season. The closed season times for salmon and sea trout are;
The close season for migratory trout (sea trout) in all waters is the period 1 November to the 30 April (dates inclusive) in the Southern byelaw area.
· The close season for salmon in all waters is the period 3 October to the 16 January (dates inclusive) in the Southern byelaw area.
The River Hamble is an important bass nursery area. The European Commission has recently implemented a 3 fish daily bag limit for bass for recreational fishermen to help address declining bass stocks. Any bass taken must exceed 42 centimeters in length. This applies to all recreational fishermen both on shore and for each angler in a boat (minimum fish sizes apply). Below is an extract from the Inshore rules UK bass legislation explaining other restrictions on bass fishing.
“Any bass landed, stored, sold, displayed or offered for sale, and taken from the waters surrounding the United Kingdom, must be at least 42cm in length as measured from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail fin. Any bass retained on board a vessel or transhipped must also exceed 42cm. These provisions apply to both commercial fishermen and anglers. Any bass below 42cm must be returned immediately to the sea.
Fishing for bass from any vessel, as well as, fishing for any species of sea-fish using sand-eels (ammodytidae) as bait, is prohibited in Southampton Water (including the Hamble) between 30 April and 1 November. The legislation is Statutory Instrument 1999 No 75 The Bass (Specified Areas) (Prohibition of Fishing) (Variation) Order 1999).
The nursery areas comprise river estuaries, harbours and power station outfalls where juvenile bass usually predominate and are more easily caught, particularly during the summer months. In certain nursery areas, fishing may also be subject to other restrictions implemented by the local sea fisheries committee or the Environment Agency [National Rivers Authority]. Such restrictions may include prohibitions on the setting of fixed nets or restrictions on the use of mobile gear.
The prohibition on bass fishing in nursery areas does not apply to fishing from the shore. However it is expected that shore anglers and their associations will respect the need for this prohibition and return to the sea any bass caught within nursery areas.”
Environment Agency - telephone 01962 764812
Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, - telephone 01202 721373 .
Bait digging for personal/recreational use is part of the public's right to fish, however this must be done safely with awareness of changes tides and intertidal mud conditions, in accordance with laws and local regulations, and in a sustainable and environmentally sensitive manner. The Solent European Marine Sites Project has produced The Bait Collectors' Code a voluntary code of conduct for responsible and sustainable bait collection.
On the Hamble Estuary there is a bye-law to restrict the digging of bait adjacent to inter-tidal structures, so as to prevent them being undermined.
No person shall in the River:-
(a) dig for any form of fishing bait or for any material within 15 metres of any mooring or within 6 metres of any pile, beacon, mark, hard, causeway, jetty, quay, wharf or similar structure;
(b) dig for any form of fishing bait or for any material in a place not prohibited under (a) above without forthwith replacing all material so dug out or displaced.