Researching the ownership of fishing rights requires careful examination of various documents. The methodology is explained in detail below.

When researching the ownership of fishing rights to a lake or river and even when a portion of a river is downstream of the high water mark (shown on Ordinance Survey maps, with the letters, HWM), it is best to begin in the Land Registry.  You can search and view maps and folios on-line as a non-account holder here. You’ll need to pay a fee for each folio you choose to view.

Search for the property and establish whether the land is registered or unregistered.  If registered check if the river or lake is part of the registered area.  If so, the bed and soil is owned by the adjoining landowner.  Find the relevant folio and examine it to see how fishing rights were dealt with.

On folios drafted for land purchases under the 1903 Land Act, it may state that the sporting rights, (which under the Act included fishing rights), are:

  • Retained by the vendor/landlord
  • In the ownership of another party
  • Retained by the vendor for his/her lifetime
  • Held concurrently between vendor and purchaser.

If there is no mention of fishing or sporting rights, it is most likely that they were transferred with the land to the purchaser.

If there is no mention of fishing or sporting rights on the land registry folio you should also contact the Records Branch Land Commission in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (at the address below) to see if they have any record of a fee farm grant* or other types of conveyance associated with the property. The records Branch are the keepers of all the old Irish Land Commission files.

Records Branch,
Unit 11,
Clonminam Industrial Estate,
Tel: 057 8634988 
Fax: 057 8670959

*In English and Irish law, a Fee farm grant is a hybrid type of land ownership typical in cities and towns. The word "fee" is derived from fief, meaning a feudal landholding, and a fee farm grant is similar to a fee simple in the sense that it gives the grantee the right to hold a freehold estate, the only difference being the payment of an annual rent (farm being an archaic word for rent) and covenants, thus putting both parties in a landlord-tenant relationship.

In folios drafted for purchases under the 1923, 1929 and subsequent Acts, check for burdens specifically relating to fishing rights, which are dealt with separately from the sporting rights.  These will be found in Part Three of the folio.  They will state as follows:

  • The fishing rights and fisheries (if any), are reserved to the Land Commission.  In this case, the fishing rights were retained by the Land Commission and were subsequently transferred to the Central Fisheries Board, by virtue of the Land Commission Dissolution Act 1992. In 2010 the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards were amalgamated into a new single agency, Inland Fisheries Ireland, and so these fishing rights now belong to Inland Fisheries Ireland.
  • The fishing rights and fisheries (if any), are excepted by order of the Land Commission or by fiat of the Land Commission<.   In this instance the ownership of the fishing rights had not been adjudicated on when the vesting of the land in the purchaser was completed.  The Land Commission were required to make an order under Section 4 of the 1929 Act, stating whether the fishing rights vested or did not vest in the Land Commission. Where they made the Order, stating they did not vest in the Land Commission, they remained in the ownership of the vendor.  They never vested in the purchaser.
  • The fishing rights under Section 23 of the 1929 Act are subject to Section 3 of the 1929 Act.nbsp; This means where the process of vesting has commenced under the 1923 Act.

The Land Commission only completed Orders under Section 4 of the 1929 Act in under 5% of cases.  The reasons for this are, some of these fisheries were not considered valuable when the lands were being dealt with, the landlord/vendor did not lodge the requisite Form 27 claiming the ownership.  These fisheries are considered to be in “limbo. However, since the vendor did not claim ownership of them, it is possible that the law, under the 1923 Act, still applies, in that the fisheries are vested in the Land Commission.